Do sa do, Circle to the Right, and Promenade Home

I just realized I haven’t posted to my blog in months. I have an excuse that has to do with 911 calls, ambulance rides, helicopter flights, stents, blood clots, and Cardiac Rehab… not me, hubby. But, all seems to be well now, so here I am. A little worn from worry, but we hope we’re done with all that. Now for today’s post:

I poured through hundreds of photos yesterday, looking for a special one when I ran across this…

…and a flood of memories filled my mind with joy. I think our square dance years were among our most enjoyable. Our kids were grown and married (one divorced but that’s another story), we were blessed with grandchildren, and had time to enjoy ourselves. So, we signed up for a square dance class. We loved it from the start.

The first night we learned to circle right and left, do sa do, and promenade. By the end of the six week course, we had mastered the beginner calls and were ready for the next session.

After we finished that class we were welcomed into the world of Mainstream dancing and signed up for a class in the next level, Plus. We graduated Plus and moved on into A1. Had a great time, but things change, Dan retired and we moved to a resort retirement in Arizona. Believe it or not, there was no square dance club! And our square dance years became a memory.

The grandchildren loved my square dance outfits. This is Stephanie giving this skirt and red petticoat a whirl.

We enjoyed the friendship, dancing, music, and all the rest. However, square dance attire was very near the top of my list, maybe number one. There were square dance shops where we bought some of our stuff. My petticoats, I had about a dozen and the grandchildren loved whirling around in them.

I also had sissy panties, and leather soled dancing shoes. Dan bought western shirts, boots, and pants. Needless to say, we were regular customers for the bought items. However, I made my outfits and a matching neck scarf for Dan, so the fabric store got that business.

It was so much fun. Sometimes, I think I might just sew a square dance dress for the pure pleasure of it. Not! I haven’t seen a fabric store in years. And where would I get all that lace today? Besides, it’s way too much work and that job needs to stay into the memory file.

Monday Blues? Not me!

Mama’s Monday included clotheslines, clothespins, and a possible thunderstorm on the horizon. (Photo credit: Bigstock.com)

It’s Monday and I’m sitting at my PC thinking I might put a load of laundry in the washer sometime today. This is not my mother’s Monday, but I remember. And I’m so very glad we haven’t had a clothesline for many years. It’s been about that long since I owned a clothespin. And I never used a wringer washing machine. Thank goodness!

But in days long gone by, I was very familiar with clotheslines, clothespins, and the wringer washing machine and tubs Mama set up early Monday morning.

I think soaking Daddy’s work clothes in gasoline might have been the first step. I’m not sure what came next because I went out to play about this time. I remember the smell of bleach, bluing, and starch. I only remember bits and pieces of Mama’s Monday until the wash was hanging on the line.

I knew better than to run through the sheets (one spanking later), but it was okay to play between the rows of laundry hanging on the line. We had three lines that stretched across the backyard. Dry laundry was removed and replaced with wet laundry as the day went on. In the Oklahoma wind, drying didn’t take long and everything smelled fresh as a spring breeze. (Mondays in winter didn’t leave pleasant memories but frozen laundry dries.)

If a cloud came up… We hurried out to snatch the clothes off the line. Sometimes we were successful in gathering it all in before the first raindrops fell, other times, not.

On a sunny day, when I was old enough to reach the line and put the freshly dried laundry in the basket without dragging it on the ground, “gathering in the clothes” was my job.

It would seem that the “gathered in” laundry was ready to fold by today’s standards. Not so back then. Everything washable was 100% cotton. Mama folded the sheets and towels but the rest had to be prepared for Tuesday. Ironing day. I’m leaving you there, and going back to my computer… I do own an iron and ironing board. One item is in the garage and the other is on a shelf, very high up and out of sight. I do not do Mama’s Monday, or Tuesday, I love today’s fabrics and modern conveniences!

