Writing in a lightweight vacuum

For CCThis post is by Nancy Jardine

From 1975 till last Monday, I was the proud possessor of 3 (and a half) vacuum cleaners. Number 1 was simple to use (old fashioned technology), the hose and nozzle easy to worry into tiny nooks and crannies. Number 2 was a wet /dry cleaner (newer technology of the time) which was brilliant for an all-encompassing ‘hoover-up’. Cleaner number 3 was meant to directly replace number 2 which I’d ruined by sucking up just too much fine cement dust from my cellar – not a great idea for a motor of any kind- but number 3 proved to be a very heavy laborious ‘tank’ to lug around the house. Last Monday, I bought number 4 which is the opposite, chosen because its weight is only 3 lbs compared to number 3 which was 10lbs.

New cleaner number 4, plus in-training assistant

My new cleaner number 4 is a pleasure to use with its up-to-date cyclonic technology. Well, it’s almost a pleasure, since I’m not OCD about vacuuming. Actually, I’m really more interested in training the next ‘hoover-upper’ seen in the photo. *smiley face here *

But the vacuum story doesn’t quite end there- I’ll explain the ‘half’. Last Christmas (Dec 2014) I got a present of a fantastic revolutionary cleaning device (technologically speaking) which was intended to take vacuum cleaning totally out of my list of household time-sucks.

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Robby Robot

‘Robby Robot’ became the newest family member. He’s very lightweight and comes with interchangeable brushes for different surfaces. He’s by far the most entertaining vacuum cleaner I’ve ever seen and attracts not only the dust around the house but that in-training assistant in the photograph, followed by his excitedly squealing 3 year old sister. Robby is quite effective as a cleaner but unfortunately takes hours and hours, randomly spinning his way around the floors. Some folks might be saying that I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and they’d be right, but by the time poor wee Robby cleans one room and moves on to the next (battery charging every 2 hours or so) the whole process has to start over again because the kids have made their new mark. I’m not sure that this innovative technology will ever meet my energy-saving criteria!

Domestic trivia? Yes, but what’s that got to do with my writing?

There’s a slight parallel with the research for my Celtic Fervour Series writing. There was a nice light foray into research as I amassed the historical facts used in Book 1. For Books 2 & 3, I was lugging around a heavy weight Vax cleaner, sucking up as much as I could about the invasion of the Ancient Roman Governor of Britannia, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, into what is now called north England and Scotland- since all of that research was new to me. The laborious, though still enjoyable, task was finding sufficient details to use from texts translated from their original Latin or Greek. My tendency to sidetrack during research mirrored my last inefficient vacuum cleaner as I poured over and over the same texts to suck up the tiniest debris.

Currently I’m now in a lightweight vacuum phase since there’s virtually nothing at all written of the period following the withdrawal of Agricola from ‘Aberdeenshire, Scotland’ back in AD 84. In the absence of written evidence, it gives me the opportunity to give my imagination free rein. Yet, that new freedom is tempered by an enjoyable frustration. New archaeological evidence is now being found on a fairly regular basis in north-east Scotland. Keeping abreast of this new interpretative evidence is another time-suck, yet very exciting when a new coin hoard is uncovered, or some other evidence of ancient Roman occupation found.

Back in the 1970s, there was little attention paid to pre-history by ‘John Doe’ in the UK. Researching was mainly done by the ‘fully trained’ archaeologists who tended to search only when funding became available. However, I’m totally delighted to say that the surge of interest from the early 1990s onwards in ‘finding ancient artefacts’, made popular on TV by celebrity archaeologists and historians, has considerably increased the amount of historical finds in my homeland. Innovative Technology has a huge bearing on this, equipment being much more user friendly and affordable by the amateur historian. It’s not unusual now to find an amateur ‘vacuuming’ a field area with his hi-tec metal detector (please excuse my generic use of the word or other imaging equipment.

amateur archaeologists

There’s now a booming market out there of possible equipment to help with surveying the land  – the technologies honed for specific uses and too extensive to mention here. (I confess I don’t know much about some of these)

(Image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:62_H_Frox6.jpg)

