Pictures in my mothers album link visits from Effie and Joe of West New York, New Jersey and Dad’s fall chore of cutting corn for silage.

Each fall in mid September for many, many years, Effie and Joe would drive up to Sanford in their very old mid-twenties car, the make unknown to me.
It was also the time when the corn was full grown and well-eared, which meant it was time to harvest, chop and store it in the silo to feed the cows through the winter.

Field corn doesn’t taste like sweet corn grown for the table. I’d tasted it. Having the corn green for silage was considered best for the cows. It was like a winter salad for them to go with the grain and hay they were also fed. During during the summer they were outside all day and ate grass. In the fall when pastures were not very nutritious, Dad fed the cows fresh millet, a grain that is sometimes grown for the seed, but Dad grew it for the whole grass.

Joe was Effie’s nephew, but they were about the same age and lived together in West New York after Effie’s husband had died many years earlier. Effie was a friend of my mother’s, whom Mom met when she worked as a young woman at a resort near Deposit. In 1921, Effie invited Mom to visit her. Having read and heard about the Brooklyn Bridge, Mom fulfilled a desire to walk across it. I don’t remember when Effie’s visits began, but they continued until after I was finished college and was teaching in Painted Post. Our large farmhouse had an upstairs apartment where Effie and Joe lived while they were visiting. While they cooked many of their own meals, but Mom often invited them to dinner or supper.

The last time I remember seeing them was the fall of 1953 or 1954. I took the train from Corning to Deposit. Joe volunteered to meet me at the train station. It was a thoughtful gesture. It wasn’t until we started home, I began to worry. Joe did not seem to realize he was supposed to drive only on the right side of the road. I didn’t know whether to watch the road or close my eyes. Joe drove down the center of the road and often more to the left than the right. On multi-lane roads this might be tolerated, but our state highway was the chief road for milk tankers traveling 50 to 60 miles per hour. Joe drove at about 25. Those nine miles from the depot home was the longest ride I’d ever taken. I’d never been so scared of a traffic accident. I couldn’t help but wonder who guarded him as he drove the 200 miles to and from New Jersey. I vowed never to ride with him again.

I think Joe liked to visit in the fall. He seemed to enjoy being outside with my father and helping with the corn. The corn silage was grown for the entire stalk, not just the ear. The first corn harvester I remember only cut the corn and dropped it to the side. Dad had to pull a bundle of stalks together and put them on the wagon. Later Dad bought a harvester that cut and tied bundles of corn before dropping them. Dad still had to bend over to pick them up and heave them onto the wagon. I think Joe helped, but perhaps he only rode along to watch.

When the wagon was full, Dad drove back to the barn where the corn was thrown onto the corn blower’s belt run by a gasoline engine. It chopped and blew the corn up through a pipe into the silo. It was hard work, but I think Dad liked it. After a summer of putting in hay in hot weather, corn cutting time was generally much cooler, but still pleasant.

Dried cow manure is an excellent fertilizer. Each year of their stay Joe and Effie prepared cowflops to take home for their garden. Early in the visit, they selected a quantity of semi-dry cowflops and with a shovel set them off to the side of the pasture lot. Every day they went to the pasture and turned them over, so by the time they were ready to leave, they had a burlap sack full. Fortunately most of the ripest odor dissipated by then.

Effie visited by herself one summer. I don’t know why. Mom installed her in the back corner bedroom on the first floor of the house. A couple of days later, Dad’s Aunt Sue announced she, too, was coming to visit. What to do? It was difficult for Aunt Sue to climb the stairs, so Mom asked Effie to move to the upstairs guest room. She was not happy. My bedroom, where my visiting cousin, Norma and I slep was also upstairs.

One warm rainy day we all went to Binghamton to return Aunt Sue home. Dad, Mom, and I sat in the front seat. Aunt Sue and Effie sat in the back with my cousin Norma between them. It took an hour to go each way. Effie was a big woman and always too warm. She wanted the window open. Aunt Sue, who was quite elderly and stately with her hair and makeup just so, wanted the window closed. Norma sat between the warring sides. Mom tried to make peace to no avail. Dad said nothing, but I could see the grin on his face. He couldn’t help but see the funny side of the tempest in a teapot. It was not resolved until Aunt Sue was back at her apartment and Effie had the backseat to herself except for Norma, who apparently didn’t count.

