Today I gave one of my students, Em, the first black olive she had ever eaten. She looked at it skeptically, poked it with her finger, and queried, “What is this?” She noticed her friends eating them off the tips of their fingers. She tried hers on for size and beamed delightedly when it fit. One of her friends urged, “Taste it!” Em’s frown returned. “Just a little taste,” she said, then delicately nipped the tiniest bite off the olive.
Immediately her tongue popped back out of her mouth with the smudge of olive on it. The sight was met by a chorus of “Ewww!” from the other girls at the table. The tongue and the olive disappeared back inside Em’s mouth. Her face made the most marvelous contortions as she choked down that speck of olive.
Finally, she opened her eyes and looked at the olive still on the end of her finger. Slowly, she raised it to her lips. I said, “Em, did you like that olive?” She replied, very politely, “I found it a bit unusual.” Again she moved the olive toward her mouth. I said, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.”
Em said, “That wouldn’t be polite. I have to eat it.” I responded, “No, Em, you don’t. I gave it to you and I say if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. My feelings won’t be hurt.”
Em stared at me wide-eyed. She looked at the olive. She looked at me. “Really?” She asked. I pointed at the garbage can. “Throw the olive away,” I ordered.
Em effusively exclaimed, “Oh thank you! That really is nasty, you know!” She tossed the olive and scrubbed her tongue with the cuff of her shirt. “How can you people eat those things?” she demanded. We just wiggled our olive covered fingers and giggled.
I’ve always been a lover of books—the opportunity to visit a new world, a new time, a new way of life. What’s your rite-of-passage reading story? I’ll start with mine.
As soon as I started school, Mother encouraged me to learn to read. She was a voracious reader, eager for me to develop the same love of books. This Chatty Kathy enjoyed every form of communications since my first spoken word. The written word was no different—I took to it like gravy goes with biscuits. Remember those Weekly Reader magazines (oh, the delicious smell of the ink and paper!)? The SRA Reading Lab inspired me to read not just for speed, but for retention.
When I received my first public library card around age 6, Mom walked us to the library several times a month. Yes, it seemed like it was two miles uphill both ways, but it was worth it! Our little town of four thousand was blessed with a Carnegie library (built in 1905) full of well-loved books. Mom taught me how to follow my favorite authors—I read all their titles. I knew how to thumb through a card catalog and recite the Dewey decimal system. By the time I outgrew the children’s section, I had read every book and graduated to the “grown-up” shelves.
Most avid readers say their idea of a time-out from stress and life involves curling up with a good book—claw-foot tub or blazing fireplace optional.
My favorite reading tip is this: Don’t waste time on a mediocre book. When reading for recreation, remember that you aren’t in school anymore. You aren’t being graded for reading every word. So if a book doesn’t appeal to you, put it down! Grab a different one. We have only so much time in life—definitely not enough time to get bogged down with a boring book or confusing storyline.
Just because a book earned rave reviews doesn’t mean it’s the right book for you, any more than gorgeous size 7 shoes will fit size 10 feet!
Think about your own reading tale. What was it like when you learned to read? When did you discover your local library? Do you recall the favorite authors of your early years? Who inspired you to read more? What challenges you today in your reading? We all have a story—even a reading story!
Kathy Carlton Willis Bio:
Kathy Carlton Willis
Kathy Carlton Willis gets jazzed speaking for women’s events and writers conferences across the country. She’s known for her practical and often humorous messages. Kathy enjoys fiddling with words as a writer and also coaches others. When not reading or writing books, she serves as a happy pastor’s wife.
I just finished reading two of the sweetest books. They would make great read aloud stories for early primary school children, or even starter devotional type reading material for an upper elementary aged child. Arleta Richardson teaches Biblical lessons and precepts as she brings the past alive with her wonderful storytelling skills. I was totally charmed by both, In Grandma’s Attic, and, More Stories from Grandma’s Attic.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Arleta Richardson grew up in a Chicago hotel under her grandmother’s care. As they sat overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, her grandmother shared memories of her childhood on a Michigan farm. These treasured family stories became the basis for the Grandma’s Attic Series.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Remember when you were a child, when the entire world was new, and the smallest object a thing of wonder? Arleta Richardson remembered: the funny wearable wire contraption hidden in the dusty attic, the century-old schoolchild’s slate that belonged to Grandma, an ancient trunk filled with quilt pieces—each with its own special story—and the button basket, a miracle of mysteries. But best of all she remembered her remarkable grandmother who made magic of all she touched, bringing the past alive as only a born storyteller could.
