A Bucket of Buttons

By Laura Thomas

Memories are stirred as I gaze at the button collection that was once my grandmother’s. While they are not a valuable treasure anyone else, they are a treasure nonetheless to me. For in my mind’s eye I remember not the joy those buttons brought to me, but also memories of my grandparents and of the land I called home. I grew up in Southern Idaho, a desert country full of sagebrush cactus and farming country. This land was brought to life by the canals that brought water, dug not only by shovel and man but of horse power. These canals were and are the life blood of the area and the people that came as pioneers to this arid land, full of promise and cheap land.

My roots run deep in this country, for my grandparents, both maternal and paternal had come as early settlers, forging a path for others to come, to make Idaho one of the top potato producing regions. My father’s father was instrumental in the construction of the canals, working with his shovel and teams of horses, to make not only farming possible but to support his family as well. By the time I came along, my Father’s parents were retired from the farm and living in town.  However, my Mothers parents were still on the farm. Their farm consisted of ten acers, down from what they had originally bought. Here they not only raised pigs, but bought and sold baby dairy cattle. Grandma also had her menagerie of fowl: chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and her prized peacocks, beautiful birds with all the colors a peacock is known for.

Their house, the original home was comprised of only two bedrooms and one bath, a small kitchen and main room. In later years, my grandparents would add a family room, added as a log cabin to the main house. I remember this room as a gathering place for the family and watching TV, a rare treat. This was a large room with an upstairs room to sleep in. Here we kids slept with the window open, not only bringing in cool air, but also the lonely cries of the coyotes out on the desert. The family room was also where she kept her bucket of buttons, they served a purposes, to be serviceable and for her grandchildren to play with.

We spent a lot of time out at our grandparents’ farm and while all of us kids, seven in total, have different memories, I remember always loving the farm. I got to help feed the baby calves, and taught them to drink from a bucket, their warm, moist but rough tongue on my fingers as they sucked the milk. The rides on the hay wagon as grandpa fed the pigs–and boy were they big pigs, as I recall. Now maybe it was because I was much smaller at the time, but I remember grandpas words, “Don’t get into the pens with the pigs, they are mean!” While I took this as serious, I was allowed to go into the sows pens as they gave birth to their young, with my grandmother as she assisted the sow.I was fascinated by this whole  process, the baby pigs so tiny and pink, especially compared with their mom, and razor sharp teeth as I found out.

 As I gaze at the buttons, I also remember the porch where the runts of the litter were kept and bottle fed till they grew to a size to be back out with the rest. The activities of the family as we came together, for home grown meals and as grandmother canned or made her famous fruit cobbler; and of the general hustle and bustle that a small country kitchen holds as people gather, a family. My grandmother has since passed, yet the memories of my grandparents are alive, for I inherited the bucket of buttons and each time I see them, they take me back to not only my grandparent’s farm, but to my childhood.

The Power of Gifts

by Fran Tabor

We are inundated with occasions to give gifts, from religious holidays to social milestones to be celebrated. It seems we are inundated with excuses to go shopping for things to give; things too soon forgotten. Can gifts make a difference?

Yes, sometimes a gift can change the world.

A popular gift for several centuries has been a diary. Even in today’s electronic age, diaries remain a popular gift.

Diaries figure prominently in movies and are often a source of instant humor when the “bratty younger brother” sneaks forbidden peaks at his older sister’s romantic imaginings. Diaries have given us insights into history not possible through other sources. James Boswell’s Diary of London Life is a famous example.

Nearly a century ago, a diary was given to a very ordinary girl on the verge of womanhood – a girl who wondered if she were pretty enough to be a movie star, who wondered about the people around her, her nascent romantic musings. All this and more she shared with her special friend the diary.

She never lived to womanhood, but her diary became a part of the lives of many millions who took her words into their own journey from childhood to adulthood. The gift her family gave her, the gift of a diary, gave us the gift of understanding.

Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy. A million dead is a statistic.” Anne Frank’s diary turned the statistic of millions murdered into the single death of a very ordinary girl – a girl who could have been anyone’s treasured daughter, sister, neighbor…

Her diary was, is, a gift to the world.

What’s Your Theme for 2022?

by Barbara Schiffman

In “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” novelist Zora Neale Hurston wrote: ”There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

For some of us, 2021 was a year that asked many questions. I hope to get answers to at least some of those questions in 2022.

Actor John Wayne said: “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life… It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.” I also believe we learn from our experiences and life lessons, if we’re paying attention.

