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Monday, May 6, 2019

Sea Glass Published by Spank the Carp

Following on the heels of National Poetry Month, one of my poems was published May 1 in issue number 50 of the online magazine Spank the Carp. I was especially pleased by the message I received from editor Ken S when he informed me some time back my poem had been chosen.

Congratulations, I've decided to accept your work 'Sea Glass' for publication in SPANK the CARP.
-- Ginger: What a great "total" poem, in that everything about it works toward a single purpose. I loved the ebb and flow depicted in the shape of the stanzas. And the sounds too were well chosen. - Ken

Sea Glass  

A tiny jewel rolls in with the tide.
Before the briny pulls it back
I add it to the kaleidoscope cradled in my hand                        
            algae greens                             
                        whites frothy as foam               
                                      seaweed browns
and one oh-so-rare cerulean blue.

Surf pounds, sunlight dances   
water trickles through my toes               
while I pause to reflect on how long it took
                                    rocks and reef                         
                        salt and sand                            
            wind and waves                      
to smooth and gently etch these crystal gems.

Each fragment harbors the tale
of a vessel and what it might have stowed
before Poseidon’s fork broke it apart
            a lover’s note               
                        Coco’s perfume
                                    Jim Croce’s time       
or plain ol’ backyard beer.    

‘Twas the journey that glorified this glass     
not purpose, nor the one who held it last.
I will wrap these gems in silver and wear them  
                                    in my hair
                        ‘round my neck           
            on my toes       
as treasure discovered on faraway shores.
                                    Ginger Dehlinger

Saturday, April 6, 2019

April is National Poetry Month

When I retired and began writing for fun and not-to-be profit, my focus was prose. I spent close to ten years writing and promoting my novels "Brute Heart" and "Never Done." I also wrote a few essays and short stories.

During that time I also joined a critique group. Inspired by two members of the group who were poets, I started playing around with poetry. I quickly learned rhyming poetry was passe. Today's readers and editors prefer blank verse or free verse. Unfortunately, most of my early attempts at writing poetry were full of lines that rhymed. Sometimes rhyming words showed up even when I made a conscious effort to avoid them.

For the last year or so I have been submitting my work to online magazines, and surprise, surprise, 5 of my poems have been published. Who'd a thunk it? One of the chosen poems even rhymed.

Since April is National Poetry Month I decided to post a poem I have written. This poem, an example of blank verse, has not been accepted for publication. I have submitted it several times, but thus far, no interest.

A Rose Is a Rose Is a Weed

Noble bloom, pride of queen and pharaoh,         
     centuries of breeding grace your face.
A blueblood now your palette runneth over
     on velvet petals crowning shapely legs.
But ancient meadows tell of baser roots,
     of tangled limbs and blossoms pale and small,
a prickly past your breeders cannot stem
     nor halt the thorny legacy you bear.

Aristocrat of weeds, your rowdy cousins                                           
     ambush country fences, blight the harvest.
Outlaws from distinguished family tree
    or spoilers of your pretty pedigree?

You blush at such denouement (tres outré!)
     and pucker lipstick petals for a kiss,        
seducing those naïve to the deception
     with mesmerizing breaths of French perfume.
                                                Ginger Dehlinger

Friday, March 8, 2019

Fun With Grammar

After posting several months about the days of the week housewives traditionally did specific chores, I decided it was time for lighter fare. Below are some humorous takes on a few weird aspects of English grammar.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

No Rest

I chose the name "No Rest" for Part VII of Never Done as a way to reinforce the message inherent in the novel's title. I also favored "No Rest" for the seventh day of the week because the Bible asks Christians to treat Sunday as a day of rest. Even today, with many labor-saving devices in their homes, women rarely just go to church and read the Bible on the sabbath.

In Part VII, not only is Clara running a hotel in Montrose, Colorado, she has to deal with the flu epidemic of 1918. My great-grandmother wrote about the deadly disease and how it affected her and her family in seven paragraphs of an autobiography that was 148 hand-written pages long.

When writing Never Done I expanded those seven paragraphs into 23 pages. Below are a couple of passages from the novel. In the first excerpt I share a bit of what I came across during my research.