So step inside the attic of Richardson’s grandmother. These stories will keep you laughing while teaching you valuable lessons. These marvelous tales faithfully recalled for the delight of young and old alike are a touchstone to another day when life was simpler, perhaps richer, and when the treasures of family life and love were passed from generation to generation by a child’s questions and the legends that followed enlarged our faith. These timeless stories were originally released in 1974 and then revised in 1999. They are being re-released with new artwork that will appeal to a new generation of girls.
In Grandma’s Attic:
List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
More Stories from Grandma’s Attic:
List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 3 edition (April 1, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In Grandma’s Attic – Chapter 1
Pride Goes Before a Fall
“Grandma, what is this?”
Grandma looked up from her work. “Good lands, child, where did you find that?”
“In the attic,” I replied. “What is it, Grandma?”
Grandma chuckled and answered, “That’s a hoop. The kind that ladies wore under their skirts when I was a little girl.”
“Did you ever wear one, Grandma?” I asked.
Grandma laughed. “Indeed I did,” she said. “In fact, I wore that very one.”
Here, I decided, must be a story. I pulled up the footstool and prepared to listen. Grandma looked at the old hoop fondly.
“I only wore it once,” she began. “But I kept it to remind me how painful pride can be.”
I was about eight years old when that hoop came into my life. For months I had been begging Ma to let me have a hoopskirt like the big girls wore. Of course that was out of the question. What would a little girl, not even out of calicoes, be doing with a hoopskirt? Nevertheless, I could envision myself walking haughtily to school with the hoopskirt and all the girls watching enviously as I took my seat in the front of the room.
This dream was shared by my best friend and seatmate, Sarah Jane. Together we spent many hours picturing ourselves as fashionable young ladies in ruffles and petticoats. But try as we would, we could not come up with a single plan for getting a hoopskirt of our very own.
Finally, one day in early spring, Sarah Jane met me at the school grounds with exciting news. An older cousin had come to their house to visit, and she had two old hoops that she didn’t want any longer. Sarah Jane and I could have them to play with, she said. Play with, indeed! Little did that cousin know that we didn’t want to play with them. Here was the answer to our dreams. All day, under cover of our books, Sarah Jane and I planned how we would wear those hoops to church on Sunday.
There was a small problem: How would I get that hoop into the house without Ma knowing about it? And how could either of us get out of the house with them on without anyone seeing us? It was finally decided that I would stop by Sarah Jane’s house on Sunday morning. We would have some excuse for walking to church, and after her family had left, we would put on our hoops and prepare to make a grand entrance at the church.
“Be sure to wear your fullest skirt,” Sarah Jane reminded me. “And be here early. They’re all sure to look at us this Sunday!”
If we had only known how true that would be! But of course, we were happily unaware of the disaster that lay ahead.
Sunday morning came at last, and I astonished my family by the speed with which I finished my chores and was ready to leave for church.
“I’m going with Sarah Jane this morning,” I announced, and set out quickly before anyone could protest.
All went according to plan. Sarah Jane’s family went on in the buggy, cautioning us to hurry and not be late for service. We did have a bit of trouble fastening the hoops around our waists and getting our skirts pulled down to cover them. But when we were finally ready, we agreed that there could not be two finer-looking young ladies in the county than us.
Quickly we set out for church, our hoopskirts swinging as we walked. Everyone had gone in when we arrived, so we were assured the grand entry we desired. Proudly, with small noses tipped up, we sauntered to the front of the church and took our seats.
Alas! No one had ever told us the hazards of sitting down in a hoopskirt without careful practice! The gasps we heard were not of admiration as we had anticipated—far from it! For when we sat down, those dreadful hoops flew straight up in the air! Our skirts covered our faces, and the startled minister was treated to the sight of two pairs of white pantalets and flying petticoats.
Sarah Jane and I were too startled to know how to disentangle ourselves, but our mothers were not. Ma quickly snatched me from the seat and marched me out the door.
The trip home was a silent one. My dread grew with each step. What terrible punishment would I receive at the hands of an embarrassed and upset parent? Although I didn’t dare look at her, I knew she was upset because she was shaking. It was to be many years before I learned that Ma was shaking from laughter, and not from anger!
