Friday, September 21, 2018

Sometimes a Short Story Births a Novel

Before I wrote books, I wrote short stories. I wrote lots and lots of short stories. And every now and then, a short story became the seed of a novel.

The following short story, The Powerful Odor of Mendacity, was one of those narratives. I fell in love with the main character, Annie Thomas, her family, and friends. I grew up in the turmoil of the mid-1960's, and Annie's experiences reflect that turbulent time in America.

I'm excited that her tale will be told in the novel The Whole World and All, scheduled to be published by Breath of Fresh Air Press in the near future!

But in the meantime, here's a little sample of Annie, her sister Kinsey, and Kinsey's southern friend, Peach.



The Powerful Odor of Mendacity

One morning, Peach and Kinsey took me downtown. My sister and her friend never went 

anywhere with me, so right away I was wondering what was up. We rode the bus to the

Square and hopped off at Reed’s Department Store. The sun was shining so brightly, I 

got an instant headache, and my headband made it worse. It was stabbing into my scalp 

with its tiny teeth like I had a hungry piranha stuck up there. Mr. Rivers swung open the 

door and held it as Peach sashayed through like she was Princess Grace. I mumbled my 

thanks and followed them inside.


“Hey, Peach, look at that,” Kinsey pointed at a skinny mannequin. “Pink from head to toe!”


“Law, Kinsey, I saw a girl wearing that same outfit on American Bandstand last week!” 


They giggled. 
I rolled my eyes. Man! I could have been down at the creek with David and 

Royce 
Withers catching crawdads but, instead, here I was, burning daylight with these two 

goofs.


”C’mon, you guys. Why’d I have to come? Let’s go get what we came for!”


“Stop whining, Annie. Heaven knows we wouldn’t have brought you if Mom wasn’t sick.” 


“Why’d Mom want me to come with you two turds?”


“Ugh! You’re so disgusting!”  Peach flipped her hair and swayed her skinny hips off toward

the Lingerie Department. 


Kinsey looked at me like she was staring at an ugly bug. I couldn’t help but be 

impressed by the way she could curl her lip up so far.


“Come on,” she finally sighed.


She led the way to Peach, who was fingering a pink, lacy slip.


“Do you see them?” asked Kinsey.


“What?” Peach answered dreamily. She acted like she was in love with that slip.


“You know, them. It.”


Peach met Kinsey’s eyes, and they looked at me and smirked. My headache started 

beating my brains out. Uh oh. 


“There’s a powerful odor of mendacity in this room!” I shouted.


“Shh! You weirdo! Don’t yell like that! What’d you say?”


“M-E-N-D-A-“


“Shut UP” Kinsey whispered between clinched teeth. 


She pulled me into the aisle with the brassieres. At least, that’s what the sign said: 

PLATEX BRASSIERES 20% OFF.


Peach strolled over and said, “You just like to use big words because you think it 

makes you look smart. I bet you don’t even know what that means. Where’d you even 

hear a word like that?”


“Movie.”


“What movie?”


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”


Peach raised her eyebrows to Kinsey and said, “Law, law.”


My sister put on her snotty face. “ Mom would never let you watch a movie like 

that! Where’d you see such a thing?”


“The Withers and me hid in the bushes over at the Twi-Light Drive-In”


“I’m telling Mom!”


“Like I care.”


I started back toward the front of the store, but Kinsey pulled me to a stop. She and 

Peach circled me like two ranch hands trying to rope a mustang. The next thing I knew, 

they were holding up those BRASSIERES and trying to measure the stupid things against

my chest! My head swam, my cheeks turned hot as coals, and I started fighting them off

with both fists. I heard a confusing mix of voices as Kinsey and Peach tugged and

wrapped those awful bands around me, until finally, they stopped, exhausted.


“We’re getting this one,” said Kinsey with tightly pursed lips.


I watched as the two girls hurried to the counter and paid for that thing. Kinsey 

motioned for me to follow and we left the store and got back on the bus. Shame melted 

me to the seat. The bag carrying the monster underwear seemed like it pulsated.


“Mom, we’re home!” Kinsey threw the bag on the chair, and she and Peach took 

off upstairs. She turned once and gave me a look of near pity.


I shuffled into the den, where Mom was lying on the sofa. She opened her arms, and I 

knelt into them, face hidden.


“I’m sorry I couldn’t go, Honey.”


“It was awful!” I cried.


I could feel her stroking my hair.


“Annie, everybody has to grow up. It’s the way God planned it.”


She leaned over and whispered in my ear, “The Bible says, ‘I praise you because I am 

fearfully and wonderfully made.’ Someday, you’ll know God did a beautiful job 

making you into a woman.”


