Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

All of My Friends

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Whose Line is it

Quoting Quirks

We watch movies.
Old movies.
A lot.
Our family was raised on the crazy antics of Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood and Jack Lemmon in The Great Race.
The hilarity of Danny Kaye in The Court Jester.
The magical song and dance of  Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in Brigadoon.
The comic timing of Red Skelton in The Fuller Brush Man.
And these are only four of the hundreds we sat through together as a family as they were growing up.
Inevitably, these movies had a great influence on our lives.
When the characters made mistakes and paid dearly for them, my family suffered alongside. When a story ended, inevitably, in triumph, we celebrated.
We lived their lives. Learned their lessons. Grieved and cheered with them.
The stories became very real to us.
We discussed them endlessly.
The lessons learned. The principles taught.
And our conversation became peppered with noteworthy lines.
I do mean peppered.
Our youngest son, three-year-old Tristan, was playing with a small, battery-powered railroad with a friend. "Push the button, Max!" (The Great Race)
Friend, "My name's not Max."
People visiting our household would often gape in confusion as quotes cropped up in the conversation.
We knew what was being said.
They didn't.
Occasionally, someone would join us who knew that the answer to, "And there was much rejoicing" was a subdued, "Yay!" (with appropriate hand movements) from Search for the Holy Grail.
Or that, when asked to do something specific, would know to quip, "I'm smokin' a salmon!" from Oscar.
And that, with the end of a meal, the appropriate gratitude was voiced by the words, "The meal was good. The wine was excellent. I must send the Cardinal a note." (Again, with appropriate hand gesture, this time, hand kissing.) A noteworthy quote, though we weren't wine-drinkers, from The Three Musketeers.
We were the family who would break, unexpectedly, into song.
And everyone would know the words.
Occasionally, outside of our home, others would take note of our unique (note that I'm using the PC term) customs.
For good or bad . . .
Our daughter, Tiana, was in kindergarten.
Almost five.
Her teacher heard her singing, "Goin' Courtin'. Goin' Courtin'." (From Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.)
She pulled her aside and asked her to repeat it.
Tiana obliged.
The teacher frowned and asked her where she had heard that.
Tiana stared at her.
This was probably her first experience with someone who didn't eat, breathe and sleep movies.
So, not like her family at all.
"It's from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." she said finally. "Just before they learn how to dance."
Her teacher was puzzled. "Do you know what it means?"
Tiana smiled at her. "Oh, yes, it means 'dating'."
"Ah." Still puzzled, her teacher let her go.
But brought up the subject at our next parent-teacher conference.
I have to point out that it wasn't the only time I had heard from confused elementary school teachers.
Moving on . . .
But as the kids grew into junior and senior high school, our family quirk became more acknowledged.
Even occasionally appreciated.
Especially when a teacher would pose a question or repeat a quote from an old movie or program and our child was the only one in the class who knew the answer.
Or who laughed.
They became the universally-acknowledged 'experts' on old movies.
And, more importantly, quotes from movies.
It was a fun way to raise a family. And now I see my kids doing the same with their kids.
It is a fun way to live.
I think its time for another one.
"Push the button, Max!"

