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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How the Earth Must Look to God

Earthrise. Dec. 24, 1948
Forty-five years ago, on Christmas Eve, television viewers on earth were watching their small screens to catch the broadcast from Apollo 8 orbiting the moon.

Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders were preparing a radio and TV broadcast to earth on that holy night. One of every five inhabitants of the earth would see or hear the words of that historic event in real time.

            But there was a bonus. Almost by accident the astronauts had caught sight of  a small blue ball partially shrouded by wispy white clouds, at the edge of the lunar surface. Planet Earth was rising in the blackness. They quickly took images that became known as "Earthrise."
That broadcast scene, in the words of one viewer,
 "must be how earth must look to God."

Lovell spoke to the people of earth.  "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth."

They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.

"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7, 1941

In my novel TOO MUCH LEFT UNSAID Kathy and Josh had met at Kathy's church in Chicago only a few weeks before their first date on Saturday, December 6, 1941. Josh was in the Navy and had a weekend leave. After spending a lovely day together, they agreed to spend Sunday together as well.  Then:
They did meet in church that Sunday morning, December 7. Kathy agreed to spend the rest of the day together, riding the “el” to Oak Park, strolling the neighborhood where Frank Lloyd Wright homes were plentiful. As the train reached Oak Park Avenue people were rushing in all directions, some running, some crying, some lining up to use the pay phones, many shouting. Newsboys were yelling "The Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor." "U.S. surprised. Many killed in Hawaii."
            Josh stopped in his tracks, grabbing Kathy's arm.“NO! I was at Pearl. Some of my buddies are still stationed there. I can picture the place." He grabbed for a copy of the Tribune and shook as he scanned the news. “Kathy, I need to get back to the naval station to see if there's anything I ought to be doing now.”
            He wheeled her around and they ran for the train headed downtown. On the trip back Josh's mind jumped from present to past to future.
            "Now you must marry me! Right now before I'm sent overseas,” Josh declared as they parted downtown.
War was about to change life for Kathy and Josh and many, many others. Do you remember it? Do you have stories to share about it?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Legacy of Light--A Review of the Play

On November 22, I went to see Karen Zacarias's play LEGACY OF LIGHT directed by Ann Wilkinson at Central College.  This extraordinary script of "magical realism" combines historical and fictional characters. On a single stage, with a minimum of furniture moved flawlessly about by silent crewmembers, a 1749 French drawing room is transformed to a modern New Jersey apartment, a family home on the brink of foreclosure, a lecture hall, and a heavenly setting of the afterworld. It is all done so seamlessly that the audience is caught up in the spell.

The two major actors, Jacob Anderson and Emma Simmons, portray writer and philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) and Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire's mistress and intellectual partner. Costumed in 18th century splendor, they bring the audience into the past and present with grace. Emilie is a mathematician, physicist, and author during an age when women were not permitted to follow such pursuits. Pregnant at age forty-two, she accepts that her death will likely come in childbirth. She works to finish her translations and prepare her young daughter for a life without a mother.

The other actors each play two different roles, one from the 18th century story, and one from the present day. Dionne Riley plays Olivia, a twenty-first century astronomer who with her husband Peter (Griffin Hammel) wants to start a family despite being a barren cancer survivor. They hire Millie (Brandie Heims) to be the surrogate mother of the baby they desire. Millie's brother Lewis (Clifton Antoine) does not want her to do this, but they are in debt and need the money.

Babies are born. Emilie survives childbirth only to die within a few days from infection. Yet she is present in today's world to allay the fears of the modern family.

The playwright, the director, and the excellent cast and crew made this play going experience extraordinary. A treatise on light and love, Emilie's lesson for us all is most appropriate.

  “Everything changes, but nothing is lost- ever.”

Congratulations to Theater Central for an unforgettable evening.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Many thanks to Beaverdale Books in Des Moines and to Julie and Alice for making Kathy Daugherty and me so welcome last Sunday afternoon.

We had a delightful afternoon with friends and family, talking about and reading from our books and signing a few.

Those of you in Des Moines can stop in to Beaverdale Books and purchase our books or many others. They have an entire wall of books from Iowa authors.

