Archives

The Table that Jack . . . er, Donna Built or Is that a Confederate Flag I See?

This is the table that Jack . . . er, Donna, built (or moved, or set up or, whatever.) 

There is the notebook that was thrown on the table that Donna . . . built.

There are the papers that were tossed on the notebook that was thrown on the table that Donna built. 

There are the pencils and pens with the shattered and spent ends that were scattered onto the papers that were tossed on the notebook that was thrown on the table that Donna built.

 

 

table

 

Two weeks ago the Porters did the Great Room Shuffle once again. Two adult boys in one bedroom just wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore.

In the process, I lost my “office” room and am now back in the dinette in the kitchen.

It’s not so bad. I get to look out the backyard. I can open the windows a tad (not too far or Fuego will push through the screen) for fresh air (when there is fresh air). And in the process, with so much chaos, I got the drive to clean and do a much needed purge on bookshelves, drawers, and my files. (If you think the above is bad, you should have seen it two weeks ago.)

And I won’t lie — being between books helped to fuel my fire. ‘Tis as if I get the urge to nest before I start the next project, which I am self-scheduled to begin the week after next.

In all the turmoil that was unceremoniously dumped here from files and bookcases, however, I came across the gem below. It is a family crest I designed for a unit I did in a social studies methods class while at A & M. We were assigned the task of creating a “Family History Unit” for a 5th grade class. Having already been deep in my family tree at that point, this was right up my alley. It was not like studying at all!

And yes – it has a Confederate flag. Wonder if that would fly now? (Pun totally intended there.) Would I have been counted off or not allowed to turn it in? Or would I have been allowed my freedom to express myself?

 

Scan_20171105

My explanation for using such in my family crest?

I graduated from Robert E. Lee High School as did both of my parents. My dad coached there for many years. My sister and I were practically born with a Gander (the mascot) in our hands. The band, which I was drum major of my senior year,  played Dixie at every game and then some. Our band uniforms had a Confederate cross on the chest shield and Robert E. Lee’s family crest on the back.

I have no idea what the band uniforms look like today. They were, I know, forced to quit playing Dixie a number of years ago. The Confederate flag is gone as well.

But the coat of arms was not the only gem in that notebook. It was a gem I had wondered if I still had somewhere in all my stuff.

Next week, I will show what it was . . .

Advertisements

The Voices are Gone, The Voices are Gone, But Not For Long For Long . . .

The voices in my head are finally silent.

The Rood is finished.

roodlast-page-0

Yep – I know I sound crazy, but it’s true. I write to get the stories out of my head and the voices to quit talking.

Maybe I need therapy of one kind or another?

I also must confess that once that final button is pushed – although there is a myriad of smaller buttons and even longer waiting times as business and publishing houses on their end get the book up and running with all its links – I always feel a little off-kilter. Maybe it’s finally saying goodbye to the story, or some of the characters, or the fact the project is finished and suddenly the back of my mind is not occupied with my friends and their desperate struggles.

But I digress from the real point of this post.

You can find links for purchasing The Rood here.

If you are interested in obtaining a FREE digital copy of The Rood in exchange for a review, contact me at donnahechlerporterbooks@gmail.com. I will give you a link to Instafreebie and you then claim your copy. They send you an email for another link to either a pdf, mobi, or epub. You choose your preference and download your book. Its easy peasy.

And finally – for you local yocals – I will be at the Sam and Carmena Goss Memorial Library in Mt. Belvieu on December 2 from 9:30 to 12:30 for a Holiday Meet-and-Greet and Book Signing. I will have copies of all of my novels for purchase, including The Rood. Come by and chat, perhaps pick up some books for Christmas presents, or just say hello.

A Meet-and-Greet and Book Signingadjusted-page-0

And now – to listen to voices  – new and old – as they insist their story be told next in Book 2 of The Marylanders – The Brooch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newbie Boobies . . . Or, Yes Cinderella, dreams do come true!

And so, I went missing in action.

Again.

No Facebook posts. No Twitter Tweets. No blogging.

Now I must preface this by saying that the past week Hurricane Harvey has kept me busy. But that does not account for the few weeks before. I promise, I had a good reason, and fear of jinxing my good fortune kept me from revealing I would not be around for a while on Facebook and my blogs.

You see, after almost 40 years of suffering from large, painful breasts, and thanks to the generosity of my mother who threw part of my inheritance my way and early, I had a breast reduction on August 1st.

I really NEVER thought that day would come. I was especially distraught when insurance refused to pay for it about two months back. It appeared, according to their guidelines, that they would never pay for it. That’s Cigna for you.

At any rate, the surgeon removed 7.5 pounds total from my chest. That’s right, folks. From each breast came 3.25 pounds. Stack up a few cans of beans, tie a string around them, then hang them from your neck.

If you dare.

