Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Santa's Second Report Card

Santa and I are in the midst of 'Santa and Mrs.' season.
So I've decided to re-share Santa's reports from past years. Just because these experiences are soooo precious! 

Santa's Report Card 2014

Santa’s life is not an easy one.  Oh, there is plenty of the joy and happiness and ho-ho-ho laughter, all those things that Santa stands for in the world.  But in today’s enlightened, social-media-friendly world where information can be passed seemingly faster than the speed of light, Santa faces several conundrums that are not easily dealt with.
Case in point: Santa’s 3-year old granddaughter, Linnea, whom we most affectionately call Linnie, she of the firm mind and undaunted spirit.  Linnie, along with her 12 cousins of the Santa and Mrs. Santa lineage, had observed in our Claus career last year that Grandma and Grandpa would occasionally put on the red velvet suits and go out and about as the happy couple.  The questions were inevitable, so Grandma Claus and I decided to be proactive and tell them all the truth before the questions started – that Grandma and Grandpa were only some of Santa’s ‘helpers’, because the real Santa needed lots of helpers to visit all the little boys and girls in the world.  The plan worked well – last year.
So this year, little Linnie was present when Santa emerged from his ‘dressing room’ – and Linnie’s face lit up like the star on top of the Christmas tree.
“Grandpa, you’re Santa Claus, aren’t you.”  No question – more of a declaration.
I started in with my pre-arranged explanation.  “Well, Linnie, Grandpa is not Santa, I’m only one of his . . . “
Linnie interrupted, fists on hips and with a stern look on her face which said that she wasn’t putting up with any more of Grandpa’s stories.  “NO, Grandpa!”  She said, with a look that would put any man to cringing in his fur-topped boots.  “You ARE Santa!” 
And she stormed away, having put both Grandpa and Santa Claus in their rightful place.
I guess I’ll just have to live with it.
Santa survived that encounter with a sure-minded 3-year old to enjoy something in the neighbourhood of about seven hundred children on his knee this Christmas season.  I am pleased to report that my knees survived, along with the rest of me.  (It was only due to the TLC that Mrs. Santa brings along on every visit). 
I have spent my life studying people, and the Santa believers are the most interesting people I have ever encountered.  About 75% of the under 2 crowd will NOT go anywhere near Santa, suffering from what social scientists call ‘coulrophobia’: fear of clowns.  I understand this affliction perfectly.  Whenever I look in the mirror, I wonder that anyone would want to come near.  We always reassure the parents of the coulrophobic little ones that “s/he’ll feel better about Santa next year.”
At the other end of the spectrum are the late pre-teen crowd, who have discovered the truth about Santa and who are reluctant to sit on my knee and participate in what they feel is an elaborate deception, somehow meant to make them seem silly.  Many of them will still come, reluctantly, and I try to reassure them that they are not silly, rather that they are only helping to bring some happiness into a world that desperately needs more of it.

The middle grouping, from about age 3-10, are the smiling, happy crowd for whom Santa exists fully and benevolently.  And this is my report card for 2014:  the world of my future will be in good hands, because today there are THOUSANDS of young ones who have a smile that will not stop.  From 5-year old Arrabella whose smile was so infectious I still smile to myself, filled with the love of happy child, when I think of it; to 10-year old Jake, afflicted with Down’s, whose smile told me that even with his challenges in life he was as happy a young man as he could be.
This smile phenomenon tells Santa much, without a word being spoken.  It tells me that today’s parents are in fact bringing their children up in happiness, teaching them, raising them with love and a hope for a better future.  It tells me that in a world that appears on all fronts to be going to pot, that there are still plenty of smiles out there amongst what I can only conclude to be the quiet – and happy – majority.  Yes, of course there is much to be done, much sadness to banish – but there are plenty of smiles out there with which to fight the good fight.
It tells me there is hope for the future.  And that any time now, when my daughter puts me in a seniors’ rest home as she often threatens to do when I tell groaner jokes or silly stories, that there will be plenty of smiling people around to look after me, when I need it the most.
I’m glad to have had every one of those 700-odd smiles this year.  I hereby dub 2014 the Year of the Smile!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a very merry 2015!
Keep Smiling!!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Coming Home

