Monday, September 14, 2020



I'm giving this a limited try and seeing if I remember how to work in Blogger again. I’m also looking forward to enjoying your blogs once again as well as discovering new ones.

The first photo below is a Giant Swallowtail in our yard this morning, and the second photo is an Old World Swallowtail I photographed in Israel last year. 

I hope to add more to this neglected blog later. I’ve missed you all and I miss writing. 


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Art of Overshare

When I was younger, my friends and I had great conversations. We laughed together, cried together, and shared the stuff of life. However, not once did I ever see a picture of what any of them had for dinner. Nor did we ever have a moment to moment journal of what our pervading emotion of the day was, complete with an emoji or two. Shoot. We didn’t even know what an emoji was.

Now, though, in this enlightened age, all I have to do is turn on my computer, swipe my phone, or pull out my tablet and all this information and more, oh, so much more, is eagerly available. 

Let me be clear. I love people. A people person I am. Put me in a room with strangers and I’ll find a way to start a conversation with most of them and find out more about their lives.

But I do believe we have entered into the age of overshare.  Whether it be stark details of an elementary school classmate’s colonoscopy, the political rantings and hate speech of a distant relative, or the vivid picture of a crusty sore on the arm of a former colleague, I feel I know too much these days.

Social media has swerved into a realm no one could have predicted. It is a world where personal boundaries are stretched, where what used to be intimate information is put on the plate for public consumption. In a doctor’s office recently, I sat a chair over from two young women who were going through the medical history form. They worked through it interview style, with one conversationally asking the other the questions on the form, then writing down the answers. They took no pause for even the most private questions, keeping their vocal registers at the same level they’d use for a talk in a loud bar.

An older gentleman cleared his throat abruptly after one particularly personal detail from the interviewee echoed off the brightly lit walls. The twentysomethings, though, plowed on, even as the questions begat answers that would their mothers cringe.

Close to the end of the second page, the interviewer stopped and laughed. “Can you believe these questions?” she asked as she swept her hand over the sheet with her handwritten answers. “I’ve got to get a picture of this.” She pulled out her phone, focused and snapped a few pictures of the almost completed medical history and then moved in close to her friend, held the phone in front of them and after they’d both mashed their mouths into duck lips, snapped several more. She showed the phone to her friend, who swiped her finger across the screen and nodded.

“It’s fine for Reddit, but on Instagram, be sure you use that collage frame with the really cute bandaids on it. That way they’ll know the torture we’re having to go through at the doctor’s office!” They chortled as the phone holder fiddled momentarily with it.

“We’ve already got eight likes on Facebook,” she informed the other. “Maybe we’ll break 100 before you are done with your appointment!”

So I put it to you, dear friends. Are we in an age of overshare, or am I stuck in the past, thinking a little mystery about a person is a good thing? 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Doing the Mashed Potato

I hardly noticed when he came into the classroom, engrossed as I was in the writing exercise I was modeling with 4th grade students for 4th grade teachers in a language arts class. However, as I made my rounds of the students working in their small groups, I saw the latecomer again. He still fumbled through his backpack, unable to pull a pencil out of the overflow of crumpled papers, notebooks, and library books. His teacher patted his shoulder and asked, “You awake yet, J.C.?” The boy blinked a few times, as if trying to shake off sleep’s stupor. He wiped his mouth, failing to completely erase the remains of the white milk mustache from the cafeteria cereal.

He looked up at the teacher, smiled until deep dimples broke out on his sizeable cheeks, and shrugged. “Come on, son, let’s get moving,” the teacher encouraged gently. 

Later on a break, I asked the teacher about this nine year old. She explained he lived with an odd assortment of relatives, though none were his parents. He was left to his own devices for putting himself to bed and waking himself up. Multiple calls home as well as visits produced little improvement.  “He used to live with a grandmother, but she passed away during the summer. He’s with relatives in this house, but is pretty much on his own. Cooking, laundry…he does it himself, when it gets done,” she explained. “It’s frustrating. We’ve called the authorities, but he doesn’t meet their criteria for abuse or neglect. We have gotten together to get him clothes and help out as we can, but it’s never going to be enough. There’s an older student from the family at the high school, but he’s pretty much in the same boat.”

The next week when I visited this campus again, J.C. was in a group I had targeted for intensive work. He was largely silent, his mop of overgrown, uncombed curly hair bobbing wildly when he nodded and shook his head silently for answers. While other kids in the group laughed openly at a lame joke I threw in, J.C. carefully considered what I’d said, a slow flush of red beginning at the top of his forehead and spreading downward, his mouth widening out into a small smile, then growing until those dimples anchored giggles he couldn’t stifle.

The only time he spoke was when I asked them what their favorite food was. He was quick to answer at his turn: mashed potatoes. Shyly at first, and then with growing passion, he described them. “I love the cafeteria’s mashed potatoes. They are thick, hot, and they put a little butter on top that melts. I watch the cafeteria lady when she puts the gravy on them. I think she likes me because she puts extra gravy on mine.” Startled that he had revealed so much, he looked downward, cheeks flaming red.

