Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Oh, Laura!

I'll begin this post by saying I read nearly all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books as a girl, and I own them still, and I read them aloud to my children when they were little. I loved her books, especially The Long Winter, probably because it was the most tragic and scary. And because I longed to be snowed in. Please, just once in my life! Let me be snowed in!
Image result for little house on the prairie book

Wilder's legacy as a children's author is now under scrutiny. The Association for Library Service to Children (part of the American Library Association) decided this year to change the name of its yearly award from The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, to The Children's Literature Legacy Award. The new word, legacy, is significant: the organization wishes this award to reflect in both its name and its recipients a legacy into the future of excellence for young readers. They have found Wilder's books to be lacking in legacy.

I left a comment on Facebook on a friend's page about this topic and was quickly blasted by fellow homeschooling and Wilder-loving moms. So I'd like to make a few things clear first:

1. I don't advocate banning Wilder's books. I generally don't advocate banning books at all. 
2. I don't advocate removing them from libraries, schools, or homes.
3. I don't advocate tossing our history out.
4. I don't advocate pandering to every whining person who takes offense at a book, song, article, or comment.
5. I do think children need guidance as they read Wilder's books. The farther removed we become from her culture, its attitudes, and its values, the more our children in the 21st Century need assistance navigating not just the historical events, but the social nuances Wilder presents.
6. The Association has the right to remove her name. They are not selecting someone else. I feel they are making a careful correction with an award's title that's more general now, and not holding any one writer up as a paragon of literary virtue. 
7. We should read books from our past that depict our mistakes, our wrong thinking, our injustices to others, and our societal selfishness. It's good to remember how bad an aggressive, dominant white culture was in the 1800s. It's not good to present those ideas, unfiltered, to our young children who lack skills to evaluate them carefully.
8. Wilder's simplistic writing style belies its subject matter. The style is perfect for rather young children; some of the material is not. I'm not referring to the danger in the stories; children benefit from vicarious danger in stories -- danger at a safe distance. Again, I don't want mamby-pamby kids. I am more concerned about the influence on their hearts.

One of the books in question, Little House on the Prairie, in which the Ingallses move to Kansas a bit too early and encounter many Native Americans, was published in 1935 when Wilder was in her 60s. Wilder was a white writer, writing for a white audience. No one considered how Native American children might respond to depictions of their grandparents in her books, and it was not thought odd that they were not considered. "Not being considered" was the norm for minorities of all kinds during the early 20th Century.

Wilder wrote of her own time, and her expressions were not frowned upon then. She merely depicts the attitudes she recalls from her childhood. But the fact that, in the 1930s, she wrote such sharp racial material for children without batting an eye, shows how much has changed - I wonder if it was even considered "racist" then! Today, we take greater care regarding all the children who will read -- Native American children, black children, Asian children, white children. All children. Wilder did not have to bother with such consideration, and I don't hold it against her. She was simply a writer of her day - but therein lies her lack of legacy. Perhaps the harsh racial tones are more appropriate for older children reading with more discretion, or for children reading with guidance from a teacher. And perhaps no child at all should have to hear, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" repeatedly from anyone, anywhere. Just because it was said and believed, doesn't mean we all have to hear it -- especially sensitive 8 year olds with little life experience or wisdom.

As these events have rumbled past me this week I've tried to recall my own reactions to Wilder's books. She was such an observer. She watched carefully her mother's and father's opposite reactions to the Indians -- the fear, the respect, the distrust, the caution. But neither parent had a good attitude toward the people who were being driven off their lands. The Ingalls family participated in that removal as settlers, in their small way. At best, I'd have to admit that young Laura seemed confused and hesitant, to the young Mary Kathryn reader -- she liked her Pa, but she depended more on her Ma, and as a child Laura instinctively feared those Indians. Her mother's fear transferred to her. That was my impression. She found the Indian baby fascinating but foreign. And Ma's obvious disgust at the Indians' personal habits and forwardness left a life-long impression on her daughter. Laura's writer-eye was already vividly recording it all, but when it came across the page to me it seemed clear that the white people's world was vastly superior to the Indians', and Laura was glad, as her Pa was, that the whites would be able to settle this land.

That's a legacy of abuse, exploitation, violence, and cruelty that our nation is ashamed of. Is it our history? Yes. Do we study and remember it? Yes. Do we applaud it? No.

I feel that the Association made a good choice to change the name of the award, to be more cautious about attaching a single author's name to an award interested in legacy. To leave a legacy means to contribute something that will be timeless, that will outlast shifts and changes in culture, to write transcendent books unshackled by the flaws of the very times they depict. Few authors achieve this. Some people felt Wilder had done so, but she did not. 

