Life in Iowa

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The LEAKERS

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If you live anywhere on planet earth then I’m sure you are well aware that last weekend was Greater Rolfe Days here in  the crown jewel of America: Rolfe, Iowa.

For two and a half days our little family of 540 or so will get together and celebrate all that is Rolfe. There are tractor rides, the Lutheran Women’s Pie and Ice Cream Social, the rodeo…there are also the kids’ games.

Julie and I have done the kids’ games for most of the 11 years that we’ve lived here. Wanna know how it went? Here’s an excerpt I wrote in a letter to a friend:

So easy!

Yesterday the kids’ games went great. There were of course several fiascos, but I’ve learned not to worry as no matter what, the kids just have fun. The main fiasco was the water balloons we bought. For years Julie and I have sat at the outside spigots at our various houses because those were the only faucets that would take our water balloons. There we would sit, sweating and swearing in the hot, hot sun trying to fill a hundred plus water balloons, missing the parade and other festivities. We were so happy to see a new invention that fills up 20 balloons at once! Not only that, they seal themselves when filled! BRILLIANT.

I got to Julie’s house 45 minutes before the games to help set up as planned, only to find Julie and Scott frantically trying to get the water balloons filled. They weren’t sealing themselves, as advertised!

Here’s how they’re supposed to work: Each balloon has an incredibly tiny rubber band, and when the balloon is filled it comes off this little tube, and the rubber band is supposed to close the neck of the balloon enough that the water doesn’t come back out. Apparently, the tiny rubber bands weren’t tiny enough. So there we were, sitting at this big tub attached to the back of Julie and Scott’s lawn mower, Scott was working the hose and Julie and I were working like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory trying to shove those little rubber bands down far enough so that the balloons wouldn’t leak. That *mostly* did the trick.

We tried taking the worst of them and tying knots instead. These balloons are made to be thin-skinned and are also biodegradable. Great for our planet, but tying? Not so much. I pride myself on the nimbleness of my fingers. I felt like Shrek with those little things.

Julie asked Scott what time it was amidst our frantic fumbling and when she heard she swore. Five minutes before game time and there were still dozens to go! I gathered up what we would need for the first game and took off to the park, leaving Julie and Scott to finish the balloons and follow. When I got there, there were several kids waiting.

“Not to worry, kids! We’ve had a slight water balloon emergency, but everything will be just fine!” I said cheerily.

I then started the first game which involved colanders and water and a relay to fill a empty ice cream bucket. As I was demonstrating, I dipped the colander into the trough and was going to put it over my own head for entertainment purposes. Plus, I was hot. But the thing was empty before I got it two feet out of the trough! This wasn’t going to work. Thinking fast, I doubled the colanders. Not much better. 

Thinking even faster, I ran to my car and found…shopping bags! PHEW. If you put shopping bags into colanders, yes, it’s not tidy looking, but it stopped the water leaking enough…In my mind, the parents were thinking, “Why don’t they test these things out first?” although I’m sure they were far more charitable than that.

Then Julie arrived, absolutely mortified. Against Scott’s advice she had attempted to dump some of the water out of the tub. Half of those hard-gotten balloons had fallen out, just as Scott had warned. He was right! THIS TIME.

We are SAVED!

Even though we’d planned to finish with a water balloon fight, such was the fragility of these fiddly balloons that we had to have it right there and then. There were so few that had survived the leaking and dumping that the fight lasted less than two minutes and the kids were still raring to carry on. This time it was Julie’s turn to think fast. “Scott, go to the grocery store and get some cups!” 

When Scott arrived with the cups…HUGE SUCCESS. This is Julie and my’s something like 10th time doing these kids games. All those years! ALL THOSE YEARS spent messing with those frustrating water balloons! And we weren’t saved with a new and handy invention, we were saved by plastic CUPS. Well, now we know.

We’re going to hot glue some of those colander holes for next year. Yessirree, next year will be PERFECT for sure…
Another Greater Rolfe Days Kids’ Games is in the history books.

Independence was adopted by…Deanna W. of Fredericksburg, Virginia. A new face! And she wrote me one of the nicest letters I’ve ever received. Thank you so much, Deanna!

I shall be going on a brief hiatus from Hazel Twigg, but do not forget me! I’ll be back!

And with that, I leave you! Happy hot days of summer! You’re my favorite.

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Hazel Twigg NOT DEAD!

Honestly, Reader. It’s not you, it’s ME.

As I mentioned in my last post, “Hazel Twigg LIVE!” I was going to do a series of videos and post them on Facebook and YouTube, and I did! I did my level best. This was all very new to me and really rather tricky. My brothers had grown somewhat impatient, wondering why I wasn’t also on Instagram and Snapchat, and why I wasn’t posting things several times a day. They had nothing but great and loving intentions. Nevertheless, I have since had an ever-so-genteel meltdown, with tears flowing down my face like the sparkliest of diamonds and hardly any snot at all.

