Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, October 1, 2021


The proper wearing of the dress. As seen here . . .
Our (then) five children had a problem.
All of them.
Every little body was covered.
Even the baby.
For a week, I spent my time applying the current ‘itch-free’ salves.
Filling the tub with baking soda and water.
Satisfying odd food cravings.
Did you know that warm brownies and/or chocolate chip cookies make chickenpox itch less?
Well, they do.
Moving on . . .
For our eldest daughter Caitlin, aged three, the chickenpox was an adventure.
An adventure that took a little turn.
Let me explain . . .
Caitlin would lift her little dress and look at her tummy and exclaim, “Look, Mommy! Chickie Spots!”
“Yes, sweetheart. Put your dress down.”
She was so interested in these spots that she spent most of her time with her dress up around her ears, looking at them.
I would hear her in various rooms of the house, speaking obviously to one or more members of the family. “Look! Chickie Spots!”
Followed by, “Caitlin! Put your dress down!”
Finally, not receiving the excited reaction she wanted, she would return to me.
“Look, Mommy! Chickie Spots!”
“Yes, Sweetheart. Put your dress down. Have a cookie.”
I should have known that she would require a bigger audience.
I should have realized that, to her, anyone coming into the house must be interested in her current fabulous condition.
I didn’t.
My good friend, Tammy came to the door.
I greeted her as she stepped bravely into the ‘plague house’.
We chatted a bit.
Then Caitlin appeared.
I didn’t move fast enough.
Up came the dress.
“Look, Sis ‘Sin! Chickie Spots!”
She laughed and nodded appreciatively. “Yes. You certainly do have the chickenpox.”
At the same time as I was saying, “Caitlin! Put your dress down!”
Sadly, this was only the beginning.
Long after the Chicken Pox had disappeared, Caitlin was still hiking up her little skirts and exclaiming, "Look! Chickie Spots!"
Two things came from this experience.
1. I always put shorts on under Caitlin’s dresses after that. Little girl panties are cutest when they are hidden.
2. The phrase, “Caitlin, put your dress down!” became immortalized in the annals of Tolley history.
Caitlin is grown and married now, with her own little girls.
She has long since learned to keep herself properly covered.
But her youngest insists on pulling her dresses up around her ears.
No spots, yet, but we’re hopeful.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Full Nest

The nest was clean
            And tidy, too.
There wasn’t much
            I had to do.
It stayed that way
            From dawn to dawn.
Had been like that
            Since the chicks had gone.

But it hadn’t always
            Been just so,
When chicks would come
            And chicks would go,
When clutter ruled
            When ‘mess’ was norm,
When noise began
            With the dewy morn.

I found myself,
            Each day, awash
In dirty dishes,
            Stinky socks.
Up to my knees
            In diapers, too
When days were full
            And the nest was, too.

When every evening
            Prayers were said,
And kisses, hugs
As they went to bed.
Then flopped, exhausted,
            In the chair,
And contemplated
            Life from there.

And though it seemed
            It’d never end.
Somehow it did,
As all things tend.
And the nest that never
            Took a bow,
Echoed with
            The silence now.

But then, one day
            The door swung wide,
And chicks and chicklets
            Stepped inside.
“We’re here to stay,
            If that’s okay.”
And there was action
            every day.

Once more I lived
            With clutter, there,
And no bare spaces
And noise? Whoo-boy!
            You have to know,
That lungs are THE first
            Things to grow.

The toys were spread
            From here to there.
And chicklets playing
And meals to make
            And clothes to mend
And schedules to
Draw and blend.

And, still, with all
            The noise and strain
And problems bouncing
            In my brain,
With things to do,
            And time to share,
And chicklets falling
            Down the stair.

That I would never
            Want at all,
The spotless house,
The quiet halls.
Exchange the action
            That did reside
Or change the love
            That dwelt inside.

I’ve learned you don’t need
            Silence, no.
When people come
            And people go.
There’s peace in every
            Busy day.
When chicks and chicklets
            Come your way.

With hugs and kisses
            You abound
And love is shining
            All around.
And never can your
            Life be dull,
When (for a time)
            The nest was full.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Fifty Day Wednesday #8

 Supper had wound to its fortune cookie conclusion.

‘Be happy!’, mine read.

“Can we tell our fortunes?” Cara asked.

