Saturday, December 10, 2011


December is definitely a month for gift giving. There are more days to celebrate religious and social rituals in December than any other month of the year: Hanukkah, First Day of Winter, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve as well as my grandbaby’s birthday and nephew’s wedding anniversary. There is the lighting of menorah candles, singing Christmas carols, observing the African harvest and Santa’s arrival. It is the perfect time for giving and receiving gifts – especially gifts with love.

You may be expecting diamonds, an Ipad or a Mercedes-Benz but it’s the thoughtful consideration of giving and receiving that can fill your heart and life with joy. I recently discovered Dr. Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages (pub. 2007) and its helpful guide to giving a gift with love.

Words of Affirmation. Honest praise and compliments are gifts appreciated long after they are received. Saying ‘I love you’ is a treasure when offered with heart-felt endearment.
Quality Time. The gift of your time may be worth more than any material it you could give. Children, parents and friends relish company and undivided time and attention.
Receiving Gifts. Whether tchotchkes or flowers, jewelry or season tickets, the recipient feels loved when you present them as a token of your affection.
Acts of Service. Doing chores, helping to lighten the load at home or away is a message saying ‘I respect you, admire you and appreciate you.’
Physical Touch. a gentle touch, a warm embrace or sitting close beside a grandma, child, friend or lover makes you feel appreciated and loved.

Being a child of the great depression, I grew up with the rewards of hard work, appreciation and a loving family. I believe Dr. Chapman got it right with his five point guide. The most valuable things I ever received came to me when money was scarce and times were frightening; honest praise for honest achievement, undivided attention of parents, siblings and teachers, tokens of respect and willing assistance in ordinary activities. I remember well the closeness I felt with my parents – even sitting on my mother’s lap when I was a grown woman and, remarkably, vividly recalling the unique ‘imprint’ of holding each of my children as babies and toddlers.

Perhaps Dr. Chapman can help you give ‘a gift with love’ to someone special this holiday. It could be worth more than money can buy…

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I could use a recipe here.... The elephant I'm carrying is getting heavier by the hour - because his name is Indecision. So I ask myself, what do I want to do, where do I want to go and what do I want to accomplish?

Ironically, some years back, I taught a series of life skills lectures designed to help men and whomen resolve dilemmas - BIG dilemmas. The series began with Start From Where You Stand, which is always good advice, and included How to Cook an Elephant... Now that's the recipe I need to heed.

Every man is the architect of his own fate. ~ Appius Claudius Caeus ~

I will need to describe the problem, design a plan and identify the goal. I will Start Where I Stand, cut my weighty problem into meanageable pieces, follow the recipe and get cooking...

The Problems: pursue a college degree; redecorate my home interior; travel the United States; read and write more; get a dog.
The Possibilities (considerations): I want a PhD before I die; my last home interior redo was a decade ago; travel is enjoyable but physically punishing - perhaps day trips are more manageable; reading and writing are enjoyable and rewarding though sight is a bit weak; a guardian dog is for personal safety (although a duck is a better alarm system, ducks aren't guardians and they are not allowed in my neighborhood).
The Priorities: #1: to read and write daily; #2: redo home interior; #3: take day trips and consider travel tours as they come available; #4: Some form of home safety and alert system; #5: pursue PhD. (okay, priorities were out of order...).
The Goals: get an eye exam, consider new glasses to read and write daily and set daily, weekly and read/write goals; identify specific redecorating needed and wanted, get estimates, contract and accomplish same. Plan day trips (one per month) and tours (one or two in 2012) with consideration to physical health and travel accommodations. Carefully weigh pros and cons of electronic alarm systems vs. animal alert before making decision. Continue search for on-line doctorate degree program.
The Plan: Set timetable and roadmap for each goal.
Take the Action: Take steps to accomplish goals. Be flexible.
Enjoy the Rewards of Accomplishment.

Still, round the corner there may wait, A new road or a new gate. ~J.R.R. Tolkein~

Whew.... Even an elephant is easily managed - with a good recipe.

What is your recipe for Cooking an Elephant?
Tell me. I'd like to know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


When fingernails scrape down a blackboard, are your ears offended? Does the sound make your jaw hurt? Your fists clench? Your eyes squint? I get that same reaction when I hear people misuse words - ordinary American English words.

My ears ache, my jaw hurts, muscles spasm and eyes squint when I hear someone say "ax" for ask, "seen" for saw or "don't" for doesn't. I want to know whether the offender is American born or went to school in the United States. You see, not only are my ears offended, so is my sense of American intelligence, public education, patriotism and personal pride.

I have heard adult conversations, on television for the most part, where one or more conversant uses the word 'like' more times than I care to count. "Like when I went to work last week it was like everyone was late like nobody's alarm worked so like all the clocks stopped." There are public media interviews in which the answer begins with "I mean..." Question: How did it feel to score the winning touchdown? Answer: "I mean it's the first time I had an open field, I mean there was nobody in front of me and I mean, it was great..." Question: How did you learn you are a new father while serving in Afghanistan? Answer: "I mean, my wife texted me and I mean I was like sleeping at the time and it was a boy so I mean she wanted me to you know..." The wife interjects, "Yeah, I mean he wanted to know about it right away, like, you know, before I put it on Facebook."

If those types of conversations aren't sad enough, tune in to news reports and political debates in which people who might normally be regarded as intelligent keep interjecting the word "look." (I've learned to live with my finger on the channel switcher because it makes me ill to 'look.') "About the national debt well look, poor judgement got us into this mess..." "And, look, health care is everyone's concern..."

There is one word that is more obnoxious and repeated more often than any other - the word is 'cool' - it is slang, meaning too much, not enough, anything and virtually nothing.

It is a blessing none of the people whose conversations I eavesdropped on were enrolled in the college courses I taught. There were no passing grades for students who 'seen' instead of saw or said 'cool' and 'like' in every sentence. I mean, listen, it's like, you know, only like uneducated people would use you know words like that 'cause, look, you know ignorance don't make you cool.

If this opinion is agreeable to you - or if it seems a bit heavy handed - I'll appreciate your comment. Tell me. I'd like to know. Meantime, please edit 'cool' out of your vocabulary - and I thank much !

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Whether you read a newspaper, watch television or attend a meeting, cliches are in full bloom. Some days I wonder whether listeners could fully understand what a speaker is trying to convey without the use of cliches. To me, a cliche is the familiar, explanatory, colorful, confirming image. As a writer, I use them generously although they are frowned upon by writing instructors and some publishers.

Everyone understands what is meant by I 'draw the line' at using foul language. In other arenas, one might be willing to 'fight fire with fire.' Don't we envision similar characteristics when we hear the guy 'has two left feet' or he 'isn't the brightest bulb in the pack?' Certainly we know what it means to 'roll with the punches,' 'pass the buck,' know 'the naked truth' or have to 'eat crow.' I'd like to read some writing instructor's essay that draws equally dynamic mental images without using cliches.

When my author friend writes, "the road less traveled..." readers know she is about to relate one of her globe-trotting adventures. By using this familiar quotation as her cliche, both you and I have a clear image of who she is - without need for a lengthy explanation.

Because we have spent many hours chatting together, I am familiar with some of my frien's world travels, her interests in cultures, languages and arts. In addition to traveling, she is a woodcarver, sculptor and gardener - not to mention having taken courses in blacksmithing. When she writes, "Never one to follow the beaten path, I took the road less traveled..." even Robert Frost believes her and is anxious to read on.

For my own writing, I enjoy being 'armed to the teeth' with facts, names, dates and cliches in order to write about 'the big bang theory' or 'spaghetti on the wall.' Cliches may be the 'kiss of death' in a classroom, but I've gotten 'thumbs up' for the 'naked truth' with a 'vested interest' in telling a story and writing an essay or 'my name is Mudd.'

Wouldn't Robert Frost believe he had 'hit the mark' to be quoted so often? John Steinbeck's 'best laid plans' continues to strike a familiar chord. Even Star Wars' 'moment of truth' is the exact wording needed to emphasize a point, a surprise, an epiphany. 'Lest we forget' (Rudyard Kipling) is a cliche of powerful words. Always remember "The power of words properly understood and used is mankind's most precious gift" --a favorite quote of mine -- author unknown.

How do you think of cliches? Do you have a favorite? Tell me; I'd like to know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I spent Sunday evenings with a gnome.

Journalists and commentators offered in-depth stories and current events Sunday nights on the CBS program 60 Minutes. More often than not, the most thought-provoking segment was the last few minute when Andy Rooney, my quotable gnome, would describe something of mundane familiarity with his unique and unexpected interpretation - things like groceries, curling, bridges, cotton in pill bottles and English language. Looking a bit weather-beaten amongst his stacks of papers and books, he was persuasive without lecturing. Peering out from beneath big bushy white eyebrows, he voiced his view of things and people in serious, informative, amusing and thought provoking word images.

