This past two weeks I have spent most of my time sitting in front of this computer. I have working on submitting manuscripts for publication. At the top of my agenda are three books I’d love to see published. Books that have been in the writing in various forms for many years—one is a biography of architect Mary Colter for middle school children, a picture book of Mary Colter for lower grades, and a chapter book telling the story of a young girl living on a farm during World War II.

All three of these books have been through several revisions and critiqued by my writing group and edited again. But I have let them sit quietly in my computer. Yes, I did send them out once or twice and received a rejection. No, I don’t like to receive rejections, but they don’t discourage me from writing. I’ve even received encouraging rejections, such as: “I love the story, but it is not right for us.”

How to find that one agent or editor who says, “I love the story, here’s a contract?”

Nothing submitted. Nothing published. I know this.
So this is my New Year’s resolution:
I will submit at least one story to an agent or editor every week.

Perhaps having written this for all to see, I will work to keep my resolution.


Last Monday was my grandson’s birthday. For Bryce’s party on Sunday, his father made both chocolate and white cupcakes with strawberry frosting. For the chocolate ones he used the tried and true recipe from Hershey’s can of cocoa.

For the plain cake, he used a recipe that’s been handed down through at least three generations. I don’t really know its origin. It is what my mother called a “stirred-up cake” because she could have it in the oven in less than five minutes. If she needed a quick dessert, the still warm cake from the oven would ready when we finished our main meal. It might be frosted, or be served with fresh or canned fruit, and it was always delicious.

My son displayed my mother’s recipe that I had given him. At the top of it written in Mom’s hand is the note “from my mother,” who, of course, wimg067as my grandmother and my son’s great grandmother. Bryce’s birthday cake came from his great, great grandmother’s recipe.

Bryce also carries the name of his great, great, great grandfather, who came from Scotland in the mid-eighteen hundreds. Andrew Dixon Bryce was born in 1844 and apparently came to the United States between the ages of 17, when he listed on Scotlaimg066nd’s 1861 census, and the age of 23 when he married Bryce’s great, great, great grandmother, Eunice from Broome County, New York.


Where is the place you call home?

In this morning’s paper I read a story about a young couple from New Orleans who came to the Hudson Valley when they were formed from their home by Katrina. Their daughter was born here, but after only a few months, the family returned to New Orleans because that felt like home—even in a small FEMA trailer.

I know people who have lived their lives within a few miles of their birthplace. Some have never traveled out of their state, and some barely out of their county. For me, that is a foreign thought. I would never have met people and have friends from around the country and around the world.

When I was in my early twenties, my parents said they were talking about moving from the farm. That thought horrified me. It was “home.” Once I married, Mom and Dad felt no restraint and within a year they left the farm for a small, nearby village and a totally different life. They lived there many more years than on the farm where they’d moved only months before I was born. I really “left home” when I went to college and only returned for vacations and visits.

This morning I asked my son and my daughter, “Of the several places you have lived, where is home?” Their response, “Where I am.”

So where is home for me? Where I am. My husband and I had twelve different addresses. Each one of them was “home” because that’s where we were. Each time we moved, we met new people, made new friends, and formed new ideas about the world we live in.

The question remains, “Where is your home?”

Our Home in Ahuas, Honduras101_0125


As a ten-year-old, a “Back to School Sale” excited me. It meant that school would soon be starting. I loved school. The first day of school meant a new dress, a pencil box with unsharpened pencils, a red square eraser, a six-inch ruler, possibly a image0compass for drawing circles, and a protractor for which I had no use, A new shiny lunch box, complete with thermos, was also a necessity in my view.  I looked forward to Labor Day and the beginning of a new school year.

All these necessities would often be purchased at a store in the nearby small village in upstate New York, or if Mom thought it necessary, Dad took us to Binghamton with its Montgomery Ward, Sears Roebuck, and big department stores. For me shopping in the city was  exciting. We would have lunch at Woolworth’s counter where the menu was displayed in bright pictures over the mirror facing the counter. This was a big deal.  My dad was a very patient man. He had little to do with our shopping. Instead, he leaned against the outside of the building and waited for the packages that he would trundle back to the truck while Mom and I continued shopping.

