Tag Archives: flowers

A Love Letter to My Magnolia, by Carole Howard

Back in P.S. 106, in the Bronx, I learned that the magnolia is the only tree that gets its flowers before its leaves. I think it was Mrs. Sills who taught us that little nugget in 3rd grade, though I can’t be sure. It’s amazing that I remember it at all.  But there’s another reason that magnolias are special — to me, at any rate.

In 1984, my husband Geoffrey was in the hospital for a month. His illness wasn’t life-threatening, but it did require time to kill all the little beasties that had taken up residence. (Remnants of his long-ago days as a Peace Corps Volunteer, perhaps.)

While he was the sick one, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for me, either, as anyone who’s ever been a caregiver knows. I went to the hospital every day with magazines, treats and moral support, and with whatever good cheer and/or firmness was necessary to run interference with doctors and nurses.

“I’m here, I’ll shave him, you don’t have to do it.”

“I absolutely insist the tropical disease specialist include Geoffrey on his rounds. Today!”

“Would you like some of the cookies I brought in today?”

I also cared for our daughter and kept our consulting practice alive. I would have done anything to help Geoffrey get better; I didn’t mind any of it. But I was weary.

The day before Mother’s Day, I was feeling rather low, maybe even a bit sorry for myself.   I’m not proud of that, but there it is. I went to my friend Barbara’s plant nursery to buy myself a present. Walking into the greenhouse, with its powerful smell of earth, fertility, and growth, was the beginning of the cure for what ailed me. I walked around and looked at every plant until I saw a perfectly-shaped magnolia. I knew it was the one for me and my mood lifted as I took it to the register.

But Barbara said it had already been sold – “See that ribbon around the pot?” – and I should pick out something else. I cajoled and groveled. I tried to cash in on our friendship. I really wanted that magnolia. No dice. I didn’t see anything I liked nearly as much, so went home empty-handed and petulant.

The next day, Mother’s Day, the nursery truck pulled up to my door with a delivery. The driver went into the back of the truck to find it, and I felt a kind of pre-gratitude. I gave myself a peptalk: “Ok, it’s not the magnolia, but it’s so nice to have been thought of.”

When he emerged, I was overjoyed: It was MY magnolia. It turns out that Geoffrey, the day before my visit to the greenhouse, had called Barbara from the hospital and asked her to “pick out the nicest thing in the place for Carole.” And, amazingly, Barbara had picked out MY magnolia before I did. When I came shopping and picked out the same one, she knew. All the time I was cajoling and groveling, she must have been smiling inside, maybe even thinking of The Gift of the Magi. This story still gives me chills.

This year, the magnolia bloomed very late. But I knew it eventually would, as it has for the past 30 years. Its tender-pink flowers are as glorious as a burst of fireworks. To me, they are fireworks: joyous, boisterous, celebratory.

magnolia copy

*     *     *

Carole Howard lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State.  She is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.

 

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A Tribute to a True Storyteller by Sherrie Hansen

For 100 years, today was my Grandma Hansen’s birthday. She was born in 1900, and died in 2000, so there was never any doubt how old she was. Oh, the changes she saw in the 100 years she lived. As a child, I loved to listen to Grandma Hansen’s stories, both true and make-believe. She was a grand teller of fairy tales – The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Little Red Hen, Jack and the Beanstalk – and she loved to dramatically embellish stories of her younger years – from Indians, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and one room school houses to the tale of how she and Grandpa Hansen eloped to the Little Brown Church in the Vale. (They didn’t tell a soul they were married for months.) We were all mesmerized when Grandma started to spin a tale of days gone by.

So on this day of memories and love of country, my Grandma Hansen stands out in my mind as one of the individuals who truly made America great. She made my life pretty wonderful, too.  And she most certainly taught me how to tell a good story.

A Tribute to Grandma Hansen

 May 26th, 1990

 By Sherrie and Becky, her granddaughters, on her 90th Birthday

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 Stepping back to yesterday –

 Daisies strewn along the way.

 Treasures in the chicken coop,

 Racing ‘round the driveway loop.

 Mousey ~ mousey’s in the house,

 Hankies stuck in Grandma’s blouse.

 Hanging clothes out on the line,

 Bleeding hearts and dandelions.

 Finding eggs beneath a hen,

 Memories from way back then.

 Image 

 Grandma sitting on her stool

 Telling tales of teaching school,

 Peeling apples, scrubbing faces,

 Pansies put in little vases.

 Making dolls from hollyhocks,

 Darning all our worn out socks.

 Pin curls glistening in her hair,

 Corsets, baggy underwear.

