Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

Back in those olden days when I was a child, Christmas had a very different meaning than it does now. Christmastime was magic then, with twinkling lights reflecting in the eyes of children, and stories of the Christ Child keeping our focus off the presents under our tree. Mom and Grandma made sure we understood the Baby Jesus was the reason for all the gaiety, presents, and colored lights.

Now, in my golden years, reminiscence is the Christmas I celebrate in mind and spirit. No Grinches or Scrooges or Humbugs can discourage me. I remember the glory days of Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's, days when all their children and grandchildren gathered in their small house. The scents and sounds of Christmas come back to me like a gift of memory: turkey cooking in Grandma's well used Westinghouse roaster; her secret recipe stuffing baking in the oven; frosted molasses squares resting fragrant amidst a cookie tray so loaded down with hand decorated treasures that the mind boggles now just thinking about it; a cacaphony of chatter and laughter while relatives talked at once in every corner of the house.

No Christmas is complete without recalling Mother's decorated packages. Even the most humble pair of socks came in a package so beautifully decorated that children hated to disturb the wrapping. Mom labored over wrapping every present for hours.
She created breathtaking winter scenes -- drawn first by hand, then finished with colored glitters. Santa Claus with his sleigh and reindeer flying through a night sky, a family of deer drinking from a stream meandering through snow drifts, a nativity scene so glorious it should have hung in the Louvre.

Mom's Christmas cookies were the same. No simple cookies ever graced her trays. Santas with white frosting beards and red candy sprinkle suits, Rudolphs with red sprinkle noses and colored lights hung around his neck, Christmas trees loaded down with lights and gifts, and Angels, stars, candy canes so beautiful that recipients were hesitant to bite into the creations.

No matter what my situation now, I never feel isolated, lonely, or blue at Christmas time. My mind takes me to those gentle places in the past where Mom and Grandma and Grandpa and family celebrated the Christ Child's birth by sharing their gifts of good food and decorated cookies. Merry Christmas and God bless us, every one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm a squidlet on Squidoo


Have you Squidood yet? I wouldn't even have known about it if not for my publisher, Dandelion Books. Editor Carol Adler emailed me and suggested I try my hand at making pages -- Squidoo calls them lenses -- on Squidoo.
I'm not too gung ho about social networking sites on the internet. You won't find me on Facebook or MySpace etc. because I don't have the patience or knowledge to socialize online. But I dutifully made a lens on Squidoo. Imagine my surprise when other kindly squids actually read what I wrote and left positive comments!! Not only that, creating a lens was as easy as writing a blog on Blogspot. One lens lead to another, then another, until I had four. With each new lens I learned something new.
Now, I'll never be a Giant Squid or Squid Angel. Giant Squids are prolific and have many helpful, creative lenses to their credit. Squid Angels dispense blessings far and wide throughout SquidLand. I'm not too prolific or creative, but being a member is part of the fun. Several Giant Squids have been supportive of my fledgling efforts. I even came in third in a Season of Thanks contest at Thanksgiving time. Such excitement!! I even have FANS on Squidoo. Imagine that.
If you have something to offer that might be helpful to others, consider adding your expertise to a Squidoo lens. And if you have the time, check out my handiwork. My lenses are rudimentary, but they come from the heart. Stop by. Leave a comment on my guestbook, or maybe even make a lens of your own. I'll stop by if you do and leave you a friendly message. That's how they do it on Squidoo.
Here are my lenses:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thoughts of the season.....

Like most Americans, I'm tempted to dwell on the floundering economy and bailout info we're force fed 24/7 by the media. If government bailouts of big banks and big business wasn't so outrageous, I might even find a bit of humor in the process. If I mismanage my budget to the point that we lose our home, our vehicle, and everything we own, no one will care. We'd be considered foolish failures, pariahs. Folks would whisper about us and cluck their tongues. But.....when bankers or auto makers mismanage their businesses into the ground, the Beltway races in to rescue them from their follies.

This last weekend I experienced life as it is in small town America, life as it should be and is for a majority of us. The rural economy may be sluggish, but I saw no signs of hopelessness in my little town on Saturday. I started my day at a pancake feed to benefit local service groups. Then I browsed a fantastic craft fair, the proceeds of which went to support local schools. I ended my day at another craft fair where all the proceeds went to a fund established to help build a new hospital. Later in the day a soup day was hosted by a local restaurant to help offset medical bills for a local couple. The turnout for each event was huge and crowded with people eager to spend whatever they could afford in support of projects larger than their own immediate needs. I saw many smiling faces this weekend on people happy to be a part of solutions instead of contributing to problems. That is life outside the Beltway.

I don't mind supporting projects that accomplish good results, such as the church ladies who contribute school supplies for grade school children. I enjoy contributing to the greater good when it comes to schools, hospitals, food banks, or common citizens. In this small, rural town you'll hear no whining about needing bailouts or handouts. What you WILL see is people who contribute wherever they can and try to take up the slack ignored by state and federal entities.

Generous spirits thrive everywhere during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. But in my rural Kansas town, generosity flourishes year round.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hunger, poverty, "entitlements"

With all the coverage lately of government bailouts, I've been reminiscing about a childhood lived in poverty. I was nine when my parents divorced, leaving Mother on her own to feed, clothe, and raise four children. Dad made good money, but for some reason did not feel obligated to support his children. Mom worked at low paying jobs to support her brood but really had to struggle and pinch pennies when it came to Christmas or buying school clothes and supplies. We had a local Sears store then and she made good use of the layaway plan. She started every January laying away things for the next school year or Christmas. A dollar a week accomplished a lot in the 1940s and 1950s.

I can't say we little urchins were ever actually hungry, but our diets left much to be desired. High calorie, high carb, high fat foods were cheap when I was a child. Mom made huge pots of navy beans or noodles or potato soup which we ate with bread or crackers to put a chunk in our young stomachs. Menu variety included pancakes, french toast or a tasty meal Mom called "eggs a la goldenrod." For that delicious meal, Mom hard boiled 2 or 3 eggs then stirred them into a white sauce -- milk and flour -- spooned over toast. We did not always have meat. On Sunday she'd fix a roast or fried chicken. Other days of the week were often meatless. Most of our protein came in the form of lentils or eggs.

I know poverty first hand from those childhood years and understand how desperately low income parents want a better life for their children. My mother was one of those desperate parents. Contrary to the picture painted of low income parents, she did not sit around waiting and hoping for handouts. She plowed on, earning what money she could and spending the majority of her income on her kids. She could not afford to buy a house, to wear fancy clothes and shoes, or anything else that was a non necessity.

So when millionaire politicians cast aspersions on people who get "entitlements" while bailing out the millionaire bankers and businessmen who have mismanaged their businesses into the ground, I think of my mother. She wouldn't have paid attention to entitlements for the very rich. She would have been too busy fighting to survive. But I pay attention to every word describing every bailout. Rich bankers and businessmen who need a bailout should have to bail themselves out like my mother did -- by working and struggling and managing a budget and pinching pennies and taking care of business. They shouldn't stand around whining with their hands out waiting for taxpayers to shovel more entitlements down their bottomless pits of greed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Grief and Loss revisited

My mother died in December of 1984, eight days before Christmas. She was 65 years old and I wasn't ready to lose her. I floundered at the time and have been floundering in one way or another ever since. I wanted to keep her in my life as a beloved nurturing presence. I'm sure my siblings felt exactly the same. I think we all reverted to children in our hearts when she died. Her loss transformed us into orphans. No aspect of my life has been the same for me since 1984.


