Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Has Arrived

Choctaw Virgin Mother & Child
c Fr. John Giuliani

Yesterday the day was warm but scheduled. Early in the morning I left for a doctor’s appointment—in a strip mall since her office has blown away. Everyone in the waiting room talked of tornado aftermath situations. The doctor herself talked of the changes the tornado had made in Joplin, the miracles that had occurred along with the tragedies. After a few errands, I met old teaching friends for a nice lunch. Though we talked of religion, politics, books, retirement, and family issues, a large chunk of conversation was on tornado stories. Then I came home and worked four hours with submissions for the Storm Country writing project. I was ready for something new today.

But—a phone call jingled about Storm Country submissions even before I was even awake. It was an elderly writer wanting to know when she would know something about submissions that are not even closed yet! A painfully tedious explanation one more time of how this writing project works before I could start my own day. I threw on clothes and got out of the house for errands, stopping first at the farmer’s market. Home again for a very summery lunch on the deck despite the rising temps. I had picked up fried chicken pieces, a cantaloupe at Wal-Mart (proved to be too green), sliced tomatoes from the farmer’s market (that were fat, rich red and a perfect explosion of summer on a plate), green beans (a low cal and low carb staple), all accompanied by a dark brewed Welsh tea poured over ice. Ah, the good life.

Then I noticed my mint pots, shriveling up like the Wicked Witch hit by water! Wow, they hated the heat. So I watered them and moved them to a shaded table. They came back with sighs of relief you could almost hear. The card is one a friend sent me a few weeks ago. I love the indigenous flavor of this Madonna and Child, reminding us of Spiritual presence. The Choctaw were part of the Five Civilized Tribes that were moved from east of the Mississippi River in the mid 1800’s to present day Oklahoma. Note the ribbon work and appliqué on the shirts.

But now afternoon heat makes me feel like the mint pots. I gave up and returned inside. I have five new submissions to read or I can dust something, which I hate to do. I have a choice today of what to dust because everything in this house is coated! Okay, maybe a compromise….hey Bookie, get up, dust ONE room and then you can have tea and read a book AFTER you read the submissions. Fine, that sounds good. I can always dust more inside tomorrow afternoon as the heat index is to be 106 by then….Summer is here!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Centus/Civil War

Jenny has called for a Centus of only 60 words this weekend to celebrate the 60th week of this meme. Her prompt: Dear John.
For more Centus stories and complete rules to play, go to

Since I am reading about the Border War between Jayhawkers and Bushwackers, my Centus reflects the period and a letter of 1861.

July, 1861

Dear John,

With greatest sadness I sever connections and bury our romance. My loyalties can not be rent like a piece of wool. I must stand with my father, brothers and the Southern cause. I pray that their bullets will aim away from your lovely face. May your own shots be misguided in their direction.

Love but not devotion,


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Plumaria Success

The cooler air has arrived. I want to enjoy it because I am sure it won't last long. Here is the crisp morning and pleasant day that I would call spring--now that the summer solstice arrived yesterday! The weather seems confused this year, but this delightful confusion is sure better than last month's wind terror.

Speaking of which, the submissions for Storm Country are arriving steadily and from many places. I am glad I don't have to make the final decisions on my own! Two teams will do both reading and editing for this non-profit book. I am enjoying doing my part reading though, and I see some great submissions coming in from people I know in blogland.

Meanwhile I am enjoying interesting flowers that have also come from friends. My friend Elaine in Sunset Hills introduced me to the Mexican petunia about three years ago when she toted one down to meet us at Lake Taneycomo. I had never seen one before and haven't seen them anywhere around here. She has since kept me in this annual, this year with three!
This plant grows tall with limber and graceful greenery. The purple flowers come out every morning but fall off in late afternoon or evening. The next morning more little trumpet flowers appear to wave in the breeze. I love the delicate blooms.    

