Cows In The Mist

When I return to Iowa, I always have to check on my sister and brother-in-law’s cows.

As I’ve stated before.”I love cows!”

It’s a typical Iowa winter day–cloudy and gray. The kind I hated as a kid!

The cows don’t seem to mind though.

These girls lounge in the lot now, expecting any day, hour, or minute. They are heavy with calves, just waiting to join the world alongside the other newborns.

For now, these black beauties are contented to lay in the hay, chew their cud, and wait it out.



The old Richwoods Church stands alone in the mist as it has for decades. A comforting landmark that watches over its eternal guests, day and night, rain or shine.



The old barn, a behemoth of a structure, gives shelter when needed. It was a great place to play and hide when my siblings and I were home together. It still serves that purpose for grandkids and cousins.


This one’s belly makes me hurt!  Surely she won’t go another day…will she? How do they do it…out in the cold, no heated blanket to keep from shaking? She’s a better cow than I am.

Her attitude and look says, “Go away! There’s nothing to see here…yet!”

So, I’ll go back inside and report my expert observations. Truth is, these girls will probably give birth during the night when we humans are tucked snug and warm in our beds.


Blooms That Remember


Thirty-plus years ago, a lady gave me a gift. She just  happened to be the Mother of my principal at the Middle School where I taught. She also ran a daycare in her home where I took my son during the day.

She had a modest home, but it always felt inviting.  Her yard and flowers was something she took pride in. I was always amazed at the things she did with her small city plot of land and that little house that held so much love for her charges.

There was always something baking, or a craft being made in the kitchen. She was not one to sit around, there was always something to keep her and the children she cared for, engaged and inspiried.

One day, when I picked up my son, she was working in her side-yard where there were beautiful yellow Iris blooming. I mentioned that I was from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa which is known as the Iris City in my home state. She and her husband had ties to Iowa, so that started up another conversation.

Well the next day, when I came to pick up my son , she handed me a paper sack filled with Iris bulbs. “I’m  thinning them out!” She said.



I was so excited and grateful for her gift. We had recently built a home in the country. I knew just the spot for these beauties.

When I got home, I planted them right away.

That was in nineteen-seventy-something. Every year since, those yellow Iris have pushed their way up through the rocky soil, and bloomed just as they had that first year I planted them. Each spring I think back, and remember her.

I see her face, and think of her cozy home and her flowers.


She is gone now, for many years, but the friendship and love with which she gave me those bulbs, live on.

Thank you, Lavera Stineman.




mom at 17

My Mother rarely received gifts from my Dad—Mother’s Day was no different. He was Scotch, Irish and wasn’t comfortable with showing affection in front of people.

My Mom, however, was very demonstrative… hugging, kissing and pinching cheeks whenever she had the chance.

As a child, I tried to give her things on Mother’s Day… a bouquet of flowers picked from her yard, a handmade card or drawing, but I always felt bad because the other mothers, who attended the First Baptist Church, strutted proudly with their corsage pinned securely to their bosoms.

My mom never had a corsage. As children, we hadn’t a way or means, and my dad would have never thought of it.

She would come home from church, like always, and fix a delicious Sunday meal for all of us.

In later years, we adult children would make it a point to send cards and gifts. Because I lived out-of-state, it was rare that I got to be with her on that special day.

Mom was a giving soul, not only to her family, but to friends and acquaintances as well.

She never knew a stranger, and when she’d go to town, everyone knew her.

They would greet her with a “Hi Rosie!”

mom with me, 1946

She was selfless when it came to her children.

Mom taught us many things, but her capacity for compassion–I remember most!

We fought, and had disagreements, as teenagers do with their mothers.

I thought I knew so much more than she did. As I got older I realized how smart she’d gotten!

Her outstretched arms and wide smile always greeted me. Whether I was coming home after several months, or leaving, she’d be there, at the door or on the porch… ready to give me a big hug and loving kiss.


I don’t have my mom with me any longer, but I have the memories tucked away, and I pull them out whenever I want!



The Future

When I was in high school, our literature class was assigned George Orwell’s novel, 1984. We also read Animal Farm, but it was 1984 that made the biggest impression on me.


For one thing, this was 1963-ish, and 1984 seemed a millennium away, and I was sure the world would have come to an end by the time the 80s’ rolled around.

The mere idea of Big Brother, thought crimes, and secret surveillance was enough to give any seventeen-year-old… pause… for what their future might hold.


Now on the brink of 2014, I look back on my naiveté’ and realize that maybe we have arrived, in a way, and what Orwell described in his dystopian society isn’t too far off.

With security cameras, Homeland Security, and the NSA everywhere, it looks like we just might be headed that way.

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Watching The Jetsons, when I was a kid, was also fodder for a lot of speculation as to what our futures would truly look like. Would I take a pill for each meal, fly to work in a space car, and have the dishes done by a contraption built into the kitchen wall?