“I’ll never wear it! Never!” I said fiercely. 


Mom just smiled and kept 
stroking.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Quilt Gardens Offer a Unique Visit

The Quilt Gardens at Elkhart, Indiana offer "over a million vibrant blooms." The quilt-patterned gardens feature eighteen large gardens and twenty-one hand-painted murals.

The gardens are free and are on display through October 1. Each garden is unique, with individual stories behind each intricate design.

What a lovely way to celebrate flowers, quilts, and art!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Amish Solar Powered Phone Shack


My friend Chris and I went on a day trip to Holmes County last week.

We discovered this solar powered phone shack (I think) on the roads around Trail.

This area was the only place we saw the solar power on outbuildings, but we limited our road trip to Berlin, Walnut Creek, a bit of Bunker Hill, and Trail.

Many Amish bishops in Holmes County are trying to persuade their parishioners to give up the cell phones that were allowed for business, and make use of black box phones instead. 


I wonder if the solar screen is to power the black box phones? Innovative idea!


Friday, July 27, 2018

Christmas 1966 - Most Popular Toys!


Toys conjure up memories from our childhoods like no other object.

This is a list of the popular girls and boys toys from 1966!

Santa brought me a Francie doll that year, and I loved her mod clothes and long blonde hair. She was younger looking than Barbie, and much groovier, too. 


I was in fourth grade that year and baby dolls were still in my room, but the fashion dolls were very much on everyone's Christmas list. I already had a Midge doll, from Santa's 1964 pack. 

Is your favorite toy on this list?

Happy Retro Christmas Memories!



Thursday, July 26, 2018

Weird and Wacky News from the 1960's

Chaos and turmoil were part of the changing 1960's. News reports were filled with the Vietnam war, riots, sit-ins, hippies, communes, and flower power.

Americans were uneasy and restless, but some of the weirdest news stories could still bring smiles. Odd, but true, they were.

What is it about these kinds of tales that pique our interest? A few headlines from these chaotic days are told on the website Weird News of the 1960's. I'm sure many, many more tales could be unearthed, but here are three samples of headlines on this site:


  • A couple who loved being part of the "buried alive" movement.
  • A toddler accused as a reckless and incompetent operator of his tricycle.
  • Tomato squeezing in divorce court.


Follow the link from Weird News of the 1960's to read about some of the news stories that show us some things never change: There will always be a few kooks and whiners among us! We might as well enjoy them.




Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Things Were Changing in the 1960's!

My Boomer novel, The Whole World and All, due to be published this year, is set in the 1960's. The beginning of my main character Annie's story is set in 1966.

How many of these 1966 events do you know about? (Or have even heard of? ) One thing I love about the 1960's: It was a colorful era!


1966 McDonald's begins using frozen french fries. 
1966 The U.S. launched its first weather satellite, ESSA-1.
1966 'Summer In The City' by the Lovin’ Spoonful hit #1 on the charts.
1966 Mississippi is the last state to repeal Prohibition.
1966 The first episode of the TV show 'Star Trek' airs. Chemically synthesized food on the Enterprise - we seem to be getting close to that now.
1966 Simon and Garfunkel release their album, 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme'
1966 Ingredients are required to be listed on food packages. The first Truth in packaging law.
1966 American Roman Catholics are no longer required to abstain from eating meat on Fridays.
1966 Quaker Instant Oatmeal is introduced.


More to come as my novel progresses closer to its publishing date, so stay tuned!




Saturday, July 14, 2018

If You Live in Amish Country ...

If you live in Amish country, you know how frightening it is to be the driver of a car that suddenly comes upon a buggy. 

One hilly, winding road in our area of Ohio is traveled frequently by the Amish and Conservative Mennonites. I bite my nails when we take that road, concerned we might pop over a hill and find a buggy in our path. 

Yes, the buggies are quaint, but I'm always nervous for the Plain folks who are traveling on fast moving roads in a slow moving buggy.

This article in The New York Times describes how rural New York communities are grappling with the increased buggy traffic that's come with Amish moving into their areas. It truly is a tragic event when a car and buggy collide - for the Amish and for the English.



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mennonite Hair Art

The Victorian era was well-known to be a time in history when people were fascinated with ways to memorialize their deceased loved ones. 

Hair art, that is, hair taken from loved ones after their death and fashioned into all kinds of memory pieces, were quite common. But who knew that even the Plain people used hair to, not only memorialize, but to honor their families?

This article from Mennonite World Review gives a fascinating glimpse at art formed from hair, and the story behind some of these creations.