This site, only one of many found on the internet, has equipment for sale for searching on land or under water. http://www.joanallen.co.uk/Metal-Detectors-s/50.htm?searching=Y&sort=2&cat=50&show=100&page=1&gclid=CPGxmPTshMQCFeHLtAod3yoAFw

Of course, there is no ‘Finders Keepers’ law in Scotland. Anything ancient requires to be declared to appropriate authorities – who, I’m glad to say, act on informtion much more quickly than ever before and rapidly send out experienced personnel to do the full excavation. Many more artefacts are finding their way through the proper channels and are being added to collections of similar items in museums, both locally and globally. It’s now easy for the amateur to make an initial enquiry online about anything they think might be of import.  http://www.archaeologyscotland.org.uk/our-projects/discovery-and-excavation-scotland

I’m a member of a lot of Facebook History Groups which are a fantastic source though the downside is that these information posts are also wonderful time sucks!

Have a great weekend- cleaning, or whatever you intend to do!

Nancy Jardine’s contemporary mystery and historical romantic adventure writing can be found HERE

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Lessons We Can Learn from Cats

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

As many of you know, most of the time I write about dogs. It’s not that I don’t like cats, it’s just that I seem to be “more successful” writing about dogs. I have five different stories published in five different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and each story is about a dog. I have submitted other stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul, including ones for their planned cat books; however, none of those submissions have been accepted for publication. So perhaps I’m not the “purr-fect” ‘caterwauler’ for these anthologies, but I do believe we can learn some valuable lessons from felines, observations and inspirations different from dogs, but important just the same.

Experts believe anywhere from 74 to 96 million cats are owned by people in the U.S. (but, can one truly “own” a cat??!). Two cats currently reside at my house. They are sisters, born of the same mother but most likely with different fathers. These two girls are NOTHING alike! They look different, they act different, and they don’t even seem to like each other (although they used to sit together or lie beside one another when they were kittens). Murphy is a long-haired black and white cat with a loving, outgoing personality (she was the runt of the litter interestingly enough); Bailey is a short-haired tortoiseshell who is quite independent and a bit timid around people, particularly strangers.

Murphy and Bailey as kittens.
Murphy and Bailey as kittens.

I’ve had cats most of my life, starting at age seven, and I’ve learned some great lessons from them. Here are a few:

  1. Take time to rest. Cats sleep a lot during a 24-hour day. In fact, some experts say healthy cats sleep 50 to 70 percent of the time! Even the big wild cats, such as lions and cougars, take cat naps, conserving their energy for those big kills they need to make to survive. Why do house cats that are well-fed and don’t have to hunt sleep so much? You got me – I guess they just know sleep is vital to one’s health!Bailey_Basket1
  2. Soak up the sunshine. Kitties often spend much of that nap time lying in the sun, basking in the warm rays like a beach queen. Sunlight lifts a person’s mood, especially during a long winter season as many of us have experienced this year!
  3. Taking a leap of faith is sometimes necessary. My cat Murphy likes to jump from the top of our deck to the patio below (scares me to death, I do admit!) She isn’t afraid of taking that leap of faith to get her to the destination she desires. Teaches me that although it’s scary, sometimes a leap of faith is just what we need to get to our next goal or place.murphy_deck rail
  4. Appreciate the little things in life. Ever notice how a cat can play with the smallest piece of paper or scrap of yarn? No bling needed to satisfy Fiona Feline!
  5. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and those you love. Remember seeing the video of the cat chasing off the dog that was attacking a young boy? http://kdvr.com/2014/05/14/watch-family-cat-saves-boy-from-dog-attack/Cats will defend not only the humans in their lives, but also themselves against attackers, (including their own sisters, in the case of my kitties!)
  6. It’s okay to desire love as well as to be independent. My two kitties epitomize that truth – even Bailey has become more of lap-sitter lately – yet both of my girls like their independence and “me-time.” Many relationships die due to someone being “too clingy” while most thrive when each person has interests separate from the other (case in point: my husband sings barbershop and participates in the Coast Guard Auxiliary while I attend writer’s group meetings/conferences and transport dogs for rescue, yet we also travel together and enjoy our cabin on the mountain as a couple as well as independently, and we attend baseball games together, especially when his favorite team is playing in Denver! He and I share interests separate from each other as well as together, maintaining our love through togetherness and independence.Gayle and Greg_Cardinals

