A Little Nudge and Some Inspiration

I have some great friends.

I got an email tonight from a wonderful friend who has been so supportive of me in the creation of this blog and the writing of this book.  Occasionally she drops little things here and there that let me know that she is thinking of me and that when (if!) this book is done, she’ll read it.  That’s at least one reader, right?

This exemplary friend read this quote and thought of me, you, us — all the Pioneer Girls:

A pioneer is not a woman who makes her own soap. She is one who takes up her burdens and walks toward the future. With vision and with courage she makes the desert bloom.
– Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is a historian whose focuses on women and private experience in history makes her a Pioneer Girl herself.  Dr. Ulrich is now a professor at Harvard University, and she is also known for another phrase you might have heard:

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

 So today I am thankful for friends who support me, pioneer women who walk toward the future, and all the little nudges that encourage us.

(Thanks, Pamela. ;))


Pioneer Girl friends, we just had such an amazing #GrandmaDay.  There was such a connection between my kids and their great-grandma, a cherished photo was snapped, and I think (and super hope) that a lasting memory was made.

Every Wedneseday we have my beautiful 90-year-old Grandma over for lunch, also known as #GrandmaDay, my kids’ favorite day of the week.  She comes over around 10 in the morning and stays until about 1pm, and while I cook she does puzzles and coloring with the kids, tells us stories about her parents and what life was like when she was young, and occasionally shares a signature recipe with us.  Today we had all of that and more.

These days Grandma is doing a little something I call un-nesting.  We lost her husband, “Cowboy Grandpa,” four years ago this past summer, and she misses him dearly.  She loves us and everything, but if he called her home today she would gladly go to him.  In her preparations for returning home, she is slowly passing along her belongings to her descendants — and since she comes here every week, we are inheriting a lot of great things from her.  This week she brought us her cookie press.

2015-09-30 14.04.08

Grandma has made Cookie Press Cookies since the 1950s, when her neighbor brought home this new fancy machine.  Mr. and Mrs. Gardner were dear friends who lived in the house next door, and whenever Mr. Gardner found something new and interesting at the department store, he would pick up one for his wife and one for Grandma.  Grandma says if she wanted it she could pay him for it, or if she wasn’t interested he would sell it to someone else or return it to the store.  One day his find was a cookie press.

Grandma and Grandpa had built their home in downtown Chandler, Arizona in 1950, and very shortly thereafter Grandpa’s mother, Elsie, who we call Grandmother, had to move from their dairy farm and into town for health reasons.  Grandmother had been widowed young and when Cowboy Grandpa, her youngest son, married and moved “to town,” it wasn’t safe for her to be out there alone anymore.  She sold the farm and built just down the street from her son and new daughter-in-law.

Grandma was a Mormon, had been born and raised in the Church, and while Grandmother wasn’t fond of the religion, she quickly became fond of the new daughter-in-law.  Grandma’s second language is service, and she has always found many small ways to endear herself to everyone around her.  Elsie was no exception, and the day Grandma took her first batch of cookie press cookies to share, Elsie was even more impressed.

Elsie and her husband had been early and influential residents of the area, and she remained active in political and social circles in the community throughout her life, even after her husband’s passing.  She frequently hosted parties for ladies’ activist groups and luncheons for the ladies from her Methodist Church congregation.  Every time she was going to have a ladies’ group over, she would order up a few batches of cookie press cookies from her daughter-in-law.  She found them the perfect light and elegant treat to serve the ladies.

Grandma continued to make cookie press cookies as a Christmas treat for her friends and family until just a few years ago when cooking and baking became more of a struggle as she approached 90 years old.  The cookie press has sat in the pantry for the last few years, until Grandma brought it to us this week.  We cleaned it up again and tracked down a recipe and had a wonderful morning mixing up the dough, having Grandma show us how to work the press, and sampling the tasty results.  2015-09-30 11.43.20-1And after these few hours of working and talking and laughing together, I feel closer to my great-Grandmother, and my Grandma, and my kids.  I hope they’ll remember this morning spent with their great-Grandma.  I think they will.

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges first day of school as depicted by Norman Rockwell in his painting "The Problem We All Live With."

Ruby Bridges’ first day of school as depicted by Norman Rockwell in his painting “The Problem We All Live With.”

Ruby Bridges became a Pioneer when she was six years old.

In the summer of 1960, Ruby was getting ready to start first grade.  Last year, in kindergarten, Ruby went to the same school as all the kids on her street attended, Johnson Lockett Elementary School across town.  Johnson Lockett was the city’s school for black children.  All the kids from her street went there.  Her mama was friends with the teachers.  She was comfortable.  She fit in.  She loved school.

Ruby’s parents had never learned to read or write, but they wanted more for their children.  They were a family of faith, and they knew the scriptures well.  They had memorized whole passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament, and they taught the principles to their children.  They were excited to send Ruby to learn.  Someday she could read the Bible to them.

Ruby lived in Louisiana, and Louisiana did things a certain way.  Even though the neighborhood school was closer to Ruby’s house, it was only for white kids.  Ruby wasn’t welcome there.

Then the news came that Integration was coming to Ruby’s town.  All the black kindergarten children were tested to see if they would be able to make the transition to the white schools — which had better books, better resources, and better-trained teachers.  Many people didn’t want the black children and white children going to school together, so they made the test very hard.

But Ruby was smart. Ruby passed their test.

Ruby and four other children were selected to begin integration in New Orleans in November 1960.  The other children were from a different neighborhood, so they were allowed to attend school together.  Ruby would be the only black child enrolled at her neighborhood school, William Frantz Public School.

Federal marshals had to escort Ruby to her classes for the first full month because people threatened to hurt her and her family.  Most of the white parents pulled their kids out of the school.  Ruby went to first grade all by herself, learning from a white teacher on her own, day after day.

Ruby was a girl of great faith.  As she walked past those howling mobs every morning and every afternoon, Ruby kept a prayer in her heart.  One day when a doctor asked her why she prayed for them, Ruby told him that they needed praying for.  He asked her what she said in her prayers, and she told him.  Her prayers went like this:

“Please, God, try to forgive those people.  Because even if they say those bad things, they don’t know what they’re doing.  So you could forgive them, just like You did those folks a long time ago when they said terrible things about You.”*

Ruby’s teacher, Mrs. Henry, came to love Ruby like a daughter.  They spent all day every day together until the end of the school year.

The next year when Ruby went to second grade, she went to William Frantz again, but this time there were no marshals.  This time there was a classroom full of children.  This time there were other black children in the school.

Ruby paved the way for black children and white children to learn together, play together, and eventually work together in New Orleans.  Ruby has written books and started a foundation to help William Frantz Public School — which is now full of black children.

Ruby Bridges was a Pioneer.

*Ruby’s prayer was recorded by Dr. Robert Coles in his book, “The Story of Ruby Bridges.”  An interview about her desire to pray for those who persecuted her and the faith of her family can be found here.  Please be aware, an offensive term is used to describe Ruby in the clip.