Monday, November 29, 2010

Raindrops on roses

A song is part of my granddaughter's going to bed ritual. My favorite song to sing when I tuck Hannah into bed is "My Favorite Things," the song Maria sings to quiet the fears of her young charges during a storm in The Sound of Music.

Though Maria lists her favorite things in the song, I think these are many of the same things she would say she is thankful for. Things that bring her joy whenever she encounters them.

In this month of Thanksgiving, I'd like to list a few things that bring me joy, the things for which I am thankful.

The prairie - It it is wild and wonderful and natural and beautiful. Full of lessons. Full of peace. The small patch in my yard brings me gifts every day.

My family - My sister, my nieces and their husbands and children, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. They are my roots, my connection to our family history past, present, future. We don't see each other as often as we'd like, but when we do, we pick up without losing a beat.

Readers - I am humbled by, and grateful for, all the people who have read my book Growing Up Country and who share it with others.  And then who share their own stories. The everyday stories of our everyday lives are the threads that come together to make us who we are.

Amazon - How can I not be grateful for the giant's cross-merchandising expertise!  If you liked this ... you'll also like ...  They keep my book chugging along with audiences who would never know about me any other way.

My writing buddy - Without Mary, I would not get near so many words on paper and the ones I did get there would not be nearly so well written.

My husband - Who takes care of our home, who manages our finances, who has whatever I need whenever I need it, who loves me.

My son and daughter in law - Who chose to live close enough that I could see them regularly, who presented us with a granddaughter and who have promised us another come April!

My granddaughter - Her smile is infectious, her hugs warm, her kisses delicious. She delights in hiding my hat, helping make pancakes, and pushing the camera buttons.

These are my favorite things. These are the things for which I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Prairie Architecture

Walking through the prairie today, the word that came to mind was architecture. During the summer, I  never looked past the swathes of yellow, dots of pink, pinpoints of blue in the blooms that blanketed the prairie. But now, the bright colors of flower petals are gone. What's left is the bones of each plant - the architecture - the framework that held all that brilliant color.

I looked up architecture and found one definition - "the complex or carefully designed structure of something." That's the prairie all right. Complex. Carefully designed. Structure. 

With the color stripped away, the view is spare but no less dramatic in its own way. The Carmine Miranda flair of the Dotted Mint has given way to the skeleton of a skyscraper. Without the bright yellow, a black-eyed Susan is almost ghostly. When leaves of broadleaf plants give way after the frost, the more simple structure of the grasses stands out, with a structure to draw the eye and birds throughout the winter.

Subtle brown tones. Almost black seed heads that were once regal purple coneflowers. Without the fancy, bright clothes, we see the character of what's underneath.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall in the prairie

I have found it difficult to walk in my prairie these days. It is so dry and brown. Such a short time ago it was awash in brilliant yellows with surprising dots of pink, purple and blue. The asters bloomed in September and were gone almost before I could enjoy them. The Maxmilian sunflowers, so heavy laden with blossoms, they bent over in the wind, now stand tall again, the yellow blooms turned brown, petals crumbling to dust.

Do I sound a little depressed? Maybe so. I know it will be months before green shoots and flashy flowers entice me to come everyday to see what 's new. Winter is on its way. Since I cannot look at flowers, I find myself drawn to other sights.

The prairie is harboring unexpected creatures. Two cats - one black and one white - stationed themselves along one of the paths this afternoon. I imagine they were waiting for the mice that make winter homes in the underbrush.

One large area in the prairie is completely flat. I'm not knowledgeable in reading animal signs, but this area looks very much as though a deer - maybe more than one - spent the night. Big Blue Stem and Indian grasses, dry as they are, provided shelter from prying eyes.

As always, the prairie encourages me to look closer. Under all the brown, new leaves of Black-eyed Susan, Aster, and Purple Coneflowers plants remain green. Are these new seedlings getting set to take off in spring? I am reminded that much happens underground in a prairie. Perhaps the winter is for putting down roots.

This may be the lesson to take from this prairie season. In fall and winter - prepare and rest, put down roots, get ready for the wild activity of spring and summer.

Spring will come again. With winter rest, I will be ready.

Monday, November 8, 2010

E-books for low vision

One of the benefits of e-readers is the ability to change font type and size on any book you download. I had not considered the real advantage this could be to anyone with low vision.

My mother had low vision caused by macular degeneration. Perhaps the greatest loss from macular degeneration for her was losing the ability to read. Even large print books had type too small for her to read.  The Department for the Blind with its talking books program was a life saver for her. And I was delighted when they asked me to read my book on tape for their program.

After I published Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, I heard from many people asking if it was available in large print. Because of my mother's experience, it pained me to have to tell them no.  It had not occurred to me that I could offer them a large print version of my book by converting it to e-book format.  Recently, I remedied that problem and converted my book to an e-book - it's available in all e-book formats - from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at

I found a review of the Kindle e-reader written by a man with low vision. Click on the link to see what he has to say.  

If you have a friend or relative with low vision who loves to read and hasn't realized the advantages of an e-book, I hope you'll share the news. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Time to vote!

My folks didn't engage in political discussions when I was growing up on the farm. They kept their thoughts to themselves or talked with each other out of range of hearing by us kids or they talked with their friends.

In fact, there are only three events related to political figures I can recall from my years on the farm. President Eisenhower came to Iowa once and my folks went to see him. We kids stayed at home. When mom returned, her only comment was that the President was much shorter than she had imagined. When John F. Kennedy was running for President, there was some discussion about whether the Pope would be running the White House should Kennedy be elected. We were Lutheran, so this was a concern. Finally, when President Kennedy was assassinated, we all were horrified and we joined the nation, glued to our television sets for the funeral ceremonies.

But even though my folks didn't talk politics and even though they missed some obvious opportunities to engage us kids in political discussions, they always voted. And they took us with them to vote. They made sure we knew voting was what a good citizen did.

The voting booths held considerable mystery for me. When a voter stepped into a curtained booth, she pulled a lever that closed the curtain behind her. Closing the curtain activated the ballot. Each candidate was selected by pushing a lever to one side or the other. The vote was counted when the voter pulled the lever to open the curtain.

Mom took us kids right into the voting booth with her.  I stood leaning against Mom's side and watched in silence as she made her selections. It didn't take long. She was a straight ticket voter her whole life. Still, the mystery and the importance of voting were impressed upon my mind from the earliest years of my life.

I miss the curtained booths. Our voting booths are little tables with plastic walls to shield my decisions from others' eyes. I slide my completed ballot into a machine that tells me how many people voted before me. It's a simple thing to do - voting. Voting is my right. It's my responsibility. And it's time to do it again. Today. Vote.

* Image courtesy of Comstock Photos