A Sparkling Vintage Life

1930s

Sparkling Vintage Motherhood

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In honor of mothers everywhere, Jennifer honors one particular mother of the early 20th century. What was the old-fashioned “secret” of her success in raising a world-famous, influential son? Tune in for some good, old-fashioned talk about vintage parenting.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down for the transcript.

Show notes:

Ain’t Misbehavin’ eBook FREE through May 4, 2019

The Modern Lady podcast

https://www.facebook.com/modernladypodcast/

The Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle

Jennifer’s fiction:

You’re the Cream in My Coffee

Ain’t Misbehavin’

Songbird and Other Stories

TRANSCRIPT FOR EPISODE 5:

Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we talk about all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and it’s May 1, 2019, as I record this.

This is Episode number twelve of the podcast–an even dozen. As this upcoming Sunday is Mother’s Day, I wanted this episode to focus on those of you who are mothers and the tremendous impact you can and do have on the world.

But first, a little update. I’m very pleased to announce that the winner of the rose pin giveaway drawing is Jenny Manzke. Congratulations, Jenny, and thank you to all who entered the contest. I promise to run another giveaway soon, as they are fun and also give us a chance to get to know each other a little bit better.

Also, my novel AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ eBook edition is available for FREE this week on Amazon, through May 4, 2019. Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a clean, sweet romance set in 1920s Chicago. A glamorous jazz singer who falls in love with a conservative small-town businessman and mayhem ensues. If that sounds like your kind of story,  I encourage you to download it for FREE this week on Amazon. I’ll put a link in the show notes.

Last week there was no new episode as I was visiting my father in Illinois. He’s doing great. Thanks to those of you who asked about him. He’s 91 years old and still going strong.  As a postscript to the previous episode about travel and how much it’s changed over the years, my misgivings about plane travel were confirmed on this trip. My carry-on bag was searched thoroughly at O’Hare on the grounds of something suspicious. After my personal possessions were pawed through and put on display for the whole world to see, the culprit was found–it was a small coin purse filled with loose change that had apparently triggered the apparatus for detecting metal. So be on alert, ladies. Empty those coin purses before you fly. All kidding aside, I truly am grateful for the hardworking men and women of the TSA who strive to keep airline travel safe for everyone. It’s just disheartening when you’re the one who is picked out for search, and so undignified to have one’s most personal belongings tossed about. But I suppose that’s the price we have to pay for living in today’s world. Just one of the things that makes me long earlier times when travel wasn’t quite so fraught with fear.

Since my return, it’s been a busy week of catching up. I continue to write the Hollywood novel, aiming for a self-imposed, and perhaps somewhat unrealistic, deadline of June 30 to finish the first draft. I also finished up the museum exhibit labels about railroads, and completed a couple of editing projects. I also celebrated my birthday in there somewhere by going out to a delicious seafood dinner with my husband, so that was fun.  If we have to continue growing older, I find it’s best to celebrate the years and not bemoan them. Age comes upon us whether we want it to or not, so we might as well welcome it.

And now on to today’s topic in honor of mothers. First I must tell you, if you haven’t already guessed, that I’m not a mother myself. This is one of the deepest disappointments of my life. It makes Mother’s Day and the weeks running up to it excruciatingly painful at times. I find early May to be a good time to take a break from social media. But of course, I had a mother, and also a couple of wonderful grandmothers and a few marvelous aunts, and so around Mother’s Day I try to concentrate on the good memories I have of them instead of bemoaning my own barren state. Anyway, it does no good to complain about things we can’t change. I just want you to know that if your heart is hurting this Mother’s Day, for whatever reason, my heart goes out to you.

This year, to celebrate Mother’s Day in “Sparkling Vintage” style, I set out to find one specific mother who lived during our favorite time period of the early 20th century, someone who exemplified the kind of mother who makes an impact on the world through her children. And that is how I learned about a woman whose name was Morrow.

Morrow Coffey was born in North Carolina in 1892. In 1916 she married a man named William. Together the couple took up dairy farming and reared three children, but one thing that set them apart from many couples was that from the very first day of their marriage, they established a time of daily Bible reading and prayer. Morrow was once quoted as saying, “There’s only one right way to live and it’s all laid out in the Bible.” Although I’m sure she said it in a much more charming Southern accent. So the family would rise at dark o’clock in the morning to milk their large herd of cows. At breakfast they’d pray together, and Morrow would read a Bible verse off of a daily calendar, helping the children memorize verses. Then the kids would head off for school and Morrow and her husband William would spend their day doing the countless chores necessary to run a busy household and a working dairy farm. In the evening, tired as they must have been after a long, busy day, the family would gather once more to read the Bible and pray.

