Monday, January 31, 2022

Ins and Outs

I've been trying to set myself a daily task of cleaning/reorganizing--something I I can do in the morning and then feel free to paint or read after lunch. Josie's stuff has been dealt with, as have the many food containers that used to leap off the shelf whenever I reached for one. My closet is tidier. As are the two shelves in the kitchen where I keep herbs and spices, etc.

Alas, no sooner were those first kitchen tasks done than I realized the kitchen cabinet doors were in sore need of cleaning--a revelation made all the clearer by the slant of morning sun that showed up the dust and grease and drips and drops of the past many months (years?)

So, yesterday morning I set in with sponge and degreaser. As I worked, it became obvious that, though the doors were cleaner, they still look pretty bad--hazy and dinged here and there.

John had a look and said it would take a bit of sanding and varnish which he would do in the next few days.  Great! And while he was in there, I prevailed upon him to lift down the long board that hangs above the cabinets. It's just that, a long board with a print of a Japanese scroll glued to it, the whole varnished over. It used to hang in our kitchen in Florida--so it's had close to fifty years to age into the nasty mess it had become.

But it cleaned up fairly well and, once the area where it hangs has been painted, back it goes.

And on I moved to the Blue Willow plates hanging above the window. Greasy and grimy no more, they'll go back in place after some painting has happened. They were a gift from my late friend Vicky and they had belonged to her grandmother...

As I was polishing the white china knobs on the cabinet doorsI remembered seeing those clickbait "articles" about what's in and what's out in decorating. White china knobs were out. Farmhouse decor in general was out--like those Blue Willow plates . . ,

What if you live in a farmhouse? Oh, well. On to degreasing my collection of Crabtree and Evelyn mugs . . . Pretty sure they're out too.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Faffing About on a Very Cold Day

Maybe I should be attempting snow scenes, but, dammit, I want flowers. Or leaves. Or burgeoning bulbs.


Saturday, January 29, 2022

Once Again

The predicted snow arrived around two yesterday and carried on for a few hours.

Temperatures began to drop and the birds crowded the feeder.

Beautiful feather patterns on this fella--some sort of sparrow, I presume.

The Rufous-Sided Towhee seems a tad offended by the whole thing.

At one point, there were three pair of cardinals on the crabapple--and two more at the feeder. 

There may be more snow. We are hunkering down. Fire in the fireplace, spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove, plenty of books, a new (to us) series to watch--Jericho of Scotland Yard. Quite enjoyable but an amazing amount of smoking going on--it's set in the Seventies. 


Thursday, January 27, 2022

McMullen Circle by Heather Newton

 Deeply satisfying, this novel in twelve linked stories explores the intertwined lives of families at a boarding school. Set in Georgia during the turbulent years of 1969-70, the book explores multiple issues, among them Vietnam, integration, loyalty, and heroism. 

Each story focuses on a different character, from the rigid headmaster of the school and his frustrated wife to a cafeteria worker and her aspiration for her children, an aging lesbian couple, to an alcoholic veteran of WWII, living in a nearby facility.

Each chapter/story is a gem, complete in itself. But in linking them together, she shows us the larger world and the fundamental interconnectedness of us all, Newton brings each character to vivid life, engaging our sympathy for their various conditions. Her masterly use of small suggestions to carry a larger story is delightful. 

The whole book is delightful. Highly recommended.

I'll be doing a Zoom conversation with Heather on Feb. 20 at 3--and will post more info later.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Bad Cold

 I have been laid low by the cold Josie and her family have been hit by. They are all right now. I slept most of yesterday and feel slightly better today.  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Evening in the East--Reflections

I continue to reflect on The Warmth of Other Suns which I recently blogged about, even I read news reports of hysterical opposition to so-called Critical Race Theory.

The trials people of color endured and still endure deserve to be talked about. I believe that there is not a White person alive who has not, in various ways, benefited from the oppression suffered by people of color.

My idyllic childhood was surely enabled by the presence of various Black women who did tasks around our house I might otherwise have been called on to do. My schooling avoided the mention of unpleasant truths--it was all those happy Indians welcoming Columbus and sharing a Thanksgiving feast with the Pilgrims--who would soon massacre almost a whole tribe.

 And White privilege was always with me--applying to college or for a job or a credit card or a loan. (Of course, my husband had to cosign for my first credit card back in '64, but that's another rant.)

There is so much in American history that was white-washed or soft-pedaled. No, I don't advocate talking to first graders about genocide--but maybe we could lose the fairy tales about the happy Indians and the kind-hearted plantation owners. Just like Santa and the Easter Bunny--sooner or later the truth needs to be clear.

And if it makes folks uncomfortable--maybe it should.


Sunday, January 23, 2022

A Letter from Judy--repost


When I teach classes in novel writing, an exercise that has proven quite useful is to have my students write letters to themselves in the voice of their main character, explaining why that character wants his/her story told. In some cases, these letters are quite moving, and in most cases  they help to clarify the author's vision of the book under construction.

So, of course I did this for my Civil War book. But I had to write five letters.

Here's a brief synopsis of the novel:

During the American Civil War, the western North Carolina county still known as Bloody Madison was deeply divided, with the wealthier townspeople supporting the Confederacy and the poorer folk, especially in the outlying communities known as the Laurels, opposed. ANS THE CROWS TOOK THEIR EYES  follows events surrounding the Shelton Laurel Massacre -- the execution by Confederate soldiers of thirteen men and boys suspected of Unionism.  