Andy Rooney said, "I'm going to work until I die" - and so he did. His last television segment aired October 2, 2011. He died one month later.

Rooney left behind a lifetime of writings, stories, essays and quotable comments on as many subjects. He was a writer for The Stars & Stripes during WWII. He wrote an impressive list of books, including The Story of the Stars & Stripes. He sold the film rights to MGM and wrote the screenplay. While it never became a movie, Andy made enough money to freelance and establish his writing credentials for several years after the war.

He earned an impressive list of notable awards. Andy had met Ernie Pyle and, years later, received the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award. He wrote and performed 1,097 essays for 60 Minutes - and he won an Emmy.

Privately, Andy was married 60-plus years and has four children. I couldn't help but note he had just one sister - whose name was Nancy.... He refused to sign autographs because 'someone recognizes my face from television.' Book signings were acceptable autograph times.

Though Rooney has been called Irish American, he once said, "I'm proud of my Irish heritage, but I'm not Irish. I'm not even Irish-American. I'm American. Period." @ wikipedia.

On writing, Rooney said, "I don't pick subjects as much as they pick me."

On words, he said, "vegetarian - that's an old Indian word meaning lousy hunter."

On language, Andy said, "Obsenities... I think a lot of dumb people do it because they can't think of what they want to say and they're frustrated. A lot of smart people do it to pretend they aren't very smart - want to be just one of the boys."

I have a particular fascination for quotations and there's a long list of Andy Rooney quotes on I enjoy biographies, long or short, and has a 6-page summary of his life.

Andy Rooney has always reminded me of a gnome. He was my favorite gnome. Andy wasn't the most handsome lad in the garden, the tallest, neatest nor smartest, yet - perhaps he was....
Certainly, everyone benefitted while having a witty gnome to share Sunday evening with.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Everyody has favorite friends, places, colors and things... Pop-Up Books are one of my favorite things. Are they one of your favorites, too?

Certainly I am partial to words and books, stories and illustrations. Add a pop-up element and I am thrilled with the paper folding genius that makes it possible. On my bookshelf is a colorful little book with just five pages of simple poetry enhanced with little drawings and cleverly folded pop-up flowers. It begins with the poem, "A thing of Beauty" by John Keats as a trio of daffodils literally blooms out from the page. Is there any better way to offer a reader a thing of beauty?

Some of this poetry book's pop-ups rise up, as did the daffodils, from the bottom of the page while others shift from right to left or top to bottom. The final page of apple blossoms magically opens from pink buds to flowers. You can almost smell the fragrance!

It's Halloween and I have a couple Monster Pop-Up Books - books of few words but scary, colorful characters jump up from the page. At Christmastime I display a series of children's pop-up books with stories from the Jesus' birth to "The Night Before Christmas."

Perhaps the most accomplished pop-up book designer is Robert Sabuda who, along with Matthew Reinhart, produces big, beautiful books of complicated paper folding artistry like Peter Pan, Fairies, Jungle Book and America to name a few.... My sister has an impressive collection of Sabuda's books. She also has a talent for paper folding, scrap-booking and creating unique greeting cards.

It would be nice to have enough talent to make pop-up books to emphasize my Haiku poetry but, alas, I have no such ability - just appreciation for those who do! If you'd like to try paper folding pop-ups, just look up Go to Explore Pop-Up Books and click on 'Simple Pop-Ups You Can Make.' I made the three-masted ship. Well, it is fun to try....

What are your Favorite Things? Tell me. I'd like to know.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I seem to have lost October! Have you seen it?

It is one of my favorite months - especially with the feel of autumn on my cheeks, bags of candy corn everywhere, and the sound of acorns tapdancing on my car. Every October day seems to bring another beautiful day to remember. Some bring us reminiscences from past Octobers while others are new visions to create new memories.

Halloween is just one week away. Of course, it is my most favorite holiday of the year - I even have an orange cat, Daphne Dom-Dilly, and a black witch's hat to celebrate the occasion. This is a time for fresh apples, pumpkins, squashes; a time for vegetable soup, football games and chrysanthymum corsages. It is the time of year when every scary movie is replayed on TCM - just for screams. I'm not sure what the favored costumes will be this year but some of my most favorites are those worn by my children and grandchildren when they were young: Pirates, Queen Elizabeth I, head-hunter, the Jolly Green Giant (that one won a first-prize award at a Halloween party), cowboy/girl, blonde Dutch girl or a colorful clown. One granddaughter morphed into a turtle at age ten months. Toddlers became dragons, princesses and bears. It was such fun to design Halloween costumes and to greet neighbor children clad in their own versions of classical or popular characters. Trick or Treat!

This year, October has disappeared in a heat wave followed by drenching rains then shivering blasts of coldness. My family and the entire community seemed to be sneezing, coughing and speaking in a nasal dialect. How grateful we are as the weather has stabilized into warm days and cool nights. Driving across the Ozarks is beautiful every month of the year. October is no exception as emerald green meadows slowly turn darker or lighter, while trees that were green last week now surprise us by wearing bright reds and yellows leaves. Will this be a year of shock and awe with autumn beauty? My camera is powered up and ready. Seven days of October yet to come and I don't want to miss another day of it! How about you?

Friday, October 14, 2011


Hang on to the things you value because we're moving at full speed ahead! The world has progressed from crank telephones to instant messaging in less than a century. We have gone from exploring neighorhoods on Big Wheels and bicycles to exploring the moon in lunar modules. Buggy whips are gone forever.

Boomers were raised with 'up-to-the-minute' things that are quickly fading from use and sight. I read in the newspaper this week that hundreds of US Post Office buildings will be closing their doors forever. Have you noticed the disappearance of those blue mailboxes that stood on every corner? Benjamin Franklin was the first US Post Master about 1775. It was the reliable means of transporting important words and documents. On September 15, 2011, it was announced 250 mail-handling facilities throughout the nation are slated for permanent closure. By 1220, the US Postal Service will have gone the way of the buggy whip. If you don't already have one, it's time to invest in a modern cell phone.

Newspapers and books will soon be a thing of th past. There is little point to retrieving your morning edition of the Herald, Post or Bulletin from your lilac bushes. It contains yesterday's news - the same news you saw on television last night or read about on your cell phone as it occurred. What was newspapers and book (print media) is now at your fingertips with computers, e-books, ePads, iPads and eReaders, etc.

In recent weeks instant messaging informed the world of the death of Apple's Steve Jobs. Electronic/Instant phones rallied large numbers of people to peaceful and not so peaceful causes. Cell phones with GPS have brought quick assistance to persons in distress. A 'down' side (as there is always more than one side to everything) of this speedy information is troublesome in that troublemakers have the same messaging access as the good guys. The worst-case scenerio is a communications system 'black out' - such an event happened (with Blackberry) in Mid- October, halting both business and personal cummunications for several days. Yet, we are speeding forward with e-devices in spite of obstacles. With easy access to personal data, profiles, GPS and cameras, individual privacy seems to be going the way of the buggy whip.

I recommend you enjoy all the items of nostalgia you can - while you can: TVs, CDs, games, books, or love letters. They may disappear in a 'poof' of innovation or fade away in a cloud of 'progress' as we move forward at full speed. I am still the dinasour with a land-line phone and Mozart CDs. I have a library of books but rely on Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia for instant research. As you can tell, I'm not moving at 'full speed ahead' but I am dancing as fast as I can!
How about you? How quickly are you adjusting? I'd like to know.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Most things in life turn out well, better or great when we remember to "Keep It Simple." ...Usually...

Humans have a tendency to complicate or misinterpret things like facts, feelings, information or conversations. Everyone needs a reminder to 'slow down,' 'take it ease' or 'keep it simple' at one time or another. We get carried away with projects, responsibilities, work or life and thinking. Humor gets lost when we think, 'it's all up to me.'

Certainly we want to be helpful, get involved, have fun and take responsibility. All those things are accomplished most effectively when we've taken care of ourselves first. Sounds selfish, but it is true. If you were the machine transporting precious cargo, providing comfort and safety for others, you would keep in good working order, properly fueled and maintained. It is more important for each human to maintain good working order. Yet, Keep It Simple.

Too much detail may add confusion. There are some things that require complicated knowledge, experience, alertness or resoning, or occasions without prerequisite information and caution when things can go awry. On the other hand, one might want to make a judgement call where simplicity is concerned. Too simple may be little. This newly popular 'texting,' though simple and brief, has led (so I have heard) to problems ranging from simple misunderstanding to major disasters. Here's my e-mail case: Did that email tell me what I think it did or was it telling me something else?