So, I’m here to dispel the myth that Gayle only likes dogs – NOT SO! Although I did watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show earlier this month, I also watched Kitten Bowl II the day of the Super Bowl. I’m also writing this to remind people that cats are special too, and just like dogs need rescuing and adopting, so do kitties. In fact, studies show that only 2 percent of cats that are brought to shelters as strays are returned to their owners because (1) owners don’t come looking for them and (2) there is no identification on the lost cat by which to contact an owner. Additionally, nearly 41 percent of cats entering shelters are euthanized every year. It seems a large number of people think cats are “disposable.” A sad testament to the mind-set of many people.

In addition to the wonderful lessons we can learn from our feline friends, cats often are easier to care for than dogs (you don’t have to walk your cat or take it to the “cat park” for exercise, for example). So, if you’re thinking about adding a pet to your home, consider the more independent, yet still affectionate cat – there are a variety of breeds, colors, and temperaments, and there are thousands in our nation that need loving homes.

Learn more about cat breeds at http://www.catchannel.com/breeds/ and find a kitty in your area that needs a home through your local animal shelter, rescue group, or at www.petfinder.com.

bailey basket                                     Murph_backofchair

 

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

 

SageBigAdventureFront-small    SageLearnsShareFront-small   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover  Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

Frosted

happy-birthday002This post by Jennifer Flaten

As I write this I am sitting at the dining room table, listening to the girls decorate my birthday cake.

All the kids love watching the Food Network, especially all the baking challenges. One year we even took a cupcake decorating class at the craft store. From that experience, I learned that I hate piping frosting. My kids, on the other hand, can pipe some nice rosettes.

Earlier the girls and my son held a confab and came up with a plan for my cake. After that, they banned me from the kitchen and broke out the mixing bowls. My son helped make the actual the cake, a simple box mix, but he wandered off prior to the decorating.

You wouldn’t think it takes much space to decorate a small two-layer cake, but the girls have commandeered every square inch of available counter space.

The decorating process has required, so far, two tubs of frosting, every single tube of food coloring, and about six different bowls.

The amount of mess on my counters is making me a bit twitchy. The kids are great at the creation process…not so great at the clean up.

Sure, they’ve promised to clean up, but I’ve heard that story before. These are kids after all. Just the other day I found two swipes of toothpaste on the bathroom doorjamb. After questioning the usual suspects I learned that one kid (who shall remain) nameless had toothpaste on her fingers and didn’t want to get a towel…..so ya, not holding out high hopes for the clean up.

That’s okay; I’m getting a cake out of it.

Check out my jewelry on Etsy

A Not-So-Still Life with Books

Steph_2 copy (2)By Stephanie Stamm

Last week, I posted about clearing out my house, letting go of things—like notes for a dissertation completed 17 years ago—that I no longer need. While I had intended to do some clearing this year anyway, I’ve been doing more than I’d expected. The universe had bigger plans than I was aware of. I’m no longer cleaning out my house just to free up space. I’m cleaning it out because I’m moving—from Michigan to Atlanta—for a new job.

Big changes.

One of my friends noted that the distraction of all the things we have to do to make such big changes serves a purpose. Focusing on the details of cleaning out files, getting rid of books and clothes and housewares we no longer use/need, and contacting realtors, etc., keeps us from completely freaking out about the really big change of relocating our lives.

I’ve contacted a realtor to begin the process of putting my Michigan house on the market. I’ve started working with another to find a new home in Atlanta. Now I’m back to working on getting rid of things that don’t need to move with me.

More books packed and ready to donate
More books packed and ready to donate

I finally made it through all the files—and the associated document shredding. I also made a second pass at the books. A few weeks ago I packed up roughly 120 books for donation. This weekend, after finishing the filing, I bagged another 100 or so to go. That still leaves me with a lot of books. I’ll probably be able to get rid of some more, but I have to release them a few at a time. Here are some I haven’t been able to let go of—and the reasons why:

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These two belonged to my father. I know I gave him one of them. I might have given him both. I keep them in memory of him.

 

I wrote my dissertation on Charlotte Bronte. I tossed out my notes, but I can't let go of all my Bronte books.
I wrote my dissertation on Charlotte Bronte. I tossed out my notes, but I can’t let go of all my Bronte books.

