The Importance of Story

Do you remember your mother or grandmother reading stories to you when you were small? When my son and grandsons were little I read to them before bed. As they grew I encouraged them to “read” their favorite stories to me. Since we read Dr. Suess and Paddington Bear over and over again, they knew what happened on every page and could almost recite the words before they could read.

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There are quotes from books or films (stories) that stick in our minds and never go away. They speak to us. They make us laugh or cry or think. “Everything looks better with pearls,” is one of my faves. I don’t wear pearls but I remember watching Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day in films and they always had pearls on and looked beautiful and confident.

These days superheroes are very popular, everyone wants to be a hero, save the day, have superpowers. Imagine it? Of course, you can, we all can. Stories about ordinary people who find out they have extraordinary gifts inspire us to be greater.

Everyone has stories in them. Our lives are vignettes, scenes that play out every day. Sometimes they are boring, but they can just as easily be exciting, frightening, or romantic. Share your stories. If you don’t want to write them down, speak them to others, take photographs that tell a story, paint a picture, write/sing a song. We all love a good story.friends_n_rain

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It’s Fall in Kansas

Everyone is posting such wonderful photos of the Monarch butterflies migrating on Facebook. This beautiful event is a good reminder that it’s fall. The nights are getting down into the high 50’s and low 60’s and I just love it. The Blood Moon tonight looks like it’s autumn up there, too. That’s one of the things I enjoy about this time of year – the colors.

fall_leavesMy first published novel Feisty Family Values started in the fall. I got married forty-years-ago in October, too.

We made our first pot of chili today. Next on my list, something with pumpkin. Pie. Bread. Muffins. I haven’t decided yet. And homemade veggie soup with fresh bread. Yum.

While the trees and plants are preparing for winter and things appear to slow down, this is the first step into the holidays. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years. Talk about color! Everyone gets to kick it up a notch every month for the next three months. How cool is that?

We have a new/used Chiminea that we’ll be trying out soon. A glass of hot cider by the fire sounds like a cool way to start this new season. We get to wear cozy sweaters with our jeans, scarves and even boots again!

Long walks in the crunching leaves are another fave of mine. (Raking them isn’t all that great, but plopping into a huge pile of leaves is fun. The first time we introduced our grandson, who was a toddler at the time, to leaf pile jumping he thought his grandmother had lost her mind. But it didn’t take long before he got into the spirit of things. miles1104And dressing up for Halloween with grandkids around ROCKS! I seem to recall a puppy, dragon, Batman, ninja, werewolf and scary looking beast. When my son was young he was a great clown, gunshot victim, the angel of Death, and he even dressed up as me one year. As the boys got older their costumes became more gruesome. And everyone wants to be a super hero at least once.

Another of my favorite things about autumn is that darkness comes earlier, so I snuggle up with my notebook and write, or grab some hot tea and a book to read. LOVE IT!

When I was little we wore these icky plastic masks that made your face sweat. Yes, they still exist, but mostly we use makeup now. The kids are really good at creating the look they want. And my husband’s father told us stories about Halloween on the farm in Oklahoma and the pranks they played on neighbors. The outhouse on top of the barn was quite a feat.

And who can forget Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin – although I think it’s Linus who really believes. A few years ago my cousin bought the cutest pumpkin hat and her brother put them on everyone in a photo. It is so cute.

anna_jim_lana_fall14Enjoy your fall, folks. And don’t forget to read!

Excerpt from Earl Divine

In 1949, Earl Divine and his family moved onto Miller’s old farm five miles south of the Viola Baptist church on my tenth birthday. He was a tall, good-looking boy of eleven, with a shock of dark blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes. His crooked smile and easy laughter won the hearts of all the girls in our Kansas county, but most especially mine. For the first time in my life I wanted to look nice and make a boy notice me. The fellows liked him, too, enjoying his joking ways. This included my little brother, Tom.

I was a serious girl, doing all of the things Momma taught me – like canning, cooking from scratch, and gardening. I even plucked chickens, which everybody knows are God’s dumbest creatures. Tall and naturally thin, my crowning glory was thick and shiny red hair. I never cared much for freckles, but there’s not much I can do about mine.     Papa said, “Them are God’s little beauty marks, Hannah.”

Personally, I think God’s got a leaky pen, and it splatters some when he draws our likeness.

By the time I turned fifteen, by shear determination I wore him down and Earl Divine and I became a “couple,” much to Momma and the other girls’ dismay. For three years we courted, going to dances, ice cream socials, potluck dinners at the church, and supper at my folks’ on Sunday.

In those days boys were polite about the fact that they wanted to kiss and touch. I’d been raised to keep my legs together, but it didn’t stop the warmth like hot maple syrup from sliding from one end of my insides to the other. That boy made me want to be bad, but neither one of us could bring ourselves to do the deed before marriage. We came as close as we could without breaking the rules, admiring all the parts of each other that weren’t expressly forbidden, often breaking out in a storm of sweat from the fight with our upbringing. Lord, what a beautiful body he had. The curly hair on his torso scratched and made me giggle.

