Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Outing and the Grand Dog

We have always had a policy to stay off the roads for Memorial Day and Labor Day. After a long drive this Labor Day Saturday, I remember why! So many cars, trucks and boats on the road today. Many people heading for the lakes on a hot day, and many more were traveling to cemeteries to decorate graves. Despite traffic, the views were rich and verdant. Golden wheat, ready early this year, stretched out like golden carpets. Corn about a foot high looked green and strong.

Our destination was to get our grand dog for a week while our son works in Oklahoma. We met half way for both us on the edge of the Flint Hills. Before hitting the small town, DH and I stopped in Pittsburg to visit their Farmers' Market for the first time. It is relatively small but so loaded with diverse produce and bakery items. Due the heat today and being on the road, we were limited to what we could buy. I did get some huge radishes, lovely blueberries, two carrot-coconut-pineapple muffins, and a jar of jam before we hit the road again.

Once in Fredonia, a small Kansas berg, we picked up hamburgers and went to the local park which was on a huge mound. One could see for miles around, see the prairie reaching to the horizons. There were plenty of trees for shade and the breeze kept us comfortable until we would step out into the 90 degree sunshine!

Storm was excited to see us after six months. She was eager to get into our truck and visit Missouri for a week! Ah, the love of a dog!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tea for One This Morning

I awoke at 5:30 this morning and faced a trade-off in my head. Did I keep my eyes shut a little longer or grab some precious minutes all alone in my garden before DH raced through doors, the neighbors ran noisy mowers, and city trucks lumbered down the street? I opted for a session where the only racket I heard was the songs of numerous birds greeting the dawn with melody.

Truly the good life...a muffin, tea, a book, and a fresh morning.

One of my little buddies this morning. A Carolina wren just after his bath in the bird bath.
Mexican petunias...fresh in the morning but blooms will be gone by nightfall. Tomorrow morning, more fresh blooms will appear!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nathan Boone...continued from yesterday

Nearly two hundred years old, the Nathan Boone home is amazing for what it has gone through during the years like the Civil War and 1937 tornado. The 1937 tornado took one chimney, but the house stood otherwise unharmed. However, all out buildings were destroyed at that time. The present barn was rebuilt after the storm and about 80 years old.

Looking from the front porch of the house, one can see the creek bed that was once much larger. Across the creek and up the rise (in the small group of trees) is one of the two springs on the property. This was the family water source and slaves carried water the distance to the dog trot cabin. Near that spring was a road that went to Springfield.

Several cut-aways appear in the cabin walls. Once can see the history of the house: wooden logs, lathe, plaster, etc.

A walking trail back to the park office takes visitors by the Boone family cemetery and by their slave cemetery.

After buying a few books at the park office, we headed back into town for a burger lunch. Then we did some flea markets and meandered home on back roads stopping at a garage sale or two. We all found some treasure for the day…DH found a drafting set to add to his collection, we all found some used books, I found some Limoges
berry cups! We came home tired, happy, and more knowledgeable about Nathan Boone!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Missouri's Nathan Boone

This has been a very busy week, but most of it has been social or pleasant. Tea parties, salads on the deck, a breakfast brunch on a friend’s porch, and today was really great as DH and I, along with friends, visited the Nathan Boone State Park. It was just grand!

The site is about an hour from us and is just outside the berg of Ash Grove, Missouri. The land in this area is positively gorgeous… rolling rich farm land that looks very much like parts of Kentucky. No wonder the Boones found it a good place to start a homestead.

Nathan Boone was the last of Daniel Boone’s ten children. He was a farmer, planter, army man who sired fourteen children of his own. This homestead was where he died after retiring from the military service at age 67. He married his wife Olive when she was 16 and who was a strong, noteworthy woman herself. I intend to read more about these two Missouri residents and to brush up on old Daniel as well!

We registered at the park office and opted for the guided tour which was a wise move. Dakota turned out to be a fascinating guide who knew his stuff. We followed a path through a small woods to the farm house that was about a quarter of a mile back on open prairie…totally beautiful place.

Dakota took us into the house, into the root cellar, and pointed out many spots in our view. The house was a traditional dog trot log cabin that in later years was enclosed to provide one more small room for living. Dakota opened the doors on either side of the house, the old dog trot, and a delightful and cooling breeze came up from the valley and through the house.