Fall, corn cutting, Effie and Joe continue to be connected in my memory.

On Being a Steward

It has been two weeks or more since I’ve posted a blog. The reason is mundane. I couldn’t focus on a single idea. Some flashed through the mind, but nothing settled. Is this writers’ block? No. I’ve been writing, but it has focused on my faith and my church.

This week it has been on stewardship. It is the time of year churches develop their budgets for the coming year. The governing body of the church asks members to contribute to the church financial program. It may include, and probably does, the minister’s compensation, upkeep of the buildings, and mission programs.

This is a very narrow meaning for the word “stewardship.” What does the word actually mean?

A steward on a cruise ship sees to the needs of the passengers assigned to him/her. Passengers tips for their stewardship are likely to be larger when the passenger has received special help or consideration. But again that concerns money.

Steward is also a verb. The dictionary says to steward is to manage. That makes us stewards of life itself. We must steward our health. We steward our homes, our home life and family. We steward our job and our income.

And one more thing we all have. Time. We must manage or steward our time. How do we use our time? It is so easy to fritter it away on next to nothing and then mourn we don’t have time to accomplish our goals.1-Autumn 20040004

Yes, I’ve thought about blogging these past two weeks. But am I honest when I say I couldn’t focus, or was simply not a good steward of my time and energy? I’m afraid it is the latter.

Stewardship. What does it mean?


My US Sailor
My US Sailor


By the end of my first school year, I knew I was in loved and wanted to marry Richard. I even went to the jeweler in Painted Post. Richard and I had been in there before for other reasons. One day, I went in to buy Richard a gift and stood looking at the star ruby and a star sapphire in his case. I never wanted a diamond. I told the owner, “If Richard comes in, I would rather have this star sapphire than a diamond.” I got it for my birthday and we were officially engaged.
Yes, I’d not answered when he asked me to marry him, so now I had to ask him if he still wanted to marry me. I remember that we were driving to Corning from Painted Post in his 1940 Plymouth. His answer was yes. Then I said I had one more thing I wanted to ask him.


“Would you mind if I went out with Joe one more time?” Not the right question!

“What!!? Yes, I’d mind!” He couldn’t believe I’d ask such a thing.

I’m not quite sure what prompted me to think I could ask that. Joe, an engineer at Corning Glass, told me later that he had decided to be more serious about asking me out when I came back to Painted Post after summer vacation. He’d been concerned that his Catholicism would be a problem to me, a Protestant. At that time mixed marriages between Catholics and Protestants were frowned upon. If a Protestant married a Catholic, it was assumed that their children would be raised Catholic. He was right, I would have had a problem with his Catholicism at that point in my life. This seems very out-of-date in the twenty-first century.

As it turned out I didn’t exactly date Joe, but in the fall unbeknown to one to another we both tried out for major parts in a Corning Workshop Players comedy. Joe was cast as my errant husband. I spent many hours with Joe that fall. There was one small walk-on part with one line for a man in a sailor suit. I knew just the person for the part. The stage kiss was for real when Richard sat down on the bench beside me.

The next spring I also played a major role across from Don. Don was cast as the king in The King with the Golden Touch, I was cast as the princess. I realized any feelings I’d had for him had disappeared. I knew I was extremely lucky to have Richard.

Critiques and critiquing

Each week I participate in critiquing work of my companion writers in my writers’ group. Sometimes the story is so well told our only criticism involves forgotten commas or a missing word. Other times we question what is happening at that moment in the story because we find something confusing.

Our group had critiqued a story I submitted for a critique at a writers conference. The critique was returned in written form, so there was no opportunity to question his/her conclusion. Since then I have had two people read the story and the critique. Both felt he/she had missed the point of the story.

Now the question is what do I do with this professional critique. I can agree with a point made about certain rhyming words. To use the other points, however, would in effect eliminate the repetitious rhyme which is the point of the story. I think I’ll probably do nothing whether or not it ever gets published. Am I right or wrong? I don’t know.