The story unfolds in five alternating voices of witnesses from both sides. Judy, the strong-willed unmarried mother of a growing brood, the descendant and keeper of traditions of the earliest settlers in the Laurels, is the voice that opens and closes the book. This is her letter to me.

Writing a book, are you? About the Massacre and them Thirteen buried up yon? And you want my opinioning?

Don't seem like an unlearned mountain woman can have much to say to a book writer. Still, I was there and you wasn't. I know what it is to go through hard times, to hear my young uns crying for hunger, to fear the soldiers plundering our food . . . and worse.

When you first begun to spin the story, going back to one of the beginnings of the trouble, I couldn't see what good a book would do -- what happened, happened, and ain't nothing can change that.

But as I come to think on it some more, I thought of all the tales going around concerning them dreadful times -- and they's mostly about the men. The women don't feature much in stories about the war.

But it was the women held things together while their men was off playing soldier or hiding away from conscription up in them old rock houses and thickets on the mountain. 

So, you tell about the women and how they kept old Laurel going.  Tell as how we're still here. Now that would be a fine thing to have writ down.

And don't forget to tell about that other feller buried up yon where the Thirteen rest. . .

                                                        Your friend,

                                                                  Judith Shelton 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Josie's Long Haul

Notice anything different? I got a haircut and now I have bangs! Also, I have fingernail polish, different colors on each nail.

I stayed with Meema and Grumpy on Wednesday and Thursday with a sleepover in between. Because of all the snow, there was no school. 

Grumpy made me a HUGE toy chest so I can keep my cooking things and my stuffies safe from Jenny who would steal them off the shelves where they were. And then she would chew them up.

Now the toy shelves are my own library with lots of books. The two bottom shelves are mine--the others are for Meema's books.

I helped Meema take all my stuff out of a cabinet in the living room so we could clean the shelves (Meema squirted the wax spray and I rubbed it around.) Then we organized my workbooks and art supplies and other stuff. I did some coloring on the creatures Nancy M gave me and played with the Garden People Dianna D sent me. It's fun to organize and find good stuff you've forgotten,

I did some painting, of course. That is something I always want to do. This is a picture of a boat and a mermaid. And the sun.

Otter came up both days for a playdate with Jenny. They play really rough, but they are still friends.  Otter did not spend the night though. Meema did not think it was a good idea. 

Meema got me a warm pink nightgown with silver unicorns on it. I put it on after my bath and got in bed to read some of my books. 

Meema and Blue Elephant and Snuggle Puppy sleep next to me but when we woke up in the morning, what do you think! Jenny was between us! With her head on the pillows! And Corycat was on the other side of Meema, also sleeping on the pillow. (Angeline sleeps in the workroom upstairs because she Does Not like Jenny. Neither does Corycat who hisses when Jenny gets too close.)

On Thursday, Meema had a fun new thing for us to do--these black cards that have color underneath. You use a pointy stick called a stylus to draw on the black and SURPRISE! your picture is all colors.

On Thursday we also went up to the Workroom--I call it my office because I have a desk and pencils up there. Meema ironed napkins and I worked at my desk.  

When we got done, we went downstairs and organized the big closet in the living room where my blocks are. We found some stuff that I am too old for and will give away, but we also found lots of things I hadn't played with since before Christmas. The blocks are my favorites.

I built a big fancy castle and used my dump truck as transportation for the Castle People.

This is a hidden room, and a big diamond is in it. The fairies are standing guard.

The Castle People love it. It is made of bricks so the Big Bad Wolf can't blow it down. And there is a courtyard for the horses. I think it is really perfect and would have left it there but Meema and Grumpy said it was really in the way between the kitchen and living room. Also Jenny. She would steal the Castle People and knock down the blocks. 

So, after my dad came to get me and saw it, I put it away. (Grumpy helped.)

I will build a bigger one next time.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Warmth of Other Suns

A compelling and necessary read, this narrative- enhanced documentation of The Great Migration that, between 1915 to 1970, saw almost six million Black citizens leave the South in search of greater freedom.

The book came out twelve years ago, (at a time I was reading almost nothing new due to writing deadlines) and was a huge best seller and award winner--all well deserved. I'm embarrassed to just now be reading it.

The terrible slavery-like peonage of Black sharecroppers, the routine humiliations of Black folk, the inadequate educational opportunities, and the ever-present threat of lynching are shown through the day-to-day experiences of three who left, and the reality of Jim Crow comes to heart-breaking life.

As one who lived through segregation, I found this book forced me to confront my own blindness to and acceptance of the injustice all around me at the time. I was young--by the time I went to college and the Civil Rights Movement was well underway, I began to realize the terrible truth. But not to the extent that this book has revealed it. 

Lived experiences, carefully told with an incredible attention to the details of everyday life, explain so much about the injustice still plaguing our country, even as the Republican party plots and plans to effectively disenfranchise many Black voters.

A necessary book. 

James Baldwin, writing during the Migration, put it well: "I can conceive of no Negro native to this country who has not, by the age pf puberty, been irreparably scarred by the condition of his life...

The wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive."