A WWII Cinderella Tale

Joy Neal Kidney joins us today with her new book called Leora’s Letters. This story of love and loss during WWII features Joy’s mother, a young woman with dreams disrupted by huge loss. Yet she continued on to live a meaningful life–lessons for us as we face our own challenges.

Joy will give away one signed paperback copy of Leora’s Letters to a commenter. I’m finding treasures within–there’s nothing like letters straight out of the World War II era. Thank you, Joy!

An Iowa Waitress Became an Officer’s Wife–in Texas, by Joy Neal Kidney

It was the only formal gown my mother ever owned. She bought it for the opening of the officers’ club at the Marfa Army Air Base in Texas. Doris had just become an officer’s wife by marrying Warren Neal, an Iowa farmer who’d earned his pilot’s wings. 

Doris Wilson had been a waitress in Perry, Iowa, at the McDonald Drug Store, which had a soda fountain and a restaurant area. In fact, she was serving Sunday dinner there when the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted the background music playing on WHO-Radio. 

She remembered thinking that all her brothers were liable to be drafted. One by one the five Wilson brothers left to serve – two in the Navy, three in the Army Air Force.

Dale Wilson and Warren Neal, both Iowa farmers, had enlisted as air cadets in 1942. They were awarded their silver “wings” and became officers on the same day a year later – Dale at Roswell, New Mexico. Warren at Marfa, Texas. 

Warren was retained at Marfa as an instructor for advanced cadets. With calls for women to enlist to help with “the cause,” Doris had begun the process to apply for the WAVES. Warren was afraid they’d get separated forever so he asked her to get married instead. 

Doris, wearing an aqua suit, and Warren in uniform were married in May 1943 in Dexter, Iowa, then headed for Marfa, Texas.

They’d just gotten settled when they were to attend the formal opening of the new officers’ club. Doris’s first formal gown for the dance was nearly the color of the suit she’d been married in a few months earlier – aqua, short-sleeved, accented with lots of small ruffles.

She wrote home that she had fun at the dance and felt like Cinderella.

That fall, she wrote her brother Dale, then in combat in New Guinea, “I’m going to let you in on a secret. We haven’t told anyone yet, but we are going to have a boy (we hope) next May.” Dale never got her message. The V-Mail letter was returned, still sealed, marked “Missing in Action.” 

Decades later, I – the boy she’d hoped for – was the first person to open the little V-Letter and read it. 


There’s no photo of her wearing the aqua gown. I remember seeing it as a child only a couple of times among her keepsakes in the storeroom of our old farmhouse.

But now it’s been passed on tome, Doris’s firstborn, who eventually became the keeper of poignant family stories and letters and terrible telegrams. 

Treasures, like the aqua gown, to wonder about. Did she ever get to wear it again?

To feel like Cinderella once more? 

Connect with Joy online:



June is Bustin’ Out All Over!

Just sharing a few photos from our blossoming world today, and letting you know what I learned about the origin of the WWII grenade box in our side yard. My friend bought the chair/box already painted red. The antiques dealer she purchased it from has no idea where she found it, so that might be the end of this research.

But it was fun while it lasted. Meanwhile, here are some great Iowa backyard pics–Lance takes so many, it’s hard to keep up.

These pictures make me think of a quote I read just this week.

“If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
Steven Pressfield (used by permission)

SO MUCH POTENTIAL HERE…and in each one of us. Have a great week using yours to the utmost!


Don’t you love it? You’re in need of something–you don’t how exactly what, but someone comes alone who’s experienced what you’re going through and gives you a suggestion. That happened this week when Ada, an author/visitor on my blog, suggested a liniment she’s used for years for an ailing hip.

Sure enough, my hip is ailing. I obtained some of the liniment and am noticing improvement. Networking helps us find information. And the old-fashioned word-of-mouth still works.

Last year, my good friend moved away from our town, leaving me her cute little red chair and flower box. Right now it’s full of kale and spinach, and as cute as ever near the path on the south side of our house.

In the process of planting seeds in this box, I discovered some synchronicity. On one side underneath peeling red paint, an imprint labels the wooden box as a WWII grenade box!

I had that “Wow! moment when I could barely believe my eyes. This happens to all of us, right? And these moments are the frosting on the cake of life.

Here’s to each of us having many synchronicities, especially during this time of distancing.

