Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grandpa's DX Station

A lot of people my age mutter about downsizing, about weeding out so their kids don’t have to do it later. I have thought about cleaning out and have done a little tidying in the closets and drawers myself. While I am not much interested in having the latest designs or owning the biggest house or impressing others with material possessions, I do hold onto the things I hold dear for their memories. There is no real way to pass on our memories or our life experiences to our children. Oh, we can tell them, but you know kids don’t really listen. They must make their own life, their own memories.

I have the top of my kitchen cabinets filled with special things. My grandmother’s McCoy tea pot, a Wizard of Oz tin toted back from California after a visit to see a dying uncle, the Cudahy lard can that calls up my salesman maternal Granddaddy and the Tom’s jar that brings my paternal Grandpa back to me with each glance above the stove.

Grandpa had a DX station when a filling station meant attendants to pump the gas and when coolers full of milk and beer could be found only at the grocery store. He had pumps in front and a shop to the side where he changed points and plugs, fixed tires, changed oil.

Inside the station office, everything was a little messy. Desk and chairs were slightly oily from his greasy hands, built like an outfielder’s glove, and the stained wipe rag that hung from the back pocket of his Key overalls. The black dial phone shined with dirt; the cigar box cash register in the top desk drawer was always closer to empty than not. When we showed up, he tried to always make time to sit in the oak chair on rollers for a minute or two, until the ding of a bell announced another car for him to check the oil, wash the windshield, test tire air pressure, and to pump full of gas at 29 cents a gallon.

The inside of the station also held a metal cooling box full of ice water where icy bottles of soda pop waited: Pepsi, Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, Grapette. On the wall shelves, near the transmission fluids with chesty girls on the label, rested three Tom’s jars. Oh, I loved those jars. When the lids came off, I could smell the treasures long before Grandpa handed them to me. There were small bags of salty peanuts in one, another held Double Bubble gum in a pink wad that had to be softened in your cheek before chewing, and the third stored sugar-coated red diamonds of sucking candy, the cinnamon so strong your eyes wept when the lid came off the jar.

It was a family crisis when Grandma and Grandpa had to move to the nursing home, a story of its own. The decision to empty the two story, cluttered house came fast with no warning. Family descended like turkey vultures after road kill. I was called and went to find pictures and items and memories being trashed faster than the jaws of industrial strength caterpillars. The station had long been closed, and I knew the Tom jars were somewhere in that old house. Finally in the early afternoon, under a layer of grease and disregard, I spied my jar. I wrapped my arms around it and took it to my car, locking it in the trunk.

                                               A real McCoy!              

The jar now sits on my cabinet top. I have another on the counter that I had bought long before I got my hands on Grandpa’s. I use it all the time, being unafraid to chip the lid or scratch the paint because up above rests the real McCoy! I know the provenance of that jar with the black letters, and on certain days I can still smell the cinnamon as the ring of the glass lid kissed the side of the jar when Grandpa handed me down a piece…I can hear his voice, see the curl of Black Irish hair peek out from his cap…and I know memories are priceless. A house can’t have too many of them hanging around. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Night Thoughts

Sunday night and I look at the calendar. I am shocked to see that we are right on February’s door step. January here has been warmer and drier than normal. Some days are getting up to a sunny 60 degrees…climate change? Weathermen have predicted a couple of rains that have not shown up; they are predicting rain again for early in the week. Unfortunately, they are also predicting some possible severe weather. It is hard not to feel uneasy. Weather is a demon any more.

I have been attending a class at a local church called Writing Your Life in Faith. It has been interesting and a book discussion group might spiral off from this group. It has been fun to write with very little pressure. All is optional to write or read aloud. It has been pleasant to hear the other writers and their takes on the assignment. Tomorrow we write about the Garden of Life and what flower, fruit or vegetable we would be there. I am a potato…because I feel like I am usually in the dark when others are flowering!

My poinsettias, grape ivies, and Cousin Sel plants are all reaching for the windows. They would like to be outdoors, as would we all. Despite the warmth and sun, it is just TOO early. This week I bought a small bunch of cut flowers…as a reminder that spring will come…in her own good time.

January has been a good writing season. I have ten submissions so far this month. I have an essay started and notes made for a second one. I have done a poem for the Crawford County Bombadils. The President assigned an anaphora poem this month so I learned something new when I participated.