As the disease spread, chatter filled the phone lines, some people claiming the disease was a secret
weapon unleashed by the Germans. Children began jumping rope to a new ditty.

I had a little bird,
It’s name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.

The 1918 flu was especially hard on the people of Colorado, and in this second excerpt Clara tries to reassure her daughter and calm her nerves.

“Nobody is going to die here,” Clara said without raising her voice. “After they rest for a few days, they’ll be fine. I can’t throw people out. Where would they go? Every hospital in the state is full, and no one is going to take them into their homes.”

“This is a plague, Mother, a plague! Shops are padlocked. Theaters closed. The streets are nearly

Clara smoothed Pearl’s dark brown hair off her brow. “Don’t be so dramatic, Baby. People don’t
survive a plague. The trains are still running. So is the stage.”

If you'd like to read more about this disease known as the Spanish flu, scroll back to my post from November 9th. As you'll see, I was so fascinated with what I learned in my research I had to write more about it.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Live, Love, Bake

The C. A. Pillsbury Company was founded in 1872, one year after Clara, the name I gave the character based on my great-grandmother, was born. In Part VI of Never Done Clara spends the better part of every Saturday baking bread, pies, or other desserts, and probably, although I didn't mention it by name, out of Pillsbury flour.

After cleaning house on Friday, Clara and most nineteenth/early twentieth century housewives devoted Saturday to the week's baking. Sugared baked goods kept better than homemade bread, but by baking bread on Saturday she could serve it fresh with Sunday dinner.

Air is bread's enemy. A breadbox kept the staple fresh a little longer

Part VI begins on a Saturday. "With the aroma of baking bread filling every corner of the hotel, Clara celebrated her first year as manager in the kitchen. It was a cool September afternoon, but the sunshine spilling through the windows, combined with the heat from the oven, made the kitchen almost unbearable. Using the hem of her apron, she blotted perspiration from her upper lip. Then she folded a pat of dough in half, kneaded it with the heels of her hands, and folded it again, pushing and punching, dusting it with flour until the dough reached the texture of an earlobe." 

Clara had many bread-making failures before learning how to compensate for the higher altitudes of Western Colorado's mountains: "dough that wouldn’t rise, yeast that died, bread with so many holes in it there wasn’t any place to spread the butter."

She had no trouble baking pies, though, even in the mining town of Ophir Loop. Below is her pie dough recipe.

2 c. flour
3/4 c. lard
a salt spoon of salt
6 tbsp. of cold water

I modeled Clara after my great-grandmother Ella Tripler Leaming Fell, an excellent bread and pie baker who died in 1959. Grandma Fell lived long enough to witness the first Pillsbury Bake-off in 1949 and the packaged biscuit dough that began appearing in grocery stores in the early 50's. She never met the Pillsbury Doughboy born in 1965. I think she would have liked him.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

New Brooms Sweep Clean

Prior to the invention of labor-saving devices that make it possible to clean floors, bathrooms, etc. on an as-needed basis, the average American housewife spent most of every Friday cleaning her home. There was a certain logic to this. With her house clean by Friday afternoon she was ready to welcome weekend guests or invite the pastor and his wife to Sunday dinner.

Brooms were primitive, sometimes hand-made out of broomcorn (a variety of sorghum), straw, or the thinnest branches of a birch tree.


Cleaning a privy was an especially odious task. In Part V of Never Done I wrote:

Clara helped Sophie clean the two privies. This entailed sweeping them out, scrubbing around the two holes in each latrine, and replenishing the paper supply with whatever they could find: catalogs, nickel weeklies, calendars, almanacs, newspapers, even dog-eared dime novels. Finished up top, Clara tossed a cupful of lye powder down the holes.

“Smell better now, Missus,” Sophie would say, even when it didn’t.

Since most houses were heated by wood and lit by coal oil or kerosene lamps, layers of sooty grime built up over time, especially during winter months. Spring cleaning, now a ritual of the past, was imperative.

The plip, plip, plip of melting icicles signaled the beginning of what amounted to spring in Ophir Loop. 

