Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ordinary People

A Christmas song recorded by 4 Him keeps running through my mind. The lyrics are written in Joseph's point of view:

"Why me (why me), I'm just a simple man of trade?
Why her, she's just an ordinary girl (ordinary girl)
Now, I'm not one to second guess what angel's have to say,
But this is such a strange way to save the world."

This song reminds me that God used ordinary people and the power of the Holy Spirit in this most extraordinary birth of the Savior, Emmanuel -- God with us. The people mentioned in Christmas account of Matthew and Luke were the first to have a personal encounter with Jesus! WOW! But an even bigger WOW is that Jesus still desires a personal encounter with ordinary people in the world today, and not just an encounter, but an intimate relationship.

After the shepherds heard and saw the angelic host in the night sky, they ran to find Him and along the way they told everyone what the angels had said about this child. Now, the Bible doesn't say so, but knowing human nature, I imagine a lot of the people who heard the shepherds' story also ran to the stable. Wouldn't you have? I would -- I'm from the Show-Me state, and I would want/need to see things with my own eyes!

In all the commotion, Luke 2:19 states, "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." That is my prayer. Amid the holiday mayhem, may Mary be our example and may God show you something new and fresh as you celebrate Christmas this week.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

First Snow

This week brought winter's first snow, reminding me of two favorite poems.

Snowflakes by Linda Copp

Snowflakes spill from heaven's hand
Lovely and chaste as smooth white sand.
A veil of wonder laced in light,
Fall gently on a winter's night.
Graceful beauty raining down
Giving magic to the lifeless ground.
Each snowflake like a falling star,
Smiling beauty that's spun afar.
Snowflakes spill from heaven's hand,
Lovely and chaste as smooth white sand.
'Til earth is dressed in a robe of white
Unspoken poem the hush of night.

Velvet Shoes by Elinor Wylie

Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of lace.
I shall go shod in silk,
You in wool
White as white cow's milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.
We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece
Softer than these.
We shall walk in velvet shoes;
Wherever we go
Silence falls like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Holding Hands with God

Isaiah 41: 13 -- "For I the Lord your God will hold your right hand, saying to you, Fear not; I will help you."

The Almighty whose hands hold the universe wants to hold hands with me -- me! (And you!)

I thank Kay who is in my Bible Study Fellowship small group for opening my eyes to this, as she shared her commitment to put her hand in the hand of God.

I pray to do the same -- to trust my Heavenly Father who can gently, faithfully, and confidently guide me through every circumstance of my life.

Will you hold hands with God today?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Long Distant Friends

Friends are one of life's greatest treasures, and I'm blessed by how God has enlarged the circle of friendship in my life.

When I began working with Literary Mama, I never thought about gaining friends. But here I am today with a group of friends that I've never seen in person. Yet, I know they are reliable and trustworthy -- just as the women who were in my online writing classes -- another group I did not anticipate being so connected to.

Sometimes I wonder whether we would have become friends if we knew one another in real time. Our email communications and writing group messages are personal, but we have never discussed politics and religion -- two potentially polarizing topics. Yet, for me it does not matter. I love them and care about them unconditionally and hope someday we will have the chance to travel to a chosen destination and spend a few days together. (Preferably in Paris, where one of them lives) :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I turned my cart towards the fifteen-items-or-less checkout line and stopped short when I noticed the woman in front of me had a full cart -- well over 15 items! Three, five, ten, twelve, seventeen. . . I stopped counting and wondered, Lady, can't you count? Ready to get home after a long day, I swung my cart into the adjacent line.

Waiting for the person ahead of me to pay his bill, I watched as she unloaded her cart --one item at a time. She is someone's grandma, I thought, as I admired her silver hair and noticed her sensible shoes and unhurried pace. She probably didn't even see the sign.

The sales clerk glanced at the cart, then at the sign, then caught my eye and smiled. He shook his head a little, but spoke kindly to the woman as he scanned her items. His actions more gracious than my impatient thoughts.