In fact, having so much taken out displaced my center of gravity. The first time the recovery room nurses stood me to my feet to walk (before I knew how much the surgeon had taken off) I pitched forward. Needless to say, I spent the next three or so days on my unsteady feet being careful I did not fall forward!

The pain of surgery, and the work to keep from falling forward, was a small price to pay for the relief from the pain from such large breasts that was, honestly, near immediate. The tingling nerve in my left back has disappeared. Even at two weeks post-op I was cooking simple meals in the kitchen without my back going numb.  The near constant pains which only required a finger touch along my shoulder and upper back are disappearing.

I actually no longer have to stop, straighten my spine, and work to take a breath when I get winded, and my constant nagging neck ache, which more often than not shot into a headache, has ceased. I am even sleeping better.

I can’t imagine why (I say, as I roll my eyes.)

I dress and look at myself in the mirror, and even I have to admit my face looks as if it is twenty pounds lighter. For the first time EVER I actually look normal (at least my chest and upper body) and not some morphed monster with a small head and this HUGE chest that sticks out and wobbles.

And that’s not all I have learned in the past two weeks.

  1. A C/D cup really isn’t that large, unless you are seventeen and weigh 104 pounds.
  2. Most people can feel their shirts on their bellies because, by golly, a C/D cup doesn’t tent your shirt over your abdomen.
  3. Perky C/D boobies don’t really require a bra at all. They just sort of sit there on their own. It’s fascinating . . .
  4. I can actually bend over to pick something up, or reach for something, and I don’t fall forward. Maybe I can get back to that yoga . . .
  5. Crumbs sort of fall down and off. Water on the cabinet doesn’t soak my shirt when I get within spitting distance.
  6. The August heat is much easier to bear.

Now mind you, my surgeries four years ago (my colon ruptured and I had a temporary colostomy) have left me with large hernias and scar tissue. My tummy, to be frank, looks as if I might be pregnant, sort of, in a lopsided watermelon fashion.  Neither you, nor I, knew my tummy was that large, because the boobs were always in the way. But in a few months, with any luck, I will be back under the knife and having that repaired.

So, if you see me, don’t look lower than my beautiful new boobs. The other?

Well, Cinderella I will never be (although I AM related, I found out quite recently, to a number of royals in England, Scotland, and Spain), but hopefully, I will eventually be walking around in a whole new me . . .

girl-757040_960_720

 

Authors Helping Houston – Help for Victims of Hurricane Harvey . . .

 

 

HurricaneReliefGraphic2Many of you may not know that I live northeast of Houston. Yes, we survived Hurricane Harvey this past week.  Our house is one of the highest in our neighborhood, which sits alongside Lake Houston. All in all we got 30+ inches of rain. The most we have ever had before was 14 during what is called The Tax Day Flood last year. We had electricity except for two days (not back to back) when trees fell on lines. (In contrast, during Hurricane Ike, we were without power for 27 days.)

Despite our good fortune, we still have had to scramble for milk and eggs in stores. We have to get gas while we can. We have had to reroute our drives through flooded streets, and hubby missed several days of work. But we had it much, oh so much easier than most.

Many, though, are suffering great hardships and face long recoveries. I have joined with several Houston authors to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Between September 4th and September 17th, any royalties earned on my first novel Keeping Secrets, will go to the Dickinson, Texas Relief Fund. You can click on the link to find out about the help and aid David and Maria Matties have given their community. They are truly heroes, as are so many others who are looking to rebuild their lives in the Dickinson area.

At Authors Helping Houston you will see not only Keeping Secrets, but other books as well. Peruse the list. Perhaps you will find a new, local author. Links for purchasing books are on the page.

Additionally, I have autographed paperback copies that can be purchased from me. Email me at donnahechlerporterbooks@wordpress.com. Books are $15, and payment can be made through Paypal.

For those that purchase, thank you so much for thinking of others during this difficult time. May Our Lord reward you a hundredfold for your generosity.

Queen Anyone? I don’t think so . . .

I am glad I am not a monarch. But more on that in a minute.

I have been watching CW’s Reign the past few months on Netflix.

Now let me be clear – this show is NOT for the faint of heart. Thus, the “fast forward” button (thank you Netflix and whoever invented the remote) gets a lot of use. The show has blood, murder, and sex. I just pressed the fast-forward button past those parts and watched the tale. Even then, there were at least two times I turned it off and vowed not to watch again because it got a bit too silly. But inevitably I turned it back on. I always have had a problem starting a story and stopping before the end.

800px-battle_of_sheriffmuir

Battle of Sheriffmuir. My Dugal McQueen was here.

Maybe I kept watching because I have always been fascinated by Mary, Queen of Scots. After all, my 7th great-grandfather joined the Jacobite forces in 1715 in an effort to put the Royal House of Stuart back on Scotland’s throne. (He was subsequently captured and banished to the colonies.) Maybe it was Adelaide Kane’s portrayal. She is beautiful and does a fabulous job with a difficult role. Maybe I am a softie for beautiful dresses and settings that seem larger than life.

