Archive | February, 2013

4 Things I Learned from My Ancestors

Olivia Newport Byler land

My eldest brother is a person of note in a Christian denomination that is … well, not Amish. I remember the first time I told him that I had discovered a link to early Amish settlers in our own family history. His head just about hit the table. In the Valley of Choice series, which […]

5 Things a Snow Day Shows Me

Olivia Newport - snowy branches

I should begin with a caveat. With the exception of seven months last winter, I have had the privilege of earning my fulltime income from within the confines of my home for more than eight years. On the one hand, this means that when I wake to eight inches of snow, there is no chance […]

How Do You Find the Courage to Choose?

This is a photo of the kitchen of the Glessner House, home of the historical neighbors of the fictional Bannings of Prairie Avenue.

Before the labor reforms that the twentieth century brought, workers had virtually no protection under the law. Employers did not need legal grounds for terminating employment, and they could demand whatever they wanted from workers. If the workers didn’t like it, employers could simply hire someone else. Working in domestic service actually offered more security […]

Why Do People Do This?


Our son invited my husband and me out to dinner on Friday night, his treat. He recently got rehired to a job he had been laid off from a few months ago when business was slow, so he felt like celebrating. And he’s much better at celebrating than I am, one of the things I […]

Installment 11: The Corner Trumpet

Twenty-one December 1942   Charlie left again as quickly as he had come. The days marched toward Christmas, another Christmas without Charlie. Mama was nervous, Daddy listened to the radio, the girls fussed about decorating the house. I heard Mama and Daddy talking early one morning, the way they did. Mama didn’t feel much like […]

Installment 10 The Corner Trumpet

Nineteen August 1942   Slowly and quietly, Charlie was gathering his few things and getting ready to leave us. He had come home with only a duffel bag and his uniform, and he would probably leave with just the same stuff. Mama had washed and starched his sailor uniform and it hung, looking bright and […]

Is Archie Shepard an Anarchist?

Olivia Newport Haymarket Riot 1886

One of Charlotte’s dilemmas in The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow is what to do about Archie Shepard. Is he really somebody she can trust with her deepest secrets? Mr. Penard, the stuffy butler in the Banning household, also faces a dilemma about what to do with Archie. How can he be sure Archie is not […]

Mama Says: Special Presentation

Mom and Tag - Olivia Newport

Now don’t send me hate mail because you love your dog. I am about to tell you a story about my mother and her dog. Here’s the preface. My mother is fond of her dog. She recognizes that he has been good for her in the years since she’s had him. But today is her […]

Installment 9: The Corner Trumpet

Seventeen August 1942  Charlie’s time at home was almost up. In less than a week he’d be gone, and we didn’t know when we would see him again. Nobody seemed to talk about it much, but I saw Mama sitting on the porch a lot, praying, with her Bible open in her lap. I suppose […]

The Model Modern Kitchen

Olivia Newport John Deere kitchen

Is your kitchen one of those compact, efficient spaces where you can stand in one place and reach everything? Or does it sprawl and attract guests and family for long hang-out sessions? While writing the Avenue of Dreams series, I spent a lot of time imagining what the kitchen in the Banning household had to […]