Fiction in Progress: A Story to Tell Part III

This is part III of a fiction story I’m working on called “A Story to Tell”.  You can find Part I HERE and part II HERE

Don’t want to click from chapter to chapter? Find the book in full on Kindle HERE. 


Mama went to quilting club in the church basement on Tuesday nights. She usually took me and if Edith wasn’t in class she went too.

I didn’t like to sow. I wasn’t any good at it and often pricked my finger on the needles.

“So, Blanche. What do you think you’ll do after graduation?” Millie Baker asked me as she pulled the thread through her quilt piece.

“I really don’t know,” I answered honestly.

I hadn’t thought of what I’d do after graduation. It was a year away and I was just trying to survive my junior year. The only thing I liked to do was read and write but I couldn’t make a living reading and I’d never shown anyone anything I’d written before.

“I think she’d do well as a secretary,” Alice Bouse said with a smile. “She enjoys writing and I could see her typing away on a typewriter pretty easily.”

Fran Tressel nodded approvingly.

“I could see her doing that as well,” she said. “She’d be personable and easy to talk to.”

Other women around the circle nodded and murmured in agreement, talking about me as if I wasn’t there or have my own mind to make up.

“It’s not a bad profession,” Jan Spencer said with a grin.

Jan was the secretary for the school district superintendent and the rumor was she was paid generously for her work. I chose to ignore other rumors about Jan’s close friendship with the assistant superintendent, one that his wife didn’t appreciate.

“And just remember, hon’ there is no rush on gettin’ married,” Betty Bundle said, chewing gum and randomly licking her finger so she could pull apart fabric to stretch out and cut for her project.

Betty’s dirty blond, bleached hair was always piled on top of her head in a messy bun and her earrings were so big they looked like golf balls hanging from her ear lobes. She was a waitress at the local diner and she didn’t have every Tuesday off but if she did she was at sewing club, making me feel like I wasn’t alone with my lack of sewing talent.

“She doesn’t need to worry about that. She isn’t even dating,” Mama said.

My face felt hot. It was true, but there was no need for her share it with all the women in the sewing circle.

“No? A cute little thing like you? I can’t imagine why you don’t have the boys falling all over you,” Betty said holding a stretch of fabric up in front of her and scrunching her face in disgust at the mistake she’d made.

The women were busily sewing, some at machines, some by hand. Millie was shaking her head at the mistake she’d made in her quilt block.

“It’s just not like it was when we were young,” she said. “Young girls today have some time before they have to find a husband and start having kids. Don’t be like that Jenkins girl, Blanche.”

There were a few clicks of the tongues and “mmhmms” from the gathered women.

“I don’t even think she’d turned 16 when she had that baby,” Alice Simms said. “Her whole life had to be put on hold. Just a shame. And now she’s just popping them out like candy.”

“What’s she up to now? Four? Good grief. She’s just ruining her figure,” Doris Landry said with a snort.

“Well, at least she loves them,” I said.

I looked around the room worried about the reaction I would receive from such a comment during a full on complaining session. I didn’t usually speak out but it came out before I’d even fully thought it through. A few of the women glanced at me in surprise. The rest simply nodded as they knitted and sowed, showing they agreed with what I’d said.

“I mean, she cares for them. And they seem to love her too,” I said softly, looking back at my disaster of a project. “I’m sure it’s not easy but – well, maybe it’s worth it at the end of the day.”

Betty winked at me.

“That’s a good point, Blanche. It really is,” she said. “She seems pretty happy – even with starting so early and with that Billy Tanner not giving her much of a life with his job as a farm hand.”

A few of the other women nodded in agreement while some scowled disapprovingly at the mention of Billy. They seemed pleased to push the blame on Billy for the situation now instead of Annie.

“I was 15 when I had my first baby,” 80-year old Jessie Reynolds said quietly from the rocking chair at the end of the row of women. “but that was a long time ago. I was a baby with a baby. That’s the way it was done back then. It wasn’t too shocking for a girl to get married at 14. Our parents couldn’t always afford to take care of us and if a good man could, then we were married off.”

“I would not have enjoyed living back then,” Emily Langer said with a shake of her head. “I can’t imagine being married off to some dirty old man.”