Monday, January 16, 2017


I think the Person who receives evening prayers must look forward to those being offered by the children.
You want to talk entertainment?!
Last night, following a day that included church attendance, swimming at West Edmonton Mall, the eating of assorted junk and the wind-down of puzzlemaking with family, five-year-old (hereinafter known as 5YO) disappeared into the bathroom to ‘take care of some business’.
She came out a few minutes later with a strange look on her face.
“What’s the matter?” her mother asked.
“It looked really strange,” 5YO said.
“Strange, how?”
There followed a short conversation of strange-appearances-from-the-past.
I’m editing because—yuck.
“But this was different,” 5YO said.
“Well next time you see something different, please tell me before you flush.”
5YO happily went back to puzzlemaking.
And the subject was, thankfully, dropped.
The evening wound down.
Bedtime approached.
Routines were adhered to, even though the day had been anything but normal.
Teeth brushed, hair braided, hands and face washed, pj’s donned, journal updated, story read, song—sung.
5YO was on her knees to say her evening prayer.
Now you have to know that this is often the highlight of the day for whoever is putting her to bed.
Usually momma.
The prayer rambled around for a while. Thank you for my mommy and daddy. Grampa and Gramma. Thank you for cousins and pets and toys.
Then the unexpected. “Please don’t let any more yellow stuff come out of me. Amen.”
Ummm . . .
All I’m saying is: I wouldn’t mind being on duty when those prayers start to arrive.
I’ve got my notebook.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Okay, it looks kind of neat on movies or TV.
In reality?
A little more dangerous.
Perhaps you remember the story (stories) of Superman in which mild mannered Clark Kent tears his shirt off and becomes the wondrous Man of Steel?
It always looked so—effortless. And tidy.
Well, I am a witness to shirt ripping and it is anything but.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Husby had a favourite shirt that was getting rather threadbare.
And needing to be retired.
Now, in the home of my parents, the retiring of a shirt was almost a ceremony.
Buttons snipped off and neatly stored.
Collar stays fished out; ditto.
Anything operational cannibalized for possible future use.
Then the remaining scraps relegated to the rag bag.
All while soft music was being played and/or a choir hummed quietly in the background.
Okay, I made up the part about the music, but the rest is true.
Now, fast forward to my house. And Husby’s threadbare shirt.
“That shirt needs to be thrown out,” I said.
“I love this shirt!”
“I can see right through it.”
Now many of you may think that is a good thing.
And it would be. Except that the places I could see through were things like: underarms. Front button plackets.
I’m sorry, but there is little that is sexy about underarms. Or front button plackets.
True story.
Husby sighed.
Thinking the conversation was over and agreed to, I started to leave the room, heading for my snips and the button box.
And that is when Husby hunched forward, tearing the shirt up the back, then grabbed the front and shredded it apart.
Buttons shot everywhere at the speed of sound, one of them narrowly missing me.
For a moment, the two of us looked at each other as the sound of bouncing buttons died away.
“Or we could do it like that,” I said.
Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I saw Superman do the same thing, no one mentioned flying buttons.
No one.
I think our hyper vigilant protective agencies should be informed.
Insurance rates are gonna rise.

Friday, January 13, 2017


“And I found this to wear at the beach.” Norma held something up.
Now, I’m assuming, because she said she would be wearing it and the word ‘beach’ was used, that what she was holding would fall under the classification of ‘swimsuit’.
So much for assumptions.
The garment she was displaying so proudly was a mid-calf length dress made of some dark blue material with puffy sleeves and a huge sailor collar. I could see bloomers of the same material lying on the bed behind her.
“Norma—” I was almost afraid to ask, “—where did you get that?”
She laid it on the bed and smoothed the material fondly. “I found it in a trunk up in the attic. Don’t you think it’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?”
“Well . . .” Cutest? For a moment, I pictured puppies. Kittens. Baby seals. Even Reggie. “Umm—”
Norma made a face at me. “You’re just jealous because I got it before you could!”
I coughed. Politely. “Well—” I was trying to think of something positive to say. “You—umm—won’t get cold.”
She nodded happily. “It was a miracle I found it. I probably wouldn’t have if the trunk hadn’t tipped over just as I was crossing the floor. This little beauty simply fell out and—here we are! And it fits me!” She leaned toward me. “You know I never would have consented to our little beach vacation if I didn’t have this in my wardrobe.”
“You were going to turn Edith’s friends down?”
“You can’t expect me to stuff all of my parts into one of those skimpy things they call a ‘swimsuit’ can you? Think of the stories!”
I scratched my head and glanced at said parts. She did have a point. Even hidden under several layers of cloth, there certainly seemed to be a lot of them.
Norma looked up from her careful folding of the beach costume. “It was the oddest thing.”
“Well, I was downstairs, confiding to Reggie my hesitation in accepting this invitation from Edith and her friends. Then I heard a noise coming from upstairs. I thought it was you.”
“I’ve been downtown all morning.”
“Yeah. I forgot that. Anyways, I came up here to investigate and there was the trunk. And the suit.”
She nodded. “As soon as I saw it I knew I was meant to go swimming.”
I would have known as soon as I saw it that it was time for a rummage sale. But then Norma and I never have thought along the same channels.
“Oh and I brought your suitcase up for you to start packing. I put it—” she turned to point, just as the case she had been talking about suddenly tipped over.
I smiled. All at once the reason Norma ‘found’ her suit became clear. Someone was looking for a weekend alone.
I wonder if Elvis is coming over.

