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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012

Second Day of Christmas

What's going on here?
Guest post by Heather the Cat--
Too much for a cat to take in. A new green climbing toy with treasures to pull down and chase around the room. Everyone too busy to even provide the necessary laps for napping.

Then come hordes of (four) vistors to play games with cats.

During what should be a quiet night people are sneaking in to set out more interesting stuff.

The quiet time ends with loud voices and the shuffling of packages all around.

Soon a celebration of shiny paper everywhere leaves me new boxes to jump into. Absolute Heaven for cats.

Suddenly the people are all gone and we are back to only two laps to crawl up in. Where did they all go?

 I hope they leave this new green climbing post here. Callie and I can take turns prancing up and down it. The people are too tired to even pay attention to how I settle into the tree branches and sleep there undisturbed.

{Thanks to guest blogger, Heather. I'm worn out with Christmas merriment.}

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Always learning

Talk about Lifelong Learning. Wow. I have a favorite cartoon in mind picturing a classroom of kids all sitting in their desks and one has his hand raised:
     "Teacher, may I be excused? My brain in full."

I can relate to that today and this month as I am researching where to go to get my novel TOO MUCH LEFT UNSAID published. Man, there are a lot of options.

I have hired @Hannah Crawford of @The Write Place to edit my "final" draft, knowing that there will still be changes she will recommend.  But I am taking a break to get some other things done.

Joined PINTEREST and GOODREADS but have lots to learn about how to best use them.

        Any hints on how to use either of these would be appreciated.

Learn, learn, learn. I think my brain is filling fast.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Resolutions

Christmas joy and peace be yours as we wait for and work for Christ's coming again.

I send out my Christmas letters after Christmas.
     I decided years ago that I would not write Christmas letters when all the other hubbub of preparations are calling mr.
     My desire to touch base with friends is more neaningful for me, and maybe for them, if I wait until Christmas is over.

But this year I am getting the jump on resolutions by making them now--at the start of the church year--in Advent.

  1. I resolve to be a better listener. I know I learn more when I listen than when I talk.
  2. I resolve to keep in touch with old friends and make new ones.
  3. I resolve to organize my desk, my files, my house, and my thoughts.
  4. I resolve to try "to let the goodness of God express itself in my obedient heart and mind and will."
That should be good for starters.

What will you be resolving for 2013? Leave a response or email me at collinsleej@gmail.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gender neutral language

"Mankind" was once understood as referring to both male and female people, but somewhere in the course of my lifetime, we replaced the term with" humankind."

I've been thinking about gender neutral pronouns and nouns that encompass "humankind".

We have no pronoun that fits the bill when we want to talk about someone whose gender is unknown to us.
  • Did the writer do HIS job in telling the story?
  • Did the doctor complete HER rounds this morning?
  • Does the artist convey HIS/HER message clearly?
  • The student seems puzzled. Does s/he understand the problem presented?

It seems awkward to say "he or she" when referring to a person of unknown gender, but it still seems gramatically  incorrect to use "they" when only one person or being is being talked about.

We have changed how we talk about roles in today's world. For the most part the change is comfortable once one gets used to it.

"Hero" now means anyone--male or female--who does a heroic act. The word "heroine" today conveys a degree of helplessness that doesn't give the impression of taking charge.

Mail carriers has replaces the term "mailman" and fire fighters has replaced the term "fireman".

Waitperson seems to be preferred over waiter or waitress; Flight attendent over stewardess or steward.

Actor now means anyone who acts. The term "actress" is out-of-style.

Maybe I should refer to my novel as HERstoric fiction.

Your comments are always welcome. Comment here or send me an email at

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Little Known Fact about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can mean many things to many people.

I am truly thankful for all the wonderful people in my life and all the good things that have happened to me.

I grew up the daughter of a department store merchandise manager and Thanksgiving was the beginning of the Christmas Shoppng Season even back in those days. But I imagine many people do not realize that it took an act of Congress to settle when Thanksgiving should be celebrated.

