Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow time: how to beat the cold

by Pat Laster, author, A Journey of Choice

How ‘bout that snow??? Oh, wait. That’s how I began a previous post. Tsk, tsk! So I’ll piggyback off Paul Greenberg’s annual Arkansas Democrat Gazette offering by responding to it.
To wit: Longjohns. I don’t wear longjohns, though I sometimes wear pajamas under my fleece pants. Does that count?
Fireplaces. Though mine burns gas rather than wood, it still radiates heat into the room and gives the nostalgic hint of the real thing. Except for the aroma. Last week when grandson Billy and his friend Sam played in the snow, they left boots, shoes and gloves on the hearth to dry. Talk about nostalgia. I almost cried. I DID take a picture for proof.
Bathroom heaters. Never take them out, Greenberg says, but I didn’t have a choice. When the gas line had to be re-placed, the inspector, well, inspected, and demanded that the ancient wall heater go. “Old Ark-La,” he said, dismissively, and out it came. A portable electric heater warms the small room enough for baths.
A goosedown comforter. I’ll take whatever fills the comforter that covers my bed—the pricey one I found at Tuesday Morning last year. Billy took my previous one and I couldn’t stand to hear him whine that he needed it for keeps.
Exercise the mind; turn off the teevee (sic), which Mr. G opines is a good idea any time of the year. Amen to that—for myself. In a rocker pulled close to the fire (see above), feet on a footstool, and a throw (see below) over my legs, I tackle another in the Oxford Anthology of Short Stories borrowed from the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow.
After my novel came out, I decided to work on short stories, so I brought the book home and have been slogging through it. Now, I try to read at least one, sometimes two if they’re short, every night. Any unknown words—and there are many—I transcribe in my chair-side journal to look up the next day. I go online to see reviews and essays about the stories I read the night(s) before. I’m using my mind all right. Pushing its limits perhaps, but I keep at it.
Back to P. G.: Sweaters. Galoshes. Gloves . . . “Do I have any boots?” Billy asked before he and Sam went outside. “Where are those I used to wear?” He’d outgrown those about five years ago and hadn’t needed them since, so he didn’t have anything but his regular sneakers (see Fireplace above). Gloves I had, so Sam used them; BJ found his, but went out bareheaded, though somewhere amongst all his clothes he has a new Old Navy cap.
Galoshes remind me of those horrid yellow rubber boots that I had to wear as a child. Guess what? In TJMaxx recently, I saw some high-top yellow boots! (What do they say? ‘What goes around comes around’?)
I’ll add something Herr Greenberg didn’t mention: throws—those large squares meant to be thrown over your shoulders or—as I use them—over your legs. My relatives were fond of giving our late mother throws so that I inherited at least a half dozen. Plus those I’ve received since becoming the eldest--the matriarch. I keep one on every chair, the sofa and the love seat, wherever people sit.
Another way—not in Mr. Greenberg’s list––to keep warm during this cold spell/ season is to read John Greenleaf Whittier’s Snowbound, a seven-hundred-fifty-nine line poem, and be thankful we don’t live in New England where winters are much, much worse than in central Arkansas.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Big Snow for Arkansas

by Pat Laster, author of A Journey of Choice


after many years
snow togs again
drying by the fire
pair of cardinals
caught in a snow-covered pine
for a news picture
under a blanket of snow
reads 22 degrees
a cat lying
in a cleared-out place
in the snowy yard
snow caps
on clumps of beautyberries~
cat sitting in sun
swing full of snow
while the sun shines,
the wind pushes
still icy patches
where the trees block the sun
road clogged with semis

c 2011, lovepat press

Happy 41st birthday to my last-born, Annamarie

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hard to move forward when the past clings

by Pat Laster (author, A Journey of Choice)

