Post-Op, Alice Leonard, “Scruples & Drams.”

I am now a bit over 3 weeks post-op from knee replacement.  It has been an adventure I never expected to have.  I was so ignorant of the pain I’d endure.  Yet, if I’d have known, I’d have postponed surgery again. Instead, because they had to keep an eye on my blood and oxygen levels post-op because of a previous pulmonary embolism as well as the pain levels, I stayed in the hospital nearly four days and was transferred to Country Manor Rehab.

My nurses and PT and OT people at the “Home” Rehab unit, said I was healing remarkably so they let me go with my insistence after 2 weeks.  I am now going to my regular PT 3x a week.  I use my walkers yet, but hope to be using a cane this week.  My brain, post anesthesia is something else, LOL!  I can stare at a project, activity, or sentence before anything clicks.  I’ve talked to others about this and they admit for awhile they were a bit slow in the noggin for awhile.  I haven’t attempted much concentration on my writing or posting because of this.  I guess all my brain activity has gone into healing.

Before surgery, sister Becky and I went to the Tamarack Swamp to video part of Irish Town or Lynden Township were Alice Leonard lived her last days and where she was murdered, as written about in Scruples & Drams.  Unfortunately, the audio is bad because of the wind.  I sent the manuscript of the first video of where she was murdered due to this problem  I am doing the same for the 2nd because audio is not any better.  We will get this figured out before we continue with other Clearwater landmarks.

Watch the youtube video about Alice Leonard’s home with at the Hayes’s place.  Here about a half mile from the swamp where she was murdered, she lived with her grandmother, Grandma Hayes, her aunt Bridget Hayes Smith, and her young cousins,   Nelly and Tom.  Mike Larkin, another character in the book and who was accused of murdering the young girl,  often stayed over in the tiny cabin to help with the chores.


Short blog

Hello and happy May.  I am taking a couple weeks off to have knee replacement surgery.  But we made our first YOUTUBE production.  It is outdoors and sometimes hard for you to hear me.  I’ve included a transcript of what I am saying.

In May, 1893, a young Irish girl, Alice Leonard, was murdered.  The inquest showed that she had been “violated” and bludgeoned to death near the Tamarack Swamp in Lynden Township, Irish Town, Stearns County, Minnesota.  Some people who lived near the swamp  heard a child crying and believed it was the ghost of Alice Leonard.

Jennie Phillips, an apprenticing druggist in Clearwater, Minnesota, is delivering a prescription in Lynden Township.  She stops to pick some wild flowers and soon hears a menacing cry. It frightens her.  She soon learns that others believe she has heard the sobbing cries of Alice’s ghost.

My sister and I went out to video-tape me at the Tamarack Swamp. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing and nature was singing, so you can’t hear much of what I am saying. This is the area a group of people found Alice on an early Sunday evening in 1893.  She was a pretty girl, but small for her near sixteen years.  What a carriage driver thought was some clothes on the road was the bruised and bloody body of the girl covered with a blanket.

Read more in “Scruples and Drams,” the first novel in the Minnesota Main Street Women series.

You can buy from me directly,, go to my paypal link on,, or


Oh,  yesterday was lovely.  A day like that creates in me a joyful and expectant heart, and wax poetic.  I can’t help remembering one of my favorite poems I first learned in Poetry 101  by Gerard Manley Hopkins:


Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –

   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling . . .

Robins are sweeping my back yard and singing their hearts out.  Lambs and calves are taking their first quivering steps. Mostly, hope is in the air as well as a sweet smell of redemption.

Today–rain. While we don’t want floods, maybe the moisture will melt the remaining snow banks and urge early flowers to burst forth.  With Easter bouncing upon us this Sunday, I am putting away winter coats and pulling out spring/summer clothes, which in my closet equals capris and short-sleeved T’s.

