Rainy Days

Rain and lots of it has arrived. It has been desperately needed here in Colorado these past years, the front range included. During the time we’ve lived here, over twelve years, fires have raged; engulfing forests, annihilating homes, destroying animals, and even taking human lives. Just three years ago, during the Cameron Peak Fire, my husband was working on a golf course and said it was raining ash, turning the day into an eerie dusk. The powdery residue was actually drifting like snow. At the same time that he was on the golf course, I was sweeping ashes off the porch and brushed the cars to remove the same. It was devastating to hear over the news of the acres and acres destroyed, 208,000, with only a small percentage being contained day after day. 

So, as I watch it rain outside our window for three days now, I am grateful. With a little luck, this moisture just might douse any ember trying to start a forest fire this summer. At the same time, there is the combined concern of flooding considering the mountains were inundated with a vast amount of snow this winter, some areas breaking records. There was so much, there was a concern for wildlife because they were unable to dig deep enough for food. It’s a fact that Mother Nature always has the last word. Sometimes we agree with her, sometimes not.

Even though we are grateful for rain, there is one glitch—Rusty, our dog. Every day by 3:00 P.M., if he hasn’t been walked, he notifies me. If I am sitting, he saunters over and rests his nose on my arm, his brown eyes staring up at me in near desperation. On these rainy days, I pretend I don’t see him, even though his desires usually run my life. I don’t want to walk in the chilly steady rain, but rather watch it from inside. I don’t really believe him wanting to walk anyhow. With this wet weather, I kneel down for more leverage to push his butt out the patio door so he can relieve himself. The minute one drop of rain lands on his nose, his ears lay flat against his head as he tries to spin around and come back in. We start the procedure all over again until I win. No matter what, I’m still delighted we’re receiving moisture, dog battle or not. 

Prompt 5.11.23

Feeling groovy?  What small rituals help support your sense of well-being? Be liberal on the term ‘well-being’, like feeling feisty, creative, excited, satisfied, or comfortable. And what are those? Is it quiet time, being with friends, a long walk on a favorite path, a good book, a bubble bath, an old rock ‘n’ roll vinyl, or coloring with grandchildren? Reflect and write on your physical or mental ritual(s) that make you feel in the groove. 


As I continue my quest to find a live chicken or plural for National Drink with Chicken Day on May 23, I began to mull over the value of a simple chicken and certain personal encounters. In rural Illinois where I grew up, chickens and outhouses seemed synonymous with one another, both of which were deemed a necessity. In our book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets, I have a story, Outhouses of Pike County, which mentions chickens along with outhouses, not realizing a connection, or more likely a physicality in ‘location’.  

Chickens are absolutely a supplier of sustenance in many forms. Both of my great grandparents and grandparents had chickens which included their own little house, a ramp, and a secure sturdy fence for extra safety at night. I can still feel the flawless shell of a snug egg as I reach into one of the nests under the warm belly of a hen. A  docile little being who goes about her day minding her own business.

These feathery bundles also can make up to ten different vocalization sounds. My favorite is the Happy Murmuring…you know which one I mean. It is like a chicken purr, similar to a cat. They do this a lot when nibbling between blades of grass, a soft clucky lull. Once in Germany visiting a cousin, I took her two small children on a walk. Along the path was a large chicken yard. We were at the top of a hill and the path led down to another road. The three of us stopped and took in this soft hum. I began to mimic, and one by one the chickens came to the fence. We continued down the path, all the while, softly clucking with the chickens. They bunched up beside the fence the total distance down the hill and followed us to the bottom. The kids were delighted.

In the TV series, Recipe for Love and Murder, Tannie the main character has a pet hen named Morag. This hen has full reign of the yard and house and is happily carried around in the arms of Tannie. She feeds her watermelon and other delights from her garden and kitchen.

In doing research, surprisingly the egg-making process starts long before the egg is made. It begins with the birth of the hen. Like many other female species, hens carry a finite number of eggs in their bodies from the moment they are born. This means that they carry all the eggs in their body at birth. After birth, no new eggs are produced. I had no idea! Of course, there is much more to the process, but I am trying to make this short.

Now comes the most fascinating part of the egg’s journey. The membrane-enclosed egg enters the shell gland, where it spends the next twenty hours. It is plumped up with fluid until it achieves the approximate shape you would recognize as being an egg. Then it is sealed within the formation of calcium carbonate crystals which hardens due to a fast-drying protein solution called the bloom, or cuticle, that seals tiny pores occurring between the calcium crystals making up the shell. Whew! I must ask, is this by accident or was it designed?

