Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rain and Writing Weekend

                                                             Painting by Susie Bewick

More rain and chill and dark: although little real rain, the damp sprinkles were enough to make everything wet this weekend. So in  chunks of time stolen from man and dog, I worked on studying markets, writing, rewriting, and submitting. It takes a lot of time to just deal with writing issues. Not every writing hour is producing a WIP.

One op that arrived in my mailbox yesterday I am going to pass on below. It is a contest…cheap entry fee…and a good cause. The Anderson, Indiana Humane Society had a severe outbreak of K9 flu. They are holding a contest to help raise money to get back on track financially and help with clean up. At a $1 an entry, that could be slow going unless everyone pitches in something.

Editor Stacy Savage is seeking submissions for a poetry contest. Poems can be up to 40 lines and must be about an animal – be it domestic or wild. No limit on number of entries submitted. Previously published works are acceptable. There is a $1 per poem entry fee. All proceeds will go to Madison County Humane Society in Anderson, Indiana, to help with medical and cleaning expenses due to a virus that spread in the shelter that made many dogs ill. 
Send submissions, along with the entry fee and a cover sheet with name, address, email address, and titles of poems submitted, to: 
Animal Poetry Contest, 3121 Mounds Road, Anderson, Indiana, 46016. 
Make check payable to: Madison County Humane Society. 
First place winner will receive a copy of the 1870 antique book: The Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier, Volume II, a one year subscription to The Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems, a complimentary copy of the July/August 2015 and September/October 2015 issues of Creative Inspirations, a Humane Society of the United States Christmas blanket, and $20. 
Second place winner will receive a one year subscription to The Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems. 
The deadline is June 15, 2015.

Today one of my exercise buddies and her friend spoke at a local music group on music and art. She is a retired elementary art teacher while the other gal has a degree in Fine Art. First they sang a song together that was lovely and then asked the audience to think about what the music made them see.

Idell did some music listening exercises asking people to think of what mood the music put them in. She said song has an emotional tone that can be dark and heavy or light and frolicking.

                                                Idell's paintings

Then Susie spoke on the crossover element of the arts, that often someone good in music might also be a good artist. She taught us that synesthesia was a syndrome where some people heard musical notes and saw specific colors. Itzak Perlman and Geoffrey Rush were mentioned as dealing with this syndrome.

                                                           Susie's work

Our left side of the brain is our creative side. Often music opens up the pathways to our creativity. So if you want to paint…or write….it is helpful to listen to the music that motivates you! The music will put you where you want to be.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Rain, Red, and Jane Kenyon

Well, surprise, it is raining--still, again, some more, or whatever. But my house is not floating away, so I can be thankful for that anyway as I feel sorrow for Texas residents.

DH has been at it again, his trusty sander blowing up a fine white dust on everything in the house. I admit the board in the kitchen needed to be redone but wouldn't last winter before I cleaned up all the sheetrock dust for months on end have been a better time? I looked at the dining table and even the tablecloth was a layer of gritting white!

So I pulled things apart last night and washed some more. I decided it was a good time to change the silks and placemats as well. I usually switch to summer shades on Memorial Day, but this year I had no motivation to do so. DH came in and saw I was flipping a fresh cloth on the table and asked what I was doing. I told him I was saying goodbye to spring rains and bringing on summer. I was ready for some red, white, and blue. Nothing new, but familiar shades of vibrant reds had to be a promise that June would bring sunshine again.

Meanwhile, my copy of Jane Kenyon’s works arrived. So curling up with her beautiful poetry and a cup of tea is a rain reward. Kenyon’s poetry echoes Robert Frost in that she lived in New England and wrote of simple, daily tasks outside and inside both. I think her poems “Otherwise” and “Let Evening Come” are two of the grandest pieces of work. I wish I could produce just one piece half as good.
                                                       Let Evening Come
                                                Let the light of late afternoon
                                       shine through chinks in the barn, moving   
                                        up the bales as the sun moves down.