You will enjoy your visit there, as we certainly did.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Daniel Varnum Collins

November 3, 1996

With the presidential election only a few days away, Dan Collins, retired professor, retired Presbyterian minister, active Democratic Party volunteer, was concentrating on what needed to be done to assure the reelection of President Bill Clinton. In his wheelchair by the phone he was preparing lists of people to call to remind them of their roles on Tuesday. Some would be poll watchers; some would provide transportation for people who could not otherwise get to the polls; others would make phone calls reminding supporters who hadn't yet voted to do so.

Dan and Barb and I had already voted early: for President Clinton, of course. Dan was on peritoneal dialysis for his kidneys, had lost his leg to a diabetic infection nearly ten years before. He had heart complications diagnosed just the summer before. That Sunday morning, November 3, 1996, his heart was bothering him. Barb and I drove him to the local emergency room where the doctors decided he should go by ambulance to Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. We reassured my son, Russ, that Dad would probably be back in a day or so. Such trips to the hospital were part of our life in those days.

Dan and I talked, before they took him in for some surgery to relieve the heart congestion, about who to call to be sure the Tuesday Election Day responsibilities were covered, in case he had to remain in the hospital. It was the last thing we talked about.

Barb and I waited that evening in the empty waiting room at Methodist. Close to midnight the chaplain came out to tell us Dan had died on the operating table.

So unexpected, yet not a surprise with all the health problems he had suffered over the years.

Norm Schouten led a beautiful memorial service the next Saturday. We scattered Dan's ashes at Isle Royale National Park the next summer, Barb and I, my daughter Becky, and my son Ben.

Bill Clinton was reelected.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Signing at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines coming up

Come to Beaverdale Books in Des Moines

on Sunday, November 17 from 2:00 to 4:00

 for a joint book signing

Product Details
Kathryn Daugherty and I will both be there to read and sign our novels.
We'd love to see you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Belated Happy Forty-ninth Birthday, Ben

These two cuties were born exactly 3 1/2 years apart--April 5, 1961 and October 5, 1964. Last Saturday Ben Collins celebrated his forty-ninth birthday. One of his friends asked for some insights into the child-Ben. I thought of this picture to share. I think Ben was about a year old, and Russ would have been four-and-a-half.
A very happy birthday to Benjamin Varnum Clifford Collins.

Russell Grant Collins and Benjamin Varnum Clifford Collins
Love from your Mom

Saturday, September 21, 2013

2013 Montezuma All-Iowa Writers' Conference

Thanks a million to J.O. and Debbie Parker and Our Front Porch Books for once again today hosting an outstanding conference for writers.

They put in so much effort to present an awe inspiring program of writers and editors from a wide range of experience. 

Always more to learn, but by the end of a day listening to success stories and aspirations, we all went home filled with new determination to persevere.

Children's picture book author Maribeth Boelts shared the inspiration for her stories.


Kevin Hansen's popular blog has morphed into two books he called a sort of Chicken Soup for the Troubled Soul. His persistence and PR resulted in astounding success in bringing interest in his project from Dr. Phil and numerous other national media.


And these were only the first two hours of a day-long event. Watch my blog for more to come.

Friday, September 13, 2013

This is your lucky day

Friday the thirteenth.

When I was a teen, our wonderful youth leaders at Edgewater Presbyterian Church in Chicago taught us a lesson to live by.
Something that others might consider "unlucky" can just as easily be "lucky."  

Gene and Francis Blackwell taught senior high Sunday School and led our Sunday evening fellowship group. Once a month we would have a "social", a party, with games and food and lots of fun.
  • It became a tradition that whenever the second Friday fell on  the thirteenth the party was themed "This is Your Lucky Night."
  • One of our favorite games was quick drawing of mystery phrases, a game that was later marketed as Pictionary.

Over the years, Friday the thirteenth became one of my favorite days of the month. Pogo and other characters from the comic strip by Walt Kelly would often make a point of telling each other what day the thirteenth fell on: "Friday the thirteenth fell on a Tuesday this month," they would point out, or words to this effect.

