Friday, December 31, 2010

Speaking of Dolls...

Me with Virginia, sister Lois, and cousins

In my last post, my Minnesota “sister,” Donna, told a touching tale of a depression days Christmas and the refurbished doll that became her most prized possession.

I, too, had a baby doll that I loved with all my heart. I’d named her Virginia, the most elegant name I knew. Virginia’s molded composition head, legs and arms were attached to a cuddly cloth body. Her blue eyes opened and closed. In my first memories of her, her eyelashes were already worn away, like Donna’s doll. When I tipped her forward, she too cried “Ma--ma.”

By my fifth birthday, her dress was faded and torn, probably because it was also used to dress my unwilling kitty. Aunt Mary, still in her teens, sewed Virginia a whole new wardrobe as my birthday gift that year. I especially loved the ruffled dotted Swiss dress with matching bonnet.

I thought my doll beautiful, but a few years later, when my sister received a doll with curly, shoulder-length hair, I looked at Virginia’s molded hair. The paint had rubbed away in spots. My doll needed real hair too, I decided. So next time my mom gave me a haircut, I didn’t ask her advice. I just coated Virginia’s head with rubber cement and pressed the clippings into the glue. I let it dry, but the results were not what I’d envisioned. Poor Virginia...the worst bad hair day ever!  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it all off. So I took some brown enamel and painted over glue and remaining hair. When Virginia wore her ruffled dotted Swiss bonnet, she looked beautiful again.

As little girls do, I grew up. Virginia lay packed away with a few other treasures, growing older the same as me. I got married and had a child of my own. One day I rediscovered my old friend. Fine cracks now marred her painted complexion. And when had the tips of fingers and toes worn away? No matter. Little boys could play with dolls too. I gave my doll to toddler Robbie. Virginia had a fine time, riding on his Tonka truck and watching as he built a house of blocks around her. I heard Robbie’s squeal of delight as the blocks went flying, but thought nothing of it.

At cleanup time that evening, I found Virginia lying amidst the blocks. She’d suffered a fatal injury to her head. It was broken in three parts. I said a final goodbye to my old friend, but not to the memories.

Taken before I owned Virginia. Kitty made a patient baby.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Doll for Christmas

Little girls and their dolls have always been the best of friends.

My dear friend and Minnesota “sister,” Donna Gilbertson, shares this story just in time for Christmas. Thanks, Donna!

“I was born during the Dust Bowl years, while Daddy and Mom were ministerial students at Wessington Springs, SD. Just before graduation, Mom became very ill with a neurological disease. They left school and returned to Iowa where Daddy took any job he could find so he could take care of me and my helpless mother.

The Christmas I was eight, my friends were all hoping for baby dolls that cried ‘Mama’ and opened and shut their sparkling glassine eyes. I, too, wished for a doll like that.

On Christmas Eve, I hung my stocking near the evergreen branch “tree” tied to our stair banister, even though Daddy told me Santa wouldn’t bring much this year because times were tough all over the world, not just at our house.

In the morning, I awoke early and slipped down the stairs to see if my stocking was full. It hung from the banister just as limply as when I’d hung it there. Sadly, I turned to creep back up the stairs. Just as I reached the top, Daddy called from the bed in the living room where my parents slept: ‘Donna Mae, maybe your present was too big for your stocking. Maybe you should look around better.’

I went back and looked toward their bed. Nothing there. Nothing on the dresser at the foot of their bed. I pivoted to face the stairs again, silent tears running down my cheeks. Mom’s wooden wheelchair sat beside the stairway, near my stocking. In the wheelchair doll!

She had hair, and eyes that opened and shut. When I picked her up and turned her over, she warbled a week ‘Ma..Ma.’ I wiped my tears away on the sleeve of my nightie and took her over to my parent’s bed. They made room for me between them and there I cuddled, perfectly happy and content.

My doll’s hair was not perfect, her dress didn’t fit too well, and one arm was a little loose. Her eyes were no longer shiny and the eyelashes surrounding them were gone. That didn't really matter to me. She said ‘Ma..Ma’ and that was enough.