I plan to attened a MahJongg Tournament. My application was submitted later than most. The email attachment I received wouldn't download with the computer program I use. So, a friend printed out the application for me. I hastily filled in the blanks, wrote a check and dropped it in the mailbox. That was easy. Two days later, I received an email from the Tournament organizer. (She is a woman of few words and employs a 'Keep It Simple" management style.) "DEAR NANCY: I NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO EAT???? #1 OR #2 PLEASE LET ME KNOW (signed) xxxx.

I am an advocate of three-word messages, mantras and 'Keep It Simple.'
Obviously, 'simple' doesn't always convey a tasteful message. I'll be eating #2.

What has your "Keep It Simple" experience been? Tell me. I'd like to know.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I read my horoscope on a regular basis. Don't you? It is a confirmation of being alive, of having a life and stuff happening. I choose to believe only the parts I like, however. I disqualify everything else. When the horoscoper tells me to 'go have fun' or 'save your energy' I try to keep those suggestions in mind. When it says 'A wonderful future is coming your way' I expect it is absolutely true!

I don't usually read just any old horoscope; I read one specific to Pisces (that's two fish swimming in opposite directions) - because it includes the date I was born. (In the Chinese horoscope calendar, I am a Monkey - nobody is surprised.) A horoscope appeared in my newpaper daily, except on Sunday - when there was no newspaper delivery. But, I let my subscription expire and weaning off a daily horoscope was not easy! Could having no horoscope mean the end of my being alive, having a life and stuff happening - then who'd bake cookies, write stories, or laugh at my jokes if I wasn't here to love and care about you?

Aha! I found a magazine with a seasonal review of what the stars have in store. Maybe this will fill my horoscope gap: Someone special may enter my life in September. My work related matters will improve in November. I have good odds for winning a 'big ticket item' in October - and I certainly hope it is one of those really huge lotteries. (I must remember to buy a ticket!) Huge amounts of money to spare will fill in all my gaps nicely, thank you.

Meantime, I plan to enjoy this autumn - my favorite time of year. Although green is my most favorite color, the yellow, orange and reds of autumn are a pleasure to my eyes. This is a beautiful time to see the landscape colors changing, to gather nuts, bite into an apple, smell a pecan pie baking and taste the vegetable garden in a bowl of Tortolini Soup.

Whether you read your horoscope or not, I hope the stars have all good things in store for you: A wonderful future, good health, ambition, romance, money and self esteem, good fortune and a few welcome surprises. Don't forget to smile and keep on dancing...

Apples mellow, pumpkins yellow
tell the time of year;
Nuts are falling, nature's calling
Autumn Time is Here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


During the past six weeks, since his collapse and heart attack, our family members keep Roy in our thoughts and prayers. Each of us has heartwarming, funny or thought-provoking stories to tell about Roy. Now is a good time to write them down to share with one another. So, Roy D. the younger, starts us thinking with this recollection of Roy D., the elder:


I always think of my Uncle Roy as a musician. He is, of course, many other things as well; a multi-faceted person if there ever was one, but my earliest memories of him are of him plyaing that large cello-shaped electric arch-top guitar, and the sound that came from the wonderful box that lit up with glowing vacuum tubes in the back of it - called an amplifier. Uncle Roy plays very expressively. His foot taps, his head bobs and his expression changes at the turn of a pretty sounding chord.

We always had some kind of musical instrument at (my) home, be it a keyboard or a mandolin or a ukelele or some other guitar-like thing. I used to pick out little melodies and chords - just sort of 'trial and error.'

Then when I was around ten years old, my mother, who was a bookkeeper for Lyon and Healy in Chicago brought me home a three-quarter size acoustic guitar and a "How to play the Guitar" course that had written material and phonograph records. After that, I spent a lot of time with my guitar and a phonograph trying to play what was on the records. Every time we went to visit Uncle Roy, I brought my guitar.

By the time I started 7th grade I was taking guitar lessons at "Burke's Music" in Wheaton, Illinois - where I gave lessons many years later. Burke's music was a short walk from the train station and my friend Alex and I were allowed, once a week on Saturdays, to take the train into Wheaton for our lessons.

We were the cats! Getting on and off the train with our guitar cases and walking to and from the music store that was full of musicians, some of them pros, listening to the stories they told and looking at the instruments they had for sale in the store - all against a background of tuning, playing and little bits of songs that came from the lesson rooms. At the time, I wanted to learn to play everything the Beatles ever did - which was a good thing because, in their career, the Beatles covered nearly every style of music you can think of.

At around that time, my mom and dad gave me the sheet music to the Erroll Garner song Misty and said to me, "If you really want to be a musician, learn to play this one!" Misty was written in the key of E-flat and was full of lush sounding jazz chords with names like "E-flat-major-seventh" and "A-flat-seventh-flat-nine," about which I had no idea. So the next time we went to visit Uncle Roy, I brought the sheet music to Misty and my guitar in hopes that he could show me how to play it. Of course, Uncle Roy knew how to play Misty, which is one of the 'standards,' that is to say, a well-written song that has been played and recorded by a great many artists over a long period of time.

Uncle Roy showed me how to make all those complex chords in the song that I eventually learned to play, and that opened up my ears and the guitar neck to more things than I can name. Uncle Roy has always taken the time to show me something whenever I asked him. "How did you do that?" - and those times were many.

Another valuable lesson I learned from Uncle Roy is that a good player is easy to play with - and always makes the other guy sound good. So, I still bring my guitar whenever I visit Uncle Roy. He makes me sound better than I am.

* * *
Roy and Uncle Roy have provided musical entertainment, sing-alongs, dance tempo, classic solos and listening pleasure for the entire family at the annual Thatcher Family Reunions every August since 1983 - that's 29 reunions!
And the beat goes on... Thanks for the memories... I could have danced all night...
Whether e-mail or snail-mail, send me your "Uncle Roy" story.
I'd like to read it - We all want to read it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Three little words: Hello my friend. You're looking good.

Remember the olden days when people spoke and wrote in full sentences? If I can remember and you cannot, either I am much older than you are or the world is spinning much faster these days. Here's my view:

I was watching Good Morning America on television this morning where they have invited the audience to express themselves in just three words... And they did... from 'I love you' to 'Go to Hell.' This is fun! (that's my 3 word comment on three word comments... for the moment... as it were... ).

Everyone recognizes that time is valuable. Yet, I wonder what is being gained or lost by the new conservation of words. How is the time gained being used? What are people doing with all those left-over words? Time is precious. Words are valuable. Time is money. Words are treasures. It is best to value time and words carefully.

It was almost a year ago when I spoke before a group of adults, encouraging them to write their thoughts and life stories for posterity. I insisted their life's course and their own interpretation of those times were valuable to their children and to subsequent generations. Because writing an autobiography is an overwhelming idea to most people, I encouraged them to write brief stories on simple subjects - favorite color, toy, sport, teacher, place, person, event... even as 6-word stories. They might have been even more receptive to 3-word stories. I was there. Blue is beautiful. Dolls could talk. War was hell.

It was just a few years ago when writing a story in six words was at its popular peak. It is rumored to have begun when attention was focused on Ernest Hemingway's, "For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn." Six-word stories became writing assignments; they showed up in newspapers and magazines. At least one book of 6-word stories was published. Six words seemed to be as brief as a story could get - until now. Here we go. Write it down. Get it done.

Journalists conserve words. They have presented information briefly and adequately since the invention of the printing press: who, what where, when, why - Just the facts, ma'am. Authors use lots of words. So, where do all the extra words go? To authors! People like Shakespeare or Chaucer immersed themselves in effusive wordiness. Writers like Tolstoy or J. K. Rowling lavishly expend words in lengthy books like War and Peace or the Harry Potter series. Books require words. Words require thought. Thought requires words. We've come full circle.

How much time, awareness, money, influence or brainpower would we gain or lose if all stories were in a 3-word format? Words are powerful. Read a book. Tell a story. Write a letter. Text a friend. Live your dream. Share your experience. Go with God. I love you.

Your thoughts are...? Let me know. That's all folks.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Friends were going to the movie theater on Saturday and asked me to join them. I heard myself say "yes." This made my third trip to the movie theater - in a year!

Off I went - feeling safe and confident. I had seen a television preview of this movie. My sister and several friends had read the book. So, feeling brave in spite of foggy vision and unsteady gait, off to the movies I went.

Over the past five decades, going to the movies has NOT been my pleasure. You see, there was a fire all those many years ago. I was young, brave and invulnerable when I was challenged by fire in a movie theater. Everyone, including my brother and I did get out alive though reeking of smoke and a bit singed; certainly, one more thing to be grateful for in my lifetime.

I think we smelled something burning. When we turned around we saw the flames. My brother leaped toward the Exit door and hit it with force. It wouldn't open. To escape, we had to go through the entranceway where flaming embers were falling from the projection room where the fire roared. In the minute lost trying to escape through the exit, we realized the entrance was the only way out. By now everything below the projection room was aflame. It appeared almost like a circus ring of fire that performers and animals jump through - as entertainment.

