A message from your editor…

While decluttering an old notebook of classroom stuff, I ran across a CTA Women’s Caucus Newsletter I edited back in the Fall of 2009.  It is just as relevant today, perhaps more so.

“Some of you know that I lost my mother to breast cancer this March.  She had none of the usual risk factors — none of her relatives had had breast cancer, she exercised regularly, ate a healthy diet, and was not overweight.  She hadn’t seen a doctor in over 25 years!

Nor did she believe in screening mammograms, and she was too busy living life to worry about that little lump in her breast…until it was way too late!  Through a mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy, the doctors brought us six more glorious years with my mom.  Long enough for her to dance at my daughter’s wedding, become a great-grandmother, and celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary with my dad.  But when the cancer came back with a vengeance, it attacked her bones and her liver, too, and there was no remission this time.

Please, PLEASE encourage the women you love to have regular mammograms, as well as breast self-exams.  And if they find anything “not quite right”, see a doctor immediately.  Their lives could depend on it!”

Empt(ier) nest


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Earlier this week as I checked to see if it was time  to pick Olivia up from school, it hit me:  When school starts in the fall she will go until 2:10, and this stay-at-home Grammy will have my entire morning free.  Every day, not just my Wednesday each month when I run away to Fresno for the day, but every Monday through Friday.  There will be a first grader and a fifth grader in our house, and my schedule will undergo a drastic change.

Now for many women this is commonplace, but it has never happened to me before.  As a mom with a job outside the home, I went back to work full-time when my daughter was five and a half weeks old.  She was in day care until she started school, and in after-school day care after that (I have shared before how my decision to continue working after her birth is one of my very few regrets in life).  So I didn’t experience this lengthening of my “free time” as she grew older.

I am kind of panicky about it.  How will life’s expectations of me change, now that I have the entire morning to myself?  More importantly, how will my own expectations of me change?  Will I rush to “over-schedule” those empty hours (I tend to do that), or will I simply enjoy the peace and quiet?  Will this be the time that I finally find a workable housekeeping routine (don’t hold your breath here)?  Or will I grant myself the flexibility and freedom to extend my reading-in-the-garden time, or set up a permanent creating space in my bedroom?

cloudy river

It was a beautifully cloudy morning for my walk along the St. John’s River Parkway today.

Right now I am enjoying my early morning walks by the river after dropping the girls off at school.  And I love that moment each day when I ask Olivia how her day went, and she answers with some variation on, “Awesome!”

I guess that time will simply come later each day.  To be continued in the fall…



Gentle giants


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Four of our neighborhood’s gentle giants came crashing down this weekend.  One — the Redwood at the end of our cul de sac — was mostly dead, thanks to our ongoing drought and neighbors who didn’t bother to water via hose.  I have watched it get more and more brown, then perk up a bit when the rains came this winter — too little, too late, I’m afraid.  It was one of two standing guard over our street, and the new owners of the adjacent property chopped it down yesterday.

One lonely Sequoia by the stump of its neighbor

One lonely Redwood by the stump of its neighbor

The other three were down around the corner, and as far as I could tell, were thriving.  I was stunned to drive past on the way to church this morning and see piles of trunks and branches chopped all willy-nilly, where yesterday beautiful trees had stood.  I will miss walking in their shade and smelling their rich, foresty fragrance.

Most of our neighbors’ homes were built 20-25 years ago, and landscaped at that time. Unfortunately, the builder planted trees with an eye for how they would look at the time the houses were sold, not what they would become in the future.  Many of the yards had Redwoods planted within a few feet of the roof lines, where they would soon damage the house if left unchecked.  My house had a total of five, two on one side and three on the other (we dug up the one closest to the garage and transplanted it to the back yard, where our dog ate it right down to the ground a few months later).

Now the neighborhood is overgrown, many homes are being sold, and their new owners are coming in and chopping down full-sized trees (not just the Redwoods, but many landscape trees) to “open up” their landscaping.

Somehow this doesn’t feel like progress to me.


Playing hooky


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For a daily blogger, skipping that first blog post is rather like playing hooky from a college class:  It is really hard to do, but eventually you give yourself permission.  You are on top of your coursework, you are horribly tired, it is gorgeous outside and you need to go to the park…anyway, you come up with a workable excuse, and skip class/blogging.