                                          Let the cricket take up chafing   
                                           as a woman takes up her needles   
                                          and her yarn. Let evening come.

                                       Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned   
                                       in long grass. Let the stars appear
                                      and the moon disclose her silver horn.

                                      Let the fox go back to its sandy den.   
                                    Let the wind die down. Let the shed   
                                     go black inside. Let evening come.

                                      To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop   
                                      in the oats, to air in the lung   
                                       let evening come.

                                      Let it come, as it will, and don’t   
                                     be afraid. God does not leave us   
                                    comfortless, so let evening come.

    I started keeping a reading journal in 1999 after I read that Louis L’Amour started his own as a young man and kept up the practice leaving at his death many journals that recorded his reading tastes. I  thumbed through my own this week and see I’ve read roughly 800 books since starting my record. 

How about you? Do you keep a reading journal?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Smell, It's a Brain Thing

It rained again last night. There is a 40% chance of rain every day this week. While this area was once a little dry, the yearly rainfall behind the last year or two, it now has caught up. This afternoon a few hours of sun came out. The air was fresh and cool and clean-smelling. We did some deck sitting and watching wrens zing into the birdhouse, robins pull wiggly worms from wet soil, and neighbors mowing while they had a window of chance. We all were absorbing the sunshine while we could.

Once we finished our lunch, we both read. DH was finishing American Sniper and I was reading searching for sunday: loving, leaving, and finding the church by Rachel Held Evans. This has been a tremendous read, the kind of book you read through once and then read again to underline meaningful passages to remember. The author was reared in an evangelical church in Tennessee. She went on a church odyssey before settling into an Episcopal congregation. In her book she works her way through the sacraments along the way.

In the chapter on anointing the sick, Evans gives a history of oils used in religious context. She recalls that when Moses went to Mt. Sinai, God sent him down with an oil recipe. (News to me.) Says Evans,”…the Creator knew…that the olfactory nerves is connected to the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with memory and emotion, which is why fragrance…or scent…can suddenly flood a body with a memory…Got wanted his people to know his scent. He wanted them to remember.”

The author introduces us to Thistle Farms, an enterprise that trains and helps women suffering from addiction, abuse, or sex trafficking, etc. They support their programs from smelling oils and fragrance items based on lavender, tea tree, mint, and vanilla. I urge you to check out their online sight here at:

I know smell is important…baking smells can sell a house. Cinnamon can help students do better on a test. Lavender is relaxing…soothing on a pillow, in a bath, or anywhere. My first baby had a musky scent that he still carries slightly. It was reminiscent of my Granny’s own musky skin. Double Bubble gum makes me see my paternal Grandfather. Old Spice WAS my dad. Juicy Fruit gum was my mom’s favorite and the lining of every purse smelled sweet and like a stick of gum. The smell of bacon frying can bring DH up out of a deep sleep!

What about you? A favorite smell or meaningful one in your life?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day used to be an all day trip to the cemeteries. Most family plots held everyone since families still lived close to one another as opposed to moving far away. Also almost everyone had a soldier from some war buried near home. Picnic lunches were packed, hoes for weeding and new flowers for planting were loaded. I remember my grandmother-in-law telling about the hired hands going along to help in the South. It was a day of meeting, catching up on stories, of exchanging gossip.

DH went to small rural school. The building was closed in 1967 for consolidation. But the community has worked hard to keep that old building in one piece and operational for local events. There is an all school reunion held there every Memorial Day weekend assuming folks are about doing cemeteries by day. Last night we drove over to attend. Now the tables are not packed so closely together as they once were. We give uncomfortable laughs that we are moving closer to the front of the gym each year. With no new classes, the room shrinks with each year’s losses. This year one woman at the first table had graduated 76 years ago! The gathering is a dying breed of people. These folks are independent farmers, dressed in their best jeans and plaid shirts for the occasion. Tan lines across their foreheads shine on one of the few occasions they leave their caps at home. The night starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and closes with singing God Bless America.