I am also eager for  the last weekend in April-27th, 28th.  I will be selling my books  at the Midwest Homemade Artisan Fair  at the River’s Edge Convention Center. 

  • “We will have over 75 artisans from 5 Midwest States at this handmade only event held in room Terry Haws C at the River’s Edge Convention Center in downtown St Cloud, MN.
  • Saturday Leighton Broadcasting will have KCLD on site from 10-12, and WILD Country from 1-3.
  • The reasonably priced concession stand will be open 10-4 Sat and 10-2 Sun.”

In addition to taking place near my favorite locality, the Mississippi River, and one which I write lots about in my books, including my Minnesota Main Street Women series, this event promises to be fun and a great way for the wonderful artists to show off their stuff.

Happy spring, and hope to see you soon..


Reverend Mary MacNicholl: A Woman with Vision

Unfortunately, this event has been postponed.    We will be rescheduling soon.

Spring is here, unfortunately causing lots of water and damage.  I sit on sandy soil so house and hubby are high and dry.  Other people and places–less so.  And I am taking a trip to southern Minnesota–where lots of snow and rain have made life uncomfortable for so many.  Hopefully, this melt will slow down soon, floods will recede, and white, yellow, and lavender-blue wood-sorrel will sprout on the Midwest prairies.

As I said, I am heading south over the weekend of April 6-7. Many of you remember that I earned a grant from the United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Archives and History to research and write about the life of one of my minister’s, Reverend Mary MacNicholl. She served almost entirely in Minnesota from 1950-1971.

I’ve learned so much about this woman.  As a child living in Merchantville, New Jersey, Mary MacNicholl felt an early call to become a minister, and told her kindergarten teacher her plans. We have no idea what her teacher might have thought or said to her; it was the early 1920’s, women just received the vote, and many became hopeful for their futures.  Yet, if the woman tried to discourage her, Mary stood fast to her goals and let nothing dissuade her. Truth be told, Miss Mac seldom swerved on her path, even if she had to side-track around a few boulders to get where she needed to go.

I am bringing the story of  Reverend Mary MacNicholl’s story back to one of the churches, the Wykoff United Methodist, where she first preached in Minnesota in the 1950’s and where she became the first ordained woman minister of the Methodist faith in 1958 in Minnesota  The woman minister’s courage, strength, endurance, perseverance, and quality of character impressed many.  Just as important, Reverend Mary MacNicholl, Miss Mac, Miss Mary, Mary Mac–paved a path for so many to follow.

If you are in the area, come and learn about this inspirational woman.

Wykoff United Methodist Church, Wykoff, Minnesota. 

April 7 at 10 a.m.


I’ll be posting again soon.  I have a big event in St. Cloud at the Convention Center the last weekend in April.  More to come.






Bringing Minnesota Main Street Women to the League of Women Voters–St. Cloud

I had a wonderful time last night presenting strong Main Street Women to the group of men and women at the Marriott.  I was well-received, thanked profusely, honored, and congratulated for my presentation.  Again, thank you, League of Women Voters. Thank you, Pat Fillmore, for bringing me to your  group of people who are still persisting in the fight for equality.

I want to thank my sister, Becky Frank, for helping me.  She hauled, decorated the table, took pictures, took money and much more–supporting me in this endeavor.


Becky’s display of my all my books.
I am being introduced to the crowd.

The crowd filled the speaker’s room and it was varied–men and women.  Here are a few highlights from the grand evening

Here I am presenting Women Awakening.

I sold lots of books as well.  So it was a good night all around. The weather even cooperated.  It sounds like we have more on the way this week and into the end of Feb.

Hope to see some of you again soon.


Valentine’s Day

I was saddened to hear Necco was no longer making their  candy hearts.  These little sweet messages were the main staple of my childhood Valentine’s Day.  I strategically placed “First kiss,” “Be mine,” or “Forever,” in the envelopes  that I filled out for my friends, special likes, or sweetheart.  Of course, I never signed my name to  any of the cards that were for that special someone.  He had to guess who gave him the sweet tidings.  If he were a 3rd-6th grader, he probably tried to escape the thought that I found him special.