 

This one has been popping into my head lately, so I think I might have to re-read it.
This one has been popping into my head lately, so I think I might have to reread it.

 

There are lots more I’m keeping. Because I haven’t read them yet. Because they’re signed by the author. Because a friend or family member gave them to me. Because I love them–and though I may not reread them for a long time, if ever, I still want them in my possession. As I said, I may get rid of some more before the moving is all over. But not today.

What books do you cling to, and why do you cling to them?

 

Connect with me:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:

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shadows_promo

 

I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

Exploding Guinea Pigs by Mike Knotts for Erin Farwell

SDC10959

My wife, Erin, is sick. It’s nothing bad: just a cold. As she sits staring blankly at the computer, she says in a sad little voice “I have a blog due, and I don’t have enough energy to write something.” Optimistically, I say “I’ll write something for you.” At the back of my mind is the thought of collecting Brownie points. I need all of them I can get. As my darling spousal unit heads for the couch, the reality sinks in: what did I just offer to do?
Erin_Sick_on_Couch_with_AJ_23FEB2015
Erin_Sick_on_Couch_23FEB2015Our daughter, Willow, hears this exchange as she struggles to finish a mountain of homework. She’s recovering from the same cold, still tired, and with a nose raw from too many Kleenex. Not one to be excluded, she blurts out “Hey, you can do my study guide for me too.” I struggle for an eloquent refusal but merely end up saying something about doing one’s own homework being the best way to learn. I sneak away while she’s distracted.

 
What does one write for a blog like this? I’m a university research scientist and I make a big part of my living writing technical reports, research proposals, and educational materials. But I’ve never blogged. I’d gladly write about how to make a working electric motor with simple parts like a battery, a magnet, and a piece of wire. I could go on at length about laser speckle, lock-in amplifiers, or machine tools, but none of this seems to fit the need. After staring blankly at the screen for a minute or so, I give up and ask “Erin, what should I write about?” [Way to go, dude. You lost some Brownie points there for having to drag the sick girl back into the blogosphere.]

 

She answers quickly, “Exploding guinea pigs.” Perfect, I’ll write about that. Wait: “Erin, remind me why we were talking about exploding guinea pigs last weekend?” [There go some more Brownie points.] She answers, “The mess on the floor.” It all comes back to me.

 

The Guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, is a domesticated humble rodent from South America that doesn’t often explode. But it’s not unusual for their cages to resemble the aftermath of a pyromaniac’s experiment with firecrackers and a hay bale. The little critters kick up a huge mess that spreads to the floor around the cage.
Guinea_Pig_Mess_23FEB2015
Guinea pigs are a great animal analogy for me. They’re plump, like me. [I’m working on it.] They’re happy as long as food is around. I have a thing for chocolate. They’re sedentary. I am too, but not nearly as much. I walk fast, take stairs instead of the elevator, and occasionally go to the gym. I have removed all chairs from my office. I’m proud of the fact that I have climbed halfway to the stratosphere with Erin and trekked across mountain glaciers with a heavy pack. Those things would definitely not appeal to Guinea pigs. Let’s see if I can get a little more from the analogy before it fails.

 
One observable fact about Guinea pig behavior applies to me especially well: those little suckers make an incredible mess of their house. [See why I really need Brownie points?] They poop indiscriminately. Fortunately I don’t. That aside, my friends and family will assure you that I share the clutter trait with the plump, furry rodents from South America. [Fitness is not the only reason I have no chair in my office.] Once, a carpet cleaner mistook our dining room for a “computer room” since I had the table buried with a large spectrophotometer for weeks while I worked on aligning the gratings and fixing the deuterium lamp – on and off, between other projects. Not good for spousal harmony… I’m working on the clutter thing, but it’s hard to break decades of habit. So I collect Brownie points when I can.

SDC10482
I’ll stretch the Guinea pig analogy once more before it completely collapses. Those creatures are the center of their own little universe, like me. I’m a really nice guy, a loyal husband, and a devoted father. I take care of others and try not to take them for granted or assume they merely exist to supply lettuce, water, and fresh bedding. I know people who are selfish, and I’m definitely not like them. But too often I turn conversations around to focus on my own experiences or switch into lecture mode to share my “wisdom” that usually doesn’t need sharing. The people in my life are quite smart and wise themselves. Like Guinea pigs,  I am self-centered. Why else would I write a public document comparing myself to a Guinea pig?