I know many of you, my friends, will disagree, and that's okay. I don't mean to offend you, and we can disagree about a small thing like a literary award's name, without falling out. I just thought I'd present a different viewpoint, if you needed to hear one. I still love Wilder's books, and if I ever read them to my grandchildren, it will be with much greater care.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ditch Lilies ... and Disaster on the Loom

We call them ditch lilies here because they do grow in the ditches profusely this time of year. But for all that, I think they're gorgeous. Here's the photo I took:
 I started the painting. This part is always quick, easy, and fun.
 I added layers of darkening colors and a little of the white sparkly paint. It looks good -- rather like lilies-on-fire. 

Watercolors struggle to obtain those dark tones, at least they do with me at this stage in my painting experience. But the contrasts were needed. I think it's done now.
I picked some for church this morning, adding purple cone flowers and a few sprays of hydrangea foliage.

I'm still reading Gallipot Eyes by Elspeth Huxley. She lived in a small English village (Oaksey) for her adult life in an old Cotswold house called "Woodfolds." How comforting to live in a home with history to give it a name! If you'd like to see inside and outside "Woodfolds," here's a link to view it. Houses like that make me all melty and happy inside.

How 'bout a puppy dog picture? These two beautiful standard poodles come to the farmers' market most weeks. They're sitting pretty here, waiting for a treat of biscotti.
 I rarely take eggs to the market to sell, but I had extras. I also took cukes and a bag of collards, both of which sold, but the tomatoes did not.
 What did I find at the thrift store this week, you ask? For $3, I found a very large LLBean tote bag, brand new (!!), with a floral trim. But it once belongs to someone named Billie.
 Sorry, Billie, but you have to go. I put my seam ripper to good use. After about an hour, Billie pretty much disappeared.

A discouraging failure on my loom occurred on Friday. Remember the blue/pink scarf I was starting? Well, I won't type it all. Instead, you may view the catastrophe on a video:
Hopefully I'll get back to you when that mess is sorted out!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wishing Ahead

I know it's the first day of summer, but it's nice to know that some tree out there, somewhere near our house, agrees with me ....
It's so hot, and I hate the heat. And I have months to go before I feel a cool breeze and need a sweater. (Except in all the buildings, especially church, with their A/C blowing like a North Pole blast!)
Also looking ahead, I'm weaving a scarf. Somebody will need it in November.
 These are the colors, blue with a splash of pink. I'm not feeling particularly creative. I'm feeling more melty, if you know what I mean -- brain melt, due to the excessive heat.

But my heat is nothing compared to these poor fellows clearing the power lines of limbs!
 You can tell I was inside in the cool air, watching them buzz away with their chain saws. Adam watched in awe as they saved him weeks of work, clearing that property line. They were in front of our property for two days.
 Adam was friendly to them. Kindness is a wonderful thing. They did a beautiful job, chipped the branches right here afterward, and left us a massive pile of mulch.
 My elephant ears are getting big! Adam will be making concrete leaves with them again ... in the fall.
 The zinnias did not bloom in time for the wedding, but they're pretty anyway.
 Anna didn't want orange in her arrangement, so these sweet lilies bloomed afterward too.
 These deep orange double blooms are just about my favorite.
 In fact, I think I need to paint that. 

I thought I had only Matt's Wild Cherry tomato plants, but no! I also have some mini-orange (speaking of orange). The ones near the house are beautiful, but the ones from the garden seem sickly and rotten.

Last night Adam made one of my favorites, chicken and biscuits. He makes a Cream Biscuit, which uses heavy cream instead of shortening. They are light and delectable.
 Speaking of chicken, I'm not sure if you've ever officially met my other rooster, Arthur.
 He's quite handsome, so I painted him today from some photos I had. He's also ornery and mean, and has more than once been hit with a big stick across the chicken run. Once, Adam grabbed him and carried him upside down by his legs in the pasture for a while, allowing the dogs to sniff him well.
He hasn't messed with Adam since then.
Did I mention Adam made a little gate so that Arthur and his 3 hens (Autumn, Sylvie, and Lady Grey), and the 3 chicks, can spend their days in the orchard? There they are in the photo, cooling off under a small tree. I like to see them eating grass among the little trees, instead of cooped up in a muddy chicken yard.

Not much ground-breaking news there, friends, but thanks for stopping by. Stay cool!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Just as the peas were going out, the cucumbers were coming in. And with them, the dill began to flower. It's time for pickles!
These are Boston pickling cucumbers.
Adam is our pickle-maker. He prefers dills, and makes lots of refrigerator jars of them. I prefer a sweet/dill mix. However, I'm prone to make many jars and never eat them.
Dill from my herb garden
So he made me one jar of sweet/dill chips, my favorite.
He also installed the kitchen over-sink light. Hooray!
The green grassy stuff is lemongrass, which has rooted in a jar - yay!
Usually our hottest, nastiest temperatures are reserved for July and August, but today the high was 96, with a heat index of about 106. Ugh! It was awful. I walked out of the hospice thrift store (with this)
(Air Margaritaville is a restaurant.)
... and the outdoors felt like a sauna on full blast. The whole outdoors. You fellow-Southerners know wherof I speak. 

I lost one of my baby chicks to a predator, so now I have 3. She was my favorite, and I was pretty sure she was a hen. Sad :(

Granny Marigold inspires me with her faithful baking, so this afternoon I made some of my healthy oatmeal cookies. I haven't made any since March or April. 
There. That's dinner sorted!
I carefully started quite a few Blue Lake green bean plants and put them into a lovely garden bed. Two mornings later, the rabbits had done this:
All but about four of my bean plants were nibbled to nubbins.
So Adam installed the rabbit fence. I'm tired of rabbits.
And now for the BIG news ... we are getting a roof! Adam was so very stressed about it, and I asked him, "Well, there must be lots of people in our situation, who must have a new roof, but who don't have spare thousands sitting around. What do they do?"
"I guess they get a loan."
So we got a bank loan. We haven't gotten a bank loan since we bought my piano back in 1991, I think! We will tighten our belts a bit more and make the payments, but the most important thing is ... our ceilings will not start falling in. Hooray! We are pleased with the roofer we chose. He says the roof we have now is probably the original metal roof. Original -- that means 1922. That's a mighty old roof. The materials will be delivered today.I'll have pictures for you when it's on. 

Thanks for stopping by, friends. I'm so glad to have blog friends - you gals are a big encouragement to me!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Farm Animal Collage

This afternoon I did some therapeutic painting. I needed it. And I finished my nursery room collage!
 The real thing is much brighter and sharper. I don't know why my photo is rather fuzzy. I took four of them, and they all turned out that way.

I had fun with the lettering -- I love Susan Branch's lettering, and I imitated her a little.
 Here's the motley crew ~ I do love them.




Mrs. Mouse
That was so much fun! Painting this was the thing I did when I felt stress coming on. Now ... what shall I paint next? More farm animals, more stories! Love to all out there ~

Friday, June 15, 2018

Getting Back to Work

No ... that doesn't mean I'm clocking into a 9-to-5 job somewhere. Sadly, my legs are no longer up to that. But it does mean that I'm back to painting and writing! This book is finished now:
If you'd enjoy a read-aloud of "The Thanksgiving Mice," here's a youtube video I did today. However, my nice camera acted up, and the video ends at page 23. So you'll just have to wonder how it ends, haha! 

As with my other little book, this one will be for sale. But I have to get it printed first, which is always the trickiest part for me. It will cost $10, just like the last one (same number of pages), which includes shipping inside the U.S.

What am I painting now, you ask? Well, Philip and Kara gave me those lovely paints and that lovely watercolor paper for my birthday. He told me, when I complained about lacking ideas to paint, that I should paint something to hang on the wall in the nursery someday, when they have their first baby, which is not happening yet. I don't want to start any false rumors. But still, I thought that was a pretty fun idea!

Immediately I thought how neat it would be to have a framed collage of characters from my little children's books, for my grandbabies to look at. It would remind them of all the farm animals they love from Nana's (that's me) books! I started with a rough preliminary sketch.
I'm sorry it's so pale. I didn't want to launch straight onto that high-quality watercolor paper without first roughing it out. Six blocks, five containing farm animals, and the sixth one saying "Red Robin Farm."

I started with Bernie. I know, I chopped his tail off. Well, it's for grandbabies, and they are forgiving, right?
 I proceeded on to Priscilla the Squirrel. (I haven't thought up her last name yet.) She figures in a love story I'm writing now, a somewhat one-sided love story.
 And Ned. He is in love with Priscilla, you see. An ill-fated attachment.
I have Punkin and Mrs. Mouse yet to paint, but they will be easy. Then I'll do some touching-up and finishing with backgrounds and probably some rick-rack to divide the boxes. Should be fun!

We exited wedding weekend straight into a death and funeral in our church, our oldest member and much-beloved. Plus many other excitements to keep us from settling back into our calm lives. I remind myself, as so many of you often remind yourselves on your blogs, that God has it all in hand, and all will be well. I need that reminder. Thank you for stopping by and putting up with my yappitiness!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Bridal Portraits

Back in May, my dear cousin Tammy flew to North Carolina for a few days to photograph Anna for her bridal portraits. I haven't been able to share these yet because Gramm couldn't see them before the wedding -- before he saw Anna walk down the aisle. But now ...

These are just a handful. Tammy did a spectacular job! She also returned to photograph the wedding, and we are excited to see the results of her hard work on that day.