I know we made special cards in class for our parents,  but we bought the wonderful boxes of individual cards to give to our classmates.  Sometimes we decorated our Valentine’s box in school.  Sometimes we had to decorate them at home.  Usually, created out of a shoe box, I made use of white paper doilies, red construction paper, and other bits of flowers or ribbons I could scrounge from my mother’s stash.

On Valentine’s Day, we placed our boxes on the top of our desks.  Before school started, we walked the aisles, slipping cards in each other’s boxes through the  slit on top.  We had to give everyone a card whether we liked him/her or not.

I learned to play the game at an early age.  I saved the cards I didn’t like to give the kid I didn’t like and the same went with the candies–the most nebulous sayings went to those I didn’t like so much.  The sweetest sayings and cards went to the one or two boys I really liked –always anonymously. Of course, I signed my best girlfriends’ cards, giving them special messages of undying loyalty and friendship– and always the candies with the sugary and cutest words went to them as well.  I don’t think the boys really got into the whole Val. Day thing, but we girls loved this tradition from an early age.

I wonder if any of this game playing has changed with kids now.   Although Necco is no longer sending these discreet and sweet verses, we can always count on Brach’s for “Tiny Conversations” to send to our loved ones.

Of course, my needs are a bit more complicated as I’ve gotten older. I am wondering if my husband will find one on his supper plate that reads, “Please, do the dishes,” especially since I made him a romantic meatloaf and baked potato supper.


P.S.  Don’t forget, I am still offering good sales on all my books.  Before sending me a check or looking at my paypal set up, check with me.  I can make you a deal, and it won’t be anonymous!

Nevertheless, she persisted

Ninety-nine years ago in 1920, during its annual National American Women Suffrage convention, six months before the 19th Amendment was passed, President Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League of Women Voters.  Born out of a desire  to arm women with the knowledge and skills to vote intelligently, the League is proud of the fact that it is non-partisan.  Non-partisan it may be, but it always stands for democracy and encourages its members to work for rights and “reforms” for all citizens.

Last fall, I was asked to speak  at the birthday party, February 16, 2019, for this unique group in St. Cloud.  Coincidently, I had just researched another of the National American Women Suffrage presidents, Anna Howard Shaw, for a paper I received a grant for to research and write about the Minnesota’s first fully-ordained woman Methodist minister.  Mary MacNicholl worked her way through college at Pennsylvania’s Temple University to earn an educational degree and then turned missionary for a number of years before her father died in 1942.

Why did she wait until her dad died to attend seminary since she had prepared herself since youth to become a minister–no drinking, no dating, no dancing?  One reason could have been because he disapproved of  women  ministers; another was because of money.  Attending Drew University, in New Jersey, was going to be expensive.  With all her experience teaching and money she had saved, she was able to attend divinity school.  She was a serious student who was willing to live in a dorm at the age of 30+ to work toward her goal.

So was Anna Howard Shaw. Born in 1847, she came from England when she was four years old to live in Michigan in a log cabin, far away from neighbors, stores, and a post office. She, too, felt an early call to preach.  She  graduated from Albion College, and then, after years of financial struggle, earned her divinity degree from Boston University.  Yet, the Methodist Episcopal Church refused her ordination because she was a woman.  She appealed to the Methodist Protestant Church, and became the first woman to be an ordained Methodist minister–anywhere.

She wasn’t finished with her education, learning, or being concerned with the welfare of others.  While preaching at the Methodist Church in Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, she went on to earn her medical degree from Boston University as well.  Now as a doctor, she went to the back streets  of New York to learn about and help suffering families.  She had been an avid supporter of temperance in Massachusetts, teaching and lecturing about the sacrifices women and children had to make because of booze.  After seeing women and children suffer at the hands of brutal drunkenness, Shaw became an active member of Women’s Christian Temperance Union, WCTU.