Now with the big box stores, and huge shopping centers that begin advertising “Back to School” sales the week school closes for the summer, I doubt that the signs have the same effect. Although my five-year-old grandson asked his mother when they going to buy the list of supplies that he brought home on the last day of school in June, my older grandson groaned at the thought of returning to school the first week of summer vacation.

Now sales signs and Labor Day seem to harbor the coming winter. I don’t find either exciting.



A Long, Long Summer is set in 1943. Jeanne is sent against her will to her uncle’s farm for the summer because her dad is a Navy doctor and her mother is working the swing shift. Jeanne worries about her father overseas. She struggles with her fears of animals and trying new things as she knows her father wants her to do. It is her father’s words from before joining the Navy that return to help her gain confidence in herself. It is Dad and Daughter bond.

The first week our adopted daughter (22 months) was part of our family, all was well. Her father, a pastor, was in and out of the house often during the day. Then came the day he had a day-long meeting an hour or more away. He had been gone for an hour or two, when our daughter said, “I go home now.” She’d decided her visit was over. For the next eight or nine hours she insisted, “I go home now,” pleading and crying. I, too, wanted to cry. Just before dinner, her daddy walked in the front door. All was well!

One night around the campfire he held her. When it was time for bed, she appeared to be sound to sleep, but as he stood to carry her to bed, she opened her eyes. “Fooled you, didn’t I?”

This special bond stayed intact the rest of her father’s life. They shared the same sense of humor and bad jokes, the joy of the preposterous, and understanding of one another.

This dad and daughter bond is one I experienced as a child, too. Where Dad went, I went. He never told me I couldn’t do something. Instead, he said, “I don’t think you can, but you can try.” He was usually right that I was not big or strong enough. One day I asked to back the tractor from the barn and nearly went over a high stone ramp. The first thing he said was, “Don’t tell your mother.” The second thing was, “Keep your foot off the clutch.” Third, “Get on the tractor.” Dad got on with me. I have never left my foot on the clutch again.

In my writing I want children to feel that bond between Jeanne and her father, even when they are separated by time and distance.



In my nearly finished novel, A Long, Long Summer, the children are surprised when a pony arrives on the farm. The novel is fiction but the setting and the pony were real in the Summer of 1943.

An excerpt:

Everyone watched Uncle John and the driver disappear into the dark truck. It seemed like a long time before they tugged and pulled the new cow down the ramp. Once she was off the truck, Uncle John led her into the barnyard where he untied the rope to let her go, and refastened the gate. Chum, now at Uncle John’s side, studied his new charge.
On the porch the children turned away when the driver said, “Where’s the other one go?”
What other one? Instantly, all eyes went back to the truck, but they couldn’t see inside it.
“We’ll put her in the barn,” Uncle John said.
The driver went into the truck and came out leading a black pony.
Sally stood unbelieving. “It’s a pony!”
“For us?” Johnny looked at his mother.
She nodded.
The pony was also reluctant to walk down the ramp, but Uncle John patted her head, took hold of the pony’s halter and led her slowly off the truck to the front of the barn.
The driver disappeared into the truck again. He came out and tossed a saddle and bridle onto the grass. He lifted the tailgate, slammed it closed, and locked it in place. He hopped into the driver’s seat and waved as he drove off.
The three children and Aunt Belle hurried down the bank. Uncle John led the pony back to the grass where she dropped her head a grab a mouthful of it.
Jeanne, fearing to get close, stayed back of everyone else.
Sally reached out to rub the pony’s forehead. Johnny patted its shoulder. Aunt Belle took a carrot from her pocket and offered it to her in the palm of her hand. Jeanne held her breath, sure the pony would bite Aunt Belle. Instead the pony took the carrot between her soft gray lips. She nodded her head as she chewed it up.