Nevertheless, punishment was in order. My Sunday afternoon was spent with the big Bible and Pa’s concordance. My task was to copy each verse I could find that had to do with being proud. That day I was a sorry little girl who learned a lesson about pride going before a fall.
“And you were never proud again, Grandma?” I asked after she finished the story.
Grandma thought soberly for a moment. “Yes,” she replied. “I was proud again. Many times. It was not until I was a young lady and the Lord saved me that I had the pride taken from my heart. But many times when I am tempted to be proud, I remember that horrid hoopskirt and decide that a proud heart is an abomination to the Lord!”
More Stories From Grandma’s Attic
The Nuisance in Ma’s Kitchen
When Grandma called from the backyard, I knew I was in for it. She was using her would-you-look-at-this voice, which usually meant I was responsible for something.
“What, Grandma?” I asked once I reached the spot where she was hanging up the washing.
“Would you look at this?” she asked. “I just went into the kitchen for more clothespins and came back out to find this.”
I looked where she was pointing. One of my kittens had crawled into the clothes basket and lay sound asleep on a clean sheet.
“If you’re going to have kittens around the house, you’ll have to keep an eye on them. Otherwise leave them in the barn where they belong. It’s hard enough to wash sheets once without doing them over again.”
Grandma headed toward the house with the soiled sheet, and I took the kitten back to the barn. But I didn’t agree that it belonged there. I would much rather have had the whole family of kittens in the house with me. Later I mentioned this to Grandma.
“I know,” she said. “I felt the same way when I was your age. If it had been up to me, I would have moved every animal on the place into the house every time it rained or snowed.”
“Didn’t your folks let any pets in the house?” I asked.
“Most of our animals weren’t pets,” Grandma admitted. “But there were a few times when they were allowed in. If an animal needed special care, it stayed in the kitchen. I really enjoyed those times, especially if it was one I could help with.”
“Tell me about one,” I said, encouraging her to tell me another story about her childhood.
“I remember one cold spring,” she began, “when Pa came in from the barn carrying a tiny goat.”
“I’m not sure we can save this one.” Pa held the baby goat up for us to see. “The nanny had twins last night, and she’ll only let one come near her. I’m afraid this one’s almost gone.”
Ma agreed and hurried to find an old blanket and a box for a bed. She opened the oven door, put the box on it, and gently took the little goat and laid it on the blanket. It didn’t move at all. It just lay there, barely breathing.
“Oh, Ma,” I said. “Do you think it will live? Shouldn’t we give it something to eat?”
“It’s too weak to eat right now,” Ma replied. “Let it rest and get warm. Then we’ll try to feed it.”
Fortunately it was Saturday, and I didn’t have to go to school. I sat on the floor next to the oven and watched the goat. Sometimes it seemed as though it had stopped breathing, and I would call Ma to look.
“It’s still alive,” she assured me. “It just isn’t strong enough to move yet. You wait there and watch if you want to, but don’t call me again unless it opens its eyes.”
When Pa and my brothers came in for dinner, Reuben stopped and looked down at the tiny animal. “Doesn’t look like much, does it?”
I burst into tears. “It does so!” I howled. “It looks just fine! Ma says it’s going to open its eyes. Don’t discourage it!”
Reuben backed off in surprise, and Pa came over to comfort me. “Now, Reuben wasn’t trying to harm that goat. He just meant that it doesn’t … look like a whole lot.”
I started to cry again, and Ma tried to soothe me. “Crying isn’t going to help that goat one bit,” she said. “When it gets stronger, it will want something to eat. I’ll put some milk on to heat while we have dinner.”
I couldn’t leave my post long enough to go to the table, so Ma let me hold my plate in my lap. I ate dinner watching the goat. Suddenly it quivered and opened its mouth. “It’s moving, Ma!” I shouted. “You’d better bring the milk!”
Ma soaked a rag in the milk, and I held it while the little goat sucked it greedily. By the time it had fallen asleep again, I was convinced that it would be just fine.
And it was! By evening the little goat was standing on its wobbly legs and began to baa loudly for more to eat. “Pa, maybe you’d better bring its box into my room,” I suggested at bedtime.
“Whatever for?” Pa asked. “It will keep warm right here by the stove. We’ll look after it during the night. Don’t worry.”