  • When I was a child Thanksgiving's date was SOME Thursday in November--but no general agreement about which one. Department stores wanted some consistencey, so they asked President Franklin Roosevelt to set a date.
  • In 1940 and 1941 it was celebrated on the THIRD Thursday of November.
  • On October 6, 1941 Congress passed a resolution making Thanksgiving the LAST Thursday of November.
  • In December, 1941 The Senate passed an amendment to the resolution establishing Thanksgiving as the FOURTH Thursday in November,
  • This is the reason that in 2012 Thanksgiving is on the earliest possible date.
  • Won't everyone be surprised NEXT YEAR when Thanksgiving is on the latest possible date?

This year BLACK FRIDAY crept into Thursday's time with some stores opening Thursday evening.. With a week less of the Shopping Season next year, it will be interesting to see what happens.

Did you learn a little history today reading this?
Send me a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program)

For a month now I have been on a SHIIP journey in my office at Crossroads of Pella.

As a volunteer for the state of Iowa Insurance Division, I am one of 300 or so Iowans trained to give infromation about Medicare and especially Medicare Part D.

If you are on Medicare you know that each year the Insurance plans that are offered to help pay drug costs change. You join for one year, possibly renewable the next year, but it is always a good idea to check.

Between October 15 and December 7 each year is when you need to make your changes.
 SHIIP volunteers meet with individual clients to help them see which plan is best for the following year,

  • Plans change which drugs they will cover
  • Plans change which pharmacies they favor
  • Plans change the cost of the premium
  • Plans change the deduction amount
  • Plans change how they handle the "donut hole" has information on their website, and we help clients understand the information.

We are even able to enroll you right on the computer,
             so you just wait to hear from the new, better-for-you plan.

Every state has people who do this service, so if you need help call Medicare to find out where to get it.

In Pella, Iowa, you call
Crossroads of Pella (628-1212)

and you can make an appointment to see me or another volunteer.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Typing Class

Do you remember typewriters?

They were sort of like computers except nothing was ever saved other than on the blank piece of paper you inserted in the roller.

More to the point:
        Do you remember typing class?

asdf  jkl;  asdf  jkl;  asdf  jkl;  asdf  jkl;                     

qwert  qwert  qwert  yuiop  yuiop  yuiop

Exercise after exercise to train your fingers to hit the correct keys.

qwert  qwert  qwert  yuiop  yuiop  yuiop

The rules of the game were that you copied the exercise page exactly.

A maximum of two errors was allowed.

We spent the fifty minute class hour typing away, making perfect copies of the exercise pages. 
Some of my friends caught on quickly and by the end of the class handed in perfect copies of ten to twenty pages in the book.

I tried over and over to get one page perfect.
I might be almost to the bottom of the sheet when Error Number Three slipped from my fingers.
         RIP out page!
         INSERT a new clean sheet!
         START again!
         S I G H !!

Last week I was reminded of typing class when my computer locked up and I feared that 290 pages of my novel would have to be typed into my computer again.

But my resident computer guru saved the day, fixing my computer and there was my novel safe and sound.

On a computer, once you make a correction and save it, it stays corrected! Hooray!

If you are too young to have struggled with typewriters and typing class, consider yourself blessed.

Computers are a huge inprovement.

Drop me a note at my new email address: to tell me your computer/typewriter adventures. Or leave a comment.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

It's Been a While

Apologies and a promise--

So my last Blog post was on July 8. Sorry about that. What happened to the time?  I could easily blame someone or something else for my lack of posting, but the truth is I got caught up in other things and when I returned to this, I lost track of how to do it! Google came up with a new wrinkle in how to access it and required that I come up with a new email address. That put me off for a time, and I spent the hours writing on my novel and doing a great amount of reading, so the blog got pushed to the back of my TO DO list.