I think of it as sort of a Stockholm syndrome thing going on here.

When I first moved to this small town of a scant square mile in the middle of nowhere ten and a half years ago, I had a hard time not going insane if I didn’t get out of town at least – at least – once a week.

Can you tell the deer guard is bent? It goes with my garage! I bought the car back when I was able.

Enter the winters. Sometimes there’s no traveling, even if you have the will. I learned this lesson my first winter here, where I had the worst case of cabin fever ever known to this woman. I HAD TO GET OUT OF TOWN. So I called a friend with a truck, and bless his heart, he hooked up my Durango, and he drrraaaagggggged me out of that last deep bank of snow in my driveway, bending my deer guard. I didn’t care! I was free! I WAS FREE!

When I finally got to Target an hour or so later by the skin of my teeth I was tempted to kiss the ground. Not because I was glad to see civilization in the form of retail, but because I was still alive. And desperately dreading the drive back home. I vowed never to drive when the weather was bad again.

Soon I was working from home on the dolls that I love so much, although my income was not a guarantee. If I was able to make it out of town once a month during the times when the weather was good I was grateful. Then came the year of operations with months of recovery time, which prompted me to give up my car altogether. For two years I bummed rides when I could. If I got a wild hair, which I frequently did, and longed to go somewhere, anywhere! I walked to the cemetery or grocery store instead.

To keep from going insane, I embraced the trap. I embraced it hard. A Stockholm vacuum as it were. A cozy cave were I could write and create and not comb my hair or wear a bra and I go for days where the only face I see is my dog Teddy’s. I often don’t set foot outside my own yard, let alone this little town in the middle of nowhere.

So going from that to opening myself up to the world just wasn’t going to happen. I love you madly and you ARE my favorite, we’re just going to have to take this thing a little bit slow.

But Hazel Twigg is NOT dead. Far from it! I’ve gone back to working on dolls in my cozy cave alone with no one watching and I’m feverishly working on the rewrite every chance I get. I’m excited about the book’s whole new direction and still believe in its upcoming success.  And 20 years from now I shall be the token old lady celebrity on season 57 of “Dancing With The Stars.” People shall watch in dreadful anticipation to see a legend author/doll restorer prance, and I shall surprise and amaze them with my nimble fluidity and my ability to kick high, for an old lady…

I’ll be doing a post on my current O.L.D. 88 Cinnamon Drop in a day or two.

And with that, I leave you! Never, ever forget YOU ARE MY FAVORITE and I adore you!

LISTEN! Do You Want To Know The Secrets…?

Here’s what’s going on with Hazel Twigg: in a nutshell, a LOT.

Last July I received the following rejection letter:

July 20, 2016 

Dear Ruth,

Thank you for submitting your manuscript, Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway, to __________ Publishing.

Unfortunately, this submission isn’t quite what we’re looking for. However, we enjoyed your story so much that we’d like to offer some feedback.

I’ll begin with the positives. First, I adored your well-developed characters. Every character I met (save for Hazel at times—see below) had a distinct personality, a memorable appearance, an interesting backstory, and clear goal. Your cast was so well-developed, in fact, that I can remember each member by name. Excellent work.

Second, I loved your whimsical voice. Your long, thoughtful sentences and cheeky tone remind me of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I found myself smiling every few sentences. Beautifully done. We very rarely find authors with such strong voices.

As for the negatives, there are three major reasons why __________ can’t accept your novel.

The first involves your point-of-view characters. __________ prefers stories told mainly from the perspective of a single character—in your case, Hazel. Your story is told from the perspectives of many characters. We (your readers) are often in the heads of characters we’re interested in but don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time with, e.g. the mad toymakers, the batty real-estate agent, the handsome bad guy. We’re much more interested in Hazel’s thoughts and actions.

Second, __________ prefers main characters who are active decision makers. We like characters with clear goals and a strong drive to meet those goals. While Hazel does make some decisions in the first half of the book, she often feels like she’s being dragged through her adventure against her will. Try making her a more active participant in the story.

Finally, the whole thing was a bit slow. I suggest reading Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat to learn how many successful authors and screenplay writers pace their books and movies.

Again, I’d like to stress how much I enjoyed your book. It has great publication potential. Should you choose to submit another manuscript to us in the future, we look forward to reading it.