I stopped at the end of his checkout stand and told him, "You are a gracious gentleman, and you have blessed my day." He simply smiled again and said, "Thanks."

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Book Meme

Here I was this evening, surfing through blogs of some of my favorite writers, clicking on links at their sites, when I came upon several memes. I sat here wishing I knew more bloggers, wishing someone would tag me for a meme, when I happened to catch my name in the tag of Susan Ito's book meme and Caroline's writing meme.

Well, what a serendipity! Of course, anyone can complete a meme, but there is some fun in being tagged. Since books and writing are my favorite things, I'm happy to participate!

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?
I buy both, but I'm willing to pay for a hardcover only if I have read the book and loved it. Then I want a copy for myself. The one and only book I have ever bought in hardcover unread is Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier; fortunately, I loved it.

2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it…
Marmee's Corner -- What else?

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is…
from To Kill a Mockingbird: "Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the the Radley porch was enough." (There is a lot more to quote from that book!)

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be ….
Harper Lee. Some have criticized that she is a one-book wonder, but if I wrote one book the caliber of her novel, I'd die a contented writer.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be…
the Bible. No matter how many times I read it, there is always something fresh and new that I have never seen before. Or the Holy Spirit will show me a new application for my life. There is no novel or non-fiction book that inspires and sustains me as God's Word, and no matter where I am, I am in need of His sustenance.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that….
was a book light with a battery and bulb that would last for an extended period of time. I love to read in bed after my husband is asleep, and all the book lights I've tried suck up battery energy so quickly.

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of….
my grandma's house. She had a library off the living room. It contained bookcase with glass doors against one wall. It was a small collection of books, but my sister and I loved to open those doors and play school with those books. I especially liked the Big Little Books and Puss and Boots.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be….
Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

9. The most overestimated book of all times is….
Bridges of Madison County (It is not even worth a hot link!) . Everyone was so ga ga over that book, but I thought the the main character Francesca had absolutely no reason to commit adultery when she had a loving husband who worked hard to give her a good life. The book also had the most sappy lines -- something about the male character being a peregrine. Barf!

10. I hate it when a book….
is full of vulgarities and unnecessary graphic language. I don't mind controversial subject matter that is presented in a thoughtful, reasonable way, but to pepper the dialogue with excessive profanity annoys me. I don't want those words or images running through my mind.

I tag Daphne.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rain, Rain, Go Away

This morning looked promising. Sunlight backdropped a bank of gray clouds on the horizon, but those clouds billowed, growing into clumsy giants that bumped and thumped their way across the sky. Then the heavens opened.

A torrential downpour would turn to a mist then return to the torrential downpour. Noah came to mind.

Lucky me, my car battery decided to die on this most unpleasant day, and I spent most of the afternoon setting in my car, which was parked in a 20 minute loading zone of a University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) parking lot. (One good thing about the rain -- campus police were not patroling and issuing tickets!)

I called our road service and reached a customer service rep in India. Within an hour two guys from Pop-A-Lock arrived in a mini-van but not before I had to leave my car and flag them down. Something about them looked helpless, and my impression was right. Though they tried to jump my battery, the engine refused to turn over, leading them to believe it was my starter. Since their mini van was not equipped to tow me, I had to call India a second time and arrange for a tow truck.

Before that arrived, my knight in shining armour appeared and stayed with me, so I would not have to ride home in the tow truck. Thankfully, the tow truck driver successfully re-charged the battery, and I was able to drive to my salon for a haircut appointment (the most worrisome problem of the day -- I desperately needed a trim.) Jim followed me to the salon, traded cars with me, and took my car to get a new battery.

Compared to others' problems, this was trivial, but I sure do hope the sun shines tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Writing Is a (Re)treat

The writing retreat was fabulous! It was so rewarding and invigorating to be with a group of people who love writing and are appreciative of having a day and a half set aside for their passion.