 

Old Fashioned Christmas Pageant

christmas-pageant-1946This was 1946 and the whole elementary school participated in this Christmas pageant. First and second graders that I recognize are front center, identified as small angels with tinsel trimmed halos and wings plus children who came to worship in black skirts and white blouses. I’m third from the manger on the left, the one in a white blouse, black skirt, and glasses.

Other cast members included the shepherds, three kings, a modern-day choir to accompany the Heavenly hosts on the risers, center back. As a six-year-old, I don’t remember much about the pageant. I think it was mostly singing Christmas carols and not much reenactment. The rhythm band performed first. I played the triangle before hurrying backstage to take my place near the manger before the curtain opened.

This Christmas program was tradition. I think my mom and dad probably had a role in a similar performance twenty years earlier. No one ever heard of any such notion that schools couldn’t celebrate Christmas. Back then in our small town, if you knew someone who worshiped differently than you, that meant you were Baptist and your friend was Methodist. “Happy Holidays” included Thanksgiving through New Years. As December 25th neared, everyone said Merry Christmas.

But times have changed… maybe not so much in my hometown… but definitely in bigger cities. If someone worships differently than you, they may celebrate a completely different winter holiday. I guess schools can’t spend the whole month of December celebrating different holidays… so maybe it is best not to celebrate any. And, I think I’ve just gotten way over my head trying to explain this in a way that is acceptable to everyone who might read this. So, I’ll just say, I’ll be celebrating Christmas and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season no matter which holidays you choose to celebrate.

Here are some gift suggestions that works for everyone!

If you’re in the countdown to your shopping deadline, maybe this will help. It’s the season of chaos and joy. Choose the one you like best!

I’m a Collector of Lovable Stuff!

 

stuff-staff

A few of my collectibles keep me company while I write.

I’ve been a collector for as long as I can remember. As kid, I collected rocks I scavenged from fresh piles of sand, gravel, or loads of chat. That’s all I could afford, but there was another reason. I loved rocks, and I still do. I’m a sucker for those bins of polished stones in tourist stops in Arizona and I can spend hours in the mineral section of a museum… or a jewelry store. (My tastes have changed with maturity.)

I have collections stored all over the house. I loved the Beanie Baby craze. Before that, it was collector plates. Sometime after that I began to admire lithographs and porcelain figurines. I have collector cards, cups, coins, books, books, and more books! Most of it would look like junk to someone else, just like my mother viewed the rocks I hid under my bed. But I love them, or maybe I just love collecting. Some of us are like that, I think.

There was always the thought that something I collected might turn into a fortune. I’ve read about that happening to other people, and I’ve seen it on TV. So, since I’m between books now, I did a little checking on some of my collected items. Some are worth less than I paid for them while in the collecting frenzy. Others might be worth a little more. And some don’t even get mention. For the most part, I loved the “stuff” than no one wants now. But, I still love it. The sad thing is that if I wanted to get rich in my old age, I had the opportunity. We received the Sunday comics every week. If I’d just had the good sense to save them, preserved in pristine condition, we could be rich. Some Peanuts comic strips being marketed to collectors are worth $30,000 according to the sites I checked this morning. I’m certain; however, if I actually had a comic strip or two, so would everyone else and there would be no demand! So, I’ll just be glad to enjoy my stuff myself.

If you’re inspired to collect and haven’t started yet. Here are my suggestions. Start with rocks, move to Beanie Babies, and then figurines. From there, you can find a whole world of stuff to love. Click on the picture and go. Enjoy!


Less Time Cooking, More time Writing!

I’d rather write, or read, than cook. Love my computer. My oven, stovetop, mixer, etc., not so much. But computer games and kitchen gadgets rank about the same on my LIKE LIST.