But today,
Friday the thirteenth falls on A FRIDAY,
and for that reason, I will tell you,
"This is your lucky day."
By the way: seventeen month ago, on Friday the thirteenth of April, 2012, I posted a similar post. Goes to show you that I really do like to celebrate this day.
Any superstitions you like to "celebrate"? Any that you carefully follow? 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Rising From the Shadow of the Sun--a review

World War Two
I finished Ronny Herman de Jong's book RISING FROM THE SHADOW OF THE SUN.  I recommend it to readers who want to know more about the Second World War. As someone who recognizes that we need to understand our history is order to avoid repeating it, I was intrigued with Ms. de Jong's book.
The first half is her translation and edit of her mother's diary and recollections written during World War Two in the Dutch East Indies. Netty was raising two small daughters as part of the Dutch colonial community of the Indies. Her daily routines were described in letters back to the Netherlands. When Hitler's army occupied the Netherlands, it was impossible to contact them, so she wrote her letters in a diary. Soon the life in Java deteriorated under Japanese rule as the men left or were imprisoned and the women and children were moved into smaller and more crowded housing. Before the war ended, Netty and her two daughters were interned in conditions that almost ended in their death. Others around them were dying daily, and Netty's one consolation was that each day's passing might bring them closer to release.
The second part of the book describes Ronny's life after the war, becoming an American citizen and a writer.  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds

Labor Day Weekend- 49 years ago
1964 ad for President Lyndon Johnson's campaign

September 7, 1964. The Monday Night Movie, David and Bathsheba, was on NBC. An Academy Award winner from the early 50s starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward, it portrayed the Biblical King David. People all over America were watching it when a startling political campaign commercial came on, just before 10:00 PM. 
A sweet little girl, with long hair and freckles, stands in a field of flowers pulling petals off a daisy. She counts, "One, two, three, four, five, seven, six, six, nine" and the petals are all gone. The little girl looks sweetly up at the sky while the camera zooms in on her face, blacking out as the screen is filled by her eye. A male voice intones, "nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one" then the sound of a huge explosion and the flash of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear detonation.
 Then the voiceover: President Johnson's voice telling the viewer we should love each other or die. The words appear on the screen, "Vote for President Johnson on November 3." An announcer reads the words, then adds, "The stakes are too high for you to stay home."

The commercial played only that one time, but ABC and CBS covered it on their newscasts the following week because it was so different from previous political commercials. Fifty to one hundred million viewers saw it that night or as it was replayed as news. It likely was an important factor is the reelection of President Johnson that November. It changed political campaigning. Check out this discussion between Robert Mann, author of the book Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds, Jerry Ceppos of Louisiana State University, Sidney Meyers who was one of the creators of this commercial and Monique Luiz, the little girl grownup.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

See this movie. You'll be glad you did.

This afternoon I had the inspiring experience of seeing the movie: Lee Daniels' The Butler.

Lee Daniels' The Butler
President Kennedy meets the Negro staff of the White House
Scene from the movie Lee Daniels' The Butler
I generally refrain from recommending movies, for I feel my taste in films is personal, but Lee Daniels has put a history lesson for us all into a few short hours of entertainment.  It is difficult to watch the pain Cecil Gaines's family suffers, beginning with his father's murder and his mother's rape in the cotton fields of Georgia.

Gaines served as a White House butler through three decades and six administrations at the same time that laws and attitudes were changing toward integration of the races in our country.

The audience sees the pomp and formality of White House dinners juxtaposed with sit-ins and Freedom Riders working to break down the barriers between white and colored citizens in the South.

