Back in the day

BULLETIN: Hello, kids at Cowden Elementary School. I’m coming to see you today at 2:00. I predict that we’re going to have a fine time!

Hi everyone,

Sandy recently ran across her great-uncle’s 1915-16 report card when he was in 7th grade in Mt. Grove, Missouri. His name was Noel Thompson. His teacher was Lutitia Hudson. Noel did well in school. He scored 90 in geography, 95 in U.S. History, and 95 in Agriculture.

Mt. Grove is a rural area and in those days girls and boys took several courses that would help them grow up on a farm. Girls took Sweeping, Dish Washing, and Ironing. Boys took Feeding, Milking, Currying, Preparing Fuel, and Repairing. Noel received a G(ood) in currying and an E(xcellent) in the others. It looks like Noel also excelled in sweeping, dish washing, and ironing too. He was an all-around good student.
Noel's report card
He grew up to be a good husband. He and Sandy’s great-aunt Cuba were inseparable. All the years of their long marriage they did everything on the farm together. I visited them with Sandy and her folks more than once on their place near Fair Play, Missouri. When Noel died, I bought his pea-green Chevrolet for a block company sales car. Had it for several years.

Who else came from farming people? I had several relatives, mostly near Rogersville, Missouri. So many good memories!

Christmas poems and memories

Hi everyone,

Today happens to be my 1,000th post since starting the blog in 2009. Thanks to one and all for being part of it.

Now it’s my pleasure to feature a Christmas poem by Joy Acey.

Happy Holiday

May this season bring your happiness and plenty of joy
With buckets of love and presents for each girl and boy.

May your cocoa have marshmallows to drink by the fire,
May you have all that you can desire.

May your tree be the tallest with flashing bright lights
And may your world be calm without any fights.

May the birds at your feeder find plenty of seed
And may you have everything that you might need.

May the soldiers working far off in war zones
Get the job done so they can come home.

Let the gas prices drop so you’ll drive your car
Or maybe the bus can take you far.

May scientists searching for a discovery
Find the clue for cancer recovery.

May they cure Alzheimer’s and other diseases,
May hospitals empty before it all freezes.

May children in Africa have the food that they need
And lots of clean water and books they can read.

May your stocks on the market increase in their worth
And may we all find peace on this earth.

May we all have jobs and significant work to do.
This is my Christmas wish for you.

by Joy Acey


My thanks as well to Veda Boyd Jones for her Christmas memory, which I’m reposting here. Others who have added their talents are Jeanne Poland, Sarah Holbrook, Renee LaTulippe, Jane Heitman Healy, Julie Krantz, Cory Corrado, Steven Withrow, and Nancy Gow. For good measure I’ve included Mrs. Stanley’s Christmas, a story that I may have posted last year or the one before.

Whatever your faith or belief, I wish you well. May you be safe, healthy, and happy in the year to come.



Our Talking Place

He was six when we sat close on the stairs together, I on the higher step, he on the lower.
“I don’t think there’s a Santa Claus. You and Dad are Santa.”
His voice didn’t ask a question. It did not accuse. It was a statement.
“You are partly right,” I said. “But you left out yourself.”
His eyebrows peaked, and his mouth raised higher on one side in that way of his.
“I believe in Santa,” I said. “Santa is the spirit of giving. And you are Santa, too.
How do you feel about that cup with Dad painted on the side? You had to get it.”
“He’ll use it every morning,” he said. “He’ll love it.”
“That is the spirit of giving…Santa.”
He smiled that self-satisfied smile of his and nodded wisely.
“But we can’t call each other that around your little brother.”
Again he nodded as if we were high conspirators. “He’s too young to understand.”

by Veda Boyd Jones


There’s a Glut

There’s a glut

Of Xmas stuff!

It struts




Us to bits.

We’re saved by sleep

Quietly wait

To wake

To wonder

Child again.

by Jeanne Poland


December comes.

I non-stop-shop.

To guard against a yuletide flop.

When all the gifts I give — go back.

I sigh.  But, hey —

Who’s keeping track?

What do you give to those who have?

Computers, bikes and skates —

Enough sweaters to warm Cleveland,

VCRs and tapes.

Sneakers, games and books,

magazines and jeans.

What could Christmas bring

That’s well within my means?

What if I give you patience

the next time you get stressed?

What if I say, okay,

I know you did your best.

The next time you fall short,

what if I lend a hand?

Or if things get confused,

I help you make a plan.

The next time you act smart,

what if I try to learn.

If my gift is kindness,

would that be returned?

copyright  1995, 2000   sara holbrook



or, Santy Claws Gnu What Eye Kneaded

Lurching threw the do
on a too-toad Christmas mousse–
His name? I’ve knot a clew.
Eye think aisle call hymn Bruce.

The last thing eye recall,
eye was looking really sheik
and heading four a bawl
down buy Bolder Creak.

Eye slipped and hit my head
wile walking in the missed,
then awl my words fell out my ear
and now eye right like this!

Witch is up?
Witch is down?
Witch which should eye use?
Until eye get my Christmas gift,
Aisle use witch won eye chews!

Eye opened up my ayes
and scrambled two my feat
and what too my sir prize
a voice said, “High, my suite!”

His close whir soft and read.
His presents gave me paws,
fore their upon his sled
was my idle — Santy Claws!

“Get up on this mousse.
Ewe took a nasty spilly.
Now tell me what ewe wont four Christmas
heir it gets two chili.”

Witch is up?
Witch is down?
Witch which should eye use?
Until eye get my Christmas gift,
Aisle use witch won eye chews!
Eye gnu write aweigh
upon witch gift to seas:
“Awl eye wont four Christmas
is a dictionary, pleas!”