No. 1       INSTANT POT

A kitchen gadget, the INSTANT POT just hit the top spot on my LIKE LIST. I was suspicious at first. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of scary tales about pressure cookers. But the reviews on the Instant Pot made it sound pretty much like a magic. I ordered one and let it sit on the counter about a week… Remember those scary tales? Then I tried it, and fell in love. It’s wonderful. Put the food in, follow the instructions, press the button, go away. After the allotted time (or more) has passed, open the pot and serve. This puts food preparation on my schedule. I put the food in when I take a break, and then we eat when we’re ready. It’s great! And easy to clean. Don’t take my word for it, go to Amazon and read the reviews. (By the way, the Instant Pot sears, makes yogurt, and does non-pressure slow cooking as well as pressure fast cooking.)

No. 2      CUISINART GRIDDLER ELITE

And there’s another gadget that resides near the top of my list. It’s the Cuisinart Griddler Elite Grill. We aren’t that interested in outdoor grilling now that we live in windy Oklahoma. We like grilled food but waiting for a calm day to grill… well you have to live here to understand. But, with the Griddler, we can have grilled food anytime. And after the griddler is hot, it’s two minutes to sear a couple of steaks on both sides and then cook for two to five minutes more. If you did the math, you see that cooking time is four to seven minutes. This fits my schedule well. More time writing and less time cooking. I think this works best for empty nesters, It works really well for the two of us. And, It’s easier to clean than the outdoor grill, plus I don’t have to spend time getting Dan motivated!

No. 3      CUISINART FOOD PROCESSOR

And, there is one more item near the top of my list, my Cuisinart Food Processor. It’s the workhorse of my kitchen (when we aren’t eating out). Like the barker at the fair shouts, “it slices, it dices, it mixes, it blends… etc.” It does all that, but mostly for us, it makes cookies. Toss the ingredients in the bowl, press the button, and the flour, sugar, and eggs, etc. turn into cookie dough. I store the dough in the fridge, bake six cookies at a time, and we have cookies fresh from the oven every day if we want. We like it!

One more good thing! I don’t have to hunt for room to store these three items. I found space for them when I threw out the appliances they replace. My old slow cooker, outta here.  Gave the indoor rotisserie away. The outdoor grill has been retired – could be reinstated for a family meal on a still day. And the big mixer is outta here. Other things could be on their way out. If they aren’t fast and don’t work to my writing schedule, their days are numbered!

 

 

What Did I Miss?

Robert Fulghum says, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” and he made a really good collections of essays based this premise. I love his essays, but this book made me wonder what I missed.

When I was five years old, our town didn’t offer kindergarten. I don’t think it fit the local budget. So I learned what I needed to know at home, under my parents’ guidance. I had a sandbox, a swing set, some kittens, puppies, a little brother, and some chores.

Don’t throw sand, don’t hit, and watch your mouth came first. Then I learned that the right to ownership carries the option to share. Brownie points could be earned by sharing with little brother. I also was given the responsibility to respect authority (parents), be kind (to little brother), and tell the truth (if you do something wrong, own it). Failure to do any of these resulted in consequences I didn’t like much.

All this gave me a good foundation for what I would learn in grade school. Our school day began with the pledge to the flag and Lord’s Prayer. We learned that we lived in a free country with a lot of rights. Oh, wow! The right to do what you want… ??? Yes, as long as what is learned in kindergarten (at home) is honored – respect for authority (teachers), be kind (to classmates), and tell the truth.

We soon learned that what the teacher meant when she said, “Your freedom to swing your fist ends where the other fellow’s nose begins.” Experience soon proved that encroaching on someone else’s rights had consequences when the nose owner’s right to self-defense came into play.

Yes, I agree. Everything I needed to know I learned early. Respect authority, kindness, and honesty pretty much form the foundation for everything one needs to know to get along in society. From my experience as a child, and as a parent, the biggest responsibility for this learning and teaching experience is in the home.

 

Earth Angel Rescue – 1947

Scan-6I’ve been scanning old photos this weekend and this photo triggered a flood of memories. I’m about seven here, heading into second grade in the fall. Our yard is fenced; see the gate at the edge on the left. There is no fence separating the pasture from the driveway and there is livestock grazing in the distance. Looking to the north, there was a fence separating the pasture from the distant field. This sets the scene for my first memory of an Earth angel.