The picture is of my pony, Patty.
Many kids grow up wishing for a horse. Why? As I remember Patty, it was a bit of freedom to get on her back and have her respond to my commands–fun to trot or gallop across a field. Perhaps, it’s like the first time one gets to drive a car or any vehicle–a sense of being in charge.
As an adult, I had little chance to ride for many years. Then for a few years a close neighbor had Brownie. He was a stubborn animal and often had his own idea where he wanted to go. It took the same stubbornness to persuade him that in the saddle I was boss, and he was the horse.
I’d been well prepared. Patty had also been stubborn. She and I had that same conversation more than once. She would not go on the road.
My father hated to shoe her because as soon as he picked up one of her hind feet, she rested her body on his back. It wasn’t easy to hold her weight.
She would do anything for my mother, especially if rewarded with a licorice gumdrop, probably because my mother gave her daily attention. She grew to be an old lady on the farm.

Treatise on the Telephone

Ten-year-old Jeanne waits impatiently to hear the telephone ring five-shorts to talk with her Navy dad in 1943. Other rings sound: three-shorts-one-long and one-long-two-shorts. The only five-shorts ring is a neighbor with a church question for Aunt Belle. (This from my children’s novel about farm life during World War II.)

Most of you reading this never experienced a country party line in the 1930s and 40s. The telephone box hung on the wall and had a crank on its side. If I wanted to talk with my friend on the same line, I cranked three shorts and one long: zing-zing-zing-zzzinng. If I wanted to speak to someone not on our line, I picked up the receiver and cranked one long. An operator asked for the number I wanted and rang it for me. Should it be busy, she would tell me. For long distance, the operator took the name of the city and the number, and called back when she connected with it.

In cities, you only had to pick up the receiver of your black Western Electric telephone to get an operator. How modern and convenient! In the 1950s, Western Electric and ATT&T improved the system with dial phones. No more asking the operator for your number, you could dial it yourself.

Then came push button telephones—no more wearing your finger out dialing. Push button phones morphed into my favorite—ones that remember the number with a single button. The downside of these is that without the telephone in hand, I don’t know the number of the person I want. This is still true. If your cell phone dies, how do you call someone if you don’t remember the number?

Through the decades, communication by phone has gone from do-it-yourself party lines to calling anyone, any time, and expecting instant response.

What’s next? Constantly connected through our eyes? Brain?


Next week is May Day. What that means now and what it meant when I was ten are very, very different.

After World War II, the formation of Communist block, and the beginning of the Cold War between Western oriented countries and the United Soviet Socialist Republic, May Day brought news of stiff marches of the Soviet Army showing off guns, tanks, and planes. The traditional May Day festivities in the United States declined.

In European countries, May Day is a holiday. Dancing around the Maypole continues in many small communities. Young girls in traditional costume wind the Maypole with colorful ribbons as they circle it, weaving over and under one another’s arms.

You also know the call of “mayday” when someone needs help


In the afternoon, Mrs. Parsons announced we’d be making baskets as our art project. She distributed outdated wallpaper sample books and let us choose a couple of pages we would like for our baskets. Then with her help and instruction, we folded square pieces of these colorful sheets into baskets and pasted a handle on them.
After school I begged my mother to let me go over to the sap house to look for wild mayflowers and violets that grew in the damp earth. It was a long walk, but Mom let me go. I went through the dairy barn, down a farm road and across the bridge that spanned the creek that ran through our farmland. I squeezed myself between the strands of the barbed wire fence, walked and ran down the path which acted as a road through the length of the long flat field to the fence at the other end.
In front of me stood the sap house, a very old building with its roof caving in. Dad said that many years earlier the farmer had made maple syrup in it. The large brick furnaces still in place could boil sap from one thousand maple trees growing on the hill beside the building. Dad used it one year, but it was too far away. Instead he opted to use the pans, but build a fire closer to our house. I digress.
I searched until I found the tiny white and pink mayflowers, purple, white violets, and yellow dog-tooth violets or trout lilies. When I had enough for two or three small bouquets, I retraced my route to our house. While Mom went to help Dad in the barn, I arranged my bouquets in my baskets.
As it grew dusk, I slipped out of the house to hang a basket on the front door. Then I knocked loudly and ran away a short distance. Mom came to the door to find the basket. She chased and caught me to give me a kiss. Dad took me to a neighbor’s house so I could surprise
another mom with a basket and collect my kiss. Meanwhile, Mom had a knock at the door from
another school friend.