Following the Tracks

… and Dealing with Snow

I’m so excited to welcome Ada Brownell, who tells the story she and her husband lived for sixty-six years in Following The Tracks. What a testimony to enduring love! Ada is giving away a copy of this book to one commenter, either e-book or print. So give us a taste, Ada.

By Ada Brownell

I thought I was going to retire. After all, I’d been writing for publication since my teens.

I was bored with retirement in a hurry, and still had things I wanted to do. When I told people about some of the adventures we had working for the Rio Grande Western Railroad, they asked, “Why haven’t you written that story?”

So, I made my way back to my desk.

Les asked me out when I was barely 15 and he was 19, already working as an agent–telegrapher for the railroad. Daddy would have chased him off, but he was my brother-in-law’s brother.

I wasn’t any ordinary 15-year-old kid. I’d been cleaning houses and taking care of children since I was in the sixth grade. Then I helped my aunt manage her small motel, even painting and updating rooms and the exterior.

When Les asked me for a date, he had about a half dozen girls chasing him because our church didn’t have many guys. I was the youth leader. Sometimes I sang solos during regular services, so I was noticed for more than my red hair and freckles.

I kept being surprised at Les’s determination to make me his wife. My older sister had been engaged at least three times, so when Les asked me to marry him, I thought, “That’s once.”

He sent me telegrams (he could send them free) that I picked up at Fruita’s railroad depot every week when he worked out of town. He wrote letters too.

We dated about a year and had a beautiful wedding in October, 1953. Then we began living all over Colorado’s majestic mountains, and even ventured into Utah, into the places where the D&RGW needed a telegrapher.

We spent our first anniversary at Pando, near the top of Tennessee Pass, and lived in a log cabin across from the depot.

In Avon we moved into agent’s quarters in the railroad station, but within reaching distance of the dispatcher’s phone, and could hear the click of the telegraph key’s sounder from the living room. The bay window where Les worked sat only about ten feet from the tracks.

In Malta, we lived in a railroad boxcar, with a lean-to mud-room and living room built on. 

When we arrived in Thompson, Utah, only one house was up for rent—a dilapidated shack covered with wind-blown tar paper on one section, and rusty corrugated metal on the remainder. No bathroom. An ancient wood-burning cook stove sat in one end of the two-bedroom building. We used old stove for heat and cooked on our gas range.

My rich Uncle Bill, a builder, dropped by to see us there. I was mortified. 

He looked around and grinned. “I could build a house like this for about fifty bucks. But when your kids grow up and want to borrow money, show them a picture of this and say, “We started out the hard way.”

We eventually bought a beautiful 50 X 10 mobile home and parked it on railroad land.

I started a Sunday school in Thompson—population 98, four bars, a uranium mill, an acid plant, a school, and no church. We had sixteen faithful kids, and on Easter, some parents.

We drove 38 miles to Moab to church on Sunday nights. Les worked on Sunday morning.

Later, we lived in two-mile-high Leadville, Colo., and one night our water froze. Les was bumped and working somewhere else, so I rushed out with a fake fur coat over my nightgown to thaw the pipes and got stuck out there because the door froze shut. I found out the next day the temperature had been 30-some degrees below zero.

We had many other “near disasters,” but when you’re following the tracks of Jesus, He’s always beside you. 

Les worked for the railroad more than forty years. We moved twelve times the first three years, and since then chalked up more. God sent amazing people into our lives everywhere, and Jesus walked with us every step.

We’re in our 80s now, married 66 years.

*Copyright Ada Brownell 2020

Check out Ada online:

Blog: http://www.inkfromanearthenvessel.blogspot.com

Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement

Blog: http://www.inkfromanearthenvessel.blogspot.com

Salute to D-Day Invaders!

The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible. Winston Churchill

Many said it was impossible. The Allies had suffered devastating defeats during the past three years. It had been a slow slog to victory in North Africa against the Desert Fox.

But the Allies had kept defending and attacking until they drove the Nazis out of Tunisia. Now, this new challenge loomed: the same menacing enemy waited on the French coast.

Dug in. Invisible. Impossible to defeat.

A white smoke screen provides cover as troops approach French shore.

And yet, an army of young men saw the invisible, felt the intangible, and achieved the impossible. Some of them enlisted even before they graduated from high school, and the cost was great.

Let our gratitude be great, also.

