Ten O’Clock Scholar – picture prompt

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For the next few weeks, I’m stepping away from romance and working on something new, Ten O’Clock Scholar. In this story, Peggy, a mother of two young boys, decides to go back to college and get her Interior Design degree. The only problem with her plan is a reluctant husband. Peggy soon learns what it’s like trying to complete homework assignments, draw plans, and take required home tours while maintaining a home and caring for two little ones – with no support and a lot of opposition from hubby. Will she survive and achieve her dreams? Or will the struggles and arguments undermine her and make her give up? Stay tuned and read along as we find out.

This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Picture prompt weeks are quick reading, as we’re only allowed a 300 word snippet.

Enjoy this week’s story snippet, then return to Tuesday Tales for more delightful reading.

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Textiles, History of Western Architecture, Space Planning, Lighting, Design Studio; the class requirements for an Interior Design major beckoned from the inky pages. Peggy ran her finger down the list, stopping at the classes that appealed to her. She couldn’t wait to get to some of the fun classes. But, she knew that she’d have to start with the preliminary classes first. “Introduction to Interior Design,” she read aloud and groaned. “I want to get to the good stuff.” She spoke aloud as if she weren’t sitting in the living room by herself.

A few of the classes were intimidating. Introduction to Lighting and CAD for Interior Design were two programs she’d love to skip. Unfortunately, they were both subjects she’d need to have knowledge of it she wanted to pursue this career field.

Could she do it? Could she complete the entire program while taking care of the house and her family? She wasn’t entirely sure. It was one thing to have a dream and the desire to follow it. Knowing whether or not she could achieve her dream was something else entirely.

She flipped to the pages tucked in the back of the catalog. One sheet outlined the courses she’d need – forty eight units if she took the required and the recommended classes. Another page had the general education requirements, another eighteen units. Did she want to go for the whole Associates Degree, or just tackle the classes for her certificate and get out of school quicker?

Unable to decide at that moment, she dropped the school catalog down beside her and reached for the Architectural Digest laying on the table next to the sofa. Leafing through the glossy pages, she browsed through the elegant rooms full of polished parquet floors, stunning stained glass windows and ornate stairways.

Ten O’Clock Scholar – love

Welcome to my Tuesday Tales post. For Tuesday Tales, a group of authors write to a word prompt. Once a month we spin a scene around a picture prompt.

In Ten O’Clock Scholar, Peggy, a mother of two young boys, decides to go back to college and get her Interior Design degree. The only problem with her plan is a reluctant husband. Peggy soon learns what it’s like trying to complete homework assignments, draw plans, and take required home tours while maintaining a home and caring for two little ones – with no support and a lot of opposition from hubby. Will she survive and achieve her dreams? Or will the struggles and arguments undermine her and make her give up? Stay tuned and read along as we find out.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘love.’

Enjoy this week’s story snippet, then return to Tuesday Tales for more delightful reading.

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Derek hopped out of the van, a perpetual cigarette dangling from his lips and headed towards the garage door.

Peggy readjusted a sleepy toddler on her shoulder. “You’re home early. You finish the last house today?”

“Naw. We’ll finish it up Monday. If it doesn’t rain.”

“I thought the boss wanted all the wiring done this week. Wasn’t that what his big rant was earlier in the week?”

Lifting the heavy, unautomated garage door, Derek shrugged. “That’s what he wanted. But I’m done for the day. I’m meeting Kirk the airfield. I want to try out the Mustang that I finished last night. See how it’s gonna fly.”

“You and your damn toys. If it’s not the planes, its guns or motorcycles.” Peggy muttered under her breath as she turned her back and stomped towards the front door.

“I’m going with Daddy,” Cliff hollered. He followed his father into the garage, set in his plan to go with his dad and hang out with the big guys.

Peggy stopped and called out over her shoulder. “Is he going with you?”

tt-mustangDerek reappeared from the depths of the garage, carrying a black and silver radio controlled plane in one hand, RC control in the other. “Yeah. Grab a jacket for him though. We’re gonna be out there till dark.”

Biting her lip to keep her retort unspoken, Peggy went inside to lay Jonathan down and look for the leather bomber jacket they’d gotten Clifford, dad’s little mini-me, for Christmas.

