Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Kris Kringle's Magic: In Stores Now!

Kris Kringle's Magic reviewed by Author Julie N. Ford
Read it now!

It's official!
Kris Kringle's Magic will be in Generations LDS Bookstore tomorrow, October 6.
And I'll be there to sign it!
I'm way past excited!

Also available at

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The 'Brush' Off

Well, it was fun for me . . .

My friend, Cathy's dad had a wonderful job.
He got to sneak into the schools after everyone had left.
Wander at will through the empty hallways and classrooms.
And clean.
Oh, man, it was the coolest!
And sometimes, wonder of wonders, he let Cathy and I and some of his other kids (12 in all ) . . . help.
There were times when we got to race the huge, soft dry-mops up and down the hallways.
And I do mean race.
Empty the garbage cans.
Did you know that the teacher's lounge of the sixties smelled like cigarette smoke?
Just FYI.
Moving on . . .
And, best of all, he let us clean the brushes.
In the sixties, whiteboards were black.
And pieces of chalk were used instead of today's dry-erase felts.
These pieces of chalk marked the blackboards very effectively.
There were only a couple of drawbacks.
They had the ability to squeak against the board at decibels that could shatter glass.
And they left a lot of chalk dust.
A lot.
Especially when someone tried to clean said chalk from said blackboard.
The thick, black-felt erasers used to accomplish this quickly became saturated with the fine, white dust.
Then they had to be cleaned.
Now a normal person would simply take the vacuum to them.
A normal person.
Kathy and I were ten.
I should point out here that there is nothing normal about a 10-year-old.
Back to my story . . .
Cathy and I would collect the brushes.
Cart them outside.
And bang them together.
Imagine, if you will, a cloud of fine, white dust.
With two little girls somewhere near the center of it.
You get it, right?!
What on earth could be more fun?
The fact that the dust merely got relocated and that the two little girls then had to, themselves, be cleaned, never even entered our minds.
For a brief, wonderful while, we were the center of our very own little dust storm.
I can still remember how it smelled.
And, as it collected on our tongues, just how it tasted.

There is an unexpected codicil: Fifteen years later, I was expecting my third child. Another boy.
I craved something. In fact, I could almost taste it. It took forever to figure out what that taste was.
Then it hit me.
I was craving chalk.
And not the light, cheap stuff that had become common.
I was craving the good stuff.
The stuff that Cathy and I used to clean out of those brushes and catch in our mouths all those years ago.
The doctor told me I was lacking in minerals and gave me some pills to swallow.
I wish he would have simply given me some brushes to clean . . .

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ahhh! Romance!

Grade Twelve English 30.
My favourite class of all time.
What could possibly be better than reading books and stories and then talking about them?
Or of writing your own?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Our teacher was a veteran of many, many years. She had taught each of my three elder siblings and survived.
And now it was my turn.
Most of the time, I was fairly quiet in her class - choosing mostly to listen as the conversations went on around me. Keeping my opinions to myself, except when they could be submitted in a written format.
My grades were good.
We were working our way through a thick volume of short stories. Some exciting. Some bizarre. Some sweet and romantic.
It was during this last that I came to grief.
Let me explain . . .
We were reading a story about a man who saw a beautifully-made doll in the window of a local shop.
The doll affected him greatly.
It seemed to 'speak' to him.
He purchased the doll and tried to find out more about it and the person who had made it.
He discovered that the doll and others like it were made locally and that a woman usually brought them in to the shop a few at a time.
He tracked down the woman.
She was not the artist.
Instead, she kept the real doll-maker a virtual prisoner, and forced her to keep making dolls, which were then sold.
The imprisoned doll-maker was justifiably sad and put all of the love she would have given her unborn children into her dolls. Which was why they were so beautiful.
The man fell in love with the captive doll-maker, stole her away and married her.
And they lived happily ever after.
Okay, I admit it, when I read this story, I discovered that I'm a romantic.
I loved it.
Loved the 'happily ever after' ending.
I was excited for the discussion to start . . .
“How many of you liked this story?” the teacher asked.
My hand shot up.
Then slowly lowered as I realized that I was the only person in the class who had raised one.
“This story was drivel!” the teacher said. “Absolute tripe!” She stomped around the front of the class. “Stupid romantic nonsense! Waste of good print! Waste of time!”
She added several more derisive comments, then stopped and stared at me.
My hand was back on my desk.
“Well, I thought it was romantic,” one of the other girls tried to come to my aid.
The teacher snorted. “Hmph! Don't know why it was included in this book! Maybe as an example of lousy writing!”
The class was silent.
“Asinine garbage! Should be torn out of the book!” She glared around. “Any other thoughts?”
Let me put it this way . . . the discussion following this story didn't take up much time.
The story was given a brief technical reckoning, then dismissed.
And the class moved on to the next story.
I moved with them, reading and responding to my assignments.
But I never forgot my first romantic story.
I read and re-read it.
Loving it more each time.
I still think I was right.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Turning the (Times) Tables

Me: Bottom right. My Nemesis: Top Left. Argh! 

I tried.
I really did.
I just wasn't . . . quite . . . good enough.
Maybe I should explain.
Our grade five teacher, Mrs. Herbst, she of the blue hair, was a stickler for math.
And math facts.
Actually, she was a stickler for most school work, but especially for anything to do with numbers.
She devised many and various methods for teaching said facts.
Quizzes. (Not to be confused with tests. Quizzes were shorter in length and carried less weight. Just FYI.)
Games . . .
And this is where our story starts . . .
Our class sat in desks in several long rows.
Mrs. Herbst would call the names of the front students in the two outside rows.
“Kathy and Margaret, please pay attention.”
Actually, I must confess that I don't know if those two girls were ever actually pitted against each other in Mrs. Herbst's devious little exercise, but they were two of the smartest girls in the class and I thought this sounded good.
Moving on . . .
The girls would take a deep breath and sit up, ready for what was coming.
“Seven times six!” Mrs. Herbst would bark out crisply.
“Forty-two!” Both girls would shout out together, nearly in unison.
The teacher would nod and smile.
And call out the names of the students seated just behind the first two.
“Five times nine!”
Slowly, she would work her way around the room.
Getting closer and closer to me.
And Kenny.
“Six times eight!”
“Four times nine!”
“Five times six!”
Finally, she would be looking at the students seated directly in front of her in the two center rows.
One of whom was almost purple with anticipation.
Okay, I'm sure it's no surprise that it was me.
And that the other was Kenny.
Mrs. Herbst would inhale.
My heart would stop.
“Nine times nine!”
“Eighty one!” Kenny would say, softly, before she had even finished the last word.
And just as I was drawing a breath, ready to shout.
“Rats!” I would say.
I knew the answer! I did!
That rotten Kenny beat me again!
I would sit back in my chair and glare at the tall young man seated just opposite.
Next time, Kenny. Next time.
I don't think I ever did beat him.
Though I never stopped trying.

P.S. My Husby just read this and says he still loves me, even though I could never quite prove that I actually knew my times tables.

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!
My FIRST murder mystery!

Blessed by a Curse

Blessed by a Curse
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God's Tree

God's Tree
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The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

Romance still wins!
First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
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Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

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Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
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