August activities, and…comparing

My FB page report for the week says activity is up by 1,450 percent. That sounds great. The trouble is, I have no idea why.

I traveled to Ames this week to meet potential students for my September OLLIE memoir writing class, and had fun chatting with some writers. Ahh…my favorite folks–looking forward to getting to know them and their stories better in a few weeks!

Friday night we saw “Annie” performed by Cedar Summer Stock. All of their 2018 performances featured incredible voices, choreography, costumes, and scenery…what more could anyone ask? Watch for them next summer.

On Saturday, we went to a cousin’s house for a family picnic. Oh my, what a spread. My gluten-sugar-lactose free offering turned out fine, but compared to the other great fare, well…actually, another one of our granddaughter’s quotes says it best: Comparison is the THIEF of joy. 

So there you go–why compare? And that brings me to flowers: observe.

Specimen one, an amazing geranium.

Specimen two, Gerber daisies in full spread.

And last, but not least, this year’s spectacular yellow begonias. I can’t get over how from delicate pale yellow clamshells (lower right), such incredible blossoms emerge.

So what’s to compare, right? Three lovely floral beauties, each with so much to offer. Yet, we compare things…and people… constantly.

Merriam-Webster defines compare as to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences or to view in relation to.

I’ve been comparing the manuscript I’m working on with its predecessors. Why would I do this? Maybe because this story  has given me lots of challenges from the get-go. The research  leads me deeper into comprehending the vast effects of World War II…but how can I possibly do this topic justice? Does comparing help? Not so much.

I’ve grown as a writer since the last one, so maybe I expected the process to be easier this time. Yes, maybe that’s it.

Yet this is a whole different flower. Yes, it’s that THIEF at it again! Just get back to this story unfolding right now. Forget about the others…seize the joys and frustrations of this one.

It’s healthy to have little self-chats like this from time to time, don’t you think?

EMBRACING LIFE!

An author I’ve come to know online recently shared this thought as something that’s helped her through life.

She shared this with an authors’ group, and I wrote her to ask if I could use it in my workshops and elsewhere. In addition, I asked Leta to describe how this became her philosophy. Here’s what she said:

“There’s a saying (unfortunately not mine) good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. That has certainly been a truism in my life, especially the younger years. For too long, I met difficulty with the wail – Why me, God? Finally I found the answer. ‘Because I want you to grow and mature into a spiritual adult, my child.’ Leta McCurry – 84 years a student in the classroom of life.”

What can I add to this profound perspective? Nothing I can write will improve on Leta’s summary, so I’ll let it stand “as is.” This is the same way we learn to accept with a grateful heart what we cannot change, and to accept ourselves in the midst of that process.

I’m sure Leta would appreciate you stopping by her blog and connecting with her.

https://www.letamccurry.com/down-a-dirt-road

And here are some photos of midsummer in the heart of Iowa. With thanks to Lance… (Practicing gratitude reveals the beauty all around us…) Enjoy!

 

 

Impatiens, granddaughters, and a budding story…

This summer, we’ve been relishing the double impatiens adorning our front step–our granddaughter picked them out on a spring trip to the garden shop and decided these white buckets sitting in our shed could hang from the stair rails. She was right. (I can’t get this photo to turn around…but you get the idea.)

 

What great taste! Sweeping the steps this morning, I noticed this small white bud, fallen before its time.

Such promise here…multi-layered petals packed safely away in one succinct package. With time, water, and sunshine, this would’ve been one of the faintly pink blossoms that stop us mid-flight to take another look.

At the same time, I’ve been stuck in my writing, unable to settle into telling an incredible woman’s story. Perhaps it’s because she’s a real WWII nurse who made an incredible difference in so many soldiers’ lives. Until now, my characters have all come into being through what we call the muse. 

But this woman actually suffered through more battles than I could have imagined. So tenacious and stalwart…how can I possibly do her memory justice?

Whatever the reason, I’ve been struggling. But yesterday, our granddaughter shared a quote with me that has me rethinking things:

If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, but never the goal.

Maybe for this particular novel, I must break free from my usual method. Maybe I need to learn a new process.

And maybe I will!

 

 

Obviating 101

Here’s more than you ever wanted to know about one particular verb and its synonyms:

       Obviate derives from the Latin obviare (“to meet or withstand”) and the Latin obviam (“in the way”) and is the origin of our adjective obvious. Obviate has a number of English synonyms, including prevent, preclude, and avert; all of these can mean “to hinder or stop something.” When you prevent or preclude, you put up an insurmountable obstacle. Preclude often implies a degree of chance involved in halting an event. Obviate generally suggests using intelligence or forethought to ward off trouble. Avert implies a bad situation prevented or deflected by effective means.

Midsummer finds us obviating all over the place. Example: our tomato plants, hit by last week’s storm, are now ready for the next one, having been grounded with
reliable (we hope) metal anchors.

Lance also spent a sweaty hour fixing an eave spout about the garage door, so it now drains into a suitable spot.

 

Mundane, everyday actions, but they obviate disasters. Okay, minor disasters. (: Reflecting on many of my actions throughout life as child, wife, mother, and friend, obviation often played a role.

Of course, we can’t avert every undesired occurrence. But this doesn’t stop us from trying. Later in life, we learn these events might have happened to make us–or somebody else–stronger. Oh, the joys of hindsight…

On these slow summer days, I ponder obviation in relation to my novels. What experiences have developed my characters’ strength, self-discipline and motivation?

Most likely tough ones that tested their endurance more than they care to recall. Yep. Just today, my morning teabag presented an applicable quote: Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go. T.S. Eliot

      What a freeing concept–wish I’d embraced it long ago.  