Luckily for Peggy, the little one closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep as soon as she laid him down. Retrieving the garment from the closet, surprised it was even hanging up where it belonged, Peggy took it outside. She knew that Derek wouldn’t take the time to come in for it himself.

She stepped outside in time to see another plane added to the back of the van, with the empty ice chest going in last. She knew that they’d stop at the QT on the way out of town to fill the cooler with ice and beer. Lots of beer. Then they’d be off to the mock airstrip where the men gathered in the evenings and on the weekends.

Derek grabbed the jacket from her and headed towards the driver’s door without a backward glance, nor a goodbye. At least Clifford came running back for a hug and kiss before he rushed to the passenger side to join his dad.

Peggy headed back inside with her emotions torn. This left her Friday afternoon husband-free and quiet, which was a good thing. But, yet, she fumed about Derek spending every Friday night, Saturday and Sunday in his recreational pursuits.

Thoughts rolled through in a turmoil – While the grass grows knee high, the house paint is peeling, and there’s still a hole in the wall that need patched from the latest angry punch. God forbid he’d have to spend the evening here in family time – let alone any special time for just the two of us. Whatever did I see in the man?

A slideshow of snapshots drifted through her mind, memories of happier times. As she remembered specific events – motorcycle rides to Big Bear, four wheel driving in the desert, shooting rifles at the local range – it dawned on her that the time they spent together revolved around Derek’s favorite activities. Always.

“There was a time I was in love with him. I know there was.” She spoke aloud to the silence surrounding her, as if trying to convince herself of the fact.

Looking around, she contemplated which task to tackle first – a sink full of crusted dishes, a mound of soiled clothing begging to be washed, a pile of mail needing sorted, or a stack of letters and cards needing answered.

Choosing to do none of the above, she grabbed a cold soda from the refrigerator, plucked the college catalog out of her purse and sat down on the sofa to browse through the interior design classes that were scheduled for the upcoming quarter.

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Ten O’Clock Scholar – metal

Welcome to my Tuesday Tales weekly post. Tuesday Tales is a group of authors writing in a variety of genres. Each week we write to a word prompt and once a month we spin a scene around a picture prompt. Picture prompt weeks are limited to 300 words, so reading that week is quick.

For the next few weeks, I’m stepping away from romance and working on something new, Ten O’Clock Scholar. In this story, Peggy, a mother of two young boys, decides to go back to college and get her Interior Design degree. The only problem with her plan is a reluctant husband. Peggy soon learns what it’s like trying to complete homework assignments, draw plans, and take required home tours while maintaining a home and caring for two little ones – with no support and a lot of opposition from hubby. Will she survive and achieve her dreams? Or will the struggles and arguments undermine her and make her give up? Stay tuned and read along as we find out.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘metal.’

Enjoy this week’s story snippet, then return to Tuesday Tales for more delightful reading.

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“You haven’t told him yet?” Samantha’s eyes opened wide and her hand flew over her wide open mouth.

“Nope. Not yet. You know how he is, you’ve been around long enough.” The frown furrows around Peggy’s eyes deepened and her irises darkened as her anger flared. “You know he’s not supportive of what I try to do. All he does is tear me down and find fault. He’s the first one to point out why I can’t do something or why I’ll fail or why it won’t work. Unless…it comes to his model airplanes…or whatever his hobby of the month is. That’s a different story.”

“Yeppers. I’ve seen him in action. I have to admit that many times I’ve gone home wondering about how you’ve even stayed married to him all these years.”

playground.jpgPeggy’s eyes strayed over to the playground area and she pointed at her youngsters at play. “Two reasons. Right there. The boys, and the fact that I’m not working. That in itself limits my options.”

“That’s true. I’m glad that George and I have a good marriage. Most of the time at least. I wouldn’t know what I’d do if I had to support the girls as a single mother.” Samantha glanced at phone in her hand. “Arghhh. I’ve got to go. Mom in law is coming for dinner tonight and there’s tons I need to do before she pulls in the driveway.”

“She still a picky eater? What are you fixing?”

“We’re going out. Then I don’t need to try to cater to what she’ll eat or can’t eat. Or is allergic to – as she claims. So I really just need to do a major, thorough cleaning before she and her white gloves appear.” She stopped long enough to call out to her girls who were intent on the swings, each trying to pump their little legs harder to be the one swinging the highest. “Denise! Linda! We’ve got to go.”