We became the circus performers. Pulling my shirt over my head and nose, I leaped with giant steps through the ring of fire. Once through, my brother grabbed my wrist and pulled me away from the building.

From that day forward I take note of the location of exit doors wherever I go: work, stores, pulic buildings, malls, and of course meeting rooms or theaters. To this day I am constantly alert to fire dangers, overly crowded rooms, elevators, flimsy structures, doors opening in instead of out as well as the location of exit doors.

A few years after the fire incident, now married with children, I realized maternally the danger and oconsequences of fire. I had four preschool children and just two hands, so we began to practice fire escape exercises. My children thought it was just more rules like 'don't step into the street,' 'no running with scissors,' or 'strange dogs bite."

Most buildings, businesses and meeting rooms follow fire ordinances but I still see violations. I can choose to stay or leave. That is probably why I felt comfortable attending a movie - for the third time in one year. I had checked out this multi-theater complex twice before. I actually went to see one of the movies alone - making sure it would pass my safety inspection. It did. The movie was Julie-Julia. Then I saw The King's Speech and, recently with my lady friends, The Help. I have a comforting confidence in seeing movies at this theater and won't hesitate to say 'yes' to another opportunity.

One doesn't forget being trapped by fire. I have found a way to deal with my concern, one that not only satisfies my expectation of safety, but allows me freedom to choose to say yes or no.

Have you enjoyed a good movie lately?
If not... What's your excuse for not going to the theater?
Tell me. I'd like to know.

Friday, August 26, 2011


As the sun peeks up over the horizon each morning, I give thanks for the day and wish the best of life to everything and everyone with whom I will share this day. The world continues on its predictable patterns and so do I. In spite of dramatic weather forecasts of heat, drought and Hurricane Irene for other parts of the country, Ozark Americans are waking to sunshine, blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures - and I am grateful!

This is the last Friday of August. The sun began to light my world two hours ago. Morning rays are low over the horizon - slanting through the still-green trees and resting on my front porch. The newly padded wicker chairs are like theater seats where I am the audience waiting for the performers to arrive. And here they come now....

Four beautiful fawn-colored deer step daintily out from the protection of old oak trees - two mamas and two babies. One youngster is a bit larger than the littlest, cream-colored fawn. The bigger reddish-brown mama appears to be the matriarch. They are heart-warming to see as they stand, like fragile statues, in the sun's rays.

Ignoring my presence, they lower their heads to munch the dewy grasses. Their movements are slow and graceful. Only the little ones bobble from foot to foot, bouncing heads up or twisting about as they graze. All move together as if in unison, within a comfortable distance from one another. Then, what's this? All four snap their heads erect and freeze in place. They become statues as though posed for some photographer or sculptor. They hold their positions a full minute before the big mama turns to survey the area before lowering her head to munch grass once again. All return to their breakfast, still facing the area that concerned them moments earlier, their sweet little faces coming up occasionally to survey their surroundings.

Both mamas again came to attention. They stare toward a path worn into the woods, then, as all stand motionless, the big mama begins to lift a hoof high, like a prancing horse, before stomping it to the ground. Step - stomp - pause. Step - stomp - pause. Every movement is beautiful. Her pose is regal with her head held high, one hoof raised and poised, then stomping with a stance of power and emphasis. How I wish my camera was within reach!

Certainly Mama saw something I could not see. She appeared to be warning off some intruder. If it were a more dangerous threat, she would have given an alert and all four would have disappeared into the woods in one graceful leap - as they often do. I presume this danger is not big enough to frighten her little family away, but of concern enough to display her strength of presence.

Sure enough, there was a flash of movement on the path. Mama deer took one more stomp in that direction when Carol's cat, Galaxy Star Chaser, came sprinting off the path, across the lawn and scrambling onto the porch at full speed - with Mama deer pursuing close behind. The matriarch stopped in the middle of the lawn to watched as I opened the door for Galaxy, that big, bad scaredy cat, to run inside. After a moment, the deer family went back to leisurely grazing.

I'm so grateful to have been here to greet this sunny morning, to let the cat out, make a pot of coffee and to sit on the porch while I observed nature's show. But, I must learn to keep my camera within reach. A mental image of this morning may stay with me for awhile but a photograph of dawn and deer would be so much nicer to keep - and to share with you!

I hope you have special memories preserved in photographs.
Are there memories you wish you had captured on film?
Tell me. I'd like to know.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


If I said "Togetherness" and asked you to tell me what that meant to you, how would you answer?

'Togetherness' was the August writing topic at one of my writers' groups. AND, togetherness is the focus of my Thatcher Family Reunion held the first weekend of August in Buffalo, Missouri.

2011 being our 29th family reunion, same time - same place, each reunion may seem similar, yet each has been uniquely different from year to year. The core of our family is siblings: one younger sister and four older brothers - with our spouses and children. Our toddler children and grandchildren attending the first reunion in 1983 are now grown, married and have children of their own.

Certainly we have added family with marriages and grandchildren. We have also lost family members to death and divorce. As my siblings live in several states, their children scattered even farther afield, our annual reunion has been the one reliable occasion for cousins to meet face-to-face, to show off new spouses or babies, to review family history and to share their life's dreams and accomplishments. People, non-family acquaintances are often surprised to learn that there has never been an argument or problem between attendees at any of our reunions. We, on the other hand, would be surprised and stunned by that type of behavior - We don't have time for such foolishness. Mostly, we hug, eat, play music, eat, swim, sing, talk, hug and eat some more. Members who do woodworking and crafts bring gifts of their talents, those who cook or bake bring their specialties, my brother-in-law edited and published a family magazine each year while those with musical talents, especially Roy and Roy, provide the beat for singing and dancing. There are horses to ride and goats admire, chicken eggs to gather and rabbits to pet; there is kite flying and fishing. there is a Jelly Bean train for children to ride in and a potato gun for adult-aged boys to shoot. We tried hay bailing and bottle-feeding calves; we donned straw hats or opened colorful umbrellas for hayless hay rides. One exciting year, a tornado swept through the farm upon our arrival. Everybody was scared but nobody was hurt so we became a laughing, cheerful clean-up crew of the downed trees and fences. One year the rain kept everyone under cover in the garage or the house, so we ran between the raindrops from one to the other. It is always hot in August. How hot is it? We sent our teenagers into town to purchase blocks of ice to float in the swimming pool. Reunions - Now that's Togetherness!

Yes, my writer's group met in August and a few members read their 'togetherness' story. I remember just two beside my own; one humorously described a family's first experiences camping while traveling across America and the other was a beautiful and romantic letter to a spouse. Mine was a sweeping essay of acknowledgement from the simple (Jack & Jill) to the cerebral (quantum theory) - or so I thought. But, I had to vote for the camping experience because it was the most impressive example of togetherness.

Everyone has at least one story on 'togetherness.'
What's yours? Tell me. I'd like to know.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


It was Sunday, July 31st when a neighbor called. "Do you like watermelon," she asked. "Bob bought one and it is too much melon for the two of us."

Yes, I do enjoy watermelon and Bob arrived a few minutes later with two beautiful, fragrant slices. Seeing the bright red center with flat, black seeds embedded, encircled by white rind and emerald green skin brought old watermelon memories popping into my head.

My dad was a melon-eater. Arkansas watermelon was his favorite. His first taste happened one August afternoon, the year he moved to Arkansas. We stopped to visit a neighbor and while sitting on his porch steps, Emmit cut several green watermelon globes in half, handing them to each of us - with a fork stuck in the middle. Then he passed the salt shaker. Now we had never eaten watermelon with salt before. I'm not sure whether my dad salted his melon that day, but pleasure lit up his face with that first taste of sweet, cold, red Arkansas-grown watermelon.

I think that's when he came to believe Arkansas had the best watermelon and the best of the Arkansas watermelon arrived with August. Dad raised animals - not crops, so he and my mother shopped the county Farmers' Market with the city folks. I'm sure he began asking how the watermelon was faring from the first pickings of garden crops - certainly, long before melons came to market. One entire section of my mother's deep freezer was reserved for canisters filled with watermelon balls -just for my dad. They were jawbreakers but Dad chose them over fresh berry pie or ice cream every time.

My own special relationship with watermelon was in the contests - the seed spitting contests. I won at least three: First, at a "Street Party" when we lived in a little Illinois town. Next, at a health care professionals' conference and, finally, at a Thatcher Family Reunion in Buffalo, Missouri. I do know how to spit!

Watermelon is thought to have originated in southern Africa, the seeds arriving in America with slaves. There seems to be a culture and symbolism of black people's special fondness for it. Watermelon was also cultivated in China in the 10th century, although I've never seen it used as a symbol of China. And, there's my sister who can turn wedges of chopped wood into decorative watermelon wedges - is there something cultural or symbolic about that? Hmmmmm.