I’ve never known how it happened. Mama was very watchful and but that day something must have distracted her when it was time for the school bus to bring me home. I think she usually met me at the gate at the end of the driveway, about a quarter mile from our house. But this day, I got off the bus and she wasn’t there. So, I crawled through the barbed wire and headed home.

Way in the distance, a horse raised his head and looked toward me. He took off on a gallop as thought he’d been spooked, making a beeline for me. I knew he was danger on four hoofs. So, I hid behind a mesquite bush that was little taller than me and offered no protection. There was nothing else around and the horse was closing in.

The next thing I knew, there as a large high-school boy by my side. The horse had been diverted, and I was safe.

Here’s the rest of the story:

Daddy hired a couple of high-school boys to help him with the plowing.  As I remember, my Earth angel was Hilbert Hammock. He was plowing the cotton field across the pasture to the east of the house. He was about a quarter mile from the house, and ready to make the turn. I guess he saw me about the time he spotted that horse. Somehow, he stopped the tractor, jumped off, hurdled the barbed wire fence that kept the livestock out of the cotton field, and reached me in time.

Mama saw it all from the house. She told me how frightened she was as she watched me hide in that small bush as the horse galloped toward me. There was nothing she could do but pray. I’m sure she did. Then Hilbert jumped off the tractor and no one knew he could run so fast. But I’m sure God whispered in his ear and gave him the strength he needed as my mother watched as an Earth angel rescue her child.

As for me, I couldn’t imagine that many, many years later, I would be an author writing stories woven around people who are in the right place, at the right time, willing to help someone in trouble. They’re God’s boots on the ground and I call them Earth angels.

Happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July

It’s the Fourth of July weekend and we don’t have any plans. During the drought, our city cancelled the fireworks display and it hasn’t been reinstated. So we won’t be seeing fireworks from our backyard again this year, but I’m thinking of the happy celebration of Independence Day when I was a kid.

A Carnival came to my hometown, and we celebrated the Fourth in the park. I rode the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. There were the usual carnival booths with food and games, but I don’t remember much about them. The merry-go-round was my favorite back then, and I still love it. And the swimming pool was open. It was a fun time!

Besides the celebration in the park on the Fourth, Daddy always brought in a brown paper bag filled with sparklers, Roman candles, and firecrackers… and a big watermelon. I still remember Daddy lighting the Roman candles in the front yard and then running to safe place to watch the blast off. Sometimes it only spewed a few sparks on the ground and then fizzled out… After the bag was emptied, Daddy cut the big watermelon in half lengthwise. We all got a spoon and dug in, Daddy, Mamma, and me…  We ate the heart first and then went for the seedy part… I got in trouble for spitting the seeds back in the watermelon… I know… Ewww… (I was little.)

By the time I started school, the Fourth of July celebration in the park was cancelled due to polio. The epidemic scared everyone. No one knew what caused the dreaded disease. All we knew was that it was highly contagious, crippling, and sometimes fatal. Back then, parents faced each summer with fear. I remember pictures of polio patients in iron lungs, and recovering children in leg braces and crutches. It was frightening for everyone. Fear took away the summer fun. The pool was closed and the carnival was cancelled. We celebrated at home with fireworks and watermelon… and I learned a better way to deal with the seeds.

Years later, after I was married and had small children, we were among the first to stand in line to get a sugar cube laced with the polio vaccine. Thanks to Jonas Salk, the fear of polio was gone and the Fourth of July celebration in my hometown came back but I had moved away. I saw a message on Facebook about big plans for the Fourth of July celebration in the park this year…

Happy Fourth to everyone – Those of us who have memories and those who are making them.

Monday Morning Blues? Not me.