Witch is up?
Witch is down?
Witch which should eye use?
Until eye get my Christmas gift,
Aisle use witch won eye chews!


(Thank ewe awl sew much–
this tail has run it’s coarse.
I’d sing ewe awl this song and such,

butt I’m a little horse – nay!)

by Renee LaTulippe


Jane shares the first piece of writing she sold some time ago. It has been reprinted a few times elsewhere.


Amid final preparations

The world stops.



Star-quiet wonder

Pierced by a baby’s first cry.

How startlingly Jesus

Enters our hearts.

by Jane Heitman Healy



When snowflakes fall—
so soft,
so white—
I cup my hands
like bowls
of rice
to catch
these lacy
of ice.
But when the sky—
so cold,
so bright—
turns out its
winter light,
I climb
in bed
to dream
all night.

by Julie Krantz


Dear Santa,

It’s me, Eileen Fishburn again. I sent you a note, though I’m not quite sure when. But in it, I asked for a bike and a doll – and a real cooking oven. But that wasn’t all. I also asked, Santa, for skates and a book – a book about dancing. Oh, wait, let me look . . . The book is called Dancing, a Primer for Tots. I really do want it. Inside it are lots of pictures of kids doing tap and ballet. But that’s not the reason I’m writing today.
I need just one favor. I hope you’ll agree. For what I want most beneath my Christmas tree is a cute baby brother – one I can hold. I really do want one, but if it be told, a cute baby sister would also be fine. But hurry up, Santa, there isn’t much time!
So that’s all for now. Merry Christmas to you. I hope you remember I like chocolate, too. So thanks again, Santa. I’ll write you next year. And best Christmas wishes to all your reindeer.

Eileen Fishburn

by Nancy Gow


Each Time

Each time we pause for beauty –

a snowflake, a rainbow, a misty day


Each time we see our spirit in others

recognizing we are all one


Each time we forgive

letting the need-to-be-right go


Each time we treat living things

with respect, kindness, and love


Each time we glimpse the innocent child

beneath the masks we all wear


Each time we bring sunshine and hope

a warm touch, a friendly smile,

or a loving-kind thought


. . . it is truly Christmas-

the Christmas of caring and sharing,

giving and receiving.

© Cory Corrado


Taunton River in December

The geese are eating day-old bread
From the children’s winter-mittened fists.
These ganders, intermittent guests,
If anything, are overfed,

For it’s the ducks we’ve come to stuff
With crusts of dough. In rills of slop
That spill above the river top,
Grass blades touched with feather-fluff

Skitter like mice beneath our boots
Beside the begging waterfowls
Which trail us, intimate as owls,
Nipping the tails of our snowsuits.

Greenhead mallard and his brown
And unrelenting hen advance
Orange feet, a feasting dance
One only meets this far from town.

by Steven Withrow

By David L. Harrison   

It was Christmas Eve and snowing. Mrs. Stanley’s feet hurt but she hummed a Christmas carol as she worked in her kitchen. Little John would be there soon. She hadn’t seen her grandson since last summer. The table set for four looked splendid with her best dishes. She hummed as she set out coffee cups.
She stopped humming when the telephone rang.
“Mama?” It was Joyce.
Mrs. Stanley knew something was wrong.
“We’re snowed in at the airport.”
“Oh no!”

Click here to read the rest of the story

Peace to all,

Memories of the last six months

Greetings everyone,

Believe it or not we’re now on the backside of 2010. Time moves right along and carries us with it. I hope some of your memories of the first half of this year will inspire new writing. Memory-based poems don’t have to come from childhood experiences. As an exercise, try making a list of two or three memories from these past six months. You may be surprised at how easily you find yourself slipping into your writing mode.

Here’s my list.

1) In January my 97-year-old mother fell in her apartment and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. She didn’t break anything but was so weak when she returned home that she couldn’t use her walker. She just sat in her chair while people waited on her. My mind was filled with anxiety for her and I felt certain that she would soon be headed to a nursing home. Yet somehow she found the grit to fight back. Within two weeks she was on her walker and resuming her daily activities.

2) In February I spoke in Colorado at CCIRA. During the conference, I enjoyed breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with good friends — fellow writers, editors, and teachers — and I realized how fortunate my life has been. Along the way to making children’s books I’ve met and become close with many wonderful people who share similar interests and beliefs. I came home with the feeling that I’m a lucky man and should remember my good fortune on those days when the details of life sometimes obscure the bigger picture.

3) In March, my wife Sandy and I were guests for High Tea at the apartment of a friend who finds joy in bringing people together who may not have met previously. Charlotte’s four guests sit for a while in a cozy arrangement of sofa and chairs as our hostess skillfully guides us in telling something about ourselves and discussing our views on a variety of subjects. Before long we sit around the table, set with beautiful china and generously laden with her treats for the day including, of course, a pot of tea. Charlotte prefers her tea with milk, so I take milk in mine too. Each guest finds a small gift at the plate. Good talk continues over pastry and tea until we suddenly realize that it’s later than we realized and we must say goodbye. Each time I experience one of Charlotte’s formal teas I am impressed again that there are still people who care for fine traditions that bring people together to participate in fellowship and good talk. My friend is well into her 80s. I wonder who will keep alive her admirable traditions.

My list could easily be longer. Those three memories are only from the first three months. If you decide to try your own list, I hope you enjoy looking back at the first half of this year as much as I did. You may be surprised by the richness of memories that are still fresh. I hope you will find new inspiration to start a story or add telling details and insights to something you are already working on.

Happy 2nd Half of 2010!