Each of my family members has a special fondness for watermelon. In addition to eating it, salt or no salt, fork or no fork, by the wedge, a slice or frozen balls, my family has favorite watermelon recipes from smoothies and granita to (sweet) pickled watermelon rind. Mmm-mm-mm, watermelon in August is Sooo good!

Friday, July 29, 2011


You will never be younger than you are today. So, why not be the happiest, healthiest person you can be - for today - and this week - and this year ... It isn't easy to stay at the peak of beauty and productivity as years add up but it is possible to stay Young at Heart.

My family elders set healthy standards and practiced healthy habits in their lifetimes. I did not. I was not althletic, I had a sweet tooth and I smoked cigarettes. Now, years later, I'm trying to make up for my youthful carelessness. I not only read a lot about healthy lifestyles but try to incorporate them into my life - with some success, if I say so myself. tells us that in order to stay "Young at Heart" we need to fill up life with good food and fun, good exercise and friends, good thinking and attitudes. Modern print media is hell-bent on serving us a menu of Healthy Living. Sounds good to me. I'll take a full platter of the good stuff!

Suggestions gleaned by Nancy yTe:
-Get up, get dressed and get out - and you will feel healthy.
-Keep only cheerful friends - grumblers weigh you down.
-Keep on learning - if you don't use it (your brain, that is) you'll lose it.
-Count your blessings. If you don't have any handy, go find some!
-Laugh every day and often - because there is so much stuff to laugh about.
-Be ALIVE while you are alive - if you shed a tear, endure and move on.
(If you've never felt sorrow, how can you know when you feel joy?)
-Surround yourself with positive thoughts till they overflow onto others.
-Take a trip - a little walk around the block or to the mall; visit a friend or travel the world.
-Do NOT take guilt trips - they cause only pain.
-ALWAYS tell people you love that you love them. It is an investment that pays Gazilllions in dividends to the giver and to the receiver.
-If you cannot go out to greet the world, bring the world to you via your computer. It is a gift box filled with people, places, nature, love and life.

If you want to be happy, be ~ Leo Tolstoy
Do the thing and you will have the power ~ M. R. Kopmeyer
The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up ~ Mark Twain
People are as happy as they make up their minds to be. ~ Abraham Lincoln.

Did you try one or two of my suggestions?
What was your reward? Tell me - I'd like to know.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


What is your dream? Is there something you've always wanted to do? Some place you've always wanted to visit? Some thing you've always wanted to learn? Somebody you've always wanted to meet? Now is a good time to make your dream come true.

First, define your dream so you know where you're going - or you could end up somewhere else. Design a plan of action, a road map to take you to your destination. Set a time table to accomplish each leg of your journey. Think ahead. Consider 'what if' and be prepared for detours. Keep a journal of your experience - a log of your accomplishments.

Do you want to learn to cook like Julia Child; be a blacksmith like Ira Carpenter; grow flowers like Luther Burbank; climb Mt. Everest like Edmund Hillary; play tennis like Serena Williams or paint like Grandma Moses? Success may not be 'easy' but it can be 'simple.'

My nephew wanted to play a dulcimer. Following many successful years creating big, beautiful, diverse structures, his bride encouraged and joined him in this new pursuit. After practice and more practice, their musical talents reward them with pleasure and accomplishment.

Stephen King wanted to be a writer. He began at an early age by reading, reading, reading and writing, writing, writing. He was an 'overnight success' after nearly thirty years. His dream came true.

When my multi-talented sister decides to accomplish a project, she gathers up her tools and her imagination to craft beautiful, unusual and diverse things - from real gardens to paper flowers, from jewelry to greeting cards, photographs to magazines and quilts to stepping stones - there is no stopping her!

The succeessful journey to making your dream come true begins with "A Desire to Succeed." M. R. Kopmeyer, one of my favorite inspirational authors, wrote "Be Prepared" and "Do the Thing and You Will have the Power." It is amazing how much you can accomplish by applying these two simple statements as your mantra. Use them to make your dream come true - and let me know how it worked for you. I want to know.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Today is the Perfect Day for ... Indulging in something special? ...Appreciating someone or something? ...Accomplishing something? ...All of the above, perhaps?

With a moment's notice I can make a very long list. So long, that it cannot be accomplished in just one day: Phoning a friend... Ice Cream... Gratitude... Dancing... Reading a book... Doing laundry... Laughing... Bird watching... Getting out water colors and dabbling... Playing music... Writing a letter... Sharing a joke... Setting new goals (or just one new goal)... Inviting a friend to tea... Singing... Journaling about this day (and every day)...

As the old gent said, "It's a good day when I wake up and my name isn't in the Obituaries." It becomes a Perfect Day when you add something enjoyable and rewarding, like performing or receiving a Random Act of Kindness.

I had a business-owner friend who took pleasure in performing random acts of kindness. His business kept him working from dawn till dark but he joined a small group of friends for coffee one evening each week. The topic was always about living the best life one could and sharing the lessons of success to help others. So, my friend saw it as an opportunity to extend kindness when he found a stranger in need of assistance or someone whose cat was up a tree. Then, like the Lone Ranger, he'd just ride off into the sunset. My experience with his kindness occurred one dark evening when I was the last person to leave our meting. I might have been vulnerable or stranded if my car didn't start, but I turned the key and my little Pontiac was ready to go. As I glanced around, I saw my friend's truck idling at the stop sign where he waited until I had safely exited the empty parking lot. Isn't that the type of kindness that makes a perfect day? He never mentioned the event but I remembered it, with gratitude, every time our little group met for coffee!

Perhaps a Perfect Day is one that reminds us of kindness and relationships, gratitude and serenity. "Nothing is worth more than this day," wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Perhaps this day is what we decide to make of it... What do you think? I'd like to know.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Go ahead. Pour a cup of coffee. Enjoy the fragrance and the flavor. Coffee is good for you. It stimulates brain cells. Here's an idea... Why not be a barista?

Coffee is a commodity that falls in and out of favor with health professionals, social graces and economic availabilities. I recall the first time I heard coffee was dangerous for human consumption. The warning coincided with my new-found pleasure of drinking it. While ignoring any danger signs, coffee shifted back into the healthy column. Believing it could keep the consumer mentally sharp and alert, people kept drinking it and coffeehouses popped up from coast to coast. Health professionals no longer limit patients to two cups a day. Actually, one health magazine (Aug 2011) stated women 65 or older who drink three or more cups a day were 33% less likely to experience a decline in verbal fluency than their one-cup-a-day counterparts. - confirming this is a good time to be a barista!

Coffee plays an important role in our social expectations. It is routinely served to clients or guests and it is commonly available for business meetings. Coffee klatches were vital in managing child care and community interactions while raising 'boomers.' Every housewife was a barista - and didn't know it. In the 21st century, men, wives and mothers, pick up drive-thru coffee in paper cups and conduct business, social and community interactions by cell phone.

Coffee has been at the center of political and economic disturbances, too. The first coffee house documented was in Istanbul in 1555. Coffee houses in Europe became gathering places for people of all walks of life to discuss trades, arts, finance, theater, politics; solving problems and, sometimes, causing them. Coffee became the drink of choice in America when tea was taxed and thrown into the sea. The cost of coffee fluctuated from, "Brother, can you spare a dime," during the Great Depression to a $10 Latte four-score years later. Currently, poor harvests and increasing demand has elevated coffee to its hightest price in fourteen years, according to a June 2011 business magazine, but cost isn't stopping consumption. Branded coffee and coffee houses continue to earn impressive profits.

It is intereting to note a 3-day training class to become a barista is $1425. Here is my theory: If the aroma while making coffee is beneficial to one's brain cells, and drinking coffee stimulates brain function, should that $1425 be deducted on the IRS tax form as a busines expense, educational investment or as health insurance? What do you think? I'd like to know.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Don't you love being an American? Doesn't your heart swell with pride when you see the flags lined up on a parade route, the county square and the veteran's cemetery? What are your thoughts when the night sky lights up with fireworks?

Independence Day usually falls on a warm day in July with a clear evening for celebration - just right for flying the stars and stripes, joining a parade and enjoying a barbeque. Does everyone's menu include hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad? How about iced tea and popsicles? The perfect topper, of course, is the fireworks!

Over many years, Independence Day has been celebrated by my family because it is one of those benchmark dates in our family's history. You see, my husband (who was in the Navy at the time) and I met on July 3rd. I won't tell you the year. Before that evening with our friends ended, my future husband invited me to join him to watch the fireworks display the following evening. I said 'yes' and we were together ever after. OK - the year was 1950 and we were married the following year.