As Samantha began gathering up sweaters, loose shoes and all the other mothering paraphernalia that goes along with an afternoon at the playground, she asked Peggy, “So…what are you fixing for dinner tonight?”

fish-sticks“Fish sticks.”

“Oh yeah. It’s Friday. Hey, are you Catholic or something? What is it with you and your fish on Friday?”

Peggy chuckled and rubbed her hands together with glee. “No, not Catholic. Fish sticks are cheap. And easy. But…best of all…Derek doesn’t really like them. He says they’re not a ‘real’ meal. It’s my little passive-aggressive way to get back to him for being such a butthead sometimes.”

Samantha laughed as she stood, shoved her phone in her back pocket and held her palm high in the air. “High-five, girl! You’ll have to keep me posted about the school thing. Who knows…maybe he’ll be okay with it this time around, and at least compromise with you.”

“Ha! I doubt it. There’s one way in the house. His way.” Peggy patted the bench she sat on. “He’s as rigid in his opinions as this seat is.”

By the time the boys were latched into their car seats and Peggy made the mile drive home, the knot in her stomach felt like one of the cast iron metal balls used in shot put competitions. She carefully eased a sleeping toddler out from under the straps, intending to take him straight to his bed for a continued nap.

Rambunctious four-year-old Cliff had other plans for his little brother. “Jonathan…wake up! We’re home.”

“Shhhh!” Peggy hushed Cliff, then glanced down to see a pair of tiny eyes peeping open at her. She grabbed for the diaper bag, trying not to drop her purse in the process, then groaned as she heard an engine and looked up to see Derek’s red work van coming to a stop in front of the house.

Ten O’Clock Scholar

Welcome to my Tuesday Tales weekly post. Tuesday Tales is a group of authors writing in a variety of genres. Each week we write to a word prompt and once a month we spin a scene around a picture prompt. Picture prompt weeks are limited to 300 words, so reading that week is quick.

For the next few weeks, I’m stepping away from romance and working on something new, Ten O’Clock Scholar. In this story, Peggy, a mother of two young boys, decides to go back to college and get her Interior Design degree. The only problem with her plan is a reluctant husband. Peggy soon learns what it’s like trying to complete homework assignments, draw plans, and take required home tours while maintaining a home and caring for two little ones – with no support and a lot of opposition from hubby. Will she survive and achieve her dreams? Or will the struggles and arguments undermine her and make her give up? Stay tuned and read along as we find out.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘track.’

Enjoy this week’s story snippet, then return to Tuesday Tales for more delightful reading.

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“I stopped by and picked up catalog at the college yesterday.” Peggy sipped her soda as her head swiveled to the play area behind her, doing a head count looking for her two boys.

“Girl…you did not tell me you were doing that.” Surprise registered on her best friends face. Samantha, or ‘Sami’ as most of her friends called her, was busy doing the same thing as Peggy, keeping a close eye on her two girls as they ate lunch and caught up with each other while the children played on the playground.

10-oclock_7Peggy’s head swiveled as she chatted. Talk and look. Watch and count heads. One boy there. Where’s the other? There he is. Both accounted for. All is well in the world. “Yes I did. I told you a few weeks ago.”

“You did? I don’t remember. With everything I have going on right now, I guess I can’t keep track of what’s happening in your life.”

“We were here when I told you. Probably sitting on the same bench…” Peggy paused as she stood and yelled across the play yard to her oldest son. “Clifford Anthony! Do not help your brother up there. He’s too little.”

Sitting back down, she muttered, “Good thing these play yards are all plastic now and not metal.” She fidgeted with her hair, fixing a ponytail escaping from its stretchy band and groaned in frustration. “Kids. Those two wear me out. That’s why I need to go back to school. I need to do something for myself.”

Samantha raised her palm in the air. “High five, girlfriend. I hear you on that. So…what classes are you going to take? Any special program, or just general education classes?”

10 oclock_1.jpg“Interior Design. I’m going to go back to working on the degree I started to get ten years ago.”

“Oh, you’re before-kids-schooling? Before all your time went to mothering?”

“My before-marriage-schooling. I stopped taking classes long before the kids arrived. Once I had a ‘Mrs.’ in front of my name, Derek didn’t like me going to school and being out in the evenings.”