This puts me in mind of famous Paris designers who brought and changed fashion around the world such as Chanel, Dior, Ricci, and dozens of other extraordinary artists. They would scream if someone thought their hours and months of sketching, alignment, color, stitch, choice of fabric, each curve and flow was by accident. No, it was designed.

And here is our little hen, minding her own, giving us protein in countless forms, feathers for costume accessories, and exquisite culinary chicken dishes one cannot count, alive or not. I can still hear their little selves settle in the early evening into nests of straw, rocking gently side to side, closing their gauzy thin membrane eyelids, and drifting off into featherland for the night. Who would not want to raise a glass of champagne or eggnog laced with rum with a chicken?

Nostalgia and The Ironing Board

We are having new carpet put in our bedroom and walk-in closet in two days. This necessitates a spring cleaning of sorts as we have to relocate all the furniture and clothing before carpet can be taken out and replaced. I discovered in the dark back corner of my closet, the ironing board. Not an ironing board but THE ironing board.

I’m of the opinion that if clothing is not wash-and-wear or permanent press it should not belong to us. It is immediately put into a bag and rehomed to a place more suitable – a place where someone likes to iron. In this day when ripped and wrinkled are fashion statements, I am old school – no rips and a modicum of wrinkles. I am not old school enough, however, to iron clothes. I’m a great fan of plissé, crinkle fabrics.

I was eleven when I was pressed (pun intended) into service as the family ironer. Mother ironed Everything from our clothing to sheets and towels – even my Dad’s boxers and undershirts were pressed and folded. She taught me the fine art and it became my Saturday morning task.

THE ironing board came to my house after Mom died. I knew I would probably never use it, but it is older than I, had been in the family eighty-odd years and it felt disrespectful to toss it out. It is wooden with a faded blue gingham padded cover. Those covers were changed often because Mom didn’t like to have scorch marks on them. It is retired now as all good servants should be and has not seen the light of day since 2003.

As an adult, I would tease Mom that she lived in a Doris Day movie in her head. I swear that if you looked into the closets of Ms. Day’s movie set it would look exactly like Mom’s. Her shelves were neat with towels arranged in color-coordinated harmony and stacked from large to small. Dishes too had their own particular symmetry on their shelves.  Her clothes closet was organized in order of seasons, then by type (dresses, skirts, shirts, blouses, pants, etc.) then by color. Organize and accomplish were her favorite words.

Didn’t have roses for pic but you get the idea

Mind you she was a full-time career woman until she was seventy-five and she ran our household like her office – precise and orderly. She managed to work all day after making breakfast for her husband and two kids and lunches for school. When she came home, she fixed dinner for all. She laid out my outfits for the following day. Her evenings were spent paying bills, or mending, or ironing and prepping to start all over again the next day. After we bought a TV in 1952, she might spend an hour watching it with the family, but she was always doing a little chore at the same time.

Once THE ironing board became a prop for my dad who loved to think creatively. Mom had talked of buying a steam iron – a relatively new appliance for the modern home in the 1950s. Before the steam iron, Mom would dampen Dad’s freshly laundered shirts (they were washed in a machine, then hung on a line outside to dry), roll them like fat sausages, and put them in the fridge to await ironing. She also used a coke bottle fitted with a sprinkle top that was filled with water to dampen clothes as she ironed them. The steam iron circumvented that process. As a surprise, Dad bought one. Very early on her birthday morning, he set up THE ironing board in the dining room with a pair of his boxers over the end, a vase of two dozen red roses, and the new steam iron on it. He rarely got up before her, so he had to be very sneaky. He got me up to watch.  We waited in the kitchen, and he snapped a photo when she saw her birthday gift. She burst out laughing, a rare thing for her and a happy memory for me.

Beloved Books

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is absolutely, without a doubt, my number one favorite, despite the many books I’ve read over half a century. Just ask my kids. They will tell you. Every time I hear it mentioned, which isn’t often, I say, “Oh, that’s my favorite book ever!” I’m guessing I have company with others loving it, too. Who wouldn’t love Little Ann and Old Dan?  Hound dogs that win your heart. Break it, too.

            In District #37, our country school, one excellent teacher, Mrs. McGuire, read a book to us every day for fifteen minutes after noon recess. We had an hour for lunch and recess time, plenty of time to rev up. She encouraged us, all grades, to lay our heads down with our bright red faces with sweat dripping off our foreheads. We fell into a quiet relaxation, not a sound in the room except her voice reading, taking us to different places and characters. It might have been the only silent time in the entire day and certainly my best-loved moment.