Once a month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado receives sets of words from her readers. Which she then passes on to her other readers.
The result is an often humorous, always entertaining exercise called Use Your Words.
My words this month? Beach ~ cold ~ stories ~ friends ~ miracle
They were submitted by Minette at Southern Belle Charm

Here are the links to Karen's other blog buddies:
Baking In A Tornado
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
Spatulas on Parade
The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Sparkly Poetic Weirdo
Confessions of a part time working mom

The Bergham Chronicles
Southern Belle Charm 

See what they did with the challenge!

Have you bought your copy yet?

Daughter of Ishmael is now on sale as these fine outlets.
And all LDS Bookstores!
Check it out!

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Magic happening

Life on the ranch demanded creativity and resourcefulness from every member of the community.
Except for me.
I was four.
Oh, I was resourceful.
Just not in a productive way.
Moving on . . .
In this spirit of inventiveness, my Mom had taught herself to sew. And she was good at it.
From her hands and her trusty little machine emerged fantastic and wondrous articles of clothing. Dresses, blouses, skirts, shirts, trousers--all were created quickly and efficiently, with only a bit of cloth.
I know. I watched her.
I also watched her peel potatoes with equal economy, but that is another story.
And a very different outcome.
Ahem . . .
Occasionally, Mom's sewing machine would give her grief, but my Dad instructed me not to say those words.
They must have been sewing words.
Years later, I would use them as cow herding words, but I digress . . .
Mom could also fix things with her electric marvel. The most hopeless wardrobe disasters could be quickly and perfectly repaired with ease and just a couple of strokes of the needle.
A couple of words, here, about the needles she used.
They were sharp.
Enough said.
My Dad had a work shirt.
He hated it. Something about the fit or the material.
One day, while fencing, he caught a fold of this shirt on some barbed wire and tore it.
Quite badly.
Rather gleefully, he told Mom to just throw it into the rag bag.
But Mom was far too thrifty to do that.
This was a good, serviceable shirt, with plenty of years of work left in it.
She repaired it.
Dad sighed and wore it again.
We were branding. Dad caught the shirt on the squeeze handle and, again, it tore.
Again, the advice to scrap it.
Again, the repairs.
Another sigh.
Dad was working in the shop and caught the shirt on the work bench.
Another tear.
This was becoming a pattern.
But this time, he was determined to be rid of the hated, but indestructible shirt once and for all. He extended the tear into something . . . longer.
Then proceeded to rip the rest of the shirt apart.
He came into the sewing room, and delivered the scraps to my astonished Mom. “Rag bag,” he said. Then he made the mistake of leaving the room.
Mom looked at the little pile of scraps and . . . smiled. Have I mentioned that Mom has a very good sense of humor?
I probably should have.
She removed whatever project she was currently sewing and started to work.
And giggle.
In a short time, she had reassembled the dreaded shirt.
Oh, it didn't look quite the same. Frankenstein's monster comes to mind for some reason.
But it was, once more, complete.
She folded it carefully and put it in Dad's drawer.
Then waited.
She didn't have to wait for long. The next morning, Dad opened that drawer to get out a shirt and let out a little scream.
And no, it wasn't a girly scream.
He emerged, pale-faced, clutching the shirt. “It's back! It's haunting me!” he said.
Mom laughed and laughed.
We all did.
After that, the shirt finally made it to the rag bag.
It had finally served its purpose.

For those who have not yet 
seen the notices: 
My new book is here!
Daughter of Ishmael has finally 
hit the store shelves.
You can get your copy here:
Some US Costco stores.
Amazon, both .ca and .com
Barnes and Noble
Deseret Book
Books and Things
And at all LDS Bookstores!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The New Job

My good friend Hank had worked a job for most his adult life.
It supported all his family—his children and his wife.
But Hank decided he’d begin with something else this year,
Yes. Even at his age, he’d try and start a new career.

So Hank shed uniform and this he gladly traded for
A job a lot less boring than the one he’d had before.
Yes, Hank became a Taxi driver, certain he would find
His clients much more charming than were those he’d left behind.

