Author Archives: Ebony

Where did the turkey get its name?

Have you ever wondered what Turkey (the country in the Middle East) and the American bird have in common?  A case of mistaken identity resulted in the American Turkey being named after the country.  When the Spanish first found the bird in the Americas more than 400 years ago they brought it back to Europe. The English mistakenly thought it was a bird they called a “turkey” so they gave it the same name. This other bird was actually from Africa, but came to England by way of the Turkey (lots of shipping went through Turkey at the time). The name stuck even when they realized the birds weren’t the same.

Turkey Terms

Caruncle – brightly colored growths on the throat region.  Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.

Gizzard – a part of a bird’s stomach that contains tiny stones.  It helps them grind up food for digestion.

Hen – a female turkey.

Poult – a baby turkey.  A chick.

Snood – the flap of skin that hangs over the turkey’s beak.  Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.

Tom – a male turkey.  Also known as a gobbler.

Wattle – the flap of skin under the turkey’s chin. Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.

More interesting facts about Turkey the bird can be found at

Geyers in Yellowstone Park


Do you like them?

Home made birthday cup cakes

To All Moms

I love my mom!

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Ten Best Mannered People of 2010

Ten Best Mannered People of 2010


1. Drew Brees – for being positive example and helping New Orleans rebuild.
2. Justin Bieber – for consistently showing courtesy to his fans.
3. Kate Middleton – for the poise and dignity with which she conducts herself in the public spotlight.
4. Jamie McMurray – for the respect he has earned as a NASCAR driver.
5. Elizabeth Edwards – for the grace she displayed in facing life’s greatest challenges.
6. Chilean Miners – for demonstrating optimism under pressure during their struggle for survival.
7. Taylor Swift – for inspiring young people with her music and manners.
8. Sandra Bullock – for setting high standards of excellence as an actress
9. Robin Roberts – for extending warmth and kindness to “Good Morning America” guests.
10. Bill and Melinda Gates – for their example of generosity to those less fortunate

Word After Word After Word – Chapter 7

   My house was quiet. No music, no conversation, no laughing. I closed the door and walked down the hallway into the living room. My mother was staring at herself in the mirror. She did that a lot these days, since she had lost her hair from chemo. She saw me looking at her looking at herself.

   “What do I look like, Lucy?” she asked me. “I look like something.”

   “An ostrich,” I said.

   Mama smiled.

   “I do,” she said.

   She took a breath.

   “What happened at school today? How is the beautiful and creative Ms. Mirabel?” she asked.

   “She is beautiful and creative,” I said.

   “And how is that hair?”

   “Robust,” I said.

   I smiled at her because she knew that was one of my vocabulary words.

   Mama’s hair was growing back, in small fuzz all over her head. She did look a bit like an ostrich. But she said she was getting better. That’s what she said. That’s what mattered.

   “Russell wrote a poem about his dog dying,” I said. “He brought his baby brother, Oliver, under the lilac bush.”

   “Russell?” asked Mama. “Russell who drives Miss Cash to distraction?”

   “He drives her to sighs,” I corrected her.

   “Well, Ms. Mirabel seems to be working miracles,” said Mama. “What about you? Have you written anything for Ms. Mirabel?”

   I shook my head, thinking about my poem about sadness. That’s all I wrote about these days. Sadness.

   “One poem. I’m waiting for something to whisper to me.”

   “Whisper? I am sure there are whispers all around you, Lucy.”

   Mama turned back to look in the mirror again.

   “Maybe you aren’t listening. Children hear everything. Children know everything.”

   Mama and I looked at each other in the mirror for a moment. Then the front door slammed shut.

   “That’s your dad,” said Mama. “How can we convince him to take us out for dinner?”

   “Tell him we’re having liver.”

   Mama laughed. She didn’t laugh much these days, and I liked the sound of it.

   “Jack,” she called as we hurried to the kitchen. “Luck thinks I look like an ostrich!”

   “I was thinking that very same thing,” Papa called back. “What a smart girl she is!” 

   “And, Jack,” added Mama. “We’re having liver!”

   “NO!” came a cry from the kitchen.  