Later I learned that my daddy had walked up the railroad tracks in the falling snow to reach Riceville’s dry goods store before closing time. There he had found my doll, a reconditioned toy contributed by some family, and purchased it for one dollar. In those days one dollar might be a day's wages when he cut wood for someone's fireplace.

That’s why, when people said, ‘You were the apple of your dad’s eye,’ I could really believe I was loved. My daddy died of cancer in December of the year I turned ten. A year later in December my mom died of the disease which had attacked her when I was a toddler, and I went to live with an uncle and aunt. My doll became one of the most precious possessions I owned.”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Christmas Greeting for You

What do Christmas angels do when no one's watching?

Click to find out:

Candles on the Christmas Tree

Celebrating the Gift

  When we Rawlins children were young in the 1940s, money was scarcest at Christmas time. With five children in our family, close as stair steps,  frugal meant making do.

  Excitement built as we threw ourselves into holiday preparations. We memorized songs and pieces for programs at school and Sunday school. Giggles and shushing came from various corners as we children used our imaginations and household scraps to fashion gifts for family members. Mama’s treadle sewing machine clacked downstairs at night, and Daddy worked in the garage behind closed doors.

  We snipped white-paper snowflakes to decorate the windows. Mama pulled her stash of already-used wrapping paper from the far recesses of the under-the-stairs closet. Lois and I heated flatirons on the woodstove and ironed the creases out of the paper. We cut some into strips to make colored chains for the tree, fresh from the woods , damp smelling and spicy.

  David and Patty, our youngest siblings, festooned the lower boughs with clumped tinsel. When they weren’t looking, Mama thinned the clumps, hanging the strands higher and more evenly until they glittered in the Aladdin lamp’s light like rain falling through sunshine. The beautiful cardboard angel in her cloud of spun glass soared from the topmost spire. The colored coating inside the old glass balls and blown-glass ornaments was flaking, but we noticed only if we looked really close. The finish on the blue and red and purple clip-on candleholders showed the shiny metal underneath, but who cared?
   None of our town friends had candleholders. They used strings of big, glowing colored lights, but electricity hadn’t yet come to Robe Valley. The holders held candles about five inches high, twisted in pretty spirals. Keeping a bucket of water nearby in case of fire, we lit them on Christmas Eve and turned the lamps down. We sang a carol and watched the points of flickering light. Then we blew the candles out, to be lit once or twice more before the tree came down.

(From A Logger's Daughter: Growing Up in Washington's Woods)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Decorating for Christmas

Recently we've been going through some of those deep waters we human beings find ourselves in now and then. My writing time has been sharply curtailed lately, but I'll grab a quiet moment this evening to share with you a couple of scenes Hank and I passed in our neighbor's yard one foggy October morning. Doesn't it look like the spiders were getting in the Christmas mood?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Catalogue House

How many people can boast, “My house came from a Sears catalogue?”

When my great-niece Heidi and her family moved into a charming 1925-vintage Sears catalogue cottage in Seattle, I became enthralled with the whole idea of precut kit homes. Wading into on-line research, I found that approximately 100,000 Sears homes were purchased in the United States between 1908 and 1940. Most of these were in the Northeast and Northern Midwest states, where suburbs were springing up at rapid rate. So finding such a house right in my own Washington State back yard was a thrill.

I found illustrations taken directly from the Sears catalogue. One could choose from 447 housing styles, ranging from simple no-bath cottages of two or three rooms to elaborate and elegant mansions. One could even design one’s own dream home and submit the blueprint to Sears, which would then pre-cut the materials and ship the pieces (some 30,000 of them, not including screws and nails) off by railroad boxcar to the new home owner.

The ability to mass-produce the materials used lowered the costs for customers. Most kit-built homes ranged from $750 to $2500. Pre-cut and fitted materials shrank construction time by 40%, and “balloon style” framing, drywall, and asphalt shingles made the home buyer’s work much easier. Other innovations that Sears incorporated into their designs were central heating, indoor plumbing, and electrical wiring. And once the house was finished, the new owners could order the furnishings from the Sears catalogue and even ask for decorating advice.