Today the rain continues here. Slow and steady, nice if it had not done it most of May. I lounged about, reading and writing letters. I got another rejection this afternoon which makes it official: everything but a piece of fiction I sent out in the winter has returned home like  carrier pigeons! So I must either give up or dig back in finding new markets.

When I started writing, publishing was still “old style” in that I submitted and was either rejected or published for money. Now the developments are that writers other than staff writers or powerhouse novelists either write for free or publish their own work. Now it costs to put your work out there. Entry fees to contests are large enough to buy a nice steak. Some magazines now even charge just to read your work!  If you are published, often your pay is a copy of the publication or graciously being allowed to buy one at reduced prices. Ah, but Walmart will not accept that in trade for milk and bread!

I know change is the operative word in this world, but I am an old-fashioned gal. I long for the old traditions of Decoration Day, for editors like Maxwell Perkins, to see publications with short fiction, and writers like Cather, Hemingway, and Sinclair Lewis. If you are snickering at my folly, just consider the source!

Have a good Memorial Day and be grateful to our veterans. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chilly Friday

The weather here has been rainy and now it has turned chilly too. The combination of skies loaded with gloomy grayness and damp, chilly air reminds me too much of winter! While I write in winter, spring is a time to be outdoors for flowers, tea drinking, or books in a golden sunshine that makes me feel toasty and happy. Right now I seem to be caught between two worlds!

The new issue of The Writer carries an Isak Dinesen quote: “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them.” Doesn’t that capture both storytelling and Dinesen? Remember how telling stories was such a power in Out of Africa? It has been a long time since I watched this movie. Maybe a chilly Friday night might be the time to get it out and watch again!

Last week storyboard magazine put up an essay of mine. You can read it here if you like (or not) and I would love comments!  Storyboard believes in the power of story and in supporting writers. Take a look if you would like to write one of their themed writings. They are fun to work with on anything!

                                                             Black Mambas

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The State Pen

While in Jefferson City, we toured the Missouri State Penitentiary as I had hoped we would. When my exercise group heard of my hopes, they thought one of my brain cogs had slipped. Why would anyone want to go there they asked. A lot of people are interested because the site expects 30,000 to take the tour this season!

                         Front, where tour starts...note wide space was doors for wagons.

There is so much history in the walls of the place. The architecture is fabulous. Our tour guide was a former warden and he really educated us prison life. I was interested, but a few months ago when I learned my great great uncle was incarcerated there, the story of MSP became even more interesting. My mother did not know this about her great uncle (nor did she know him actually), but she was horrified when I found the fact doing research. But when I learned he was arrested for theft in Indian Territory, a federal crime, but served in a state pen, my imagination soared. I would love to find out WHAT he stole. The years in put in were roughly 1899-1903.

When we walked in, there was a visceral response to the building. DH leaned over and said, “This place is depressing as soon as you step inside. Originally the two big doors were for wagons to pass through to unload. Also this building held the women prisoners at one time. Built in 1836, some of this place it old. As our guide pointed out, it was built about the time Davy Crockett was killed at the Alamo. MSP was the biggest prison in the country; it held as many as 5000 prisoners at one time.

If you are interested in ghosts, you might want to visit the Missouri State Penitentiary. There are nighttime tours and even special arrangements can be made to sleepover. Not this gal!!!  A woman about my age worked the gift shop. We began to talk and she never believed in ghosts until she has had some experiences here. Voices talking to her, bolts slamming shut, etc. and in the day time no less.

This is the oldest building. This is where my relative would have been. The cells were built for six people with mats on the floor. Later bunks were put in. In the new buildings, the cells were for two to four men. This old building is beautiful on the outside. Its profile reminds me of a church. All the stone buildings were built of stone quarried on site by prisoners. This was also the building where Sonny Liston was incarcerated, cell #33.