My week_edited-1

Monday morning blues? Not me. I like Monday. But I didn’t as a child. Modern technology has changed my life and attitude.

My mother’s Monday was a day to dread way back when.

She pulled the wringer washer out and set it up with the tubs. In the early days, she pumped water from the well. It took several buckets full to fill the washer and rinse tubs. If she used hot water, she heated it in a teakettle on the stove. If Daddy’s work clothes were stained with axel grease or oil, she soaked them in gasoline while she did the rest of the wash, one sorted pile at a time, in the same wash and rinse waters.

The wringer had a hand crank on the side and she ran every item through the wringer into the first rinse tub, repositioned the wringer, and ran the rinsed items through to the second tub… and when that was done, the items that would be ironed were tossed in a dishpan of starch and wrung by hand. This was not an easy task since Daddy’s jeans and overalls needed starch… and wringing them out by hand was no easy task. His work clothes would have been the last load so she may have used the wringer for them. If not, my mom’s hands must have been much stronger than mine.

Next task, carry the basket of wet wash from the front porch to the clotheslines out back and hang each item on the line with clothespins… and hope for a sunny day so everything would dry before it rained.

A few hours later she brought the laundry in, folded the sheets, towels, washcloths and underwear. And then she prepared the rest for Tuesday’s ironing. She sprinkled each garment, rolled it, and placed it in the basket. When she was done, she had at least one bushel basket full and covered it with a couple of towels to keep it moist until the next day… Tuesday.

Monday’s unique chore was laundry but the family had to eat three meals. So she cooked, fed the family, and cleaned the kitchen between washday tasks.

Of course, things improved for her. We got electricity soon after we moved to the farm and some time after that running water in the kitchen. And then a water heater. She used the washer in the kitchen, didn’t have to pump and heat the water, and the hand crank was replaced by an electric motor… Still… I like my Mondays much better than the ones I remember from my early days. (However, I have a vivid memory of diapers freezing by the time I put the second clothespin in place) I love modern technology… it’s Monday and here I sit at my computer. We don’t have a clothesline and I’ll … well, you know… washday isn’t all that big a deal these days. If the drier buzzes and I’m doing something else, it can wait.

It’s a Magic Pot and Writer’s Friend!


I discovered the Instant Pot quite by accident. It’s a little crazy that it grabbed my attention since as far as cooking goes, I consider myself “retired.” But I do like kitchen gadgets and appliances. Once I started reading about the Instant Pot, I kept reading and the Amazon Customer Comments made me want to try it even though… a pot couldn’t be all that! Could it?

So, I ordered the product pictured above, and after I read the instructions, it took me a couple of days to work up the nerve to try it. Fear of failure at work I guess. My recent cooking history has an shameful number failures. It is a pressure cooker, and I haven’t used one for years and years. But it has safety features that make me comfortable.

It can be used as a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, for sautéing, and several other things including yogurt making! (No, I don’t plan to make yogurt, but I may toss my Crockpot out!)

After I cooked a pot roast in 35 minutes, I was liking this pot. But when I popped in a few frozen chicken tenders and some barbeque sauce with the recommended amount of water… and they were done in fifteen minutes I was liking this pot even more.

When I discovered how easy it is to clean and that I could put my meal in the pot, cook it the allotted time, and let it sit until time to eat… well, I LOVE this pot! There is more to like and more to love. But you have to see for yourself, I’m still in discovery mode. Some of the best appliances were never in my grandmother’s wildest dreams. But, a pot couldn’t be all that, could it? Yes!

And, what about the  magic? Well, anything that can draw me out of kitchen retirement must be some sort of magic – I like to eat out. But this works for me. I can put something in the pot whenever I decide to take a break from writing, lock the lid, and press the button. I can let it vent naturally and open it when we’re ready to eat. Time is not of the essence in my kitchen when the instant pot is making dinner. I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner, or where we’re going, I just go back to work. You call it what you want but I think it’s magic!