Morrow had her hands full, caring for her home and family during an era that straddled two world wars and the Great Depression in between. She would have done without so many of the modern conveniences available to us today. On the other hand, she lacked some of the distractions. She may have had radio but no TV, and certainly no Internet or social media, so perhaps not quite the same competition for her children’s attention. Still, as busy as she was, Morrow made the spiritual life of her children a high priority. She believed that the diligent prayers of a mother, and the disciplines imposed to develop their spiritual lives, would greatly influence her children’s choices as they grew up.

And she was right. Thanks to those quiet, patient lessons at home, one of Morrow’s grew up to have a had great impact for Christ all over the world over seventy years of ministry. You may have heard of him. He was the late evangelist, Billy Graham. Billy once described his upbringing this way: ““What we did have back then [during the Depression] was family solidarity. We really cared about each other, and we liked to do things together. Jesus’ word picture of a hen gathering her brood under her wing fits my mother. She saw to it that we gathered frequently and regularly—and not just around the dinner table or in front of the radio for favorite broadcasts. She gathered us around herself and my father to listen to Bible stories, to join in family prayers, and to share a sense of the presence of God.”

Today you can visit Morrow Graham’s former home on the former dairy farm. It’s now part of the Billy Graham Library and open to the public.

Of course, not all of a mother’s efforts will produce a man like Billy Graham. There are no guarantees. Some of the most diligent loving parents bring up children who eventually go astray, and some negligent parents manage to rear some amazing offspring. But Morrow’s life illustrates that it’s the day-to-day, habitual lessons and routines that have the best likelihood of being absorbed into children’s minds and hearts.

Whoever you are, and whatever your status as mother, grandmother, aunt, teacher, coach, or maybe just a friend, invest in the lives of children you know. Teach them your values, and help them develop the skills, habits, and thought patterns you want them to have as adults. Like Morrow Graham, you never know where your efforts might lead.

Happy Mother’s Day.!

If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a topic you’d like me to address, drop me a line at jenny@sparklingvintagelife.com. If you can take a few minutes to stop by iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts and leave a positive review, that will help raise the visibility of the show so others can find it.

Today’s grace note is a podcast I’ve been enjoying called “The Modern Lady Podcast.” Whether you’re a mom or not, you’ll enjoy hearing hosts Lindsay and Michelle discuss a wide variety of topics that are of interest to women, in a warm, witty, and dignified manner. As I said earlier, I’m not a mom, and I still find most of their episodes fascinating and fun, like listening to friends talk around a kitchen table. Plus they always include an etiquette tip, along with the thought process behind it, that speaks to my own vintage-loving heart. Interesting and intelligent podcasts for women that are also clean and wholesome to listen to aren’t that easy to come by nowadays, so if you like podcasts, I encourage  you to give the Modern Lady podcast a try.

Sparkling Vintage Read: A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner

I’ve read all of Susie Finkbeiner’s Pearl Spence books starting with A Cup of Dust. I’ve loved them all, but I must say my very favorite is A Song of Home. The lyrical writing, the finely drawn characters and the pitch-perfect dialogue are superb. Now eleven years old, Pearl’s voice is strong and genuine. Observant and clever, she’s the perfect narrator for the multifaceted story. Pearl has had to adapt to many changes in her young life, from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma to the relative bounty of Bliss, Michigan. True to her age, she cares deeply about everything from the latest dance steps and the ribbon on her Easter dress to the mystifying actions of the adults around her. Ordinary struggles of growing up are skillfully interwoven with family turmoil and a community simmering with racism. Highly recommended.

Sparkling Vintage Reads: A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner (with Giveaway!)