Inside the hotel, months of exposure to wood heat and coal oil lamps had left a greasy film on everything. Windows were thrown open and rugs and coverlets taken outside for a good beating. Curtains were washed, floors scrubbed, quilts boiled and stretched across tree stumps to dry. Every pillow and mattress was emptied, the ticking bleached, boiled, dried, and filled with clean hay or sheep shearing. The cans, cartons, baskets, and barrels that filled the cellar were shifted from one corner to another while the shelves were wiped down with vinegar water.

Vinegar water was also used to scrub floors, and scrubbing a floor wasn't a simple task when water wan't piped into the house. Most housewives had to haul water from a well or nearby stream in order to fill their wash pails. Mops were fashioned from heavy cord or strips of  fabric torn from discarded sheets or clothing. One of the first labor-saving devices welcomed by the American housewife was the mop bucket with an attached wringer. This protected the woman's hands from the cramping and achy aftereffects of having to wring a mop out, over and over, by hand.

                                                 Wash bucket with wringer

Whenever I'm having a bad day, I think about how hard my great-grandmother and other women of her generation had to work to keep their houses clean, and I stop crabbing. Attention: ladies and stay-at-home dads. We are SO spoiled.

Friday, November 9, 2018

October Was the Cruelest Month

        One hundred years have passed since the grim reaper variously called Spanish flu, Spanish Lady, French flu, or “La Grippe,” sickened one-third of the world’s inhabitants (roughly 500 million people). At its height the epidemic killed 759 Philadelphians during a single day in October. Worldwide casualty estimates vary, some being as high as 100 million people sickened by the disease, but there is widespread agreement that the 1918 flu caused more deaths than all military personnel killed by cannon, gunfire, bayonets, or poison gas during World War I.
        My paternal grandfather was one of the fatalities. He was living in Naturita, Colorado when in October of 1918 he, his pregnant wife and three young children came down with the deadly flu. Although my grandfather died his family survived, and two months later my grandmother gave birth to my father. That untimely sequence of events held a morbid fascination for me as a child, so much so I devoted part of my novel Never Done to the impact of Spanish flu on my family and the people of Colorado.
        While researching the 1918 flu, I was shocked by how easily it spread. Just touching a flu patient, even being in the same room was enough to catch it, making it a strain of flu more virulent than Europe’s bubonic plague which killed more people, but over a longer period of time.
        The plague that devastated Europe during the Middle Ages was spread by rodents and lice; whereas the Spanish flu was a virus. In 1918/19 an estimated 25 percent of the US population was infected with the baffling illness, and as many as 650,000 people died from it. The mountainous regions of Colorado were particularly hard hit due to the Western Slope’s large concentration of miners, men whose lungs were already compromised by the dust and bad air they breathed underground. Crowded conditions in city tenements also increased the likelihood of catching the disease.
        Symptoms of Spanish flu began much like today’s less virulent strains with headache, runny nose, or sore throat. Following in quick succession were fever, nausea, aching joints, and cough. The person infected became so fatigued he or she could barely stand. Dark, reddish spots or an overall redness appeared on some faces, and within hours the virus attacked the patient’s lungs in a brutal pneumonia. In the worst cases the patient’s lungs filled with a bloody froth and they bled from their nose, ears, or eyes. Some died less than a day after the first symptoms appeared. Others victims, like my grandfather, suffered for days or weeks.
        Worldwide, the death toll peaked during the fourth quarter of 1918. October, the same month my grandfather died, was particularly deadly in the United States. Philadelphia reported over 4,500 deaths during one week that month. When flu deaths mounted in October and doctors hadn’t found a cure, many Americans believed the disease signaled the end of mankind. Bend, though experiencing far fewer flu deaths than other parts of the country, shared in the panic when in mid-October city officials closed the schools and banned gatherings of more than 10 people. It was a ban that lasted until early December.
        Sporadic flu-related obituaries continued to appear in American newspapers during 1919, but by summer the disease had run its course. Since then, the world’s population has mushroomed; so has the number of people traveling across borders. If new viruses evolve, and they will, the chance of another global pandemic remains a threat to public health. In 1918 October may have been the cruelest month, but now it’s a good month to get your flu shot every year.