Samantha’s hand stopped in midair, holding a French fry halfway to her mouth. “If your old man didn’t want you going to school then, how’s he taking the news now that you have two little ones?”

Peggy pursed her lips and stalled. “Hmmmm…well…he doesn’t exactly know yet.”

 

 

OMG, I’m Becoming My Mother

Originally published at Scary Mommy and republished in In Celebration of Mothers.

OMG, I’m Becoming My Mother

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Iona Mae Burk – the mother that pops out of my mouth when I least expect it.

I opened my mouth the other day, and my mother popped out.

This was not supposed to happen, ever—at least not when I am still this young.

My sister and I used to joke together, back in our younger days (like, in our 30s) about how our mother was turning into Grandma. We’d chuckle that self-righteous laugh, because we knew that was never going to happen to us.

But somewhere along the line, we grew older and slid into another decade. We didn’t recognize that fact, at least not out loud and not to one another. After all, those odd stray gray hairs appearing at the most inopportune moments can be covered up. That “middle-age stretch?” Well, that’s what blousy tops and jeans with spandex are for. We can still rock it with the best of them…mostly.

Then one afternoon, after a particularly aggravating argument with a teenager, my lips parted, and my mother came hopping out: “Jason Patrick Dean (name changed to protect the not-so-innocent), if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?!”

Oh my God.

There are no appropriate words to describe the look on my face when I recognized the momentous event that had just happened. How many times had I heard this same exact phrase throughout my own teenage years? I called my sister to commiserate. “I know,” she said. “I’ve already heard Mom’s words come out of my mouth too.”

For the record, although she is several years younger than I am, my sister started her family earlier, so she was slightly ahead of me on this downward slide. “I was afraid to say anything. I hoped it wasn’t happening,” she said. As we started talking and comparing notes, we came to the conclusion that we’d been guilty of this for more years than we cared to admit.

“Don’t make me come in there!”

“Don’t use that tone with me.”

“It’s for your own good.”

“I know all. I have eyes in the back of my head.”

“As long as you live under my roof…”

“Close the door. Do you live in a barn?”

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

“Do you think money grows on trees?”

“Because I’m the mom.”

“Because I said so.”

The statements varied with the ages of the children. There were the standard responses we used on the younger ones, and then as their years advanced, we gradually slipped into the intermediate course of Mother Talk, rapidly earning credits that would have us graduating with honors.

The day when that first phrase leaps out and you recognize that it’s your mother talking instead of calm, rational, grown-up, independent you–I think that’s your graduation day, the day you take the mantel (whether you want it or not) and carry on down the road. That’s the day when you realize you’re on a long, slippery slope and you’re sliding down it much faster than you ever expected to.

Not that we’d ever wished to move on down this road. During our 20s and 30s, we thought we were immune to this syndrome. We were strong. We were invincible. We were our own women, not ones who would parrot our mother for the rest of our lives.

“I’m going to give you to the count of three.”

“I’ve had it up to here!”

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

The memories of words spoken long ago come drifting back through my memory. That’s when I realize I’ve been my mother all along. This change didn’t magically appear in my 40s. I’ve been her. I’ve just dressed her up in different clothes and makeup to disguise something I didn’t want to acknowledge.

“I’ll treat you like an adult when you become an adult.”

I guess I am now officially an adult.

I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry for all the times we laughed about how you were becoming more like Grandma Jones every day.

While we’re on the subject, I may as well apologize for all the times I talked back to you. For the times I didn’t clean my room—instead, I shoved everything under my bed. For the times I lied to you about where I’d been or what I’d done. For all the times I didn’t appreciate you or the sacrifices you made to give us what you could.

“If I told you once, I told you a thousand times…” Yes, you did probably tell us a thousand times, just as we’ve repeated to our own children.

I take a look in the mirror. A slight twist, a slight squint of the eyes. Yes, there she is—my mother. Maybe this growing older part isn’t all as bad as I’d thought.

 

 

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In Celebration of Mothers pays tribute to the many avenues of motherhood – from young mothers enjoying their children to mother missing the children in their nest, children’s memories of their mother’s and beautiful tributes to their lives, and the heartfelt thoughts from some who gave a mother’s love to their nieces and nephews. Many women and men shared tributes to mother’s gone from this earth too soon, to some who lived long full lives of over a hundred years old.