How ‘bout them Hogs? I typed that opening before the Sugar Bowl game. Back to the keyboard during halftime with the Hogs ‘way behind. How ‘bout them Hogs? I ask again. We’ll see, won’t we?
During the first half, I went through my sewing sack and set aside ribbons, shoe strings, loose buttons, sewing AND machine needles, and various other items I would never use. Those things will go to Goodwill or the Habitat Restore.
I kept three pair of tiny scissors, a seam ripper that I’ll never use, 4 thimbles—one a small beat-up metal one that I’ll “give” a fictional history, and another advertising Sweet Rose Flour. Anyone with information about that company or logo, I would love to hear from you (
After that, I used navy thread for hemming three pairs of fleece pants, and rose thread for a pair of red ones. Not a bad accomplishment for one evening. I felt almost old timey––doing handwork, rocking in front of the fire and listening to my late Daddy’s radio.
How ‘bout them Hogs? They weren’t up to snuff; too little too late; all tuckered out; something.Ohio and Terrelle Pryor, you know. But the Razorback Nation's gotta put it behind us and move forward, as surely many losing coaches told their players.
I’m having trouble moving ahead. I used all the plastic tubs on the place for Christmas paraphernalia and still needed more. I tried to move ahead to the next season by stripping the Christmas table linens (oops! it was flannel-backed plastic!). That went fine, but the cloth I pulled down to replace it was too large for the table.
I refolded it and opened the largest buffet drawer where other large cloths lay. Under those three cloths were old boxes, gee-gaws, and loose pictures. I could do nothing but lay the cloths on the table and go through the boxes. Boxes full of the past. My maternal grandmother’s past, those things that Mom inherited that became mine. One box contained quilt blocks, another––lined with a cloth that I did not take out and look at––held small perfume vials, porcelain figurines, keepsakes from someone to someone else.
I poked through every box, every card, every clipping. I laid out those things collegian grandson Billy needed to see––clippings of mine and his Papa’s wedding, my engagement picture––recital programs, graduation invitations and church bulletins. Even an invitation to one of his birthday parties.
I called my aunt, the only living daughter of Grandma Severn and she said she’d done the same thing not long ago, and no, she didn’t want what I had. We laughed and wondered if any of our children or grandchildren would cherish them as they matured into the family lore and traditions. We both hope and trust so.
My grandmother came from Kansas and many of her relatives still lived (and live) there. One yellowed clipping dated May 13, 1954 was from The Anderson Countian. On page eleven, Welda news continued (“Additional Welda”) for fifty-two and a half column inches!!
I know folks love to read about the happenings in their area and to look for their names, but this clipping seemed a bit much. I’d like to see an issue of that paper today if it still exists. [Checking online shows that yes, it still exists and so do two other papers! Who said newspapers were vanishing?]
Here are some excerpts: “The senior class and their sponsors...returned from their sneak trip...Among points of interest visited were Rockaway Beach, Lake of the Ozarks, Bridal Cave and Bagnall Dam.”
The practice of listing every name mentioned as “Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So” took up many column inches. Other items included people who were dinner guests of their parents, those who were “Sunday evening visitors.” A little boy from Colorado “spent Saturday night with his cousin...”And “Little Norma Jean Owens returned home with her grandparents for a visit.”
Seven-and-a-half inches were given to a report of the Methodist Women’s Society of Christian Service (now UMW).
Such detailed descriptions! My final example (and from only the second of six columns) involved the name of my grandmother’s sister Cora’s folks, to wit: “A pot luck supper was held at the Lowell Brecheisen honor of Mr. Louis Brecheisen who will be inducted into the army Friday.”
Like “them Hogs,” I gotta put the past behind me and move forward into whatever the new year holds.
c 2011 lovepat press

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Welcoming the new year with appropriate poems

In Patrick McDonnell's comic, Mutts, on January 3, I felt a connection so I made it into a cinquain pattern. This is a found poem.
for two-thousand 'leven:
he resolves to "take more naps. Z-"
Me, too.
New Year's morning
for breakfast, the last
of the Crackerjacks
noon on New Year's day
napping ... my collegian, too,
sleeps this day away
eight hours
into the new year
two new poems
eighteen degrees
the faucets dripping
against frozen pipes
January fourth
warm enough to work outside
but for the north wind
Epiphany's feast:
a last blueberry muffin
from Christmas breakfast
c January 2011
lovepat press and
Pat Laster, author of
A Journey of Choice