“My man wasn’t dirty at all,” Jessie said with a small laugh. “He was the sweetest man I’d ever met. But I’m sure there were many marriages that weren’t as pleasant as ours.”

Jessie looked at me.

“Blanche, honey, you’re smart. You know that and we all know it. You don’t have to rush into family right away,” she leaned forward, put her hand on mine and smiled. “You take your time. Find a career that will make you happy and see what the world is all about before you rush into getting married and having babies, okay?”

I nodded. I didn’t want any kids right now or maybe even ever. I’d never even babysat one and didn’t like the smell of them. Not only that but their noses were always runny and sometimes they puked for no reason at all.

“Oh, Blanche is probably going to stay home with me for awhile after graduation anyhow,” Mama said. “She can help me at home until she decides on a man to marry. I think she’ll be a housewife, just like me.”

Mama smiled at me and I didn’t know whether to smile back or not. I tried to smile and then looked back at the quilt pieces on my lap and wondered if I really wanted to be just like Mama – an obedient wife who spent most of her days cooking and cleaning and her nights volunteering for the church rummage sale or at the sewing and quilting club.

I didn’t want to rush into a marriage, but I also didn’t want to be stuck in this town my whole life. A career that would take me to adventure sounded good to me.

I felt a bit of annoyance as well at the idea that Mama had already planned my life out for me and the rest of the women seemed to want to do the same. It was my life anyhow. What say did they have in it? I pushed the needle in and out of the fabric aggressively as I thought and then mumbled a curse word under my breath when the needle dug into my fingertip again.

“What’s that, Blanche?” Jessie asked.

“I was just telling my thread and needled to cooperate,” I said forcing a smile.

I sucked the blood off my finger and vowed to find a way to get out of sewing group the next week.


It was a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in May when I saw Hank again. I hadn’t seen him in four months. Mama wanted me to pick up milk and eggs at the supermarket for her while she looked for material for a new summer dress at Missy’s Sew and Fabric across the street.

The wide aisles of the small, family-owned supermarket were almost empty and I shivered in the refrigerator section. When I pulled the milk off the shelf and turned around, I gasped at the sight of him standing in the aisle, hat tipped back, a toothpick in one corner his mouth and a few strands of light brown hair laying across his forehead. He grinned and took the toothpick out of his mouth. His green eyes were bright with amusement.

“Hey there, Blanche,” he laughed as he spoke. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

The one corner of his mouth tilted a little higher than the other when he smiled

I hated the way the sight of him made my heart pound in my chest, how the sight of that crooked smile made my knees feel weak. I hated that I noticed again how beautiful his eyes were. I knew my face had flushed pink under his gaze.

I stepped around him without responding, too embarrassed to speak, knowing Daddy wouldn’t want me to, but he followed me to the eggs.

“Making a cake?” he asked.

“No,” I kept my eyes on the eggs, on the floor, anywhere but on him.

“I’ve been thinking about you,” he said.

I’d been thinking about him too but I didn’t want him to know that.

“When can I see you again?” he asked.

I didn’t answer but still he followed me.

“Can I swing by tonight?”

He kept talking as I walked, trailing behind me. “I’ll throw a rock at your window. If you want to see me, come out so we can talk.”

I hurried to the cashier with my heart pounding and a rush of butterflies in my stomach. I tried to tell myself I wasn’t excited that he wanted to see me. I tried to tell myself I didn’t care.

When the rock hit my window that night, I laid there for a long time with the moonlight pouring in on my bed. I did want to see him, but I remembered what daddy had said. What if it all was true? If it was true then why was Hank picking me to talk to? I wasn’t special like all those other girls.

I wasn’t even pretty. My brown hair frizzed in the humidity unless I kept it tied back in a pony tail. My skin was almost always pale, except the dark circles that seemed to always show up under my eyes in the spring. I was scrawny and my hips seemed to just fall in a straight line, unlike Edith’s that curved seductively and made every dress look attractive on her. If all that wasn’t bad enough, I wore thick black glasses when reading or at school.

I rolled to my side, my arms under my head, squeezing my eyes closed tight, thinking.