The moon came through my window. Soon it would begin to move away. I could hear my mother and father talking in the living room as if …. As if nothing was wrong. I reached for my pad and pen. I would write something that would change life in my house. I would not write about sadness. Ms. Mirabel had said that she wrote to make life come out the way she wanted. Maybe I could do that, too.


                        Sadness. Your laughter can’t brush away

                 the sadness here. I hear you trying to laugh. I see you trying to smile   and trying to talk away the sickness.

                                    You can’t, you know.

                                    You can’t.

                                                             ———– Lucy

             No use. It was still sadness. Sadness was all I had.

Word After Word After Word – Chapter 6

Chapter 6

   Russell ducked under Hen’s big lilac bush. We were five today. It was late afternoon, and shadows fell across the yard.

   Russell wore a pack.

   “What is that?” asked May loudly.

   Inside the pack was a baby.

   “My brother, Oliver,” said Russell.

“You’ve seen him before.”

   “I don’t like babies,” said May.

   Russell smiled. He took Oliver out of his pack and sat him on his lap. “You’ll like Ollie,” he said. “There is not one bad thing about him.”

   And as if Oliver had heard Russell, he smiled and pumped his arms up and down.

   “I babysit for Ollie every day after school.”

   Hen reached out and took Oliver’s hand.

   “That’s why you don’t lay soccer?”

   Russell nodded.

   Oliver grinned and then reached out o May. May drew back.

   “He likes you,” said Russell. “Here.” He handed Oliver over to May, who held him away from her, as if he were a package of trash. But Oliver didn’t care. He leaned closer and closer to May until his head lay on her shoulder. Slowly, May put her arms around him and closed her eyes.

   “I think he’s wet,” she whispered finally.

   “Of course he’s wet,” said Russell cheerfully. “He’s always wet. My babysitting time is over pretty soon. I’ll take him home and change him.”

   May still held on to Oliver. She didn’t open her eyes. And when she did, she whispered to Russell again.

   “That was a beautiful poem about your dog, Russell.”

   Russell nodded and picked up Oliver. He ducked out from under the bush and put Oliver back in his pack.

   “He was a good dog,” he said softly.

   “What was his name?” asked May.

   “Everett,” said Russell before he disappeared in the shadows.

            There is a soft sweet smell here.

            The smell of somewhere far away

            I may have been one time but can’t remember.

                        It is a soft sweet smell.

                        Why is it I know it? Why is it so familiar?

                        I can almost reach out my hand to catch it.

                        But not quite.

                                                            ——- May

Word After Word After Word – Chapter 5

     The next day May came to school with a grim look, and Russell came with his writing.

   “May? You look thunderous,” said Henry.

   “Hen, you’ve been reading the dictionary,” I said.

   “I have.”

   “My very, very, very dumb mother is going to adopt a very, very dumb baby,” said May.

   “Too many verys,”, said Hen.

   “There can never be too many verys about this,” said May.

   “Your mother is not dumb. She’s smart,” I said.

   “Until now she was smart,” said May.

   “There’s one thing,” I said.

   “What?” grumped May.

   “You have something to write about,” I said. “And I sure wouldn’t mind having a brother or sister.”

   “Get a cat,” said May.

   She glared at me and stomped to her seat.

   Ms. Mirabel watched her. Ms. Mirabel wore purple today. Everything was purple: her skirt, her top, her shoes, her headband that failed at holding back that hair.

   “Is there trouble?” she asked.

   “A new baby at May’s house,” said Hen. “Her parents are adopting.”

   “Ah,” said Ms. Mirabel.

   I thought about Evie’s father saying “ah”.

   “Does May have any brothers and sisters?”

   “Four sisters. May is the  youngest one.”

   Ms. Mirabel smiled.

   “I remember loathing my baby brother.”

   “Like outliners,” said Hen.

   “Like outliners,” she repeated.

   “You probably love him now. Right?” I said to her.

   She looked at me as if surprised at the question.

   “Your brother,” I repeated.

   Ms. Mirabel sighed. “No, Lucy. He’s not a very nice person, as it turns out.”

   Ms. Mirabel shook her heads as if chasing aways thoughts. She looked at the class, everyone sitting quietly now.

   “Let’s read!” she said. “Russell? did someone whisper to you?”

