Good morning from Ohio! Weird calendar this year–Easter on April Fool’s Day, Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s day—got me thinking about the value of sacrifice and the weight of rules learned, early on. Hence this week’s post.

I hope your weekend is great!

Happy blogging, friends…


Listening to Write

Thursday afternoon, I emailed a dear friend, and in the message, I wailed a bit about the tree in my front yard. It is a sweet gum tree, and it holds on to its leaves FOREVER. Everyone else’s yard is clean and raked, and my tree is lazily drifting old, dry, brown leaves down to stain the pristine snow.

So Thursday, a dry thaw day, I went out and raked up two bags of leaves and sticks and sweet gum pods, and then I complained about my lot in my email to Terri.

She responded back, as is her wont, with a thought-filled, thought-provoking message. One of the things she said is this: Oh, I love sweet gum pods! I collect them, in the fall, and put them in glass containers. I tie rustic ribbons around the necks, and my friends all beg me to give them one.

She also sent me a link to an interesting article about reading and listening (

Those two parts of her message coalesced in my monkey brain. Here’s the story I’ve been telling, I thought: I am a poor, hardworking, persecuted woman who has all this mucky stuff to clean up in my yard.

 Here’s the story through Terri’s eyes: You lucky son-of-a-gun! You’ve got a yardful of wonderful, natural art components.

 I liked listening to Terri’s story better.

I need to listen more, I thought.

I have set myself the challenge of posting on my blog every Saturday. Sometimes there is a pressing issue to write about; sometimes a story unfolds in my life, and I just have to set it down. Sometimes I scrabble for things to say; my monkey brain natters full charge, and I am lost and dazed and have nothing to write. No matter how hard I try to put words together, summon up rich and profound things to say, my thoughts just burble on and on, senseless and unfocused.

Nyahhh nyahhh, taunts my friendly inner critic. Who are you to think you have a single thing to say?

That’s the one voice I shouldn’t listen to. I need to shut down that chatter and listen to other, better things.

Sometimes a walk will do it. I leash up Greta, the little dog, and set out. Greta has her own way of listening to the world, a way that involves more than just her ears. She snuffles; she leaps. She stops and cocks her head. She paws at leaves and snow, seeking something buried.

Walking with Greta makes me listen, too. I watch her exploring her world, getting messages left in ways I can’t even fathom, and I begin to hear the stories of deer charging through night yards, and bunnies scampering away from hungry, feral kitty cats. I notice the litter left by someone intent on a beer can party. I see new growth, and I crunch the crackly ice of a puddle. I hear the hackle-raising, ululating cawing chorus of late afternoon crows. As we wander the parking lot of the elder care home at the end of the street, I see grim-faced visitors leaving, and I see happy reunions.

Walking with Greta slows me down, and I listen to the world in my neighborhood—to the hard struggles of winter-time wild animals, to the drama of aging people. I hear the silence of dormancy, and I hear the promise that sap will run and spring will come again.

I can listen when I am embarked on my ordinary days, too—when I am in the grocery store and the young man says to a little guy riding in his cart, “How many pies are on the table?” And the he stops as the toddler points and counts, grinning and slow: “One…two…three…” The young man, it seems, has all the time in the world, and when his baby has finished counting, he takes a pie from the display and puts it in the cart.

“How many left when I take away one pie?” he asks.

One…two…three,” the baby delightedly begins again, and I push past them, their unhurried shopping a classroom in life and love of learning. In another aisle, a woman parks her cart cattywampus and barks into a cellphone. “You will NOT!” she says. “I’ve told you twenty F-ing times you are not going to that F-ing party.”

Another kind of parenting taking place, a harder, more bitter kind. Was there a time when she and the disembodied voice curling out of her Galaxy counted pies in the supermarket? What happened between those years and now?

Or were rancor and discord twined in their talk from the beginning?

Two elderly women bump their carts together, nose to nose, and give each other a run-down of Christmas visits from kids and grands. Their voices rise and arc over each other. They are excited to have someone to tell; they are competing for best holiday, and rushing to be heard.

Listening when I’m out and about teaches me about people, a mirror which lets me learn about myself.

Sometimes the Muse hands me an imperative. Here, she says, write about this. And sometimes, she is stubbornly silent. It’s all you, she’s saying. Leave me be for a while.

Stumped and frustrated, I pound my head and batter the keys and I leave a trail of lifeless words. Until I remember: listen. And when I begin to write what I’ve been listening to, the words perk up and begin to dance.