Our family has attended fireworks displays or watched them from our back yards in Illinois and in Arkansas. We celebrated most of them with family and friends at barbeques with hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad. These past few years the area I reside in celebrates Independence with a 2-3 day schedule of activities called Red, White and Blue held June 24-26 in 2011. There are, among other activities, a street parade, auto show, rodeo, music and art festivals and a turtle race, topped off with a fireworks display on the beautiful ASU college campus where the fireworks are more impressive every year.

Like everything else in the economy, the cost of Red, White and Blue is expensive and although local businesses contribute generously to the event, attendees purchase lottery tickets for a 'one-of'a-kind' pendant, designed and created by a local jeweler and valued, this year, at $7,000. We purchased a bunch of tickets. We did not win the pendant but the fireworks gave us a spectacular return for our donation. We will be flying our Red, White and Blue flag of Stars and Stripes on July 3rd and 4th. We may even invite a few friends over as we cook up some hot dogs and carve a tasty watermelon for the occasion. Let Freedom Ring!

God Bless our Patriot soldiers from 1776 - and all the Minutemen (and women) who have guarded our independence and freedom to this day. Don't you love being an American? Does your heart swell with pride when you see the American flag flying? Does the Fourth of July, with fireworks bursting in air, hold special meaning for you? Tell me how you celebrate Independence Day and Freedom. I'd like to know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


There are two types of people: those who come into a room and say, "Well, here I am," and those who come into a room and say, "Ah, there you are" - so says Frederick L. Collins.

While I don't know Mr. Collins and my online investigation of him came up with nothing, I agree with his observation. A person entering a room may not be aware of the impression he or she is making. Others may draw lasting conclusions by a first meeting. I have jumped to conclusions based on an initial reaction and held onto it for unreasonable lengths of time; often in spite of subsequent interactions which could have altered that first impression; I stuck to it like a bug to flypaper. Certainly the opposite is true as well. I recall being positively impressed with a newcomer and allowing that person great leeway before seeing the meanness and selfishness which outweighed my first impression.

It is difficult to see oneself as the newcomer. What is the first impression I make on others? I may not want that impression, good or bad, to have long-lasting effects. Here is my dilemma: I am both the "Well, here I am" person as well as the "Ah, there you are" personality. I don't always know which one will take over as I cross a threshold. Like a tightrope walker, I seem to be balancing a split personality. Some days my Auntie Mame self steps forward and announces "Here I am." On some occasions my confidently reserved Eleanor Roosevelt persona grants"Ah, there you are." Some days entering a room is like a spin of the Roulette wheel; will it land on red or black? And the grand entrance is totally out of my hands!

Even having a checklist to confirm I am a good person, have a good sense of humor, am reasonably intelligent, clean in thought word and deed, thoughtful, helpful, kind and loving, I can be irritating, angry, snarling and feeling sorry for myself, too. Becuase the positive group of behaviors is more comfortable to live with than the negative, I choose comfort. I try not to rock someone else's boat - unintentionally, and I try to make a good 'first' impression.

I see myself as an ordinary person, doing ordinary things. I hope to make a long-lasting positive impression everywhere I go. I am surprised, however, when somebody takes time to offer special kindnesses. Isn't that funny? I consciously offer kindnesses and kudos to others because I know just how important these tokens of appreciation are to all us mortals. We teach children to say please and thank you, yet we forget to do the same as adults. In the olden days, friendships were maintained with letters and considerations and thank you notes. It is still important to maintain relationships and friendships with consideration, and it is easier to compose thank you notes in this fast-paced age. The old-fashioned pen and paper is still personal and more appreciated but e-mail is the fast-paced answer. A few simple words can mean a great deal: So glad you liked it. Thank you for the ride (cookies, recipe, info...), I look forward to your Saturday morning telephone calls.... Thank you for checking up on me during the ice storm..... Let's get together for tea Wednesday 1 pm. (I had to put that in because it is a highlight of my day, week, month, friendship to enjoy the company of a particular friend at teatime.)

Be clean, look presentable, put a smile on your face before stepping into the room and ... whether you say "Here I am" or "There you are," be respectful, have fun, take the good feelings home with you and leave the rest where you found them. Split personality or not, keep your balance!

I'm so glad I heard of Frederick L. Collins's quotation. It got me to appreciating good thoughts about me and about you. What did you think of Collins's quotation? Tell me. I'd like to know.

Monday, June 20, 2011


"Let there be light" ... so reads Genesis 1:3 in King James Bible. Light is a good thing. Sky and earth, air and water, birds and fish, animals and vegetation are good things, too. But, how does one grab a fistful of light and hold on to it?

I need light because I don't do well in prolonged darkness. A lot of human beings need light to function at their best - or at all in some instances. Darkness may be important for its contrast: day and night, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance but, how can one keep light from fading to black - as they say in the film industry?

Tomorrow the summer Solstice begins as the longest day of 2011 - in actual daylight minutes. It would be delightful to catch some light and a few extra moments in a Mason jar - to be opened and enjoyed next February or March. What a boon of a trick that could be. One reads that 'life is light' in every genre. The topic is discussed and debated by priests and scientists, geniuses and bourgeoisie, thinkers and dunces. The question remains; how can one capture and preserve light and time?

According to Albert Einstein, light is part of his E=mc2 theory or in terms of quantum theory. The Eastern religion, Diwali, celebrates with a festival of lights as the victory of light over darkness; their Eastern mantra urges God "from darkness, lead us into light." It is not so much that people are afraid of temporary darkness but that their wellbeing requires light. It has been scientifically proven that darkness and light effect mood, life, health, success and relationships. Light stimulates happiness and energy; it is more uplifting than pep pills.

The joy of light is seeing a rainbow, the aurora borealis, sparkling waters or a butterfly on a hibiscus bloom. These delights are contrasts in the spectrum of light - images illuminated and captured so easily with modern technology: solar lights, computers, television.... Now I get it!

Well, I thank you for caring enough about light to stick with me. Because you were here during my dilemma, I found answers to my questions. It is an easy solution and - I am embarrassed - because it was in front of me all the while. My digital camera captures light and color, life and nature. I clicked twenty images of birds and blooms, life and joy, nature and beauty as the sun came up this beautiful June morning. I'm going to enjoy those images again on cold, dark days in the early months of 2012 - like opening a Mason jar and releasing Sunbeams.

If you need some light in your life, try a digital camera; see if the images you collect add light to your dark days. As a Hindu prayer of worship says, "...from the darkness, lead us unto light...." That's where it led me.... Tell me how that works for you. I'd like to know.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I marvel at all the beauty in the month of June. Don't you? Have you noticed that June is filled with "B" words: birds, butterflies, brides, blossoms, beaches, bonnets, bunnies, boats and bumblebees ....

The days grow longer till June 21st; the first day of Summer. With this bonus of minutes and hours, there is no excuse to put off doing enjoyable things for yourself and for others. Isn't it delicious to wake hearing birds chirping; to step outside and water the garden in the early hours. Dawn seems to be a time of peace and serenity. Not just a new day but - a new beginning on my plot of land perched above Pigeon creek and surrounded by a thousand shades of green leaves. Fishermen's boats purr quietly on the creek even before the sun peeks over the horizon. While I'm not a religious person, tending the gardens or strolling under a sun bonnet in the early morning is comparable to 'a closer walk with Thee.' This is that time of day when the tawny rabbit or striped ground squirrel appears from nowhere - unaware of human presence. A colorful variety of feathered friends stop in for a sip or a dip at the freshly filled bird bath and feeders. ...So much beauty in my own back yard.

I moved outdoors with a cup of coffee and note pad to sit at the patio table and write a letter to a friend living 'across the pond' in Wales. A dozen beautiful butterflies floated in to visit the hibiscus blooming nearby. I watched them for a few minutes before I crept away to get my camera. By the time I returned, just one butterfly remained. Was he a loner, the clean-up crew or just a latecomer to the flittery feast? Whichever, he is the only butterfly whose impressive image is now preserved for posterity.

Early hours aren't pretty everywhere in Tornado Alley. Residents of Joplin MO aren't waking to familiar comforts and contentments. It has been several weeks since a tornado shredded their homes and community - a devastation and loss I can only empathize with. Almost immediately, Joplin residents expressed gratitude to have survived and hope in the face of tremendous losses. It is heartening to know of the immediate and ongoing help by individuals and organizations to provide whatever assistance and suppport they can give. Each morning, my thoughts, admiration and prayers are with our Joplin neighbors.

Do you find your appreciation of beauty and serenity grows following dilemmas or disaters? I do. Tell me your experience with it. I'd like to know.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Okay. Everyone knows walking is important. The first significant benchmark in little Johnnie's life is his first step. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Tim Conway showed us the 'old man shuffle' in his memorable Carol Burnett Show skits. There are too many steps between little Johnnie and Tim Conway to count.

