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Writing for me does not flow as a gentle wind. It’s more like a fierce storm than rages and then calms leaving this sailor adrift for days at a time. As you may know there are many suggestions from other writers on how write and how to get organized.

To bolster my writing I bought a book on POV (Point of View), character traits, two on master plots, and… you get the picture. One common theme in them is to know your leading characters. Know everything about them. Do they play well with others? Does he or she drink or swear too much? Know them as if they were part of your family. There’s so much more information in the books from well-known authors with beautiful covers that sit on my book shelf unread. I wish I had the time to read all of them and digest their contents, but I’m writing.

If you have ever attended a workshop or writer’s convention, you’ve heard about using note cards to plot out each character and scene. This seemed a logical way to keep from reaching the magical middle of a book and run out of ideas on which way to proceed to the crescendo. With my Staples rewards (no, I don’t get a kick back) I bought some 3×5 cards and a Dry Ease message board with magnets and started plotting my story. Within the first 100 pages of writing I was moving the cards all around until they no longer reflected anything I had written, but I’m writing.

I’m not complaining, after all both my fictional novels have won awards. I just wish something in my life would just be easy. You know like eating a box of chocolates.

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Hinton Family WWII

Hinton Family WWII

My husband and I went to the Armed Forces Day Parade in McAlester last Saturday. We had heard how small it had become over the years. The local fire departments would be out in force and little else. It may have been small and yes there were lots of fire engines, but the people that took the time to attend really enjoyed seeing our veterans, young and old, men and women, getting some love.

School bands, horse riders, Shriners in their funny little cars, motor cycle enthusiasts, and all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces strutted their stuff in style. Vintage planes conducted a fly over. Small children laughed with glee.

Small towns remember how to celebrate. I still remember when I was in 3rd grade and President Dwight D. Eisenhower rode by in a convertible. What a thrill. I have since had the honor to visit his birthplace and farm. What a hero. Small town boy rises to be the war-time general of the Allies and then our President.

This is one way to teach our children the meaning of patriotism. Showing respect for our flag has become a lost art. Seeing it being burned in some third world country has become the norm. Do I care foreigners choose to burn the stars and stripes. Not really. They have no idea what it is like to live in a country where they have rights: the right to worship their faith, the right to vote, the right to speak freely, and the right to protect and honor the rights of everyone, even those who disagree with our local and national leaders. That’s America, land of the free, home of the brave.

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The Gift of Laughter

The light on the oven goes out signaling time to put in the lasagna, homemade of course. It starts with my special sauce that simmers for hours with just the right blend of garlic and spices. Four kinds of cheese are layered between the noodles and sauce in my largest ceramic pan.

“Wow, this pan must weigh twenty pounds this year. If the family keeps growing I’m going to have to go to two pans or wear my industrial strength back brace to put it in the oven.”

No comment is forthcoming from my mate who’s stationed in front of the television oblivious to everything that doesn’t wear purple and gold. Basically I’m talking to myself, which is not unusual in football season. The Vikings are lined up to score another touchdown so their number one fan calls out plays to the quarterback from his recliner in the next room.

Tonight’s our special night. The one we look forward to all year long. My three stepsons and their families will all be at the house for our annual Christmas celebration. Mike and Sandy will arrive first with their daughter, Hannah. Ron and Paula follow with Kyle and Kayla in tow. John, Kim, and the three girls, Ashley, Amber, and Abbey, always arrive last.

Outside is fresh snow, courtesy of the jet stream’s meandering down into Iowa. This dip allows frigid Canadian air to swoop in with below zero temperatures. Icicles that hang from the trees in the yard give the impression that Mother Nature trimmed them for the holidays. The pungent smell of wood burning in fireplaces fills the evening air.

Road crews had been out early to plow the roads so they are passable. My husband shoveled the steps up to the house several times during the day, and then applied a layer of salt to keep ice from forming.

“I hope there’s no black ice on the interstate overpasses,” I yelled from the kitchen.

Still no reply from in front of the TV.