One of the most interesting features of the house was the shoe box. It was a practice to put two shoes in the walls and leave them there when building a house to ensure good luck. This tradition can be found as far back as the 1600’s, and when repairing and restoring the home, the workers in deed found shoes from the mid 1800’s.

Not many people know much about Nathan Boone, only the family name. This home and the homestead site are well worth the time to visit, to learn the history of, and to enjoy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tea in the Garden

                                       Painting by Dorothy Mundell...her own farm flower garden.

Two of the best things in life are tea and friends. This morning was a perfect example of an exquisite morning with both. It might be farfetched to call my deck a garden, but it is a garden to me. Years ago we had a vegetable garden for a while but never flowers. I grew up in a household where my dad was a tyrant about having any flowers or ornaments in the yard! Grass was meant for cutting, should  be evenly trimmed, and needed no interruptions to the mower.  When I had my own yard, I was busy rearing boys instead of raising blooms. I did keep pots on the deck though out of the way of soccer balls, imaginary wars with guns and hostlers, Tonka dozers through sand pits, and tree house traffic.
The weather is flawless this week for being outside. I took the chance to have a little tea party. Oh, the joy of sharing tea and good weather! Tastes were equally divided between hot tea and iced tea, but there was something for everyone. There was cinnamon orange, tropical, chocolate, and plain tea. Snacks were little cheesecakes, a breakfast cookie, chocolate chip, and a raspberry bar. But the real sweetness of the morning was seeing people relax, laugh, and enjoy themselves.

In the afternoon a couple brought burgers and we added chips, cookies, and of course, more tea. We caught up on their news. After lunch and a near naptime, they left and the day wound down. Tea and friends, all day long…ideal assets for a May day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

May Writers' Guild

It was a busy few hours but satisfying. I went to Writers’ Guild last night and was so tired walking in the building. Thought I couldn’t do it, but I was glad I persevered! The meeting was great with lots of good discussions. We even had a visitor.

Once business was tended to, I did a little program with practice writing. I have been pushing free writing or practice writing as Natalie Goldberg calls it this last year. With polished and achieving writers like Veda Body Jones and Larry Wood on hand, this is a bit unnecessary for some. But the teacher in me can’t ignore those beginning writers, those writers with no confidence or ones with no courage to submit. So many meetings during Brag Session (the period where we share our submissions, rejections, acceptances), members are quiet with nothing to add. I am determined make it possible for them to “bring something to the table” so to speak.

All winter we worked on a story starter with a specific market in mind. Everyone was excited and a few submitted what came to be called the “Rachel story”. It would be so nice if one of us were chosen, but the real perk was having people excited and confident enough to say. “I submitted!”

Last night we did two very short writes. I gave them five minutes to describe, remember, or fabricate about MUD. They could give their feelings, write a list of places mud was found, take any turn about mud—just write. It was amazing what five minutes could produce. Some were excited enough to think they had a kernel for writing something larger with the found idea. Larry’s lines looked at Dr. Mudd who gave his name to the saying “His name was Mudd.” David recalled being in second grade and stopping at a construction site on his way home from school after a rain and the muddy trouble he and his shoes were in when he got home.

Then I showed them a picture of two elderly men and a dog. I gave them 15 minutes to write poem, memoir, and fiction, whatever. Again, the wheels turned rapidly and the pens flew. Several ideas were shared and they were all astonishing. One was a hoot. Sheila’s attention was captured by one old gent’s belt and wrote on the lives of men’s belts; she called her piece “The Beltway”. We urged her to save her funny lines and polish them for submitting.

David won the door prize of the evening which was a copy of Stephen King’s book On Writing. A little younger than King,
David lived only a few blocks from King when he lived in his home state of Maine.

Next month we expect to hear Olive Sullivan speak on poetry and poetry markets today. It is good to be among the “write” friends!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bullying, Alive and Well?

DH just finished reading a book that I had read last week titled Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco. It is a memoir of her life as an only child who was bullied at school. Oh, this is a painful read! Both DH and I wondered if all of it could be true, could any child have it that bad. Yes, I think they could.