A Beautiful Iowa Morning

You wake to birds delighted to sing their songs, cool air beckoning you to check on those new wildflowers you saw in the ditch the other day. It’s the kind of day you can forgive all the harshness of winter and relish the beauty all around you.

I baked Lance some scones this morning–found a new recipe last time, and they turned out well again. It’s a keeper.

The sunshine, now with us through the evening, the thunderstorm the night before last, barreling through in all its power, leaving branches to pick up but also fresh blossoms in our back yard. We embrace this June morning and venture out to peek at a mama robin o her nest just outside our back door.

The rhythm of the seasons, day and night, seedtime and harvest, sunshine and shadow…these all remind us we are part of something far greater.

The life in this egg will burst forth one day. It’s good to remember this, and that the seeds we’ve planted will sprout and grow. It’s fitting to take time to sense this great gift, a closeness to nature with its irrepressible order.

Especially when evil threatens, we need to pause and reflect on the foundations of our lives, the simple beauty and truth so evident around us. I wouldn’t wonder that World War II women sought and found solace and serenity in their gardens, despite the daily news reports from battlefields far away.

Scofflaws and D-Day

The word scofflaw means “a contemptuous law violator,” although the word once carried a more precise meaning. In 1924 this would-be word won a contest organized by a man named Delcevare King, who sought to describe a lawless drinker, or one who ignored Prohibition.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, this word described various types of lawbreakers, although it often applies to those who fail to pay parking tickets. Don’t you love the English language? We borrow and alter even made-up words!

Twenty years later an contemptuous law violator threatened society. Defeating him cost hundreds of thousands of lives and required immense resources. To this end, Operation Overlord, began on June 6 of that year and continued for months across Normandy.

Only inspired determination can defeat an egomaniacal enemy intent on one’s destruction. As many Allies joined with Great Britain on this day, it’s impossible to measure how much FAITH was involved.

Image by 272447 from Pixabay

Millions of prayers ascended as families awaited word from their sons engaged in this monumental battle to free France and Belgium. Their ultimate purpose? To reach Hitler’s Motherland and bring an end to his ruthless hatred.

On the seventy-sixth anniversary of D-Day, the first day of Operation Overload, we honor those who gave their lives in this effort. Theirs was indeed a purpose true. We also recall those who stayed at home as well. They waited, watched, and prayed for victory.

Behind the lines in occupied France, Resistance fighters bent their ears to clandestine radios, longing for word from London that the operation had begun. When it did, they went into action, destroying bridges, cutting telephone wires, and causing as much misery as possible for the Waffen SS tank battalions heading north to the fight.

Through this shelter-in-place time, my husband and I have been watching a drama about a French town during these years. What a complicated and dangerous task for those who joined the Resistance! But because of the evils perpetrated on the French people, especially those of Jewish descent, many felt they must act.

At the same time. cities and small towns along the route paid a terrible price for these acts against a ruthless oppressor. A PURPOSE TRUE celebrates the vital behind-the-scenes contribution of the Resistance before, during, and after the Normany Invasion on June 6, 1944.

Rhubarb Jam, Books and WWII

On Thursday, my sis and I made a batch of rhubarb strawberry freezer jam. I’ve never been very successful at this, but decided to try again, since our rhubarb crop gives me no excuse not to. And my husband loves this stuff.

Having a mentor helped–thanks, Wendi–because the process seems to have worked. Four jars of this bright red confection now rest in our freezer.

So today I’m making another batch. You cut 5 cups of fruit, cover it with 4 cups of sugar and let it sit until the sugar dissolves.

I suppose there’s a great chemical explanation for how this works, but it’s fun to watch. When you check about ten minutes later, the sugar has turned to juice.

After about ten more minutes, the substance gets even juicier, and that’s when you bring the gooey mixture to a boil while WATCHING CONSTANTLY…that’s the tough part for me…

Then you remove the pan from the heat, stir in a small package of dry strawberry jello, and pour into clean jars.

That’s it! Almost too easy to take credit for–but somebody had to do the cutting, stirring, and pouring, right? My husband will enjoy this on his toast or muffins for months to come–a sign of true love, when you’re willing to make something you’d never eat for someone who delights in it. (If you think that because I’m gluten and sugar free, my husband must suffer.) LOL–not so much! (:

So here’s a picture finished product, on this Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.