Inside the house has been decorated with the traditional trappings of the holidays. A fragrant Douglas fir spreads out its limbs and welcomes the strings of multi-colored lights and ornaments. The ornaments are a combination of sentimental mementoes made by my kids throughout their younger years, souvenirs picked up on our travels, and purchases made from the many talented artisans in the area. The cherub-faced angel Herb and my daughter purchased our first Christmas together has taken its place at the top. The manger is placed on the floor at the center of the tree and lit with a white light. A reminder of what we are really celebrating.

Stockings with each child’s name are filled with trinkets and adorn the antique oak cabinet. Presents occupy the corner of the living room waiting to be opened by giggling children. Christmas carols play softly in the background.

My day started early in the kitchen baking sweets. First out of the oven, the traditional pumpkin pie requested by my husband. Some of the grandkids wanted apple, so apple pie rests on the cooling rack on the counter.

A nice mixed green salad, relish tray, and toasted garlic bread round out our meal. It’s a non-traditional menu, but the kids remarked several years earlier they look forward to having something besides turkey and dressing.

I looked at the clock for about the tenth time.

       Hmm, the kids will be coming soon.

“Honey, at half time will you please go out with the broom and knock snow off the wreath and throw some more salt on the walk?”

No answer.

I walked to the front of the house to get Coach Herb’s attention.

“Honey, at half time will you please go out with the broom and knock snow off the wreath and throw some more salt on the walk?”

“Sure. It’s getting close to the time the kids will get here. Anything else you need done?”

“No, it’s all pretty well organized.”

I returned to the kitchen to set up the buffet line. The counter that separates the dining room from the living room is arranged with the china, napkins, and flatware.

Strong arms encircle my waist and a warm kiss is planted on the back of my neck.

“You know I love you even more for all you do to make this night special.”

“I know. I love having all the kids together, too.”

“I’ll go do the walks.”

Fifteen minutes later, as predicted, Mike, Sandy, and Hannah arrive. Boots are shed at the front door and placed on the vinyl tray to dry. Heavy woolen coats are thrown on the bed. Gifts are placed near the tree.

“Boy, it smells good in here. I see we are having our favorite, lasagna.”

Another ten minutes pass.

“Clang, Clang.” Ron, Paula, and kids ring the small captain’s bell we use for a doorbell. Outer wear are handed over to add a second layer to the stack.

“I can tell your neighbor is using that wood I brought over in his fireplace tonight. Apple wood has such a great smell.”

John’s family arrives only forty minutes late this year. Once more, coats, hats, mittens, and boots are shed. The shoe tray at the front door now overflows with melting slush, and the bed resembles an old Indian mound.

The first thing on everyone’s mind is a quick “hello” and “let’s eat.”

Out comes the lasagna to cool. In goes the garlic bread to brown. Salad and relish dishes make their way to the counter. Ice tea and milk are poured. Soft drinks are made available. We’re ready.

Everyone makes a circle and holds hands as Grandpa Herb says the blessing.

“Heavenly Father, we are gathered here tonight to celebrate the birth of Your Son. Bless our family…”

Kids are served first. They take their seats at the dining room table with instructions to let the lasagna cool or the cheese will burn their little mouths. Ashley is asked to put back some of the pile of black olives on her plate until others have a chance to get at least one. Abbey doesn’t want dressing on her salad. Hannah wants regular bread and not garlic toast. Kyle wants more on his plate – more lasagna, more bread, more of everything, as if he is afraid it will all be gone before he gets seconds.

The adults now have an opportunity to fill their plates and find a place to sit where they can balance their food without spilling on the new carpet. Ron and John pile on the food and still go back to refill their plates.

“I used to be able to eat like that when I was your age,” their dad remarks with a chuckle. “It’ll catch up to you when you pass forty,” he continues as he pats his full belly.

The main course is completed and the dishes are rinsed and stacked by the sink. Kids color in books with themes chosen especially for them. Barbie and the Power Rangers are the favorites this year. Kyle’s outnumbered by his sister and four girl cousins, but holds his own. Their conversation centers on the best parts of the new Disney movie.

In the living room the adults are trying to out do each other.