“Nope. They won’t come true,” Max replied.


“What?” I asked.

“I think mine should be told.”


She held it up. “‘Help I’m a prisoner in a Fortune Cookie plant!’”

Today is Fifty Day!

And that means another challenge to tell a story using ONLY fifty words.

Thank you so much, Adela, for opening this new world to me . . .

This is an uber-fun, uber-challenging exercise.
Join us!

Leave your contribution in the comments...

From Daddy's Plate

Mom and Dad with her parents, Gramma and Grampa Berg and a few of her brothers.
Daddy's wearing the tie. And on his plate? Deliciousness...

Our youngest daughter and her family were staying with us for a while.

It almost made up for the long days and weeks when they were living in another part of the world.
One night, during dinner, Tiny Girl (hereinafter known as TG) was having her first taste of life as a grown-up. She had spurned her high chair and was sitting like a big girl on a booster seat.
The best of times.
She also discovered, during this exciting experience, how much better everything tastes when it is eaten from someone else’s plate.
Happily, TG let her own (exactly the same) food cool while she gobbled whatever her mother was eating.
And it reminded me of something . . .
My Mom made wonderful breakfasts.
Most of the time, they included eggs. In some incarnation.
One of my Dad’s favourites was eggs fried.
Mom would place two perfect little white-jacketed yellow orbs on his plate and he would happily proceed to take fork and knife and slice through them, cutting them neatly into uniform bits.
Then he would scrape them carefully back together, sprinkle the resulting mixture with salt and pepper, and voila!
I had watched this same process since I could remember.
His food always looked soooo good.
“Dad? Can I have a bite?”
He looked at me. “May I have a bite?” Dad was always correcting my grammar.
May I have a bite?”
Mmmm. It was soooo good.
“Can I have another?”
May I . . .?”
May I have another?”
Mmmm. Even better.
Then Mom would set my plate in front of me.
Carefully, I would copy Dad’s technique to the best of my ability.
Slice. Slice. Slice. Slice.
Wait. I’m sure it tasted better off his plate.
“Dad? Can I have another bite?”
He looked at me. “May I have another bite?”
May I have another bite?”
He gave it to me.
Mmmm. I was right.
It did taste better.
I had made a momentous discovery.
Everything was better off Dad’s plate.
Later, I discovered that this was also true with Mom’s plate.
Or my Husby’s.
I did draw the line there.
Total strangers do regard you oddly when you ask.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Troubled by Bubbles