Over the years I read books on grief and loss. I had my head shrunk by experts. Nothing helped or made sense. Recently I had the good fortune to read a journal about grief and loss by another soul floundering in the aftermath of a loved one's death. Something in this man's struggles spoke to me as no other book had. How did I learn about this book? I knew the writer, and empathized with his struggles. His simple words, gouged from a grieving spirit, helped me understand -- where nothing else had -- that human grief is a refining fire we all must face eventually as an unwelcome part of life.


You won't find this book on amazon or at your local book store. It was published by the Idaho State University Press. The author is Michael Corrigan and this is by far the most helpful personal narrative of grief and loss I've ever read.


The title A Year and a Day was taken from the Irish tradition of mourning a death for one year and one day. During that time, Corrigan kept a journal documenting the shock, horror, rage and grief he felt while trying to survive the death that shattered his life.
If you're grieving a devastating loss and your mind has reached the point where you can process information, this is the book to read. You'll have to order it directly from the Idaho State University press at 208-282-3215 or email the editor William Harwood at harwbill@isu.edu.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Can money and appearance buy success???

I'm a writer who would like to be successful because my message is in the medium.

Palin is a politician who would like to be successful in her bid for U.S. vice president.

Other than riding life's merry-go-round while reaching for the brass ring, that's where this comparison ends. We are apples and oranges, or more likely water and champagne, me being the water.

Before proceeding further, I need to make it clear that I am not a Palin basher. Like Hillary before her, everything she wears, says, or does is run through the media sausage grinder. Journalists give her male counterparts a pass while broadcasting her every real or imagined flaw and foible ad nauseum, ad infinitum. The new kid from Alaska didn't stand a chance from day one, while the other new kid from Chicago skates above the fray, reaping life's bounties.

OK, now that that disclaimer is out of the way, here's my point. Palin and I both would love to be successful in our chosen endeavor. She has succeeded, at least in part, where I have failed, because she dresses the part. That 150k spent on wardrobe, hair, makeup, shoes has certainly helped gild the lily.

On the other hand this writer / sow's ear has had a hell of a time transforming itself into a silk purse. It would cost at least HALF that 150k to do something with my hair, and that's IF a world famous hair dresser could be found with the skill to transform me. A make up makeover would be equally daunting. Maybe a Hollywood make up artist would know what to do, but I'm not at all certain about that. The clothing makeover might just be hopeless. Transforming a Marjorie Main type into a charismatic beauty is harder than you realize.

My last public appearance as a writer was quite successful. More successful than I'm used to. In preparation, I got a seven dollar hair cut and combed as much hair as I could over my bald spot that shines like a beacon on the top of my head. I put some lotion on my face and applied a dab of wine colored lip gloss that cost three dollars ten years ago when I bought it. And I bought a new outfit, which looked pretty good on me -- slacks twelve bucks at WalMart and a quite flattering sweater that cost sixteen dollars in a catalog. So let's see: seven dollars plus three dollars plus twelve dollars plus sixteen dollars equals thirty-eight dollars. If you add in my five year old sixty dollar shoes, my appearance that day cost almost a hundred bucks.

The appreciative audience loved me and my message. They bought all the books I had with me and would have bought more. They asked if I would please come back and talk to them again. I basked in that approval and appreciation for weeks. Just imagine what I could have done with 150k worth of improvements!! I might be in New York on the Today show or interviewed by Ellen Degeneres. My books might be on the New York Times best seller list. Oprah might choose me for her book club. I might have been a contender!!

Yep. If lots of moola can ensure success, with 150k I might have been a contender.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good thoughts to ponder.....

Someone sent this to me over email today. I thought, considering the tangled messes we are reaping from Washington DC and the banking industry, these points were well worth repeating.

Whatever we give to life, life gives back.

If you plant honesty, you will reap trust

If you plant goodness, you will reap friends

If you plant humility, you will reap greatness

If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment

If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective

If you plant hard work, you will reap success

If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation

If you plant faith in God, you will reap a harvest

So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later.

Yes, whatever we dish out will come back to roost on our own shoulders. So when will self-serving politicians and crooks reap what they sow? Hope we live to see it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Campbell Brown and me.......

In past blog posts I've talked about the obscene amounts of money spent by both presidential candidate campaigns. I think that two men who pretend to care about struggling citizens should curtail their spending. Tens of millions of dollars have swirled down the sewer of attack ads on TV, for example. That money would be better spent by putting dollars where their mouths are -- homeless shelters and food banks, or other exceptional humanitarian needs.

My thought has been that maybe I'm the only citizen who resents such waste of time and money, that maybe I'm delusional or simply gone crochety in my old age. But tonight on CNN, Campbell Brown -- No Bias, No Bull -- suggested that the millions per week wasted by these candidates should be sent to food banks trying to serve the families of taxpayers who lost jobs.
Whether large city or tiny rural community, food banks are struggling now with empty shelves and decreasing donations. I can't speak for cities, but people in the rural area where I live are beyond generous when it comes to supporting their local food bank. Even so, food needs have increased here, as they have everywhere.

So, if Obama and McCain want to convince Campbell Brown and me that they really truly do care about struggling people in harsh economic times. her idea has great merit. Every week until election day, each candidate could give a million dollars to support foodbanks around the country. I'm just skeptical enough to think that won't happen. The Fed probably has some goofy law against it, but I can dream. I doubt any of those high priced TV ads will change the minds of voters at this late date.

Campbell, you go, girl!!!! What a wonderful idea!!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A hopeful perspective......

Matt Ford is an AP journalist touring the battleground states, interviewing citizens and covering issues that matter to voters. These videos of everyday Americans demonstrate the hope, determination, and grit of citizens from every walk of life. Yes, people are discouraged on many levels, but the message in these videos is what individuals are thinking and doing, personally, to adapt to our current economic storm of higher prices and shattered family budgets.

Regardless of our current troubles, the world still looks to America for hope. Think about that for a second. Wall Street excesses, our dependence on middle eastern oil, and out-of-control pork barrel politics have wrecked our economy. This economic free fall has impacted every other country in the world. The scenario seems grim but, still, they look to America for financial salvation and answers. Matt Ford's stories clearly demonstrate why.

John McCain said recently our economy is essentially sound. By that, he said he meant the American people who work, pay taxes, and keep the wheels of this country turning. These thumbnail videos of American citizens prove that McCain was right. Times may be grim, but every person featured in these videos has found a way of making sense out of the chaos, not for the world, perhaps, but for themselves and their families. They've devised ways to work around the problems that plague working class families in hard economic times.

While viewing these videos, I thought of my maternal grandparents. By any measure you might use, my grandparents were poor. They raised four children during the Depression and hardship was their daily companion. They sacrificed along with everyone else during the Depression and the World War Two years, never doubting that America would continue to thrive and survive.

Anyone who reads this blog should consider viewing Matt Ford's profiles of American taxpayers. None of them are rich or famous. None are happy with the economic problems they're forced to deal with on a daily basis. And yet, these people inspire hope. They represent small slices of life in America and provide a glimpse into why this country thrives, no matter what. American taxpayers are not sheep being lead to the slaughter. They are taking action to help themselves, just as they have always done in hard times. That, to me, is a hopeful perspective.

Here is a link to Matt Ford's citizen profiles related to the big issues of this election year:

http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/campaign_plus/big_issue/

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tag I'm it......