Announcing: my new email (which is in addition to my old one, so you can still reach me there) is:

On Monday the website will be open for signing up for Part D, the drug program for people on Medicare. I am a volunteer for SHIIP, the Senior Health Insurance Information Program, in Iowa and will be counseling people to help them choose which Prescription Drug Plan will be the best for them in 2013. There are many changes every year and it is important to check out each year what plan will be the most beneficial for the patient in the upcoming year. Fortunately the website has a plan finder which ranks the available plans in your area according to their annual cost. Anyone can use the plan finder but many folks prefer to have a SHIIP counselor help them navigate it.

I warn you that from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, I'll be spending a lot of hours at Crossroads, our sponsor's office, talking to Medicare benificiaries.  I will try to be a more faithful blogger, however. So watch for my posts.

And send me an email at my gmail address, so I know you are reading.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On the Road Again

This afternoon I am going to Iowa City for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.  It will be my second week there this year, this time in a class for "Advanced Novel." There are so many interesting people that go over to Iowa City and it is fun to meet and talk with many of them.  Teachers, reporters, event coordinators, lawyers, and many other fields, all of them writers in various stages of their development. 

I started going over for a week at a time in 2009 when my college roommate from 50+ years ago agreed to come out from the Washington, DC area and attend with me.  That fall I began writing my novel, now titled TOO MUCH LEFT UNSAID. It has gone through numerous revisions including having it workshopped several times at ISWF.  I must say that it gets better with every revision, so I have hopes that soon I will be able to say it is finished.

In the course of May and June this year I have flown to the Pacific Northwest with a group of Road Scholars, where we visited Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, and San Juan Islands.  We rode trains, ferries, buses, vans, and walked, walked, walked.  Great fun and great people there, too.

A week ago a group of 16 people from our church in Pella, Iowa, were returning from a week-long mission trip to Staten Island in New York, where we served in food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters, and learned about homelessness and HIV/Aids programs.

I will be ready for a chance to relax and collect my thoughts by the end of this week. I hope I will then have some good ideas for finalizing my novel.

And I fully intend to spend some time blogging on a regular basis.  I hope to be passing along some thoughts over the next few months.

Until then,

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Celebrating Birthdays--

In my opinion the more birthday celebrations the better.  I know people who stop celebrating at a certain age: "I'm too old for such foolishness," they say.  But I think you can't get too much of a good thing.

One year I "took my birthday on the road" visiting my kids close to the day and dragging out the celebration in a delightful series of birthday dinners--and cake and ice cream in three different states.

One of my friends calls her children at the hour they were born each year.  It works a bit easier for the daughter born during the day, but to greet the son born in the wee hours she has to stay up extra late.  Still it is a nice tradition and I applaud her.  In my family, calling on the day is important, but sometimes even that doesn't work, and we are glad to hear the same week if that is the best we can do.

I turned 78 on Wednesday, and due to events at church here and business in Georgia and Wisconsin where my children live, my birthday calls were before and after the big day.  An email (and an ecard from my grandson) greeted me on the day.  I smiled when both the cruise lines we have traveled with and the gym where we take our exercise wished me an online happy day.

Today, Saturday, I went to the Comfort House--Pella's Hospice facility--to say happy birthday to a friend with whom I have jointly celebrated our May birthdays over the last few years.  We never know what will happen but it looks pretty clear that my friend's 83rd birthday will be her last here on earth.  Next year we will celebrate her memory and think about her surrounded by God's love in a more peaceful and less painful place.

Happy birthday, Joyce, and for all of you others: 

                                                         A Very Merry Unbirthday.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Contest for Book Authors

Guide to Literary Agents is running a contest called "Dear Lucky Agent" that runs until May 14.  This is the Tenth Annual contest, and this year I am entering the first 200 words of my novel TOO MUCH LEFT UNSAID. 

They are looking for upmarket novels, which I think would include my 76,000 novel set in the 1960s.

Here is the URL if you might be interested in submitting your own piece.  If so, good luck!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Do you still believe in government? 