Speaking of writing, who all is going to the OWL meeting in Branson in mid-February?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January Has Two Faces

Two warm, spring-like days and now the frosty cold nights return. January is bipolar this year! We so need the moisture that a few days snowbound would be worth the confinement if we got some snow or rain. I haven’t felt like much this week, but gradually I come around.  Coming home from the eye doctor one day, DH and I stopped at a new flea market, small but will a grand fellow from Scotland as owner. DH found a huge wood plane and I picked up this brand new pitcher with sticker still in place. The price was only a third of the original price. Of course, it was the blue and white that caught my eye as I really don’t need another pitcher!

So yesterday I straightened cupboards, wiped counters, mopped a floor, and said goodbye to the reds in the dining room. While I love the blue and whites, they seem almost cold after weeks of warm reds and holly greens. I left out the icy candle holder which is wintry.  Friends brought this to us from their stay in Finland a few years ago, and it always calls to me on wintry days. I have timed candles in it so that at dusk each evening they come on and then go out was we head for bed. They cast a nice glow on cold nights.

Tonight the emails warmed me because I got news of an acceptance. Thanks to Donna over at http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com for alerting me to the call out for Cupid’s Quiver, an anthology of short romances. Looks like they will be using mine! So despite the coming cold air, I am warm with encouragement. I see a new week ahead that maybe I can get back to work. Hearing of an acceptance warms me up to more writing!

Here is to a great week ahead for both readers and writers! 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Centus, Tomato Warfare

Today Saturday Centus also uses a picture prompt for a 100 word writing. For more writing samples and complete rules to play, go to

                                             Tomato Warfare

Most of the tomatoes had withered and shrunk in autumn’s shortened days, but some still plumped enough to make exploding juicy bombs when they hit a target. The afternoon they decided to ratchet up the thrill by embedding small rocks in the fruits, he heard a voice in his conscience warn against the weapon. But the boys on his team all thought the idea smashing…so to speak.

As the missiles hit, their targets’ faces registered shock. Then his cousin howled, the eye already bloodied. The incoming tomato, red as his mother’s polished nails, was the last sight for that eye.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Fictioneers, A Secret Still

Another week is ending and I am ready. Nary a word written this week nor desire to do so. An eye hemorrhage has hammered my week, both worrying, hurting and depressing my days. I think the eye is on the mend,  and I want to write some lines...so Friday Fictioneers picture prompt is just the thing. I think I can do 100 words this morning. For more short readings and rules to play, visit: http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/18-january-2013/

A nice welcome to new followers Sandy! 

Now for the story....picture below.

                                                           A Secret Still

Mickey Shannon could smell the mash on his hands and urged the red handled pump to bring up fresh water for washing behind the farmhouse. He looked back into the woods: no tell-tell path pointed to the still.

Before he opened the screen door, the boiling cabbage smell greeted him. He would have supper with the lusty cook before heading back into town. O’Rourke felt safe having him working for the gang, thinking him 100% Irish. Mickey thought of the candelabra hidden at home in his closet. The golden menorah would remain a secret like the woman and the still.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Teacup Tuesday/Snowman teapot

It has been a long time since I have participated in Teacup Tuesday because I have used self-restraint in buying more cups and pots. In fact, I have refrained from even looking at thrift shops and flea markets. January always means a time of work on writing and a cessation of the social activities for me.

However, I noticed my snowman teapot is still out. I don’t think I have shared him or seen one on the T.T. before. I think he came from Hallmark. I have had him so long I can’t remember for sure. This is a big pot and dark navy blue; the dark color is right for the dark, gray days of winter. The simple snowman on the side reminds me to keep my life simple…at least for a month! Pot after pot of cinnamon tea, Irish Breakfast, and a good herbal in the evenings are brewed constantly.

While I try not to have cakes, pies, and such, a nice shortbread makes a perfect special treat for some days. Otherwise we try to stick to gram crackers, some nuts, or some nice cheese to nibble. The tea itself becomes the centerpiece in January.
A special welcome to new followers Nancy, Linda and Kat. It is always nice to see new readers and to hear their comments. The more the merrier!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It's January and I Need a Wife!

Do you find writing exhausting? Yes, I know it is fun, challenging and gratifying, but does it leave you drained as well?

It is January, and I write. I have so many ideas that I am just trying to get them down as fast as I can for rewriting and editing later. Just following these characters through their days and seeing where they go is work! I find I can’t read with leisure until I get back to the computer and hammer out some scenes that beg to be captured. The characters speak in my head until I can’t hear the words in my books!

Then there is housekeeping, yuck. Never have I  been so aware of Michener’s advice that every writer needs a wife. How I could use a wife in January!!! Hubby asked me yesterday if I had done laundry. Well, yes, I did laundry last month, last year, and in the last decade. No, he said, “I mean have you done laundry recently?”