Sears was not the only builder of kit homes. One expert says that more than 80% of the people who think they live in a Sears kit home live in one from another company. There are a number of clues to indicate if Sears built a home. One such clue is the five-piece support bracket between the eaves and the outside wall used in some homes. Sometimes identifying a home is hard because later remodels may camouflage the original construction. Floor plans may have been reversed, siding changed, dormers added.

What makes Sears houses stand out is that they have withstood 80 years’ worth of shifts in architectural styles and tastes. Ask Heidi and her husband...they are still great family homes.

This style, the Winona, was sold from 1927-1932.

Heidi's house is hidden from the street by foliage, but you can see the similarities to the catalogue illustration.

Heidi shows off the original breakfast nook

An original light fixture

Central heating and hardwood flooring

Well crafted exterior details.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

I grew up in the beautiful Robe Valley in Washington's Cascades, surrounded by tall trees. From our front yard, we looked through a screen of firs at the north face of Mt. Pilchuck. If we walked up the driveway toward the road, we could see Green Mountain behind us. Watching the sunrise meant seeing the sun's rays strike long fingers through the forest to the east. And once in a while, a red-tinged sky above the western tree tops indicated sunset. Not until I grew up and left home did I realize what we missed in our lovely but closed-in valley.

This morning Hank and I drove out to Silvana for breakfast. I stopped to take pictures and realized the sun was coming up. I wonder how many days in the year the sun rises in just this way at this particular spot. By the way, this is Mt. Pilchuck from the west.

Have you ever seen a mountain give birth to the sun?

Where we live now, we watch the sunsets move north throughout the year as summer advances, then back toward the southwest as the north pole tilts away from the sun. These were taken from our front yard in late September, facing almost due west.

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Change One’s Mind, or Running Athwart of the Generation Gap

 (This is the blog I planned to post today. But first, I sent it to my writing friends for their opinions. I felt it had a crabby feel that didn’t fit the theme, “Sun Breaks.” After reading their comments, I knew I have a lot to learn about generational outlooks. Instead of hiding the blog away in a drawer, I’m going to post it, along with my friends’ opinions. I think you’ll enjoy the discussion, and if you have comments of your own, feel free to add them.)

***Crash course in Generational categories:
           Builders or Strivers - born before 1946
           Boomers or Baby Boomers - born between 1946 and 1964
           Generation X - born after 1964

    Last night, a pert young waitress in one of the town’s nicer restaurants slid my plate in front of me. “Here you go, Sweetie,” she chirped.

    I felt like sitting her down for a lesson in basic respect. She meant to be friendly, but when did it become okay for young people to treat their elders with such flippant familiarity?

    In past generations, young people called most adults Mr. or Mrs., unless they were specifically invited to use a first name. Teachers or other professionals were always dignified by their title. A couple of years ago at Hank’s all-school reunion, he was thrilled to be seated next to his high-school principal.

    “Call me Leo,” said the ex-principal.

    Hank tried, but the word stuck in his throat. “I’m sorry, Mr. Blodgett,” he said. “I just can’t do it.”

    I know how Hank felt. But there’s no problem for many of today’s students.  Children commonly address adults by their first names. In some schools, even teachers are addressed this way. Most people of my generation feel that using titles of respect brings about feelings of respect. To us, using proper titles seems like common courtesy.
   When my mother resided in care centers in her later years, everyone from housekeepers to kitchen help to nursing assistants addressed the residents by their first names or by insincere terms of endearment. These people had built the nation, for goodness sake! They’d been business people, nurses, military personnel, parents...but in the minds of those who cared for them, old age seemed to have reduced them all to the level of small children.

    I think the next time a young person in a store or restaurant calls me “Honey” or. . .shudder
. . .”Sweetie,” I shall draw myself up tall, give her my best schoolteacher glare, and say, “My dear, I could be your grandmother. I’m also a customer. If you want my business again, please let your language show respect for your customers.”