Aston West over at the Western Chronicles tagged me. The tag rule is that I must list six things about myself here that people don't know about me. I don't really understand tags very well. Don't know where they originate or why, but since Aston West is one of my favorite heroes, I'll play along. Here are my six revelations:

1. Because of my nursing philosophy, my empathetic concerns for others, my work with the homeless, and the type of books I write, a fan suggested I receive an honorary doctorate from a major university. I doubt that happens, mainly because of my low key way of doing things, but I was pleased to know anyone thinks that highly of me.

2. Female pattern baldness runs in my family and I inherited the trait. Except for maybe warts on my nose, I can't envision anything worse than stumping books in public with my scalp shining like a beacon in the fog.

3. Beck Sanow, the delicious and stalwart hero of my fictional book, The Alley of Wishes, is based on a real person who actually existed. The creation of this hero was a gift to my mother.

4. I have a zany sense of humor but very few people know that.

5. I'm a radical activist for justice, equality, and compassion. The politicians and potentates who know that about me don't appreciate my activism or my opinions, and don't personally give a hoot what I think, but I keep on trucking anyway.

6. I have several major psychiatric diagnoses that I've managed for over twenty years without medication. (Disclaimer: This is not a recommendation to others as a way to manage psychiatric conditions, just saying medication did not work for me so I learned ways to work around my diagnoses.)

OK Aston, there are your six revelations.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On to another semi-unrelated topic

OK, you're safe now. I'm off the topic of wishing and on to something else. Grandpa's stock answer when anyone "wished" for anything was, "Wish in one hand and s--t in the other and see which one gets full the quickest." Grandma and Grandpa were a wealth of such salty sayings. I grew up seeing the intangibles of life -- wishing, hoping, day dreaming -- through their eyes. They didn't smother down my imagination, but forced me to look at life realistically.

Would I ever be a princess? NO. you came from sturdy peasant stock, so ethereal beauty, fragile vulnerability, and petite, ladylike charm do not exist anywhere in your makeup.

Would a knight on a white charger show up some day to whisk me away? NO. Knights don't look twice at girls who labor their way through life and don't know one fork from another.

Would I ever have a horse of my own to ride? NO. Horses cost too much to feed and maintain so ride your bike and be glad you have it.

Grandma and Grandpa have frequently been on my mind lately. They'd have plenty to say about the political hi-jinks on the news, and would be raving mad about the bailout of big financial institutions that have mismanaged themselves into the gutter. They didn't trust the stock market or investments because the Great Depression was too stark a memory. They didn't trust most politicians, with a couple possible exceptions. Dwight Eisenhower was one man they trusted. Politically, I can't recall another they thought was worth the powder and lead it would take to blow him up. (Another Grandpa saying. "That guy isn't worth the powder and lead it would take to blow him up.") Of course, if he were overheard saying that now, Homeland Security would come calling.

My point is, Grandma and Grandpa were forced by life and circumstance to live in the real world. They didn't come from money and knew they would never be rich. They had no expectations of financial windfalls or miraculous bailouts. And they certainly did not believe their government would rescue them in tough times. Like most Americans today, they worked hard to feed, clothe, and nurture their children. They paid taxes, saved a bit of every paycheck, and found their joy in simple things. They didn't spend big or live "high on the hog." They didn't fritter away money foolishly and had no respect for politicians who spent taxpayer money like drunken sailors.

Every day, when I watch the news, I wonder what Grandma and Grandpa would have to say about the excesses on Wall Street and in Washington D.C.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wishing, Part Two

In my last post I discussed some wishes. My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek at the time, which is probably a poor technique if I want to see those wishes come true. One of my wishes was as follows:

"I wish excellence, kindness, honesty, courage would be rewarded and failure, dishonesty, meanness, sneakiness punished. Before you say "OH but dishonesty and crime ARE punished!" stop and think about this one. That may be true for poor crooks but not rich ones. Think Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and various politicians and CEO's and you'll see where I'm going with this wish."

I saw a Danziger cartoon that illustrates clearly why I doubt excellence and honesty will be rewarded with any regularity. The cartoon showed the CEO of Fannie Mae -- Daniel Mudd --
and the CEO of Freddie Mac -- Richard Syron -- pushing wheelbarrows loaded with their severance packages away from the wrecked businesses they helped ruin. Mudd's severance package was $9.3 million and Syron's $14.1 million. If this cartoon represented a true picture of the situation, there will be no punishment for these two failures. No shame at a botched job. No regret at a colossoal failure. They toddled off to their mansions with a severance package that should have been returned to the coffers they raided. They laughed all the way to a bank that is no doubt still solvent.

Here's a thought for our government. Pick a senior citizen fighting cancer, living on $600 a month and TEN dollars worth of food stamps a month, barely able to survive, and give that person a million dollars. Find NINE of them in similar circumstances and give each one a million dollars. Find fourteen low income families -- two working parents struggling to support and nourish and clothe their children and keep gas in the family car -- and give THEM a million bucks each. If you're gonna reward the failures of big business CEOs, why not branch out and give big bucks to people struggling with courage and succeeding against all the cards you've stacked against them? Start a trend that focuses on the overburdened among us instead of your privileged bigwigs pals who've failed so dismally.

If you do that, I might still believe that wishes come true.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wishing will make it so???

I read an article recently about a woman who tested that old axiom. She wished for certain things for a year, and all -- or most -- of her wishes came true. Maybe I'm just old and cynical. I used to believe whatever I could envision would happen, but that was many moons ago. These days I'm skeptical. Here are a few wishes I'd like to see come true, not necessarily in the order of top priority:
  • I wish all elected and appointed politicians at the local, state, and federal level would spend taxpayer money as if it were their own and live within a strict budget like they expect us to do;
  • I wish homeless people, poor working mothers (parents), and common folk had the same power and respect as millionaires, billionaires, politicians, and power mongers;
  • I wish cures could be found for all catastrophic diseases - cancer, alzheimer's, ALS, etc.
  • I wish excellence, kindness, honesty, courage would be rewarded and failure, dishonesty, meanness, sneakiness punished. Before you say "OH but dishonesty and crime ARE punished!" stop and think about this one. That may be true for poor crooks but not rich ones. Think Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and various politicians and CEO's and you'll see where I'm going with this wish.
  • I wish some of the excellent writers I know could have the honors, sales, and recognition they deserve. This goes along with the prior wish that excellence should be rewarded.

My wish list is much longer than that but those are a few of the less selfish and frivolous ones. Maybe tonight I'll pick one at random, wish upon a star and see what happens.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My husband read a sci fi book!!

Yesterday was chilly and cloudy so hubby spent most of the day indoors. Instead of watching the telly, he picked up a book I won in a contest. He read one page, then another, then sat stretched out on the couch and continued reading. As far as I know, this is only the 5th book he's read in our more than 40 years together. He's read my four published books just to make sure I said nice things about him, but otherwise he's a tv watcher or worker bee and not a reader.

The book that held his rapt attention all afternoon was Heroes Die Young by T.M. Hunter. It's a small book of 136 pages, which is probably what appealed to hubby at the beginning. But what held his attention was the sci fi action and adventure and the book's hero, Aston West. West is a humorous, self-effacing, reluctant hero who delivers with courage when the chips are down.

When he finished the book, hubby said, "Well that was pretty damn good! Is this Hunter guy a famous writer?"