Children bound, teenagers strut and soldiers march. I could not help but notice the erect body posture and flat foot placement of Arabs walking on sandy deserts. I noticed, too, that big, clunky gym shoes worn by westerners give the wearer a lumbering caveman walk.

Groups of people, by class, occupation, gender or geography seem to employ different ways of walking, swaggering or striding. Even on land, sailors appear to walk as though they were aboard a ship on the rolling sea. Music influences the way some people walk, like the New Orleans funeral procession with an exaggerated swaying to the meter of familiar Bayou blues. Our 'westward' pioneers often accomplished their journey by walking great distances from Missouri and California. Who knows how many steps an infantryman took during the Crusades of 1076, or a soldier during the Revolutionary War of 1776. Natives and visitors in Australia are known to go on a "walkabout" that can take days, weeks or months while natives and visitors in Japan gain respect and status by walking 'up' Mount Fuji carrying a stick that can be branded with victorious Kanji at the summit. All this walking is serious, honorable and respectable yet, there is nothing sillier-looking than fashion models ostrich-stepping down the runway.

Perhaps I should not be a judge. I do as little walking as possible. Following health recommendations, I do try to include a half hour of walking each day - if trudging up the driveway to retrieve the morning newspaper is included, if trips to the bathroom and refrigerator count, if touring WalMart to find coffee filters or light bulbs is walking, and if moseying from table to table playing MahJongg has merit - then I do meet the minimum daily requirements for walking.

I received an email from a neighbor, a man who I rarely ever see 'walk' because he is always on his mower or golf cart, addressing 'The Importance of Walking" like this:
Walking can add minutes to your life.
This enables you at 85 years old to spend
An additional 5 months in a nursing home
At $7,000 per month.

He says:
My grandpa started walking

Five miles a day when he was 60.
Now he's 97 years old and we
Don't know where the hell he is.

The advantage of walking every day

Is so when you die, they'll say,
'...Well, she looks good doesn't she."

Every time I hear those dirty words,

"Walking is good for you," I wash my
mouth out with chocolate.

I'd like to thank whomever designed this 'walking' email; it totally erased my guilt.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Saturday, May 21, 2011. The World Ended.
Sunday morning. I survived and, apparently, you are a survivor, too!

Are you surprised to be here? I'm not. I live a simple life, one day at a time. Although I do wake up every morning surprised and pleased to be alive. Some days I am excited about all I get to do before the day ends. Some days I am content with very small accomplishments.

All this 'End of the World' foolishness has made me wonder why some old geezer from California thinks he can stir together science, religion and numbers (a theory that comes right out of the Middle Ages) and deduce a formula (as I read somewhere) of atonement x completeness x heaven, square = Judgement Day or Rapture or Finis. What kind of thrill did the old guy get from peddling fear? Was he looking for fifteen minutes of fame? He performed the same stunt in 1997 - with the same result.

Why were so many people caught in this web of fear? Had we forgotten, already, the disastrous results to individuals paying homage to Harold Camping's predecessors? Marshall Applewhite and 39 cult members, as a result of some science, religion, evolution formula, suicided in order to reach an alien aircraft they came to believe was following the Comet Hale-Bopp on March 25-26, 1997. William Miller's 1840 prediction the earth would be engulfed in fire on March 21, 1843 created unwarranted fear in large populations of people. David Karesh and Jim Jones created fear then provided isolated communities to 'protect' the men, women and children residing and imprisoned in them; resulting in death to all.

I have no issue with science, religion, numbers or history. Each element, to some degree, has enhanced my health, happiness and peace of mind. I am, however, inclined to doubt and question most ideas presented as 'fact' without adequate validation. As my Dad would say, "Just because it is written doesn't make it so." I like proof and a track record before I invest - being safe rather than sorry.

Although I may grumble about circumstances or health, it is often fear-based. I do appreciate that I am alive today and agree with John Garfield, the American actor who said, "I have had many troubles in my life, but the worst of them never came."

Perhaps this doomsday prediction has a positive side. We are reminded: A new beginning can begin at any time, so, why not replace unnecessary fear by adding laughter, appreciation, faith, awareness and gratitude to our life. Why not enjoy each day to its fullest.

If you survived May 21, 2011, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? I'd like to know....

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Do you get up and dance whenever the music invites you. Try it - Just for the fun of it. No need to be Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers; pretend. Swing and sway to a dreamy old song or Jitterbug to 'Tuxedo Junction.' Sweep about the room to a waltz - like the closing dance of 'Beauty and the Beast.' It feels great - and - studies have shown that dancing can be good for you physically, mentally and spiritually.

First, it seems we have better blood flow through our body and brain if we get up and move. A treadmill can do the job but moving to a bit of Salsa on the porch deck can, so I have read, influence brainwaves with more positive thoughts and energy. I can use a bit of that. So, just keep the music can cheer you up and keep you physically healthy, too.

Second, because my radio station plays all kinds of music throughout the day, I find myself keeping the beat as I vacuum or iron or brush the cat. While writing, I use music to think up and smooth out stories to tell them in a positive or interesting way. For serious stuff I listen to Mozart; for articles, letters and Blogs, I am inclined to listen to Kenny G, Celine Dion or popular classics. If the music has a beat - it is danceable! When my story is in trouble, I get up and dance around the office. Like magic, problem solved.

I am known to get a bit flamboyant moving in time to 'Whipped Cream' or 'Yellow Bird' especially when I'm home alone. I rumba, jitterbug and waltz around the house. I surprised (perhaps stunned is a better description) the heat-pump installer guy who walked in on my dancing one day. He jumped back from the doorway and hid. I kept right on dancing. I'm sure he thought I was a crazy woman having a fit. It was funny. Seriously, I have heard dancing, with a partner or without, is good exercise for a person's heart, muscles and thinking, so I'm going to keep on dancing as often as I can.

Being able to move to music on stage, on a dance floor or in the kitchen lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels. (I read that in an AARP magazine so it must be true.) Dancing can build immunity and stave off dementia. Since both of those unseen problems are unwanted, a dancer can feel s/he is doing the responsible thing for maintaining mental health.

We, you and I, can start a chain reaction by encouraging others, of all ages, to dance and be healthy. We will be contributing to a longer life as well as the physical, mental and spiritual welfare for our fellow man and woman. Just think of it, if we get everyone up and dancing, we (I) won't feel so foolish dancing alone..... If you need more encouragement, just Google 'Dance for Health' or

So, my friends, turn up the music and dance, Dance, DANCE whenever the mood takes you. Which songs get you up and moving? What do you think of dancing your way to health? Tell me ... I'd like to know...

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I lost a friend this week. While he wasn't a close friend, as a confidant or spouse might be, he was my dear friend. He was someone I could count on for home repair advice or an extra pair of hands - or to arrive armed with a garden hoe and pistol when I found a seven-foot snake sun-bathing on my front porch (which actually happened!).

~For many years my husband and our friend worked together to maintain the community water system. He drove a Jeep at that time, with the words Cherokee Chief emblazoned on the side (because it was the style of the vehicle). So, when I'd see it coming down our road, I'd call out to my husband, "The Cherokee Chief is here." I knew he had served in the Air Force during Korea and Vietnam - and that he had been a Vietnam POW. Occasionally he and his wife spoke of places they had lived in the world, but never of his military experience - at least, not when I was present.

~One day my husband told me I might be hurting our friend's feelings by shouting out, "Here comes the Cherokee Chief" because he was quiet and reserved about being Indian. Well, I had no idea he was Indian and I certainly wouldn't say or do anything to hurt this nice man's feelings, so I apologized. With a restrained little grin, he said he didn't mind at all because he was part Cherokee. He said his grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee, had survived the Trail of Tears in which so many of her family and tribe had died. I said I wanted to hear more about her.

~Perhaps it was my imagination, but he seemed to talk more often about his heritage with friends and neighbors although we never did have that nice chat about his grandmother as he had promised. In time, one of our neighbors regularly referred to him as 'the Indian' while another called him "Chief Running Water" because of his involvement with the town's water system. He seemed to enjoy both titles.

~Then one day, his Cherokee Chief vehicle being long gone, he drove up in a new truck. As we stood and talked, I noticed a sticker in the window, "Member of the Cherokee Nation.' "Yep," he said, "my son thought it was time I had a talk with those folks."

