Author Archive: franmcveigh

#SOL23: Spring/Summer

Three weeks ago I wrote about what I see in spring: Shades of Green. As I traveled some of those same roads this weekend, I commented to myself on the fact that green was now the predominant color in all cornfields and that soybeans had emerged in faint rows. Little soil remains visible in many fields. Progress. Growing cycles. Corn height already ranges from 6 inches to a foot high. Corn is on target to be well over knee-high by “the fourth of July.”

June does mark several important changes on farms in Iowa. The smells shift as spring wanes and summer is fast approaching. (The calendar says not yet, but the 90 degree temperatures shout, “Summer’s here!”)

The first big change was evident in five fields and multiple ditches. The first round of hay was cut and on the ground. A sign of summer. A fragrant smell. A cleansing of the earth as the hay is cut, windrowed, and baled. Yes, it’s work. But it’s also a sign of summer. One of the first harvests!

It had rained the night before so I could also smell the “dirt” after the rain. The stirred-up dirt scent reminds us of the importance of rain for our crops. Petrichor – the earthy smell after a rain. A comforting smell. A second fragrant smell. A short-lived smell as it disappears as the earth heats up. A necessary smell as the earth absorbs the needed moisture for crops to grow.

Both of those smells, the hay drying and the earth after rain are pleasing smells to most farmers. They are signs of growth. Some folks with allergies may not find them as pleasant as others; but in general, they are the good smells of summer.

The third smell from my travels was the smell from hog confinements. Some might say the smell is “of money” as the growth of the pigs is dependent on many factors. Farmers in Iowa raise thousands of hogs each year so the strength of these smells vary according to the location of large confinement centers.

What smells herald SUMMER in your neigborhood? Are they all equally fragrant smells? Which ones do you look forward to “smelling”?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL23: Old and New

I could write about Coco as I did here quite briefly when I named a specific location (above the picture).

I could write about Duke’s as I briefly mentioned here.

Or I could write about Monday’s adventure at the Farmer’s Market (although there really wasn’t a farmer in sight).

Or I could write about the huge picture book debut celebration that inspired my May travel.

Choices, choices, choices. Which topic is most interesting?

Hmm. . . To me? Or to my readers? Have you clicked on any of the four links above? Do you have my current location in mind? Have you seen ANY of my social media posts over the weekend?

All four links give clues to my location and to my weekend activities. I’ve been in four bookstores, a museum, a Farmer’s Market, Duke’s, and Bob’s Market.

Definitely not in Iowa. If that was your guess, you have totally missed ALL of my clues.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the joy, the excitement, and the fun of watching a picture book author fuss over details: What kind of pen to use to sign books? How and when to arrive at the event? How to efficiently and yet kindly greet everyone in attendance? How to organize the flowers and gifts? How to be kind, gracious, and inspiring?

Reading the book to the audience and especially the 20-some kids seated on the floor? A veritable piece of cake! (Much like an ordinary day at school.) No nervousness at all!

We laughed. We cheered. We even shed a few happy tears as we watched the joy, love, and celebration of and for Kitty Donohoe and How to Ride a Dragonfly at Children’s Book World on Saturday, May 27, 2023.

It’s a gorgeous book. Read it. Enjoy it. Review it. Read it again. Check out the lyrical prose by Kitty Donohoe and the outstanding watercolor and pen and ink illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf. Ask your bookstore to stock this book. It’s simply amazing. You will want it in your collection!

I had the pleasure of capturing details in person for #curiositycrew members. What a journey we had this weekend! We’re already planning for book parties # 2, # 3, . . . Will you be ready to join us?

What did you celebrate this weekend? Where did you find joy? How did you share your love of reading/writing? And with whom did you celebrate?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL23: May Flowers

Memories: Are they based on sight? Smell? Emotions?

What are my favorite May flowers?

Rows of these flowers marked the property line at my grandma’s. They still exist decades later when other visible landmarks: the pear tree, the garage in the alley, and the clematis vines have all disappeared.

These flowers also bloom at the cemetery. Sometimes by individual stones. Sometimes in a row around family plats.

Beautiful May flowers. Blooming in time for Memorial Day.

Is this a familiar flower in your area?

Check out these 17 poems … link

I remember these flowers because of the

, , ,


Always covered in ants.

I remember the ants.

This was a flower best left on the plant

. . .


where ants can roam!