In 1886, Shaw became friends with Susan B. Anthony.  Shortly afterward, she became involved in the National Woman’s Suffrage Association.  She became an advocate for merging the National and the American suffrage groups  to gain power.  In addition, at one point, Anthony saw how torn and tired Shaw was serving both temperance and suffrage.  Anthony suggested that for the time being, Shaw should work on one project at a time.  The minister/doctor weighed her choices.  She saw that if women had the vote, maybe that would empower them enough to fight for their families’ welfare.  Anna Shaw left WCTU as active campaigner to become totally dedicated to suffrage.   Two years before she died in 1906, Anthony stepped down, and Anna Howard Shaw became president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association.

Maude Porter, in my recently released, Pins & Needles, fights for women’s rights as well.  The setting is 1909-1910 in the river village of Clearwater, Minnesota. She sees first-hand problems tumbling out of Pat Quinn’s Saloon right across from her millinery shop.  She is an active member of both the Minnesota branch of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association and WCTU, which has put her in the spotlight, causing trouble for her with drunks who do not want any more temperance or suffrage meetings in town.  Although Maude initially believes education is the key to waking up the world about the influence of drink, she soon realizes prohibition is the answer. Like Anna Howard Shaw, Maude discovers she can only fight one problem at a time. For now, she advocates for Quinn’s Saloon to be shut down.

Last fall, on election day, I overheard a woman say she didn’t vote.  I was shocked! I wanted to shout at her that she threw her vote and I wouldn’t want to hear an argument about the outcomes.  (You’ll be happy to know I didn’t raise my voice or criticize her.)  I thought, oh, well, I guess this is why I write what I write –to help others understand about historical women and women’s issues.  I was never an immigrant learning a new language and new ways in a foreign land.  I haven’t had to fight my way to get an elementary education. But I’ve had to have my dad co-sign his name to my bank loan for a  car  when I made more money  than he did.    I’ve had to fight to have only my name listed on another car loan when the Ford dealer  assumed my husband was the only one to drive. I also was told that my first teaching position didn’t usually pay women the same wage contract as a man.  Like Maude Porter believed, way -way back, we women still have work to do in order to have our voices heard and counted.

I’ll be speaking at the League of Women VotersSt. Cloud February 16th at the Marriott downtown St. Cloud.  This is the annual membership conference, and all are invited.  Think about joining.  The two websites explain their purpose.  The meeting starts at 4;  at 4:30 I’ll be talking about Minnesota Main Street Women–the theme of my novels–Scruples & Drams and Pins & Needles.  These women knew they were nearly powerless.  In Scruples, we learn Jennie Phillips, the protagonist, has passed all her state tests to earn her pharmaceutical license, but Minnesota won’t issue her this certificate because–she is a woman.  Both Maude and Jennie know what they and others need–legal rights, access to medical knowledge, avenues for education to better themselves, and the vote.

One fight at a time, one foot in front of another. . .that is what women have done since time eternal. No one should forget what has been done for you already, nor take it for granted. Democracy is our vote for a voice in this nation. And for those who don’t always take the time to put X’s by people’s names they hardly know,  they are not sure about how to vote their opinion, or they don’t think their vote counts, they can contact a League member and ask them where to find information about the candidates and the issues. 

Without this opportunity to express opinions, all people are powerless. Women have been silenced many times before,  and even recently, like Elizabeth Warren, while she was reading a speech by Coretta Scott King, a Republican leader basically told her “to shut-up.”  The response was “outrage,” and the term “Nevertheless, she persisted,” popped up on coffee cups, t-shirts, and magazine covers.   Women had a new fight with new ammunition.  Women’s voices do count; we won’t be silenced.  







“So This Is Christmas!” or “(Simply Having a) Wonderful Christmas Time!”