The heroines in my own reading take risks…big ones, and so do those in my writing.  Maybe that’s why WWII folks attract me so much, eh?

The Dog Days

Learned something new today: the Latin word canicular, meaning “small dog”, originates in Canis, from which we get our word canine.

Sirius, the star that represents the hunter Orion’s hound in the constellation, was also called Canicula. Because we first see Sirius rise during summer, the hot sultry days from early July to early September came to be called dies caniculares, i.e. “the dog days.”

Isn’t it fun to discover all the ins and outs of our vocabulary? All of what I’ve written so far is to introduce more photos from our England trip. The first, from Bletchley Park, shows some women dishing up corned beef hash. They offered tastes, and sent the recipe home with all comers.

Note the authentic 40’s clothing, enamelware, and head gear. Now, picture British women like these sweating over a hot stove in a cramped flat with no air conditioning, not even a fan. In one of England’s industrial cities, with bombs being dropped night after night.

The hash wasn’t bad…exactly. Just very bland, but spices were hard to come by. That’s why the black market managed such a thriving business, despite severe reprisals if the seller were caught in the act.

Here are some items he (or she) would carry…I personally would have a TOUGH TIME if tea were rationed, and know some people who might be highly tempted to go black market for precious coffee!

The oppressive heat of dog days makes many of us crabby, but we can find a cool place to spell us through the worst. The citizens of England could not, but they KEPT CALM and CARRIED ON. And can you imagine how relieved they were when one by one, items became unrationed? Keep in mind, this took years AFTER the war…my hat is off to all who toughed it out!

As July Fourth Nears…

Summer is a-bustin’ out all over.

A father cardinal stays mighty close to his fledglings in their nest just outside our back door.

Yes, and flowers display their fragile glory everywhere we look:

And here come the begonias near our front porch–wish you could all come and sip a cup of tea out there.

Now, take a look at our granddaughter’s team last week, the night they won their sixth grade softball championship. One of those magical moments filled with gratitude. I’ll cherish these smiles marking the GOOD KIND of pride for years to come! (Can you tell which one she is?)

Last but not least, I’m still basking in memories of our trip to England, often recalling Winston Churchill’s grit in an almost impossible position. I know, I know, you may be getting sick of me mentioning him…can’t help it, though. I’m SO SO very grateful for how he played his role in history.

 

A happy Fourth of July to you, and a little publishing news. I submitted a new manuscript to a publisher last week, something from World War II, of course, but a little different…it’s Glenora Carson’s story: she was one of the women who got their hands greasy during the war years doing a man’s job. More to come on this novella, with the title Kiss Me Once Again.

Also, I submitted my next novel to an agent. You just never know what might happen …never a dull moment, though.

 

The Locket

Two weeks ago at a luncheon honoring women ninety and over (at the UM Church in Charles City, Iowa), I heard even more World War II stories. They fit right in with the red, white, and blue decor–patriotic and cheerful.

Some of the women brought a treasure from way back then, and one showed us her locket from childhood.

Her father left for the war before she was born, so inside are photos of him and her. The good news is, he returned, and she has many more good memories of their relationship.

On Father’s Day, we celebrated this vital familial connection. For those who missed out on knowing their fathers in a meaningful way, that can be a tough holiday.

That’s how it would have been for Kate, the heroine of A Purpose Truewho lost both father and mother in her early childhood–to World War I. But someone comes into her life offering his memories of her loved ones…can you imagine how much that would mean?

Perhaps you have a cherished treasure that belonged to a loved one…I have my mom’s simple graduation ring. The white onyx is almost worn through, but it’s good to take it from its safe place from time to time and remember.

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On

That’s a mouthful at times. I have a friend who’s facing surgery with extensive recuperation, plus two dreadful diseases in her close family.

Keep calm, you say?

With another friend, we have an ongoing discussion about how people make it through suffering, sorrow, illness, and loss. Sometimes I think it’s a combination of this “carry on” attitude plus faith, of course, and a good dose of everyday concerns that keep us going.

 

On our recent trip, Lance ordered bangers and mash, also known as sausages and mash, a traditional British and Irish dish combining sausages and mashed potatoes. The flavored sausages may be pork, lamb, or beef (often specifically Cumberland sausage. The dish is sometimes served with onion gravy, fried onions, or peas.

This dish, even when cooked at home, may be thought of as an example of pub grub, quick and easy to make in large quantities. I’ve read accounts of wartime children being sent to pick up the family’s order of this dish at a local restaurant, since both of their parents were working.

During World War II, I wonder if, in addition to seeking divine comfort, the necessary constant task of providing food for their families helped everyone make it through. Here in the states, women survived dire Depression-era poverty and went on to endure the wait for their loved ones to return from the second world war.

Maybe it’s no wonder that generation taught us to eat everything on our plates and placed high value on a good, solid meal followed by a lush dessert.

Some World War II ladies we met at Bletchley Park

Talk about authentic…take a look at these women – oh, so stylish! The one with the white hat has a Veronica Lake “victory roll,” prevalent during World War II. This hair-do kept women’s hair out of the way in such a busy time, and helped them avoid accidents with machinery at their jobs, as well.

 

One of these ladies might work in a factory, like her American counterpart, Rosie the Riveter, or as a secretary to someone in Winston Churchill’s underground war rooms.

These are the types Addie and Kate would have encountered in Charles Tenney’s office, or on the streets of London.

 

PHOTOS – Bletchley Park

Styles of the time…for some reason, the seams don’t show up on their hosiery.

 

But here’s the smuggler we met at Bletchley…isn’t he cool?

And behold some of his wares:

I wanted to buy everything…don’t you LOVE the look on his wife’s face?

Finding specific name brands was such a gift for my research…what a day, what an incredible day.