Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Abby: Finding More Than Gold

By Sharon Poppen

copyright 2010 by Sharon Poppen

published by Awe-Struck Publishing, an imprint of Mundania Press, LLC

6470 Glenway Avenue #109, Cincinnati, OH 45211, ISBN 978-1-58749-731-5

Abby: Finding More Than Gold is one of those young adult books that’s a pleasure to read, regardless of your age. It follows the dreams and adventures of a young Irish girl, Abby Barron, from her home in Chicago across the Great Plains of America and finally into the Yukon, where like so many others she pursues her dream of striking it rich with a big gold find.

Abby, a girl not yet eighteen, sets her mind upon fulfilling the dream she and her cousin Liam had of going to the Yukon to find gold, along the way Abby discovers many new and exciting things about herself and the people around her. Abby will never be the innocent ‘colleen’ who set out from Chicago a short time before.

Reading Abby: Finding More Than Gold leaves you longing for a sequel to the book, but according to author Sharon Poppen a sequel, if there is one, is quite a way in the future as she is currently under contract for other projects related to her book, After the War, Before the Peace. Still, you’ll want to know more of the fate of Abby, the Finleys and the rest of the family and friends from Abby: Finding More Than Gold.

Poppen does an excellent job with characterization and voice, although there is a touch of stereotype in the characters, it is not enough to detract from the story. Generally speaking there is a rich canvas of characters, action and story that fully and logically moves from beginning to conclusion with just enough tension to keep you eagerly turning pages.

What follows is an excerpt from early in the book:

“Abby took a deep breath and entered the darkened interior. The lobby was surprisingly clean and welcoming. She walked atop a faded Oriental rug runner, passing several divans and overstuffed chairs on her way to the hotel desk. A man wearing a green-shaded visor looked up from a newspaper and smiled broadly.

“Well, well, little lady.” His leering smile heightened Abby’s anxiety.

She laid the newspaper on the desk and pointed to the ad. “May I see Mr. Finley, please?”

He waved toward a room off to his left. “I believe I saw him come back a bit ago. Try the dining room. He may be having his lunch.”

Abby looked in the direction he pointed. “Can you tell me what he looks like?”

The clerk stepped from behind the desk and motioned for her to follow him. He led her to a room just off the hotel lobby. The room was bathed in the warmth of the January sun. At four of the eight or nine small tables, covered with white tablecloths and surrounded by four chairs each, sat lone male diners. The room was bright and stark in contrast to the dark of the lobby. The white walls were devoid of decoration. Only two potted ferns brought any color into the room.

The clerk pointed to a man who was sitting with his back to her at a table by the window. “That’s him.” He returned to his desk to talk with another woman. Abby noticed that the newcomer wa an unnatural blonde and was wearing far too much make-up. Her silk, red dress was inappropriately garish for this time of afternoon, or anytime actually. Abby watched the clerk and the woman exchange suggestive smiles before the blonde headed toward the stairs.

“Seat yourself girlie.” A chubby man wearing a greasy apron barked at her as he headed toward Mr. Finley with a bowl of soup and a pile of crackers.

Abby gripped the newspaper tightly and attempted to follow the waiter, but found her feet stuck to the floor. They refused to budge. Her terrified mind admonished her to turn and go home. She took two steps back. The newspaper fell from her hand.”

Just what happens to Abby from this point on is both a wonderful and terrible story of pain, hope and new beginnings. Abby: Finding More Than Gold is a joy to read regardless of your age.

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Growing Up

I was thinking about my life as I was growing up the other day. It was a wonderful time in my life,  although it would take the distance of many years before I could see that.

We grew up in a small house in a rural neighborhood. Most homes sat on lots of an acre or more and there were plenty of farms in the area. It was the perfect place to be a child.

Sundays meant Sunday school and mass. After church we would go to the local news store. My dad would buy the Sunday paper and each of us kids would get money, I think it was a quarter but looking back it may have been a dime, to buy candy with. I remember the little licorice fishes were three for a penny. I remember I could buy a candy bar or a bag full of candy. The choice was always a hard one. On a few occasions the candy bar won, but I always regretted buying it because as soon as you ate it you had no candy left, if I bought the bag full of carefully selected candy I could make it last almost until the next week. It was great. I never realized how much of an expense that money was with the four of us kids.  It was a sacrifice for my parents, but each week we had it. I don’t think it was a reward or an allowance. I think it was a gift just because they loved us.