I love the Christmas season, especially the music.  I remember bundling up in warm wool coats, stocking caps, gloves, boots, to carol with friends and church-goers up and down Clearwater, visiting shut-ins and elderly. While some songs have become controversial (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside “), my favorites are varied and plenty.  From the traditional songs like “Silent Night,” and “O, Holy Night,” to Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas,”  Cowboy Gene Autry twanging  “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,”  and Brenda Lee rocking around her Christmas tree, I love and relate to the Beatles songs such as “So This is Christmas” and “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time.”


I thought you’d enjoy this poem about Christmas magic. A few years before the Beatles entered the scene, I was in a state of doubt.  I was, seemingly, too old for baby dolls yet too young to think I needed a daily bath.  I had heard rumors that Christmas wasn’t all it was bragged to be.

The story actually took place and the characters are true.  For nearly seven years, our family lived in Lynden Township, Minnesota, by Warner Lake and Plum Creek.  I took this little ditty from my memoir, Postcards from the Old Man.

Winters at the Warner Lake held their own charm. Except for the path the landlord’s tractor made for us from the road to our house, snow mounds covered the yard. Probably because I was older, Christmases took on a different dimension here as well.


Navy blue, crystally winter’s night.
Glittering sifted snow, icing topped lake,
evergreens muffed in white. I plodded
as Becky pulled me down the glossy road.

A bundle of blue, she sometimes followed,
sometimes led, sometimes jumped over my feet
as she chattered about baby dolls, Santa’s snack—
star-shaped cookies, his tummy and our chimney.

Late autumn’s whispered secret unmasked the man.
A grown up woman of ten, I played my part
for my younger sister that Christmas Eve,
although I no longer believed.

Carolers sang, “. . .won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
I grumbled, “It’s time to go home.”
As I turned, my eye caught a wink of light
dashing across the blue-black sky.

Becky and I tumbled through pockets of snow.
The yard glowed—lit house and trees.
I blinked.
Who was that all hunched over in the shadows?

Mom, traditionally dressed in pink flannel gown,
pulled off our coats and pushed us into the living room.
Becky ran to a diapered doll and teddy bear.
I gazed at a white-veiled Barbie,
Betty Crocker bake set, white fur-topped boots.

On the floor lay the empty green 7UP bottle
and a plate of cookie crumbs.
I ran to the window. Cupped my hands around my eyes.
No reindeer, no sleigh…

But on that navy blue, crystally winter’s night,
I decided to believe for one more year.


Most Christmases hold me under their spell.  I can get done what I have to get done. And, I love the sparkle of lights, the glitz of foil wrapping paper, and the cheery and moody music blasting from the radio.  But, I don’t always like the reality I am dealt.   I may have retired a few years ago, but for the last four years, I’ve been writing and editing books. Before that, I corrected essays up to the moments before semester grades had to be handed in to administration. I was always in a rush to finish baking, shopping, wrapping presents, and sending quick notes to friends.

This year, I must say, I am more relaxed if not less organized. No editing, no writing, even though I am researching for my next book and thinking of a couple poems to write.  Cookies to bake?  Ah, maybe tomorrow.  Wreaths to put up?  Maybe, Frank can do the job.  Oh, Rudolph!  I need you to guide my sleigh tonight and through the rest of the season. I need to get my jobs finished, OR, maybe I’ll just sit and watch Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan in Christmas in Connecticut

…..just one more time.

This year, the world’s chaos can steal anyone’s joy. Yet, I hope for you and me  a nice Christmas, however we find it. Turn off the TV.  Sing a few songs, make a toast with our favorite friend or loved one for a peaceful, less stressful new year.

Like I did as a child, I am deciding to believe in the old man’s magic, at least for one more year. Most importantly, for me, personally, I cherish the gift of the babe-in-cradle burrowed in that meager way-station  so long ago. It’s the simple truths that matter.