My friend was proud to be a member of the Cherokee Nation. I am proud he was my friend. I will miss my Cherokee Chief.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


What a relief it is to see the sun shining this morning after a week of Weather Bureau warnings, downpouring rain, the road between my house and the highway flooded and closed, and tornado warnings that made me take cover more than once. Let me tell you about a tornado in my closet....
~Now I don't remember which evening it was when the Weather Bureau set off alarms on every media. Tornado sightings with touch-downs were heading right for my house! I think it was the fourth time in a week that I had prepared to dive into the hall closet.
~I closed off all the windows with curtains or blinds, closed all the doors, turned off all the lights and removed the vacuum cleaners from the closet before I checked my emergency equipment: battery and windup flashlights, radio, water, inhaler, purse with cash, credit cards, keys and cell phone. Don't forget shoes (I always forget shoes).
~The warnings were coming faster, closer, louder and more urgent - when the phone rang. It was Christy. I told her what was happening and she offered to get off the phone if I would feel safer closed in the closet, but I said I would rather she kept talking - and so she did. I have no idea what she was telling me; something funny, something serious, something interesting...who knows... I don't remember.
~What I do know is that the tornado split in two, part going to the north of my house, part to the south. We got wind and hail and rain. I also got Christy, holding my hand, so to speak, through the storm - and gratitude when the All-Clear sounded!
~I hope the sun is shining at your house! And that you have a comforting hand to hold during a storm.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Actually, I met the same hero twice in one week! Let me explain:

~ I was raised during the WWII era. My brothers served as civilians and in the military. My family enjoys hearing their stories and stories of people who also served - although they are often reluctant to tell them.

~ One major factor in encouraging our veterans to tell their lifetime experiences must be credited to Tom Brokaw who wrote The Greatest Generation (1998). Other encouragements, however belated, were the establishment of the WWII Memorial in Washington DC and the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Each week, The Baxter Bulletin, my Arkansas newspaper, publishes a feature article telling the experiences of a local resident and WWII veteran.

On Monday, April 18, 2011, Bill Cantwell was the featured WWII veteran who served in Germany. He was at the Battle of the Bulge, was captured and was a prisoner of war. I was especially interested in his story because one of my brothers also served at the Battle of the Bulge - with a different, nontheless dramatic experience.... Cantwell, as his story is told, got separated from his unit and was captured and held as POW for approximately six months before the war in Europe came to its close. He related his military experiences without drama or fanfare - typical of most veterans' stories I have read.

~ On Wednesday, April 20th, I was invited to lunch at Pebble Creek Country Club where I chatted with people to my left and to my right, finally discovering I had been chatting with Bill Cantwell, the very same WWII veteran whose story I had read in the Monday edition of the Baxter Bulletin. I was surprised and honored to meet this endearing elderly gentleman and gentle hero.

~ Certainly I am a fan of The Greatest Generation becuase my family, my brothers in particular, were and are important members of that elite group-that generation that grew up in the United States during the Great Depression then served during World War II before returning home to build America into a superpower. Yes, they did. And most, as citizens or veterans, rarely mention their war experiences. Their stories are long overdue!

~If you are a member of the Greatest Generation and experienced the Great Depression, whether serving as civilian or in the military, what is your story? I want to know....

Monday, April 18, 2011


Here they come again - those big, noisy bugs that infiltrate the Ozarks and overwhelm our senses. Their last visit was in 1998 when they invaded Missouri and Arkansas by the millions - and they will return this year, according to the University of Missouri. ~ Be on the lookout for cicada nymphs. Most are golden brown with six prominent legs, gossamer gold wings and big red eyes. Early arrivals have been spotted. On April 13th on Facebook announced, "It's On. The first brood XIX Magicada cicada sightings." ~ Cicadas do not bite or sting in the true sense. They are just a nuisance with a mere six to eight weeks to perform difficult tasks to perpetuate their species. It's not all "live, laugh and love" for this insect. While the male cicadas sing and females lay eggs, they can cause damage to trees: oak, hickory, dogwood, apple, peach, elm, walnut and sycamore - but not conifer. Their task fulfilled, both the male and female expire while the eggs hatch and resulting nymphs fall to the ground where they will burrow deep to the roots of the trees - there to stay for 13 years. ~ Once cicadas emerge from their underground home, they climb their host tree and shed their exoskeleton. Renewed and refreshed, they live 'free' for a few weeks. Males begin singing almost immediately. Their song is a mating call - loud and incessant. As the heat of day rises, so does the volume of their song. Females like the singing enough to join the males, however briefly, and begin laying rows upon rows of tiny eggs before their love affair comes to its tragic end. ~ In Greek myth, Tithonus turns into a cicada after being granted immortality by Zeus. In Japan, the song of the cicada is used in film and television to represent summer, to carry connotations of re-birth and reincarnation, and the cicada is frequently the subject of haiku. In China the phrase 'to shed off the golden cicada skin' is the poetic name for the tactic of deception to escape danger. In Mexico the mariachi song "The Cicada" romanticizes the insect as a creature that sings until it dies. ~ At least some cultures have found a bright and positive side to these noisy intruders. Perhaps we Ozark-Americans can tolerate the cicada's pitiful plight for a few weeks knowing we won't see or hear them again for thirteen years. Or, we could start a new fashion trend of wearing ear-muffs during cicada season. Art crafters and culinary artists may want to add their creative expertise. Let me know how you plan to welcome the cicada this year....

Saturday, April 9, 2011



My four older brothers and one younger sister could readily recall childhood events as full-color motion picture shows. My own recollections are more like Brownie box camera snapshots - with some extensive blank spaces of time between them. Consequently, I thought my brothers were making up whoppers of stories or, at least, exaggerating as siblings often do.

~ In my adult years, long forgotten snapshot memories do occasionally surface, rather like an image coming into view as it developed in the darkroom. It would simply appear before me and shout "Surprise!"

~ One surprise recollection was related to my second or, probably, third birthday. On that day my Aunt Emma came to visit. I did not like her. She was big and fat and loud and bossy. She seemed to think she was more important than anyone else. She was so awful she made my mother cry! I figured out her meanness at an early age and stayed as far away from her as I could.

~ On this particular day, however, I was plunked into the high chair that usually stood in a corner of our dining room. Perhaps Aunt Emma needed my chair since all the family was gathered at the big round table as we did every evening for dinner. With everyone else seated, my mother would carry in hot dishes of food to serve her large brood, but on this day Mother carried in a huge, empty glass bowl which she set on the high chair tray in front of me. Aunt Emma, with great ceremony, began to open white paper bakery bags and slowly pour beautiful cookies into the empty glass bowl. She must have repeated the process with three or four bags until the bowl was filled to the top with cookies - my most favorite things in the world.

~ I was surely surprised and overwhelmed. I have always loved cookies - especially those big buttery ones that come from a really good bakery. Who could ask for a better birthday gift?

~ That cookie birthday is the only time I remember Aunt Emma involved in anything that brought pleasure to someone else. It was important to my mother that I always treat her with respect (and I did). Even remembering this birthday, however, I never did like Aunt Emma.

~ The simple joy of this childhood memory is a single snapshot of a frail, little girl, her arms wrapped around a giant glass bowl filled with cookies. It was Paradise - and I'm not exaggerating.

~ April 9, 2011. I won the EMERY AWARD for my story "Childhood Memories." Each month, members of TwinLakesWriters are invited to write a brief piece on an assigned topic which they then read for attendees who vote for their favorite presentation. The winning author is presented with the Emery Award - a hand-made wooden box containing a Red Canoe. I liken it to the Stanley Cup for hockey in that it travels with the winner until the next playoff. In this TwinLakesWriters organization, the Red Canoe floats on, each month, to the next writer and winner of the Emery Award. ~ Also see: & Nancy yTe ~

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The View through my KALEIDOSCOPE

I AM a 'collector.' I collect word, books, ink pots, feathers, flags, pinwheels, colorful things that flutter in a breeze and colored eggs of gemstones, wood or plaster. I collect dishes, and recipes, coffee cups and pop-up books, photographs and figurines . AND, I have a nice collection of kaleidoscopes.

KALEIDOSCOPES are a fascinating creation. Who invented them and when? I'd like to thank that person! While they can be a simple tube with mirrors and confetti, they are like life - ever changing in shape and color, design and intensity. Like life, one must always look forward as you can never turn a kaleidoscope back to a previous time or image. One is allowed only to move on to the next shifting of the light and time to a new minute, image, hour, performance, day and experience. A Kaleidoscope can deliver relaxation, happiness, peace and beauty to the beholder.

It makes no great difference whether is is an inexpensive cardboard tube reflecting a few glass beads or a cherrywood cylinder directed toward a turntable music box arranged with spectacular gemstones. Each time I raise a kaleidoscope to my eye and peer into the magic tube, I think, "This one is my most favorite." There are so many of them in my collection, I cannot recall where each came from, or when or why or how. Nonetheless, each is my favorite the moment I reach for it, expecting to be awed once again by the magic it contains. The image in each scope is like a beautiful story with heartfelt words. It is like a gift of color and light; like watching the Fourth of July fireworks or viewing the Aurora Borealis. Although it is a trick with mirrors, it reflects the abundance of beauty in this world. Just pick up a kaleidoscope and peer into it. What do you see... ? ?