Now, here’s what other people had to say.
From Carolyn (from the Silent or Builder Generation) :

    Right on, Joan! I absolutely abhor being called "Honey" or "Sweetie" by servers or anyone else I don't know. Even in the doctor's office everyone is called by first names--except the doctors, who expect to be addressed as "Doctor Jones."
     The dentist my parents went to in Marysville always addressed my father as "Dr. Manus" (Dad had a Ph.D) and my mother as "Mrs. Manus." He knew how much it meant to them to be treated courteously and respectfully, especially when they were very elderly. He instructed his staff to do the same. When I took Mom and Dad to the Navy base, Dad rated a salute and was respectfully addressed as Col. Manus. There is a lot to be said for addressing people with courtesy titles--and "sir" and "ma'am" are part of that.

From Marj (a Builder):

 The fruit of the Spirit is love and joy, and my desire is to show those characteristics to those I come in contact with. . .Young people who need to learn respect for elders (and I thoroughly agree with you on this) won't be reading this, and those who might will write it off as an old person's thing. It might have more value as a blog if you can approach the problem positively. Use it to comment on how we older people can respond to the young with love and kindness that will get their attention. I might have said to the young waitress, "I know you are trying to make me feel good with the word "Sweetie," but it really makes me feel a bit uncomfortable to be called that." I might add, "I may have a lot of years behind me, but I am still young at heart."

Here at the Lodge the caregivers, nurses, and all call me by my first name as they do everyone else. But I know by the way they say it and the way I am treated they respect me. They give me the feeling they would do anything they can for me. I have tried to show them respect and love, and they have responded positively.

From Diana (a Baby Boomer):

 I have a slightly different viewpoint. I think this is a generational issue, not an issue about respect. We in the Boomer generation, at least on the West Coast, grew up with the view that addressing someone by a first name showed a willingness to accept that person as a peer and not relegate them to the category of an old fogy. This no doubt came as part of the "don't trust anyone over 30" nonsense we were subjected to. My generation, and those that follow it, truly mean no disrespect by using first names. If you were to say, “My dear, I could be your grandmother. I’m also a customer. If you want my business again, please let your language show respect for your customers,” I seriously doubt the "dear" would have any idea what she said that you considered so disrespectful.

I do know that it is very important to address African Americans by their titles and surnames outside the context of close friendship. When Oprah happens to address an older African-American woman in the audience, she always learns the name and proper title ahead of time and uses it. This stems directly from periods in our nation’s history when grown men were called "boys" in contexts where their white contemporaries were not, and many whites addressed blacks by their first names as if they were still in servitude.

Some of the Title/Surname use has turned a little topsy-turvy. You'll notice that in the court system, even the most disreputable defendant is referred to as Mr. or Ms. So-and-So. This is intended to maintain respect for someone who is innocent until proven guilty. At this time, however, it further establishes the younger generations' view that using a more familiar name or endearment conveys approval and respect instead of the opposite.

. . .Personally, I don't mind when a waitress or clerk calls me Sweetie--although, for a different reason, I would give a male clerk or waiter a dirty look if he called me that. Anyway, Sweetie is far better than some other things I've been called in my life, and I recognize that the intent is one of blessing, not disrespect.

From Cindi (also a Boomer):

I, too like to be respected in my profession. But I'd rather have my students' parents and my students honestly communicate and engage in conversation with me, than have them give me a proper title.

From Agnes (a Builder):
    As an "oldie," I confess that it doesn't bother me in the least to have someone call me "honey" or even "sweetie." It's done so often that it just runs off my back, and I think nothing of it. That's just the way some waitresses talk. When we were in the Philippines, parents of missionary kids told them to call us adults "aunt" or "uncle." So as a teacher there, I was "Aunt Atchie," and those kids now grown still call me that.

    So although . . . it's nice to be called a respectful name, I agree with Marj's and Diana's comments too. I think it really is a cultural, age-related matter.