Willow_Washing_Bottles_22FEB2015
It’s time to close this silly blog. The Guinea pigs are happily munching lettuce. Willow has finished her homework and is clearly feeling better since she has just recycled 13 empty Kleenex boxes she found in the nooks and crannies of her bathroom and she’s now rinsing 12 mostly empty shampoo bottles. [?] Erin and the cat are snuggled up on the couch. I’ll deposit a few Brownie points in the bank.

Calling the Doctor

Post copyright by Doris McCraw

Doris

 

 

 

 

 

As many of the readers of this blog know, I’ve been researching the women doctors of Colorado for some time now. My cut off date is 1900. The interesting thing about my research is the request I sometimes receive when others are looking for someone. It has happened twice in the last year. One doctor was Kate Yont, who I wrote about a while back. Recently I was asked to supplement some information about Dr. Albertine Yale. She falls outside of my parameters , but you may find her story interesting.

 

Dr. Yale was born in Wisconsin around 1867. She was Albert Yale on June 22, 1887 and divorced him in 1907 for non-support.  Shortly thereafter she filed for ‘child support’ of $40 a month for their three children 2 boys, 1 girl, ages 19, 16, and 12. At the time he worked at the Colorado Title and Trust Company in Colorado Springs.

A 1903 graduate of the Milwaukee Medical College in Wisconsin, she received her Colorado license in January of 1904. In the 1906-07 city directory her practice as a physician and surgeon in Colorado Springs offices  were on Tejon street. Her office hours were 2-4 pm and 7-8 pm.

View of headstones in Evergreen Cemetery
View of headstones in Evergreen Cemetery

Sometime after the divorce she removed her practice to an area about twenty-five miles south of town. The area became known as Bardeen, which was her maiden name. There was a post office there from 1917-1924. Albertine died in 1920 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. The town which bore her maiden name no longer exists. It is now part of the Ft. Carson military base.

There is more to be researched about this woman and her family, but for now, this is the story we have. Perhaps when I finish the doctors prior to 1900 I’ll move to the ones before WWII. Time will tell. In the meantime, I have a couple of fiction pieces I will be finishing up. With luck readers will enjoy them this year.

Happy researching and writing, for the stories are there if you but look.

 

home for his heart angela raines

HOME FOR HIS HEART
http://www.amazon.com/Home-His-Heart-Angela-Raines-ebook/dp/B00LU3HZEK/
also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/angelaraines-dorismccraw
Photo and Poem: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com
Blog: http://renawomyn.blogspot.com/ 

 

 

Seeking romance through the decades…

This post has been written by me, Mike Staton.
This post has been written by me, Mike Staton.

Earlier today I sat down at my HP computer and scrolled through my Facebook timeline. Up pops a post from a sixth-grade boy who lives in Grantsville, West Virginia. I have family who live there – my dad’s wife, my stepbrother and his four kids. This sixth-grader had just posted he was in a relationship with my eleven-year-old niece.

I’m not so old that I don’t recall life in the sixth grade. In my case, the year was 1964 when I attended two elementary schools in Southern California. Kids went steady back then. They held hands, he carried her books and they might share a kiss as he walked her to her house. We didn’t call it dating… we were too young to drive. But you could go steady. We sure didn’t call our hand-holding and fumbling kisses “being in a relationship.”

To be honest, I wasn’t one of the kids who ventured into the going-steady world; when I was 11, I had a best friend, Laura Wagner. I never thought about going steady with her. I wanted to play catch with her, maybe ride our bikes together after school. I sure didn’t want to hold her hand or kiss her.

In photo A1, a couple from the 1900 era enjoy a risqué moment.
In photo A1, a couple from the 1900 era enjoy a risqué moment.

The few sixth-grade girls who went steady with boys in the mid-60s were usually the most mature physically. Their hormones were kicking in, which explains their desire to go steady with the 12-year-old boys who were the best athletes, physically maturing faster than other boys in the sixth grade. With hormones firing like skyrockets on the Fourth of July, those kids on the cusp of teen-hood found themselves irresistibly drawn to a new game – flirting.