The next day is easier.  You have lost your momentum/you don’t know what the assignment was/and it is still gorgeous outside.  So you don’t go to class — again/don’t blog — again.  And if the class meets twice a week, you have lost an entire week.  How do you go back and face the prof after missing a whole week?  And as a blogger, you can’t even face the prof that is in your brain!

To carry the analogy even farther, unless you are very brave you can end up dropping the class (and that W on your transcript can become an F if it is too late in the semester.  Ask me how I know.).  If you are a blogger no longer blogging, you become restless because part of your routine is missing, but daily life has rushed into that space and threatens to claim it entirely.  And eventually you sit down to reclaim that missing space and realize that two months have passed.

That is where I found myself this morning.  Two full months have passed, and I have missed Trigger’s Horse and I have missed you, my readers.  I feel like I have let us all down — my classmates and my prof.  But I am back.  Please find room for me in your schedule.

Happy spring!




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One of the programs Mom always wanted to do for the Cuesta Doll & Study Club was on feedsacks, their history and use as fabrics by frugal homemakers of the 1930s and 1940s.  I’m sitting here next to an old cardboard box labeled “Quilt Pieces for January Program”, getting myself ready to present that Feedsack program to both my doll clubs in the next month or so.

For me, part of the charm of feedsacks has long been because my Grandad Buffington (Mom’s step-dad who helped raise her) was a salesman for Capital Feed and Seed in Phoenix, Arizona.  I didn’t know until very recently that after starting out as a salesman, Grandad Buffington ended up buying Capital Feed and Seed outright.  Mom and Aunt Betty have shared stories about picking out their favorite prints and finding enough of the same bag to make dresses from…quite a challenge sometimes!

As well as the box full of quilt pieces and 1930s fabrics (including lots of yo-yos and cardboard piecing templates), I am fortunate to own a number of beautiful quilts made by my precious mother-in-law, Lois Carriker, during the Depression years and given to me before her death.  I also have the baby quilt she made for Grant and the one Mom made for me, each containing feedsack fabrics.

Today is a “hunting and gathering” day for me.  I will be looking through boxes of old family photographs for feedsack clothing (I know there is a lot), as well as heading back to Storage to pull quilts out of my cedar chest.  And if the thought of my cedar chest full of nearly-antique family quilts living in rented storage gives you pause, rest assured that it does me, too, but there is no space for it here.  I’ve tried.

Somewhere between here and Mom and Dad’s is a wonderful book called  Vintage Feed Sacks:  Fabric from the Farm that I hope to re-discover and use.  Just in case I don’t, however, I’ve ordered Feedsack Secrets from Amazon Prime, and it will be here in a couple of days.

feedsack yoyos

Yo-yos and pieced strips from feedsack fabrics I found in Mom’s box.

Some Fairy Folk


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I’m still in the middle of my bedroom reorganizing, and I opened another box (this one labeled “pictures”) and found another one of Mom’s poems.  This one was written for a Tri-Counties Doll Conference many years ago…there is no date on the page.  Enjoy!

Some Fairy Folk

They take a fairy shower in the early morning dew

And dry upon the sunbeams just the way we’d like to do.

Then they take a bit of rainbow and drape it here and there

For the loveliest fairy gown you’d see ‘most anywhere.

Some dragonflies so green of hue join the fairies two-by-two

As they flit and soar and dip and dive, quite the gayest sight alive.

The lady bugs so polka-dot bright, join in this ethereal flight

While down below the brownies dance with frogs and toads

And just by chance, if you should be so quiet and still

You might see them do the Brownie Quadrille.

As the fairies light softly on the moist green ground

They join the brownies and go dancing ’round.

‘Til finally, midst laughter and jubilation, the time has come

For this celebration of fairy folk to stop while.

But they’ll be back to make us smile

If only in our imagination.

– Hazel Pender



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I want my Mother!  I was disasterizing my bedroom closet in an attempt to make my room less jam-packed and more pleasant, and I ran across one of her journals.  She had been given so many beautiful ones, but mostly she wrote on whatever lined paper was handy.  Here is part of her entry from June 29, 1999. It made me cry for missing her so.

My feet are bare and I’m standing in a small patch of soft dirt that feels so warm and good.  I’m watching a “snake” lizard sunning himself on a large piece of firewood, and thinking.

I’m thinking about that little girl I was so long ago with the loose black hair flying in the wind and running barefoot in the hot dirt.

She had a quick laugh and a too loud voice.  But outside in the Summertime running barefoot it seems to me now she felt wild & free & very very happy.