His first day started naturally, with sunrise and a fare,
He wisely quizzed his passenger, then started things from there.
He carefully weaved through traffic, even whistled as he went,
Singing with the radio and feeling most content.

When suddenly a hand reached up and touched him on the arm,
His client had a question. Didn’t mean to cause him harm.
But Hank, he screamed and spun the wheel and barely missed a bus,
Scaring people on the sidewalk and then starting quite a fuss.

And when they stopped, Hank pushed his door and left it there, ajar.
For just a moment, both sat convalescing in the car,
And then a tiny voice spoke up from somewhere in the back.
“I only tapped your arm,” it said. “It wasn’t an attack.”

“I’m sorry if I startled you. I didn’t mean to scare.
I merely had a question.” Hank turned around right there.
“It wasn’t you, my friend,” Hank said. “I know I made things worse.
“But you simply have to understand, for years, I drove a hearse!”

New is good, you know, but when beginnings are discussed.
Remember, as you’re switching jobs, a memory’s a must.

Each month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado give her followers a chance to test their poetic skills before the world.
January's theme? Beginnings.
The New Job was my effort.
Now go and see that the others have created!
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: New Beginnings
Dawn of Spatulas On Parade: (New)Beginnings
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: Beginning...Again

Jules of The Bergham Chronicles: Begin Again
For those who have not yet 
seen the notices: 
My new book is here! 
My new book is here!
Daughter of Ishmael has finally 
hit the store shelves.
You can get your copy here:
Some US Costco stores.
Amazon, both .ca and .com
Barnes and Noble
Deseret Book
Books and Things
And at all LDS Bookstores!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today's the Day!

Daughter of Ishmael has finally hit the shelves!

Do people regret their choices?
Would a child, raised with the rules and standards of their parents regret giving up those standards as an adult?
This is the premise of Daughter of Ishmael.
Hannah, a young Hebrew girl in the days of Jeremiah the Prophet, has been raised in the household of a strong, kind, faithful father, following a prophet of God.
Years later on the far side of the world, seated beside a roaring fire, she watches her son as he dances near the flames with the other men of the village, all painted in the blood of their latest victims.
Where did she--did they--make a wrong turn?
Could she have chosen a different path?
Hannah's thoughts hark back through the years to find out. And in so doing, take us, her readers, along on her voyage through her life and the lives of the people of 600 BC.

This is my first, ever, attempt to write a biblical story. It has been quite an experience. One that I'm hoping to repeat. I've discovered I love this time period and these people.
I will definitely be visiting them again!

About the author:
Photo: David Handschuh
Trained in journalism and raised by a family of storytellers, Diane Stringam Tolley has spent her life writing. From her first published work, “The Scary House,” penned in Mrs. Hainsworth’s grade six class, to her tenth novel, “Daughter of Ishmael,” Tolley has dipped into every genre from sci-fi/fantasy to spiritual. Her Christmas book, “Carving Angels,” has been featured on the “best of” holiday lists for Edmonton Public Libraries. And her follow-up novel, “Kris Kringle’s Magic” (2012) is currently a standard for discussions on prejudice and bullying throughout the Black-Gold region. Drawing on her upbringing on one of the last of the great old ranches of Southern Alberta, Tolley’s stories are filled with unforgettable characters, warm, family connections, and the strength of faith and love.

Read what others are saying about “Daughter of Ishmael” 

Here is the blog tour schedule:
January 10: Marlene Bateman || Rockin’ Book Reviews
January 11: Heart. Mind. Soul.
January 12: Paula Kremser
January 13: Christy Monson Books || My Book a Day || Literary Time Out
January 14: Jots by Jess || Bookworm Lisa
January 15: Misty Moncur
January 16: Beyond the Lake
January 17: Kathryn Cooper
January 18: Ann Morris
January 19: The Dance
January 20: Why Not? Because I Said So || Mel’s Shelves
January 21: Marketing Mentress
January 22: The View From My Window
January 23: The Book Addict
January 24: I Love to Read and Review Books

January 25: Julie Coulter Bellon || A Bliss Complete

Daughter of Ishmael is now available online or in these stores:

Amazon, both .ca and .com
And at all LDS Bookstores!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Moving Out