Gives a sense of satisfaction not so different from what I experience when completing a writing project. There’s a lot of picking, cutting and writing and going back to check, stirring, waiting again, adding and deleting, sharing with other readers who leave comments, and then going back through to check again…and again.

But it’s wonderful to have the finished product in your ( or your husband’s) hands.

In a few weeks, WordCrafts Press will release the result of my collaboration with author Cleo Lampos. The title: The Food That Held The World Together, tells the tale. This non-fiction book was fun to research–we learned a lot about World War II, and working together doubled the delight.

It’s amazing how important FOOD was during those years. Rationed, planted in victory gardens, pined for by hungry troops, and denied Allied prisoners of war… Food became the star in many soldier’s dreams.

Food’s vital role in the war years will stand front and center in this book.. And by the way, back then, if you wanted to make jam, you’d have to seal and process it, because the majority of homes boasted no freezer yet.

May your Memorial Day this year integrate gratitude, memories and present joys.

Twelve Sisters Who Changed History

Amber Schamel visits us today with her non-fiction book about women of courage–sisters who made a difference during their time. I’ve recently become acquainted with the Grimke sisters through this book, and am reminded of how guidance comes to individuals. We meet certain people, discover similar interests and share our passions. Then we make choices about how much to become involved.

This was true of these pre-Civil War sisters reared on a Southern plantation. As they matured, no one would ever have guessed how their lives would proceed, and what consequences would resul from the decisions they made..

Over this Memorial Day weekend, we’re already mindful of many others who “did their bit” to alter an ugly side of history. Here’s to all of them!

Amber is giving away a free signed paperback (in the U.S.) to a commenter.

Doing what’s right is not without cost. 

That was a concept that was difficult for me to grasp. As a little girl growing up, I latched onto the thought that if you did things right, if you followed the rules, life would be easier, and you wouldn’t have to pay the consequences. What I failed to realize is that there are often consequences of right actions too, and sometimes even a punishment. The women we’re talking about today certainly experienced this. 

Sarah and Angelina Grimke were raised on a slave-holding cotton plantation in South Carolina. Despite her very southern upbringing, Sarah always knew something was wrong about the way her family’s farm operated on the backs of human beings. Her conflicting convictions caused dissention between her and the rest of her family. When Angelina was born, Sarah was a great influence on her, and she too saw the horror of slavery. 

After the death of their father, the pair of sisters ended up in a Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania. They did not intend to become voices in the fight for racial equality and the end of slavery in America; actually, their public careers launched rather accidentally. Still, it was not without cost. 

Angry mobs of people opposing their views turned violent against them on more than one occasion. They received hate mail and threats. As if the persecution from the outside was not enough, the two sisters also took blows from those closest to them. Their family in South Carolina disowned them and threatened to have them arrested if they returned. Their Quaker community wasn’t any better. They were excommunicated from the fellowship, not because of their views, but because they vocalized their views.  

Yet, after all this, they still continued to advocate for their right cause. 

As we enter this season of Memorial Day, we remember the lives of many people who paid the price of a right cause. It is good to remember. It is right for us to muse and memorialize these lives. So please take time to do that. But I also challenge you to ask yourself a question. After looking at the inspiring lives of so many people who fought for the right regardless of the cost…what will I do? What is the righteous cause I was meant to fight for? 

And once you find it, pray God gives you the courage to follow through. 

The remarkable lives of twelve sisters who changed the course of history.

Historians paint pictures of amazing men and women who influenced the world, but seldom do we hear about sister duos that forever altered the course of history. Whether fighting together—or against each other—these twelve women set armies to flight, guarded homelands from invasion, transformed countries and religious systems, and begat nations. From mythical Athena and Artemis, to the English thrones of Mary & Elizabeth Tudor, the influence these women left behind is taken for granted. Join us on an inspirational journey through time as we explore the extraordinary lives of Sisters Who Changed History.