Okay, so I put a load in last night to wash and dry as we went to bed. Yes, dangerous move, I know. This morning I got up at 5:45…read Scripture mediation…a chapter in book club book….25 minutes of exercise…tea pot on and fiber muffin…writing for an hour.

Then DH awakened…so soon!!!! I smiled and went to set machines tumbling and groaning with more laundry. Browned meat for lunch, taco salads…made sugar free dessert for healthy living…brewed more tea…folded a load. Back to write an hour. Changed washer load to dryer and reloaded washer. Fetched mail that held nothing good. Sat down to write more on a story….well, you know how it goes, lunch time quickly arrived, and DH waltzed in from his shop hobby, sat down, was served and then took a nap after exhausting himself from eating. Then this is play off season for football…the games must be watched!

My characters cried at me, threatened to leave and not return due to my lack of attention. I picked up dishes as fast as I could, considered using an expletive at the dryer buzzer, and hurried to my office begging a scene to stay until I could get it down on paper.

Evening falls and supper dares to peek over the horizon again, approaching as I write! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Before the Storm

Winter sky, the shades of a house mouse,
Hammers down my mind and soul,
Nailing me to a dark season.

Yes, the sky is so dark today and a rain/snow mix is working its way into the area. DH and I both slept later this morning than we normally do and that sets a day’s schedule behind before it even begins. We had a pick-up at the pharmacy and a drop-off at the post office first thing. We had no other place to go, no other needs, and yet, we did not care to return home. Then DH thought of sugar free pie from the Mennonite store, a bit of brightness on this dark day.

The store is a couple of miles outside our town, but it is always quite busy. It has the usual things a bulk store offers plus some mighty nice bakery items. They make the peach pie with Splenda so it eases the conscience a bit. Today they had a new pepperoni bread much like a Stromboli I used to make myself. Brought it home…yum. Also found a strawberry angel food cake in our basket. Found them this summer and thought they wouldn’t be around in winter. But today, the pink cake shined on a dark day. We also brought home oat bran, wheat bran, and ground flax so there were some healthy thoughts in our head as well.

We took back roads home just to make the little ride longer. This meant we followed and crossed Spring River. In the winter, the river has its own beauty. Bare trees allow for distant views of far-reaching fallow fields resting or Ozark rocky cliffs not available to view clearly in other seasons. Now with rain 17 inches below normal here, the river runs with green clearness. I lamented I had no camera, but I asked DH to stop on the bridge as the scene was totally gorgeous. I used my phone and snapped a pretty good shot, although it is not as pretty as actually being there. I particularly loved how the two sycamores were reaching for each other across the water with white limbs.

Home again to fresh bread with some leftover homemade soup before curling up on a cold winter’s day.


The few lines at the top of the blog are a “small stone”. A small stone is writing that makes us aware of the small moments that make up our life. It is so mindful to read and follow this blog. Go here if you would like to take a look: http://www.writingourwayhome.com/

Friday, January 11, 2013

January Postcards

When we first began to travel and in the days of old cameras, pictures were risky. You snapped them but never knew if the shot was good until you were home again and had the film developed. It was then I began to buy post cards because the photo on them was a sure thing. I loved the color and the shots on the postcards that I would never get myself.

I have a friend who collects postcards, asks friends to send her one from all the places they go. It is a nice and inexpensive hobby and collection. She gets the added benefit of a little note from people she knows.

But as photography and communication both change, fewer things are put into snail mail. I lament the loss of letters, of personal notes, but I admit I have slipped myself into pushing SEND on a dashed email. When I saw my huge stack of postcards in a cleaning frenzy a  few years ago, I could not bear to throw them away. The web now provides scenes of anything I could possibly want to see on a postcard. So I began a new tradition to not only use the postcard collection but to utilize the new ones I still can’t resist buying here and there!

Every January, I look through my stacks and pick out post cards I am ready to send out into the world. I have little news for anyone, but I jot a line of something and send it on its way. I like to think of the sweet smile of my friends when they see color, interesting scenes, unusual pictures and something hand addressed in their mailbox. It doesn’t take long to do, and I know how I beam when I open the mailbox to anything personal.

I love hearing from my blog friends in the comment section, and I love to leave a “Howdy” on the blogs of others. However, nothing like a little caring postcard  sent through the mail once in a while. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Name Is Nancy

My Name is Nancy is a memoir written by Nancy Calkins for the author’s children and grandchildren. But her story has such detail and some pointed insights that make it good reading for other booklovers as well. Nancy Womdeldorff Caulkins recalls family history before her time, moves into her childhood memories, heads into her teen years and brings readers up to date with her adult life. The picture of her ancestors can be the story of many immigrants to this country and helps readers appreciate how we all came from somewhere else. The angst of her teen years is universal to many; her honesty in dealing with a rough marriage can be helpful to young women in a similar situation.