   Russell got up and stood at his desk. The paper shook a bit in his hand.


   “And who whispered to you?”

   “My dog,” said Russell. “Just before he died.”

          I’ll fly away

          Above the big maple tree

          Where I peed every day.

         I’ll fly away

         Above the garden

         Where I dug up carrots

          And radishes

          Where I rolled in something

          Bad smelling.

          I liked running with you

          And chasing balls

          And sleeping under your quilt.

          But now

          I’ll fly away.

                                                  ———— Russell

Word After Word After Word – Chapter 4

   We sat in Evie’s bedroom, Evie hiding behind the curtain, looking across the yard to the house next door. A woman was moving things inside.

   “A new neighbor. She looks healthy,” said Evie. “She has short, curly, yellow hair. Actually, she’s beautiful,”

   “Not that it matters,” reminded Henry.

   “Of course,” said Evie. “My father doesn’t need a beautiful woman. Just a woman.”

   May and I laughed.

   Evie’s cat, Looley, came in, saw us, and hissed before he began to frantically lick himself.

   Evie’s brother, Thomas, came, too, carrying empty pots from the kitchen. He sat them down and began stirring each with a wooden spoon. The light came in the window and touched his blond hair. He was short and stocky like a rain boot.

   “Hello, Thomas,” said Henry. “What’s up?”

   “Soup,” said Thomas seriously.

   “Two pots of soup?” asked Henry.

   Thomas nodded as he stirred.

   “One is good. One is bad,” said Thomas.

   “Which is which?” I asked.

   Thomas looked up and smiled.


   We laughed. Evie smiled as her father came into the room to scoop up Thomas. He leaned down to kiss Evie on the top of her head.

“We’re going for a bike ride,” he said.

   “Look, Papa,” said Evie. “An interesting woman is moving in next door.”

   Her father leaned next to her to peer out the window.

   “Ah, yes,” he said.

   After they left, Evie smiled at us.

   “He said ‘ah’ – did you hear?”

   “Your father always says ‘ah,’ Evie,” I said.

   Outside, her father rode down the driveway, past our window, Thomas sitting on a seat behind him wearing a helmet.

“We’re going for a bike ride,” he said.

   “Look, Papa,” said Evie. “An interesting woman is moving in next door.”

   Her father leaned next to her to peer out the window.

   “Ah, yes,” he said.

   After they left, Evie smiled at us.

   “He said ‘ah’ – did you hear?”

   “Your father always says ‘ah,’ Evie,” I said.

   Outside, her father rode down the driveway, past our window, Thomas sitting on a seat behind him wearing a helmet.

   “I don’t have one thing in the world to write about,” said May. “My life is the same, day in, day out.”

   “You’re lucky,” said Evie.

   “You could make up something drastic,” said Hen.

   “Drastic?” said May. “Like what?”

   Hen shrugged.

  “Disaster. Violence. Alienation,” said Henry promptly. “I read those words on the back of an adult novel the other day.”

   “I don’t have any of that,” said May.         

   “How about this,” said Henry, frowning. “How about I push you. A little violence.”

   May laughed.

   “Do you see any kid stuff? Bicycles, toys?” I asked Evie, knowing that is what she was looking for.


   Evie came out from behind the curtain and looked at us.

   “She’s single,” she announced matter-of-factly. “I know it!”

   “Evie,” said May, “what if your father doesn’t want a new woman?”

   May’s voice was so quiet that we all looked up. There was silence. Evie’s face was still and thoughtful. Finally, she picked up her notebook. She opened it.

   “I have a character anyway. Like Ms. Mirabel says.”

   She wrote something down.

   I looked out the window and watched the woman next door carry a box into the house. A cloud passed over the sun, darkening the grass and trees for a moment.

   “Her name is Sassy DeMello,” said Evie.

   “Sassy DeMello??!” hooted Henry. “What kind of a name is Sassy?”

   “Do you mean your character’s name or the name of the woman next door?” I asked.

   “Both,” said Evie. “I like Sassy. She looks a bit like a Sassy.”

   We burst out laughing, but Evie ignored us. She put down her notebook and walked to the window to look out.

   “What do you think?”