You must see this film to remind yourself (or if you are too young to remember, to inform yourself) of where we were fifty years ago when Martin Luther King. Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15, 1945-- VJ-Day

Me with my little sister
4 months after the end of World War II
"The end of the war was the beginning of our troubles. As soon as President Truman made the announcement at 7:00 PM, August 14, 1945, that Japan had surrendered, millions of people worldwide went joyfully crazy with the news. Everywhere people were celebrating. War over! Boys coming home! End of food shortages, gas rationing, news censorship, the blackouts, the scrap and war bond drives! Loved ones stationed far away would soon be home. Gone were the fears of a costly invasion of the Japanese homeland. The war-weary nation exploded in a frenzy of joy and thanksgiving. It was V-J Day." --Too Much Left Unsaid by Lee Collins

These words from my novel are right out of my life experience. I was eleven years old in 1945 and had spent most of the years I could remember deep in "the war effort." I was a Junior Commando, collected newspaper and scrap metal, saved my allowances to buy War Bonds- later Victory bonds. I celebrated the day the war ended with my cousins parading around the block and banging on pots and pans, yelling with excitement over the good news.

The characters in my novel were celebrating, too, until word came that Josh Connors, U.S. Navy, was one of the last casualties of the war. The joy that should have filled all hearts was quickly swallowed up in sorrow.

Plans for a joyous future can evaporate so quickly. So much of our lives is not under our control.

Writing fiction is a way for me to exert control over at least the world I create in my imagination.

What life circumstances have led you to where you are today?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Joyful August news

"William Lawrence or Elizabeth Jane,
Every baby must have a name.
But what can it be? We're in a whirl.
Is it a boy or is it a girl?"

These are the words that began the birth announcement sent out sixty-eight years ago announcing the joyful news that my little sister was born. My dad wrote the verses he sent to friends and colleagues that the long-awaited baby had arrived.

Original calculations predicted this baby's birth in late June of 1945. Imagine everyone's concern and frustration when June and then July passed and my mother continued to grow and wait. I was eleven. My brother Bruce had just celebrated his thirteenth birthday on August 2 and Mom still waited for signs that our baby would make his/her appearance and the riddle would be solved.

"Patiently waiting, buying clothes and toys.
At that age it doesn't matter whether girls or boys.
Is it Billy Larry, or is it Betty Jane?
Who? What? When? What is the baby's name?"

America was in a war, with the whole nation involved in the war effort: collecting scrap metal, paper, and fat; using ration cards for shoes, tires, meat, and more; buying up Victory stamps and bonds. The war in Europe had ended in the Spring, but the war in the Pacific was still to be won. Then on August 6, 1945, the U.S. military dropped the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan, and three days later dropped another on Nagasaki. The Japanese Empire surrendered a week later ending the war.

Between the two bomb drops, my mother finally delivered the baby she had been carrying--a girl--Elizabeth Jane Marcus.

Happy birthday, dear little sister. Many happy returns of that welcome day of your birth.

Love, Big Sister Lee

Friday, July 26, 2013

Man on the Moon

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind
Forty-four years ago this week, Apollo 11 landed the first men on the moon, making good President John F. Kennedy's pledge to beat the Soviets in the Race to Space. On July 21, 1969,  Neil Armstrong became the first human to step onto the lunar surface. and Buzz Aldrin joined him while television cameras broadcast into homes around the world the less-than-perfect images, later augmented in newspapers and magazines. Michael Collins, the third member of the mission, waited in lunar orbit in the command module, until Armstrong and Aldrin were able to join him for the return trip to Earth.

In the fictional world I created for my novel, too much left unsaid, Mattie Connors is sitting with a guest in her Ohio living room, watching the momentous event. She is led to unfold the tales of her life, from her own fifth birthday in August, 1912, until that day.

You are invited to share her story as you read the book, available online or in bookstores.

Let me know how you like my story.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What did you "used to think"?

At the Book Launch Party
What's in a name?

I named my blog "I Used to Think" because no one ever says "I used to know."
I used to think everyone who didn't  agree with me was just being obstinate.
Now I know that the variety of backgrounds, personal history and life events lead different people to think differently. 
As a fiction writer, I have been able to explore some of the many ways historical events have been viewed by those who lived through them.
My goal in my novel was to examine the turbulent time period between 1918 and 1969, with the enormous changes in roles and mores.
I hope to connect with readers who lived through those times or wonder about what it might have been like. 
(And I'd like them to buy my book, of course.)
I used to think that publishing a novel would be all I'd need to be satisfied.
Now I know I want to do whatever I can to get my book into the hands of more readers.

What are some of the ideas you used to hold that have changed over the years?