What if daddy saw me sneaking out into the darkness? I knew he’d be furious. And what if I fell for Hank and then found out it had all been a joke he’d set up with his friends so he could make fun of me? I wrestled with my thoughts in the darkness, opening my eyes, staring at the blue glow of the moonlight casting a patch of light on the rug on the floor by the window.

I heard the clink of another rock against the window and looked at Edith. She was still asleep.

I tiptoed to the window, looking out at him looking up at me, waiting. He grinned and waved from the side yard, standing next to mama’s rose bush. I took a deep breath and decided to quickly find out what he wanted, then run right back to bed.

I raised myself on my tip toes, moving slowly across the floor, past Mama and Daddy’s closed bedroom door, pressing my back against the stairwell wall to avoid steps I knew would creak under me.

Hank took my hand as I stepped off the porch, leading me across the yard and down through the field to the maple tree before he spoke.

“Hey, girl, I knew you’d come out,” he said with a small smirk, still holding my hand as he turned around.

“I don’t know why you’d even want to talk to me,” I said softly.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m not anyone special.”

“You’re special to me,” he said. “I like you. You’re sweet, smart, and I know if we start talking you’ll open right up to me – like a rose in bloom.”

My hand felt small and sweaty in his.

“I want to know more about you,” he said, squeezing my hand. “Like what do you want to do when you get out of this town? What do you do for fun? You ever been to a movie? I know you don’t dance but do you ever want to?”

He was talking softly, standing close to me. I heard genuine interest in his questions. I shifted nervously and cleared my throat.

“I ..uh…I like to read,” I said, feeling stupid, kicking at the dirt with my shoe, head down. “I like movies – like anything with Ingrid Bergman or Cary Grant. Sometimes Daddy takes us to the theater. I don’t know about dancing. I’m not good at it.”

“How do you know you’re not good at it if you’ve never tried?”

I shrugged.

I decided I should try to be polite and ask him a few questions as well.

“Where’d you learn to play guitar like that?”

“From my uncle,” he said, letting go of my hand and searching the front pocket of his jacket for a cigarette. “He was in a band and showed me how to play when I was just a tot.”

He leaned against the tree, lighting the cigarette. The spark of the flame lit his face briefly and I felt my heart pounding faster as I caught a glimpse of his eyes, his lashes dark and long.

“ I feel free when I play, you know? I don’t have to make anyone happy,” he said. “I just have to play that music and let it take me out of my head and out of that room and out of this crappy little town.”

He folded his arms across his chest, watching me.

“What about you, Chatterbox?” He asked. “You don’t want to spend your whole life here, do you?”

I knew I didn’t want to always live in this village, in the midst of farms and not much else, but I didn’t feel like I could say it. I wanted to go to all those places I read about in my books at night, huddled under the covers with a flashlight. I’d never told anyone about my dreams and I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

“Come on, now, be honest with me,” he said. “There is more out there for you isn’t there? I’ve heard about you from my little brother and his friends. They say you like to read. What do you read about?”

I looked up at him and wondered why he wanted to know anything about me.

“I read about places far away,” I heard myself blurt out the words and realized no one except Emmy, and maybe Mama, had ever acted interested in what I thought. “I read about adventures far away. I love anything with a good story and maybe a –“

My gaze fell to the grass, glistening silver in the moonlight.

“A good romance,” I said, embarrassed I had admitted my affection for romantic stories in front of someone who probably knew more about romance than I ever would.

Hank laughed softly and blew a long trail of smoke into the darkness.

“I like a good romance,” he said, smirking and looking me up and down .

I felt my face grow hot under his gaze. I shifted my weight nervously from one foot to the other and twirled a strand of hair around my finger.

“Why you looking so shy, Chatterbox? Hasn’t any boy ever acted interested in you?”

I shook my head.

“No. Never.”

“Well, they must be blind. Those boys are missing out and they don’t even know it.”

“I’m a nerd.” I shrugged. “I don’t dance and I don’t flirt and I don’t dress all up like Edith and those other girls.”

He laughed then remembered he was supposed to be quiet and glanced quickly at the house. After a few seconds of watching the dark house to make sure no lights came on, he grinned at me.

“All those other girls are just putting on an act,” he whispered. “ Don’t you let them intimidate you. Besides that might be what little boys look for in a girl but it’s not what men look for.”