UPDATE: We have our winner! Newsletter subscriber J. Kihn has won a copy of A Trail of Crumbs. (J., I’ve sent you an e-mail requesting your mailing address.) Thanks, everyone! Watch for more giveaways and goodies, plus news on the sequel to You’re the Cream in My Coffee and other publishing projects, coming soon. JLL

The circumstances of the Great Depression of the 1930s weren’t pretty, but they sure make for good stories.I’ve just finished reading A Trail of Crumbs by Michigan author Susie Finkbeiner, and found myself very moved by it.  Here’s the five-star review I posted on Amazon:

Susie Finkbeiner

Before launching my Susie Finkbeiner-fandom by reading her earlier book, A Cup of Dust, my knowledge of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had been pretty much limited to a high-school reading of The Grapes of Wrath. A Cup of Dust made this harrowing period of American history more real for me through the eyes of a young girl, Pearl Spence. (I even interviewed Susie about A Cup of Dust: read the interview here.)

A Trail of Crumbs picks up Pearl’s story where A Cup of Dust leaves off. A heartbreaking tragedy launches Pearl’s family on a journey to live near relatives in 1930s Michigan, where Pearl must adjust to new people and situations, along with the more ordinary challenges of growing up. Susie Finkbeiner’s lyrical descriptions and heartfelt portrayals transported me to an era that seems very different from our own, and yet so similar in some ways. The characters are well drawn and believable, especially Pearl. Through all of her difficulties, there are bright spots, such as her lively Aunt Carrie, and the teacher who introduces her to Frank L. Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I loved seeing how caring adults can have a positive impact in the life of a child through such small but thoughtful gestures, even as other adults make poor and destructive choices.

I’m eager to read much more from Susie Finkbeiner. Find out more about this talented author at susiefinkbeiner.com.

I’ll be giving away one softcover copy of A Trail of Crumbs to someone in the Sparkling Vintage newsletter community! To join, simply enter your e-mail in the sidebar to the right of the blog. If you’re already a subscriber and you’d like to enter the drawing, just let me know in the comments below. I’ll draw the winner at random on Friday, April 7, 2017. 🙂
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Down to Business: To rouge or not to rouge?

Photoplay-cover-flapper-applying-lipstick-1920s-221x300 “To rouge or not to rouge–is it even a question nowadays? When the daughter of the most exclusive* family paints her face for her afternoon walk as did the soubrette** of former years to counteract the glare of strong footlights, one can hardly blame the business woman–often overtired and wan–for doing likewise. Yet the girl of office or shop who uses her rouge pot without conscience, her powder puff without mercy, and her charcoal pencil without discretion, and who plasters her lips with a vermilion cupid’s bow, is oftenest the one who is heard complaining because she ‘never gets a raise.’ The wise business woman will distrust the appeal of over-artificiality and if she coaxes a tinge of color into pale cheeks and touches a shiny nose with a film of powder, will know when to stop. Perhaps the best description of the competent business woman has been given by Fannie Heaslip Lea: ‘Neatly dressed, smoothly coiffed, closely hatted, as neutral as a mail-order catalogue, as harmless as her own clacking typewriter, as controlled as an electric bulb–and just about as warming.’ ” (From The Complete Book of Etiquette by Hallie Erminie Rives, 1934).

*”Exclusive” used to be a compliment in those pre-“everybody-must-be-the-same” days. Today, “inclusive” is the sought-after adjective. Interestingly, to be called “discriminating” in the olden days was also a compliment, meaning you had refined taste and good judgment. Today, the meaning of the word has shifted to something negative” “judgmental,” or worse, the ridiculous non-word that grates the ear: “judgy.”

**”Soubrette”: a coquettish maid or frivolous young women in comedies, or an actress who plays such a part (per Merriam-Webster)

Sparkling Vintage Reads: An Interview with Susie Finkbeiner

susie finkbeiner

Susie Finkbeiner

When I met Susie Finkbeiner at the 2013 ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference, I immediately felt that little “click” that happens when you meet a kindred spirit. (We laughed at each other’s jokes–always a very good sign!) Since then, we’ve grown better acquainted on social media, and I admired her novels, Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile. Now Susie’s brand-new novel is releasing this week! Set in the 1930s, it seemed like a perfect choice to feature here on A Sparkling Vintage Life.

a cup of dust A Cup of Dust tells the story of ten-year-old Pearl as she and her family struggle through hard times during the Dust Bowl. The last thing they need is more trouble, but that’s exactly what they get when a mysterious stranger rolls into town, bent on revenge for something that happened long ago. Join Pearl as she unfolds the mystery that where you come from isn’t who you are.