This building reminded me of a castle. This is the building that James Earl Ray was incarcerated before he escaped to kill Martin Luther King.

The gas chamber.

We also went into the gas chamber, a very macabre place. I did not like the feel here. The chamber was built from an old submarine. We were told how the gas worked and how dangerous it was to others as the cyanide killed in a minute. So lots of care was taken and even the guards from the nearby tower were removed during the time of use.

Note wire cages at ground level...where solitary prisoners got their one hour of outside.

Lots of information to think about…lots of angles to the death penalty…lots of points to consider about confinement or correction…but I just soaked up the history and left the heavy debates for thinking about on a later day. In the meantime, just for fun--a new teeshirt!!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Recipe (and not the one from Walton's Mountain either!)

People in town and online requested the breakfast casserole recipe, and I really appreciate that they did. When I went to get it in my computer, it was gone!!! It obviously was one of the things lost in the last computer crash. The tattered and torn scrap of paper I used Saturday I was tossing. Thank heavens, the trash was not gone yet!

The recipe is very reminiscent of the old standby sausage and egg casserole. The few changes here are texture and color maybe. DH hates seeing the green but does admit he can’t really taste the spinach lost among all the cheeses and eggs. It is easy, potable, and tasty. I have used this recipe for supper even. Any leftovers are good anytime! I have even frozen a couple of single servings for microwaving in crunch times.


Breakfast Casserole
2 ½ cup of seasoned crotons
1-Lb. sausage, browned
4 eggs
2 ¼ cup milk
10oz can of cream of mushroom soup
10oz frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry ( I used wilted fresh spinach)
4 oz can of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
¼ teas. or more of dry mustard (I used little over a whole teaspoon!)

Spread croutons in bottom of greased 9x13 pan.
Add Sausage.
Whisk together eggs and milk. Add remaining ingredients. Refrigerate overnight.
Bake 325 for 50-55 minutes.

Serve with picante sauce if desired.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Working Road Trip

                                                A kindergarten face, an avid card player!



We knew when our son went back to the Senate, he would have to work through the end of session this spring. But when our daughter-in-law’s job demanded her appearance in New Jersey for a week-long conference during end of session, there was a crisis.

So we packed up and headed for Jefferson City. It meant putting Miss Biscuit in a kennel which was sad but with two kids, a dog, and a wailing cat already, the house could stand no more creatures! The house also had a flight of stairs that could not be avoided…one in house and one off the deck. Jefferson City sits right near the Missouri River and is a continuous rise and fall of steep hills. Even getting the kindergartener to the bus meant steep steps getting up a hill! Oh, but the trip home was easy!

There were dishes, clothes to pick up (this includes a multitude of tiny, once-white socks tossed here and yon like rose petals in a wedding!), baths, and repacking of backpacks, and well, you know, all the stuff that goes with kids. But this was all in someone else’s house which made it harder to do. DH washed the front drive, swept the porch, and built a sandbox from wood scraps left from son’s last deck extension. Once Little Bits and Little Man were at daycare and school, we had some free time each day…well sort of. The first day we ate a sandwich lunch and then collapsed into chairs.

But we managed to do a few fun things like we hit a nice flea market/antique store in Jefferson City. I loved the sign! We found some Blue Willow bargains where the price came down a wee bit more when DH asked.

Our son took us through the capitol which we had seen before, but this building is always amazing! It is beautiful and so full of history. We sat in a while on both the House and Senate, but unfortunately, both sides were acting like pouting children instead of doing the work we sent them to do. Filibustering was going on…boring…an irritating to this voter. Then after we left, the story about the Speaker of the House having a sex texting session and who knows what else with his college intern broke. Really, when will men learn? I will drop the politics right here, other than to say, I think the entire world could run better than it does!