All the best,

K.W.
Acquisitions Editor

*****

I agree with her criticisms (I bet you do too) and while the letter is brutally honest, being compared to Harry Potter is nothing to sneeze at! My thought is that if I can make these changes, and do them well, there’s an excellent chance this company will publish my book. I desperately wanted to tackle this rewrite, but real life abounds. There were bills to pay; if I could just catch up first…

Tom Hanks in Castaway

I’ve been living by the skin of my teeth for quite some time. Taking rather common old dolls and fixing them and dressing them and putting them up for adoption starting at $9.99 for a living isn’t for sissies; you miss a week here for a family reunion, a few days there for the flu, a doll or two or three don’t do as well as you’d hoped, and…how do you stop bailing long enough to reach out for a lifeline that could save everything? That lifeline being the possibility of future success and a much better boat if you just have the faith? I’m here to tell you, it’s very hard to do.

Enter my brothers! They’ve temporarily plugged the ship and put the lifeline within reach. All I have to do is learn to swim. Fast. They sent me a smart phone so that I could do live things via Facebook and Instagram and YouTube and the like. THIS is my chance for that final push to make Hazel Twigg all that it can be.

Jennifer is the BEST. And her hands are really quite pretty. Ahem.

The struggle is it’s as if I’ve been on a deserted island and have no idea how to do any of these things. Until two weeks ago, I’d never even texted! My dear friend, Jennifer Trenary, sat down with me and my new phone for nearly THREE HOURS to get me up to speed. Thank you, Jennifer!

The Rewrite

The premise of the book Save the Cat the publisher mentions in her letter is this: If your heroine does something in the beginning of the book such as saving a cat, your reader will like and trust her and want to spend time in her head. I promptly ordered the book and read it.

Over the months as I contemplated changes while still clinging stubbornly to my barely floating boat, I’ve giggled madly to myself with different scenarios for “cat saving”:

Hazel: “Hey mom, your tag is out. Let me fix that for you…”

Or here’s my sister Julie’s helpful suggestion: “Mithter! Mithter! You dropped your wallet!”

We cackled together over that one. I’m still working on it, of course…

That is just ONE of the challenges. I’ve removed all the non-Hazel-centric chapters and they totaled 26,500 words in all. Maxwell has been reduced to a car driving by. Smith and Jones have completely disappeared. POOF! It’s daunting, to say the least, but it needed to be done and I’m grateful to actually have the chance to sit down and DO IT.

The Future

Here is the plan: I’ll be doing one or two dolls a month, and I’ll be taking doll people and anyone else who wants to watch on the journey with me step-by-step, as a doll person, a writer, and a liver of life in the middle of nowhere in Iowa. I’ll be doing so via several new fronts that I’m just now learning, and I’ll be letting people into my sewing room, a place that I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve allowed in since I turned it into a sewing room a decade ago. I’ll be showing everyone how to do what I do. It’s a gamble. At the same time I’m going to do a complete overhaul of my book. AND there’s a deadline.

No pressure. No pressure at all…

But, hey! One of the perks of that is if I’m successful, it’ll make the current copies of the book as it is, 300 copies in all, worth MORE in the future!

You wouldn’t think it to look at it, but for some reason when my garage door is closed, there’s an eight inch gap on one side. Hmm…

I was all set to go starting today, but over the weekend there was a cat I couldn’t save: my own. Lilly was absolutely fine, then Saturday morning I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. I made her as comfortable as I could, checked on and fretted over her throughout the day, hoping it was something that would pass. By Saturday evening she was gone, just like that. It was very sudden.

I’m going to miss you, Lilly.

My sweet neighbor Tom M. was kind enough to gather her for me and put her in my neighbor Brandi’s garage for the night as my garage is not sound. On Sunday morning Julie and my brother-in-law Scott and I had a burial after much digging in slightly frozen ground. We put Lilly next to Elsie. We are down to two heartbeats in this house and it’s an adjustment, that’s all there is to it.

So starting tomorrow! Live, live, live! Swim, swim, SWIM.

Wish me luck and send me your prayers, please.

With that, I leave you! Happy Monday, you’re my favorite.

Clean Up Days to the Rescue!

taygal3aIt was obvious that the little girl standing in front of me had been subjected to a composition doll’s worst enemy next to water: FIRE. I immediately got to work on her, only remembering to take her “before” pictures halfway through. Her poor sooty skin was flaking off into my hands.

The fire, the fact that Iowa’s spring has seen a lot of rain, and the additional fact that this little girl’s name was Taylor all led me into the direction of O.L.D. No. 71 Taylor’s theme: Fire & Rain, based on that wistful James Taylor tune. It’s all well and fine to have a vision, but getting that vision to actually work is a different story altogether…

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Befores and Afters

It’s a good thing I have a sense of humor! And a very good imagination. I was cackling to myself these past two days as I tried and tried over and over to Get The Umbrella To Stand By Itself. 