“I almost beat Dad this year atHudson. If I had sunk that last putt on eighteen he would have been mine.”

“Paula, what are you getting Ron for Christmas this year?” Mike inquires.

“You know I’m not going to tell you,” she replies with a big grin.

“Well, from where I’m sitting, I would suggest membership in the Hair Club for Men.”

This prompts additional jabs from the other males and Ron’s reply, “How far does a hairline have to recede, Mike, before it’s no longer a receding hairline and it’s called being bald?

One quip is followed by another. Laughter follows. It’s the invisible bond that brings harmony to the family. All earlier preparation is done in anticipation of this moment. It fills my heart with love and warms my soul.

       How many years of this are left for us before each son will want to move on and make family traditions of their own?

Time to open presents. The youngest grandchild puts on the Santa hat to help Grandpa distribute gifts. Bows are unceremoniously yanked from the box. Paper is torn off in shreds. Boxes are ripped open to free the toy inside.

Ten-year-old Amber gets a Bop It and is very patient as the adults take turns playing with her new toy even before she has a chance to enjoy it. Kyle gets a snow board, which will get a lot of use on the slope behind their house. Abbey sticks her Barbie horse under her arm so no one else can touch it. Clothes and board games round out the last of the grandkids’ gifts. We receive loving holiday cards containing gift certificates to our favorite restaurants from the kids.

Thank yous are exchanged. Boxes are stacked in groups to be loaded in the cars and paper is stuffed into a large green garbage bag.

“What’s for dessert?”

Pies are cut. Coffee is made. Milk glasses refilled.

Chimes from the clock signal nine – the evening soon ends. Coats are retrieved from the pile on the bed. Snow boots and shoes disappear from the tray. Hugs and kisses exchanged.

“See you soon. Thanks again for the…Happy holidays!”

The house is quiet again.

It’s only been a short three hours, but memories have been made that will last a lifetime.

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Calvin Ross and Balzora Poulson

When going through some boxes of mementos from my grandparents, I unfolded a piece of paper. The pencil prose was fading and difficult to make out. I found my magnifying glass and wrote it down word for word. This poem was written by my great-grandfather following the death of his young wife in October of 1900. How wonderful for his descendants that he could express his pain and sorrow with a pen.

 Less sad. Less wistful. Immortal Beauty.

By C. R. Poulson

 

Not changed but glorified. Oh, beauteous thought

For those who weep

Mourning the loss of some dear face departed,

Fallen asleep

Hushed into silence, never more to comfort

The heart of men

Gone, like the sunshine of another country

Beyond our den

How shall it look, the face we all loved

When next we meet

Will it be changed – so glorified and saintly

That we shall know it not

Will there be nothing that shall say I love thee

And have not forgot

Oh faithful one the same loved face transfigured shall meet thee there

Less sad. Less wistful. Immortal Beauty.

Divinely fair

Let us be patient we who mourn with weeping

Some departed face

The Lord has taken but to add more beauty

And a diviner grace

When through the storm and tempest safely anchored

Just on the other side

We shall find that dear face through death’s deep shadows

Not changed but glorified

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Book number three is done and looking for a home. You’d think I could relax and enjoy the summer without the need to be at the computer writing. You’d think so, but book four and five stepped and are both running through my brain. Characters, plot lines, dialogue; you get the picture. Each is from a different period. She Who Speaks to the Wind is 1890s and The Judas Steer is contemporarily.

I love the research process. Sometimes I get so caught up reading, that the writing takes second place. Not only do I get material for a book, but I learn more about the places I have been or want to see.

For She Who Speaks to the Wind I bought the autobiography of the first white women in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I only got two chapters in the book and had to put it down. She was such a racist; I lost all respect for her and couldn’t continue to read her story. What a disappointment.

We always get a better perspective of the region and their history through articles written during the period. Rewriting our history serves no one. Warts and all, we are the great nation we became because of the people that came before us.

We’re still a work in progress. Greatness is nurtured and becomes lost when it is taken for granted.