I said, "No, but if there's any justice in the world, he will be some day."

My apologies to all the fine, unkown writers whose work deserves more attention than it gets. You all know who you are because I communicated that clearly through my reviews of your work. I singled this one out because a man who rarely reads anything was so intrigued by it he spent the day reading instead of watching reruns of CSI on Spike or Forensic files on Tru TV.

Congrats, T.M. Hunter, for enticing my husband into reading your book. Readers of sci fi out there, remember T.M. Hunter's name. You might even consider following hubby's lead and reading Heroes Die Young.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Homeless and hungry, just passing through....

Mother used to say that if we paid attention, looked around us, we would find reminders of those little things that keep the world turning. Since she was poor, raising four children on tiny wages and a shoestring budget, we knew Mom didn't mean for us to look around for mansions, expensive cars, diamonds and gold, or fancy clothes. She meant to keep our eyes peeled for regular people doing the right thing, showing compassion, sacrificing for the betterment of others without whining about it. She meant for us to observe the loyalty and rituals of wildlife and domestic animals, the reliable resurgence of spring, or how winter snows cleansed the air and covered Earth's bare places.

Amidst the frivolity and excesses of political conventions -- financial excesses that literally turn my stomach -- I hoped for a sign that the common world still turned in ways I could accept and appreciate. That sign came this past Wednesday in the guise of a homeless man heading east on Kansas Highway 36 to visit his mother. We passed him on the road while he pedaled a three-wheel bicycle loaded down with two dogs and everything he owned. He grinned happily and tossed a jaunty wave as we passed in reply to my husband's honk. Dressed in an Army fatigue jacket and tattered jeans, he had that weathered look of a man who spends long hours in the sun. On the back of his bicycle was a sign: "Homeless. Hungry. Will work for food for me and my dogs."

I knew without asking what my husband would want to do. We were a mile out of town, so I suggested we turn around and get a few staples at the local grocery store. Hubby was more than happy to do so. Half an hour later we found him stopped along the highway giving his dogs a drink of water and some bites of plain bread. We presented high energy drinks, bananas, crackers and peanut butter to tide him over for a day or two, a bag of dog food, and a couple deli sandwiches. He grinned and shook hands with my husband, said he had a long way to pedal himself and his dogs before reaching his destination in the heart of Illinois. But he wasn't complaining. He was happy to have transportation.

As we proceeded to our own destination, we wondered about his history. What put him in such circumstances? Would he reach his destination in Illinois? Will he take side roads or try to reach his mother by pedaling himself and his dogs along a busy interstate? Will anyone give him work? Food for him and his dogs? Shelter from the weather? Will anyone see in him what we did, a wide happy smile free of self-pity and a man willing to ride a loaded down three wheel bike hundreds of miles no matter what befell him along the way?

On our return trip home several hours later, we passed him again, more than 10 miles east of our first encounter. He was parked under shade trees, sitting cross legged in the dirt, eating a sandwich and petting his dogs as they ate their dog food. We honked, he grinned and waved as we passed. And we returned home, more thankful than ever for the reliable vehicle we drive and our comfortable home.

That night as we watched still more coverage of politicians, hubby said, "Wish I had a thousand dollars out of the millions these people (politicians) are spending on such foolishness. Just think what that man and his dogs could do with a thousand bucks."

My mother's message still rings clear after decades. Meeting that homeless man with dry bread in his pockets inspired us and reminded us that this world turns for everyone, not just the very wealthy and fiscally irresponsible politicians. We don't see everything of importance on TV. That homeless guy and his canine companions will stay in our minds long after the election has passed. We'll worry about him and pray for him and wonder if he made it safely to Illinois.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A good day for this writer......

I rarely get invited to do a book signing or personal appearance anymore. That's mostly my fault because I don't get out and circulate or talk about my books. Plus, it's been awhile since my last book was released so people tend to forget. Out of sight, out of mind. Last month a surprise arrived in my inbox. A group of people who meet monthly for lunch at Clay County Hospital in Clay Center KS asked if I would be a featured speaker for their meeting in August. I was delighted, of course, and wondered how anyone in Clay Center knew about my books. I don't know anyone in Clay Center, but several group members had been reading and passing around two of my books.

Today was a perfect late summer day here in prairie land. We've had abundant rain this summer so the drive south to Clay Center presented bright green pastures and corn fields and healthy milo fields with fat brown milo heads in contrast against a clear blue sky. Sleek brown and black cattle grazed contentedly in fields along the roads. That "easy, peaceful feeling" extolled in a song came over me. Under ideal conditions, the rolling prairies of Kansas are beautiful.

Clay Center is a thriving town situated on Kansas Highway 15. We found the hospital with no problem and were most impressed. The small rural hospital has a wellness center complete with heated indoor pool, and the meeting room above it on the second floor has every modern pleasantry you could want. The staff was cheerful, friendly, and helpful. I had a good feeling about the day from the minute I walked through the door.

40 to 45 people attended the meeting. Most were senior citizens but several younger people attended. A tasty lunch was served and then came the time for my presentation. My talk was extemporaneous, not a prepared speech. I knew the attendees were most interested in
My Name is Esther Clara because the staff had told me that ahead of time. The group laughed at my stories in all the right places, and asked questions afterward. And numerous people wanted to buy copies of my books, although selling books makes me feel more than a little uncomfortable.

This day was nirvana for an unknown writer. Every writer should appear before an appreciative, attentive group like the one I met today. All in all, it was a very good day.

Monday, July 28, 2008

review of A Year and a Day by Michael Corrigan

Enough about me and politics for awhile. Here is the review of the latest book by one of my favorite writers. It's not available on Amazon, unfortunately, so anyone interested in reading this fine book will have to order it through the Idaho State Univerity Press.

A Year and A DayBy Michael Corrigan
ISBN 0-937834-76-9
236 pages at 17.95 paperback + $3 s&h
Idaho State University Press
921 So. 8th Ave, Stop 8265
Pocatello ID 83209

Michael Corrigan personifies the romanticized vision of what an Irishman should be: musical, humorous, a gifted performer and wordsmith, blessed by the blarney stone and the love of his life. The last thing he expected was to lose his adoring wife, an accomplished professional and beautiful compassionate woman whose "bright light was blown out forever."

When Karen Lea Smith Corrigan died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm in September 2005, life as he knew it ended. The day of her death he prays for lightning to strike and incinerate him. When that relief does not come, he continues as a grieving ghost -- stunned, numb, shattered, separated from reality, and alone in his grief. From that awful beginning of life without Karen, he embarks on a year and a day of traditional Irish mourning. His existence without her is all raw nerve endings and aches and pains. Somehow, he survives the early days of her loss. Corrigan returns to teaching at the University. He sees a grief therapist and begins a journal in hopes of helping others cope with such awful loss. With compelling honesty, he questions her death and struggles with memories:
"I wish her soul would return on All Souls Day, or any time. I would tell her I loved her and probably should have said it more often… She often mentioned that others admired her work and I think she expected me to say, "Yes, you are the consummate professional." I did believe that but never felt the need to say it. She didn't need validation for her gifts, or so I thought. Perhaps that was a mistake. After such sudden death, there is that "What if?" syndrome and the nagging question: Why didn't I praise her more or tell her the truth -- that I worshipped her this side of idolatry?
If at some time I found the ability to stare into the seeds of time and saw what was about to happen, I would have withheld nothing. Could any intervention have saved her? There is the possibility that Karen's fatal condition was inevitable…but knowing that any second could be our last together might have shaped how we lived."