   “I think you are a very funny girl,” said Hen. “And probably you will be an amusing writer.”

   Evie turned to grin at Henry. She hadn’t smiled much lately, and we all smiled back at her. Then she got serious. It was a little like the cloud passing over the sun again.

   “But Henry,” she said. “This isn’t funny.”

   “I know,” said Hen.

    She has come here after a sad time. Sassy has left much behind: her home, her life, the friends who made her smile. The sun lights up her loneliness. But she won’t be lonely for long. I will save her.

    I will save my father, too.

                                            ————– Evie

Word After Word After Word – Chapter 3

   The class was quiet – no coughing, no rustling of papers – at the sight of Ms. Mirabel. She wore a bright pink jacket trimmed with what looked like feathers. She wore long earrings that had feathers, too. Maybe  she would fly around the room, words falling like bird droppings on all of us.

   “I am going to sit in the back today,” siad Miss Cash. “It will be Ms. Mirabel’s class. Think of her as your teacher. She will be visiting us for six weeks, sometimes on a daily basis. At times she’ll be in charge of the class. Sometimes I will be.”

   The windows were open, and the breeze rippled the feathers on Ms. Mirabels.

   “I’m going to read some things to you,” said Ms. Mirabel. “Words. Some I hope you will like. You may not like some of what I read. You don’t have to like everything.”

   We all looked at one another. Miss Cash had never told us we didn’t have to like the things she read. I looked quickly at Miss Cash, but her face was still and stony.

   “Some words may make you happy, some may make you sad. Maybe some will make you angry. What I hope” – a sudden gust of wind made Ms. Mirabel’s hair lift – “what I hope is that something will whisper in your ear.”

   “What does that mean?” asked Russell.

   Miss Cash sighed loud enough for me to hear. Russell always asked questions that made Miss Cash sigh.

   Ms. Mirabel didn’t sigh. She smiled brightly.

   “You will know,” she said.

   Surprisingly, Russell grinned back at Ms. Mirabel as if they had a secret pact. Quietly, Miss Cash got up and opened the door at the back of the rrom and was gone.

   Ms. Mirabel looked at us. “First, a place.”

   “The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of bay and it smelled of  manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows.”

   “Charlotte’s Web”, someone whispered excitedly.

   “I knew that,” said Russell.

   “Now, a moment, a time, a place,” said Ms. Mirabel. 

   “The road that led to Treegap had been trod out long before by a herd of cows who were, to say the least, relaxed. It wandered along in curves and easy angles, swayed off and up in a pleasant tangent to the top of a small hill, ambled down again between fringes of bee-hung clover, and then cut sidewise across a meadow.”  

   “Characters,” said Ms. Mirabel. And she began to read.  

   “`Did Mama sing every day?’ asked Caleb. ‘Every-single-day?’ He sat close to the fire, his chin in his hand. It was dusk, and the dogs lay beside him on the warm hearthstones. 

   “`Every-single-day,’ I told him for the second time this week. For the twentieth time this month. The hundredth time this year? And the past few years? 

   “`And did Papa sing, too?’

   “Yes, Papa sang, too. Don’t get so close, Caleb. You’ll heat up.’

   “He pushed his chair back. It made a hollow scraping sound on the hearthstones, and the dogs stirred. Lottie, small and black, wagged her tail and lifted her head. Nick slept on.

   “I turned the bread dough over and over on the marble slab on the kitchen table.

   “`Well, Papa doesn’t sing anymore,’ said Caleb very softly.  

   I smiled. I knew that story. 

   “Now a memory,” said Ms. Mirabel.  

   “The memory is this: a blue blanket in a basket that pricks her bare legs, and the world turning over as she tumbles out. A flash of trees, sky, clouds, and the hard driveway of dirt and gravel. Then she is lifted up and up and held tight. Kind faces, she remembers, but that mighbe the later memory of her imagination. Still, when the memory comes, sometimes many times a night and in the day, the arms that hold her are always safe.”   

   Ms. Mirabel smiled. “And a poem,” she said.  

            “A nut 

                        My poem.

            When cracked you’ll find inside





            That tuck in snugly to make


   Ms. Mirabel read on and on, some things I’d heard before, some things I hadn’t. The breezes came in and around us like the words Ms. Mirabel spoke. No one moved, even when the bell rang for lunch.