“Turn up the stereo, Hun! Let’s bake up a storm! Then we can go get our tree and really fill this place with good smells. Mmmmm . . . Baking and pine!”
“Okay, Sis.” Obediently, I hit the button on the remote and strains of ‘Christmas in Killarney’ in the Crosby’s magical voice drifted through the room.
Now you have to know that, normally, this song can totally get my holiday gears running. Within seconds I’ve been known to be dancing along to the tune and kicking up my heels.
So to speak.
But, let’s face it. This year was . . . different.
Oh, the season had arrived, right on time. As always.
And all through the neighbourhood, lights and assorted decorations had appeared, magically bedecking otherwise unremarkable homes and making them . . . magical.
Nope. The difference this year was me.
And my sister, Norma.
Or rather, the absence of my sister, Norma.
For any of you who have been following our story, you know that, in typical I’m-Norma-and-I-suffer-from-a-complete-lack-of-forethought fashion, my elder sister had gone to the ‘other side’. For a visit.
And by the other side, I mean the OTHER side.
Oh, I have no doubt that she is still living. She just isn’t doing it in the same room—or on the same plane—as I am. You who know Norma also know that last isn’t unusual. The ‘same plane’ thing. But now the plane she is on isn’t visible to the naked eye.
Or any other eye for that matter.
Moving on . . .
I hear from her often. A little too often in fact.
In the living room when I’m attempting to meet the needs of Reggie, her certifiably mad macaw. (In my defense, he has never really taken a like to me. The feeling’s mutual.)
In the kitchen when I’m trying, once again, to make something edible out of one of her recipes. (Again, I will cite justifiable confusion here. Her writing is illegible and her instructions . . . well, the word ‘nutty’ comes to mind.)
In the bathroom when I’m . . . powdering my nose.
On the stairway when I’m vacuuming. (Now that’s a story!)
In fact, she seems to pop up (in a manner of speaking) at the most inconvenient times.
But I’m finding that now, as Christmas approaches, I’m . . . missing her. Her physical presence. The goofy things she does—appearing in the doorway carrying who-knows-what and completely oblivious to why she’s doing so.
Finding her atop a ladder, a new addition to the ‘I’ve-quite-lost-my-mind’ contingent.
Toting suitcases.
I sat down as this last thought struck me. She was toting a suitcase the last time I saw her. I turned to look through the front room into the hallway. Right there. She had been pulling it . . . and talking . . .
I sighed and got back to my feet. Better to keep on moving. I picked up the recipe I had set out before my sister’s voice told me to turn on the stereo. ‘Swedish Meatballs’. A family favourite since there was a family.
“Norma,” I said, pointing at one of the ingredients. “Is this a pinch of pepper? Or a pound?”
“Have you never made anything?!” my sister’s exasperated voice came from somewhere near the corner of the ceiling above the stove.
I shrugged. “You know I don’t cook. I explore the freezer.” I set the recipe down and turned toward the door. “I tell you what. I’ll go over to Costco. They have it all. And I won’t have to do anything more than open and reheat!”
I sat down again and folded my arms. “Well I don’t know what else to do!” I shouted at the corner.
“I’m over here.”
I swiveled my head. Sure enough, the voice now emanated from the small patch of peeling paint in that corner of the room. “Stop doing that! I’m getting whiplash!”
Norma laughed. “You can’t get whiplash from turning your head from side to side. If that was so, tennis audiences would be in a lot of trouble.”
I rolled my eyes and reached once more for the recipe. “I’m just so . . . lost, Sis.” A tear blotched the ink on the card, effectively erasing the oven temperature and baking times. “I . . . miss you.”
A hand gripped my shoulder and I spun around.

Use Your Words is a challenge issued by Karen of Baking in a Tornado.
Each of her followers submit a series of words which are then re-distributed among the group.
One doesn’t know what words one will get or who they will be from.
It’s fun!
My words this month?
addition ~ stereo ~ bake ~ pine ~ freezer
They were submitted by:         
Thank you, my friend!
Got a minute?
See what the others have crafted!


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Santa's First Report Card

Santa and I are in the midst of 'Santa and Mrs.' season.
So I've decided to re-share Santa's reports from past years. Just because these experiences are soooo precious! 

Santa's Report Card 2013

A guest post by my Husby.
Or 'Santa' as he is so affectionately known . . .