“Those sound delicious,” I told him. “Maybe we can find out when the cafeteria is serving those mashed potatoes again and I can eat with you. Would that be OK?” He didn’t look up, but nodded his head.

The next day his group filed in. He held a brown paper bag that looked as if something had leaked on the inside, staining the bottom of the bag a dark brown. He beckoned me over to his table and whispered, “I brought some.”

I raised my eyebrows, trying to figure out what it might be. He cracked open the bag and I saw a bowl with aluminum foil over it, a white substance oozing out. “It’s mashed potatoes. I made them this morning. These are the instant kind I made in the microwave. I got up early so I could get them finished before school.” He frowned. “I don’t know how to make gravy.”

My voice caught in my throat. I was speechless as he continued. “The cafeteria didn’t have them on the menu and next week is spring break, so I made you some. Can you eat with me today at my table during lunch? I even brought two spoons.” I took a deep breath, struggling to maintain control. He whispered again, “Don’t worry, I washed the spoons.”

Next week when I return to that campus, I’ll have more than just writing lessons with me. I’ll have my mom's mashed potato recipe, with measurements spelled out and instructions carefully elaborated.

I’ll have a large bag of Idaho potatoes, and real butter and whole milk and the other ingredients. There’s a new potato masher going, too. I’ll be making a stop at the high school first, to talk with the brother/uncle of my dimpled lunch companion. I’ll take an iTunes gift card as a small bribe for this high school fellow to help his smaller relative with the boiling of the potatoes and to sort through the steps of the recipe. And I’ll have a large container of finished mashed potatoes as well as the gravy I learned to make from my grandma. 

Doing the mashed potato never had better meaning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Kingdom of the Locker Room

The locker room in my gym is a place of utilitarian necessity to me. I go there to change, to store my purse and other accessories, and sometimes catch a startled glance at myself in the vast array of mirrors placed at every possible vantage point. I have learned some things about the citizens of the locker room. Allow me to introduce them to you.

Queen Selfie: Her royal courts are the locker room. She is found, wearing impossibly cute workout gear, hair perfectly pulled back under a thick, multi-colored headbands, in full makeup, ready to workout. Her warm-ups begin in the locker room and include raising and lowering her arms, smart phone in hand and clicking away, for the first round of the pre-workout selfies she will publish to social media before stepping out of the locker room. 

She continues her warm ups by moving from mirror to mirror and taking more pictures, mooshing her mouth into duck lips in one, smiling brilliantly in another, then finishes with a sad faced little girl pout in the last.  Once in the gym, she sits on the recumbent bike, motionless except for the zealous movement of those fingers, tagging herself in her pictures and captioning them that she is a "gym beast". Her workout is over once she’s received the tribute of responses from her followers and she heads back to the locker room, wearied but with a sense of accomplishment, to add a few more post exercise selfies to her albums.

Houdini: She is so modest she prefers to change in one of the few restroom stalls or showers. If those are occupied, though, she accomplishes a feat of agility so extreme it is praiseworthy. It unfolds like this. She sits on a bench in her professional attire that includes skirt, blouse, and jacket. Then she swathes several towels around herself so that only her head and her legs below the knees are visible. After a few mysteriously furious movements under her towels, she throws them off and emerges completely clad in her gym wear, without having exposed one additional centimeter of skin.

 Eve: The polar opposite of Houdini, she dries herself in the shower and steps out, sans towel, sans everything, to style her hair and put on her makeup in the buff. She takes her time, so comfortable in her middle aged skin that surely everyone else must be comfortable with it, too. She eschews personal space boundaries and gregariously approaches people seated on the bench to share a joke or professional observation, her pendulous private bits in close proximity to the faces of those ensnared in her conversations.

Oversharer: She is always accompanied by a twin oversharer. They loudly recount their escapades of the night or weekend before with each other. The twins amplify their voices to such a level that no one has to resort to eavesdropping.  Their vivid descriptions are replete with names, details, and bodily embarrassments. Once outside the locker room, though, they mumble their names so unintelligibly to the workers at the desk they have to be asked to repeat themselves.

Regular, Everyday Sweaters: This would include myself and most of the other citizens of the gym. We're a motley crew, indeed, but anyone who is willing to inflict pain and discomfort upon themselves and drip sweat in the process has to have some good things going on.

Monday, March 2, 2015

An Eleven Word Story

Here’s an eleven word story. Why eleven words and not ten? You might need that one extra word for an appropriate denouement. And if you care to, I eagerly invite you, my talented friends, to include your own eleven word story here. It's not as easy as it appears, but it turns out to be more satisfying than it should be. 

Don't feel obligated, but don't be shy.

This is mine, in eleven words.

She finally learned to make the journey a lavish joy ride. 