 

Oh, and there are a number of handsome men to ogle over as well, and most of them are tall and dark.  Although . . . sigh . . .  none of them wear a tricorn. We are about two hundred years too soon for such fashion.

At any rate, my index finger got some exercise not only past the unseemly parts, but also on the pause button as I fact checked.  The writers have taken basic facts and woven a story around them that at times is WAY off the mark. At others, not so much.

youngmarystuart

Mary Stuart at about 15 years of age and about the time she married Francis I of France.

Mary Stuart’s life was never her own. She was in danger of death from the moment of her birth for she, not her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, was more than likely the rightful heir to the British crown as her grandmother was the sister of King Henry VIII. She was sent away from Scotland at six days old and grew up in French court. She was engaged to Francis I of France at a young age in an alliance that was to benefit and strengthen both France and Scotland which were staunchly Catholic at the time. That much of Reign is true. Furthermore, history seems to bear out her devotion to the frail and sickly Francis I (played in Reign by an aged and not so sickly Toby Regbo), and it is true in the historical record she seems to lose her way and her power after his death. The show was true to the spirit of her difficult life in that regard, and the last season, as she tries to gain support for her crown both in Scotland and England, is painful to watch. She is faced with only bad choices and a Protestant political faction led by John Knox that will do anything to destroy her.

 

Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII through his second wife Anne Boleyn, and so her claim to the British throne was always problematic. His desire to marry Anne, and the fact he could not get the Vatican to issue an annulment from first wife Catherine of Aragon who was a devout Catholic (as was Henry at the time of their marriage), precipitated the Protestant Revolution and the break of Britain with the Roman Catholic Church. English Catholics, nor the Vatican, recognized Henry’s marriage to Anne, and as Henry had no heirs by first wife Catherine, the crown rightfully belonged to Mary Stuart.

Queen Mary remained staunchly Catholic, while Elizabeth, taking the faith of her mother, was Protestant. Both queens subsequently became pawns in a larger game of politics and power. While much of the show takes liberties with history, this fact also comes through loud and clear.

800px-benjamin_franklin_-_join_or_die

Join, or Die by Benjamin Franklin was recycled to encourage the former colonies to unite against British rule

In the larger context – I understand more deeply why my fifth and sixth great-grandparents had little trouble turning on England and supporting a rebellious cause to rid themselves of a monarchical government that cared very little for their well-being and more about politics and power. The young colonial empire, due to Indians at their backs and King George across the ocean to their front, felt used, powerless, and cast aside. Don’t get me wrong. I do not espouse monarchies or democracies. Either is good when run by just kings and queens or elected officials. Either is bad when the lust for power becomes the prevailing reason why someone seeks high government positions in the first place.

I have also decided after a run on royal shows (my Canadian husband is laughing in the hall as we speak – Reign, PBS’s Victoria and Secret of the Six Wives and more) that I am grateful I was not born a queen or a princess. If any of my ancestors were royalty and they lost that privilege, I thank them eternally for not fating me with such a life.

And now – my top 10 reasons I am GLAD I am not a monarch . . .

  1. You are never safe in your own home. A coup is always around the corner.
  2. You are not able to love freely. Arranged marriage anyone?
  3. Sometimes you have to kill one to save the many. Those darn uprising and wars.
  4. Someone ALWAYS wants you dead. After all, royals have power. And people want power.
  5. You can never trust even your friends. Money talks and people can always be bought off.
  6. Even your husband or wife could wish and will you dead.
  7. Are you a woman? You better hope you can bear children, or you may well be dead and another woman for your husband is just around the corner.
  8. You are automatically destined to be insecure. People want your position. People want your power. You cannot even really trust your friends. (See #5 above and #7 if you are a woman.) But hey – at least you have money for a psychiatrist?
  9. You cannot go for a simple walk or horse ride in the forest without having people come with you for protection.
  10. You cannot even be sure the food you eat is safe. After all, poison is poison.

 

 

“A House With a Broken Heart”

 

072429pv

 

“Yet it was not heavy, or pompous. It managed somehow, to combine vastness with delicacy; titanic proportions with grace and warmth . . .

                                                              (John Clarence Laughlin, Ghosts Along the Mississippi)

 

I was introduced to Belle Grove Plantation through Clarence John Laughlin’s book Ghosts Along the Mississippi. I was hooked from the first picture. Many times I would study the pictures in Laughlin’s book. I would try to imagine what the house looked like while it thrived and people loved it. I would try to imagine what the view from the front porch was like for the people who lived there.

I would think of the noises of the inhabitants. The laughter. The sadness. All of it pressing against the walls in a permanent, life-affirming way.