“She makes everything look so easy!” the voices in my head from the constantly present audience teased, as I failed for the umpteenth time and the umbrella collapsed. But that’s the way it has to be: when I look at a Once-Loved Doll, the first words that come to mind HAVE to be, “She looks so cute!” and not, “Hm….I don’t like the shape of that umbrella…..”

Hence the delay. I destroyed the head massager that my sister had given me (there’s a dollar she’ll never see again!) and instead had to resort to one of my favorite things, wire hangers…

Thus begins the second half of my description for “Fire & Rain” Taylor, O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 71, added two days – TWO DAYS! – after I first put her up for adoption.

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The vase looked kind of like this.

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Aren’t glass garden sculptures pretty? The green will add a touch of color.

Once I got the shape better with those wire hangers, the problem became the weight of the umbrella head contraption. Fortunately, it had been Rolfe Clean Up Days a few days before. The one and only thing I snagged was a retro Regency-style vase. I had planned on using the green glass part to make a garden sculpture.

“Just keep the green glass part and throw the rest away!” my wee sister cried in her tiny, tinkly voice.

“Peanut gallery, HUSH!” I decreed.

She’s the peanut gallery, unless she’s spouting something brilliant, which happens more frequently than you’d think. Secretly, I would have gotten rid of the rest of the lamp right then and there, but I couldn’t figure out how to take it apart, so…

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VERSION 1: I wasn’t happy with the shape of the umbrella, and it couldn’t stand on its own. It was resting on the wall behind it.

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VERSION 2: Here’s our happy Taylor, dancing around a common street vase.

The metal parts were of a heavy pot metal. Finally! Something weighty enough to support that top-heavy umbrella!

“That’s going to cost extra shipping…” my wee sister, who in addition to being The Mayor, also just so happens to work at the post office, so she knows such things.

“I don’t care!” I cried, almost hysterical at this point.

I desperately needed to get on to the next doll, whose cries to be remembered (< a CLUE!) were growing louder by the day. But first, I had to make sure I got Taylor to a point where I could be happy with her.

1Taydress1“What’s with the vase?” my wee-voiced sister inquired, upon finally seeing the finished listing.

“That’s a street vase. All the best cities have them,” I sniffed.

One last note, the way the raincoat and hat came about is somewhat of a miracle. I happened to see all three of the fabrics I used for the umbrella, raincoat, and dress sitting side by side in the fabric section of a Walmart and thought, “Perfect for an umbrella, raincoat, and dress!” I considered buying some plastic sheeting, and sewing it to each piece. The thought made me not want to do it. But I couldn’t resist that fabric…

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Note the ladybug boots. They were a hoot to make.

I was patiently waiting for the nice woman to cut that fabric and give me my fix, when on a whim I asked, “Is there such a thing as plastic that you can some how fuse to fabric, to make it….”

Before I even finished my question and without uttering a word, this glorious woman went to a shelf and pulled a magical bolt from within its depths.

“This is iron on plastic,” she sang with a chorus of angels accompanying her words. As if it couldn’t get better, she continued, “It’s on close-out, and is a dollar a yard.” Trumpets! A full choir! And FLUTES! Lots and lots of flutes. I bought all that remained, which was about four yards, which means there will be more rain-coated O.L.D.’s to come. Taylor is the second, HERE is the first.

1TayallWhen I was in the thick of sewing, I had some doubts about some things.

“With the plasticized raincoat and hat, having a plasticized umbrella would be too much shininess,” I fretted aloud to my sister.

“Umbrella’s are usually just fabric anyway,” she replied.

Yessirree, sometimes that sister of mine is pretty brilliant. Phew.

Speaking of brilliant, the always treasured Michelle E. of Hudson, Colorado adopted Clare II. Which means, both Clare’s are united! Thank you, Michelle!

And with that, I leave you! Happy Sunday, you’re my favorite!

The Burn Circle

burnpThe other day, I decided to have pizza for supper. I turned on my trusty old stove and went about my business while I waited for it to warm up. A flash caught my eye. POOF! The oven was on fire! I could see flames through the window. Perhaps some previously dropped food was burning. I opened the door to see. Gasp! The heating element was sparking and spitting away like the wick to a bomb. I watched in dismay and fascination as it made it’s way aaaallllll around the element. When it finished, the floor of the oven caught fire. Not wanting to see what would happen next, I threw some flour over the flames.

Fast forward. I’d found a reasonably priced stove at a local store in Poky (aka “Pocahontas,”). Delivery would be in the early afternoon two days later. Excellent! I could do a little straightening in preparation, but spend the bulk of my time doing outside chores. I’d still have plenty of time to finish cleaning the morning of delivery…

burn1NOPE. I got a call the late in the afternoon. I’d been mowing and raking and pulling weeds.