 Raking leaves and burning piles –

 Memories of Grandma’s smiles

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 Cousins staying overnight

 In Grandpa’s bed, all tucked in tight.

 Oatmeal, sweet dough, chicken pie,

 Hiding while the dishes dried.

 Silly plays between the trees,

 Picking berries, bumblebees.

 Stories told again and again

 “Who will help me?” said the Little Red Hen

 “The sky is falling” – the games we played,

 Memories of Grandma’s ways.

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 Pictures on the piano top

 ~A growing family ~ a “bumper crop”.

 Her calloused hands and Godly heart

 Inspired us each, right from the start.

 Time goes on, and now it seems

 So long ago ~ those faded dreams

 But each fond memory has a place

 In every heart ~ in every face

 Our love for her ties us together –

Memories live on forever.

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Filed under books, musings, Sherrie Hansen

As Busy as a . . .

Awww, you guessed!

 

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Filed under fun, life, Pat Bertram

Beauty in Your Own Back Yard

My first published book – Night and Day, by Second Wind Publishing – is set in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota and Copenhagen, Denmark with a brief interlude on Prince Edward Island, Canada. My tagline, “It’s midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark”, speaks to the fact that Jensen and Anders connect via the internet, each from their own far-flung corner of the world.

My work-in-progress, Wild Rose of Scotland, is set at St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe. The first book in the series, Blue Belle of Scotland, takes place in Tobermory, a picturesque old village whose rainbow-colored storefronts are reflected in the waters off the Isle of Mull.

Sherrie with Alphasmart at Tobermory

Here I am, writing on my AlphaSmart, in the lovely village of Tobermory, Scotland.

For a writer / innkeeper / restaurateur / pastor’s wife whose life is too busy and complicated to plan another vacation anytime in the foreseeable future, “traveling” to or revisiting these exotic locales in my mind is like taking a mini-vacation. Hopefully, my readers will also enjoy visiting the quaint spots that provide a backdrop to the adventures of Jensen and Anders and any other of my characters who are lucky enough to find their homes in such beautiful places.

But we all can’t live in Colorado. Nor can we go on vacation all the time. The trilogy of books I’m currently getting ready for publication – Stormy Weather, Waterlily, and Merry-Go-Round – are all set in Osage, Iowa, just 11 miles from where I live. The stage for these books is set with cornfields, cabbage patches, and contented cows grazing in pastures. The secondary characters are small town… well… characters. And it’s not one bit boring. To the contrary, writing about my hometown has been very enlightening.

Looking at my very ordinary world through the eyes of my characters has shed a whole new light on what was once deemed plain. These people see things in my world that I never would have noticed. With their help, I’ve discovered a whole new meaning to the phrase, Beauty in Your Own Backyard. It’s amazing, the things I see when looking through the rose-colored glasses of the three Jones sisters.

So, wherever it is you find yourself, take a look around. Whether you’re reading – or writing – a book set in Windermere, England, Apple Valley, Minnesota, Moonstone Beach, or Weedpatch, California, there are beautiful sights to behold no matter where you go in the world – a simple wildflower, a spectacular sunset, the moon glinting off a lake (or maybe even a mud puddle).

I took this photo in Scotland. Isn't it funny how you notice things when you're on vacation that you never take the time to really "see" when you're at home?

I took this photo in Scotland. Isn't it funny how you notice things when you're on vacation that you never take the time to really "see" when you're at home?

And next time you’re lucky enough to be able to take a vacation to some lovely new location, by all means, take your camera, your moleskin journal, your steno pad, or your Alphasmart. Take photos, record each memory, soak in every ounce of scenic beauty that you can.

All I’m suggesting is that when you come home, keep your camera out. Try looking at your own, everyday world through the eyes of someone who’s seeing those same, familiar haunts for the very first time. Take notice of the extraordinary, and you’ll discover all kinds of unique beauty – right in your own backyard.

When I got home from Scotland, I realized I had the same flowers blooming right in my own garden. That's when I resolved to start seeing the beauty in my own backyard instead of waiting for another vacation to enjoy the scenic sights around me.

When I got home from Scotland, I realized I had the same flowers blooming right in my own garden. That's when I resolved to start seeing the beauty in my own backyard instead of waiting for another vacation to enjoy the scenic sights around me.

Learning to see the Cinderella side of your soot and ashes world, to appreciate the sights you take for granted, will make you a better writer, a better mother, a better lover, a better everything under the sun.

Sherrie Hansen

Night and Day

http://www.SecondWindPublishing.com

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Filed under books, fiction, life, Sherrie Hansen, writing