Mark the Independent

Mark was angry.
And no one could get angry like our little two-year-old.
Anyplace would be better than this one.
Grandma's was infinitely superior.
She never made him clean up his toys or eat his meals.
He was leaving.
He had his pajamas and Kermit the Frog.
He was packed.
And out of here.
I sat, nursing the baby, and watched him walk down the hallway, one leg of his sleeper hanging out through the improperly closed zipper of his backpack.
My little independent man.
“I'm going, Mom!” he said loudly, without looking back.
His 'declaration of independence' continued as he moved along the hall . . .
“I'm going!”
“Here I go!”
“Yup. I'm going!”
“Going to Gramma's”
“You won't see me!”
Yup. Living with Gramma now!”
By this point he had made it the entire length of the hall and was out of my sight.
There was a short pause and I could hear the sounds of movement and a tiny grunt.
Then, “Mom! Can you open the door?”
Yup. My independent little man.
Walking to his Grandmother's ten miles away.
If he could make it out of the house.

A side note:
I am way past excited! My book, Daughter of Ishmael hits store shelves tomorrow (Tuesday, January 10)!
It's my first attempt at writing a Biblical story.
It will be available at Amazon, both .ca and .com
And at all LDS Bookstores!

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Back from a week away visiting family.
I've missed you!
Changes. Some are good . . .
This was a bit more than a little girl’s mind could take in.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Every Christmas season, Husby and I spend our time among families and other assorted celebrants at their festivities, dressed as Santa and his Mrs.
It is a happy, joyous occupation as we have often stated (and restated).
But it necessitates the growing of a beard.
His. Not mine.
And the keeping of said beard year round.
This year, Santa-in-the-off-season decided he would shave.
To the skin.
Yeah, I was surprised, too.
He did so. And presented a bare face many of us have not seen for years.
Oh, we knew it was in there behind the tangle of whiskers. We just hadn’t seen it.
The day after the significant wielding of the razor, we met our family for food, fun and games in the cultural hall of our chapel.
Santa-in-the-off-season, or Grampa, as he is known was running and playing British Bulldog with numerous grandchildren.
He stopped.
And realized that one small person was standing beside him, looking up.
He looked down.
Into some serious—and rather confused—dark brown eyes.
“What’s that matter, Leah?” he asked.
I should probably reiterate here: that beard has been on Grampa’s face for longer than that little girl has been around.
Four-year-old Leah blinked. “What happened to your face, Grampa?”
“I shaved off my beard, Leah.”
“Oh.” She turned that over in her mind. Then, “Can you put it back on?”
Change. It’s all about us.
Sometimes good.
But most times unwanted. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Frump Village Grump

Horace P. Flee was the Frump Village grump,
No loveliness in his demeanour,
He lived all alone near the old county dump,
Developed his skills as a screamer.

Whenever he heard just so much as a bump,
His head would pop out of the door,
With a noise that would make almost everyone jump
And his displeasure then underscore.

One day to the village known solely as Frump,
(Please don’t think it’s for fashion expression!)
Came a strong-minded widow, quite pretty and plump,
With her children that numbered eleven.

Now, when moving, one’s household goods come in a clump
And are sorted through carefully after.
And necessitate many a trip to the dump,
For the children: Adventure With Laughter.

Now, Horace P. Flee, that old village grump
Wasn’t happy with all of the joy.
So he shouted a phrase that made all of them jump,
He intended to hurt and annoy.

Then Abigail, she who was pretty and plump,
But possessed of a lively, bright spirit,
A piece of her mind, she gave that village grump,
And forced him to stand there and hear it.

Then something strange happened that day at the dump,
With all of the parties together,
For Horace’s heart hit his shoes with a thump,
While Abby’s beat light as a feather.

Their marriage was viewed by the Village of Frump,
With the two of them there in the heather,
The minister stood on a great old tree stump,
With a smile, he joined them together.

Now the villagers using the Frump Village dump,
(If it’s not too hard to believe . . .)
Found the happy noise now from the home of the ‘grump’,
Was far more than what they could achieve.

Horace P. Flee was the Frump Village grump,
Until life with his Abby ‘begun’,
When you least expect it, you’re knocked on your rump,
‘Cause there’s someone for ev-er-y-one.

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Coming January 10, 2017

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About the Mom

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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