This year my co-facilitator and I did not have time to write. Instead of placing ourselves in a small group of peer responders (as we have in the past), we made ourselves available for one on one responding. Surprisingly, of 16 participants, probably half of them conferenced with us. When we planned this change, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I wanted time to write, too. But in the end, it worked well. I did take a nonfiction piece I wrote in the parent-lit class and shared it during our read around.

Another change that I really liked was giving everyone a pad of post-it-notes. As each person read their pieces on Saturday evening, we all responded in writing. When everyone was finished, we passed out our notes. There was something special about receiving "mail" and doing this saved time, as we didn't make oral remarks. Now, each reader has a written record of his/her listeners' appreciation.

As great as all the activities were, I must confess the beds and bedding at the Westin Crown Center are almost as wonderful. The picture here doesn't really do them justice. Some day I'm going to book a room, order room service, rent movies and spend an entire 24 hours soaking in the ambiance.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Writing Retreat

This weekend I am headed to the Westin at Crown Center -- a posh hotel connected to one of Kansas City's popular entertainment venues. We (my friend and co-facilitator) have been working hard to prepare for a writing retreat. We will be joined by 18 other teacher consultants with the Greater Kansas City Writing project.

This is the fifth annual retreat, and each one has been rewarding and invigorating as we set aside time to write and share our writing -- without any distractions of home or work begging for our attention. I'll fill in the details next week.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I am so blessed to have a sister whom I have adored since the minute she was born. Incredibly, at age two, I remember holding her on the way home from the hospital. (no car seats in those days) It's just a flash of an image -- a snapshot -- a rosebud pressed between the pages of my memories.

I'm doubly blessed to have two granddaughters, and I hope and pray that they will weather the inevitable childhood squabbles and grow up to be close friends and companions, talking about everything and nothing. Laughing about everything and nothing. Supporting one another, creating their own snapshots, pressing their own rosebuds between the pages of their lives.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

So Long marmee's musings

It has been a while since I have blogged at either this site or marmee's musings.

I have dozens of topics spinning in my head, but other demands and obligations detain my putting words to paper (or screen).

Part of the problem is keeping two blogs. I began marmee's musings to write about my faith experiences and spiritual matters. I began this site to write about everything else. But the truth is, faith and spiritual matters are such an intregal part of my life that I can't separate the two.

So, I'm not going to try anymore. I am closing marmee's musings (though I will keep it up for a while) and writing exclusively at here at Marmee's Corner. I like this title best because it is most reflective of the book Little Women and the character of Marmee in that novel, which I discussed in my first blog here.

My next goal: start writing!

Monday, August 13, 2007

True Confession

The Literary Mamas have resurrected the blog page, and I am the first one up! I am both excited and nervous to be presented on a national, perhaps international scope. Now, I don't know how many hits my blogs may receive due to this announcement, but it staggers my mind to think of my humble blogs being advertised anywhere and duly motivates to blog more often here at Marmee's Corner.

Lately, I have posted weekly at marmee's musings but haven't written here since July 24! Why not? Because I'm busy? Partly. Because I'm lazy? Possibly. Because I fear failure? Most likely.

In the last year, I have become increasingly aware that perfectionism rules my writing life. I understand a first draft is messy, but instead of "just writing" (which is the mantra that inspired me to begin Marmee's Corner) and getting the whole thing down on paper, I revise while I draft. Of course, all writers do that to some extent, but I'm talking deep revision, as I go over and over words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs --Ad nauseam!

All or nothing is classic perfectionistic behavior: Because I struggle to write a complete draft, I don't write at all. I use busyness and fatigue as an excuse to avoid the keyboard. I broached this topic in my most recent online writing class' message board, and STILL have done little to overcome or change this pitiful behavior. (One area I have improved is the time I spend on my blog posts. That at least is a step.)

I'm not making any promises to make drastic changes, but if confession is good for the soul, then my soul is feelin' mighty fine!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

8 Things About Me -- Meme

My Literary Mama friend Caroline tagged me for this meme.

First, I am to publish the rules:

1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Here goes

1. I'm addicted to the television show Lost -- though I may have to give it up for my own welfare. When one of the main characters (No spoilers here!) died at the end of this season, I just about went off the deep end of melancholy and morosity.