            Once, when Mrs. McDonald reached the last chapter of Where the Red Fern Grows and the plight of Old Dan (I’ll try not to explain it, though you probably have an idea), sobs could be heard around the room. Mrs. McDonald could hardly read it, tears running down her face too. I thought it was just our tears, but later realized she, too, couldn’t get through the story. It made me love her forever, how the book touched her too, that she was unafraid to show it and let her tears flow with us. She finally said, “Okay students, here’s what we’ll do. You can use the mudroom with a friend and read the chapter to each other to finish it.” 

            We three girls in the fifth grade took the book and drug our three chairs into the small room with its swinging door to the classroom, the faded wooden floor, and mint green walls with a small window near the ceiling. It was no longer used as an entrance, but rather to study with each other, which usually ended up in giggles or sneaking open the old squeaky door to bravely run around the schoolhouse in hopes to not be caught. We figured she wouldn’t know. The sometimes naivety of children.

            However, there were no giggles this time. First, Peggy read a few pages of the last chapter, then Debbie, then me. We sobbed through the last pages, Kleenexes in hand. I’m sure the kids in the actual school room heard us, but never to mind. It would soon be their turn to sit in the little room and cry, shedding tears after those before. 

            This story always warms me. The way a book can take you into a world and connects you to others. Relatable characters, vivid scenes and great dialogue combine to make a remarkable book, just like Where the Red Fern Grows.


Who doesn’t remember a sleepover or a slumber party? A gaggle of girls full of excitement is a sight to behold. In rural Illinois where I grew up, most classmates lived far out into the country. Sleepovers were usually on a school night. Not sure why other than perhaps the big yellow bus would deliver this bunch to the destination and pick us up the following morning, saving many parents from many trips. In Jr High, one classmate always invited the entire group of girls in our class. Her mother taught and insisted on ‘fairness’. Not all could come of course for one reason or the other. Seven to eight could. At the time, our entire class totaled twenty-one, eleven of which were girls. This giddy event always took place at the end of October when the air had a snap of a crisp apple.  

It thrilled me to no end to plan, pack and head off with our heads together sitting on the stiff green seats on the school bus. Cathy’s mother farmed out all the younger brothers to leave room for extra bunk beds. We scattered ourselves between two bedrooms and the floor. Her mother prepared well, a hot easy supper, games, and roasted marshmallows over a fire. I have to applaud her patience and self-sacrifice the following morning as she made sure we had everything we brought back in our bags and shuffled us on the bus early, leaving the kitchen table covered in syrup and pancake crumbs.

In high school, none of us had to rely on buses that much, so we had the freedom to come and go during the week or on weekends. Sleepovers were , well, whoever and how many. We were still crammed into double beds, or a sofa or sleeping bags on the floor. I loved this time together, the giggles, the boy talk, the scary stories, acting out romance stories we were reading, telling secrets, bodies rolled up side by side, sharing pillows, elbowing each other out of the way, jerking covers up or off, no cutting the cheese, stop snoring, I’m freezing, turn on the light–turn it off, you go first, I’m thirsty, where’s the bathroom, be quiet!

As an adult, I had the absolute pleasure to relive those days. In our writers’ group, we had several grown-up gal sleepovers. Two times in Bisbee in a little house hanging on a side of a hill, once on a ranch in a rustic outbuilding, a trip to Santa Fe, another in Pagosa Springs, CO, and each other’s homes for several years. We planned our food, snacks, movies, notebooks, and prompts, Several sleepovers were dedicated to Downton Abby marathons at Linda’s. These nights lasted well past midnight, hour after hour. We all brought items for a delicious dinner, a gooey chocolate dessert, and late night snacks. We also had the bonus of Linda’s two cats from lap to lap. Sofas, and sleeping bags once again. Strong coffee and fresh pastries awaited the following morning, then the three of us, Jackie, Diana, and myself would gather up our mess, tidy up and go to our respective homes and waiting husbands.

Life continues its run of changes, openings, and closures. I confess, my memories and heart belong to those ‘good times’ of innocence and intimacy.


Painting by
Sally Rosenbaum

An accessory to being a writer is being a reader. The love of words, whether my own or those of others I admire, is part of the suit I inhabit in the world. I have a library of over 1,000 volumes, hardback and paperback, most in my writing room/library/cat boudoir. There are books in every room of the house. My husband claims every horizontal surface has books on it. I have read most, reread many. Some are on my To Be Read list that I acquired at too-good-to-miss sales at the library and elsewhere. I wonder at times if my library is a subliminal guarantee of eternity as in, I cannot die until I’ve read every book I own. I don’t think so, but it has crossed my mind.