Find a Writers Group

Writing can be a lonely occupation or in some cases, an obsession. For me, I need an outlet. I need someone to read what I’ve written, to comment, and frankly, to cheer me on. Meeting regularly with a writers group can provide this outlet. I am fortunate to have a group that fulfills my needs.

My group is one which is particularly geared to helping one another to be published. We listen to and carefully critique one another. Recently, I asked them to help me cut words from a picture book manuscript that was too long. I came away with over one hundred words fewer in manuscript. Tightened it is a far better piece.

Some writers groups are for beginning writers, who want to learn to put a story together, whether it is a short story, a memoir, a poem, or a novel. If you want to write, I urge you find the group that meets your needs. If you attend one and you don’t feel comfortable, don’t be discouraged. There are others. You will find strength in others who are anxious to grow in their writing, too.


It has been quite a long time since I last posted. The main reason is that I am starting a new life as a single. After knowing my man for over 60 years including 58 years of marriage, we said “I love you, good bye”. Not easy, but right. To prolong the goodbye with artificial life on machines would have been cruel and against his will.

I come and go on my own schedule. I am learning to cook for one – not always easy. I always make too much. I don’t have to get up to care for anyone but myself.

Tears fall sometimes, but there are times to laugh and smile with my family and friends, who bolster my spirits, take care of details and put me back together.

I am still an author. So I continue to write and edit and write and edit. Isn’t that what an author does?  

Snow Days

When I hear there’s a big snow storm coming and I know I won’t be able to go out, I think “Great! I will have all that time to write.”

It’s true that time is available. Why, then, am I so occupied with the weather reports, when it will end, how much will accumulate, that I write nothing?

I have no answer. During the past two weeks, the Northeast – along with half of the United States – has been inundated with storms. From early Thursday morning to Friday morning this week, we piled up eighteen inches of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and more snow. I was warm, dry, well fed, and had nothing to complain about, yet I could not sit down and write. I looked out the window. I made rice pudding. I watched The Weather Channel. I looked out the window. I cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I watched The Weather Channel. Off and on I checked our email. I made tea or coffee. I looked out the window. Not one thought came to my head of writing.

I couldn’t even read.

What is your reaction to a big storm?


I Wonder Why —

How many times have you said, “I wonder why….”

I have had a fascination with dragons for many years. While living in Poland in the early 1990s, I visited Krakow, which credits a dragon for giving the city its name, “belonging to Krak.” In Warsaw a restaurant carries the name of another mythological creature which lived and guarded a treasure in a basement of Old Town. These creatures were all malevolent. The opposite is true of the dragon, celebrated at the Chinese New Year.

One day my husband and I sat at a small restaurant table sipping a cup of coffee. Perhaps I’d just worked on a story of the Krakow dragon. I asked, “I wonder why people thought the dragon breathed fire.” My husband is never without an answer to any question. Together we began to build the a story of why dragon’s breathe fire.

It is now many years later, but I have just finished another edit of that story for a picture book. “When I was just a little dragon, Mama and I lived in a dark cave beneath the high stone castle beside the river…..”

It is a pourquoi tale designed for ages four to six. Now I must find an editor and a publisher. For me this is the hardest part of writing for children. Anyone interested?  

Autumn 2013

For me, this autumn was difficult. My husband and I moved in August. Settling is a long process and not finished. Some boxes remain a mystery. Some things I’ve wanted to use haven’t reappeared. We have everything we need, yet ….where is my pastry cutter? Did I throw it away, sell it, or is it in a box?

My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. That combined with the residual effects of Guillain Barre leave him unable to walk without help. Steps to leave the house keep us, particularly him, from going out of the house without someone to take him both down and up again in the wheelchair. We are hoping a lift will soon be installed to help. 

As a writer I’ve not be able to settle into a routine to write. I lie in bed and rewrite the books I have in process, but the ideas haven’t come to fruition. Joining a critique group has given me an outlet to read my work and seek direction, but, again I’ve not acted on those directions.

With the coming of 2014, my resolution is to put my fingers on the keyboard, to find that time I know I have, time that I’ve spent watching the same news over and over on TV, time I’ve spent leafing through catalogs for things I neither need nor want. The second resolution is do those things that will transform our house into a cozy home. 

Autumn is over. The winter solstice is past. Spring is on its way.

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” (Shelley)