He tossed the cigarette down and stepped closer to me.

“You’re a pretty little thing, Blanche,” he said softly. “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. Shoot. I couldn’t take my eyes off you at the dance that night.”

He pushed my hair back from my face and I looked up at him.

“I still can’t,” he said softly.

My muscles tensed as he cupped my cheek in his hand. I wanted to run away and hide but I wanted to stay right where I was at the same time.

I closed my eyes and felt the warmth of his skin against my cheek. I kept my eyes closed as I felt his mouth graze my forehead and then my cheek and then my lips. He pulled back slightly then leaned close again and covered my mouth with his, gently, as he slid his arm around me and pulled me against him. The kiss lingered for a few moments before I felt panic rush through me.

I pulled away quickly and shivered.

“I have to go inside now. Before my parents – “

He was watching me with a smile and my heart was pounding.

“Can I see you again?” he asked.

“Yes. I mean no. I mean – I don’t know.”

The grass was moist with dew as I ran back toward the house and gingerly opened the front door so I wouldn’t wake anyone. Upstairs I slid my shoes off and crawled into bed, still in my dress. I pulled the covers around me and tried to stop shivering. When I closed my eyes I could still feel his arms around me and his lips against mine.


Weekly Round Up and Favorite blog posts

I thought I’d start a weekly tradition of wrapping up my posts from the past week and also share some favorite blog posts from other bloggers. Hopefully, it will be a tradition. It may just be a one-off thing, knowing me.

Tuesday I shared my monthly 10 on 10 post, which is part of a blog circle with other photographers. We share ten photos from the previous month, from either one day, event, or subject, or simply our favorite photos from the month.


On Wednesday I rambled about what books I’m reading and some of the cons of getting back into reading – like forgetting to feed my children. Oops.

On Thursday I shared the latest installment in a story I have been writing, based on the story in the Bible about Jesus raising a 12-year old girl from the dead.

For some of my favorite blog posts from this week, (disclaimer: I actually read some of them last week, but I’m SHARING them this week, so hey, that’s how it works in my world):

Blessings by Me wrote this post about 5 Indoor Plants That are Hard To Kill. I found this interesting because I’m a plant killer and I don’t have hope that I could keep even the plants on this list alive. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve killed at least one of them at least once, if not more than once.

Michelle at The Green Study cracks me up because she puts such a creative spin on the highs and lows of life. This post, “My Misery Brought A Plus One” is one of the more creative posts I’ve read about being sick.

As a fellow mom, this post “You pretty, Mommy,” by Cheyenne on Chey’s Corner, gave me “all the feels” as people younger than me say. It’s a great reminder for mom’s that our children don’t see us the way we see ourselves. They don’t see the flaws or shortcomings. They just see the mom they love.

bryanI wouldn’t normally promote my brother’s blog because it gives him a big head (like the photo he uses for his blog header), but I did like his post for the Sunday Salon this week when he asked how people read but also WHEN do they read. His post was part of a link up of other bloggers who read or review books and then write about it on their blogs. Most of them are strictly book bloggers and it’s a great list of links where you can find some good ideas for new books to read.

So what did you post this week? Read any good posts by other bloggers? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for new bloggers.


When you pull a boob muscle while doing absolutely nothing

It’s official. I’m old. Do you know how I know I’m old?

I pulled a boob muscle.

A BOOB muscle.

No, it isn’t officially called a boob muscle. I think it’s the pectoral muscle, or something fancy sounding like that, something I thought only men had.

I pulled it by lifting a camera bag while twisted at a weird angle.

When I first felt the pain I thought, for an entire ten seconds, that I was having a heart attack. This was a stupid thought, of course, because it hurt only when I moved, hunched too far over or stretched too far back, or when I touched the skin or muscle itself. If I barely breathed and laid in bed with a rice pack on my boob I was fine. It was obviously an external muscle issue, not an internal muscle issue.

I’m so old.


I’m so ooooold.

If I can pull a boob muscle by just lifting a camera bag, I’m afraid to work out, like doctors are always telling old people to do. Who even knows what I could pull doing a simple lunge or yoga pose. In fact, I once pulled a groin muscle doing Yoga. Too much information? I think you may be right.