In the mid-60s, mom thought the nation was fast becoming a land of sexual immorality. Still, when I look back at my high school years, a typical senior class back then might have had one or two girls who got pregnant. Nowadays, even in small towns, the numbers of girls in high school having babies are higher than in the mid-60s.

The sixth-graders in the mid-1960s were the children of the World War II generation. In turn, the men and women of the World War II generation grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s and were raised by parents who came of age during the Victorian/Edwardian Ages. While dating practices became less strict as the decades passed, parents in the ‘60s were still heavily monitoring the dating habits of their children, even as the Sexual Revolution – and miniskirts, Woodstock, communes, Charlie Manson – dominated the later years of the decade. Few mothers would allow 11-year-old daughters to go steady or be in a relationship.

The couple of photo A2 have enjoyed their time together so much they don't want to stop holding hands.
The couple of photo A2 have enjoyed their time together so much they don’t want to stop holding hands.

Which reminds me of my Writing Wranglers & Warriors blog from earlier this month. A semi-true short story of the romance of my Aunt Ethel and Uncle Raymond Snyder in the early years of the 2st Century’s second decade. Their lifetime love affair got off to a rocky start. Nineteen-year-old Raymond walked 14-year-old Ethel home from church on a cold January day. Her mom Icie Bell wouldn’t permit him to warm up inside the parlor, instead informing Ethel, “You tell him to get!” In some ways, the dating habits of the mid-60s were closer to 1912 than 2015.

Since January 11, I’ve been at my sister’s, first to visit our dad in the hospital and then to bury him. Between his death and burial ceremony, I spent some time on Pinterest investigating romantic postcards and paintings from the Victorian era. My Uncle Raymond would share his romantic longings with his Ethel via postcards, which had superseded calling cards by the early 20th century. No doubt he also sent her Valentine’s Day cards.

Nowadays, in these less strict times, teenagers are liable to send nude photos to each other via e-mail. Parents are sometimes shocked when they see the online sexual talk of their teens. The selfies girls email to their significant others are a far cry from the sweet paintings girls looked at back in the early 1900s.

The sweethearts in photo A3 share a private kiss in what looks to be a theatre.
The sweethearts in photo A3 share a private kiss in what looks to be a theatre.

I’m including six romantic paintings as part of this post that teenager Ethel might have kept in a keepsake box. The first one (A1) is a bit risqué for 1900, and its sensuality is what attracted me to it. They’re doing far more than hand-holding, yet the painting remains tasteful, even charming. The girl in her gray walking dress leans forward to smell a flower that has bloomed on a tree barely beyond a sapling, young like her. Her attention has been stolen by her beau, who leans his body against hers, his hands on her hips. His mouth moves close, his lips touching her hair, his goal a kiss on her earlobe.

In the next photo (A2), the gentleman with the top hat has reached through the iron-gate to clasp his sweetheart’s fingers. I find his gesture as powerful as a kiss. The two are saying farewell after a fine evening together – perhaps at a concert or at the playhouse – but they don’t want to leave each other’s side. Her free hand plays with her neck choker, a flirtatious gesture. Her head tilts toward his. Will they share a kiss before she heads to the house? And a final thought… why isn’t he walking her to the house? Do her parents disapprove of him, consider him a dandy with impious thoughts?

The woman in the third photo (A3) has a white flower pinned in her hair, perhaps a white rose. She has gone

A parasol provides some privacy for lovers eager to let lips meet lips.
A parasol provides some privacy for lovers eager to let lips meet lips in photo A4.

full tilt for a special night, donning an attractive green gown, its decolletage just a bit on the naughty side. She leans toward the couch’s cushions, her head angled upward so her eager lips can meet her suitor’s. The words above the couple reveal what’s on their mind. They think they’re alone… perfect opportunity for a kiss. Notice the curtain to their right? Looks like they might be inside an ornate theater, not yet ready to watch the next act of George Bernard Shaw’s The Philanderer. I wonder… if his kisses make her hot, will she open the fan in her hand and fan herself?