From Marva (19 years old)
  I would never call an elder "Sweetie." I could never call my principal by his first name. Obviously my parents taught us to use respectful language to people who are older than us. 
  (I can vouch for Marva. She's my dear granddaughter.)
* * *

So, here we have it. What do you think?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Our Salad-Bowl Nation

     I’m writing this while waiting for a friend in a Mt. Vernon public health clinic. I’m thinking how much I love this country of ours. I loved the way it was when I was young and most people lived in communities where everyone shared the same background and experiences. I love the way it is now, enriched by people from every nation under the sun.

    Mt. Vernon is a farming town with a large Hispanic population. Most came here originally to help grow and harvest the berries, corn, cucumbers and other crops that make this area one of the nation’s most bountiful food baskets. They’re on the way toward realizing the American dream for themselves, just as my ancestors did. But for now they need the extra help this clinic provides.

    The waiting room is filled mostly with people who have beautiful brown skin and dark eyes. The fluid cadences of their native languages flow around me. It makes me feel as if I’ve been dropped into another country, but it doesn’t seem strange to my younger friends. They have grown up with playmates and school friends of many national backgrounds.

    It’s still a marvel to me, all these colors, languages and cultures tossed together to make up this country called the United States of America. It’s the same way across the border in Canada. Sometimes the uniting doesn’t go smoothly. The good thing is we’re working at it. We’re hopeful about it. We appreciate the contributions immigrants bring to this country, even while we argue about who gets to come and how.

    It occurs to me that our country isn’t really about being a melting pot anymore. It’s more like a salad bowl. Salads are full of intriguing flavors, textures, contrasts--much more interesting than the bland blended flavors of something out of a “melting pot.”

    Don’t you agree?

 These people are just a few members of my own rainbow family. We are Norwegian, German, Chinese, English, Native Hawaiian, Cherokee, Native Alaskan, French, African American, Hispanic...and soon, a baby boy from Korea will join us.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eternal Mounts

Along Washington's North Cascades Highway

I never see one of these mountain waterfalls without thinking of a story I heard years ago about Washington’s Cascade Mountains. A friend had been searching for an old mine he’d been told about when he stumbled across the rotted remains of a cabin. Nearby he spied a tunnel, like any other abandoned mine tunnel except for the twin watercourses plunging down the mountain on either side of the opening. 
Poking around, he found a few blacksmithing tools among the rotting logs. A rusted shovel leaned against the tunnel’s wall. As he prepared to leave, he noticed stones piled at the base of a sheer rock face as if someone had deliberately placed them there. Looking up, he saw these words painstakingly chiseled into the rock at about the height a person could reach if standing on the pile:
Eternal mounts, you have founts       
 Rolling down your rock-ribbed sides,

 Like one weeping in the keeping

 Of a watch that e'er abides.

Above the poem was etched the profile of the surrounding peaks.

I may never see that spot for myself, but whenever I gaze at one of our mountain waterfalls, I think of that unknown miner with a poet’s soul. I imagine him pecking away at the rock, leaving his words for someone to find, many years in the future.

My reality and his are starkly different, but streams continue to cascade down the sides of mountains. People still desire to leave behind something of themselves after they are gone. I feel connected.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hidden Things

I almost stepped on this little treasure.

"And I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, which call you by your name, am the God of Israel" (Isaiah 45:3 NKJV).

In this verse of Scripture, Isaiah foretells what God plans to do through Cyrus, a future king of Persia, who would rescue the nation of Israel from her enemies. To me, this verse has an additional meaning: God wants us to be aware of the treasures, the hidden riches, he has scattered all around us. He has given them as another way of teaching us who he is. He knows that learning to notice and ponder things that most people bypass can add richness to our lives.

In one of my recent Sun Breaks posts, I told about hiking to Boardman Lake in the Cascade Mountains with Hank and daughter Lenora. To reach the trailhead, we drove on a former logging road for about five miles up a mountainside. In dry weather, the narrow road is dusty and potholed. Trees arch thickly overhead. Not much grows beneath them, except in ravines where light filters through. In some places, branches sweep close to the edge of the road, hiding whatever lurks behind.