You'll find no meaningless buzz words here, like "closure" or "healing" and no empty platitudes. Corrigan faces his losses head on and claws his way through because he believes his life with Karen is worth the grief. Each day is a struggle, a battle to celebrate her life and survive her death. This journal is Michael Corrigan's attempt to honor Karen's memory with his honest sharing of grief. Anniversaries, holidays, remembered rituals and joys, pain, regret, and panic are all laid out truthfully in a way he hopes will help others suffering from loss. Highly recommended to all adult readers, especially those reeling from the loss of someone they love.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

So far, so good on Kindle

Today I decided to see how my two books were faring on Kindle. To my total surprise, The Alley of Wishes has an 11,000 ranking!!! That means someone, or more than one someone, downloaded it to their Kindle reader. I don't know anyone who reads books on a hand held device, and I don't own one myself, but this modern age is amazing.

So far My Name is Esther Clara doesn't have a Kindle ranking. Poor Grandma. I guess people are more interested in reading the racier fare in The Alley of Wishes.

OK, it's safe to return to your normal routine again. Just thought I'd interrupt to announce the Kindle sale. The newness will wear off my excitement soon. I promise.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I've been Kindled.....

To help take my mind off the hundreds of millions of dollars candidates are spending on the presidential campaign, my publisher decided to put The Alley of Wishes and My Name is Esther Clara on the Amazon Kindle reader. OK, truthfully, having my books "Kindled" didn't really wipe all thoughts from my mind about how swiftly our candidates can waste ungodly sums of money. I've rearranged my entire existence to renovate the family budget in ways that will offset increased gas and grocery prices. Everyone I know has done the same, so the spending habits of coddled politicians will never be far from mind. Still, having my books available on Kindle is a milestone that deserves at least a blog post.

Since my publisher's email about Kindle, I've entertained myself by imagining how intrigued my grandma would have been with this new technology. Esther Clara and her husband Herb read everything they could get their hands on -- books, magazines, newspapers. Both had curious minds and soaked up information of all kinds through reading. Grandma used to say they had an 8th grade education with a PhD in reading. Both would have been excited to know they were memorialized on a hand held reader like Kindle.

Yes, I know not many Kindle owners will be downloading my books to read on buses, trains, or airplanes. They'll be reading the New York Times or the latest best selling blockbuster. Most Kindle owners have never heard of me or my books, but it's possible someone might run across my titles.....somehow. Hmmmm. Maybe I'll surf on over to Amazon right not to see if my ranking has made it to less than one million.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

pinhole glasses

Sandy, the webmaster over at www.pinhole-glasses-direct.com asked me to check out the website and comment on it here. Let me say right up front that I have not worn the glasses and had not heard of them until today, but the info on their website is thought provoking.

Normally I can't follow through on requests made here to review or feature books, writers, websites, etc. I decided to check this one out because I've had poor vision all my life. The vision in my left eye has been highly impaired since birth. At age three, my eye doctor had me wear glasses with pinholes instead of a left lens. He thought that might help my clumsiness with walking and running into things. I wore that pinhole lens for a long time, along with other treatments he prescribed. By the time I started school, my clumsiness while walking was nearly gone. AND, at the age of five I was already a fast reader with good retention of what I read, despite my vision troubles.

According to the website, pinhole glasses will remedy vision problems related to myopia, cataracts, astigmatism, and Computer Vision Syndrome. After cataract surgery, Computer Vision Syndrome has been a real problem for me. I have tired, dry eyes from even a short time spent on the computer at home or at work. As a writer, poet, and reviewer, creating on the computer in the 21st century is essential. I wonder if pinhole glasses would help?

Make of this what you will, readers. I'm not trying to sell you pinhole glasses or endorsing the product, since I've not used it. But the premise interested me because of my history of wearing a version of pinhole glasses as a child and my current struggle with Computer Vision Syndrome. If you want to know more, check out their website.

Now, wasn't this better than my ranting about politicians?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Well, let's see. So far I've had no comments on writing, no comments on politics, no comments on the environment. From that my agile mind deduces that either no one reads my blog, or no one cares what I think. Cool. I'll just continue entertaining myself then.

My friend Eric Burton at www.elburton.com said in today's blog that 4,000 people in France accessed his blog yesterday. Eric is a typical American conservative and an active blogger despite advancing retinitis pigmentosa. His thoughts are always interesting and thought provoking, whether readers agree with him or not. Today I'm taking a lesson from him and telling the world what I want from a president and our elected senators and congressmen. By the way, I am the opposite of Eric. I'm a bleeding heart liberal. Now, on to what I want:

I want our elected officials to have the same health care and retirement fund as the working stiffs. They've sneakily voted themselves free health care and a killer retirement for life, perks that will continue ad infititum whether they are in or out of office. Term limits for politicians will be meaningless unless voters strip them of all their self endowed entitlements. (Read more about entitlements later.) Since I doubt the congress and senate will willingly give up their perks, then I want all citizens to have the same health care and retirement as our politicians. Good luck on that, right?

I want our elected government officials to give the same importance to our nation's infrastructure, education, health care, and any program benefiting citizens as they do to fighting wars around the globe. Why is it that politicians are willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on war, yet they scream bloody murder when the needs of citizens is discussed. They throw up the "entitlements" smoke screen whenever any citizen mentions Medicare, Medicaid, VA care or education. OH, the dreaded "entitlements" are bankrupting the country. Of course, the politicians' entitlements are off limits and can't be touched because they've protected their own backsides in a thousand different ways. And a war the citizens did not vote for is NOT bankrupting the country?? Ahem.

I want our government to stop sending money overseas until they get America's budget back in the black. They expect us to save money, subsidize their perks, pay for our own health care, set and stay in a budget, and smile while they shaft us. They make jokes about low income people living in trailers buying lottery tickets, and yet their hopes for an endless stream of gifts and perks is acceptable because they're already rich. They need to live within a seriously limited budget and practice what they preach.

I want all campaigning politicians, whichever office they seek, to be common, everyday citizens instead of millionaires, billionaires, or sons of same. Why should they live a life of status and privilege while the citizens they supposedly serve struggle to survive? I often entertain myself by imagining what good might have been accomplished by the hundreds of millions spent by presidential candidates for this election. If they want us to believe their populist messages, refusing to waste that much money on an election might convince us that they're sincere.

I've talked too long and I'm not even halfway through my list. Maybe I'll continue at another time.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

What should I stimu-late?

Has your personal economy been stimulated yet? Is your check in the mail or the bank? Will you do your part and give the flagging economy a boost?

My husband and I discussed whether to be good citizens and run out to buy something. Our cookware is in serious condition in its ancient state. Our old TV is slowly fading away. We took a tour of Walmart recently to price said cookware and TVs but went away empty-handed. Prices have doubled or tripled since the last time we purchased either cookware or a TV. Hubby had his heart set on a new TV so he could indulge his addiction in hi-def splendor. Alas, the ones with screens big enough for our aging eyes to actually SEE were far more money than our "stimulus" check will be. The last TV we bought was under $300 for a 27" Sanyo. A similar size Sanyo now has one of those newfangled flat screens and costs close to $700. I'd like for my TV addict to have his new TV but.....we need to think about it for awhile. Cookware is a higher priority, but granted, not as romantic a purchase as television would be. Halfway decent cookware isn't cheap at Walmart anymore either. Nothing is cheap at America's largest chain store anymore, and there's the rub.