On weekends we would go visit my grandparents. My mother and father lived within a few miles of each other so their parents weren’t more than ten or fifteen minutes away from each other. We’d always visit both of them and sometimes we’d visit my father’s friend from high school.

My grandparents were very different from each other. My father’s parents were always busy. My grandfather worked in his garden and watched spaghetti westerns and wrestling on Sundays. I’ll always remember the name of the wrestler from Pittsburg, Bruno Samartino (I’m not sure I’m spelling it right but you get the general idea). I’ll also always remember how my grandfather thought everything about wrestling was real. Maybe it was back then. My grandmother sat at the kitchen table smoking and playing solitaire. She would play rummy, which my father taught me, with me. I can’t play either game to this day without thinking of her.

My mom’s parents were very laid back. My grandfather was disabled due to a heart problem, my grandmother was the quintessential homemaker. Each weekend that she knew we were coming she would take the bus into town and go shopping. We’d come in and find a soda for each of us, cold cuts, usually chipped ham, a Pennsylvanian food that you really have to sample if you have the chance, it’s wonderful, and sliced Colby cheese separated by white sheets of deli paper. Lots of times she’d have a big pot of baked beans made. Lunch would be sandwiches and baked beans. Sometimes I complained about not having any choice about what to eat, but now, as an adult, I realize what my grandmother offered us was a virtual feast. I think she probably did the same when all my cousins or aunts and uncles came to visit, but it always made me feel special that she did it for us.

Back to our house for a bit. It was a small two bedroom house with a shed out back that in my memory at least was almost as large as the house was. My parents had one of the bedrooms and the kids had the other one. That was the way it was till I was eleven or twelve when my parents added onto the house. Until then it was me, my brother and our two sisters all in that one room.

My best friend’s great-aunt lived next door. We met when I was three and she was two. We were friends until she died fifteen years ago in a car accident.

Her great-aunt’s place used to be a huge family farm. It had been divided between the great aunt and two great uncles. There was the remains of an old chicken coop that had burned down on the property and an old pig pen, covered in tar paper that was converted by J’s great-uncle into a playhouse for us. He even put an old window in it. We had a table, two chairs and for many years, our dolls up there. The playhouse remained a haven for us long after we should have outgrown it. When I moved away at thirteen we were still using it.

There was a huge hill behind J’s great-aunt’s house. Halfway down was a pump house we would lay on to sunbathe when we were just getting old enough to care about things like that. The top of the hill was our picnic place, underneath a crabapple tree. We would sit there with salted apples and peanut butter sandwiches and when we were finished we would lay down and roll as far down the hill as we could, keeping as eye out as we rolled on our sides for the pump house stationed firmly in the middle of the hill. To be honest I don’t know if we ever rolled all the way down the hill.

Winters were great. We’d get out our sleds and start as far up the hill as we could, which, if memory serves me was about halfway up. Then we would spend hours going up and down the hill until our hands and feet were frozen and our legs were so tired they could barely carry us back up the hill. when we were done sledding J’s great-aunt would build a nice hot fire in the old iron stove that was in the basement of the house and we would take off our wet clothes and put them on the back of folding chairs. Our wet sneakers would dry out when we put them on the plate at the very bottom of the stove.

J’s great aunt would bring down a plate full of apples covered in peanut butter and big cups of real hot chocolate. Sometimes she’d bring a pot with enough hot chocolate to refill our mugs when they were empty. We’d sit there in front of the wood stove pretending we were Laura and Mary from Little House on the Prairie. It was one of our favorite games to play.

I moved away when I was thirteen. I went back to town only a few times after that although I saw J at her parent’s house and again at her great aunt’s a couple of times. We kept in touch over all the intervening years, even when nearly eight hundred miles separated us.

When she died I hadn’t heard from her for a couple of months. I wasn’t overly concerned, we had gone that long before between phone calls, though it was unusual. I was moving into a new place and wanted to make sure she had my new number. The number i had for her had been disconnected, again, not worrying in itself, we had lost touch with each other during moves over time. I called her mother’s and that’s when I found out she had died in September.

I lost my best friend, the only co-holder of my childhood memories. I lost a part of myself. I love you J and I miss you still today. I think it will always be that way. Happy belated birthday. Sorry I’m ten days late.

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The wedding was Saturday. It was a small, private affair. There were about 70 guests, most of whom were family. There were a handful of close friends, and everything was perfect.