For the last couple of years more and more body parts, some I didn’t even know I had, let alone they could hurt, have been revolting and as a result I am having pain in places I never even thought about having pain in. I mean, the breast, where it curves into the sternum? Is that actually supposed to hurt? I don’t know but it did after the whole camera bag fiasco that came from trying to carry too much up the stairs while also closing the dog gate behind me and keeping our little, loveable mutt (Zooma the Wonder Dog) downstairs so she can’t find her favorite pee place – my bedroom carpet.

Sometimes I get pain in my shoulders and arms and feet, even when I don’t do anything the day before. The “most fun” pain to have was in my butt because my 4-year old thought it was hilarious when I said my butt hurt. Of course, it’s actually the sciatica muscle but she laughed so hard at the idea my butt hurt, I finally gave up on explaining what a sciatica muscle was.

Logically I could credit all these pains to any number of things besides getting old – maybe I’m developing fibromyalgia like my grandmother and mom, maybe I’m just out of shape, maybe I have MS or an auto immune disease, or Lyme, or maybe it’s hormones because I do have other symptoms of some garbage phase of female life called perimenopause. Or maybe my hypochondria is showing again. Let me consult my medical book or Dr. Google and I’ll get back to you later about which it is.

I don’t know what it all is but deciding I’m simply “old” is the easiest, and cheapest, explanation for now. Declaring “I’m getting old” is a great excuse for sipping on herbal tea with honey, wrapped in blanket (on the days I’m not having hot flashes), reading a book and telling local teenagers to get off my lawn.

How about you? What’s the weirdest muscle you’ve ever pulled? Keep it clean. This is a family blog.

Spring has finally sprung in Pennsylvania but it’s always possible another snow storm will come

“There are robins on the hill,” my dad said and we rushed to the windows and “ooohed” and “aahed” because in Pennsylvania we know that the sight of the robins in our yards means spring has sprung. Sure, the grass may still be brown and yellow, the trees may still be naked, and the flowers aren’t yet budding, but when the robins appear, back from their trip South, we know it won’t be long.

Soon there will be flowers (and for our family sneezing), warm days spent at the playground (though we already squeezed a playground visit in this week),

I have to be honest, during our first warm day this spring, I found myself briefly wishing for cold again. After months of waiting for weather warm enough to get the children out of the house, I felt a rush of anxiety at having to talk to people again while walking the dog and pushing my daughter up the hills on her bicycle. I’m anti-social at heart (which is weird, considering the 13 years I worked in newspapers) and find the older I’ve become the more I prefer sitting at home, reading a book, writing nonsense on here, or watching another episode of “Somebody Feed Phil.”

Not having to wear a coat to walk to the car or around the block was welcome for those three warm days, before cold weather set back in, though. I walked to the local diner on the second warmer day, after a family friend invited me for lunch. I was fed what was possibly grass with some dried cranberries, the smallest sunflower seeds I’ve ever seen and a pile of oregano. Apparently, I’m not as “natural” as I like to think and found myself wishing the black beans sprinkled on as my source of protein was a huge steak.

Showing that I’m not yet prepared for the normal warm weather walking of five paces behind my daughter on her bike while trying not to let the dog yank me onto my face on the sidewalk on her short leash, I decided to try to cut corners and let the dog pull my daughter on her bike. I wasn’t really going to leave the leash hooked there long, but truly thought the dog might pull her forward a few inches instead of yanking the bike onto its side and leaving my preschooler laying under it at the exact moment a local police officer drove by.


The officer’s SUV slowed down and he looked through the tinted window at me as I lifted her off the sidewalk and checked her skinned elbow and grabbed the dog’s leash to keep her from running away. He gave me a thumbs up as if to ask “You okay?” and I gave one back to let him know I was and then waved a ‘thank you’.  One thing that is nice about small-town life is the local police presence.

He drove away and I looked closer at the mark on her arm was about the size of the top of a pin, but you would have thought she had almost lost her arm the way her lower lip was pushed out and she started making demands we turn around and go home. In the past two weeks, she’s become very attached to bandaids and seems to think she needs them on even the smallest scratches.