Funny how things happen–this week I was SO glad to be on social media…and SO angry, too, at how some unscrupulous people use it. I got to thinking about the ups and downs and ins and outs of communication…old school AND new style… Hence this post.

Hope you are well!! Happy blogging, my friends…


When Life Gives You Prompts: The Address Book

My Christmas card list is alphabetical; it corresponds to my address book, an aging resource, much-amended, and long pre-dating an electronic ability to archive contacts. I start at the ‘A’ section, and I address an envelope to my friend MJ, whose married name is ‘Ackroyd.’ Her address has been the same for the last 35-plus years.

But MJ is in the minority. As I wrote out my cards this December, I marveled at the changes my address book demonstrated. For example: my former student, Jannie, has had six address changes since she’d graduated from college and got her first apartment, away from her parents’ home. After some bumps and unexpected jogs, she married her sweetheart, Cal. They bought their first home together after a year of apartment life.

They added a miracle baby to their family—a miracle because they were told they never would conceive. This year, their little family moved to a house closer to Cal’s work.

I think of all that those various moves represent. There was a heartbroken year when Cal decided that he needed to spread his wings and soar in a completely different direction. There was a new relationship for Jannie, and Cal’s startled realization that she might not be there when his soaring time was over.

There was Jannie’s struggle with anorexia, and her eventual (and on-going) triumph.

There was the reconciliation and the wedding. Three years later, there was little Grayson’s birth.

And every time Jannie moved, I carefully cut the new address label off the letter she’d sent me and pasted it over her last address. Now, in the “Jannie” space in my address book, there is a little lump. And in that little lump, there are stories. Although those stories have their sad components, Jannie’s story, overall, is one of triumph.

But the address book tells tragic stories, too. I have to cross names off this year: bold Kim, who outwitted cancer for seven years beyond the time her doctors estimated. Sweet Patty, whose cancer returned after a thirty-year wait, swift and vicious. Vivacious Rosemary, who could captivate a room with her funny stories—stories always told at her own expense, never at another’s.  Cancer has been especially cruel this year.

My address book tells stories of separation and re-connection. It chronicles moves and marriages, births and divorces, leaps in employment, exciting travels, and heart-wrenching losses.

An old friend who is a freelance writer said something once that stuck with me. “If you have ten people in a room,” she said, “you’ve got at least thirty stories to tell.” As I write out my Christmas cards, I wonder how many stories are represented by the names and changes in my address book.

There are stories of meetings; there are stories of escapades. There are stories of partings, of moves and postings, of reunions and returns. There are stories of welcome, as new friends and family, new babies and significant others, enter own our and others’ lives.

There are end tales, too.

When I’m stuck, when I’m in need of a prompt to stir my writing juices, maybe I could just pick up my address book. I could select a name deliberately. I could flip to a page at random. I could pick a name and pick a story to tell. It might be “How We Met.” It might be “After the Wedding.” It might be, “Patsy Moves to a Foreign Country.” It might even be, “Why I’ll Never Write to Curtis Again.”

I might tell the truth. I might weave a tale, inspired by the real-life events my address book suggests. Whatever the Muse whispers, I am pretty sure my address book has the abundance I need to crash my writer’s block.

Not everyone, I realize, still has an old school, pen-and-paper, address book. Many of us archive our contacts in a phone…but those archives, too, have their stories to tell.

Following this thread, I wound up writing a short story about a woman of a certain age who couldn’t avoid the task of sending holiday cards. Here’s the link to that post:

What prompts has life presented to you? Please share your posts with us! Happy blogging, my friends.




The dark has fallen; it’s officially the last night of the year here in Ohio. I had the lovely luxury this week to step back and ponder the holidays, the year gone by, the time to come. And therein lies my post.

Friends, I hope 2018 is a wonderful year for you, filled with joy and adventure and perfect times of quiet and reflection. I look forward to reading about it in your blogs. Happy New Year!




Hello, friends! The dark falls earlier each day and everywhere I look, people are lighting up their Christmas decorations. I am thinking about this season of light-in-darkness, and that prompted my post this week:

I hope your life is filled with light and joy! Happy blogging…


Hello on a windy, gray Ohio evening! I’ve been lucky enough to be with a variety of folks lately, representing a whole spectrum of meanings of ‘family’…. With Thanksgiving looming, and the image of the ‘right’ holiday being one where a huge, extended family gathers to feast, I started thinking about what defines a “good” holiday. Hence my post.

Whatever you celebrate in these winter months, I hope the activity brings you joy and solace!!