Peonies and Peppermint

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. Molly, a young girl from a neighboring farm comes to fetch Jennie’s help in birthing a baby for her mother. When Mr. Rider arrives home, he’s not so pleased to see the women there, despite his wife needing assistance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘island.’

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“We don’t need you Northerner’s here meddling in our business.”

Jennie hesitated before answering, trying to remain polite, despite the man’s rudeness. “Molly came to fetch me. Your wife needed assistance.”

“Oh, fiddle-cock she did. Now…skedaddle. Git on out a’ here.”

Eliza looked on anxiously as she gathered her mother’s supplies and tucked them back in the basket.

“Now…John…” Martha protested weakly from the bed where she lay nursing the baby. “Mrs. Barnes only…”

“Hush, woman,” the angry husband commanded. He tightened his shoulders and banged his fist on the table shaking the pail of water remaining from birthing the baby. Water sloshed over the sides and ran down the crude hewn legs, leaving a damp circle of wetness in the packed dirt floor. “They did enough damaged here during the war. She needs to just git on home. Better still…” His face turned a bright shade of scarlet as he continued his rant. “Git on back to Missouri. We don’t need you and yore likes here.”

Mr. Rider took a step closer to the bedside and Eliza scurried to her mother’s side, clutching her mom’s basket tightly in her hands, as if the woven basket could protect them from the wrath of an angry, six foot tall man.

Jennie started to open her mouth – then thought better and clamped it shut. Grabbing her daughter’s hand, the two fled the tiny abode, unsure how far Mr. Rider’s temper would flare.

The two women hurried back to their own property, arm in arm, not saying a word until they were clear of the Rider’s rickety cabin. Their stride was harried and purposeful, making the return journey almost as quickly as when they’d rushed to their neighbor’s aide.

Jennie was the first to break their silence. “Doesn’t he know the old saying about ‘no man is an island’?” she muttered, more to herself than to her daughter.

“Probably not, since I don’t know what you mean by that. I’ve heard you say those words before though. Just never gave it no mind to what you meant by it.”

“Simple enough. Merely that no one is self-sufficient. Everyone relies on others. Even if its neighbors you don’t like ‘cuz they’re from the north.”

“You make them fancy words up yourself?”

“Not a chance.” Jenny laughed and the stress lines around her mouth eased a little. “My granddaddy used to say it quite a bit. Came from one of his treasured devotion books. The one he read most often, after his Bible. Think it was an English author. Way back before his time even.”

log-cabin-inside“Surprised you even remember the saying. You must have been a small tyke.”

“Indeed I was. Barely knee-high to a grasshopper. I loved that old man to pieces.” A gentle smile appeared as Jennie seemed to step back in time, fondly recalling memories of her younger years. “Used to sit on the floor by Granddad while he read scriptures and devotions to us in the evening.”

The women didn’t tarry and kept on walking. Each seemed lost in their own thoughts. As they rounded the final bend before their property, Jennie burst out suddenly. “I remember! ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.’ It came back to me…just as if Granddad were reading aloud to me.”

“And that is what being neighborly is all about,” Eliza replied.

“It surely is, daughter.”

David stood in the open doorway of their log structure, watching his wife and daughter return. “I was worried. You’ve been gone quite a while since Eliza fetched your remedy basket. He stepped back and let the women enter. “Everything alright at the Rider’s?”

“That hard headed, obstinate man!” Jenny spit out. “You’d think we gone done and killed his favorite hog, the way he was going on. Why, just remembering what all he said has me all worked up like a wet hen again.” She moved to the wash basin sitting on the table and started scrubbing her hands as if she could wash the angry words from her mind. “Wantin’ us to go on back to where we came from. And with us just there to help his wife,” she sputtered.

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

Peonies and Peppermint – bread

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bread.’

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“Over here!” Eliza called out first. “Coltsfoot. A huge patch coming up.”

Jennie stepped over to Eliza’s side of the hollow and kneeled next to Eliza who was already plucking the fresh greenery sprouting from the earth. The women spent several minutes, tugging the emerald stalks that poked their way through the mulch of oak and sassafras leaves. Jennie added a handful to Eliza’s basket. “Better to keep it all together and not have to sort it out later.”

When they’d cleared a good portion of the patch, leaving some to grow and propagate, Jenny stood and wiped her brow. Looking over at her daughter, she squinted, as if sizing her up to see how she was holding up. Not even a bead of sweat glistened on Eliza’s brow. Jennie decided that they were good to keep going a bit longer.