072440pv

 

John Andrews, who made his fortune in Virginia and owned 7,000 acres surrounding Belle Grove near White Castle in Iberville Parish, Louisiana, built the mansion for $80,000 between 1852 and 1857. Andrews had a legendary rivalry with John Randolph, the owner of neighboring Nottaway Plantation. Both men commissioned New Orleans architect Henry Howard to design their homes. Both mansions sport a mix of Greek and Italianate styles. Andrews more than 150 slaves who produced over one-half million pounds of sugar a year also provided free building labor. Lumber was used from nearby Cypress trees, and the pillars were, in fact, six feet wide cypress trunks and were hand carved. Bricks were produced on the plantation. Expert European craftsmen were hired to plaster and carve the walls and mantels. The front steps, rising twelve feet above the arches, were covered with imported marble. The door knobs and keyhole guards were of silver.

Belle Grove’s lower arches were 12 feet high, and ultimately the whole of the house stood 62 feet high and rambled 122 feet wide and 119 feet deep. Seventy-five rooms encompassed four floors. The wings rambled from the center in no particular pattern. Even a jail cell was built within the house. No expense was spared in its construction, and it is said Andrews refused to keep receipts or a cost analysis of the money spent. It was one of the largest mansions in the South, even larger than Randolph’s Nottoway Plantation.

Nottoway, however, is still with us. Belle Grove is not.

In 1867, due to the loss of the war and the collapse of the Southern economy, Andrews sold the plantation house and the surrounding acreage to James Ware for a mere $50,000. The plantation stayed in the Ware family until the 1920s when, after a series of crop failures, they were forced to sell. 072435pr

From 1925 onward, the house sat vacant, and Belle Grove began a rapid decline. Louisiana’s harsh environment rots away at neglected properties. A roof leak destroyed one wing. The mansion was purchased several times by individuals who hoped to restore Belle Grove to its former glory, but the realities of the Great Depression and World War II proved too great an obstacle. Rehabilitation was further complicated by the lack of available materials and the expense of such (cypress for the beams and local bricks, imported marble) to bring the mansion back to its original state. When decay came to the house, it spread rapidly.  On March 17, 1952, a mysterious night fire destroyed what remained of the house.

Belle Grove has long charmed people. The house even has its own group of friends with a webpage: Friends of Belle Grove Plantation of Louisana Website. The plantation has been the subject of a number of books. Unlike other mansions that have been lost with time, in the 1930s photographs and architectural drawings were taken of the inside and outside of the structure. Before that, in 1908, the contents were inventoried upon the death of James Ware. All of these records and more are available on the website for the Library of Congress.

 

But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby’s laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it’s left alone, that ever your eyes could meet. 

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can’t help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.

(Excerpt, The House With Nobody In It, Joyce Kilmer)

 

 

Sources:

Pictures from Historic American Buildlings Survey (HABS) LA-36.

Wikipedia. Belle Grove Plantation (Iberville Parish, Louisiana). Found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_Grove_Plantation_(Iberville_Parish,_Louisiana)

Friends of Belle Grove Plantation of Louisiana Website. Found at http://www.bellegrove/html.net.

Laughin, Clarence John. Ghosts Along the Mississippi. (New York: American Legacy Press, 1961.)

Milk Glass Mania – It’s Not What You Think

old-17792__340

I have always wanted to live in an old house with history (although I draw the line at ghosts.) I also wanted said house to have lots of “junk” in the attic, the closets, the garden sheds. I picture myself going through all the “junk,” which would really be little treasures along the way. All with a history. All now . . . mine.

I know. I am dangerously close to the sin of selfishness. Or perhaps materialism?

But I digress.

It appears that while I do not live in an old house with a long history (and no, no ghosts), I have lived here long enough, and I am now old enough, to have found my own treasures.

(You should chuckle at this point. I know I am.)

I recently discovered several Facebook pages devoted to old dishes. My passion for old dishes is only slightly less than for old houses. However, I can collect the dishes. It’s a bit hard to collect old houses.

Apparently, milk glass is quite a collector’s item these days. People on the Facebook page post their collections and their purchases. I made a mental note to pay closer attention at garage sales and the local Goodwill store since I have always liked those sorts of things.

And then, I was waiting on the washing machine to finish a load, and I was standing in the hallway, and I looked up . . .

and I gasped!

On the shelf was a milk glass vase.

I screamed. I shoved an ugly green vase out of the way. I ran around the house with my treasure.

(Well, sort of. I don’t run anywhere these days.)

vase

I had apparently paid $1 for it, although I cannot remember when I purchased it. A quick google search reveals it to be a teardrop vase made of milk glass. It is considered “vintage 1970s.”

Since I was born in the 60s, I am not certain what that makes me. Since I like old things, I wonder if perhaps it makes me double-vintage?

Or maybe just – double trouble?