                                            Missouri State Capitol Building

We went home and watched American Sniper that our son had set up for us. It was a good movie and pleasant two hours before the kiddies hit the doors again! The movie was a bit gruesome and once again pricked my mind with political thoughts, but I tried to ignore them. Some questions seem to have no answers.

We dragged ourselves home yesterday through one of the most horrid rain storms ever. It was so dangerous we could not see just poorly, we could see not at all! Never does DH pull over but he did this time when together we found the shoulder. 

                                       Spinach, sausage, mushroom casserole...wonderful!

This morning we had a group breakfast to go to and I made a casserole the night before fearing I was making mistakes I was so tired. But it was good, the recipe was requested, and while it was hard to drag out to the breakfast, once there we enjoyed both food and company. The rest of the day was enjoyed dog, deck, flowers, and sitting in sun before another rain that is coming. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Merry Month of May

Another night of gentle rain instead of the ugly storms that were possible. This makes for a lovely May with growth rich and verdant. The purple climber is in the neighbor’s yard, but the roses and hibiscus are ours. Such color and richness!

If you haven’t read Still Crazy, visit their website: I heard of them through a writing op and ordered a sample copy. Enjoyed it so much I have subscribed. It is written by and for people 50 years and older. Refreshing, I thought. is another great writing place to visit. They are a fun place that give some great prompts for both poetry and prose. Later this month they will be putting up an essay of mine.

I hope all readers have a lovely May weekend and enjoy a delightful Mother’s Day.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Monday Musings

Last night I got several paragraphs down for a new story with hopes of getting back to it soon, maybe today. I had all the laundry done up and house straight enough to suit me. I’d taken an unscheduled trip to the store in the afternoon for a new umbrella after a gust of wind broke our table umbrella and buried me under it. (I had suggested to DH we not use the umbrella in the strong breeze, but what do I know?) While out I picked up chewies for Biscuit, milk and eggs for the week, and returned videos.  I woke a little before dawn on this fresh Monday ready to go and do nothing much domestic. I had my story germinating, the new Elizabeth Berg book loaded on my Kindle, and I felt free in the merry month of May!

Biscuit and I brewed tea and headed for the deck. It was a beautiful morning and the new umbrella in a shade of turquoise was a bright sight. I did not push it up though as first thing in the morning I love to feel the sky overhead! It wasn’t long until I caught sight of Miss B shoulder down to the earth. I called; she came; she stunk. I tried wiping her up but it didn’t work, and her nice cloth collar stunk too.

So I moved the car out of the garage. I moved the now empty trash dumpster into the garage. I started water in the garage tub and went to wake up DH. I said HELP and he rousted out a little earlier than usual. I put the collar to soak and we lifted Miss B into the water for a bath which means we all get wet too. So then I had to do dog laundry…towels, my soaking gown and now stinking robe. I tossed in her sleeping rug for good measure. So much for a quiet start to the day.

At midmorning a friend came by for tea. She brought me the most beautiful flowers! She was wearing a shirt of the same color when I answered the door. She was a picture of purple loveliness. We took tea and an Irish Whiskey cake (wow, good stuff) out to the deck. We pulled up under the turquoise ceiling and the rock fountain took us to a mountain stream—for five minutes. Miss B wanted cake. DH decided to start mowers and weed eaters. Did I think Monday was going to be a quiet day, a writing day, a day Madeleine L’Engle would say good for just BEING?

The afternoon turned hot after a sandwich lunch on the deck. We all three were worn down and came in when the sun got high in the sky. A dozen little inside chores took my time. I sat down and did research for a possible fishing trip in June. And now it is time to begin thinking of a supper meal. Salad anyone?

One tiny rejection in a sentence contest and one small placement in a poetry contest was the writing news today. I guess I broke even on the far borders of writing today. Already I feel Tuesday coming on, look again for a gentle dawn, live expectantly for a trip to the mailbox. And as my dear Scarlett always said, “Tomorrow is another day.”