Monday, July 1, 2013

ebook vs. paper book

e-book is now available
Well, the choice is yours now.

TOO MUCH LEFT UNSAID is available either way,
 so take your choice.

The advantage of ebook is instantaneous delivery.

If you want a signed copy, I would be glad to send you a signed bookmark.


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Poetry of Language

On my very first post in this blog, in February, 2012, I introduced myself with these words:

 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?'
A few weeks ago at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, I was delighted that B.K. Loren and Juliet Patterson presented at The Eleventh Hour on Thursday, June 13.
They talked about using poetry in writing fiction and non-fiction. They pointed out that early language (both oral and written--as in pictographs) was rich in poetry and image. Poets are skilled in paying attention to both the sound and the meaning of each word.

Prose writers would do well to pay attention to the poetic line in the prose we write.
Poets are looking for the word with the emotional impact to match what they wish to convey.

Every word has a natural onomatopia-- the formation of the word by imitating sound.
     Common examples are "buzz." "tick-tock," and "bang."

B.K spoke of the emotional difference between the words:

BIG  and

The second conveys a greater vastness than the first.
It was fun to listen to these two writers confirm that liking the sound of words is a poetic attribute we all might seek to use. So I'll ask again:
Anyone out there who likes words just for their sounds?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I've been too busy writing to write

The past ten days I have been at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival for two classes.

I met some fascinating people and read some very fine writing by members of Sarah Saffian's memoir class and Eric Goodman's life essay class.

You'll hear more about it as I get more time to process lectures, lessons and events.

For now, I just want to recommend the experience to you. There are six one-week sessions and that many week-end session. It is well worth your time and money if you are or would like to be a writer.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Be the first to order

I just got word that the paperback of my novel Too Much Left Unsaid is now available from, Barnes and Noble or Amazon.  It should soon be available in independent bookstores or ask your bookstore to order you a copy.

The e-book version for Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers should be available soon, and I will blog about that when I am told it is ready.

If you are near or can come to Pella on July 13, join me for my book launch party on July 13 described in my previous post.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My novel will be launched soon

On Saturday, July 13, 2013, my novel
will be launched at a party in Pella, Iowa.

The Write Place is publishing it and I will soon be able to tell you all where you can place orders to buy it.

The party will be at

Second Reformed Church
Gathering Space
612 Union in Pella.

 I will read a bit and sign copies if asked to do so.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tulip Time in Pella--2013

This was what greeted us on Friday of
this year's Tulip Time Celebration
Today, Saturday of Tulip Time, Pella finally had one of the six parades scheduled for the three day festival. Tonight the lighted parade was to be held in a light rain, but the stage show was cancelled.

Yesterday was snowed out (see the photo at right) and Thursday's activities were rained out.

A year ago I wrote about Tulip Time in Pella that the unseasonably warm winter and spring of 2012 had caused all but a few tulips to bloom in April and people coming in May had missed the beauty.

This year please consider
coming next week
 or even the week after for some beautiful blooms. Tulips actually like cold and snow and generally keep their pretty shape longer.

Perhaps 2014 will find the happy medium. It is always fun to be in Pella.

Many people work hard to make you feel welcome. The weather--not so much.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's in a wish? Making wishes come true

Last day of April, 2013-

Thinking about wishing--wishing I were thinking more clearly at this moment, but wanting to share some thoughts with those of you who have been pining away waiting for another post from me.

I was raised on fairy tales and early Walt Disney movies: Snow White, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Bambi.
  •  A dream is a wish your heart makes...
  • When you wish upon a star...
  • I'm wishing and I'm dreaming of...
  • I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.
  • Make a wish and blow out the candles.
  • Be careful what you wish for, for it might come true

I'm sure you can think of many other "WISH Sayings" and I invite you to put them in the comments or email me at