“Would it be okay if the stove was delivered between 8:30 and 9:00 tomorrow morning?”

Um. “Of course! (my house is always neat as a pin. This will be no sweat at all!)

Every year when the cold weather starts and you live surrounded by cornfields that have been freshly harvested, you get mice. There’s just no two ways around it. It’s disheartening to see those little poops appear in your drawers and cupboards. You have to thoroughly clean not only the cupboards, but the contents, as well. You put out a little poison and wait a few days. If you don’t see any fresh poops, you put the contents back in their places and hope for the best. This year the mice would just not take the hint. A few days later, more poop would appear and the whole process would begin again. Such is the glamour of living out in the country in the middle of nowhere.

After the third or fourth time I gave up. I knew when the warmer weather hit and the fields were planted again, the little varmints would disappear. I decided to wait them out. For the past several weeks my pots and pans have been conveniently and pooplessly on my countertop. My silverware tucked into cupboards above, where mice don’t seem to go. All well and good when it’s just you there. Now I had company coming. Delivery men, to be sure, but company nonetheless.

burnwThe morning of the delivery, I bit that bullet, donned rubber gloves, and went for it. Plenty of time! I said to myself.

Hmm. All this cleaning was taking longer than I thought. Maybe the truck will be delayed. I called to check, only to be kindly reassured, “They’re loading up the truck now, they’ll be there very soon.”

GONE were the visions of my entire downstairs sparkling clean. GONE was the vision of a freshly mopped and gleaming floor. GONE was the vision of my washing machine in the basement merrily washing, the huge mountain of dirty laundry spitting out of my bathroom finally transferred downstairs to be washed, folded, and neatly put away. Perhaps I could paint my nails whilst I waited for their arrival, I had naively thought a mere two hours earlier.

Instead I SHOVED that pile of laundry further into the bathroom and slammed the door. I didn’t mop, instead settling for a quick sweeping. It was a decent enough job. One of the smartest things I did was to change the Scentsy.

“This house smells good,” I heard one of the appliance guys say as they left to go get the stove after surveying the kitchen. “Yeah, and look at that beautiful woodwork,” the other responded. I felt a glow.  They were far nicer than the Batman had been.

burnmburnhwWhen the stove guys removed the back of the old stove to get the cord (new stoves don’t come with cords nowadays, which seems odd and somewhat stingy), they discovered…an electrocuted mouse.

It’s rather ironic: my counters were cluttered for fear of a mouse. A nibbling mouse caused the death of my stove. The death of my stove caused the de-cluttering of my counters. Full circle! Now all is right in the world.

Until next year, of course.

There are many things afoot in the world of Hazel Twigg, thus leading to the brief hiatus when it comes to O.L.D.s. Updates coming soon, and a new doll coming this Sunday!

AT LAST.

marching-bandPROOF-First-Release DAmarching band

I have done it. I have finally held in my own two hands the culmination of a journey that began four years, one month, and nine days ago. Or thereabouts. The Proof copy of Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway! Once this copy is approved (and *Mayor Julie is going over it right now. I’m a little too close to it), then whoosh! The order for the limited First Release printing will be made!

HT_55B

Pinky becomes lost when a cat chasing a mouse knocks her out of a barn loft and she gets buried in the hay. She’s the first O.L.D. to come to Hollyhock Hideaway.

I’ll give more details later, but for now we’re planning on November 18 – also my brother Kenny’s birthday AND the date of my local library presentation, where there’s a good chance I’ll have actual books there for sale – as our official release date, including on Amazon.com.

I was looking over past emails from back in the day trying to find the exact date of when this all started. I wasn’t able to find it, but what I did find was somewhat amazing. This book has gone through so many changes. So many towns and characters and settings. But here’s an excerpt from an email to a friend I wrote less than a month after this all began back in 2011:

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Ruth makes new clothes for Pinky.

I was thinking that since dolls come and go here, my house could be the place that dolls who are no longer played with or who have been forgotten and neglected by their little girls escape to in the hopes of some day being loved again.  An orphanage of sorts, and in the meantime we have adventures!

HT_063

The bat finale in the attic.

Whether it’s bats in the attic, or a creature in the basement, or we explore an abandoned house looking for treasure or even just take our dog for a walk and the people that we meet.  In the meantime, I clean them up and make dresses for them and one by one they’re adopted out to happy houses.  Before you know it, ANOTHER lost little girl appears needing attention!  Wouldn’t that be fun?