My husband, a man of action not a reader, has come to terms with the love-me-love-my-books attitude and helped transport boxes and boxes from one abode to another over the years. He does not understand the obsession. “Why keep a book you already read?” is his repeated refrain. “Because I love them” is my reply. Even if I don’t reread an entire book, I go back to visit characters or scenes I like. I use books as reference or inspiration when I write. My books have sticky notes and penciled notes in them.

I made a promise (lightly made but mostly kept) to stop adding to the library when I discovered Kindle and Audible. Now I have over 600 Kindle books and nearly the same number of audiobooks that don’t have to be moved in boxes. Two-for-one offers and Kindle free are my downfall. I discovered the digital checkout system, Libby, at the public library and use it for book club books I don’t have and don’t want to purchase. I read two or three books concurrently. The three most recent are Trinity by Leon Uris, Since Then by Sheila Bender, and Lessons in Chemistry (audio) by Bonnie Garmus. Love them all.

I discovered, because of GoodReads, another place to hoard books. It is my “Want to Read” list that feels nearly as satisfactory as a TBR list. I read a review or see books my friends read and put them on the WTR list. It’s free and doesn’t take up space in my home.

a corner of the library
A corner of the library

Once, several years ago, I decided to organize my library and get rid of books I didn’t NEED. I took every volume off my shelves and put them in the middle of the room in stacks by category. My grandson, then about four, wandered into the room where dozens of stacks reached heights nearly to his shoulder. “Wow, Grandma, you must have a million books”.  I, with the coldness of a butcher, put piles of books to be discarded in a corner of the room. Then I asked my best buddies to come over to pick through and take the ones they wanted. We packed up the remainders and I had them take them to the library or Bookman’s or Good Will or wherever they chose. I knew if I took them, I’d end up bringing a few (or many) back because I’d rethink my attachment. I don’t miss them, and I don’t think I repurchased any of them. I didn’t keep a list. My library is again disorganized because I fail to put books back in their assigned place (even with the best intention). Maybe it’s time for reorganization and purge?

She Reads

Yesterday, while driving for errands, I had the radio station turned to NPR. The famous author Judy Blume was being interviewed. She no longer writes, but the interviewer discussed her books and writing life. In fact, a movie has just been released regarding her first popular book, are you there god, it’s me Margaret. The subject matter? The story is about Margaret being upset her period hasn’t started while others her age have. Blume’s books have been definitely controversial as she writes of situations youth face while growing up. She has even received death threats. That never stopped her. Not to be OCD on banned books (or maybe I am), she has clearly written an unbelievable and relevant number of beloved books for youth. She has won more than ninety awards and none more important than those coming directly from her youngest readers. She was also honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement.

I bring up Judy Blume and her books because first, I’m looking forward to the movie. I regret I’ve read very few of her books. I’m not sure why. Guess I was busy being a mom. However, I plan on reading more.

Secondly, my thirteen-year-old granddaughter, an age Blume addresses in her books , has recently been invaded by the reading “bug.” I need to ask her if she’s read Blume’s books and truly love watching her curl up into a chair with her her newest book, her legs tucked under her, closing all out as she enters into the world of her next read. 

A few days ago, I picked her up from school and was a few minutes late. She was easy to locate sitting on the school’s front steps, her head bent over a book as she devoured another mystery. She didn’t look up even though a few students were hurrying down the steps beside her, locating their ride home. Luckily, she raised her head as I pulled the car up in front of her, closing her book until she could revisit her characters and the story once more. 

Her recent passion for books warms me, makes me happy. It reminds me of my days in country school when all grades, around thirty students were in the same room – the sound of feet shuffling on wooden floors, the teacher instructing another grade, other students softly talking back and forth, discussing assignments. I disappeared, sitting at my desk, my nose buried in the latest animal book. I heard nothing as the book’s characters surrounding me took over.  

I still experience the same as I continue to enter my next a book. 

My granddaughter now asks what I am reading every time she sees me with an open book, which like her, could take place in any setting. She always shows me her “latest” book purchase and I read the first chapter to discover its tone. She loves that I do, and we discuss the book a little bit. I’m delighted, not only because she shares with me the book she’s reading, but also because it gives us a special connection. Thank heaven for books.