Even her animals are receiving their own bandages, especially if the dog happens to grab on to one of them and run off with it. Also in the past two weeks, she has become much more stressed about – well, everything. I had a feeling what she needed more than a bandaid was a nap after a couple of hours at the playground earlier with her dad and even more running through the house chasing the dog, before our walk.


By Friday night the warm air had faded and I was receiving texts from my husband, who was at work, reminding me to turn on the heat. I refused, telling him it was still warm out and I wouldn’t close the windows and turn the heat on until I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. This resolved faded shortly after that declaration and I found myself craving a warm cup of tea and the shawl that used to be my aunts. 

For now I’m happy to sink back into a little bit of introvert isolation, content with the excuse that it’s simply too cold to go outside and interact with others. And who knows, maybe we will have a March blizzard like last year and I’ll have even more of an excuse to stay inside.





The urge to laugh when I probably should be crying

The pastor who officiated at my aunt’s funeral in August did a wonderful job reminding us we are all going to die soon.

She prayed: “Remind us how limited our time is, Lord. How we are but a breath away from our last. How our days are numbered.” And then she prayed some other encouraging lines to never let us forget that we should keep the funeral director on speed dial.

I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t she just say, ‘remind us, Lord that we are at death’s door and we live our lives with one foot in the grave.’?”

I know the tone of the message was making me uncomfortable, so I couldn’t imagine how the rest of the room felt when many of them were closer to death than me, based on their age and the oxygen tank being carried by at least one.

I sat in the back row and found my brain filling with inappropriate thoughts and reactions to what was going on around me. I kept staring at the amazingly large ears of the elderly man three rows ahead of me and wondered if they had always been that large or if they had drooped and stretched over the years, much like women’s breasts, as they age. At one point I almost giggled out loud as I mentally checked off how many more ways the minister could describe our impending deaths.

I looked around the funeral home and realized it was the same one we had all sat in the day of my uncle’s funeral more than 15 years before and it hadn’t changed since then, or maybe even since the  1950s. The mint-green paint was chipping in places, the air conditioner sounded like a cat had got stuck inside and I was fairly certain the floor had never been replaced and someone’s foot might shoot right through the boards when they stood up to leave.

A glance at the ceiling made me wonder if parts of it might cave in our heads, creating more business for the funeral home director, a man who had unwittingly tortured me when I’d worked as the hometown editor at the local paper, always sending obits riddled with typos, typed on either an electric typewriter or maybe a computer so old that it filled one half of a room. He always sent them by fax and I had to transcribe them into the computer since the way they were typed made it impossible to scan them in to the computer”. Other funeral homes would email their obituaries, leaving me to merely copy and paste them to be published in the next days newspaper. No matter the hints I dropped, though, this director seemed blissfully unaware that his failure to upgrade made my work nights even longer.

As I sat there in the funeral home, in a metal chair that squeaked or made fart sounds when I shifted or breathed, I knew that all these giggling-inducing thoughts were a type of self-protecting hysteria, my internal self-defense mechanisms kicking in to keep me from breaking down. I couldn’t help feel guilty for not being more serious during such a somber time. Luckily, the urge to giggle dissipated when family members, including my dad, stood to speak.

I often find myself laughing at the wrong moments – giggling when my son trips over his feet and lands on his face (as long as he gets back up again and isn’t bleeding) or when someone trips and spills what they were carrying (again, as long as they are uninjured). These moments of fighting to hold back inappropriate laughter make me think of an episode of the British sitcom “Coupling” where the characters struggle to hold in their giggles at a funeral and the scenes switch between the actors at the funeral and a metaphorical tower of glasses about to tumble.

Sitting in the back of that funeral home, straining to hear the kind words being spoke about my aunt over the grinding of the dying air conditioning unit, I fought to keep my own internal tower of glasses from falling. I knew that my urge to laugh was simply misplaced emotions, my brain’s way of trying to claw toward numbness so I could feel less of the pain of having suffered another loss in our family in less than a year.

I welcomed the humor, the pushed down giggles, because it was like a mental release valve for my mind, a way to keep me sinking beneath the surface of depression, with no chance of coming back up to breathe the air of joy again.

Frank. And only Frank. Thanks, Kid. I’m now sick of Frank.