Being married to a writer like my Beloved Diane is a fascinating, fun experience.  We never are bored: there is always a plethora of pedantic words to explore; a new phrase (noun) to, well, phrase (verb); a new bit of Grammar to enforce (especially on Grampar); or a new pun to at which to giggle, like the groaner just inflicted upon you.
One of the fun bits of language-exploration in which we engage every so often is exploring Collective Nouns – those words that describe a group of something or other, usually animals.
A Pride of lions.  A Pod of whales.  A Flock of sheep.  And a Flock of birds.  A Herd of cattle.
One of the most interesting collective nouns is a Murder of Crows.  Now who is it that gets to decide these things, hmmm?  I’m not objecting to calling a bunch of crows a “murder” (because that’s usually what I want to do to them when they sit in the tree outside my bedroom window at four in the morning on what is potentially a beautiful summer day and awaken me to the cacophonous symphony of collective cawing, but in this instance “murder” becomes a very active verb rather than a collective noun) – but why not a Caw of Crows?
Over the years we have invented a few collective nouns of our own.  They haven’t made it into the Oxford English Dictionary yet, but we’re working on it.
A group of two or more five-year-old boys is known as a Chaos of Boys.
A group of more than one teenager of either gender should definitely be known as an Idiot of Teens.
A group of mature women becomes, justifiably, a Flash of Ladies.
Any two men trying to fix something mechanical about which they know nothing is called a Mistake of Men.  (When they can’t fix it, they turn into a Grump of Men).
A bunch of bearded old white-haired guys that should, once again justifiably, be called a Santa of Grandpas.
And so it is, unilaterally claiming the privilege of creating collective nouns, that I offer you my final report card of the special experiences of one Santa and Mrs. Santa for the year 2013.
My Beloved Mrs. Santa and I had the privilege this Christmas season of visiting some thirteen different Christmas functions.  Each of the thirteen was a special experience – you read about some of the more tender ones here.
Since that time, one stuck out in our minds as being especially fun and moving.
We had been invited to a day-care facility containing about 120 children – what we would have called, collectively, a Crown of Children.  Early in the proceedings Santa placed, in turn, each of five five-year-old girls on his knee and had his special visit with them.  Two were named Jenna, then a Katie, a Courtney, and a McKenna, and they were all in the same class and obviously close friends.  Santa inquired of each if she was a Princess, and they all acknowledged that status without hesitation.  Here was Santa, in the midst of a Slipper of Princesses.  (He wasn’t complaining, then or now).  The Princesses didn’t want to leave, not any of the Slipper of them, and the teachers were trying very hard to get individual pictures with each of the other children with Santa and Mrs. Santa, without being picture-bombed by one of the Princesses.  They kept coming back, as often as they could get away with it – and each return brought more hugs and snuggles and words of love and appreciation.
And questions about reindeer.
As is Santa’s wont, he likes to joke and gently tease the kids, and the Princesses became so familiar with it that this became the game every time the Slipper returned – growing and growing with each return.  Each smile and laugh seemed to make them want to stay, more and longer, square in the picture frame, despite the entreaties of the Exasperation of Teachers. And the laughing and the joking and the jolly good time and the countless hugs, the loving and the smiling with the Slipper of Princesses, touched our hearts, deeply.
What a wonderful Christmas gift!
But when does a Slipper of Princesses grow too big to fit the glass slipper?
When they become a Giggle of Girls.
Merry Christmas, everyone.  May you all enjoy the Giggles of joy and happiness and the Chaos of the season.
See you again next year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An Ending?

“There was a time, dear Mom,” said he.
“When I no longer fit your knee.
And one day, when you picked me up.
You set me down, said, ‘That’s enough!’
You never picked me up again.”
His statement filled my heart with pain.
Cause he was right, that son of mine,
(Who, in his socks, stands six-foot nine.)
There was a time I set him down,
I groaned, and then, perhaps, I frowned.
Said, “Son you’re getting way too big,
And you don’t qual'fy as a ‘twig’.
Your poor old Momma just can’t lift,
For it will give my back short shrift.”
An era ended on that day,
The day I sent my son to play
Without his ‘pickmeup’ cuddle time,
That, for us both, was so sublime.
Instead he got a kiss and hug.
And on my heart, a little tug,
Then, I looked back into the past,
And thought of things that just don’t last,
How precious are your memories,
When kids grow too big for your knee.
But know, before you shed a tear,
For my son’s young and baby years,
That though we had an ‘ending’ there,
‘Twas nothing that I could not bear.
For as an era waves. Departs.
Another era’s set to start.
And then he gave us grandkids . . .

Karen, whom we all hold dear,
Issues a task 12 times a year,
A poem based upon a theme.
We beat our brains, we cry and scream,
But nothing can be done about,
Cause Karen has a lot of clout!
(The truth about the poems thereof?
We really do it out of love!)

And who has joined me here today?
Why, all my friends! Join us and play!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: From the End to the Beginning
Dawn of Cognitive Script: TheMeaning of the End
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles Name of Poem: La Fin
Lydia of Cluttered Genius Name of Poem: The End is Here
Jenn Sparkly Poetic Weirdo Name of Poem: Endings, The NewBeginnings

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Architect

One of the most beautiful Christmas presents I've ever seen.
Created by my son, Mark, for his wife, Barb . . .
First, the poem:

The Builder
If you’ll ask any builder what
It takes to raise a wall –
They’ll say, “A firm foundation
Will help them to stand tall.