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Planning for Summer

Here I sit on the third day of April dreaming of the spring and summer adventures ahead:
  •  Family visits on our April trip: son, daughter-in-law, brother, sisters-in-law, niece, daughter and six grandkids..What a joy to look forward to seeing them all.
  • Iowa Summer Writing Festival at the University of Iowa in June, a week spent with my college roommate from Wooster's Class of 1956. Could we really be that old?
  • Heartland Theater in Platteville, WI, performances of "Fiddler on the Roof" with grandson Quinn in the cast.
  • Visit here with my daughter Becky and grandchildren, Lillie and Russell. Other visits from the Wisconsin grands as well, of course.
  • Presentations for Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) on Medicare for a local audience.
  • Publishing of my book TOO MUCH LEFT UNSAID in June.
  • Visits to local bookstores and libraries to promote my book.
  • Activities at Church for the 150th Anniversary Year.
And before I know it--Fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas again. 

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Death and Resurrection

Today is Easter, 2013. The Day of Resurrection. Alleluia!

Eleven years ago today, I celebrated this day with my middle child, Russell Grant Collins, who was not feeling very well.  It was only five days before his forty-first birthday and we were concerned that we could not get a diagnosis for his health problems.

The day after his birthday he fell, was taken to Pella Regional Health Center and then flown by helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines where seven specialists tried to discover the source of his illness. The next day, on April 7, 2002, Russell died. An autopsy revealed he had widespread cancer, probably starting in his lungs and then migrating and completely destroying his liver.

This Easter is especially difficult for me because the date of Easter is the same as in 2002 and the week ahead will contain both Russell's birthday and his day of death. My son-in-law Juan, who was born the same year as Russ, died in January this year, at age 52.

But Easter reminds us that Christ is risen, and because he lives we shall live also. Much as I miss Russ and Juan, I know we will meet again in God's good time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Selma to Montgomery, March, 1963

March 7, 1963
Scene from "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama.

Forty-eight years ago this month, on March 7, 1965, approximately 600 people began a march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery to petition for protection of black citizens who were being kept from registering to vote. After only six blocks they were stopped at the Edmund Petus Bridge by state troopers and local law enforcement personnel who drove them back with tear gas and billy clubs. 

The scene of this "Bloody Sunday" shown on the nightly news was crucial in growing support for the cause of civil rights around the nation.

Two weeks later, after a call for support from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. approximately 3,200 marchers began the march again. Others joined until four days later when they reached the capital 25,000 people were in the crowd.

Aaron Connors and Dar Jones, two fictional characters in my novel Too Much Left Unsaid, participate and I tell the story of what they felt and how it affected their lives. 


My novel will be published by The Write Place, and should be available in mid-June.

If you want to know more about the events of that March march, you can go to the link I have inserted.

Email me at if you want more information about my book or comment below.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why being Right might be wrong.

I was in high school when I first realized that
 other people do not think like I do.

Before that moment of enlightenment, I "used to think" that somehow others came to different conclusions from mine because they were not reasoning clearly.

But then I discovered other people
   are starting in a different place
   and seeing the whole situation in a different way.

Seeing the problem from another viewpoint leads to a very different solution.

Mark Putnam, President of Central College, has a blog called Mark My Words that I follow.

Last week, Mark pointed out

   we all view everything from a bias that we might not even notice.

We may be quite right about something from our own point of view,
   but we are wrong if we fail to realize that other viewpoints are possible.

If we hope to dialog with people who come from differing backgrounds,
  we need to do a lot of listening to discover how they are seeing the problem.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Alaska in February?

Elizabeth, Jim, me, Allison, Mandy
All my friends who travel in the winter were going south. Naturally. Seems the likely thing to do.

But I spent Valentine's Day with my sister and her family in Anchorage, thanks to special friends and family thinking of and then carrying out the idea.

Allison and Mandy Turnbull arranged for me to fly from Minneapolis to Seattle to Anchorage in order to surprise their mother, Elizabeth Jane, as a Valentine and early 40th anniversary present.

Man, was she surprised! What fun to astonish her by walking into her cancer treatment infusion room behind a bunch of red balloons.

Elizabeth Jane and Lee Joanne

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


NY Times -1964 political ad
When I was a girl I had a favorite (78 rpm) record that told the story of "The One String Fiddle." The boy in the story wanted to win a contest with an original fiddle song he was composing. It had to be "all, or almost all, out'n [his] own head." He started with "Turkey in the Straw" but as he walked along listening to birds and streams and winds and other musical sounds around him, they all blended into his own creation--which won the contest, of course.