We're wondering if the economy will be stimulated if we just pay bills? Or maybe we could keep gas in our vehicle for a month? We're grateful that our budget has been stimulated, but with the price of gasoline and groceries, $600 won't do much nowadays for retirees on a fixed income.
Thanks, though, GWB. We've decided to stimulate our electricity provider this summer so we can afford to run the central air instead of gasping in the heat. Does that count?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Democratic National Committee meeting June 30

I lived in a town once where the ruling body made all its decisions behind closed doors. Citizens sat in council meetings twiddling their thumbs while council members discussed matters of importance out of voters' earshot. Once their decisions had been hammered out, the council proceeded to shove those decisions down the throats of taxpayers. Of course, that council did not even give the pretense of listening to dissenting voices, unlike the DNC members who reluctantly and grudgingly allowed statements that did not agree to their pre-arranged and pre-ordained decisions regarding the Michigan and Florida voters.

When the movers and shakers of the DNC took that "extended" lunch hour on June 30, I was reminded of the helpless, hopeless feelings citizens experienced during city council meetings. We registered voters of that one horse town knew instinctively that our voices did not count and our opinions were not important. Most decisions impacting that town didn't make it to the ballot. Clinton supporters in Florida and Michigan and around the country yesterday had the same sinking feeling.

That DNC meeting yesterday was an eye-opener for me. Now I understand why the Democratic party and our country is in such an awful mess. When the pundits say, "The voters have spoken." those words mean nothing. The voters are not allowed to speak on any level anymore. The decisions are still made in closed sessions, away from prying eyes. Those rooms may not be smoke filled anymore, but the results are the same -- shutting common folk and voters out of the process because the political hierarchy doesn't trust us to make the decision they want us to make.

Obama has no reason to be happy with this outcome despite it being in his favor. His party is a mess and all the "healing" and "coming together" in the world won't change what we saw yesterday on TV. I hope the DNC committee enjoyed their "long lunch hour" because, in this voter's opinion, it was an expensive one for the party. I'm probably not the only registered democrat who feels that way. The Democratic committee used the same bully tactics they so resent in the current administration. The only ones with any reason to rejoice over what happened yesterday are the Republicans.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Books I'm reading or anticipating.

I decided to wash all thoughts political out of my hair. Nothing I say or think makes one whit of difference in the grand scheme of Beltway machinations. Reading good books and cleaning my house are much more productive in the short and long term.



I've had to cut back on the number of books read for review. A huge pile of books awaits on my reading table, and an equally large pile sits to my right on the computer desk waiting for reviews to be written. Since a thunderstorm is passing through right now, I need to finish this fast in case the electricity goes off.



Right now I'm reading Bye Bye Bertie, the second in the Ivy Towers Mystery Series by Nancy Mehl. These cosy mysteries are engaging and, yes, cosy. I'm waiting to read the third in this series. Hard telling what sort of trouble Ivy will encounter as this series progresses!!



Poet Burt Kimmelman agreed to exchange books. I got the best of the bargain when two of his books arrived in the mail the day after my book went out to him. Since the book of poetry featuring work by Stephen Sulik and me is no longer in print, I was lucky to have a copy on hand. Kimmelman's two books are The Pond at Cape May Point, featuring his poems and art by Fred Caruso, and Somehow. I've reviewed his work before and enjoyed his poetic style.

I received Llyn Clague's latest poetry book, Painting Sin, in the mail recently and will be starting that read soon. Clague is another poet whose work I review regularly and enjoy.

Also waiting on my reading table are two of my favorite journals, The Bellowing Ark and Ibbeston Street. These aren't journals to gloss over in a hurry. I savor them over a period of days or weeks. My own poetry has appeared regularly in The Bellowing Ark, but lately my muse has been on hiatus.

The thunderstorm is directly over me now so I need to publish this post before the electricity goes out again. Thank God blogspot saves drafts!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Ant and the Grasshopper

I've received numerous email forwards of the ant and the grasshopper forward. Political commentator Eric Burton even wrote about it on his blog. As I do with most politically-related topics, I've thought about this parable for a week and decided my take on it is different than those who forwarded it.

In the parable, the ant works hard all year long to ensure his survival. The grasshopper plays, hops about from here to there, enjoys the moment, and puts off any meaningful labor for some future time. Eventually winter comes and the grasshopper has no food or shelter while the ant is cozily cosseted in his home with a ready food supply. The grasshopper whines that it isn't fair that the ant is so safe and well fed while he must suffer with nothing. Outside agencies rush in to defend the poor grasshopper and force the ant to share his largesse.

I guess the grasshopper is supposed to represent lazy people who don't work and protect their own survival during tough times through hard work and planning. I have a different thought on the subject.

To me the ant represents taxpaying citizens who work hard, live frugally, and do their best with what they have -- a strong work ethic and realistic outlook on budgeting for survival. The grasshopper represents our politicians, who spend our money as if it were theirs and don't hold themselves to the same yardstick as they do taxpayers. WE have to save for our retirement and make do, struggling under the dark threat that social security and Medicare will run out in the near future. They have their retirement income locked in forever ad infinitum at no cost to themselves. WE have to purchase our own health care if we can afford it. They have their own special health care plan paid for by tax payers at no cost to themselves. WE have to live amidst a crumbling infrastructure that plays second fiddle to funding wars and support to other countries overseas, while they party in the rarefied air of the DC beltway. Shall I go on, or are you catching my drift?

Perhaps a politician started that parable circulating around the internet. The media says taxpayers are spoiled and can't pull together like we did in other wars. Commentators say we'd rather spend time at the mall than concentrate on solving our country's problems. I say the problems will never be solved as long as our politicians act like grasshoppers sitting on the throne awaiting their entitlements. I say they all give us short shrift and keep us focused on ourselves in hopes we won't notice our politicians' inability to manage a budget and plan for our future as a country.

I say, just who's the ant and who's the grasshopper here?

Monday, April 28, 2008

A review of My Name is Esther Clara

My books are seldom reviewed, mostly because ONE, I don't ask people to buy my books, and TWO, I don't solicit reviews. Yes, I know that's a very poor technique for a writer to use. A tiny handful of fans read everything I write and post reviews in various places, the operative words here being "tiny handful." I'm always thrilled and amazed when anyone outside my fan base buys my books and makes the effort to write a review.

Recently, Eileen R. Tabios bought My Name is Esther Clara and wrote a review on her blogspot, Galatea Resurrects. Tabios is a writer and poet I admire. She sends me poetry books to review for every edition of GR, lest you might be wondering about our connection. That she bought my book, read it, and featured a review on GR was a pleasant surprise to me.

Follow the link below to read the review. And while you're there, check out her site for other surprises. Each edition is chock full of book reviews. You'll find the best of known and unknown writers and poets featured quarterly. (This is a blog I read regularly. I'd add Galatea Resurrects to my blogroll, if I could figure out how to do it.)

http://galatearesurrection9.blogspot.com/2008/03/publications-by-laurel-johnson-maureen.html

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mom and Grandma Part Two

I had so many good comments on the last post that I'm entertaining myself by adding Part Two.

One lady emailed with the opinion that what worked for Mom and Grandma in the 1930s and 1940s probably would not work today. In many respects, she's right. Most of us don't buy 50# bags of anything packed in cloth feed sacks we then make into clothing. How many women OR men or children would wear clothes made out of feed sacks now? Not many, unless designer labels were sewn into the backs of them.