According to David Brooks, as reported on Bill Moyers April 22 telecast, most Americans don't.  Only 10% of people trust the government.

But if we are a government OF, BY and FOR the people, we don't trust ourselves. Right?

Conservatives are consistent in trying to downsize (eliminate?) government, forgetting that the infrastructure of our nation, the roads, bridges, and regulations have made it possible for business and individuals to grow as they have.

Liberals, according to Eric Alterman, author of THE CAUSE, have taken their eye off the ball, fighting among themselves and playing defense.  Because they see problems as complex, they donn't always agree on what should be done.

Liberalism is belief in reason, acting rationally in the interests of fairness, according to Alterman.

Today's episode of Moyers and Company (May 6, 2012) featured Luis Albert Urrea, author of The Devil's Highway.  He had some interesting stories to tell as a child of a Mexican father and a Virginian mother, who was born in Mexico and lived in the U. S. from the time he was in fifth grade.  He said:

In America, we forget we need to love each other.
There is no them.
There is only us.

Urrea, who spent some time with a mission group in Tucson, asks Christians to look through their Bibles and find scripture that tells us to punish and humiliate and hurt the poor among us. Find very many of those?

I believe governemnt is important, and we need to work and vote to be sure it is serving all of us. What do you think?  I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tulip Time

The first full weekend in May, this year May 3, 4, and 5, is the time for a huge celebration in Pella where "A Touch of Holland" is our nickname.

This year the tulips in town were blooming at the end of March and people were encouraged to come twice: see the tulips in April and see the parades, dancing, shows and food this weekend.  There might be a stray tulip or two, but most of the plants are now bare of flowers.

May 10 residents of Pella are invited to go ahead and dig up the bulbs to plant for next year in their own yards, for the prime beds get all new plantings with summer flowers and in the fall fresh bulbs to bloom the next spring.

The last two years, just after I bought myself a Dutch outfit to wear, I was called out of town for family events and missed the festival altogether.  This year I look forward to getting a bit involved.

I will put on my Dutch costume on Friday afternoon and be a host in the Wyatt Earp house in our historical village. And I will eat many poffertjes (little pancakes).

So to all of you Dutch and non-Dutch out there: Happy Tulip Time.


Friday, April 13, 2012

This is Your Lucky Night

Today is Friday the Thirteenth.

Pogo (anyone remember Pogo by Walt Kelly?) used to note the thirteenth of EVERY month by commenting which day of the week it fell on:

"Friday the thirteenth fell on a Tuesday this month."
or words to that effect.

But ever since my years in Senn High School and Edgewater Presbyterian Church in Chicago (1952-56), Friday the thirteenth has had a special meaning.

Gene and Francis Blackwell, our Youth Group sponsors, helped us plan a social event every month, often on the second Friday of the month.  We did all sorts of things at our socials, games and food being the chief attraction.

Any month with the 13th falling on a Friday was sure to be

I still pay attention to this monthly celebration, and many memories and thoughts of long ago friends make it a special time for me.

I hope you will have a good day today--a lucky day.  And many more special days of joy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Each Lenten season I resolve to "give up" or "add on" something to remind me of the great sacrifice on my behalf that Jesus made.  As in former years, my Lenten journey has been a mixure of trying harder and continuing to fail.

If it were up to me all would be lost.
 Luckily. blessedly, it is not all up to me.

We have a lot of work to do to help bring about the world God wants us to live in.

Tony Compolo told us at one visit to Central College:

It's Friday--but Sunday is coming.

 With the end of Lent, I intend to renew my vows to do a better job of reflecting God's love

My daughter wrote, for a Lenten devotional in her church this thought that I'll try to keep in mind:

"Sometimes God calls us to the heavenly banquet of the Lamb
because someone is needed to wash the dishes."

Best wishes for a joyous Easter.