Every night and every nap for the last two years my daughter has had to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours” album while she’s falling asleep.

I’ve tried to change the music without her knowing but as young as two she would look at me and say “no. I want frank.” In the beginning she called him “Frank Satra,” but as she grew she knew how to pronounce his name clearly and she let me know no one else would do – no Nat King Cole or Diana Krall or even a different album by Frank.

I finally slipped in some Dean Martin from his “Sleep Warm” album, skipping over the slightly faster songs thrown in the middle of the more gentle and melodic tunes, and she accepted it.

Last night I decided to try some Sarah Vaughn, who I’ve never actually listened to that much, but we only got two songs in before I heard an exasperated sigh in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping to God she did not ask me for the snack she’d tried to tell me she needed a few moments earlier, even though it was way past her bedtime.

“It’s the music,” she said with exasperation dripping off each word. “It’s just not working.”

Now it was my turn for a sigh. I switched the Apple Music on my phone to the playlist of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

She relaxed in the darkness, obviously content, and in less than five minutes she was fast asleep to the smooth, soothing baritone of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Someday we’ll find another artist who lulls her into a state of pure relaxation but for now Dean and Frank remain our close and repetitive friends.

The heartache is real as family farms start to fade away

It was a humid August night and the field next to the now defunct dairy barn was full of equipment and maybe a couple hundred people. An auction trailer was set up off to one side and to anyone driving by it might have looked like some sort of community festival, complete with hot dogs and drinks and baked goods. But this wasn’t a party or celebration; it was the end of an era.


The Robbins family had been farming this land and milking cows here for more than 40 years but debt and the inability to survive financially forced them to make the hardest decision in their lives – sell the farm equipment and the livestock. If that sale didn’t cover the debt they’d sell the barn, house and property too, Billie Jo Robbins said, admitting she was unsure what the future held for her family but that her faith in God’s plan for their lives was helping to lessen some of the anxiety.

She had taken a job at the local bank the year before to try to help the farm stay in business, but as milk prices dropped and operation costs rose, the family couldn’t plug the holes fast enough. Her husband, Paul, recently took a job at the local cheese making factory and the dream of passing the farm on to their two sons, Matthew and Kevin, is now gone.

The loss of a family identity and business is heartbreaking but even more heartbreaking is that the Robbins aren’t alone in their struggle and forced life changes.



“Local dairy farmers forced to auction off farm.”

It’s a headline that should be in more newspapers and on more news sites than it is because it is real and it is happening in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, where the Robbins live, but also all across the country.

It isn’t only dairy farmers being forced to close their doors. Farmers of all types are being crushed under the blow of low product pricing, but dairy farms are being hit the hardest and according to various media outlets the hard hits are coming for a variety of reasons, one of those an oversupply of milk. Some question if the push for people to drink less dairy and more plant-based proteins is one reason the dairy industry is suffering, but this seems unlikely with Americans love of ice cream, pizza and milkshakes still going strong.


And even worse than the farms closing down are the suicides of farmers who collapsed mentally and emotionally under the weight of the pressure and the feeling of failure.

According to an article on the National Public Radio (NPR) site, one co-op had three out of 1,000 farmers commit suicide in three years, and while those stats might not seem alarming by quantity the fact they are happening at all when at one time they weren’t, is frightening.

Even here in Bradford County farmers are receiving letters from their co-ops, first with dismal news about the future of dairy prices and the information for suicide hotlines and how to find counselors.


DSC_9324_1DSC_9268Standing in that field the day of the Robbins’ auction one has to wonder who these buyers are. Local farmers? Corporate farmers? Farmers barely getting by themselves? Billie Jo wondered too and admitted it felt awkward selling their equipment to farmers who may be struggling the same way they were. She didn’t recognize many of the people there but others she knew because they were there for something more important than buying.

“Many came here simply to support us and that means so much,” Billie Jo said.

Farmers support each other, which is one reason many farms in this area of Pennsylvania are surviving at all.


Sitting in a truck, waiting for her husband, a farmer from Troy says she doesn’t know what the main reason for milk prices dropping so low is but she feels before long the Bradford County landscape won’t be dotted with very many family farms anymore. She and her husband, now in their 70s, own a dairy farm and can’t imagine doing anything else. They’ll keep farming as long as they can.