Late last summer our neighbor left to try assisted living in Wichita. Mrs. C has lived across the street for a quarter of a century and at first it was not like she had left since she traveled all the time anyway. But sadly, the events of aging unfolded quickly for her. She called one day in October and asked me if I wanted the plumaria on her patio as it would die in winter. I went over and there sat a monstrous tree like plant. I had no room for this but toted it to my friend's beauty shop where it would spend the winter in a small waiting room. Everyone coming in wanted to know what this strange looking thing was.
Plumarias are tropical plants from Hawaii. The fragrant flowers are used to make the famous leis there. But as the front door fanned cold air all winter, the plant began to drop leaves. It looked sad. Women commented it needed water or something. Finally, it was completely bare and UGLY.

I brought it home in spring and the spring took a chill again. Remember it was a long and frosty winter, and I figured this was the end of the plumaria for sure. But once the early hot and humid heat hit, the plumaria took on new life. Leaf buds appeared and unfolded daily. Then the beautiful lemony flowers came out. It is a most interesting plant for sure.

What will I do with it next winter? I have no idea at the moment, but everyone is just enjoying it immensely for the moment.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trying a New Meme

Lisa at has led me to a new writing challenge. I have been reading her microfiction when possible, and she plays at Grandma's Goulash on Mondays by writing pieces based on a picture. However, the trick is to tell a story with ONLY 140 characters. I just couldn't do it. But this week I had to give it a try when I saw Mr. Perfect and his magnifying glass. My 140 characters are below. For full details and rules, please visit Grandma's Goulash at

I don’t think I’ll ever see
                                               Any muck tricking me.
                                               So don’t fabricate a tale;
                                               I know substances without fail.
                                               It's clearly true
                                               That on your shoe
                                               Rests a pile of doggie poo!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Company Is a Coming!

Company coming! And one more time, prefab food with no furniture dusting involved!!! I am finding I like this way of living!

I knew I had an agenda today, but I went out for early tea anyway. When I opened the door, the heat grabbed me by the throat! How could it be so hot so early in the day? But I had tea outside anyway with some peanut butter and crackers before hitting the road.

I went to the farmer’s market on the square and the Vietnamese were there again with a load of bok choy for me. I only bought three bundles and hope they weren’t disappointed. I can only use so much at once. It was only a $1 a bunch! I wonder, could I freeze bok choy like celery? Probably, but it would only be good for soups then I think. I got tiny cucumbers, early tomatoes, teensy new potatoes the size of my little finger’s last joint, and one of the first green mango peppers.

Then after a stop for cheese and delivering the produce at home where it was cool, I returned to the library where Tom Rafiner spoke about his new book Caught Between Three Fires. His delivery was delightful, his story spellbinding, and his manner scholarly. But the sad thing was the audience turn out was low. People really missed a great program this morning! I guess people are just worn, tired and over-committed in our busy area right now. As he spoke, the Humane Society was in the park across the street trying to find homes for tornado dogs and cats as they must be placed soon. I did not DARE go over to even pet those dogs; my heart broke from even seeing out the window!

The book Caught Between Three Fires is the Civil War era history of Cass County, Missouri and the surrounding area. This area came to be called the Burnt District of Missouri after Order #11 which moved everyone out of three and a half counties, followed by burning everything to the ground. The Border War between Kansas and Missouri was so much more bloody and devastating than just the burning of Lawrence, Kansas which in reality was retribution for all the cruelties done in Missouri by Kansas Unionists. The whole issue is too complex to explain totally here, and I am just learning some of the history from the Missouri point of view after growing up with the Kansas one.

Rafiner wanted to understand what happened to the people of this period and has gone to deep and weighty efforts to research the subject, to answer his own questions. He also studied the mannerisms and actions of William Quantrill who he says is a sociopath. He delved into the men following his as well, finding many just boys who had witnessed atrocities to their families and were seeking the understandable justice of revenge. I bought a copy of Rafiner’s thick and ponderous looking book because I think it will make good reading—when I get to it.

Tonight our friends Carl and Dana will come for deck time and dessert. Hopefully, the breeze will still be blowing and cooler night air will sneak in after the sun sets. Dana is in my book club, and we have known each other for probably nearly a quarter of a century. (Makes us sound ancient!) After retiring from teaching school, Dana started managing the Plaza Apartments, a large complex of nice living quarters in Joplin. The tornado took them out and Dana has had her hands full of chores since the F5 moved through town. She needs a break tonight; I am glad we are it.