It was held in the central hall of the Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville, NC. The bride was stunning. Her dress laced up the back as if she was Scarlett O’Hara, only much more beautiful and in white of course.

The dress was strapless and overlaid with lace. The train trailed about four feet behind her. She was stunning and the joy she felt as she was marrying my son shone from her face like a beacon on a dark night. It was unmistakable and no one there could see anything but hope, joy and love.

My son was handsome in his tuxedo. He was near to tears when Kristin, his bride, walked in escorted on her father’s arm. As they said their vows there were times both of them were near tears; at those moments the minister always managed to lighten the mood, bringing smiles to their faces. They thanked him for this afterward, knowing they would have been too overcome with emotion, had they begun to cry, to continue the ceremony.

The reception was nearby at the Maggie Valley Country Club. The first dances, bride and groom, bride and father, and yes, groom and mother, were wonderful. The DJ was excellent, the food delicious, everyone had a good time. I cried, a lot. I think the photographer even caught it. Darn it.

My son danced with everyone, clear down to his baby niece and equally young cousin. The day and night were amazing and I wish you all could have been there to share in it, instead of having to listen to my second-hand retelling that will never do it justice.

When the pictures are available I’ll post some here. I want to share it all with you. May you and they be marked for only good things in the coming year.

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The Wedding

Today is the day. My son is getting married. He’s my oldest, but still my baby. There are some things time never changes. In my mind I am still laboring through delivery; watching first steps; and sending him off to Kindergarten.

I’m so proud of him today. He and his bride make such a lovely couple. I can only hope their future is filled with peace, joy and abundant love.

I would say today that I am gaining a daughter, but Kristin has been a daughter to me for most of the time she’s been part of my son’s life – she even lived with me for awhile. She helped me re-decorate my house and gave me Christmas and gifts from her travels (one Christmas and Italy in particular come to mind.) She has been a light in my life, patient with my outbursts – yes I have them and so loving words cannot describe her.

Today our family grows by one, but the love within our family will abound by many degrees. We are so blessed. Thank you for sharing this day with me.


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News of Home and Other Stories

Well, for starters the dog, Moe, never came home. We have posters up all over. I’ve spent 4 days trying to call the pound – which incidentally NEVER answers its phone. It’s very aggravating. She’s vanished into thin air and there appears to be nothing we can do about it.

I’ve spent the week in bed sick. It is my least favorite place to be; I take that back, the dentist’s chair is my least favorite. My bed sick is a very close second though. This is really aggravating because the Western North Carolina Regional Fair is in town and so far I haven’t been able to go. It stinks.

I have fond memories of the fair going back to when I was a kid, the rides were a dime and even that was more than we could afford. Still. We’d get two rides; one on the carousel and the other on the ferris wheel.

We’d spend most of our time at the animal exhibits and the various judging of products. I can’t remember if the judging was just of animals, or if they had produce and preserves and the like. Seems to me they did, but memory is a funny thing and I can’t say for certain.

I do know the animal exhibits, which I childishly whined through are now among my favorite fair items. I still try to ignore the fact a lot of the prize winners won for their fine quality of meat distribution. I hope more of them will go on to become breeding animals than will end up on people’s dinner plates, still…

In spite of this little fact the fair remains among my fonder memories and I look forward to it each year. I hope I get to go this year. If I have to wait till next year it will be a shame. You should never postpone joy.

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More Dog Stories

Okay, I’m an animal lover, so shoot me. Actually I’m very much an animal lover. I have six dogs, or at least I did till yesterday.

See, around the time Wrinkles died our sole unspayed dog, a long-haired mini mutt mix (she weighs in at a “hefty” 6 pounds) go pregnant by another small dog in the neighborhood. At first I refused to have anything to do with the puppies because I was hurting from losing Wrinkles and all the pups were going to have to go to new homes anyway. While Wrinkles passing had taken us from six to five dogs I had already made up my mind I wouldn’t replace her. I wasn’t about to get close to any new dogs.

There was this one dog in the litter though that was so ugly she was cute and my youngest daughter, the then seventeen-year-old one, was absolutely in love with it. This made me doubly cautious. Through all our years of raising cats and dogs there seemed to be an unwritten rule that if Becca fell in love with an animal it would die before it was six weeks old. I can’t even keep count of how many times it happened. It crushed her every time, but still, when a new litter of kittens or puppies showed up Becca would inevitably fall in love with one and we would inevitably lose it.