In the next photo (A4), the parasol provides privacy as the pair shares a kiss. She holds a bouquet of flowers. Perhaps he picked them for her and she think his gesture deserves a thank-you kiss. From the way Mr. Derby Hat holds her, I wager he has no intention of ending the kiss after a quick peck. Are they with the people up ahead? I’ve my doubts. He doesn’t want to share her with others on this spring day in the park. I like the extra details in the painting; notice the cat behind the little girl?

In photo A5, the gentleman knows this moment is a time when his hat should be removed.
In photo A5, the gentleman knows this moment is a time when his hat should be removed.

The boyfriend on a flowery spring day has taken off his white hat (photo A5), not wanting it to interfere with the coming kiss. It’s an excellent move on his part. His beloved has perched her bottom on the spot where the two wooden beams intersect and has leaned forward to give him a sweet kiss. The flower pinned to her bosom is the same color – purple – as the vines of flowers clinging to the trellis. I’d say he picked the flower and pinned it as a prelude to the kiss. With all the flowers about them, the fragrances must be making them passion drunk.

When I saw this painting (A6), I knew I needed to include it. The oldsters are sitting on a park bench, a cane propped at the gentleman’s legs, an umbrella between them. When you’ve been alive as long as this couple, you learn that even a sunny day can cloud up quickly and produce a downpour. A fallen leaf rests on the ground near the umbrella, even though flowers are blooming and nearby trees and plants are clothed in leafy finery. The leaf on the ground can be seen as a sign of change; we watch change happen every autumn. Leaves turn colors and fall from trees and provide nourishment for the earth. It’s a reminder that all in life is temporary and we are part of a cycle of life and death – in nature and in our own mortal lives. Notice the dog beside the old woman? The little guy looks over to where he’s heard a noise. He

An elderly couple enjoys companionship in a shady spot while a beam of sunlight shines down on a young family.
An elderly couple enjoys companionship (photo A6) in a shady spot while a beam of sunlight shines down on a young family.

has sensed the approach of the young couple and their little girl. They gleam in sunbeams while the elderly couple rest in the shade.

If I were a time traveler and I had the choice of traveling to the second decade of the 21st century or the second decade of the 20th century, I’d choose the 20th century. I’d elect courtship and kisses in the park, not nude selfies and dirty-talk chats and text messages.

The Slough Water Was Warm, But Wet…

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

Recently there was a request in the local newspaper where I spent my childhood for articles containing memories of growing up years. I began to wrack my brain, (an interesting phrase now that I think about it), for any such memories. And I asked myself if I really wanted to write about the ones which readily come to mind, as those were usually embarrassing.

Would it be about the time I was hit by a spit ball in country school and got caught throwing it back, and had to write many times, “I will not throw spitballs in school”? I never did again. Or should it be the time I forgot to bring the drinking water?

Our little country school sat on a small knoll, surrounded by tilled fields, and was at least a mile from anyone’s farm. It was a one-room school house with windows on the south side, and a small entry for coats and boots and some bookcases.

An old barn sat a ways away and provided shelter for any horse ridden as a means of transportation to school, and the object we threw the ball over in “ante over.” In ante over, two teams of students on opposite sides of the barn threw a ball to each other and if the ball made it over the roof, the person catching the ball tried to tag members of the throwing team as they rounded the building, changing sides of the barn, thereby gaining new members to their team. It was always a guess as to which side to round the barn and miss the tagger. If the ball failed to go over the roof, the thrower yelled “pig’s tail!” then tried again.

Old telephone
The phone from our farmhouse now hangs on my kitchen wall. The school, however, had no phone.

We also had a crock water cooler in the school room that was to be filled by students taking turns bringing drinking water to school. Every farm had their own well, but the school yard did not have a well. There was no phone, and that year, the teacher had no car. She boarded, (lived, slept and ate) at my parents’ place, which was three miles from the school. My dad provided transportation to and from school for both of us.

It was a hot day in spring or fall, the season escapes me, and I forgot to bring a can of water to school. By afternoon recess, there was a bunch of thirsty kids. Not everyone brought drinks with their lunch from home, or brought much to drink.

Soon, a bunch of us younger kids, (I think I was in third grade that year) were gathered around a somewhat fetid pond of water in the ditch a little ways from the school yard. It looked clear, sitting there surrounded by grass and rushes. Tongues were very dry and the sun was very hot, and we had played hard at noon hour and during recess.