My brother and me.
I'm the criminal on the right.
Okay. I confess. I stole something. 
I have no defense. I did it. I'm guilty.
I was four. Is that an excuse . . .?
Mom and I were doing the weekly grocery shopping. A very exciting time for both of us. 
Well, for me, at any rate. 
We had driven in from the ranch in the family's late-model Chrysler (Dad always drove a Chrysler), which was an adventure in itself.There were no seatbelts. They hadn't been invented yet. Apparently no one had yet seen the wisdom in fastening small, easily-launched bodies into a safe place while hurtling down sketchy gravel roads at 60 miles per hour in a two ton vehicle.
My mom used to hold out her arm when she applied the brakes.
I was safe.
We pulled up to the curb across the street from the grocery store and proceeded inside.
The check-out desk, usually manned by a woman, stood in the center of the store, surrounded by the magical world of the grocery.
Directly behind the desk was a bank of cubicles, in which one could find the most amazing things of all . . . the penny candies.
It was there that I would park myself, after the cart got too full to hold me.
I admit it was difficult to leave the treasures that my mom had been adding to the cart. Treasures like canned peas. Baked beans. Tinned salmon.
The all-important Spam.
But I found comfort in just looking at the myriad possibilities behind that main desk.
A whole family of chocolate. Straws of sweet, flavoured powder. Licorice and JuJubes formed into the most amazing shapes. Wax figures which could be nipped and sucked dry of their wonderful, sweet juices. Lick-M-Aid. Lollipops. Suckers. Bubble gum in two sizes of colourful balls. The choices were truly endless to a four-year-old.
And my mom's purse offered the gateway to this bounty.
I couldn't stand it any longer. I ran to her. "Mom? Can I have a bubblegum?"
"Not today, dear."
What? What had she said? Had she really used those three words? I stared at her, aghast. Did she realize that her small utterance had shattered my hopes and dreams. Had barred me forever from the bliss that all of that candy represented?
My life was officially over.
At four years old.
It couldn't be.
"But Moooom!"
"Not today, dear. I don't want you to be eating any candy before dinner."
What kind of excuse was that?
"Just one?" I turned. My eye was caught by the bin full of bright orange bubble gums. The big ones with the little, rough bumps on the surface.
And the total deliciousness inside.
I pointed. "Just a bubble gum? I'll eat my dinner. I promise."
A smile from my long-suffering parent. "No, dear. Not today."
Huh. I pouted for a moment. Then smiled. Well, we'll just see about that.
Mom brought her purchases to the desk and she and the woman behind it were distracted as they added and bagged.
I would just take one gum. No one would ever know. My hand crept into the bin of orange bubble gums, wrapped itself around one tempting morsel and popped it into my mouth.
Ha. Mission accomplished.
I began the wonderfully arduous task of breaking down the hard, candy shell.
Mom finished paying for her groceries and was following the young boy carrying them to our car.
I fell in happily behind her.
The boy set the bags in the trunk, smiled at my mom and me and left.
Mom opened the door for me and I jumped inside. Still chewing.
She got in. And took a deep breath.
Then her head whipped around and she skewered me with a gimlet gaze. "Diane! Is that gum?!"
I froze. How did she know? The gum was in my mouth, completely hidden. I decided then. Moms were definitely magic.
Clever prevarication was in order.
"Ummm. No?"
"Diane, did you steal a bubblegum?"
I stared at her. Moms could see through cheeks!
My head drooped. "Yes."
She sighed. "Diane, you know that stealing is wrong, don't you."
I lifted my head. Tears were already starting to pool. "Yes."
"What should we do about it?"
Tears started to slide down my cheeks. "I don't know."
Mom opened her purse and reached inside. Then she handed me a penny. "You will have to go back inside and pay for it."
I stared at her in horror. Go inside? Face my victim? Confess my guilt?
"I - I don't want to."
"But you have to."
I sat there, my four-year-old brain working frantically to find another solution.
Any other solution.
Finally, I sighed. Mom was right. I would have to go inside and pay for my ill-gotten bubblegum. I opened the door and got out.
For a moment, I stood there on the curb, wiping my cheeks and staring across the street at the grocery store. Which, incidentally, had assumed the proportions of the Mississippi (whatever that was) since Mom and I had left.
Suddenly the orange deliciousness in my mouth didn't taste very good. I spit it out into the gutter and looked down at it. It still had bits of the hard candy shell embedded in the softer gum. I hadn't even broken it in.
I sighed and looked at Mom through the window of the car.
She nodded towards the store.
I started across the widest street ever known to man, feet dragging.
At long last, I reached the store and went up the steps.
The door jingled happily. The woman behind the desk turned and looked at me. I approached slowly and tried twice to produce a voice. Finally, "I forgot to pay for a bubblegum," I said, sliding the penny across the counter towards her.
She nodded and looked at me gravely.
"Thank you, dear," she said. "You know it's not right to steal, don't you?"
I nodded.
"Don't do it again."
I shook my head.
"Thank-you for being honest."
Another nod and I was free. I ran back to the car.
Mom didn't lecture. She knew I had learned my lesson.
I still love gum balls. Especially the orange ones with the little rough bumps. But every time I chew one, I remember being four years old.
And gently—but effectively—learning about being honest.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Saying Something Stupid


Could not think what to write and so I Googled: Questions: Dumb,

A list of them came up. Just stick with me, I’ll tell you some,


1.     If an ambulance is on its way to help when help is due,

And it knocks someone else down, does it stop to help them too?


2.     If e-lec-tric-it-y is caused by small e-lec-t-rons,

does it follow that morality is caused by small morons?


3.     They believe you when you say: Four billion stars. (I bet!)

but check with doubting fingers when you say: This paint is wet?


4.     Why is it when you drive—and looking for place unknown,

you turn down the volume on the blameless radio?


5.     If you have to “put your two cents in”. (This bothers me a bit.)

but it’s just a “penny for your thoughts”? Where’s that last cent fit?

If your cabbie drives you backward—to get from A to B.

does that mean when you get there that it’s he who owes mo-ney?

Why do people say they “slept just like a babe”? (It’s true!)

when babes are known wake up nearly every hour or two?