   Ms. Mirabel stopped.

   “Maybe tomorrow some of you will bring your writing. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. I can read it for you. When we talk about it, we will be very kind. We will talk about what we like, and we will ask questions.”

   Ms. Mirabel waved her arm toward the door, her bird feathers rippling. “Go,” she said. 

   And we went.  

            Hollow boned



            Until the sun falls down

            They tuck themselves under the

            Green leaves of trees

            And sleep until the sun calls

                        them to

            Sing again!

                                    ——- Henry

Our Trip to St. Louis

Arch Under Blue Sky

The Arch Under The Moon - can you see the moon?

Arch at Sunset - a view from 27th floor

Arch Reflection on the Mississipi River - view from top of arch

Giraffes in St. Louis Zoo

Don't be fooled by looks!

Lizard working out on his upper body ...

Owl on Cactus

Word After Word After Word – Chapter 2

   We sat under Henry’s huge lilac bush next to his house, the four of us: May and Henry, Evie and I. In a month or two, the smell of lilacs would fill the air.

   “So, what do you think?” I asked.

   No one said, “What do you think about what?” Everyone knew what I meant.

   “I like her,” said Evie. “Even if she sends her pathetic kids to camp all summer long.”

   “I think I love her,” said Henry. “She tells the truth.”

   “Or maybe not. Maybe she lies,” I pointed out.

   “Right,” said Hen, smiling. “Real and unreal are the same thing. So she says.”

   “What do you suppose that means?” asked May.

   No one answered.

   “Do you think she is happily married?” asked Evie thoughtfully. “She might be very good for my father.”

   “Evie, you can’t just pick out some woman for your father,” I said.

   “Why not?” said Evie. She turned and looked at me, her face fierce. “Why not?”

   Then her face crumpled and she began to cry.

   I put my arms around her.

   Henry’s mother, Junie, put her iced tea glass on the windowsill and leaned out.

   “Is everything all right out here?” she asked.

   “Fine,” said Henry.

   Junie, who knew better but didn’t say so, backed away through the window. Junie was the only mother we called by her first name because Henry did. And he called his father Max. Max worked at home because he loved Junie, and spent his time working on the computer and looking at Junie.

   “They are like kids,” said Hen once.  “Sometimes I am the grown-up. I don’t mind.”

   The steam from a pie on the table rose out the window. I watched a drop of water slip down the glass of iced tea as Evie cried on my shoulder.

   After a while Evie stopped crying and leaned back. I could feel the sudden wet coolness the tears had left on the shoulder of my T-shirt.

   “I’m a big, fat crybaby,” said Evie loudly. “Big, fat crybaby.”

   “No,” I said at the same time May did.

   “You’re not fat,” said Henry.

   Evie began to laugh then; and we all laughed, leaning back under the lilac bush, getting leaves and bits of dirt in our hair.

   “Not fat at all,” repeated Hen, making us laugh harder. I could almost see the laughter as it rose up and wound around the branches of the lilac bush, touching the blooms before lifting up to the sky. I took out my notebook.

          Sadness is

          Steam rising,

          Tears falling.

          A breath you take in

          But can’t let out

          As hard as you try.

                                                   – Lucy

Word After Word After Word – Chapter 1

Some things happen in fours.

On the fourth day of the fourth month after the winter holiday vacation, a famous writer came to our fourth-grade class. Her name was Ms. Mirabel. She liked the “Ms.” a lot. She hissed “Ms.” like Evie’s cat, Looley, hissed. I looked over at Evie and she was smiling. She had thought of Looley, too.

    Ms. Mirabel had long, troubled hair and a chest that pushed out in front of her like a grocery cart.

   “Did you always want to be a writer?” asked Henry.

   He smiled at me. Hen carried a notebook with him at all times, sometimes stopping in the middle of soccer practice to pull it out and write something.

   “No,”, said Ms. Mirabel. “I wanted to be a stage performer or an electrical engineer.”

   “How much money do you make?” asked Evie.

   “Evie,” warned our teacher, Miss Cash. “That’s not a proper question to ask.”