What flowers do you remember? And what triggers your memory?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL23: Shades of Green

In spring, I’m hard-pressed to name my favorite color. Typically, blue is at the top of my list. Some seasons and celebrations other colors are dominant for a bit. But blue stays at the top except for spring.

In spring, green is “growing” and green moves beyond the Kelly green for St. Patrick’s Day or the Christmas green.

But green . . .

Is it green-yellow or yellow-green? Is it blue-green or green-blue? Which shades win out?

Shades of Green

What shade do I see?

When I look at the trees

It depends . . .



Well tended?

In need of TLC?

Trees with blooms?

Trees with leaves?

Trees with needles?

Varying shades dependent on the density of the branches?

Varying shades on neighboring trees?

What shade do I see?

When I look at the grass

It depends . . .

in the yard?

the ditch?

or the byway?

Taller grass?

Freshly mown grass?

Fluffy dandelion puffball blooms?

What shade do I see?

When I look at the fields

It depends . . .

untouched land?



Dotted green?

Patches of visible, volunteer greens?

Clearly, delineated rows?

Straight lines?

Curved lines that follow the land?

Corn in last year’s bean fields?

When will it be a veritable sea of green with no dirt visible?

Here are 25 shades to peruse if you’re still thinking about green.

And for 134 with color names and meanings . . . link

What color is your favorite? Is that your answer 100% of the time or does it change depending on the season or other factors? When do we have multiple answers for the same question? When else in life is this “answer variation” acceptable?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL23: Mother’s Day


Women’s Movement?





It’s been my pleasure to celebrate Mother’s Day for decades. To watch as he stepped onto the bus and headed off to school. College. The Army. Overseas Deployments. All opportunities for growth!

But even before that . . . when I was Aunt Fran and yes, even a stepmom. That caretaker persona. That role filled in so many ways by so many individuals!

And another connection:

When I became a grandmother

On Mother’s Day just eight years ago.

The fun role.

Less pressure.

More fun.

Watching from afar.

Enjoying the growth.

Celebrating a path learned from my own mother.

Saying “Thank You” for the lessons learned from Mom and a host of aunts and strong role models. Wondering how and when we celebrate all the elements of “the village” that make up our support systems. Wondering how we can be more inclusive as we celebrate every day?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.


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#SOL23: Symmetry



Which of the two would you choose?

I’m drawn to symmetrical shapes. These two are current quilting favorites that I am enjoying viewing and are NOT on my making list YET! The first is a single block that could be split horizontally or vertically. The second is a full quilt with an eight-point star in multiple colors/prints that could also be split horizontally or vertically.

But what about other patterns? Should shapes and colors correspond? How much variation is okay? Which of the three works for you? Perfection or Possibilities?

In a bigger block view, how much do the details matter? Does each block need to be the mirror image of the one next to it? How much variation still says, “Possibilities?” How much variation says, “Get out Jack the Ripper and replace it?”

Can these three blocks be combined into one table runner? Or do they look like they need reworking in order to be better matched? I’ve sewn on the borders so I’ve let these go. Except I’m still studying them on the design wall. What do I like about them? What does this mean for future work? Can I just randomly choose a piece and add it? (not today)

How much variation can you tolerate? How much “symmetry”? How much “randomness”? What do you see as possibilities? Where else in your life do you find symmetry? Your homemade pizzas? Salad toppings? When is symmetry important?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL23: “On the radio”

I accidentally hit the mode button and then I was cycling through the data and the AM options.

Like a flash, decades dropped. I was sitting at the kitchen table instead of in my car headed down the highway. I was instantly surrounded by family. Silent people. Only the radio was on. A voice that seemed to have a lot to say and yet simultaneously, saying the same thing, day after day. An old pattern. What I heard brought back memories. Not new words, just different uses…


Live cattle

Feeder cattle

Do you know where this is headed?





And numbers … “up”, “holding steady”, “down”

Day after day, the man on the radio droned on. Same content with some variation.

We were listening to the daily noon farm markets.

Common words.

Common language.

Just a bit different focus on the AM radio station.

I checked the radio screen in my car. No fancy stations. Limited access as I was driving down familiar roads. The preset buttons didn’t seem to be effective today. I was still listening to a local radio station. In fact, the screen said “country” and I laughed. Can’t get much more country than farm markets.

But it was 9 am. That was not the normal time for farm markets as a farm girl growing up. Maybe it was the time factor. Maybe it was the momentary time machine warp.