At the end of the week I’ll be giving away 2 free signed copies of A Cup of Dust…get a chance to win one simply by leaving a comment below or on my Facebook author page. Meanwhile, here’s a chat I had with Susie. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her better, and so will you!

Jennifer: Welcome, Susie. First, the basics. Where are you from and all that good stuff?

Susie Finkbeiner: I live with my husband and three kids in the beauty of West Michigan. We’re close enough to the Big Lake that we often drive over in the summer for a picnic dinner and to watch the sunset. I don’t know that I’d want to live anywhere else.

We don’t have any pets. For now. I’d love a dog, but we don’t have space for all of us in our house, let alone a fuzzy friend. Maybe someday. I believe Christmas might mean fish for the kids. Sigh. We’ll see. For now I count our neighborhood turkeys, squirrels, and skunks as my pets. Not bad for city living.

JLL: Tell us briefly about your writing journey and how you got started as an author.

SF: My writing career didn’t happen over night. Not at all. In fact, my first novel, Paint Chips, was published after decades of writing, submitting, rejections, and a few published tidbits. Fun fact: before I became a novelist I had a full length play published.
It’s taken a good long time for me to get where I am now in my writing. I don’t regret my pre-published years at all. I’m grateful for them. They strengthened me as a writer and as a person. Failure is good for the soul.

JLL: How did you get inspired to write A Cup of Dust?

SF: Twenty years ago I read The Grapes of Wrath. Ever since, I’ve been intrigued by the Dust Bowl Era. I knew I’d eventually write the story. I was just waiting for the right time.

JLL: Why did you choose to set your story in the 1930s?

SF: The 1930s were a time of trial and great growth. It tested the strength, character, and faith of those who lived through it. I love the stories my grandma told me of her life growing up in the 30s. I know I’ll revisit the Depression Era in future novels.

JLL: Tell us about your research process for A Cup of Dust.

SF: I’ve been researching the Dust Bowl on and off for twenty years. No joke. I read books, watched documentaries, wrote countless short stories set in that era. The first play I ever wrote and produced was set in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the Dust Bowl.

I guess the best way to define my research process for this and other novels is that I have this curiosity which must be quenched. That is what inspires the stories I write.

JLL: Did writing A Cup of Dust reflect your own life and/or faith journey?

SF: Yes. It sure does reflect a bit of my life and faith. I don’t want to say too much, though, for fear of spoilers!

JLL: What 3 people have had the greatest influence on your writing, and why?

SF: First is my husband, Jeff. He encourages me, does the dishes as I type, reads what I write, believes in me even when it’s unreasonable.
Second is my agent, Ann. She doesn’t let me whine. She tells me the truth in kindness. She puts up with my neurotic little self.
Third is George, my college literature professor. He told me years ago that he thought I had a novel in me. I didn’t believe him at first. I’m glad he saw potential in me (even though I was a punk 18 year old).

JLL: Are there any particular challenges you’re facing in your writing life?

SF: Oh, that old jerk the inner voice. Pops up when I least need discouragement. It takes prayer and good friends to chase that critic away.

JLL: How do you stay spiritually grounded?

SF: You know, this is a great question. It’s easy to get all floaty, right? I happen to have a great church and great community. I hear sermons weekly which inspire, convict, and encourage me. I leave feeling spurred on to doing good works. Those good works are often done sitting at my desk or at Starbucks, clicking away at a story.
I also have an incredible community. Some are writers, some are not. But I have friends who pray for and with me, who speak the truth in love, who share life-giving words.
The whole “hermit author” thing isn’t good for my soul. I thrive on being part of a family, a body. My hope is that I give to them as much as they give to me.
JLL: What reading material is next to your favorite reading spot?
SF: Okay, first off I need to tell you that my favorite place to read is in my van. It’s comfy, I can easily stay warm or cool depending on the weather, I’m able to adjust my seat. Perfect. And I’m currently reading West for the Black Hills by Peter Leavell (an Idahoan, I believe).

JLL: Yes, he is! Big Peter Leavell fan here, as well. What’s on your music playlist?

SF: Debussy. Always Debussy. I also like to listen to movie soundtracks such as from Schindler’s List, Last of the Mohicans, True Grit (the more recent one), Legends of the Fall. Otherwise, I have an eclectic taste in music. It’s all according to my mood.

JLL: Are there any can’t-miss blogs, podcasts, vlogs, etc., that you’d recommend?