“Some days the effort seems in vain,
Stones crack, or break, or fall,
Some days it might seem there's been
No progress made at all.

“But nothing great was ever built
Within a single day,
Press on, endure, and what is built
Will never fade away.

“And bit by bit the building grows
From one stone to the next,
And many things might come about
That you did not expect.

“It takes so many years to build
A house of wood and stone,
The daily toil and strife and hurt
Seems worth it when it’s done.

“Though 50 years to build, and then
500 it may stand,
The building is a monument
To the builder’s blessed hand.”

Note: They're not finished yet,
But someday they'll be masterpieces!

Then, the pictures:
Architect: Barb Tolley
Structures: Megan: Erected 2003
Kyra: Erected 2005
Jarom: Erected 2009
Leah : Erected 2012
Emma: Erected 2017 (To be added)

Describe the most touching gift you've ever seen!

This is the BIG ONE!
And I need your help . . .
Daughter of Ishmael is up for the big award: Book of the year!
I need your vote!
It's simple and REALLY effective.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Family Favourites

Drawn by my sweet DIL. In about 30 seconds . . .
I cannot blame another soul, I did it on my own,
The po’try Monday theme, I mean. (My fate, I do bemoan.)
My ‘Happiest Family Memory’ shouldn’t be a task complex,
But how to choose a single one, now that, did me, perplex.

Was it Mom and Bobby Cow and me? I barely did survive!
Or climbing up the TV mast? I’m glad to be alive!
Or times spent eating Mama’s food, I was in Heaven then.
And when I travelled with my dad. I’d like to go again!

My brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and days spent on the ranch,
Too numerous to just sort through! It’s like an avalanche!
Sunk in mud up to my knees? There’s nothing I would change!

And here there is another group, my kids and their kids, too.
Now how am I supposed to choose? There really aren’t a few!
With special days and holidays and every day between,
And all of our activities, from crazy to serene.

You know what I am going to do? I won’t decide this now,
I’m sure you would not want to read a book now anyhow.
So, I’ll say this, I love these tales! And they, I will recount,
Though taken all in all my friends, to a lot, they do amount.

Past or present, future, too. You’ll find them all right here.
In city or in country and in places far or near.
Each one a little slice of life, each one a story, too,
My favourite family memories are each one I share with you!

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week, from my friends, and me, 
A Christmas (or holiday) Memory!

This is the BIG ONE!
And I need your help . . .
Daughter of Ishmael is up for the big award: Book of the year!
I need your vote!
It's simple and REALLY effective.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Light of Family

A repost. It just seems apropos today...

In our corner of the world, in winter, the nights are very long.

For a period of time, the street lights are coming on when the school children are just getting home.
And don't shut off until said children are safely back in class the next morning.
One does everything in the dark.
Early morning walks.
Paper routes.
Extra curricular activities.
You might think that it would be aggravating; having so few hours of sunlight during our 'waking' part of the day.
But I love it.
For a few months, Life seems to slow down.
Family comes home earlier.
And stays longer.
But I have one memory that makes the darkness . . . special.
Let me tell you about it . . .
On the ranch, meals were served like clockwork.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner appeared with amazing regularity.
And an equal amount of delicious-ness.
During winter, at least two of those meals were prepared and served with stars in the sky.
With the modern conveniences of electricity, this was not a handicap.
Mom worked with every imaginable electronic gadget.
In a brilliantly lit kitchen.
As the rest of the house darkened with the fading sunlight, the kitchen remained a beacon.
Calling to all of us.
As suppertime neared, I would shut off the lamp in my bedroom and, without stopping to turn on any more lights, walk quickly along the dark hallway.
And that's the part I remember most clearly.
Seeing the light flooding out of every doorway leading into the kitchen.
Moving from the dark into a world of light, fragrance, warmth.
And family.
Mom orchestrating and/or supervising numerous pots and kettles and children.
The rest of the kids gathering or already seated.
An evening of great food and wonderful company ahead of me.
Mom is gone, now.
My siblings scattered throughout North America.
But whenever I come from a darkened hallway into a lighted kitchen, I feel that same anticipation.
That same joy I first felt over fifty years ago - and that time and life experiences cannot fade.
Stepping from darkness into light.
The light that is family.

This is the BIG ONE!
And I need your help . . .
Daughter of Ishmael is up for the big award: Book of the year!
I need your vote!
It's simple and REALLY effective.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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
My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

God's Tree
For the Children

Third in the series

Third in the series
Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

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

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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
Available from

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The Babysitter
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Pearl, Why You Little...

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

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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
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
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