They hadn’t wandered far from their first treasure trove when Jennie found the next. “Over here. There’s some nettles on this side.”

tt-picking-herbsThe women plucked gingerly on this crop. Even so, Eliza still muttered an occasional, “Ouch!”

Jennie laughed softly under her breath. “I see you don’t have as much experience at picking nettles.”

“No, I don’t, Mother. Honestly. I don’t know how you’ve done this for all these years.”

“It’s not so bad really. Look for the youngest ones. They’re not as prickly.”

“My fingers are starting to burn.” Eliza stuck a finger in her mouth and sucked on it to try to ease the sting.

“I’d say rub it with parsley when we get back, so you don’t get a nettle rash. But, I don’t think the parsley has come up yet. I’ll put a salve on it instead.”

“You and your herbs. Leave it to my mother to know what to do.” She stopped and looked at her mother with a quizzical expression on her face. “How’d you learn all of this?”

“Why, from my mother, of course. And her mother, too. Mostly from Granny, I suppose. She kept all the knowledge in her head. Walking through the woods with her was like having a talking book with you.” She smiled and paused, reflecting on her memories before she continued. “She knew more about plant medicine than anyone around. I don’t know but a small piece of what all she knew.”

Eliza sat on a large rock and let her mother finish pulling what she wanted.

Jennie glanced up and saw that her daughter looked paler than when they’d set out. Moving slowly and carefully up the hill towards where Eliza sat, Jennie plucked a folded dishtowel from her apron pocket. She unfolded the towel to reveal two slices of bread nestled inside the towel. “Here, dear. Have a bite to eat. I brought us each a slice. Then, let’s head back. We’ve got enough. Once your father digs the sassafras for me, I’ll be set for a good bit.”

About half way back to their cabins, Eliza looked up by a rock over cropping. She squinted and held her hand up over her eyes. “Look at all the brambles up there. It looks like berry vines. Maybe blackberries. Don’t you use blackberry leaves for something?”

“I make a tea with the dried leaves. They’re probably not leafed out enough yet. I usually harvest those around May or June.”

“You’re right. They’re not very green yet. Looks like they’re just budding. We’ll come back later to get some.”

“That would be nice, dear. I always appreciate your help. I’m surely pleased with what we did find today.”

They neared the spring and sat their baskets and walking sticks down to wash their hands and rest for a moment.

The peace was broken by the frantic calls of a young girl. “Mrs. Barnes! Mrs. Barnes!”

Jennie looked confused. She stood and surveyed the landscape, looking for the source of the cries. She finally spotted the youngster, their neighbor’s daughter, running down from the back side of the house. “Molly?”

 

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

Peonies and Peppermint –

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘town.’

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Sleep was a long time coming for Jennie. Not so for her husband, who was snoring loudly a good while before she extinguished the lantern and headed to bed. When feeble early sunlight began peeking in through the chinks around the window, Jennie was already laying there with her eyes wide open. A hoarse, groggy rooster crowed from the yard, sounding far from energetic himself.

Jenny eased out of bed, the husks in the mattress rustling with her movement. David stirred in his slumber, but she knew that he would be up not far behind her. She slipped out the door, headed towards the privy in back. Pausing, she basked in the beauty of the still, early morning. The sun barely shone over the ridge to the east. The soft call of owls followed their otherwise silent flight as they completed their final runs for the night before heading back to their nests to doze. A full moon hung in the west, soon to dip below the horizon.

full-moon-morning-sky

A crunch of dried leaves warned her of company approaching. She looked up to find her husband headed in her direction.

He wiped sleep from his eyes before he combed his fingers through locks of tousled hair. “Enjoying your solitude?”

“Aye. ‘Tis peaceful out here at daybreak.” She pointed to the western sky. “It’s the Peony Moon this month. I was so worried about Eliza last night that I nigh on didn’t notice.”

David glanced around the homestead, squinting his eyes as he peered at the small clumps of green foliage beginning to sprout around the sides of the tiny, handcrafted cabin. A puzzled look crossed his face. “There’s lots of plants and flowers that you tend to through the year. Don’t remember seeing any peonies here.”

“No. Not here.” A sad look replaced the peacefulness that had filled her face just moments before.

