Fireworks: The Softer Side Of Gunpowder

Even though my children are grown, I still enjoy the tradition of watching the fireworks every year on the 4th of July. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that more than 14,000 fireworks displays will light up our nation’s sky next week.

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One of my sons tells a story about flying in a window seat from Texas to the Midwest one July 4th night a few years ago and seeing fireworks all over the sky during the entire flight. He said his view was so entertaining that the two hour flight felt like it was over very quickly.

China produces and exports more fireworks than any other country in the world and it is also believed to be the country where fireworks originated. As early as 200 B.C. the Chinese would roast bamboo and when it got hot enough it would explode because of all of the air pockets. This was thought to ward off evil spirits and ghosts but evolved into a means of scaring off enemies as well.

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At some point between 600 and 900 A.D., the Chinese began mixing together potassium nitrate, (a common kitchen seasoning at the time) charcoal, sulfur and other ingredients into an early form of gunpowder. The Chinese would stuff bamboo shoots with the homemade gunpowder and then throw them into the fire to produce a loud bang. These were the first fireworks and were used to celebrate special events.

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Next Tuesday, we will mark 241 years since the Second Continental Congress approved the final version of our Declaration of Independence from English rule on July 4th, 1776. The first Independence Day celebration was held the next year in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777 with fireworks to raise the spirit of our new nation since the Revolutionary War was still going on.

That first American fireworks display was crude by today’s elaborate standards, but it got the job done. There were some rockets shot into the sky, but most of the first fireworks displays were of patriotic images arranged and lit up on raised platforms for the crowds to see.

Many of us will gather to watch dazzling fireworks displays on the 4th of July but have you ever wondered what causes all of those explosions of color? The kaleidoscope of colors is actually created by different metal elements.

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Remember your periodic table of elements from high school chemistry? When an element burns and its electrons get excited, energy is released in the form of light. Here are some firework colors and the element or combination of elements that help to create them:

Reds – Strontium and Lithium compounds

Blues – Copper

White or Silver – Titanium and Magnesium

Orange – Calcium

Yellow – Sodium

Green – Barium

According to the website, 63% of Americans will attend a fireworks display next week. Will you be one of them?

For those of you living in North Texas, Kaboom Town on Monday, July 3rd in Addison, Texas is the largest fireworks show in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and has been recognized by the American Pyrotechnics Association as one of the top ten fireworks displays in the United States.



Why Do You Write Books Like This?

This past weekend, I had a book signing at a Kroger store in Little Elm, Texas. My author table was located near the cash registers, so folks would stop with their full grocery carts and chat for a few minutes on their way to the busy check-out lines. Some would buy books and others would wish me well and go on their way.

Around noon, a woman about my age stopped to look at my books. After looking through them both and remarking on the button box on my table, she asked, “Why do you write books like this?”

I was silent for a few beats, not sure whether to be offended or intrigued by her question. No one had ever asked me this particular question before. People have asked how long I’ve been a writer and how I got started writing books, but never “Why do you write books like this?”

I gave her the short answer which was that my books are stories about my own childhood that I want my children and grandchildren to know. However, I’ve been thinking about her question ever since Saturday, so you are going to get the long answer.

All of my books (so far) are based on true stories about events that really happened in my life and are some of my most treasured memories. I think there is value in sharing good and funny and heartwarming memories as stories, especially when they are touching or entertaining.

I also write about people like my grandmother because I want them to be remembered. People die and memories fade and we sometimes forget the essence of who they were. My grandmother adored children and especially her grandchildren, and her kind and constant loving ways made my childhood very special. It is our responsibility to pass on the love from previous generations.

I also want those who are the ages of my children and grandchildren to know about some of the old things like button boxes and canning jars and clotheslines that used to be a part of every household but aren’t so common anymore.

As our world becomes more crowded and land becomes developed, there are fewer and fewer family farms left. I want the generations coming up today to know a little about farm life and what it was like to have to do farm chores like gathering the eggs when one was afraid of the chickens.

There are a lot of children’s books on the market and as a mother of three I read many of them to my children. Just between us…there were times when certain books would come up missing at our house because I just couldn’t read them again and again without my eyes crossing. There are books that children love to read, and then there are books that both children AND parents love to read. My hope is that my books fall into the second category.

Finally, I try to write wholesome books with beautiful illustrations that are pleasant and leave the reader with a feel-good ending and then for added value, some factual information after the stories.

At the end of “The Button Box” is “A Short History Of Buttons” and after Which Came First? I included “Fun Facts About Chickens.” In my new book, “The Day The Turkey Came To School” (coming out this summer) I have “Turkey Trivia” after the story. These additional sections add an interesting and fun piece for both parents and children to enjoy together.

My daughter once said jokingly (I hope) that I couldn’t write “edgy or dark” stories. Oh I could, but I choose not to write that sort of thing. The world can be dark enough and I want my books to be positive and uplifting. Nothing makes me happier than hearing from my readers that “The Button Box” made them go in search of their own family button box or made them tear up as they thought about their grandmother.

One of my favorite stories came from a woman who attended a Texas Button Society weekend event in Waco, Texas. She bought my book, Which Came First? and was reading it in bed in the hotel that night. She said she was laughing so hard while she read it that she woke her roommate who was asleep in the bed next to her!