Well, some of Orwell’s imaginative writing may not be too far off the mark. Thank God, I don’t have to take a pill instead of enjoying a delicious meal, and dessert or fly to work in a car… I’d probably hit the first building or electrical line I came to. The dishwasher idea…that, I’ve always liked!

I have mixed feeling about all the security devices we now have at our disposal. On one hand, I appreciate the fact that law enforcement is better equipped to catch the pedophile, car-jacker, or predator who lurk in those places which are often very public. But, I also worry that we have become desensitized to such subtle intrusions in our private lives that we may be losing the one thing we Americans value—privacy.

I find myself looking around the ceiling and walls of public restrooms I use, looking for that blinking red light I’ve heard about. Have I become paranoid after watching news magazines where such things do happen. Could I be…paranoid?

And what about our cell phones… they’re not just for calling these days, just ask any adolescent or teenager.

I do love my cell phone though…it is a blessing and a curse. I love it…I hate it!

And what I wouldn’t have given for spell check, and a laptop when I had to do those research papers in high school and college.

So it is with optimism and a touch of trepidation that I look to the New Year, 2014.

It is a wonderful time to be alive, but let us keep a diligent eye on the future, and recognizes the warning signs that could be our undoing.



images from internet

Excerpt from Corn Rose

Karen Ross Epp
“I like toads, remember?” she replied, not missing a beat. “You and
your friends always tried to get rid of me that way but I just threw them
back at you.”
With Kate pulling on him with both hands, Jack reluctantly stood up,
then bumped into her, almost sending them both to the floor. He caught
her around the waist.
“Sorry, Kate . . . I guess I’ve had one too many beers tonight.” She
felt warm and soft against his skin. Shit, Jack, get ahold of yourself. He’d
embarrass himself if he wasn’t careful so he released her and stepped back.
She just smiled and continued to tug him on the dance floor.
This is a damn mistake! Jack caught Hal looking at him and nudging
Nora. Great . . . just great! This’ll be all over the damn county before mornin’.
“Kate, I really need to sit down. I’m feelin’ a little lightheaded.”
“I have that effect on people,” she kidded. “I’ll hold you up. C’mon . . .
With her pressed against him, he caught a subtle hint of her
perfume as they moved across the dance floor. He had truly missed these
sensations—only he wished it were Rose he was holding.
Kate’s hair tickled his nose, and he blew it away, startling her.
“I’m sorry, I’m just no good at this, Kate.”
She pressed her cheek against his shoulder. “No . . . this is nice. You’re
not as scary as you used to be.”
She looked up at him. “What makes you so sad, Jack?”
Her eyes were trusting and inviting. God, I’m gonna be in trouble if
I don’t turn her loose. Well . . . it’d serve Rose right. I heard that guy on the
“I’m not sad,” he said. “Just gotta lot on my mind, that all!”
She wasn’t buying it. “Wouldn’t have anything to do with your wife
bein’ gone, would it?”
He let out a big sigh and smiled down at her. “I never could put nothin’
over on you, could I?”


Proud Mama

Although my mother was not wealthy, she was rich in so many ways. Her children were everything to her. As she often said, “My dividend for old age.”

We didn’t always please her, and she let us know it–in either Italian or English. There was no, “Let’s discuss this,” or “Don’t you think you could have made a better choice?” No, it was pretty much black and white as far as discipline was concerned. I’m not saying she always did the right thing, but she did the best she could.

In this picture I’m the one holding my baby sister, Eileen…isn’t she adorable?” And my handsome brother Stan.

When pictures were taken we usually had to put on our Sunday best, so naturally Sunday, on our way to church, was a good photo op. We’d squint in the sun and try to follow her directions about posing, smiling, and standing-up straight… ugh, it was torture!

But now, when I look at these old black and white photos, I’m glad she made us smile for the camera!



I’m often asked, “What inspired you to write, Corn Rose?” I often pick up Corn Rose or With Love Stan, and marvel that I did this. I was not an english or journalism major in college, I studied art and psychology. I taught the visual arts for thirty years in the public school system, so what made me think I could write a book?

Well, I think it goes back to sitting, crossed-leg on the floor, listening to adults tell stories about their experiences. Whether their tales were truth or fiction, was immaterial… I was hooked. I was always rummaging around grandma’s attic or mom’s storage room for nuggets of the past. Sometimes it was an old postcard from a faraway place or tattered valentine. Old pictures drew me in, and I’d wonder what the occasion prompted the photo. Walking through a cemetery– reading the old weathered tombstones was fascinating to me.

From those early days, I harbored a desire to tell a story. I always felt my Mother was a beautiful woman who was somehow displaced.  As in, Bridges of Madison County, mom was Italian– full of passion and dreams, much like Francesca. She would relate stories of her youth living in Los Angeles, California. Of course my mind would go to, “Did you see any movie stars?” To a child, it was fascinating and I would imagine that magical place when she’d talk about it. My extended family, as I mentioned in the introduction to Corn Rose, were colorful to say the least! I’m blessed to have had those kind of extremes in my life. It makes for many good stories.

In the end I love painting pictures through words.