I have to admit that I shared part of Nancy’s life so my review is colored by our mutual memories. With that said, I totally enjoyed her story. I love memoir, am somewhat of a voyeur in looking at the lives of others through memoirs, and I found hers fast and wonderful. She told me things about my own region of Kansas I never knew.

I had a few questions for the author that I will share with you below.

1.    The detail of your grandfather going out the back door every time your dad walked in the front door was a painful point to read. It must have been very hard on your mom and I wonder she ever had the nerve to marry your dad! Was your grandfather as stanch in all his beliefs? And looking back now, do you see anyway for these two in-laws to ever have connected better than avoidance?


My mother’s strength had already been tested when she stood up to her father and left home after college, a decision with which her parents disagreed.  I think the greatest pain was for my dad, rather than my mother.  She already knew what Grandfather was like and how he felt.  My dad had tears when he told me about Grandfather walking out.  It hurt him that her parents were unwilling to accept him, unwilling to even give him a chance.  I can’t speak much to my Grandfather’s beliefs because I was only five years old when he passed away.   I do know that he was a teetotaler and when the doctor recommended he drink a beer a day for his heart, he couldn’t bring himself to do it.  From what I know, I would never have expected him to behave any differently or to become more accepting.  Some people never change and I believe she knew her dad was one of those people.  My dad was a good man, loving and caring.  It was Grandfather’s loss that he never got to know him.  Sometimes I wonder if Grandfather ever laughed.


2.       In writing a memoir, how did you choose what to put in and what to leave out?

          I chose to leave out some of the ugliness that really added nothing to my message.  I wrote extensively about family history and family stories because that’s what I wanted to preserve.  I omitted what was unnecessary or undeserving of inclusion.  The greater task was trying to recall all that I wanted to include, and thank goodness for other family members for helping me to do that.  Even now I remember things or hear new stories that I could have included.  For that reason I think a memoir is never really complete.   

3.    Your research on your genealogy seemed very complete. Do you have any special tips that you learned in finding your family story that others writers could use?

Fortunately, my sister Joyce had already done extensive genealogy work.  I’m also a lifetime member of the Womelsdorf Family Association which is a wonderful resource for my ancestry.  I took advantage of the Internet to do research and am currently helping my husband track his family heritage.  The Internet has proved invaluable.  I think the important thing is not to give up.  Some days I come up with nothing, but on other days I may find several family members to add.

4.    You are super honest about your first marriage and that you endured a painful situation for nearly twenty years, longer than you should have. You urge young women to avoid this path and to learn to take care of themselves. I agree that education is a ticket, but do you have any warning signs for young women to watch for in avoiding this kind of relationship or how to get out of one they might be in?

 We each determine our own worth, so to accept less than we deserve is cheating ourselves.  Being treated less than an equal means it’s time to reassess.  If the emotional chaos, turmoil, and anxiety far outweigh any positive, satisfying fulfillment in a relationship, then I would contend that something isn’t right.  The chaos may come from verbal or physical abuse, lack of respect, isolation, anger problems, control issues, dishonesty—from a variety of personal problems.  Being in love doesn’t mean being in constant pain. 

 Another strong point you make, Nancy,  is that we affect each other’s lives and that sometimes we don’t even know it. One example is Nurse Green, a woman you never actually met, but she was a blood match and donated blood for a transfusion that might have saved your baby from damage after her birth.  Thanks for the reminder that we all matter and leave a mark somewhere.

Even if you don’t know Nancy, this book is a good little read. Even if you don’t know southeastern Kansas, you will find foods, games, and traditions of the 1950s and 1960 era Midwest entertaining. If you ever want to write a memoir for your own children, My Name is Nancy makes a great teacher on how to do it right. The book can be ordered from Amazon.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Winter Whites and Food History

Winter Morning Moon

I see January as a month of Winter White even if there is no snow around. My mother-in-law always set out artificial white tulips in winter. Despite the lack of color, they somehow reminded us to be hopeful of spring when real flowers came. I have continued her tradition and enjoy white tulips even if they are silk.