SF: For writers I recommend the Breathe Writers Conference blog. There are posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday full of inspiration and encouragement. I also catch the Vlog Brothers posts. This is John Green and his brother Hank. I typically tune in for John’s segments. He’s a geek and I love that.

JLL: What do you do for fun?

SF: It depends on what company I’m keeping. By myself? I like to read. Sometimes I paint my nails and watch TV or documentaries. With my family? We like to hike and visit zoos, go to the beach and swim (when it’s warm enough). With my husband? We like to play cards or Scrabble. With friends? Get coffee and browse the shelves of a bookstore.
I’m not so exciting, but I have a fun life full of belly-busting laughter.

JLL: What’s the next project coming up from Susie Finkbeiner?

SF: I’m working on a sequel to A Cup of Dust. After that I might play around, writing a memoir (a funny one) while I research the Vietnam War for another project. Then I’ll work on more projects I have on my list of future novels to write.
Thanks, Susie! Everyone, you can learn more about Susie by visiting her website or connecting with her on Facebook and Twitter. And enter for a chance to win a signed copy of A Cup of Dust just by leaving a comment below. 2 winners will be drawn at random on October 30.
 (Giveaway powered by Rafflecopter.)
Edited to add: I’ve just posted my review of A Cup of Dust on Amazon. You can read it here.

Sparkling Vintage Book Review: On Shifting Sand by Allison Pittman

on shifting sand While engrossed in Allison Pittman’s latest novel, On Shifting Sand, I continually found myself heading to the kitchen for a tall, cool glass of water to slake my thirst. Yes, it’s been a dry, hot summer here in Idaho, I told myself, but what gives? Then I realized that the cause of my thirst was Allison’s vivid, you-are-there descriptions of daily life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

“We feel thirst everywhere,” she writes in protagonist Nola’s viewpoint, “–our parched throats, of course, and the corners of our mouths. It seems, sometimes, that we are drying up from within. Our lungs rasp with every breath, our bones threaten to snap themselves to powder. There is not enough water to drink, to wash, to bathe. We are never quenched. we are never clean.”

Gaaack! Pass the pitcher!

Of course, I’d heard about the Dust Bowl (or Dirty Thirties, as they’re sometimes called). I’d read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath along with millions of other American high-schoolers over the years. But On Shifting Sand gave me my first glimpse in up-close detail what it was like to live through it, day by day. My ancestors experienced the Great Depression in other contexts, but not the dust storms that plagued the Great Plains. No wonder so many “Okies” packed up and left–for most of them, there was literally no other alternative. The storms took away their homes, their livelihoods, and even people they loved.

As I read On Shifting Sand, the descriptions of storms kept me riveted, almost as if the weather was a character unto itself.

This was important, because I found it hard, if not impossible, to warm up to Nola, a pastor’s wife in a small Oklahoma town. While I sympathized with the near-impossibility of keeping a clean and healthy home in the constant dust storms, and to feed her children on practically no income, her constant complaining and chronic dissatisfaction with her lot in life wore on my nerves. When a drifter comes to town and she makes terrible choices to try to make herself feel better . . . well, at that point, many good Christian readers may have closed the book.

And that’s too bad. Because Nola’s story has much to teach us about ourselves.

You see, when we’re not vigilant–and sometimes even when we are–sin comes upon us like those dust storms. It seeps into every crack and crevice of our lives, no matter how hard we try to keep it out, to scrub it away. Only the Living Water, Jesus Christ, has the power to wash it away, quench our thirst and make us clean again.

That, I believe, is the point of the story. Nola grew up in a home without love, and went looking for love in all the wrong places, as the old song goes. To escape an unhappy home life, she made a hasty marriage. (The title hearkens to Jesus’s parable about the foolish man who built his house on sand,
“and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”) Now she’s restless, unhappy, and critical toward her husband, her two children, and the people of her town. When the handsome drifter–an old friend of her husband–comes to her home, her poor choices make everything infinitely worse. (In keeping with Christian publishing standards, we aren’t offered graphic details of what happens–needless to say, the picture’s clear enough.)

Ultimately, On Shifting Sand is a story of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. You may have to slog through some dust and dirt to get there, but it’s worth it.

Disclosure: I’ve been given a review copy of this book by the publisher. This generosity, while appreciated, has not biased my review. I also post some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

 

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Jennifer Lamont Leo