Knowing they aren’t alone in their heartache or their struggle helps the Robbins deal with their situation easier than some might. Their faith in God keeps them trusting that beauty will come from ashes.


To read more about the struggles of dairy farms in Pennsylvania you can visit my posts on The state of dairy farming in Northeast Pennsylvania: tangible struggles, palpable heartache and immeasurable joy and The Farm and Tell Me More About . . . Mark Bradley, Sayre Pa Dairy Farmer

Three going on fifteen or why my new name is “mooooooom”

Little Miss, 3, 1/2 is back to calling me “mom” instead of “Mama” and saying it like an annoyed and spoiled teenager. “Oh Moooom.”

“Mooooom, watch me.”

“No, I don’t want that for dinner, Moooom.”

It’s seriously like she’s 3 1/2 going on 15 some days. And boy does she have my moodiness tendencies, much to my disappointment. One day last week she made a mess with water by pouring it all over the living room floor in what she said was an attempt to pour it on Zooma the Wonder Dog to stop her from pulling on her clothes.

I asked her to clean up said mess and she informed me, first, “No. I won’t. That’s not my job.”

Trust me, that little comment did not go over well with me.


Her second excuse was: “I just got comfortable” as she lounged on the couch watching a cartoon.

I promptly turned off the cartoon and this resulted in long sighs as if she’d been mentally transported into the future as her 15-year old self. Somehow my demands that she clean up the mess she made by herself became a completely overblown toddler crisis and she ended up hiding behind our couch, in a small area near our front door where we keep our shoes.

She had thrown all the shoes out, was crying and in between sobs was saying “but it’s not my joooob! I don’t want to do it! I just want to be lazy and not clean it up!”

I know exactly where her demands to be lazy are coming from and when my 11-year old son got back from camp we had a serious talk about the days he declares “I don’t want to do anything today! It’s lazy… (insert whichever day of the week it is). Eventually the entire drama came down to her saying she would have cleaned up the water if only I had used the word, “please.”

She said all this while still nestled in the space behind the couch and when I added the “magic word” of please to the request a slightly muffled voice informed me: “Well, I can’t do it while I’m crying and I can’t stop crying!”

Eventually, the water did get cleaned up and the drama was abated with a cartoon and cuddle but the attitude bordering on full-blown teenage angst continued off and on throughout the day, with most of her responses coming at me in irritated and impatient tones.

I liked my mom’s suggestion when I told her this story, which was that if she says again “it’s not my job” I turn the tables on her by refusing to do various tasks she would like done and saying flippantly “Sorry. It’s not my job.” Mom and I were fairly certain this effort will one day backfire on me, however, since I am a mom and it actually is my “job” to take care of my kids and Little Miss will most likely inform me of that. one day.



Creative funks smell and feel funky

It isn’t unusual for me to hit a creative funk in the winter. Days are short, the sun hides behind clouds and it’s too cold to take the kids anywhere to explore.

I still try my best to take photographs inside the house, or whichever building we have sought shelter in from the nasty cold of winter, but honestly my heart usually isn’t in it until the warmth comes back.

This winter has seemed particularly long, probably because of the loss of my aunt in December and some stress my son was facing, but also the blasted cold weather and gloomy clouds.

DSC_7860With that Daylight Savings Time thing we do here in the States, we now have longer days (which simply means more daylight hours). This is a wonderful thing if you have sun and less exciting if it’s simply a gloomy, rainy or snowy day.

Last week marked the official  first day of Spring, but our weather hasn’t realized that yet and has remained cold, for the most part. This week we are supposed to have an upward trend and I’m hoping that will mean an upward trend in our moods too.

DSC_8308-2Despite the cold we have had sun and the sun makes the cold slightly less oppressive. It also creates some pretty lighting opportunities in some of the rooms of our house.

DSC_8313This week we are looking forward to mild, but still warmer, temperatures that will hopefully afford some more opportunities to escape the house and breathe in some fresh air.

So how about you, fellow creatives, or even you non-creative folk? What’s the weather like for you and what do you do when you find yourself in a creative funk?