But as a writer, I know a memoir is not always a blow by blow tale of exact moments. When writing our life stories, we must compress time, rearrange events, condense or inflate details for readers due to the constraints of pages and space in a book. Even if a reader feels Jodee Blanco sugarcoated the class reunion scene or enhanced the high school senior year pain, there is truth on these pages. Ask any nerd or fatty or geek or bonehead or etc. so labeled at their school.

DH and I sat on the deck under the spring trees with a breeze blowing over our iced tea. We began to dissect our school years and both feel we never abused or bullied anyone. Both wondered though if we had been thoughtless to someone not of “our” crowd.  We recalled tiny bits of bullying we might have experienced…they were nothing like Blanco’s experiences or those of kids now days who are cyber bullied to the point of suicide or taking a gun to school for revenge.

I know that today I would not, would NOT, stand for what I accepted in my youth. My mom taught and I believed that to give a harassing person notice or complaint was to give them the attention they wanted. I just took it. I took the kids on the corner shooting pellets guns at us neighborhood kids by staying inside or my back yard until they grew up and did other tortures to bigger kids. I took the two boys being mean to me when I was fourth grade and going home to lunch; they eventually broke a part on my bike. I took the seniors who kicked my band chair, knocked my music to the floor, called my name until I turned and then said, “Turn around stupid.” I took the pinching in inappropriate places from senior boys when I was an underclassman because I thought to complain would make it worse. How did I tell it anyway? Today I would shock their jaw and file sexual harassment papers in the office. I just took many things as part of growing up, thought kids would be kids, tried not to complain, and just grew up.

The one memory that brought this old lady to tears was psychological bullying of a teacher. It was so painful to remember, and I wonder how my life might have been different without it. His class was right after lunch. I would feel sick with fear when I got up in the morning, dreaded each hour easing towards that class, had trouble eating lunch, and then endured a year of agony made worse by the fact I did not score good grades in his class. I remember how once the afternoon bell rang I felt wonderful…laughed and joked as the day wrapped up. I was fine until bedtime because then I remembered when I woke up I would have to face him again with another day. Weekends were great until Sunday night…when it started all over.

The man was peculiar and mean. Some girls and most boys liked him because they thought he was a pal. Many did not because of his habit of making the girls go to the board to work and letting the boys laugh at them behind their backs—and their backsides. Imagine that happening today!

So I can see the truth behind Blanco’s book even if every fact might not be correct. I saw bullying as a child, I saw it as a teacher when certain students developed into the victims, I saw it in the workplace when somehow certain fellow employees managed to, yes, plain old bully others. The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” just aren’t true. Why are we not doing a better job of handling bullying now…or are we do you think?

Were you bullied….do you think it is a problem that is worse than it used to be…or will “kids just be kids”?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mexican Petunias!

The last week has been moderately quiet. DH and I felt like generals who lead the troops through a battle. After the farm auction and all before it, we felt shell-shocked, sat on the deck when possible and vegged like catatonic beasts.

Then yesterday we met St. Louis friends for lunch at a half-way point on I44. It was so pleasant, quiet atmosphere, a sandwich with iced tea, and friends. We swapped books, and my friend brought me a load of Mexican petunias.
She has gotten them for me the last four years because we have connected during planting seasons. This year was more of a push and I appreciate her efforts for me!

Since Mexican Petunias or Rueilla is becoming more popular, I was hoping to find some plants locally. No such luck. The one greenhouse said they that had them for about four years but no longer carry them because no one bought them. The plants are on a warning list in Florida and are considered a pest plant there. A perennial and native of Mexico, most winters are too harsh for them here. So I have just enjoyed fresh plants each year and get new in the spring.

Mexican petunias grow about 3 feet tall and have luscious blue, white or purple flowers with trumpet shapes. So they might resemble a petunia, but the foliage is long and lance-like which is very different from a traditional petunia. The flowers come out in the morning and then drop off in the evenings. I have read they can bear a fruit, but I have never seen it. The butterflies love the flowers, and we enjoy the plants near our bird baths for both flowers and visiting butterflies.

So these babies need to be planted and we will see what we have soon. I got some for friends too. Everyone should have a taste of a Mexican petunia on their deck or in their garden!

Do you have Mexican petunias in your garden?