Monday, January 15, 2018

My American Story

This week’s Folk Journal topic revolves around our stories as Americans in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  What is my American story?  It may not seem directly influenced by MLK, but I think my story is the story he envisioned in his dream for every child.  A carefree childhood where the entire neighborhood was open to you and the adults looked out for you.

I grew up small town, Midwest friendly.
When I was downtown every adult I passed knew I was one of the Woody kids. May not have been able to say my first name, but certainly knew my last.
Walking home from the swimming pool we would run through wet grass whenever we could to escape the blistering heat of the pavement under the summer sun.  Summer also brought lightning bugs, the library’s summer reading program, and wheat harvest.
At Homecoming we celebrated with a bonfire.  Tradition called for the bulk of the firewood to be in the form of an old outhouse liberated from someone’s farm.  By the time I was high school those were in short supply, but the bonfire went on.
At Christmas the local theater hosted a twenty-five cent kids’ movie on a Saturday afternoon so the parents could have a chance to boost the local economy by shopping at Coast to Coast, Gambles, The Fashion Center and Stephenson’s.  We would whisper and giggle through the movie until Lil, the proprietress, came and sat next to my friend, Chris.  After five minutes of vigilant supervision, Lil was fast asleep and snoring, sending us into fits of laughter far more disruptive than our initial offense.
At the grade school I was taught by the same teachers that taught my siblings before me.  I ate the homemade breads and brownies made fresh in the school lunchroom by lunch ladies that included my mom.  I danced with James Howard to Oh, Johnny in the music program.  I served beside my friend, Vicki, on the Safety Patrol and we quietly groaned as Rube the traffic cop, tried out his jokes on us.
Like half the girls I knew I worked as a car hop at the local drive-in burger stand.  After work we would drag main.
I learned right from wrong. Discovered some people earn your trust while others do not. I learned the value of a dollar and the value of an education.  I was loved and I loved. I knew joy and a broken heart all  in a little town smack-dab in the middle of the country.
That is my American story.

Friday, January 12, 2018

TToT: American Citizenship Edition

I am thankful that decades ago a young man from the Philippines became a veterinarian and was hired by the USDA to inspect meat in federal meat processing plants as part of the team that ensured the food supply in America was safe.
I am thankful that out of all the possible jobs from sea to shining sea, he was sent to a plant in a tiny town in Western Kansas.
I am thankful he met and married my sister, and became my brother.
I am thankful that another of my siblings came safely home from his service in the US Air Force
bringing with him my niece and his wife, a woman born in Korea. 
I am thankful that both my brother-in-law and sister-in-law 
joined my family while I was still a child...
That having family from foreign lands expanded my world view and gave me an appreciation for the gift of diversity.
I am thankful that I had the opportunity to witness my brother-in-law in a federal judge's chamber in Thomas County, Kansas as he competently answered questions on American history that the majority of natives would have struggled to answer correctly.
I am thankful that the judge after commenting on his impressive grasp of the history and Constitution of his adopted country, swore my brother-in-law in as a US citizen as my sister and I proudly looked on.
I am thankful that many years later a large group of my family were able to gather in a court room in Sedgwick County, Kansas as my sister-in-law, after successfully completing the requirements for naturalization, stood with a group of immigrants as they all took the Oath of Citizenship to become Americans.
I am thankful I live in a country that boasts a statue that was gifted to US by the country of France and placed in a harbor as a symbol of welcome to those who come to this land seeking a better life.  
And I am thankful that as an American I have the right to free speech and the ability to say that anyone who disparages people who desire a better life or to be part of my native land does not speak for me.

Ten Things of Thankful

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Snow Day Checklist

I woke this morning to discover schools all over the city had been cancelled.  Snow and ice were forecast throughout the morning.  I turned off the alarm, rolled over, and closed my eyes again.  Snow days have always been a gift of time to me.  Now that I am out of bed, I am spending this one in a house cleaning frenzy and re-posting a piece I wrote five years ago on the eve of a storm that was far more impressive than today's.

All week long meteorologists have taunted me with threats of a huge snowstorm, so it huge it apparently left them speechless because all their new name-the-snowstorm department could muster for this storm was a single letter.  Massive snowstorm Q was on its way and my life was about to be significantly disturbed.
For several years weather people went through a period of telling fish stories.  You should’a seen this storm.  It was THIS big! Their gift for exaggeration made them suspect in my mind.  So, when they got on this Q kick, I only half listened.
By yesterday the impending storm was all anyone could talk about.  Schools and organizations began canceling today’s events before the first flake fell.  I decided it was better to be safe than sorry, made my pre-storm list, and began putting our house in order.

First, I prepared the bunnies making sure we had a stockpile of bunny food and replenishing their bowls and feeders with water and fresh pellets. I cleared out the hutch and put in a big supply of new shredded paper for insulation.  I did a visual sweep of the path between hutch and the house looking for anything that might pose a safety hazard once snow covered and no longer visible.
I anticipated our needs for maintaining happiness while housebound.  We have amusements on hand: puzzles, games, books, music and movies.  We are set with outerwear for all.  All beds have been made with clean, warm sheets and cozy blankets. Throws and quilts are available on couches, and matches and a lighter wait by the fireplace.