*Athena & Artemis (Ancient Greek Mythology)

*Rachel & Leah (Ancient Palestine)                                                                          

*Tru’ng Trac & Tru’ng Nhi (Vietnam) 

*Mary & Anne Boleyn (England)

*Mary & Elizabeth Tudor (England)

*Angelina & Sarah Grimke (United States) 

Buy Links for 12 Sisters    


Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FDF93RM

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FDF93RM

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/878118

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/12-sisters-who-changed-history-amber-d-schamel/1129217244?ean=2940155774723

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/12-sisters-who-changed-history-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40229630-twelve-sisters-who-changed-history

Amber Schamel is the author of Solve by Christmas, and the two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction. She writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. Her passions for travel, history, books and her Savior results in what her readers call “historical fiction at its finest”.  She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado as a very happy newlywed. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

Newsletter & updates: http://www.amberschamel.com/newsletter-signup.html
Blogs – http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel

Twitter – @AmberSchamel https://twitter.com/AmberSchamel

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/AmberDSchamel/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7073165.Amber_Schamel

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Amber-Schamel/e/B00CIXK91M

Criminal Minds: 18thCentury Edition

Welcome to Shannon McNear, who has spun a tale about a murderous duo that really lived and wreaked terror along the Wilderness Trail in the early days of the United States. Never heard of the “terrible Harpes?”

Neither had I, but Shannon’s historical research has brought them to life, including the demise of their reign of terror. She’s also offering a free signed copy of THE BLUE CLOAK to a fortunate commenter.

The Story Behind The Blue Cloak

If you believe “the good old days” were kinder and gentler than our modern era, think again. Human nature has always been fascinated with the dark or mysterious, and film and social media are but recent methods for feeding that curiosity. History is full of ghost stories and accounts of horrific crimes.

In the terrible Harpes, you get a bit of both—or at least, a level of demonic intimidation that feels a bit ghostly. And who are these Harpes? Micajah, also known as “Big” for his sheer size and “ugly,” threatening appearance, and Wiley, called “Little,” though his height was not insignificant, referred to themselves as brothers, but were most likely cousins. Their boyhood dominated by the American Revolution and sons of staunch Tories, they melted into the frontier for several years after the war, reportedly living with the Cherokee for a while before surfacing as part of “white” society sometime around 1797. They tried their hand at a semblance of ordinary life as settlers near Knoxville, Tennessee, but after accusations of livestock theft, they took their three women and went on the run for several months.

Yes, that’s three women, between two men. Their presence on the Wilderness Road in Kentucky in December 1798 is well documented, as is a string of murders laid at their feet. They spent time in jail but escaped before they could be tried, temporarily leaving their hapless women and newborn babies behind. The spring and summer of 1799 brought a veritable reign of terror across portions of Kentucky and Tennessee, where the men struck lone travelers and whole families alike, having no respect for either age or gender.

The craziest thing, however, was their effect even on mounted patrols whose sole purpose was to hunt them down. Several accounts were given of search parties coming unexpectedly face-to-face with the Harpes but suddenly losing their nerve and turning tail to run. I could understand it in the case of travelers who barely had a rifle or two between them, but—fully armed men, who were supposed to be mentally prepared for the job?

It didn’t help that in particularly rugged and remote terrain, the Harpes—men, women, and their babies—were skilled at vanishing into the wilderness like wraiths. With folk not knowing where they’d strike next, and only the most savvy trackers able to tell where they’d traveled, it’s probably no wonder that people were in mortal fear.

When researching this sliver of history for my most recent novel, The Blue Cloak(#5 of the True Colors crime series), I became convinced that the story of their pursuit and end was above all one of spiritual warfare, and that prayer must have played a crucial role in putting an end to their murder spree.

Story summary:

From 1797 to 1799, a pair of outlaws known as the terrible Harpes spread terror across the Kentucky and Tennessee frontier.

Rachel Taylor watched her best friend’s marriage turn to horror before the entire family disappears into the wilderness of Tennessee and Kentucky. Virginia native Benjamin Langford seeks the whereabouts of his missing cousin and uncovers a reign of terror all up and down the Wilderness Road. In their shared grief, the pair join the effort to bring the Harpes’ murder spree to an end and rescue Rachel’s friend from a criminal’s life.

About the author:

Transplanted to North Dakota after more than two decades in the Deep South, Shannon McNear loves losing herself in local history. As the author of four novellas and three full-length novels, with her first title, Defending Truthin A Pioneer Christmas Collection,honored as a 2014 RITA® finalist, her greatest joy is in being a military wife, mom of eight, mother-in-law of three, and grammie of three. She’s also a contributor to Colonial Quills and a member of ACFW and RWA, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. When not cooking, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the northern prairies.

You can connect with Shannon on these social media links:

Website: shannonmcnear.com





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