Monday, March 26, 2012


My friend John Miller recommended an excellent book: Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson. Tyson, a historian and professor at University of Wisconsin in Madison, was the ten-year-old son of a white Methodist minister in Oxford, North Carolina in 1970 when an African-American young man was murdered.  Tyson spent years seeking reasons and looking at the effects of the crime.  His true story captures very well the times, and probably speaks again to us as we look at the emotions surrounding the Trayvon Martin death last month.  Tyson's comments about moderation are a warning. "We cannot address the place we find ourselves because we cannot acknowledge the road that brought us here." 

We congratulate ourselves that own views are moderate, but maybe we need to be more willing to understand the views of "The Other." They think they are moderate, too.

"In politics, eveyone regards themselves as a moderate, because they know some other sumbitch who's twice as crazy as they are.  The man who blockades abortion clinics considers himself a model of restraint because he does not bomb them; the fellow who bombs them after hours thinks he's a moderate because he didn't bomb them at rush hour like his cousin Elmer wanted to do; the White Citizens Council member who assassinated Medgar Evers in Mississippi undoubtedly regarded himself as a moderate, since he didn't kill the whole family. Nixon felt that a lesser man might have used atomic weapons on North Vietnam, but he displayed the statesmanlike restraint to use only conventional ordnance--albiet by the time Nixon signed a ceasefire agreement in 1973, America had dropped three time the tonnage unleashed on Europe, Africa, and Asia during World Warr II--all of it on a country the size of Texas. And in the fire of the black freedom struggle, there were always people on both sides who were willing to crank it up another notch, claiming moral authority over the cowards who wouldn't go that far, and thinking of themselves as "moderate" for not taking it still further."  p. 205-206
 --Timothy B. Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name, NY, Three Rivers Press,2004.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Novel-to-be has a New Name

I have been calling my novel-in-progress "Nothing Left Unsaid", but the other day I had a brilliant idea that it should be called instead

Too Much Left Unsaid

There is a large cast of characters, mostly from two extended families, and often, in the course of their lives they are faced with events they cannot understand.
  • Why did Daddy die?
  • Why did Mother leave?
  • Why didn't you tell me that this might happen?
My plan is that you, my blogging friends, will be able to read my novel before the year is out.  In the meantime, follow my blog and let me know that you are curious about the things

left unsaid

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saving Daylight

One year when daylight saving time was still scheduled for the first Sunday in April, the day to switch the clocks fell on my older son's birthday, April 5.  Russ was a young man who kept score on things: whose turn it was to chose the movie, pass out presents or do the dishes.

"They're stealing an hour right out of my birthday!" Russ exclaimed to no one in particular. It was one of a multitude of injustices inflicted on him, though the remark was made half in jest.

"Don't worry, son," his father said.  "Next October, when they add an hour, we'll declare that hour as part of your birthday--if you don't mind celebrating at two in the morning."

Russ has been dead for ten years this April, and his father has been dead for sixteen.  They are very much missed, but I smile at this time of year remembering the banter that the two exchanged.

Yesterday there were a host of people who had an hour stolen out of their birthdays. I wonder how many of them noticed it in quite the same way.


Please sign up to follow my blog, and I will try to post at least weekly.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This is the day the Lord has made. 
 I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Today I am grateful for every year I have lived, even the difficult ones. No special reason that this is on my mind today--except that we have crocuses blooming in our yard and spring really feels like it is settling in.

Never mind that we may still be in for a winter storm or more. Never mind that I need to meet some deadlines and work at bringing order to my surroundings.

I am thinking about growing old and for right now it doesn't seem too bad an option.  I prefer it to the alternative.

  • Youth is wasted on the young.
  • We get too soon old and too late smart.
  • I'm old enough to know better.
  • I'm not getting older, I'm getting better.
  • Grow old along with me.
Today I am thankful that my kneecap is healing and my rehab therapist has brought my walking almost back to normal.

Today I am thankful for everything!

I do hope you are, too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reaching for the Stars

"A man's reach must always exceed his grasp, else what's a Heaven for?"