Monday, February 9, 2015


The insistent ringing of the doorbell startled me. The only unannounced visitors at our rural home are people who are lost and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I set down the clothes I was folding and hustled to the front door, wondering if I’d forgotten someone who'd said they were coming.

A rapid knocking at the back door swung me around in my tracks. I headed through the kitchen to catch who this was. I cut a glance through the kitchen window on my way through and saw a lifted ¾ ton diesel truck in the driveway, outfitted with the off road tires popular with young guys. A couple of shotguns rested on a rack inside the back window of the truck.

I pursed my lips and frowned, something I try to avoid so as to prevent new wrinkles. I imagined a hot shot young dude wanting to go dove hunting on our land, something we don’t allow because of the proximity of our cattle. Even my husband, an avid hunter, doesn’t shoot in our pastures.

And now whoever-this-was couldn’t wait for me to even get to the front door? I grimaced, thinking of other encounters with guys like this who wanted to hunt for free, tear up pasture land with their big tires, and shoot irresponsibly near the cattle. I loaded up my verbal armory, determined to teach this fellow a lesson in manners. I ditched my caution of wrinkling and steeled my face into a scowl.

I pulled the door open and a twenty-something man  in a flannel shirt tucked neatly into a pair of jeans that were tucked neatly into a pair of snake boots pulled his cap off and held it in both hands.

“Ma’am, we’re sorry to bother you. I’m Rick, this is my brother Oscar.” His brows furrowed. “Last night we were muddin’ down at our cousin’s place over there.” He pointed vaguely to the southwest. “My two dogs got loose. Have you seen them?”  

I shielded my eyes from the sun’s glare with my hand and thought. Something in me softened and I stepped back and invited them into the kitchen. I motioned for them to have a seat at the table.

“Thank you, ma’am. We’re really anxious to find them, so we won’t keep you long.” I offered them some ice cold bottles of water. “They’re Catahoula/ Heeler mixes.” I smiled as I thought of the splash of spots and colors they must be. “One is named Chico and the other is Chula. Chico’s got on a handmade leather collar and Chula has on a pink camo vest.” Oscar nodded silently at his brother’s description.

“We haven’t even gone home to sleep. We’ve stopped at every house in a five mile range. Some people have kicked us off before they even heard what we were doing. We’re not going to stop, though, until we find them.”

I explained we hadn’t seen them yet, but that we’d surely keep an eye out for them. They stood with their bottles of water and carefully pushed the chairs back under the table. I walked them out the back door.

“Thank you so much, ma’am.” Rick’s raspy voice was testament of their long night. He turned back around. “And ma’am, if they do show up, they’re really friendly dogs. If you hold out your hand to Chula she’ll shake and give you a bow.”

I watched through the window as they headed out, but then they quickly stopped. Oscar climbed out with a shovel. He moved to a rut in the side yard the truck had cut when they backed up and carefully smoothed the damp earth back into place.

I smiled and patted my cheeks. The best wrinkle prevention is watching good folks in action.

And if they do find their dogs, I will be sure and update this. I'm praying they do.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Neruda, the Beach, and Line Dried Sheets

An apology, of sorts. I left my blog with a post in October, and without fully intending to quit, I did. Without a further word. And for that, I am sorry.

Anything not used is going to atrophy, but left unused too long, it will also leave an ache, a vague sense of grief for something lost. It took me a while to pin it down, but I realized writing meant more to me than I had ever admitted. I needed to get back to it, even though it felt like I was wrestling body, soul, and spirit to get something down on paper.

My wise and delightful blogging and Facebook friend, Pearl, came to Texas and we spent a weekend on the beach to write. To throw around pleasing words. To read and reread exquisite sentences from Neruda and Chabon. To laugh at talking grackles, muse about lutefisk, and enjoy the passing stream of humanity.

When I slipped out onto the balcony with notebook in hand just as the sun pushed its way above the horizon, with chilly air and a faint salt spray opening my nostrils and loosening those channels I had plastered over in October, I was ready.

I wrote longhand in two notebooks. I scratched through words, used arrows to insert new ones, and filled more than 26 pages in a rapid cursive/print hybrid.

I breathed in deeply at a pause and remembered. In our home, which had also been my grandparents’ home, my husband and I left intact a small cabinet filled with my grandma’s dishtowels, aprons, and other things. I rarely open it, but when I do, I bury my face deeply in those towels and aprons. I inhale until my lungs are full. It smells like them. I can still faintly detect my grandma’s perfume, the aromas of her Sunday dinners, their line dried sheets.

That is how it felt on this balcony in those early morning hours. I inhaled deeply and caught a whiff of something that is just as much a part of me as those Sunday dinners and my grandma's perfume, as my grandma and grandpa and those line dried sheets.

And so I’m back.  Good to see you, friends.

To read Pearl's account of how we got lost on the beach, go here: I Think I Recognize That Dune