After all the changes, this beginning kernel of an idea is what the book ended up being about. So many things have come together in its creation. But the most important thing to remember is that this isn’t just a book. To me it’s a movement to a new O.L.D. way of life. A back to the future in reverse. A return to the imagination that you create yourself, free of gadgetry. I’ve seen several memes along the lines of, “I’m so grateful I had my childhood before technology took over.” That’s the gist of the Hazel Twigg world in a (hazel)nutshell. More to come soon.

*In the meantime!

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DO NOT ASSUME.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Reliance, aka Rolfe, Iowa, don’t forget to VOTE FOR JULIE FOR MAYOR TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, at the ROLFE COMMUNITY CENTER. Don’t assume! She loves this town as much as I do and has its best interests at heart and has worked so hard and been so involved with everything, and not just these past two years. She truly cares. PLEASE VOTE!

Thank you! You’re my favorite!

One Fond Embrace…

RuthHawaiiPortrait

In our hallway in Hawaii my parents had portraits of each of us kids. I think they were hand tinted. This was mine.

Who says, “blondes can’t hula!”? Not me! Having been raised for a significant part of my childhood in Hawaii, I know whereof I speak. My mother told me that all the Hoale (pron. “How-lee,” meaning non-Hawaiian, namely white) women who gave birth to little girls over there would name them “Leilani.” In fact, my wee sister Julie was almost given that name when she was born, but with all the Leilanis running around, my mother just couldn’t do it. However! The little mother of this little girl saw fit to do so….

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Leilani

Thus begins the description of O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 50, Leilani. You can see her adoption page HERE.

No way could I let a significant number like 50 pass without a love note to the place where I spent half my childhood: Hawaii, the 50th state! We grew up on the north shore of Oahu in a little town called Laie (Lah-EE-ah). The beach was just down the street. I was baptized in the ocean! We had a breadfruit tree in our backyard, coconut trees and plumeria trees in our front, and wearing shoes to school was an option. Our own future Mayor was born there!

RuthHawaiiHulaa

May Day was a super huge celebration every year. That’s me, the tow-headed blonde, dancing with my classmates for Hawaiian royalty.

So when this little girl sashayed her way in and told me that her name was Leilani, I didn’t bat an eye. Of course it was! Perfect.

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Leilani comes with an optional lava-lava.

There was a lot of hula-ing going on these past few weeks as I hand-knotted Leilani’s grass skirt with raffia from The Dollar Tree. Her lei and headdress are felt flowers. It took some doing to get her lei to hang. I had to add little weights just so.

You may have noticed I’ve been missing for awhile. I have! Things are humming along, and not just with my dog walking gigs. A month or so ago I was giving a presentation to the children’s summer reading program about Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway. We met down the hall in the community center as the library was occupied by a ladies meeting. I talked about the three things I love that are in this story: old dolls, magic, and my own tiny town in the middle-of-nowhere, Iowa.

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Of all the combination City Hall/Library/Community Centers in all the little iddy-biddy Iowa towns in the world, she happened to pass through ours on just the right day…Photograph courtesy of my dear friend Jennifer.

Well, wouldn’t you know? That very day a Media Specialist for the Education Service Units (ESU) in Nebraska happened to be passing through Rolfe and was hanging out at the library to use the internet. She heard the ladies and the librarian at the meeting talking about me and my book, and now I’m going to be a keynote speaker at a workshop for school and public libraries in Nebraska on September 30th! KISMET.

This is exactly the kind of thing we need. What better way to spread the word about a book than librarians? How nifty that things came together the way they did!

In the meantime, I have a lot of catching up to do with doll adoptions.

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Leilani also has “street clothes” for when she chooses not to hula.

In addition to Leilani, I put a new girl up for adoption last night and there is still so much to do for her. Not only that, I’m going to attempt to turn right around and get another doll up for adoption this Sunday. I’ll be burning the midnight oil! This is what happens when you stop to do other things. Orphans start piling up, clamoring for attention!

Now for some more catching up: No. 48, Cassie, was adopted by Michelle E. of Colorado! Yes, THAT Michelle!

And No. 49, Andrea, was adopted by Barbara E. of Mississippi! A new face!

Thank you so much, Michelle and Barbara! This is belated, but you are very much appreciated and cheers to you both.

And with that, I leave you! ALOHA and happy Thursday, you’re my favorite.

 

Well I Would Not Give You FALSE HOPE

My beautiful little sister Julie. Photo taken just the other day, before the Rolfe Rodeo.

My sister Julie The Mayor has given me permission to tell her story.

As I posted awhile back, my brother-in-law Scott’s son recently had a rare and early stroke. After three weeks of ups and downs, he passed away. Evan was only thirty years old.

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ANDY. So handsome! The resemblance is uncanny. It’s like they’re related.