In moving books, I found one I had not quite finished. 97 Orchard, An Edible History of the Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement is a story of food and the people who ate it. It was a little more scholarly than expected, but written with such detailed research, the reader can smell the cabbage in the long, dark tenement hallways. I think food and how it eaten is interesting. I am amazed by our traditions we think are “normal” while others gasp. My family’s habit of eating of dill pickles with pancakes comes to mind.

This weekend I made some cherry tarts my husband was leaving alone which is strange since he eats anything sweet. He said he remembers cherries as so tart he puckered and seeing them is a turn off. Odd since his sister remembers cherry pie from her childhood as a favorite and credits her mother for teaching her how to make a great cherry pie…with lots of sugar is my guess.

My own food history is varied and not particularly unique since it is a mishmash of the ordinary. My Irish paternal great-grandfather liked corn…but he preferred to drink it as he was known for his Crawford County, Kansas still. His wife, my great grandmother, I never knew except in a story from my dad. He said his Grandmother, Mary Catherine of German descent, was a very kind and loving woman. His favorite memory was from the Depression when they were all hungry. She would take chunks of home baked bread and slather it with lard and then sprinkle it with sugar, quite a treat it was.

Dad’s mother, my grandmother, was also from German stock. She went out as domestic help when she was in her teens, ending up cooking a large chunk of her life in cafes. She worked hard, but when I knew her she was a bit slapdash about things. I remember she taught me to eat okra, and she made luscious egg noodles. I am sure these came from her German background. When I would go in the back door and see those plump worms of yellow dough stretched out on a clean tea towel, I couldn’t wait to see them floating in a rich broth for lunch.

My maternal grandfather broke up leftover cornbread and stirred it in his milk. The first time I saw this, I “tattled” on Gramps because I thought it must be bad behavior. Gran assured me many people did it. However, the morning I saw her scramble eggs with brains for his breakfast, I ceased eating my eggs scrambled at their house!

While I only saw green bananas at my house, I saw black (ripe) ones at my in-laws. We salted grapefruit, they sugared it. We salted and peppered both cottage cheese and tomatoes. Our German neighbors sugared them. We used cold milk on oatmeal to cool it; others used warmed milk to keep the oatmeal warm. My dad ate raw turnip sandwiches and my mother loved kippers.

One of my favorite sandwiches (other than garlic bologna) from childhood was a banana, mayo, and peanut butter sandwich. I ate one at college and my roommates gagged watching so I gave up the habit. The one thing from childhood that I have never cooked in my own kitchen is breaded tomatoes. I never liked them as a kid, but I had to eat them if they were on my plate. I learned to love liver when my Cudahy (meat packers) salesman grandfather taught my mom to ask for thin-sliced calves’ liver only. I learned to like spinach in my own kitchen.

My children’s favorites when they come home have nothing to do with their own ethnic background. Stromboli, stuffed manicotti, Golden Burros (learned in Golden Colorado), tacos, cheese and rosemary meatloaf, and the unique recipe called Mexican Manicotti are on their wish list.

Things change, but I think it interesting to see where we all came from in our food habits.

What is your food history?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Like My Hat?

I love hats although I don’t wear many anymore. Times change, age takes over, and necessity alters the need to wear a hat. I grew up when hats were standard fair. I did not always like them and can still feel the snap of elastic under my chin where Mother forgot her own strength with the stretchy band. But as a young woman I fell in love with fedoras and snappy brims.

This last shopping season a book club member and I ran into each other at a local shop. We were both trying on strange new hats. It was fun…we began to laugh…edged each other on. We ended up in buying hats. I felt like a Russian peasant in mine; she looked like a train engineer in hers. But we bought and didn’t stop there. We have continued to wear them and bump into each other in town, laughing all the way.

Isn’t that what clothes and such should do, invite us to play a little, laugh a little, experiment? I am pretty straight and ordinary about my clothes. A body like mine is hard to fit and money was always a problem. I grew up choosing garments that could be worn a hundred times with different accessories in hopes they would appear different at each wearing. I chose standard black, earthy browns and navy blues. These were sturdy colors that were not memorable to others like passionate pink or racy red. The habit is hard to break, and I  feel odd when I get too outlandish in color or fabric choice.

When I lived in Hazelwood, Missouri as a newlywed, the lady who lived in a ranch style house behind us taught me to appreciate color. She lived with oranges, rusts, and rich greens and a dash of lemon yellow. It was the years of green appliances and I lived with green refrigerator and stove for years.  Funny, now black is a common choice for kitchen things.

So this Christmas I bought a shiny red purse, a bright purple sweater and goofy hat. It isn’t much, but it is a start. So maybe this new year will one where I flower in my personal garden!

How do you color your life?