Happy Father's Day. For those of you with fathers, enjoy them tomorrow. For those without, remember them. I know I miss mine.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bucket List and Tea Time

The authentic self is the soul made visible…Sarah Ban Breathnach

Julie’s hubby came home for retirement the same time DH did. The men had worked at the same company. Julie formed her own Bucket List right away which included a motorcycle ride, something she had never experienced. Yesterday when we went to exercise, a member of her church arrived with his Harley he had just sold. Said it was the last chance if she wanted that long desired ride. Without time to think about it, she straddled that Harley and rode away, a little nervous but with no door to back out of for her. She had a blast!

This morning Julie was here for tea and commented she could not imagine eating squirrel, those nasty looking rodents. The rest of us had all eaten fried squirrel so we added that to Julie’s Bucket List for her. I think she has more fear of eating fried squirrel than a Harley ride! She sipped her tea and shuddered at the thought of her new Bucket List entry.

Years ago I could work and still put on suppers and teas…and in a fairly clean house. Something happened! Now I can’t get a thing done it seems. I seem to lack the starch I once had, but it is more than just energy. Everyone else’s life has changed too, become more hectic or tiring. It just doesn’t seem easy to get my friends together for quiet time. Each year it is more of a hassle to gather up folks for a peaceful tea party.

This year I promised myself regular events on my “outdoor living room”! But once the rain stopped, the heat moved in with a vengeance. Everyone had grandkids’ ballgames or aging parent issues. Someone else had travel. Then the area was totally upset by that F5, and folks went to work making sandwiches, gathering supplies, or merely praying for their neighbors in Joplin. Suddenly, it didn’t so important to have a clean house; people were just grateful if they had a house!

This week I saw the calendar edging towards July and saw the days for tea time evaporating in the humid air. I decided to brew tea and share it with anyone who could. I made a snap decision to have it today even if only one friend could come. I did not bake; I got Wal-Mart cupcakes. I did not clean house; we were outside. I set up an ice bucket, toted out glasses, brewed a couple of kinds of tea, opened the front door so folks could let themselves in and made myself a glass of chilly cinnamon orange iced tea! My authentic self was showing.

I figured whoever needed to be here would come. There were five of us today in the end. Oh, what a great time we had! Such a nice summer day among the flowers and visiting wrens. A robin or two bathed at one end of the deck while we visited at the other. Their splashing was a cheerful sound. There was a slight breeze and though the air was warm, under the shade trees the air was delightful. No one missed the ten plates of homemade cookies and breads. No one noticed my dusty house as they passed through to the deck. No one cared if a leaf or stick tumbled down occasionally. Everyone sampled tea, picked their own leaves from apple or chocolate mint pots on the ledge, and felt contented in the haven of friendship.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June Blessings

It is so hot here today, and the winds are gusting up to 30 mph. I mowed and thought I would die in the heat. Even the grass is beginning to get crunchy, looks and feels like August and not June! As a kid, I loved June because school was out and storm season was almost over. How I dreaded those Kansas twister nights and by the middle of June I could see July and the downhill slope to autumn. Spring storms to dread would be a long ways away.

June brings freshly mown hay and the beginnings of wild flowers along the roadsides. Already this year the heads of Queen Anne’s Lace waves in the hot breeze. Is there anything nicer than brand new, unsullied hay bales? Of course, when I was a kid the hay bales were oblong ones, not the huge round bales of today. As a teen, hay season also meant those cute farm boys in Levis and Wranglers, brown as a berry, and wearing shirts smudged with hay dust and honest sweat.

Today I had to go snap a picture of these hollyhocks planted by fence near a Hispanic church housed in an old warehouse. I remember hollyhocks from my childhood too. Grandpa had them growing by the chicken house. A friend had them growing in the yard and taught me to make little dolls with hoop skirts out of them. I hadn’t seen any hollyhocks for a long while, and they are such a cheery flower. I wonder if I could find a place around my house for planting some? Do they grown from seeds, from bulbs? Do they become a nuisance?