One month later to the day Julie received a most unusual phone call. When my family was living in England, Julie had a baby. Because of her young age, she put him up for adoption. She was never able to have children after that. I happened to call Julie just after she’d hung up from this unusual phone call and she was sobbing as I have never heard her sob before.

“I just got the strangest call,” she managed to say.

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Here Julie is holding my son Adam. Turns out we both had only sons whose names are four letters and begin with the letter “A.” She was following me in advance!

You must understand: I always wish Julie a Happy Mother’s day in May because she is a mother. She gave birth to a child and did the very best thing that she could for him by giving him up. We would talk about her son every now and then and calculate what age he must be at various times in our lives. When his 18th birthday came and had long since passed we went about our business, me wishing her “Happy Mother’s Day” over the years and her wistful “Thank you”s in return.

Back to that phone call. At first Julie thought it was a scam. It most gloriously was not. A few days later Julie was on the phone with her very British-sounding offspring. Her joy knows no bounds. “For the first time in my life I feel whole. I now know what was missing.”

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Andy is talented, charming and thoughtful. He sent Julie a gorgeous bouquet of flowers thanking her for giving him life. How sweet is that?!

Andy will soon be flying all the way from England to meet the mother that has always held him in her heart.

One hard aspect to deal with is Julie’s extreme happiness at gaining a son in the face of Scott’s recent loss. Scott looks at it another way: Perhaps Evan had a hand in putting all this together and timing it just so. Because thirty years ago just a few months apart two baby boys were born. Thirty years later and a few weeks apart the baton has been passed. I’m so very happy for you, Julie. And thank you Scott for being so gracious. Andy, we can’t wait to meet you and welcome you to our family!

AND NOW FOR A SWIFT CHANGE OF SUBJECT: I lost a day yesterday. Know why? Because of BAT. I had a BAT in my house! After two years of being bat free.

It was almost midnight when I spotted him flitting about in my room. I grabbed my wee dog Teddy and escaped to Julie’s so I could not sleep there (instead of not sleeping at my own house). The following morning I bravely went home alone. Scott was going to be coming by in just a half hour or so to try and find the bat and it was daylight. Everybody knows that vampires bats don’t fly in daylight. WRONG!

stock-illustration-23236081-scared-woman1The little critter flew at and around me in my sunny kitchen. I tried to see where he was going so I could point his whereabouts out to Scott. Turns out, it’s hard to see when your eyes are clamped shut and you’re screaming like a little girl! The bat couldn’t be found so I spent the day out of doors, mowing my lawn and watching “Outlander” (ooh-la-la!) with Julie instead.

bat4It wasn’t until later in the day that my hero Julie found the bat after an exhaustive search and plenty of fervent prayers. Hero Scott got him out of the house. In the meantime, I lost an entire day of sewing and toil. O.L.D. Andrea still needs half her clothes, and the next O.L.D. will be No. 00050! Which is a significant number and I simply can’t rush her to get her done by this Sunday. She’s going to have a theme. I’ll give you 50 guesses as to what that might be, and the first 49 don’t count. It’s a place near and dear to my heart.

Since I also have the final, final edits to do before the book goes to print, the next O.L.D. won’t be up for adoption until the following Sunday August 8th. Which also happens to be my parents anniversary.

These last edits are based on a professional editor suggestions. Reader, I am heartened and excited! She is a tough cookie and she really loves the book. FINGERS CROSSED! And back to work…

With that, I leave you! Andrea’s post will be coming soon! In the meantime, Happy Thursday, you’re my favorite.

 

By Their Baggies, Ye Shall Know Them

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It’s elementary, my love.

Oh sure, she may look like an ordinary O.L.D. going about her business, walking her dogs. But look out! Because when she dons her cape and grabs her spyglass, it’s certain that there’s a mystery afoot, and she is going to SOLVE IT.

Thus begins the description of O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 00044. You can see her adoption page HERE.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my sister Julie, aka The Mayor and I are frequently confused one for the other.

A few weeks ago she and I met at the train tracks near her house for a short visit walking our dogs. We parted ways, she and her dog Toby heading for her house, me and my dog Teddy heading for mine. In the distance coming towards me, I could see a friend named Karen. When we finally met, she said, “I knew it was you! Because of the white bag!”

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Julie says the one on the left looks like a gerbil. HMPF!

She was absolutely right. I’m always carrying a white grocery bag, and it is usually filled with, well. You can guess. Bless my heart. Julie carries a much more elegant and non-see-through black bag.

I’ve also mentioned that I have other odd jobs besides sewing for these dolls that I love so much: I’m a dog walker. More white bags. More…you know. So when I had a busy week full of various dog walkings, I decided to combine two of my loves: dolls and dogs.