Is she still here someplace deep inside?  Of course she is.  Why would I ever let her go?

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It is NOT Okay

Christina has such a passionate response to the way many of the presidential candidates are acting; being in politics does not give people the right to be inhumane.

r e F o c u s

I’m sure by this point you’ve seen the video. The one of the young African-American woman being removed from a presidential campaign rally in Louisville, being pushed and prodded by numerous campaign supporters while others pummel her with insults or capture the whole incident on their phone. Not one person, not one, steps in and says, “Hey now, this is a human being. Show a little respect for the human race.”  Not one defends. Not one speaks out. Not one.

And I’ve refrained from posting anything about this here because I didn’t want this blog to be political. I’ve kept this place free from politics and campaigns and opinion on government and court decisions and I was determined to do so, until today.

Because today, I realized, THIS IS NOT POLITICAL. 

It’s not about politics. It’s about humanity.

As I watched that girl get pushed and shoved all I could think was…

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So many books, so little time!


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I went a little crazy yesterday at the San Luis Obispo Barnes & Noble bookstore.  I really wasn’t ready to leave the Central Coast and return to Visalia, and I really wanted a bookstore “fix”, so I made a detour.  My intention was to buy a magazine and soak up some atmosphere, but I was captured by my surroundings. Every bookstore has its own personality; the Fresno Barnes & Noble seems cold and a bit pretentious, but SLO’s is as warm and welcome as the town itself.

I found my magazine right away:  the latest issue of Artful Blogging:  Visually Inspiring Online Journals.  If you love blogging, beautiful things, and/or journaling, treat yourself to this quarterly by the good folks at Stampington.  It is pure eye candy!  Then the American Girl Magazine called to me for Lily, and Highlights for Children was right next to it on the shelf for Olivia. (Not only do I feed my own habit, but theirs, too.)

I spent quite a bit of time in the children’s book section, as Lily has been wanting a particular book that the library doesn’t have, but as I couldn’t remember the title I just kept scanning the shelves, hoping it would jump out at me.  No dice.  And I decided against picture books for St. Patrick’s Day…we have bunches already and these weren’t particularly wonderful.

On the way out (right?) I picked up The Aviator’s Wife (about Ann and Charles Lindbergh), How to be a Heroine, or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much, and then Glitter and Glue, a memoir.  They were “Buy 2, Get the 3rd Free”.  It was a moral imperative!

I generally refuse a bag when buying books, but the clerk was fast and the bag was marvelous!  San Luis Obispo County has banned single-use plastic bags; the front of this heavy paper shopping bag has the beginning paragraphs of Tom Sawyer, and on the reverse is Moby Dick.

My wonderful bag of books from Barnes & Noble.

My wonderful bag of books from Barnes & Noble.

When I got home I discovered that Lily’s Scholastic Books order had arrived, and she and I are now the proud owners of four volumes of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan.  I have had volume two for ages, but didn’t want to read it before The Lost Hero.

I think I’ll settle onto the couch with a cup of tea and read for awhile.  Care to join me?


Growing a reader


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Ours is a household of readers.  At any given moment chances are very good that at least one of us is either engrossed in a book or is deep into Reddit or Facebook (yes, that counts as reading).  For their bedtime story, Georgia has been reading a beautifully illustrated volume of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to the girls several nights a week… unabridged in all its magical wordiness. So it is no surprise that Olivia is the best reader in her Kindergarten class; she is following in Lily’s footsteps by carrying a book with her whenever she leaves the house.

This being Saturday morning, I had the leisure to stay in bed a bit later than usual.  For thirty minutes or so I heard rustlings and creakings coming from the girls’ bedroom, so I knew at least one of them was awake.  When my curiosity got the best of me, I got up and peeked in.  There was Olivia propped up in her bed with The Teeny Weeny Tadpole in her lap, reading to her big sister.  She hesitated over a few words, but figured them out carefully; only once did she stumble…over “course”, as in “of course”.

Olivia represents the “perfect storm” for reading development:  a print-rich environment, family members who value and model reading, a lively curiosity, a wide vocabulary, and the ability to figure out words in context.  Also a Kindergarten teacher who encourages every opportunity for reading and challenges each reader at her own level and a grammy who was once a special education teacher.

Next week they are celebrating Dr. Seuss every day; Olivia has already packed her copy of The Foot Book to read to her classmates.  Life doesn’t get better than this!

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Georgia introducing Olivia to Calvin and Hobbes at The Lunchbox.