Time to hit the “seek” and find another station to listen to . . .

What takes you to a memory of a different place and time? Is it a song? A conversation? Or a few minutes on a different radio station?


Thank you,

Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL23: Mid-April

Hurry, Hurry!

It’s time to finish up a project.

Last piece sewed.

Carefully putting pieces together.

Paper piecing:

Watching the marks carefully

Matching ends together

And following the pattern. numbers.

Time to begin anew . . .

What will the next project be?

When will I start?

But wait!

Tonight I must have Mystery Quilt

AND Round Robin piecing to pass on

Anything for “Show and Tell”?

And what about the garage sale

During the meeting tonight?

I have time to decide on the next big project.

Today’s time needs to be carefully allocated

Spending my time wisely.


Staying ahead of temporary schedules

When do I organize? What is the role of drafting/planning in my craft life? And in real life?


Thank you,

Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL23: Remembering

10 years ago tomorrow

All plans coming together

Checking the list . . .

Kolaches from Aunt Mary

Checking the food order

Double checking the room reservations

And recounting names, numbers and a touch of worry

Most folks traveling 500 miles plus

A migration of sorts

As family traveled south and east

Parents of the groom . . .

A rehearsal dinner

Our only responsibility.

And now . . .

Ten years later

Two boys

Soon to be eight and five

Beloved son and daughter




So much fun

To Be

A girl mom

And grandmother.

Memories: Do they grow brighter with time? How do we continue to celebrate the love and joy as our families grow and expand?


Thank you,

Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL23: Friday

The siren sounded. Similar to the one we had heard at noon. Different in that it kept blaring. And then phones erupted. A few had noisily sounded alerts, but now they went off across the room. A room with about twenty-five quilters. A few had peeled off just after lunch when the news was heard about school dismissing early. “Was it a watch?’ “Was it a warning?’ Just what was the difference?

Take shelter NOW!

no more wondering. no more prevaricating. no more wanna-be storm chasers.

Basement NOW!

Anxiously clutching our only lifelines – our cell phones – we descended into the basement.

Almost immediately we were hearing news of tornados on the ground in nearby communities. Pictures were shared of the times when the storms were expected in the neighboring towns. South. No, west. No, east. It seemed like there were multiple storm locations. Tornado Clusters. I heard from Ohio friends that Brooklyn had made the news. That was a sigh of relief for me since it was 50 miles away. Facts. Uncertainties. It felt like the old game of “telephone” was playing out. Repeating stories didn’t help. It didn’t make them more untrue. It didn’t make them the truth. Just more examples of what others were seeing or hearing outside our bubble.

Warning extended. And we were antsy. Ready to escape. Eager to learn “the rest of the story. As a country girl, I had to ask what the “all clear” sound would be. I had guessed correctly, but it was a relief to hear the “all clear” signal.

Some quilters were still huddled around phones seeking news. Others reported on the stories being shared with them. Some returned to their sewing projects. Ears perked up at keywords and phrases – especially locations. Both my out-of-state brother and sister were reporting more accurate news than we had in our isolated small town in rural southeast Iowa. The news was faster than the tornadoes that had just blown through southeast Iowa.


We were still making plans to view Iowa’s Final Four game in two hours.

We were still checking the weather and the news.

We wanted it all.

Accurate locations of the tornadoes, the damages, and the status of loved ones (not in that order).

Organized. Planned. Retreated to ESPN viewing zones.

And what a game.

Knocking off an undefeated team.

Lights out basketball.

And then off to bed.

The aftermath . . . slowly revealed.


Highway 92 was closed (but not listed on 511).

County road 78 was closed (listed under road improvements on 511 beginning in two days).

Fields were quilted with chunks of trees that all seem to be toothpick-sized or

Chunks of metal that looked like tin foil “crumpled in a giant fist”,

Utility trucks lined the shoulders and ditches as they endeavored to bring power back;

Power= a necessity of life.

Houses and buildings were completely demolished.

Houses and buildings that were not habitable

For humans or animals.

Electric poles snapped in half.

Live wires on the ground.

Dangerous conditions.

The result of F4 tornadoes.

From a calm, productive quilting retreat to sheltering from a tornado to a Final Four victory to viewing devastation.

So many




And yet, all humans survived.

How eventful was your final slicing day? Did you find yourself writing on Saturday?


Thank you,

Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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