At one time here, we had a fair amount of stands at our farmer’s market. Then for various reasons, including some snarly merchants, the people on the square faded away. One vendor has stuck it out and continues to come every week. I have noticed a Vietnamese farmer coming a couple of times this spring. I hope the market business builds back up as there is something so wonderful about buying fresh produce from local people. Already this spring lettuce, onions, zucchini, and crooked neck squash have shown up along with early tomatoes and lots of flowers. I love it when they pick the little crooked neck squash while they are small, before they get bigger and a little tough. These small ones have been ambrosia to fix.

I learned to cook crooked neck squash from my mother-in-law as I had never seen them before. She browns them in a little butter, with salt and pepper and adds a wee tad of sugar to bring out the sweetness of the vegetable. It works. She also taught me that a cucumber doesn’t have to be peeled to be eaten, and an apple can be tossed in with lettuce!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book Blurb Friday

Lisa is showing us this picture today, asking us to write a book blurb for the possible story. Lisa and many of her followers are masters at creating  possible books. Their ideas are creative and boundless. My own seem rather trite,but I am determined to toss one out when I can, try to exercise my mind, hoping someday to create a great book blurb! It is fun anyway, and if you would like to read more blurbs and to play along, go to for the guidelines. My 148 words are below.

Joey Palladini had dreams. Dreams of getting out of Pasta Town, otherwise known as Poston, a town founded on working class people from Italy. They came to toil in the coal and lead mines when they were needed and now were stuck in circular lives of family, work, marriage and death. Joey wanted to break free of the entire cycle.

But the night of his senior party, with his State U acceptance at home on his desk, he let down and risked locking in his fate with Emilia and the rest. Beer at the river’s edge, Emilia’s bosom heaving out the top of her white t-shirt like mounds of provolone, and his own Levi’s quivering at the sight was risking turning the feast of life he wanted into crumbs at the table. Would Joey come to his senses in time or would he yield to the night’s temptations?

*********Reminder for information and guidelines on the Joplin Relief Writing OP visit Storm Country at

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mini Trip and a Memory

Baby Rainbow Trout swim at Neosho National Fish Hatchery

With the sudden hot weather DH has had to start getting up early to work on painting the house. He is now down to the last side which is a southern exposure without a lick of shade. By 10:00 or 11:00 he is done with standing in the sun, not to mention the heat makes the paint spread poorly. So today after a sandwich lunch, we took off for a little buzz of a trip.  

We drove to Neosho which is roughly 20 miles south of us. Neosho at one time was a bustling little town, a doorway to the hilly Ozarks. Houses are built on steep grades in the sides of hills or at the bottom of sharp inclines. Many are stately old Grand Dames with wrap around porches, filigree woodwork on the roof corners, many painted in pastel shades of an earlier era. Like many small towns in America, Neosho is fading. Many homes border on shabby, the square has empty store fronts, and well, the town has seen better days.

One of the original spots in Neosho that is still as beautiful as ever is Big Spring Park. Tucked right under an Ozark cliff, the spring gushes out burbling water. The town keeps the park done up in flowers, keeps the pergola painted, the lawn landscaped. The spring surges out the hillside and races under the street and down the rocky waterway. Here a hotel once stood famous for its dining room that cooked fresh trout. Patrons could go outside and choose their dinner from the cold spring fed fish pond, and it would be cooked for them. Children and adults alike lingered over the pools watching darting rainbows and browns.

About 50 years ago, my paternal relatives had a family reunion in this park. I don’t know why this area was chosen since it was a hundred miles from where everyone lived. It was a pretty place and certainly memorable since it is one of the first memories I have from childhood. I remember large hampers and coolers, many people, and my grandmother’s half sister’s family who came from I can’t remember where. But they came a long way, Utah maybe, and the sister had two children. One was a boy slightly older than I was. I remember his eating a banana and dropping the skin on this bridge, then slipping on the peel. I remember adults barking at us to get back to where we belonged and to settle down! I was to see this distance relation only one other time in my life. Amazing…glad I had this fun day as a long ago memory.