“And we aren’t bringing your bed out here,” Ma added, anticipating my next suggestion. “You’ll have enough to do, watching that goat during the day.”
Of course Ma was right. As the goat got stronger, he began to look for things to do. At first he was content to grab anything within reach and pull it. Dish towels, apron strings, and tablecloth corners all fascinated him. I kept busy trying to move things out of his way.
From the beginning the little goat took a special liking to Ma, but she was not flattered. “I can’t move six inches in this kitchen without stumbling over that animal,” she sputtered. “He can be sound asleep in his box one minute and sitting on my feet the next. I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate him in here.”
As it turned out, it wasn’t much longer. The next Monday, Ma prepared to do the washing in the washtub Pa had placed on two chairs near the woodpile. Ma always soaked the clothes in cold water first, then transferred them to the boiler on the stove.
I was in my room when I heard her shouting, “Now you put that down! Come back here!”
I ran to the kitchen door and watched as the goat circled the table with one of Pa’s shirts in his mouth. Ma was right behind him, but he managed to stay a few feet ahead of her.
“Step on the shirt, Ma!” I shouted as I ran into the room. “Then he’ll have to stop!”
I started around the table the other way, hoping to head him off. But the goat seemed to realize that he was outnumbered, for he suddenly turned and ran toward the chairs that held the washtub.
“Oh, no!” Ma cried. “Not that way!”
But it was too late! Tub, water, and clothes splashed to the floor. The goat danced stiff-legged through the soggy mess with a surprised look on his face.
“That’s enough!” Ma said. “I’ve had all I need of that goat. Take him out and tie him in the yard, Mabel. Then bring me the mop, please.”
I knew better than to say anything, but I was worried about what would happen to the goat. If he couldn’t come back in the kitchen, where would he sleep?
Pa had the answer to that. “He’ll go to the barn tonight.”
“But, Pa,” I protested, “he’s too little to sleep in the barn. Besides, he’ll think we don’t like him anymore!”
“He’ll think right,” Ma said. “He’s a menace, and he’s not staying in my kitchen another day.”
“But I like him,” I replied. “I feel sorry for him out there alone. If he has to sleep in the barn, let me go out and sleep with him!”
My two brothers looked at me in amazement.
“You?” Roy exclaimed. “You won’t even walk past the barn after dark, let alone go in!”
Everyone knew he was right. I had never been very brave about going outside after dark. But I was more concerned about the little goat than I was about myself.
“I don’t care,” I said stubbornly. “He’ll be scared out there, and he’s littler than I am.”
Ma didn’t say anything, probably because she thought I’d change my mind before dark. But I didn’t. When Pa started for the barn that evening, I was ready to go with him. Ma saw that I was determined, so she brought me a blanket.
“You’d better wrap up in this,” she said. “The hay is warm, but it’s pretty scratchy.”
I took the blanket and followed Pa and the goat out to the barn. The more I thought about the long, dark night, the less it seemed like a good idea, but I wasn’t going to give in or admit that I was afraid.
Pa found a good place for me to sleep. “This is nice and soft and out of the draft. You’ll be fine here.”
I rolled up in the blanket, hugging the goat close to me as I watched Pa check the animals. The light from the lantern cast long, scary shadows through the barn, and I thought about asking Pa if he would stay with me. I knew better, though, and all too soon he was ready to leave.
“Good night, Mabel. Sleep well,” he said as he closed the barn door behind him. I doubted that I would sleep at all. If it hadn’t been for the goat and my brothers who would laugh at me, I would have returned to the house at once. Instead I closed my eyes tightly and began to say my prayers. In a few moments the barn door opened, and Reuben’s voice called to me.
“Mabel,” he said, “it’s just me.” He came over to where I lay, and I saw that he had a blanket under his arm. “I thought I’d sleep out here tonight too. I haven’t slept in the barn for a long time. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Oh, no. That’s fine.” I turned over and fell asleep at once.
When I awoke in the morning, the goat and Reuben were both gone. Soon I found the goat curled up by his mother.
“Will you be sleeping in the barn again tonight?” Ma asked me at breakfast.
“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “I’ll take care of the goat during the day, but I guess his mother can watch him at night.”
Grandma laughed at the memory. “After I grew up, I told Reuben how grateful I was that he came out to stay with me. I wonder how my family ever put up with all my foolishness.”