Lord, forgive these raging hormones.

They taught us all about the crazy time we were going through and warned us not to succumb. The preacher made out like sex was evil, but if that was so there wouldn’t be so many big families in the county.

One evening we lay on the hood of Earls’ 1939 Buick gazing at the stars that peaked through the grove behind my papa’s barn. The night sky over the southern Kansas farm country was black as ink, but the stars were bright enough we could almost feel their warmth. Our breathing had finally slowed from a recent bout of heavy kissing. My body felt like cooked noodles and my brain had turned to oatmeal. I broke the silence. “I love the fresh smell of new mown hay,” I said, and filled my nostrils with the glory of the evening.

What a goofy thing to say, I must be crazy.

Earl snorted, but he didn’t make fun of my awkwardness. I think it was then that I truly fell in love with my fair haired beau.

(Excerpt from short story, Earl Divine, available on Amazon.com)

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The mother of my heart

A close friend of mine died yesterday and I’ll miss her. I’ve known her for over forty years and she’s been Mom Finch to me for most all of them. She taught me so much, both little and big. How to make chocolate chip cookies, make sloppy joes, how to crochet. Many firsts in my life were experienced in the family kitchen: homemade ice cream, big – loud family dinners, quiet patience and giving. She sewed my prom dress in the same style as my best friend, her daughter and my forever friend, Maxine. She taught me how to make things stretch like money and food, to reuse what still had life in it, just like my grandmother did. She gave me so much.

She called me her “adopted daughter” and when her memory was starting to go she seemed to recognize me still. Perhaps not my name, but hopefully my smile and the love I felt for her. She lived a long life and right now I can’t remember if she was 93 or 94, but numbers have never been my strong suit. Suffice it to say she was a lovely nurturing woman and I am so glad she has been a part of my life.

She was as proud of my writing accomplishments as those of her own children. Mom Finch was the subject of one of my first articles for Active Aging, because I admired her so much. She was an ordinary woman with an extraordinary heart, and she took this lost girl in. She raised four wonderful women, one son, and me. They are blessed with her creativity and generous spirit. I’ve been blessed to be accepted as part of the family. Mom Finch is the mother of my heart and will always be my hero. I will never forget her.

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Furry Family

Many of my friends (and I) are animal lovers. We aw over puppies and kitties and all the fun videos out there. We post photos of our pets and love telling stories about the silly things that they do. They keep us company. They love us unconditionally. They protect us. They are friends. They are family. We are pretty goofy about our pets and spoil them fairly rotten. With a few exceptions they have the run of the house, because they live here, too, and have proven to be trustworthy. They want to please their people. We love our furry family and have had several dogs over the years. I hope you’ll enjoy your pets and if you can’t give them a good home, please find them one. All they need is a warm, dry place to sleep, water and food, and affection. Heck, that’s basically what all creatures need – human or otherwise. Here are some photos of some of the animals that have shared our home.

DSCN1329 maggie_sleepSONY DSCreindeerMatt12252011Ha. Just making sure you were paying attention! Enjoy the journey, folks.

 

The power of Bedtime Stories.

I don’t remember anyone reading to me as a child, but maybe I’ve just forgotten. (Sorry, Grandma) When my son was little I always read to him before he went to sleep. It was our special time. I’d use different voices for the characters and eventually he memorized the stories and say them back to me. child_readingI loved bedtime story time. My son and I would each hold one side of the book, I’d read, and he’d turn the pages. We’d laugh and talk about the story or the character, or if he was super tired he’d drift off to sleep before we were done.

They say story time helps develop a better vocabulary, stronger reading skills as well as giving the parent and child a time together to wind down and be close. It also works with siblings!reading-100

When my grandson came along it became something special he would do at grandma’s house. And when he got older and wasn’t interested in reading a story together, we’d take turns creating a story. I’d start with a character and scene, he’d add the action. Then it would be my turn again. Some nights it was hard to stop because the story kept evolving and instead of a quiet time before sleep, we’d get all jazzed and the creative muse kicked in for both of us.

glasses_book_bulldogMy son is not an avid reader like I am, but my eldest grandson devoured stories in junior high and high school and even now enjoys a good book (when he has time – he’s in college now). My youngest grandson has his favorite stories, but he’s pretty much an electronic kid. Video games are his favorite past time, even before bed.

I’ve heard of people who read to their pets and while I’ve never done it, I can see how it could be relaxing. My husband used to read to me sometimes and frankly, I loved it! His soothing base voice painted lovely pictures from one of his favorite authors, whose name escapes me right now. I believe the book was called “Tranquility” and the stories were about nature. Very cool stuff, even for a girl.

I posted a link to an article about the value of bedtime stories on Facebook and it got tons of responses. Many folks shared their favorite books as a child. One of my son’s favorites was a little golden book about one of the Muppets, Sherlock Hemlock. The spine is held together with masking tape due to lots of love and reading. Paddington Bear was another favorite, but that book is long gone. But we do have several of my husband’s childhood books that we shared with our grandsons. Sir Kevin of Devon was the youngest ones favorite.