“You always had lots of peonies. They were your favorite bloom.”

“I lost the seeds on the move here. Remember, we lost a crate when it fell off the wagon and tumbled down the ravine?”

“I recollect that incident. I thanked the Good Lord that we didn’t lose the whole wagon on that nasty turn just outside of that small town we stopped at in southern Missouri.”

“Or our lives. The whole wagon could have gone down. Along with us. A packet full of seeds wrapped in a piece of muslin is insignificant compared to what could have happened.”

He stood and wrapped his arms around his wife. “My best hammer was in that box we lost. But it doesn’t compare to the thought of losing you. You are more precious to me than any of our possessions.”

A pleased smile replaced the earlier frown that had briefly settled on Jennie’s countenance when she’d thought of losing her beloved flower seeds. “Yes. We all four made the journey safely. Being here together as a family is more important than where we lay our heads at night. We’re still together and all healthy. Mostly. Except for Eliza right now.”

“Want to go check on her?”

Jennie fought an impulse to run towards the cabin that housed her daughter and son-in-law. “No. Most likely she’ll still be sleeping. I’ll fix our breakfast first. Then I’ll dash over and check on her.” She pointed towards the weather-beaten outhouse sheltered by a towering oak and giggled. “After I stop in here first.”

“Hurry up woman, before I beat you to it.” David patted her retreating rear as she turned and moved towards the outbuilding.

 

Peonies and Peppermint – band

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘band.’

TT_banner

1881, Rogers, Arkansas

Wadding her apron into a bundle, Jennie carefully eased the cast iron skillet off the cook stove. She settled it on the sturdy metal trivet on the counter and plucked two steaming biscuits out. She dropped them on a plate that was already filled with several pieces of fried chicken and mound of mushy green beans. She handed the plate to her husband, who sat at the oilcloth covered table with knife and fork in hand as if a king waiting for his royal due.

two-women-standing-on-a-log-ca-1900.jpg

My inspiration for Jennie Lee and her daughter

She wiped her hands on the white cotton apron around her waist. “I’m going to run over to Eliza’s while you’re eating and check on her.”

“Something wrong with the girl?”

“No. Not that I know of. Just haven’t seen her today yet. She’s usually over her in the afternoon when she gets done with her chorin’.”

“Probably got busy. She’s a married woman now. Not a little girl tied to yore apron strings anymore.”

A soft sigh escaped Jennie’s lips. “I know. But she’s so good about stopping by every day that I worry if she doesn’t.” She wrung her hands absently, not even realizing what she was doing.

“Could have fooled me. You two…yore thick as thieves. Why, I’d almost claim you were attached at the hip. Good thing their house is on our land, nice and close. Why…Jennie Lee…whatever would you do if you had to make the trip clear into town to see your daughter? Or, heaven help us…what if they’d decided not to move south with us?” Her husband took a bite of beans and swallowed before continuing. “What if they’d stayed up in Missouri? You’d be in a mess o’ trouble then.”

“Why David Carl Barnes! How can you even utter that thought?” Color flooded her cheeks as the possibility of what could have happened flitted through her mind. “Of course she and her Luke would move with us. She is my only daughter.”

“I know that, dear.” His face softened and his eyes clouded slightly. He spoke a little softer with his next words. “I know it’s harder. Since the other losses. I’m just a’ sayin’ that you might want to give the girl a little room. She does have her own husband and house to tend to now.”

Jennie settled down in the vacant chair, her empty plate staring up at her. She spoke in a whisper. “It’s only that I worry so.”

Her husband shook his head and picked up a chicken leg. “I know you do. I’d almost think your name was ‘Jennie Worry’ instead of ‘Jenny Lee.’ Run along. Go check on the girl. Make sure everything’s all right.”

Before he finished speaking, Jennie leaped from the table and was lifting her apron over her head. She barely hung it on the hook on the wall before the door was slamming behind her as she rushed down the path towards her daughter’s abode.

The sun set long before Jennie returned home. The kerosene lamp sitting in the middle of the kitchen table cast a band of light around the one room cabin. David sat reading his Bible and held his finger on the verse to keep his place. Jennie gathered her sewing basket from beside the bed and joined him at the table.

He licked his thumb and turned a page before questioning after Eliza’s welfare. “You were gone a long while. Is the girl ill?”

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

Wordless Wednesday

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