Most of us who live within the city limits of any size town can't raise our own chicken, ducks, or geese for eggs and food. Raising any sort of livestock is forbidden by most municipalities. What we CAN do is buy free range chickens or eggs laid by said chickens, but they cost a lot more so no saving money there.

What about cable TV, Satellite TV, internet access, and cell phones? Such modern technology was not available in "the old days" so Mom and Grandma didn't have to budget for such luxuries. Their TV access, when they finally decided to splurge, was through an antenna, either purchased or home made. It won't be long before frugal folks still gaining TV access through an antenna will be forced to change. The cable and satellite providers have seen to that with the aid of our politicians. Then they'll have a few more hold-outs to raise prices on every few months.

Gasoline was between five cents and a quarter a gallon in those olden golden days. Grandma and Grandpa thought that price was outrageous so limited their driving as much as possible. If they had to travel any distance to a funeral or other family function, they eliminated some non-necessity from their budget to help pay for the gas.

During the war years -- World War One and World War Two -- everyone had to do without certain things, such as sugar, butter, gasoline, rubber. And citizens were encouraged to grow their own vegetables in Victory gardens. I'm as guilty as anyone now when it comes to forced rationing. My generation and the ones younger than me want what we want when we want it because that's how it's been for us for decades. Still, we do have our forced rationing now. It's just handled differently than it was in Mom and Grandma's day. Prices today force us to limit what we buy. And our politicians can't pretend that we're all "in this together" like they did in the first half of the 20th century. The only ones in our current stew pot are middle and low income citizens, while politicians cruise along in the rarefied air they've created for themselves.

But, as another emailer pointed out, we do have options. No one so far is forcing us to have cable and satellite TV, internet access, or cell phones. It's not a requirement to buy designer clothes and shoes or shop til we drop in search of luxuries. We COULD grow our own veggies if we put our minds to it. Think about that for a second. If you grow your own veggies, you'll know where they came from and what additives might be on them. You can't say the same about vegetables you buy from supermarkets now.

I think that addresses the comments. One final thought: If the economy continues as it has been, we might have no choice but to do without, cut back, and return to living like Mom and Grandma did in less complicated times.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We need Mom and Grandma's advice.....

Lately I've been thinking about Mom and Grandma. My grandparents raised four children through the Depression and Dust Bowl years. Grandpa helped, of course, but worked 12 and 16 hour days to support his family so most of the feeding and caretaking fell to Grandma. She learned to be a creative cook, to fix nourishing meals that would stretch and stretch to feed a hungry husband and children. The Depression was a struggle, but I wonder if it wasn't easier to survive then compared to now. They lived in town but raised a few chickens for meat and eggs. There were no laws then forbidding citizens from raising chickens inside the city limits, and the neighbors didn't complain because they were busy raising their own chickens or geese or ducks.
Grandma bought her flour and cornmeal from the local mill, a few pennies a pound. Since flour was cheap, she made her own bread and sliced it thick.

Beef steak, hot dogs, hamburgers, pork chops, veal and other luxuries were not on their menu. Digestible protein came in the form of navy beans and corn bread or chicken and home made noodles, or eggs fixed in ways most of us today have never eaten. Grandma and Grandpa dug dandelion greens for salad, sliced onion over that, then poured a tasty mixture of sugar, vinegar, and hot bacon grease over it.

Mom raised four kids mostly on her own after divorcing our dad in the early fifties. Even for several years before that she had to rob a few coins from his pocket at night to feed their children. She followed in her mother's frugal footsteps. Have you ever had creamed eggs on toast made from scratch?? Food for the gods. Her home made egg noodles or dumplings were the best I've ever eaten. Like her mother before her, she could stretch one fat hen and the broth forever, or so it seemed back then. Our protein was derived from the cheapest sources back then -- chickens raised in our own yard, eggs, navy beans, corn bread -- and our greens were from dandelions, onion tops, stinging nettles and leaf lettuce grown in the garden in season.

So I was thinking we should do that now, and we would, if eggs were not nearly three dollars a dozen and milk four dollars a gallon and corn meal and flour double what they cost a year ago. Thank God we don't have young children to feed. We can tighten and tighten and tighten our belts without harming anyone. Our cutting back on spending at the grocery store won't cause bankruptcy for the grocers and distributors who control the ever rising prices. But multiply us by a million, ten million, and grocers and distributors will begin to share the pinch started by gasoline prices.

Mom and her parents didn't whine. They just did what they could to keep their children fed. They sacrificed, back in the day when few people were rich, including politicians. We need their wise advice on cutting corners. If they were still alive, maybe President Bush or whoever follows him could appoint them to advise the struggling low income families who can't afford groceries at today's prices. They could teach people how to plant a garden, how to raise healthy chickens, how to harvest dandelion greens.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

$40 million? $55 million? $20 million?

I like warm fuzzies and having my heart warmed. Yeah, I'm a sucker for "Extreme Home Makeover" and "Oprah's Big Give." I enjoy seeing people and businesses put their money where their heart is, where their mouth is. "Pay it Forward" is one of my favorite movies because it follows a philosophy I learned as a child from a mother and grandparents who had generous hearts.

I'm struggling with the money collected and spent on political campaigns. I know Obama and Hillary Clinton did not invent the process. And yes, I know that money talks and everything costs big bucks nowadays. And I've been told that millions of dollars is merely chump change today. $115 million is chump change??

Look around you. What could that "chump change" do for people in your world? I see a woman struggling to survive cancer, living in a run down rent house poorly maintained by her landlord, with no insulation and no lock on her front door and no extra money to spare. I see a homeless man who lives in a city park winter and summer, with an occasional stay in a local motel thanks to the generosity of strangers, or thanks to a temporary job that doesn't bring in enough money for a rental. I see an elderly couple who take turns doing without their medicine so they can splurge once in awhile and have meat for supper. Multiply those people by a thousand and you'll get an idea of what paying forward $115 million would do. It would accomplish much more than an occasional twenty or fifty bucks from concerned citizens.

Oh I know. I'm ignorant to even think about campaign money. But I do. I wonder why the endless coverage politicians get on TV isn't enough to get their message out. I wonder why politicians of privilege receive such largesse and continue living their star-crossed lives while some of the people I see around me can't seem to get their heads above water. Archie Bunker would have called me a bleeding heart liberal, and maybe I am. Mea Culpa.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008


Easter was always a special time in our family. Back in the "old days" when Mom's four little urchins were still young, church gatherings were a large part of our family life.
Mom was a divorced woman who struggled financially to raise four children on wages that were tiny, even by 1940s and 1950s standards. Yes, we lived in poverty but didn't really know it. She saved up her pennies before Easter so her kids could have new shoes and clothes for church. This was not pride on her part, but an extension of the Easter message. Easter represents renewal, resurrection, new beginnings. So we all wore new clothes from the skin out on Easter to celebrate Christ's triumph over death. We all went to Easter services in patent leather shoes for the girls and brown oxfords for our brother. New socks, new underwear, new everything.
The celebration was not only spiritual. Mom enjoyed the secular aspects of Easter, too. We all had Easter baskets piled high with colored eggs and candy, little stuffed rabbits and chicks. She hid them around the house for us to find on Easter morning. But going to the old Methodist Church as a family, with Grandma and Grandpa beaming proudly beside us, was the essence of Easter for Mom and her brood.
Where did those days go? They lie buried in our memories today and we try to relive them every Easter. We gather as a family and still have Easter baskets, with one important difference. Mom is no longer here to share the day. Still, we are all the product of her nurturing and we haven't forgotten. HAPPY EASTER, MOM!! You still look beautiful in your Easter finery.