Do you know other May Day traditions?

To see pictures of wild mayflowers, click on the URL below:


Do you have a favorite spot you don’t share?

When I was a child my favorite spot “just to be” was beside the silo in our dairy barn.

Our barn was actually two barns joined together with a large double barn door. One was the three-story dairy barn connected to the older two-story barn which we used for a team of horses, my pony, and baby calves.

The silo was just inside the horse barn. The sliding door nearest the cow barn was the one Dad used to access the corn silage (think salad) he fed the cows in the winter.

I loved to slip behind the second silo door, usually left partially open. It was always cool there even on hot days. When our team, Mage and Flo, wasn’t working a pair of leather harnesses hung from the hooks. A salty dried sweat from the leather infused the still air. The box of Dad’s tools for shoeing the horses smelled of the earth they tromped day after day. Mixed with these was the sweetness of the fresh chopped corn or the sourness of the leftover silage in the summer.

There was no artificial light, but only the natural light from the barn. It was quiet with only an occasional stomp of a hoof if the horses were in their stalls.

It was a wonderful spot to let my mind wander, to dream the possible and the impossible.

I hope you have a special space not for sharing. Everyone needs a place “just to be.”

BICYCLING TO DEPOSIT: a memory from 1944


The air was still and hot in the lazy summer afternoon in the late 1940s. Dad was out in the hayfield for one last load of hay.

My cousin, Norma, who spent much of the summer with us on the farm, and I knew he’d be working late. He’d have neither desire nor time to take us nine miles to the movie in Deposit. But it was the last night for the film with our favorite stars. We worked our way around the croquet court in the front yard wondering how to get to Deposit.

We’d already exhausted the possibility that Norma’s father would come get us. A plumber, he was out on a call fixing someone’s broken pipes.

Our only independent means of transportation were our bicycles–gear free. The wheels on our bikes went around at the same rate as we pedaled. After some pleading and arranging, Mom and Aunt Seb agreed we might ride over Loomis Hill into town. This dirt road cut the distance to seven miles–two miles uphill and then clear sailing down hill into town.

Mom insisted we wear long sleeves and long pants in case of an accident. We started off gleefully riding the first quarter mile to the bottom of Loomis Hill. We walked, pushing our bikes up the steep grades and occasionally riding up on the less steep slopes.

By the time we neared the crest of the hill and the only house on that part of the road, we were tired and sweating profusely. All we knew about the people who lived there was that they came from “the city.” As we came in sight of the house, we saw a lot of people around it. Apparently we were a novelty and an unusual sight. Several kids, and I think some of the adults or older teens, ran toward the bank at the edge of their lawn. This commotion alone startled us. It was then we saw the guns–probably BB guns. We weren’t sure. We were scared.

As we neared the edge of their yard, we got on our bikes and rode as fast as we could, which was not very fast, uphill. I think we were both praying hard as we rode by and finally out of range and out of sight of that house. We’d heard the guns popping and some shots fly by us but they never hit us or our bikes. I guess they weren’t good shots.

Finally, when we no longer see or be seen by those dreadful people, we stopped to let our hearts quiet their pounding, wipe the perspiration from our purple faces, and wait until we could breathe normally. It had taken us nearly two hours to reach the crest of the hill.

Rested, we saddled our bikes again and with the wind in our faces blowing our hair, we flew down the remaining miles into town in time to see our favorite stars.

We made that bicycle trip to Deposit many more times after that, but we never had to ride up the hill again. It took Dad only fifteen minutes to toss our bikes in the back of the truck and drop us off at the top for the ride down. Dad always seemed to have business in town the next day to bring us back to the farm.

Dad’s willingness to always give us time out of his very busy day is just one of the reasons he has always been my hero.