   “That’s all right,” said Ms. Mirabel cheerfully. “I make enough to send my children to camp in the summer.”

   Evie frowned. She hated camp. She had once said that only cruel and uninterested parents sent their children off to camp in the summer. Evie knew firsthand. Her parents had sent her off to Camp Minnetuba the summer that they separated. When Evie returned home, her mother had moved out; her father lived there with Evie and her little brother, Thomas.

   “Temporary,” said her father and mother. “It had nothing to do with you.”

   Evie thought it had lots to do with her. From time to time her mother visited, but she never stayed very long.

   “Is what you write real?” asked May.

   Ms. Mirabel brightened. She liked that question.

   “Real or unreal. They’re just about the same,” said Ms. Mirabel. “They are both all about magical words!”

   She said words with a soft hush in her voice.

   “Do you write with an outline?” Russell asked.

   Ms. Mirabel laughed loudly. It was a sudden, startling laugh; and we all laughed, too.

   “Of course not,” she said. “Outlines are silly. Once you write the outline, there’s no reason to write the story. You write to participate … to find out what is going to happen!”

   Miss Cash frowned. This is not what she had taught us in creative writing class.

   “Actually, I loathe outlines!’ said Ms. Mirabel with great feeling.

   Miss Cash closed her eyes as if her head hurt.

   And then Hen asked the question that made all the difference to us.

   “Why do you write?” he asked.

   Ms. Mirabel sighed. There was a sudden hush in the room, as if Ms. Mirabel was about to say something very important.

   As it turned out, she was.

   “I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to,” she said. “But other people write for other reasons: to see more closely what it is they are thinking about, what they may be afraid of. Sometimes writers write to solve a problem, to answer their own question. All these reasons are good reasons. And that is the most important thing I’ll ever tell you. Maybe it is the most important thing you’ll ever hear. Ever.”

   “Some writers write to earn money,” said Evie.

   “They do,” said Ms. Mirabel. “But that is only one reason to write. And usually not the most important.”

   “What is we have nothing to write about?” I asked. “And how do we change life by writing?” I added.

   Miss Cash smiled.

   “Lucy doesn’t think her life is very interesting,” she said.

   My life wasn’t interesting. Unless you counted my mother’s cancer. Her cancer filled up the hours these days. Sadness filled up my house. Sadness was all I knew. How could I change that?

   “Well, she’s wrong,” said Ms. Mirabel. She walked over to stand in front of me.

   “You have a story in there, Lucy,” she said, touching my head. “Or a character, a place, a poem, a moment in time. When you find it, you will write it. Word after word after word after word,” she whispered.

   The school bell rang. Ms. Mirabel jumped slightly. No one moved. Then, after a moment, Miss Cash took Ms. Mirabel’s arm and they went out the door. We all picked up our notebooks and went off to try to change our lives. Word after word after word.

(— to be continued)

“Word After Word After Word”

By Newbery Medal-winning author PARTRICIA MacLACHLAN

Vote For Ebony’s Art – Happy Rabbit Year!

I took this picture in the Nelson Atkins Art Museum’s 2011 Chinese New Year’s Celebration event.  Inside the building, right when you walk in, the hall was decorated with lots of lanterns that spread the festive spirit of the holiday.

I am not a very good photographer, but do you like it?

Mission Impossible – Can you tell what it is?

What is this?


A different view


A close-up


The finishing touch

Shoes for the “Mittens on Vacation”

I saw the perfect shoes for the mittens on vacation. What do you think?




What do you know about the Chinese New Year?

When is it this year? When was it last year?

What year will it be in the new year? What year is it this year?

What do people do before, during and after the Chinese New Year? How will you celebrate it this year?

A Letter to Question Mark – 给”问号”的一封信

To: Question Mark
Dear Question Mark,
   Why did you leave? You are really important to the whole, wide, world!  You need to come back or questions wouldn’t make sense at all. Books would be ruined! Presidents’ speeches wouldn’t make any sense! Please come back question mark, please!

MMXI – My New Year Resolutions


2. Think Before Talk

3. Be Positive and Supportive

I publish my New Year resolutions because I want everyone to monitor me and hold me responsible for my promises and to help me achieve my goals.