Writing down my unanswered Questions and last year’s Lessons helps me notice the unifying thread or pattern that’s unfolding through my life. It often lets me determine a THEME for the past year which puts what occurred in a clearer perspective

As we move from 2021 to 2022, I invite you to do this as well. Notice whether your lingering Questions &/or recent Life Lessons reflect a Theme permeating 2021. Write down whatever comes to mind. Consider this the “working title” for the chapter you’ve just written in your personal Book of Life. Know that you can refine this Theme as the pattern of your 2021 experiences becomes even clearer in hindsight.

Since each new year gives us a fresh start and opportunities to do things differently, you can also consider how you want 2022 to feel as it begins and as it unfolds. Write down whatever phrase comes to mind as your “first draft” of 2022’s Theme.

My Year Themes often come from song or book titles. In 2011, my Year Theme was the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations.” It lifted my spirits, so I played it whenever I needed an energy boost or a reminder to stay positive no matter what was happening around me.

Themes can also be a blend of words embodying the feeling, energy, or “flavor” you’d like your year to contain. I prefer to create two or three-word phrases for this, choosing words that start with the same letter or have a similar sound, giving my Theme some rhythm or rhyme and making it easier to remember.

My 2012 Theme was “Delighted and Delicious!” When decisions, actions or opportunities arose for me that year, I’d notice if they made me feel “delighted” or “delicious” or both, and choose to take them — or not — accordingly.

At the beginning of 2013, the song “The Time of My Life” from the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ suddenly began playing in my mind as I thought about the year ahead of me. I realized that was how I wanted to feel every day — like I’m having the Time of My Life. So it became my Theme Song for that year. I listened to several versions of it on iTunes and downloaded the Broadway show version because I could sing along to it easily. I played it in my car whenever I felt stuck. Just thinking of the song reminded me to notice how I was having the time of my life, and that my life was getting better all the time. (Another Theme Song for that year could also have been “It’s Getting Better All the Time” – thank you, Beatles!)

As I think about 2022, “(I’ll Get By) With a Little Help From My Friends” comes to mind – another Beatles classic. Maybe that can be my Theme for 2022?

Let your “inner muse” guide you to create the right Theme or Theme Song for your 2022. Feel free to share it with me at literasee@gmail.com.


This was adapted from my Kindle Vella “Ready Set Next: Embracing Your Past to Empower Your Future” – you can read the whole Vella at https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/story/B09BF1PMWT

Happy New Year from Saturn?

by Mary Frances Erler

A new year has finally arrived!  I’m sure almost everyone is glad to see 2021 go away. Old Father Time, known as Chronos (the source of words like chronology and chronometer) to the Greeks, and Saturn to the Romans, is still a feature of our new year celebrations.  You know, the old bearded man with the scythe, who hobbles away as the old year passes.

When I took high school Latin, we were told “Io Saturnalia” meant Merry Christmas, sort of.  Most of Roman history was pre-Christianity, so Saturnalia was actually a pagan holiday celebrating the arrival of the New Year, as well as the Winter Solstice.

Saturn was the “grandfather” of the Gods, the father of Jupiter (Zeus in Greek) who was, in turn, father of most of the rest of the gods in mythology. I find it interesting that old Saturn still shows up this time of year as Father Time, the thing we cannot control, because it just marches on. 

The planet Saturn was in the news in 2020, because Saturn and Jupiter were closer together in our viewpoint here on earth than they’ve been for over 600 years.  Some hoped this was a good omen for the year 2021.  Now that it’s 2022, we need all the hope we can get!

Book News – Publish Your Novel in 2022

by Betty Kuffel

The New Year is here and there are some exciting opportunities on the horizon to help meet your writing goals and get your work published in 2022. Maybe like me, you have queried many agents and haven’t found a fit for your manuscript. Two opportunities caught my attention recently and I plan to try both.

THE FIRST is very exciting and offers an opportunity for traditional publishing through the Berkley Open Submission Program, part of Penguin Random House. Authors can submit directly via this channel without an agent. The search for new work is broad, including romance, women’s fiction, mystery, suspense/thrillers, horror, science fiction, and fantasy. There is a limited time window so check it out soon.

Berkley Open Submission Program requirements include: a 1-page synopsis, the first ten pages of the manuscript, an author bio and a query letter with links to your social media platforms. Here is the link for details: https://sites.prh.com/berkley-open-submission-program

THE SECOND is Draft2Digital: https://www.draft2digital.com/

To use this method of publication and or distribution, if you are published on Amazon KDP and on the Select program, you must opt out of Amazon Kindle Select. Be sure you uncheck the KDP Select box before you apply.

This is a self-publishing program with broad support. A friend has used it and is ecstatic with the powerful tools. It can perform help with layout, publishing, distribution, and print-on-demand paperbacks.

If you are in need of finalizing a synopsis, query letter or bio, check out Jane Friedman’s “Resources for Writers”  https://www.janefriedman.com/

Best wishes for the New Year.

Betty Kuffel