"all, or almost all, out'n my own head"
This defines, at least for me, what fiction is.
My novel TOO MUCH LEFT UNSAID is such a creation:

I started with some characters, based very loosely on people I know, but I invented wholesale the events of their lives. I read history books and newspapers and articles about world events and tied them in with the daily lives I was making up for my people. Some of the historical events I remember clearly, and I recall the feelings of celebration when good triumphed. I also recall my mourning at losses or defeats.
There is a real, historical setting that is the stage where my invented characters 'live' their lives . I imagine Mattie and Ron, Josh and Kathy, and the other people who stepped out of my head onto the page doing and feeling what I said they did and felt.

It's fiction, after all, but I hope when you read it you'll relate to their lives.

How would you define fiction? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Decluttering Vs. Organizing

One of my hobbies is reading about organizing. Notice, I didn't say organizing, just reading about it.

One of my favorite books is The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of your Life. I have bought at least three copies to give away, and I have it on my Kindle for quick referencing. Lorie Marrero, the author, also has a web site, a weekly newsletter including a three minute video each week and a consulting service you can subscribe to. I love to read her and listen to her, because she reminds me that:

"'Good Enough' is good enough! Perfection is an unattainable illusion."

Yesterday I added to my Kindle two ebooks by Dana White:

Drowning in Clutter: Don't Grab a Floatie! Drain the Ocean!
28 days to hope for your home.

Huge insight here:

Decluttering and organizing are not the same thing.

In fact, you can't do both at the same time.
Seems that I should declutter first, and then organize only what is left afterwards.

I might even actually get both done with this new insight.

What about you? Maybe you knew this all along, but maybe this will help you, too. Leave a comment or send me a note to

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dr. Juan Manuel DeLecuona

Dr. John
I have just returned from Augusta, Georgia, the memorial service for my son-in-law, Juan DeLecuona, my daughter Becky's husband. John was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1961. He and his mother came to the Uited States when he was six years old and settled in Staten Island. John was board certified in both psychiatry and neurology and touched many lives through his work and his life.

John and Becky met when he was a resident at Albert Einshein in the psychiatric emergency room of the North Central Bronx Hospital and she was a social work intern there. They married in June, 1989. The have two children, Lillian Isabel, born February 8, 2000, and Russell Manuel, born February 16, 2004.

Lillie wrote a tribute to her dad which was printed in the service bulletin. She gave me permission to quote some of it here.

"My dad and I had a special relationship. We told each other secrets and our worries. He taught me to see the beauty in everything. He gave me my passions of the arts and especially photography. He didn't smile much but when he talked about me his eyes sparkled and told what he really felt.  It is a relationship that I will never have with anyone else and will never be broken by anything, even death.
Death is a horrible thing. Life is something very precious and shouldn't be taken for granted, even when things look bleak. But he still lives on in our memories and is watching over us, right now, up in heaven playing the banjo."

It was good to celebrate the life of this dedicated man.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My life is more than what I have done

“Ask me whether what I have done is my life?”

-- from Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer  

I am fascinated with this quote, for we are all so quick to describe our lives in terms of our accomplishments. I am proud of many things that I have done, but they are not all of me.
 I have lived in many places making a home for my family.
I have raised children, taught children, nurtured children, mine and other people's.
I have gone to school, taught school, and taught teachers to teach school.
I have learned so much
          and forgotten so much of that.
Throughout my years in academia I would update my resume each year to assure my superiors and colleagues that I was worthy of my role. I submitted syllabi and evaluations from my students and peers so that committees could decide whether what I had done was worthy of promotion and recognition.
Then I retired and I remember thinking that at last I could put all that aside and just be me, not what I have done, but who I am. Now I am blogging to tell the world (and myself) who I am.
     It is a little bit scary.
What I have done is a large part of who I am,
       but it is not all.

Keep tuned to find out more about my self-discovery.
        Follow my blog and you may learn more about me- and about yourself  -in the process.