Of course all this was back before I became a much more responsible pet owner and decided there were too many dogs in shelters to allow ours to reproduce. the only reason we happened to have this particular unspayed dog was the fact both we, and our vet, thought she was spayed.

We had known her previous owners and not once in the two years they had her had she gone into heat. After hearing this and examining her the vet agreed she was fixed so we weren’t concerned at all. Apparently when very small dogs go into heat you may not know it. At least we didn’t, till it became quite obvious, and was confirmed by our vet, that yes, she was expecting, a litter of three to be exact, though only two survived birth.

This was only seven weeks after Wrinkles died so I wasn’t ready to commit to a new pet, but my daughter was adamant, she loved the dog and desperately wanted it. Would I please let her have it?

I debated with myself for weeks, in part to see if the animal survived those first precarious months. It did, and in the end I gave in. “Moe” joined our family.

She scared the dickens out of me this past summer. While my daughter was out-of-town and despite vaccinations she got parvo. We’d lost dogs to parvo in the past so I knew how very unlikely it was she would make it. Usually I keep a bag of IV fluids from the vet on hand for emergencies. It’s a long story as to why my vet and I have this relationship, but we do. It basically comes down to nursing a dog through kidney failure years ago. Since then I had always had IV fluids on hand for emergencies that called for them to stabilize our animals till we could get them into town and into the vet. Sometimes they held us over through rough nights until the vet opened in the morning. Either way, IV fluids were something the vet normally let me keep a standing supply of. Only thing was, when Moe got hit with parvo I didn’t have any. I had used it during  the last days of Wrinkles life and hadn’t replaced it.

Don’t get me wrong, my vet is a good man, but like all doctors, human or animal, he wants to get paid the day he renders his services. I was beyond flat broke at the time so Moe and I were going to have to get through the crisis with ingenuity and prayer. Prayer was the biggest element. I called to find out what the usual treatment was. The loss of blood and resulting shock are the two biggest risks. The hemolysis is treated with fluids and steroids. I had the liquid steroids. I didn’t have the IV fluids but the dog only weighs 8 pounds soaking wet. I started giving her a half-teaspoon of water by mouth (with an oral syringe for my grandson’s baby Tylenol) every fifteen minutes. I was guesstimating how much blood she was losing and how much fluid she needed to keep from going into shock. The steroids were to help slow the bleeding and give the dog a slim chance of survival.

It was touch and go. There were times when it would take me the entire fifteen minutes to get the fluid into her and I’d have to start with the next dose. Her gums lost their color. Her jaw began to clench. I was sure we were going to lose her. I tried to prepare my daughter, who was 75 miles away at her aunt’s for the fact we might lose her. I told her she was really sick. I told her she was bleeding. I didn’t tell her it was parvo. First of all, I couldn’t be 100% sure that’s what it was, although it walked talked and acted like it. I didn’t want her to remember the visions of other dogs we’d lost to parvo; bleeding out slowly and suffering their way into the grave. No, that was not an image I wanted for her. I carried it like a sackful of potatoes on my back, but that burden wasn’t going to be hers.

Twice I thought I was going to lose her within the hour, both times she made it through. By the third day there was no longer any bleeding; by the fifth day the steroids had been discontinued. She pulled through. I was so happy and so proud of her. It’s really only been in the past month that she’s regained the last of her strength.

Yesterday my daughter took her out into the yard to show off to her friend how Moe will now follow her without a leash. I told her to please use the leash anyway. She wanted to brag though and I understood how it is with all “mommies.”

They hadn’t been outside for five minutes when our female beagle mix got out of the house. Moe took off after her. We caught the beagle mix in a few minutes. Moe hasn’t been seen since.

We’ve walked the mountain we live on several times. We’ve gone door-to-door to each of our twenty or so neighbors. A few saw her on the mountainside around 3:00 yesterday, but she wouldn’t let them come near her. She’s only ever been around us and she’s never been out of our acreage. It’s a fair distance to the nearest roads, not an impossible distance, but a really unlikely one. Hopefully we find her soon. If not, September will be marked by mourning for a dog again. Not much in the grand scheme of things, I know, but still a loss for us. If we don’t find her may she be alive, well and happy in some new home where we simply didn’t know to look for her.

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My baby girl who just graduated this year. Isn’t she beautiful? Watch for photos of the rest of my family in the coming weeks.

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