I made a grocery run to stock up on hot chocolate supplies, popcorn, and foods that can still be served in case of power outage.  I triple-checked our tissue and toilet paper supplies.  When I arrived at the dairy I discovered that others were also preparing for a long haul.  They were sold out of butter, cream and 2% milk by 9:30 a.m.
I considered any health needs we might have, double checking prescriptions and over the counter cold medications.  I took a quick survey of the first-aid supplies on hand.
I decided to fill and run the washer, dryer and dishwasher in anticipation of a possible power outage. I checked the flashlight to make sure it is in working order with fresh batteries and put candles and matches where they are likely to be needed.  Then I charged my electronic devices.
I made a quick run through the garage to make sure that snow clearing supplies, shovels, sand or salt, are accessible and that the car was full of gas. Satisfied I was ready to face the storm, I lit the fire and brewed some tea.  So~Let it snow!

To all the meteorologists out there, I extend my apologies.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Get-Away

I stand at my closet wondering what to take.  After twenty-eight years of marriage we will soon go away together for the very first time and I am giddy as a schoolgirl.
There is a long stretch of life when you are pulled between your children’s needs and your parent’s needs.  Not wanting to short change either, it is easy for your own needs and your marriage to be put on hold.

There is sadness in our nest emptying when it has been such a joy to have it full and lively.  There is certainly an emptiness in my life that was once filled by my parents.  But life is rarely all black or white.  As if to prove my point, rain is falling on the dry, parched earth outdoors.  The sun is hiding behind a blanket of clouds.  Today there is gray, and in the gray I find renewal.  As the fallow earth drinks in the healing moisture falling from the heavens I understand that loss, though painful, also makes room for other things in our lives.  Those other things can help us heal.  I look forward to this time alone with my husband, prepared to drink in every moment.  Prepared for renewal.

(Written in 2013, shared again today in honor of our 33rd anniversary.)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Recently I ran across the following reflection on collectors written by Larry Erickson:  However defective, collectors are poets, people who deal in metaphors and symbolism.  The pieces we treasure may have limited practical value. The treasure is in their meaning, in the times and people they represent, in the mysteries they hold and the answers they yield.

The words leaped off the page and encircled my imagination.  If I am a poet, what words and meaning can be given to what I collect?  It is not hard to decipher that my metaphors one by one lead me home.

There is home in the crockery mixing bowls that line my shelves.  Home in the wooden boxes that hold heirloom silverware that has graced many a family holiday table through decades.  There is home in the baby utensils that hang on the metal tree in my bedroom; and home in the old toys scattered throughout our house despite the absence of children.

I must be a collector.  As Erikson suggests my possessions hold very little value to anyone other than me; but they represent home and the people I have loved.  And in this world, I have no greater treasure.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mom's Syrup Pitcher

On the top shelf of my china cabinet sits a brown pottery pitcher from my childhood home.  It held the syrup each time we had waffles.
It is not easy to produce enough waffles all at roughly the same to time in order to feed eight to ten people.  My mom would be a blur of motion constantly pouring batter or turning baked waffles onto a platter.  I am sure that is why waffles were a rare treat at our house.

As soon as two golden squares hit each plate they were slathered in creamy butter.  The butter instantly began to melt and sink into the crusty surface of the waffle.  One by one we would grab hold of the handle of the pottery pitcher tipping it up so that each tiny reservoir of the waffle filled with sticky sweetness.
Maple syrup may as well have been liquid gold with the number of mouths Mom needed to feed.  Instead, she had figured out how to make a low cost alternative long before my time.  It was her homemade syrup that filled the brown pitcher.

I took the syrup pitcher off its shelf tonight to get a better look at it.  It is chipped in a couple places and was never from a pottery line that anyone would consider collectible.  Yet it remains a perfect symbol of my childhood….solid, unpretentious, and oh, so sweet.

Susie’s Homemade Syrup
Equal parts sugar, brown sugar and water (Typically, Mom used a cup of each.).  Place ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir and heat until sugars melt.  Stir in a tablespoon of Maple Extract (available at and continue heating for another minute or so, stirring constantly.
Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Reading Challenge

Book Review Time

Several years ago, I developed insomnia. My sleep was disrupted to a level that caused me significant distress.  Anyone who has dealt with insomnia can tell you that the more stress it causes, the less able to sleep you become.  Fortunately, not long after the insomnia set in I discovered Goodreads' annual Reading Challenge.  At the beginning of each new year, I set a goal number of books I will read.  Now, rather than tossing and turning, I spend the time that I can't sleep reading instead.
I recently wrapped up 2017's challenge when I read A Man Called Ove which is a terrific book.  Other favorite reads this year include Widow, The Sisters Chase, Those Who Save Us and It's Not Yet Dark.  
I have heard some people suggest reading challenges are not a good idea because they discourage us from reading books of any significant length, but that has not been my experience.  I still read a variety, choosing only what really interests me regardless of length.  I tackled Bill Clinton's My Life this year, though it was not one of my favorites.  However, the two books I loved most this year happen to be two of the shortest I read.  Both can easily be read in a single sitting.  Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: two gems with titles nearly as long as the books themselves were the very best books I read in 2017.

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Img bookstack 360
I read 39,922 pages across 120 books

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Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

4.55 average

Maude by Donna Foley Mabry
My first review of the year
really liked it 
Poignant memoir of an average American woman over seven decades of life. Maude experienced so much history-suffrage, the Great Depression, two World Wars and more. Over that time she had many losses, but managed to not become bitter or cold-hearted. Maude's story is written by her granddaughter as she recalls stories her grandmother told her at bedtime throughout her childhood. 


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My last review of the year
really liked it 
A traditional man, the strong silent type, believes he has nothing to live for. His wish for his life to draw to a close is forever being interrupted by his young and optimistic neighbors.