This is one of the quotations we memorized in Miss Skillen's English class years ago.  Remember that I went to school before the days of gender correctness, and "man" was a generic term for any human.

"Reaching for the stars" used to be poetic or symbolic, but today our space explorations have actually reached for stars and are sending back messages.

And we see that "stardom" has given another meaning to the phrase.

My take on the quotation is simply this:
  • Set your goals high.  Aim for whatever you desire the most.
  • Realize that you are not likely to win the Lottery, or receive the President's Award, or play in the Olympics.
  • Don't let that realization keep you from doing your best.

  • Else what't a Heaven for? 
What are you reaching for? 

         I wish you success in your reach.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Never say never

I find it interesting that so many Axims for Good Living begin with the word NEVER.
  • Never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Never spend money before you have it.
  • Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap,
  • Never complain and never explain  (Your friends don't need it and your enemies will not belive you anyway.)
  • Never trouble trouble, 'til trouble troubles you.
You get the idea.  The first four above were part of the advice that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a younger man as canons for a "practical life."

          The one lesson I can recall from my own student teaching days was this:

Never promise or threaten a punishment or reward
that you can't deliver!

So what do you think of these ideas? 
  •  Is it better to put off some things until tomorrow? 
  • Does the judicious use of a credit card make spending money you don't have a good idea?

You get the idea.  Maybe Thomas Jefferson was sometimes wrong.
It may be better to leave a bit of wiggle room as you pass along advice.
I try to do that.  Do you?

Oh, yes, one final thought--never say ALWAYS, either.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Moral Psychology

I do not expect to blog every day, but a discussion at lunch today led me to post this comment about  Jonathon Haidt , the social psychologist who spoke with Bill Moyers on Sunday.

Haidt noted that in deciding whether something (an act or an idea) is right or wrong, there are many dimensions one might consider.  He listed:
  • care/harm done
  • fairness/reciprocity
  • loyalty/ingroup
  • authority/respect
  • purity/sanctity
Studies have shown that conservatives tend to give equal weight to all these dimensions.  Liberals, on the other hand, tend to give most of the weight to care/harm done and fairness/reciprocity.

If we are able to understand that "the other side" is coming from a different point-of-view, maybe we can quit thinking of them as EVIL and try to listen to what they are trying to say.

Let us all be honest and kind.  We deserve it and so do our opponents.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Second post

So here is a public diary, set up for all the world to see.

What do I want to accomplish here? Share ideas about language and about civil discourse, about how we might improve both of these.

Watching Moyers and Company yesterday with Jonathon Haidt as the guest.  I was fascinated by Haidt's comments about "The Righteous Mind" and his plea that political discussion be more civil.  If we could agree that someone who disagrees with us is NOT a demon out to destroy us, but someone whose culture and belief system lead them to think differently from us.  We can learn from each other.

I expect I will have more to say about this in future posts.  Check out Bill Moyers at and look for his conversation with Jonathon Haidt.

Instead of "drafting our press release" let us try to listen to one another.  I welcome your comments.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fun with the sounds of words

This is my first post on my new blog: I used to think.

 I am not sure yet, what will be on this blog, but perhaps you and I will discover it together.  I used to think that it mattered what I thought, but now I am not so sure.  Trying this out to see whether my thinking makes sense even to me, and then perhaps look for your comments to find out what sense it makes to you.

     I have always enjoyed words in both their sound and sense.  I enjoy the very sound of such words as “windowsill,” “Cinderella,” “sassafras,” and, my recent favorite “hydrochlorothiazide”.  Anyone out there who likes words just for their sounds?

     When I was a 7th grade English teacher I taught the rules of grammar, but admitted that only English teachers cared very much whether one said who or whom or used the nominative case after a preposition.  How much does it matter that we use words "correctly"?

My mind does a double take on clich├ęs and phrases that have become a part of everyday speech but must have meant something different or special when first uttered.  What youngster understands “dialing” a phone or “coming on like gangbusters”?  Do you remember?  If so, you are OLD.