8.     If an orange is orange, then I think that this should follow,

That a lime be called a green or a lemon called a yellow?


9.     If, in a published dictionary, a word’s somehow misspelled

For those of us then reading it . . . how would we ever tell?

 If veggie oil’s from veggies and all corn oil’s made from corn. 

Where does baby oil come from, friends? And should someone be warned?

Why, when your remote control is dead as dead can be . . .

you push harder on the buttons. When you know, could you tell me?

When women don mascara (and most do it round their eyes . . .)

why do their mouths hang open? The result is a surprise?

And Donald Duck. He wears a towel when from a bath he steps

But’s never seen in pants. Is it to hide his ducktraceps?

While on the topic of bath towels, we use them once we’re clean,

so why the frequent washing? (‘Cause we don’t know where they’ve been?)

When most of us, on waking, look exactly like a troll?

why on earth would it be called our ‘Beauty Sleep? How droll.

Why is it that the gentle rays of sun lighten our hair,

but darken exposed skin? (Okay, I’ll stop and leave you there.)

Photo Credit: Karen of
Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we all besought
To try to make the week begin
With gentle thoughts,
Perhaps a grin?
So KarenCharlotteMimi, me
Have crafted poems for you to see.
And now you’ve read what we have wrought…
Did we help?
Or did we not?

I think I'll struggle just a bit
It's something I don't get...
But we'll tackle 'GOLF' next week,
Don't miss our Tête-à-tête

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?

We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
Ask a Stupid Question (September 27) TODAY!
Golf (October 4)
Throw a Party (October 11) (Also Canadian Thanksgiving!)
Meatloaf Appreciation (October 18)
Opera (October 25)
New Lease (November 1)
Puns (November 8) 
Clean Out Your Refrigerator (November 15) 
Your favorite record (or) best stereo or record player ever (November 22)
Chia Pets (November 29)

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Second BEST

It's that wonderful day of the month when I get to gather and share the Best of Boomer Bloggers!
I still have to pinch myself that I am included with these amazing writers!

First up is Carol Cassara:

Another easy but oh-so-scrumptious recipe from Carol Cassara at Carol A. Cassara, Writer, this week, suitable for company or a night in. Find it right here!

*  *  *

Next is Laurie Stone:

Fall’s here in New England and Laurie Stone at Laurie Stone Writes couldn’t be happier. Yes, spring is lovely and summer’s fun. Even old man winter has his icy grandeur. But nothing compares to autumn’s beauty and majesty. And though this season comes at a price, she still loves it for these five reasons….

*  *  *
And Rebecca Olkowski:

Has the pandemic or another reason made you feel socially isolated? It’s a problem many people are having especially older people. Rebecca Olkowski, with, talks about social isolation and how, if you are not careful, it can turn into loneliness or lack of confidence.

*  *  *

Then Meryl Baer:

Some of us want to experience endless summers. Meryl Baer of Beach Boomer Bulletin is not one of them. She lives in a land with four seasons. The transformation from summer to fall has begun, as she describes in this week’s post, Concert in the park…noting seasonal change.

*  *  *

And Tom Sightings:

Tom from Sightings Over Sixty got a phone call last week from an old neighbor. The woman asked how they were doing, wished his wife a happy belated birthday. And then the woman blurted out: "We just sold our house!" Check out What Do They Do Now? to see the rest of the story. 

*  *  *

 With Rita Robison:

Consumers spend about $47 a month on four streaming platforms such as Netflix, AppleTV+, and Hulu, reports Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, in her article “Did You Enjoy the Emmys Sunday?” Check out Robison’s article to see what she recommends consumers do with all those subscriptions.

*  *  *

And ME, Diane Stringam Tolley!

By this point in Diane's life, getting older has become less a surprise and more a fact. But adjusting to the constant inconsistencies takes concentration.
And a sense of humour! 
During one of her sleepless episodes following what was only a quick trip to the...erm...lavatory, she penned this.
With apologies to Lewis Carroll...

*  *  *

And that's a wrap!
I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
See you next month, my beloved bloggers!

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Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

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A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

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Need a fright?

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

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The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

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Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

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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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Pearl, Why You Little...

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Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

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Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

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Coffee Row
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Better Blogger Network

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!

Be Courageous!

Grab and Add!

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Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?