My original plan was to create three dogs and to have said doll be a dog walker like myself. The week was a busy one, and after making two dogs I could see the writing on the wall. There would be no time to make a third and to make her clothing. I wouldn’t be caught naked walking around town, and I didn’t want the next O.L.D. to be either!

Another friend who works at the vet’s office (KISMET! The vet! Where dogs go) had recently given me a lovely bag of different plaid wools plus other treasures. I was going to make the next girl’s clothing and then try and go back and make an additional dog. By Friday, I could tell it wouldn’t fly. I had the coat and a pink dress made, but I still had a hat, a second dress and another odd job still to do and Sunday was flying towards me.

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Cheryl has given me so many, many wonderful things. THANK YOU, CHERYL!!!!

But that fabric! That fabric looked like….Sherlock Holmes to me. That was the only way I could possibly be satisfied with just two dogs. To call them “Watson” (<free pattern!) and “Holmes,” and to make the girl into a sleuth. I didn’t want to call her Shirley Holmes. Was there a girl associated with Sherlock himself? Yes, there was! A sometimes girlfriend named Irene. Which also happens to be my middle name! And I’m a dog walker! Full circle.

I added a cape and made a deer stalker hat, and wonder of wonders I had a doll-sized spyglass on hand. Perfect! Irene the dog-walking sleuth was born.

This has been a tough few weeks for our little circle here in Iowa. Julie’s husband Scott, aka “The First Dude,” headed to California when he learned his thirty year old son from a previous marriage had a stroke. I’d met Evan a couple of years ago when he came to Iowa for a visit. He was extremely likeable.

Things were looking up. Evan recognized Scott and that he was there and they spoke to each other. For awhile it looked as if Evan would pull through, albeit with a lengthy recovery time. Scott was almost ready to head home with plans to visit frequently in the future. But then Evan took a turn for the worse.

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Evan looks just like his dad. That’s his wife Kayla and sweet daughter Heidi with him.

There have been varying times given for the time of death, which we have determined to be Sunday June 14 at 9:30 am California time. The reason for that is because as in life, Evan is a giver and because of him three people now have a second chance. We’ve learned a lot about the sacrifices that come with being a donor. It’s worth it! So worth it. But it’s very, very hard. Julie is flying out to be with Scott at this difficult time. My heart and prayers and love go with them. I don’t think there’s anything harder a parent can face than the loss of a child. Know you are loved! Come home safe! And know that while you are gone, Toby will be in very good hands. He’ll be walked by someone carrying a white bag. And confusion will reign.

Meanwhile, are there rocks in Colorado and do they stand? Because that’s where Claire is headed! To Michelle E. house! I’ll bet Jamie can find her there. I bet Jamie can find her anywhere, from what I’ve been told. Thank you, Michelle!

And with that, I leave you! Happy Thursday! Hug those you love! You’re my favorite.

FINIS! And the Fortunate Son

HT_12_cover_CBRDid you feel any magic in the air last Saturday, say around 8:07 in the morning Central time? I did! Know why? Because I finished the book. And it’s exactly 78,000 words. A SIGN. It took way longer than I thought, and no wonder: I’ve added five new chapters! And the story is much better for it.

Besides the second outfit I wanted to make, this girl needs a LOT of work. If you look closely, you’ll see that her head is split clear in two.

I was going to hurry and try and get the doll I’d been working on finished and put up for adoption the next day. I was having the same battle with The Mayor as always. This doll is somewhat specific and I really, really wanted to make two outfits for her, especially as the first outfit was so unusual and “off the beaten path,” as they say. The Mayor just wanted me to get her up for adoption as is, with just the one dress so she wouldn’t have to watch me stress all weekend. Then she had a bit of a family emergency herself, so we both decided to stop everything and smell the roses and I took a second week in a row “off” (still toiling away, and those storm windows aren’t going to put themselves up in the attic!).

Plus, this way I get to make that second and more traditional outfit. We’ll see if you think it was worth the extra time. Coming soon!

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First Grade. Seems like yesterday.

Also, I couldn’t let this day pass without expressing how very much I love my son and how proud I am of him.

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At his recent senior prom with his girlfriend the lovely Sara Axson.

Look at him! You can see it in his face: He was a great boy who has turned into a Good Man. Adam is funny and charming and smart and has such a strong sense of right and wrong. He was an absolute joy to raise, my little mini-me who is now so much taller than I.

Today he graduates from high school and soon he’ll be going to college. I’m so excited for him and for all the adventures he has ahead! Of course I’m a little weepy as I type this. I’m a mom! A very proud mom. I love you, Adam and I am so very fortunate that you are my son.

Next week, back to normal! With blog posts and weekly dolls and battles with The Mayor and the like. You’ll never guess who won the last O.L.D.! You won’t! Until then…

Happy Friday! You’re my favorite.