Neosho also has a National Fish Hatchery that is over 120 years old, the oldest operating fish hatchery in the United States. A new visitors’ center was built to replicate the original structure complete with onion dome and witch’s hat roof features in metal roofing. The building uses solar panels, lighting sensors, and environmentally efficient construction materials to make the facility as green as possible. While rainbow trout are raised in the holding tanks, there are also operations for raising pallid sturgeon. The pallid sturgeon, a prehistoric fish that evolved when dinosaurs were around, is now endangered. They look like a small shark.

                                           Baby Pallid Sturgeon

The visitor’s center has a small gift shop and most of the things there are made by local hands. Pottery and weavings by skilled hands; paintings and art work by area artists. Some of the woven pieces are neck scarves made in earth tones and shades. One scarf was extraordinary as the weaver had replicated the exact colors and shadings of a rainbow trout. It was gorgeous.

Only a few miles but we felt like we had been adventuresome and I had the comfort of recalling a long ago memory.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Future Writing Ops

Mixed Fruit magazine is now accepting submissions for its next issue.

They're looking for fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, literary
translations, and visual art.
Please see their website for submission guidelines, and check out the
latest issue to see what kind of work they are looking for.

Philip Levine Prize for Poetry

A prize of $2,000, publication by Anhinga Press, and 25 author copies
is given annually for a poetry collection. Poet Denise Duhamel will
judge. Submit a manuscript of 48 to 100 pages with a $25 entry fee by
September 30, 2011. Visit the Web site for complete guidelines.

Palooka is a print journal seeking works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, plays, artwork/photography, and graphic stories and essays for Issues 3 and 4. "We accept submissions year-round.

For complete submission guidelines, current issue samples, and more info on the journal please visit our"

2011 Springfield Writers' Guild 18th Annual Literary Awards
#1 Poetry Any subject, any form Limit: 1 page, single spaced
#2 Fiction Any subject Limit: 1,000 words
#3 Non-Fiction Any subject Limit: 1,000 words
Awards: 1st Place - $100 and Certificate Two Honorable Mentions and Certificates
(Fee: $3.00 per entry)

Tennesse Williams Festival is pleased to announce a Poetry Contest.
We will be accepting submissions by mail and online from April 18—August 18, 2011.
Grand Prize:$1,000
VIP All Access Pass ($500 value) for the 26th annual Festival: March,21-25, 2012.
Publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine
Public Reading at the 2012 Festival
Judge: Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane
Deadline: August 18, 2011 (postmark).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

More Joplin, More Weather

Okay, so who tore the June page off the calendar and landed us smack in the middle of the July weather? We are getting no spring this year. You know, when the days  are warm, bright and slightly breezy,  where you start the day in a sweatshirt and peel it off in the afternoon. The days where mornings leave your toes chilly enough for socks, but the noon time sun slowly warms the nip in your cheeks?

We suffered through an endless winter, deep snow and frigid temps only to move into rain, rain, rain. We waited patiently for spring knowing it would be a just reward for tolerating ugly winter weather. But the reward was twisters, huge hail, straight line winds, then an F5 tornado, and now steamy miserable heat. I don’t know the weather anymore; it is a stranger to me.

You grow up in Tornado Alley and you get used to wind storms. May comes to mean a siren here and there, dark twisters peeking out of clouds like a bed spring, only to disappear again. Sometimes a roof  blows off or a barn gets taken; maybe even a few houses lifted ala Dorothy and Toto. But what happened in Joplin two weeks ago tonight I don’t think of as wind. I think of it as a fire breathing dragon of mythic size whose breath scorched the earth and ate up people’s lives.

Saturday my sister came from Kansas, and we were determined beasts ourselves because we would not be driven inside in the heat. The air conditioning was grinding away, but we refused to fold up onto damask couches or sit on straight backed chairs around the table we had hunkered at all winter. We took pitchers of iced tea and a meal out to the deck where a canopy of leaves and a slight breeze made lingering there bearable. We pretended it was a nice spring day and forced ourselves to practice June among the flowers that were limp in the humidity. The grass was freshly cut and nothing is more grand that deck time so we stayed.