What was your favorite bedtime story or ritual? Did you ever create stories together?

Thank you Fathers…

Most of the time I write about women, mothers and grandmothers. Probably because that is what I am and what I understand. My experience, if you will. I’d like to take this opportunity to say “Thank you” to the fathers out there, too.

My Dad died a few weeks before 9/11/2001. It was a rough year and many loved ones were lost. My father was terribly ill, and his death eased his suffering, but it was still hard to take. He was my “Daddy.” I miss him still.

the son thumbMy husband and I have no fathers or grandfathers living. Our son is a father and I’m very proud of him. He’s a pretty damned good father, too.

What I want to point out to our children is that fathers are human, they love you, and do their best. But, humans are flawed and we make mistakes. Some of them are really bad ones. I hope they make you stronger.

As for the smaller errors of judgement, you must try to forgive and forget. Most dads try really hard to be good at their job, but fatherhood, just like motherhood, doesn’t come with a manual. You don’t take a test to see if you should have kids. We aren’t trained in what to do in all circumstances. Most of the time we parents just wing it, but we do it with love.

Parents try to protect us, but we don’t live in a bubble – we’re going to stumble, we’re going to fall, we’re going to bleed. We try to warn our kids to be careful. We keep bandages close by, just in case. And our arms are always ready to hold you when you hurt, and lift you when you fall.

Thanks, Dad. For protecting me. For protecting our country through your military service. I miss you and love you.

Friends are priceless!

sadpuppyWith today’s age of “friending” on the social media sites, I find that many are what I would call casual friends. We visit in 140 characters on Twitter, or share short updates on Facebook, but it’s hard to get close. 

I remember when I was young (11-19) I had 2 really close friends. Neva who lived behind us, and Maxine who lived the next block over. We played almost every night (after homework, of course) wrote notes in school, and spent the night at each others houses. We wrote letters when we traveled and talked for hours on the phone. We could share clothes, sodas, double date, and all the intimate details of our lives. Friendships are so important when you’re a kid.

As a newlywed and new mother (20-30’s), I developed a wonderful friendship with my husband, our son, and Rockwell_family_dinnerour extended families. We watched our cousins and siblings grow up, get married and have families of their own. While I am able to keep in touch with my cousins and their children through social media, I miss the long letters we’ve shared, the family reunions, long phone calls, meals and card games. Everyone is so busy (including me).

As a maturing adult (40’s) I’ve been blessed in my writing career with all the writing and reader friends I’ve made on the journey. I cherish every one of you! We don’t usually share intimate secrets, but we do share stories. I’m grateful for all the support and good times.

My husband and Maxine are still my best friends, and I’ve added a few more as an adult who have made my life richer with their presence (I think you know who you are!).

I feel so blessed. Friends and friendship is priceless! Thank you, for being there. You’re my heroes.

We will always remember…

Today is the day in the US when we thank those that have served to protect our country. There are so many who have given the ultimate sacrifice. To you and your families we send our blessings and thanks. This is my daddy below.

PhilThompson1948

 

Mother’s Day, And the Women Who Inspire Us

I think I must be one of the luckiest women in the world. All of my life I have been blessed with wonderful women who taught me valuable things. My grandmother (Bonnie, whom I’m named after) taught me how to make things last and reuse them creatively. She showed me how to make simple things in the kitchen like pancakes and banana bread (I still use her recipes).

dirty bearMy Aunt Francis, who is ten years older than I am, showed me how to negotiate like a girl, how to dance to 50’s LP’s and how to take care of my first dog (Butch). I was a terrible flirt at six and used to charm her dates into taking me along. That happened once and never again, because the next time she offered me her giant pink teddy bear if I’d stay home with grandmother instead of tagging along on her date. (I had that bear for years, until he was more gray than pink.) She’s a red-head and to this day I love freckles, and it’s all because of her.

Growing up, my best friend Maxine’s mom (Audine) crankicecreammachine2showed me how to make sloppy joes, chocolate chip cookies, how to sew (a little bit) and later as an adult she taught me to crochet. The first time I ever cranked or ate fresh ice cream was at their house one summer. Wore me out, but it tasted great.

At work I asked one of the female managers (Amy) if she would mentor me. For the past twenty years she’s given me great advice and been there when I needed a professional’s point of view. She never judged. She never scolded. She showed me by example how to stay calm in a crisis (sometimes I forget) and that there is always more than one way to get something done.

coffee and booksWhen I started writing in earnest I had many wonderful women who inspired me, supported me, and kept me going. Carol, Colleen, Phyllis, Peggy, Sandy, Staci, Stephanie, Lois, Olive, Erin, Robyn…so many I can hardly believe it! And I’ve probably forgotten someone, but it’s only my lousy memory – not because I’m not grateful. One of my favorite authors, Dorothea Benton Frank is my idol and I hope to someday write as vividly and with as much heart as she does.

So, you see. I’ve truly been blessed, in every stage of my life by incredible women. YOU LADIES ROCK!!!