Grandma went back into the house, and I wandered out to the barn to see the little kittens. I decided I wouldn’t be brave enough to spend the night there even if I had a big brother to keep me company!
As you know, yesterday was Amoeba’s birthday. As was his wish, we spent the morning in his lab cleaning and rearranging. He’s had a couple pieces of equipment in there he doesn’t need for his research that could be better put to use by someone else, so we facilitated their removal. We also broke down a bunch of boxes he’d been storing and I washed some glassware.
Then we went to the Hungry Clam for lunch. Amoeba ordered the scallop basket with fries and I had a fish sandwich with clam chowder. The scallop basket is Amoeba’s favorite item on the lunch menu. (For breakfast we both always order Eggs Benedict. The Hungry Clam makes the best Eggs Benedict I have ever eaten!) I had never before ordered the fish sandwich. I usually get the fish basket. I just wasn’t up for a gigantic mound of fries. The fish sandwich was excellent.
After lunch Amoeba went back to his lab and I came home and tidied up the Avon half of my office. I purchased booth space in a flea market this April 23rd, and I needed to audit my inventory. I also took a shower and got ready to go out. Amoeba came home, mowed the lawn, then got cleaned up as well. We went to the Rumor Mill.
I haven’t quite decided if the Rumor Mill is a restaurant with a lively bar, or a lively bar with really great food. Either way, I always enjoy good food and good music whenever we go there. Of course Charley wasn’t playing. I asked him how it felt to sit in the audience and listen to the music for a change. He said it seemed weird, but that didn’t’ stop him from enjoying his dinner!
Amoeba ordered Pasta Puttanesca with Mussels. I ordered Mushroom Gorgonzola Flat Iron steak. We both thoroughly enjoyed our meals. We also had dessert. When we arrived at the Rumor Mill, Amoeba let me out at the door, and then drove around the block to park. I went in and got a table, and asked one of the waiters if I could order dessert now, but have it served after the meal. I told him it was Amoeba’s birthday and I wanted the dessert to be a surprise. He assured me he would let our waitress know.
Amoeba and I ordered our meal and ate it leisurely while listening to Kate Schuman & Friends. Kate is a local singer/song writer and she and her band (group of friends) are quite enjoyable. Kate’s music presentation was a “show” this time, but we also enjoy her when she leads sing-a-longs, which she has also done at the Rumor Mill.
ANYWAY, when it was time to pick up our plates the waitress confirmed that she’d put in my dessert order. There was no cake on the menu. My initial reaction was to order the yummy, gooey sounding brownie, but it is made with Kona coffee, which I would love but Amoeba not so much, and it was his birthday. Another dessert featured coconut, also not one of Amoeba’s favorite things, but the third dessert was apple crisp and apple pie is one of Amoeba’s favorite things so I ordered that.
This was no ordinary apple crisp. It was made with perfectly spiced apples and walnuts, but it had a Phyllo pastry crust. Light, flaky and yummy! It was served with ice cream and whipped cream. I ordered one dessert with two spoons and we shared it. I didn’t want to share, but as I said, it was Amoeba’s birthday!
I bet you’re wondering where I have been lately. Well, I am writing, and during my writing time my blog is off limits. I have also been spending a bit more morning time with Amoeba — well, except for this week since he is 3000 miles away — although we do still talk several times a day. I’ve also been doing a bit more reading — and I have joined the gym.
I am taking water aerobics classes and I love them. I would be a bit happier if the water was a couple of degrees warmer, but overall I am pleased. The class has improved my balance and agility a lot.
I think that class is also helping me combat my winter blues. It gives me something to look forward to — and it picks me up afterward. Plus, we have a pretty large group and do a lot of joking and laughing — which is good exercise, too!
The other night in water aerobics class we were trying to tightrope walk on Styrofoam noodles. Talk about a riot. Walking I couldn’t do, but I did finally manage to balance on one. One of the guys walked from one of of his noodle to the other, but he cheated by taking it to the shallow end so it wasn’t floating at all!
At any rate, trying to force a Styrofoam under water, get our feet on it, and then stand up was hysterically funny. The noodles, of course, wanted to float and they’d pop out of the water, often taking feet with them, turning the person standing on them end over end. One couldn’t help but laugh at the sight — which pretty much guaranteed a reciprocal loss of balance and another spectacular fall.
So, I have been busy with other things, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten you. I am just out in search of life and something fun to blog about. Stay tuned!