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The election is over, but the rhetoric remains. Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you to play nice. We seem to have lost the ability to play nice and share. Our elected officials seem unable to put aside their party affiliation and vote for what was beneficial to the nation as a whole. Remind them they work for you. I hope you voted.

We are coming upon the time of year when we are reminded of the bounty of our nation. If you have ever even visited another country, you know that the United States of America is the best country in the world. It was built on the backs of immigrants from every continent. Generations toiled the land and built the cities. It is not too much to honor them on Veterans Day and think of them as you carve your turkey. The DAR will be placing wreaths on the graves of Vets. This is the least we can do to thank them for their sacrifices.

The weekend after Halloween, a local mall had Santa. A recent poll showed that 77% of all Americans wanted stores to wait until after Thanksgiving to start marketing for Christmas. How do we convince them to cease making our religious holidays another money making event. It all starts with each of us. Voice an opinion.

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Sad Eyes Peer Back

 

To him that over-cometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:7 KJV

 

My grandmother was from a family of Methodist ministers and kept the faith even in times of turmoil and confusion in her life. When she was six months old, her young mother died nursing the sick during an epidemic. My great-grandfather took the train back to Ohio and left my grandmother and her sister with his in-laws.

Mary Mabel (L) and Jessie Poulson

Letters in my possession reflect a lonely child imploring her father to write and visit more. He didn’t. He relocated to Pennsylvania and remarried. His new wife and he had a second family. He never returned for the girls.

Her maternal grandparents raised her and her sister, Grace, in an extended family on their farm in Ohio. Sad eyes peer back from photos taken during her childhood. What was she thinking? Did she feel abandoned? Did she wonder why her father didn’t love her?

She never judged him. She never withheld her love as punishment for his lack of attention. Her love was boundless. As a true Christian would, she was there for him when he died at age ninety-three. God said honor your mother and father. She never questioned our Lord’s word.

When I started doing the family genealogy fifteen years ago, I made it a goal to find the names of all the twenty-two people in the photograph with my grandmother. She is about eight or ten years old so I knew it was taken at her grandparents in Ohio.

It took me about ten years of research to determine everyone’s name. It’s funny how you build a relationship with people you have never met. Suddenly, you feel you know them. You know their likes and dislikes. Although, it’s more likely your perceptions are wrong. Still, through my research I found that my great-great-grandfather bred Percheron draft horses. In the photo he is showing the animal for the photographer as if he were competing in the Ohio State Fair. If pride be a sin, this man is brimming over with transgressions. What I, his grand-daughter, choose to see is a man with unrelenting love for both men and animals. Grandpa Neptune was a man who provided food and shelter to four generations of his family, including his mother-in-law. He was a true man of God.

How many times do we get pictures back and never make a note of the date or who is in the picture for future reference. Okay, scrap bookers do. Anyone else?

Pictures as we know them date back to the Civil War. The wet plate process required a rolling dark room of chemicals to dry glass plate negatives. In 1885 George Eastman developed a wet plate film at the same time American and European companies invented lighter weight, less cumbersome cameras. Eastman introduced the world to film on rolls to make photography available to everyone.

Vintage print: A positive image that has been developed by the photographer from the original negative at the time the picture is taken.

Non-vintage print: A print made at a later date from the negative. Reprints can usually be identified.

Original prints may start at just a few dollars depending on the subject and period of the photo. Civil War period photos start higher as the time period and historical value are factors. The terms “antique” and “vintage” means you are going to pay more for the item. Frames can also add to the value of the piece. A bubble glass frame may have kept the encased photo from being damaged and helped determine age, but please be aware that bubble glass frames can also be reproductions.

 

Let me be a blessing in the lives of others. My transgressions were forgiven. I am loved. May I lead others to Your Grace. Thank you for providing us with those people in our life who model the principles of a true Christian. May I walk in their footsteps and exhibit those principles in each day of my life.

 

Trivia: George Eastman and his mother made up the word Kodak for his simple roll film cameras. They used an anagram set. George Eastman was creating his own publicity and decided the name should be short, pronounceable, and not associated with anything else but his product. Kodak caught on with the public, so he added it permanently to the company name.

 

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