As we jounced along, we focused mostly on dodging the next pothole. Then, on the uphill side, I caught a glint of water reflecting through a screen of evergreen branches.

"Hank, stop!" I said. "There's something interesting there. Can you back up?"

He did as I asked, stopping at a wide spot in the road. Grabbing my camera, I leaped out of the van and bent down to peer under the branches. "Oh, wow! Look at this!" I called.

While Hank stayed with the van, Lenora followed me over the edge of the graveled road. Although the footing was precarious, I slid down to stand on one of two squared off logs the early road builders had laid several feet apart in a narrow ravine as foundation for the logging road. They had placed thick timbers crosswise on that foundation, and built the roadbed on top of this crude but effective culvert.

One of the foundation timbers and the hidden glade

The waterfall and pool

When our eyes adjusted to the shadows, we gazed across a placid pool where a little waterfall trickled over moss-covered cliffs before its water funneled through the culvert and dashed down the mountainside. The glade was a picture-perfect Pacific Northwest version of one of those postcard spots in Hawaii, and a lovely example of the delights that await those who take the time to seek out and appreciate God's hidden treasures, wherever He has stashed them for us.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Are you Fiercely Frugal?

I'm posting this note from my friend Diana Savage, whose Fiercely Frugal blog is not only full of great money-saving ideas but is also fun to read. Hope you'll follow her links to see what it's all about and to possibly glean a few creative ideas to adapt to your own projects. 

Dear Frugal Friends,

My friend Joan helped me get back to posting ideas on the Fiercely Frugal blog. (It’s been a hectic spring and summer.) She supplied information and a photo for a clever way to make painting more enjoyable. See her suggestion for a “No Cost Paint Container” at  (If you prefer to visit, you’ll find the post in the Resourceful Recycling category.) You’ll also find a link to Joan’s own blog with her delightfully descriptive writing about the Pacific Northwest, travel, and more.

Yours for frugal solutions,


Cooling off at Boardman Lake

A few weeks ago, daughter Lenora took a late summer break from Arizona’s heat to luxuriate in northwest Washington’s green coolness. We decided to drive to the Robe valley, where as a little girl she’d spent many happy days at her grandparents' former home. While there, we hiked to Boardman Lake, off the Mountain Loop Highway, to see if the huckleberries were ripe. We stopped first at little Evans Lake to picnic. Here’s Lenora enjoying the scenery.

The mile-long trail to Boardman Lake is well-used. The footing is tricky, and steeper than we remembered. (Of course, Hank and I are not as young as the first time we hiked the trail.)

Here is a denizen of the woods enjoying a beam of sunlight.

Lenora reached the lake long before we did, but we made it.

We met people who’d camped at primitive sites on the far side of the outlet, on the hill behind Lenora. To get there they scrambled across a jumble of logs. We saw some plunge into the lake’s cold waters to swim.

The berries were scarce this year, but as we headed back to the trail, we each picked a handful of blue huckleberries and carried them home in a plastic bag. Mmm! Huckleberry hotcakes next morning to remind us of a special afternoon in the mountains!

Monday, August 23, 2010

How We Have Changed!

Some members of the Granite Falls High School class of 1954: l. to. r., Clyde (Squeak) Scofield, Darlene Jones Johnson, Harriet Olson Duncan, Mabel Murphy Bennett, Walt Burrus, Nancy ScherrerTellesbo, Morrie Running, Mickie Giroux Erickson, Greta Bryan Running, Joan Rawlins Husby, Leslie Scherrer, Dave Bogart (Photo by Mabel Bennett)

Here we are at age six, with our teacher Miss Anderson. When we graduated from Granite Falls High School in 1954, there were 24 of us, of whom 22 are still living. Twelve of us met at our last bi-monthly classmates' luncheon. Match the photos to see what a difference fifty-six years makes!

Mabel Murphy, l.; Harriet Olsen, r.

Dave Bogart

Les Scherrer
Nancy Scherrer
Joan Rawlins, Greta Bryan
Mickie Giroux, Darlene Jones
Squeak Scofield
Morris Running