In the afternoon, we all went to Joplin to check out the ravages left behind by the May Beast. Chick Filet gone, doctor’s office gone, church gone, school gone, favorite furniture store gone, only grocery store in the area to carry brocoflower gone, new ice cream store gone, and other things not to mention 8,000 homes! Newscasters, including Brain Williams, had warned people that television and pictures could not hold the horror that seeing it live would. They were right. We felt a sickness creep over us and drill deep into our bones; it was sorrow for others. Maybe it was even some survivor’s guilt because we had not suffered any of this hit. We had been near but spared. The next thought was: when would it be our turn?

DH was astounded by the cars. He had always heard to get out of your car if in a tornado. Now he knew why, as these vehicles had been slammed, banged, ripped and gouged. The houses and homes were not just pushed over or damaged. In the worst blocks, the wood, rafters, and walls had been pulverized like a Tiny Toys crushed by an angry child. My sister moaned when she saw a toy fire engine in tact among the shards. We all silently wondered how deep the hurt went at that bungled home. And the damaged areas went on and on, as far at the eye could see in some places.
William Sloane Coffin said that he “...loved the recklessness of faith. First you jump, then you grown wings.” The people of Joplin didn’t jump, they were pushed, but they are growing wings. Among the piles of twisted rubbish are American flags floating in the now horrible hot air showing their spirit. Some broken walls have psalms or crosses painted on a timber. Already the rebuilding has begun….


Reminder for information and guidelines on the Joplin Relief Writing OP visit Storm Country at



Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Centus/The End

I couldn't help myself. I had to take a peek at Jenny's Saturday Centus page at This week's prompt is only two words, The End and Jenny limited writers to 25 word writings this week. Surely I had time and energy to give that a shot! For more 25 word pieces and instructions to play, go to Jenny's page.

                                                   The End
Janelle couldn’t wait to get back to turning pages, to that feisty bad girl Scarlett. But suddenly there is was, the last page with The End.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Do You Blog?

I started blogging a little short of two years ago. I gathered Followers and I became a Follower. It was so much fun, and I met the greatest people from all over! The blogs I read lead me to other interesting people and blogs of varied subjects. Then some blogs became like those Russian nesting dolls, I opened one which led to another and then another and…

But this kind of reading and posting and commenting takes time. It became work to keep up, but enjoyable work. Winter weather made it somewhat easier to stay in touch with the blog world when I was confined inside.

But this spring has undone me somewhat. I keep falling farther and farther behind. I miss Centus, fail to get the Book Blurbs written, can’t read entire blogs, and making comments? Well forget that as other duties call. Grand dog needed surgery and care; grandbabies were next with a 12 hour trip to visit them. Returning home, we began to paint the house and the skies opened up dumping rain on that job. Then the garage door broke, the car broke down, and IRS could not agree with our numbers. Then an F5 tornado snuck into the rain clouds and hit our area, sweeping devastation over the county and leaving sorrow in its wake. Now July heat and humidity are the rewards for making it through May. Where did June weather go? Sucked up by that tornado?

This morning I joined others in making sandwiches for Joplin, Missouri relief workers. This afternoon was book club where one member had come from sorting and folding clothing for folks left homeless from the tornado. Another had housed visiting nurses, bought clothes for a family that did not even have a change of underwear. It seems that all our time these days is tornado related: working for churches, forming relief projects, thinking about and/or just feeling gratitude for being spared. Blogging falls to the bottom of the list as the energy fades.

But it does cause me to wonder how do YOU blog. Do you set aside a certain amount of time each day, each week for blogging? Do you read only certain blogs or read a certain number of blogs each day? How do you decide who to visit each day on a blog? How do you refrain from visiting each new blog suggested in a blog you are reading…or do you just visit every suggestion? And if you do, who cleans YOUR toilet bowls??????

Reminder for information and guidelines on the Joplin Relief Writing OP visit Storm Country at