Then, deciding factor, we found a rusty can lying in the ditch. After each of us had a small drink to quench our thirst, we headed back to class.

Only a couple first graders got sick that night that I remember. But the upset stomach didn’t linger, thank goodness.

Old school 4
Me and my two classmates at the school where one year thirst overcame common sense.

However, over a half century later, the memory, and the embarrassment, lingers amongst more happy memories created at that little country school.

The Heat is On

This post by Jennifer Flaten

Our furnace died on Sunday, not with a whimper but a bang, a huge, terrifying bang that had an accompanying scent of natural gas. So, we evacuated our house on a cold, very cold, Sunday morning. Most of us in a state of dishabille, but the dog thrilled at the impromptu ride in the car.

We called the gas company from the driveway. Since we didn’t want to go back into the house and needed to stay warm while we waited for the gas company to come we drove around our neighborhood. Endless circles of the same 10 block area.

The kids kept commenting that the couldn’t believe our neighbors didn’t call the police as they saw the same little red car pass the house for the 100th time. I reminded them most everyone else was most likely sleeping!

The gas company inspection deemed the house safe to enter, but he turned off the gas and declared the furnace “unsafe”.

So began the calling around for an HVAC guy. We found a local guy who could come out immediately. When he arrived, he only confirmed what we already knew, the furnace needed to be replaced. In an interesting twist, the technician was the same technician who put the furnace in the house 24 years ago.

We have three cats and the dog, finding alternate housing would’ve been next to impossible, so we opted to stay in the house until the install on Tuesday.

It was fun, in a “we know this will end soon” kind of way. We huddle around the space heater, wore a huge amount of layers and slept in beds piled with covers (and chilly animals).

The only thing that froze was the jar of Nutella in the cabinet on the kitchen’s outside wall. It is seized up, you can scoop it out and eat it like a little truffle…not that I’ve done that.

On Tuesday, the install went smooth and surprisingly quick. When the new furnace whooshed on, I’ve never been happier. After school, the kids came home and immediately sprawled across the vents pumping out the sweet, hot air.

I am hoping for a less adventure-filled weekend this week.

Browse my jewelry on Etsy

Letting Go of My Writing Past

Steph_2 copy (2)by Stephanie Stamm

I wrote a post on this blog earlier this year about my intention to focus on balance for the year. I followed that up with a post on my blog outlining the activities I decided were necessary to stay in balance. The number one item—and the one highlighted in the pie chart I included in the second blog (also shown below)—is clearing, which I define as getting rid of anything that no longer serves, be that an attitude or any of the numerous objects I’ve collected over the years that I don’t need or want any more.

For a Balanced Day

I’ve been doing a lot of clearing lately. Three weeks ago, I donated two boxes and six shopping bags of books to the Friends of the Library. Last week, I (finally) took my old desktop computer, which I haven’t used since probably 2009, and my old huge box of a television, which I replaced with a sleek flat screen last year, to the household hazardous waste recycle center. I thought about donating them, but really, who would want them?

Dissertation Recycling
Goodbye, old files. Hello, recycling.

In addition to getting rid of hopelessly out of date electronics, I also purged my files. This included all the supporting materials and notes from my dissertation writing days. I got my degree in 1998. Have I looked at most of those files since? Only the outsides of the folders when I moved them from one household to the next—and, for the record, some of those files moved at least five times. Why did I hold on to them so long? Well, I put a lot of time and effort into collecting them in the first place. That dissertation was the center of my life for years.

The operative word in that last sentence, though, is “was.”

My stomach still clenched a bit as I tossed those files into a box for recycling, but I finally had to admit that those files represented my past—and not my present or my future. It was time to let them go, to free myself of the weight of them. I still have the bound copies of the finished dissertation. But I don’t need all my notes.

In tossing those files, I think I’ve finally released myself from the hold of a life I once had—and that of a phantom life I could have had if I had chosen to pursue an academic career—so that I can fully embrace the life I have chosen.

Sometimes it takes a while to let go of the past. We can only do it when we’re ready.

What have you been holding on to for years and years?

 

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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:

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I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover