Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The air is gentle and warm as our van glides up steep hills, around snaking curves and dips into valleys with rivulets of blue water.  It is the last week of summer 2012 when we drive through the beautiful and breathtaking Ozark mountains in northwest Arkansas in search of 'art.' 

The artistic and historic Eureka Springs is our home base. We travel out to experience art and meet artists each day.  At Crystal Bridges, Alice Walton's newly opened art gallery in Bentonville, we explore its unique architecture and extensive galleries.  On the last day of summer we visit (and delight in) Terra Studios, home of the glass art, Bluebirds of Happiness, in Fayetteville. Then,  passing nearby to Springdale, stop at Shiloh Museum of the Ozarks.

Some of our favorite trips included cemeteries, battlefields and war museums.  We are American history nuts.  One cannot help but notice people of the Civil War era lived hard and difficult lives yet spoke and wrote with gentle sophistication.  I was sure the Civil War battle of Shiloh was in Tennessee.  Who would expect Shiloh to be in Arkansas?  Yet, here it is.  We parked next to the Cooper Barn with its fresh hay stack and old wagon just inside the open doors.  Shiloh grounds included three other outbuildings and two homes: the Searcy House, with updates and additions, remains livable, as does an 1850s log cabin.  Original house and cabin furnishings are on display in the museum.  The Shiloh Museum appears quite new and well organized with information and items from prehistoric to pre-Civil War, to present times.

A battle took place in this little part of the country - then called Shiloh - later renamed Springdale.  Hardscrabble people tried to make a living on hardscrabble land before and after the great war.  Jane Page lived in Shiloh.  She wrote a letter to her son John Page and family which is a prime example of the tough determination and gentle humanity these people possessed.  "Dear Son and Daughter: I embrace the present opportunity of writing you a letter to let you know that I am still in the land of the living and enjoying very good health and I do hope these few lines may reach you and find you all enjoying the same great blessing ... your father fell victim in time of the great war ... killed by Federal forces on the 4th day of March 1865 ... He had nine or ten balls passed through his body.  So scared and disturbed was everybody that I had to stay with him in the woods all day by myself with my apron spread over his face ..."  A large painting depicts Jane in this death scene. The letter relates news of family and neighbors, descriptions of events and current status.  "If you want to come back to this country to live you can buy land very cheap here now.  It is very low in consequence of the scarcity of money ... everything is very scarce here and times is hard, hard, very hard ... I remain your affectionate mother until death."  There is sadness in the facts but no meanness; no hate.  "The war has entirely ruined our country, but I think it will build up again in the course of time.  The people seems to be in good spirits and are trying to rebuilt ..."  14 November 1866.

People of this era expressed themselves without hubris.  They made their point without being scurrilous, foul-mouthed or vulgar.  Although poorly educated, they were conscious of using their very best language skills while being honest, forthright and persuasive.  Not only is this true of Jane Page but also of Mary Boykin Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, repub. 1976 and other Civil war letters quoted by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Coor in They Fought Like Demons, pub.2002.  I shall always appreciate the articulation revealed in original letters, publications and transcripts of our early American history - Bless them!  I fear the current general public has no pride in education and communication.  I, for one, hope the pendulum will begin to swing back from the current low educational standards to a 'step up and stand tall' expectation of personal pride and national academic achievements....
What do you think?  I'd like to know...  Nancy yTe \

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The junk drawer is every household's treasure trove.  There is never the 'right time' to clean one out as it is a sacred place for the 'might need that some day,' 'this is still usable,' and other potentially important trinkets, mementos and stuff.  It is the perfect repository for anything and everything, like the keys that don't open anything.  It is the 'go to' place when you need an odd electric plug, screw driver, picture hook or rubber band.

I just cannot sit here twiddling my thumbs as I watch "Sunday Morning" (a favorite television show) with its magazine' style short stories.  Surely, I can clean one junk drawer in 90 minutes - can't I?

As I begin sorting stuff, I listen to the history of Antietam, the Civil War battle, September 17, 1862: death, cemeteries. I'm finding those little packets of flower food that arrive with floral bouquets.  Do I put them in the pile to keep, stow elsewhere or throw away?  If I didn't use them when those cut flowers were alive, why would I keep them now?  I'll put them in the 'keep' pile - just in case... but the empty purse-size hand sanitizer goes in the trash - definitely.

The pile of 'stow elsewhere' is growing with a package of razor blades, several snap clothes pins, a deck of cards and a ball of twine - as I learn about a "polka dot" artist from China.  I found US postage stamps that are probably still good - but when will I need 39-cent stamps?  Here's an artistic treasure: 18" of chain link from a 1970s swag lamp that no longer exists.

What a surprise! I found a favorite pair of sunglasses that went missing about 2008.  I'm going to keep the envelopes of flower seeds till spring - and the loose coins, too.  "Sunday Morning" is reviewing the lives of rock and singing groups with nostalgic music memories as I ink-test a bundle of pens; half are old and dry.  There is a gracious and lovely letter received from a dear neighbor, now deceased.  I think I'll put it in my box of memorial cards, along with Puddles' dog tags (she was our pet many years ago). How did these things end up in a junk drawer?

I will definitely dispose of the $17 in the bank envelope.  I am thinking brunch: corned beef hash with two eggs over easy and biscuits with gravy.  My (now neat) junk drawer contained even more treasures than I expected as "Sunday Morning" fades to commercials. 

When is the last time you cleaned your junk drawer? 
What treasures did you discover?  I'd like to know. 
Nancy yTe \

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Sunday morning.  Newspapers are fat with inserts and coupons to be clipped - so I'll run to get scissors and start clipping.

Scissors.  Isn't that a funny word?  Scissors have been an important tool in my life.  I admired my mother's dexterity in cutting thread and cloth, paper, herbs or a bouquet of flowers.  It is remarkable how many kinds of scissors there were in the house where I grew up.  My mother had dressmaker scissors, pinking shears, buttonhole scissors and kitchen shears as well as stork-shaped Chatelaines.  My dad's one-piece Egyptian-style garden scissors were used for trimming beds of iris and tulips.  He also had twig cutters and branch loppers, tin snips and some he called 'sheep shears,' though we never had any sheep.

After I learned to hold scissors and cut scraps of cloth or paper, I spent many hours cutting out paper dolls and baby doll clothes before advancing to making my own clothes, cutting fancy doilies, decoupage or paper silhouettes.  There is such pride in creating something interesting from plain cloth or paper.

Twice, I got in a bit of mix up with scissors.  Once while holding sharp scissors, I stabbed myself in the thigh as I pulled a chair up to sit on.  Another time, although I was a good speller, I couldn't remember how to spell scissors.  It didn't look right after writing it a dozen times, so I tried to look it up in a dictionary.  How do you find a word in the dictionary when you cannot spell it?  I looked up 'shears' in the Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog.

Scissors found.  Time to clip the coupons - although it is a useless exercise.  Reviewing the last batch, I crumple those out of date to make room for the new ones.  I have good intentions for enjoying a discount, thrift and economical household management.  The reality is, coupon clipping is just a ritual - perhaps a subconscious need to ply scissors - as I am too old for cutting out paper dolls.

Scissors.  Do they bring back memories for you?  Tell me.  I'd like to know.
Nancy yTe \

Monday, September 3, 2012


Today is Labor Day.  For working folks, it is a day of rest; the last holiday of summer.  For children, it is a puzzlement.  There are no presents, no lamb or turkey and no costume-clad character to associate with the day.  Labor Day is rather like a 'bonus' holiday; a day to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.

This can be a day to relax and enjoy the fruits of one's achievements, if possible - a time to evaluate and reflect upon the value of one's own life and labor.  Being an American holiday, there is always much to be grateful for.  How we choose to evaluate our job opportunities and choices is for each individual to decide.

I have listed the most notable jobs in my lifetime in two columns: 'Worst' and 'Best.' The worst job I ever had was being a waitress.  I didn't last a week.  Being a clerk, then typist in a secretarial pool weren't wonderful either.  I had to step up to something more challenging and rewarding - so I got married and had a gaggle of children.

The best job I had was being an old-fashioned wife and homemaker: washing, ironing, cooking. cleaning, caring for children, coffee klatching and volunteer work with other housewives.  In business, I enjoyed being the 'kingpin' secretary to a dozen doctors.  Later, feeling effective and rewarded, I put years of business experience to work as a marketer of hospital health services.  Finally, teaching business, marketing and ethics to college students was my most personally rewarding employment - though the pay was totally inadequate.

I must note, too, that Labor Day is the beginning of political parades, conventions, debates and speeches in preparation for November's elections.  Politics:  Now there's a job I don't want!

How about you?  What rewards have you gleaned from your labors?
~Nancy yTe~