After I gave the woman in Kroger my short answer, she said, “We need more books like this” and she bought them both.

I write the books I do because I want them to touch people’s hearts and/or their funny bones and give them some special moments with their families.

Thank you to all for your support of my books. It is truly a privilege to be able to write them for you!



A Day For Dads

This Sunday, June 18th is Father’s Day.  I’m thankful that my almost 80 year-old dad is still here and in good health so I can celebrate the day with him. When I asked him if there was anything he would like to get for Father’s Day, my dad said, “No, I really don’t need anything.” Well, that’s not the point of getting something but apparently his attitude is pretty typical.

A recent survey by the online shopping website,, found that what dads want most for Father’s Day is quality time with their kids. According to the survey, most dads don’t expect store-bought gifts and would rather grill and chill with their families. Even though dads say they don’t really want anything, it’s estimated that Americans spend one billion dollars each year on Father’s Day gifts.

I’m also thankful that this year is a special Father’s Day for my son, Ryan.  He and his wife, Paige, welcomed their first child and my first grandchild, Graham, on September 17, 2016.  I’m hopeful that Ryan has a really fun first Father’s Day!

While Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1914, Father’s Day is a fairly new holiday in our country. The person who is credited with the idea of a Father’s Day is a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd. Her father had raised six children alone on his farm in Washington State after his wife died in childbirth with their last child. Mrs. Dodd thought it would be nice to have a holiday that honored fathers.

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Mrs. Dodd went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to garner support for her idea of a Father’s Day Holiday. Her efforts were successful and the first Father’s Day in Spokane, Washington was observed on June 19, 1910.

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While the first Father’ Day celebration was held in Washington in 1910, Father’s Day did not become an national holiday until much later even though support for the holiday was spreading across the country. There were two bills introduced in Congress that would have made Father’s Day an official, federal holiday but they were both defeated.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day be observed throughout the nation.  Finally, in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation which designated the third Sunday in June as a holiday to honor fathers, but it was President Richard Nixon who signed the law in 1972 which made Father’s Day an official, annual, national holiday.

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So, I asked my dad a second time if perhaps there was something that he might not need but might WANT for Father’s Day? He said he wouldn’t mind winning the lotto so he could help out his family. He’s such a dad. And, of course, I’m going to buy him some lottery tickets!

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Author’s note: In other countries–especially in Europe and Latin America–fathers are honored on St. Joseph’s Day, a traditional Catholic holiday. In Western Christianity, the Feast of Saint Joseph on March 19th is the principal feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and Earth father of Jesus Christ. In countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal, this is also their Father’s Day Holiday.

The Golden Chairs

A couple of years ago, my parents started giving me things.  I’ve heard this is quite common with people who are getting up in years and I remember my grandparents doing the same thing.  It seems like people want to make sure their possessions will be in the right places after they are gone.  Up until now, the items they’ve given me have been things like Christmas decorations they know I’ve always loved.

This past week, my parents gave me two matching 50-year-old chairs.  They are pink, stained, smell like 50 years of cigarette smoking, and I love them.  I remember the day they were delivered brand new to our house.  It was the summer I turned seven and they were the most beautiful chairs I had ever seen. 

The fabric was off white and metallic gold and they appeared to shimmer in the light.  My little brother, Jeff, and I called them the golden chairs.  Whenever we played hide and seek, the golden chairs were home base and they were our favorite places to sit when we read books or watched TV. 

I remember during my teenage years, my dates sitting nervously on one of the golden chairs trying to make polite small talk with my parents.  Sometimes, the golden chairs were a hot seat when one of us would come in after curfew and find mom or dad or worse, both of them, waiting up for us.  The chairs were one of those constants during all the years we were growing up.

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This is not one of the actual “golden chairs” but the fabric is similar!

At some point while I was in college, my parents got new furniture and I came home to find the golden chairs missing from our living room.  “Don’t worry” said my mom when she saw the anxious look on my face, “They are just in the basement.  The fabric on them has gotten pretty worn.”

When I was 29, my parents moved from the house my brothers and I grew up in.  I helped them move and was relieved to see that the golden chairs were still in the basement storage room.  My mom said she was planning to have them updated for the living room in the new house.

She had them re-covered in a pink fabric to go with their new, pastel-colored sofa.  It was a bit of an adjustment to see the golden chairs in pink but I was glad that my parents were using them again.  It was fun to see my sons and daughter and niece run for the pink chairs the way their mom and dad had run for the golden ones!

When my parents moved to Texas five years ago, they bought new brown leather furniture that was more in keeping with the style of their house.  The pink chairs moved with them but they were relegated to an extra bedroom and didn’t get used much. 

I hadn’t thought of the pink golden chairs for a while until last week, when my parents asked me if I’d like to have them.  I was delighted!  I think most of us can relate to loving items that are special because they’ve been a part of so many years of family memories…you know, Christmas decorations, golden chairs, button boxes…

The chairs will need to be reupholstered and re-padded to remove the cigarette smell, but I am so excited to have them!  I took them to an upholstery shop today to get a quote and was told that they appear to be in great condition for their age.  So now, the search begins for just the right fabric…possibly something in off white and metallic gold.

Author’s note:  I will post a picture of the golden chairs some time this summer after they have been redone!  I’d love to hear about the family treasures you have that hold so many memories for you!