Friday, March 14, 2008

More random thoughts...

The last blog post prompted emails from pet rabbits, housecats, gerbils, and dogs. The respondees shared the same concerns about their masters as Missy and Mary Hoppins and wondered if the girls had any advice for politically crazed humans. Unfortunately, at the moment, no advice will be forthcoming because the girls are sleeping off their breakfast.



Tom Parker over at his Dispatches from Kansas blog and Eric Burton at his personal website blog at www.elburton.com inspired me to think beyond the end of my nose this political season. Since I'm of an age where reminiscence is key to my concerns, here are my thoughts today:



One of the most famous TV commercials of all time debuted back in the early 1970s when Chief Iron Eyes Cody shed a tear for the environment. He paddled his canoe through heavily polluted streams, stood on dry land and looked at the litter scattered around him, and gazed at factory smokestacks in the distance belching smoke. That silent tear he shed at the awful mess this country had become spoke for a generation.

Today, 30-plus years later, not a lot has changed. Yes, civic groups have worked at cleaning litter off the roadsides and environmentalists have tried to impact lawmakers. New laws supposedly crack down on factories dumping toxic wastes into our atmosphere and water supplies, but all that did was encourage lawbreakers to figure out sneakier ways of dumping.

If that commercial could be remade today, instead of shedding that lone tear Cody would have to be weeping and wailing hysterically, throwing dirt and ashes on himself, chanting a death song. He could stand on a bluff in Minneapolis while the camera slowly pans to the collapsed bridge and crushed cars. Or he could visit that meat packing plant in California while sick cattle are tortured, killed, and processed into our food supply. He could walk potholed streets or highways, visit run down schools and ghettoes, visit homeless people by the thousands in their makeshift villages in urban alleys and under bridges. The opportunities for shedding tears are endless.

Whenever I see our politicians and presidential candidates talking about "change" I see Chief Iron Eyes Cody in my mind. That tear coursing slowly down his cheek represents questions no one asks our candidates. Such as, is it possible that the billions and trillions spent on war might have been better spent on renovating our country's infrastructure and ensuring a safe food and water supply? If it costs to much to repair bridges, roads, schools, to protect our food and water, why doesn't it cost too much to fund wars? If it's possible for presidential candidates to collect 50 million and 35 million in a week to fund campaigns, why isn't it possible to apply that fund raising ability to a higher purpose?

Iron Eyes Cody knew the answers to hard questions and so do I. Weep. Quietly weep.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A non-political animal speaks....



I like to be comfy so make a soft bed anywhere I find a likely spot. Mama says I'm getting old so guess that's why soft places appeal to me. Guess you might say I'm spoiled. I've always had a penchant for KFC. Chicken breasts are my favorite treat in the whole world.


My job description includes watching out the windows for birds and squirrels and hiding around corners waiting to ambush Mary Hoppins. Mary and I have been housemates for 13 years. She likes to play, but not with me. Mary's spoiled too. She only has three legs but you oughta see her run! Mary and I have to watch the house when Mama works. Daddy takes her to and from work sometimes. He says her nerves are too shot to drive. I'm not sure what that means, but we don't like it when both of them are gone.

Missy is the mean one and I'm the sweet one. I'm sure you can tell by looking how sweet I am. I like to lay with Daddy on the couch so he'll cover me up with the newspaper. My job description is to be Daddy's baby and to keep Missy in line. I'm the boss of this house, and Mama is the boss of me.

Missy and I get nervous when Mama or Daddy get upset. Lately we don't like it when they watch TV. They used to laugh while watching comedies, or quietly concentrate on crime shows. Now they watch something called CNN and you should hear Daddy cuss sometimes. Mama uses big words Missy and I don't understand and a tone of voice we don't like: "500 MILLION DOLLARS?? What an obscene waste of money on a political campaign!!" We don't know what that means but understand that "obscene" and "political campaign" must be something bad. Then Daddy grits his teeth and says, "That's bullshit!! Think what good that kind of money could do for the homeless or the equipment it would buy for soldiers in Iraq!! Those people should be ashamed of themselves!!"

Missy and I hide under the bed and wait for the coast to clear when Mama and Daddy watch CNN. Just as long as we get our tasty treats and good food to eat, I guess we'll be OK. We still have our soft beds and hiding places and clean litter boxes so life hasn't changed for us. Still, whatever this "political campaign" is, we can't wait for it to be over.

Missy's taking her bath and watching the snow. Guess I'll go take a nap. If anyone understands why Mama and Daddy get so upset about political campaigns, Missy and I would sure like to know.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

my work from another perspective....

Good Historical Fiction Books travel easily from reading chair to classroom





Good historical Fiction Books with a good plot and strong characters are one of the best ways to teach history. In The Alley of Wishes, Dandelion author Laurel Johnson serves as both a novelist and teacher by delivering a memorable picture of Europe during World War I.




Like Dostoyevsky, Dickens and Hugo, Johnson paints a large palette and subtly uses a historical setting to background for her plot. The two main characters in Alley, Beck Sanow and Cerise, come to life through her skillful rendering of their tender love story.

“Laurel Johnson’s work is much more than Les Miserables,” writes book reviewer and literary agent, Jeanette Lundgren. “If you believe in the ultimate triumph of love, faith and friendship, The Alley of Wishes is a book you should both read and cherish.”

“Laurel Johnson has penned a modern masterpiece. Her poetic words flow seamlessly, creating a story of incredible depth. Beck and Cerise become flesh and bone as the reader feels their pain and celebrates their triumph. "The Alley of Wishes is a book no one should miss--and no one will forget,” Nancy Mehl for MyShelf.com.




A past life experience? Perhaps; Johnson candidly admits she became obsessed with both story line and characters, as if they were writing the story for her. It is not surprising that Johnson’s next published book, My Name Is Esther Clara, was a biography of her grandmother, who was a character as vivid and colorful as the fictional Beck and Cerise. Note that Esther Clara’s last name was Sanow-Ford (notice the name “Sanow” appearing as an actual part of Johnson’s family tree!).

Although this work is a biography, Esther Clara could have been passed for one of the several historical fiction books that have been written about 20th century rural America.
“Laurel Johnson's latest book, is a living reproduction and tribute, a period piece typifying many grandmothers who settled on the Great Plains of the United States, writes author Christina Pacosz. “This is a book for the history buff, whatever age, to dig a little deeper into the events of that time told by one of the so-called little people, who drop-by-drop of sweat and blood, always make the world of their day.”
This article courtesy of Dandelion Books




Thursday, February 07, 2008

Here I am.....contemplating my technical ignorance

I haven't posted in awhile for several reasons. The main reason is I need to make some additions or changes to my blog and can't figure out how. The additions I need to make aren't included in the editing options of the template.

My publisher asked me to add an icon link to her new website and to my book link on Amazon. So far I haven't figured out how to do that.

Ever since changing from the pink background template no one liked to this plainer one, I lost my local weather link and hit counter. I'm still trying to figure out how to get those back. Blogspot is great but maybe I'm too backwards to develop my presence effectively.

I really need to develop a new look for my blog. I'll keep trying, and some day you'll come here and see the results......maybe.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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