2. I know the Greek alphabet by heart -- when pledging a college sorority, I was required to learn it, and it has become one of those trivial things that just stuck. I also unwittingly memorized my first Spanish lesson, though some of it has faded over the years.

3. I detest peas, especially canned ones. My mom declares even as an infant, I would spit them out. Even though it is immature and impolite, I will pick them out of a casserole and leave them on my plate.

4. I also hate roller coasters -- never have liked them but rode them when I caved at peer pressure. However, now that I'm over 50, I will never ride one again, and there is NOTHING anyone can say that will compel me to change my mind.

5. The night sky -- moon, stars, and other celestial bodies -- fascinates me. I wish I had a telescope to better observe them. A serendipity of moving to our new home is that I have a clear view of the eastern horizon and can watch the moon rise in the frame of our office window.

6. One of my favorite childhood pastimes was playing school, and as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher (or a beautician). By high school, I determined that was the grade level I was most suited for; the subject matter varied, depending on what my favorite teacher taught. Home economics, Spanish, history were some I considered before I found a perfect fit: English.

7. One of my favorite life memories is growing up on land that had once been my paternal grandparents' farm. We lived up the hill from Grandma Young, who had a great old farm house with two covered porches, a library, and a claw-footed bathtub. The pasture was my backyard, and there were so many things to explore: a dairy barn, horse barn, farrowing house, a pond and a creek. All of that is gone now; turned into a four-lane state highway, but still today, I often dream about Grandma's house and our old home.

8. Alas, the only bloggers I know are related to Literary Mama or were members of two online writing classes I recently participated in. From what I can tell, most have been tagged. None of my closest real-time friends have a blog, though a couple of people are in the thinking stage of beginning one. But here's who I tag:

dreaming about water

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dancing with a Hibiscus

Every year I buy a potted hibiscus with the hope that, at the worst, I won't kill it, and at the least, I can keep the leaves green.

Two years I actually brought a plant inside at the end of summer. One of those looked beautiful but close examination revealed dozens of spider mites, so I took it outside and left it exposed to the elements of a midwestern winter. Another year the plant, bursting with green foliage and blooms, gradually dropped leaf by leaf until only one healthy-looking sprig remained. Still, I was optimistic until my son, home from college, asked, "Mom, how's your stick doing?"

This year's plant sat on my front porch for about 24 hours before the first yellow leaf appeared. Hoping for a different outcome, I searched online tips and found a user friendly site: Hidden Valley Hibiscus, which listed these possible reasons for yellow leaves:

--Too Much Water (I did water it thoroughly when I brought it home because somewhere else I had read hibiscus like moist soil.)
--Not Enough Water (I stopped watering it altogether.)
--Too Hot (It's a tropical plant for crying out loud!)
--Too Cold ( I brought it inside a couple of evenings when the temperature dropped to an unseasonable level.)
--Too Much Direct Sunlight (I placed it on our covered porch, where it received about three hours of morning sun.)
--Too Little Sunlight (My mother, whose hibiscus sits in full sun and received five days worth of rain without having on yellow leaf -- suggested I move it, so I put it on the front porch step. There it did reward me with three beautiful blossoms before the yellow leaves returned!)
--Insects, Particularly Spider Mites (Oh really!)
--Too Windy (Remember the porch is covered; the plant unexposed)
--Improper Nutrition or pH (I repotted it using Miracle Grow potting soil.)
--Pesticide Over Use (Of course, I followed the manufacturer's directions!)

The article ends with a cheery note: "Good luck with your growing and gardening and by all means have fun with it!"

Yeah, right!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Birthday, America

Tonight celebratory booms and sizzles fill the air, while reds, whites and blues light the sky. Rain-soaked streets shimmer, and smoke drifts lazily across the landscape, reminding me of a theatrical depiction of a Civil War battle, though no Panavision or surround sound could match the experience of watching our neighborhood's fireworks display from the comfort of our front porch. But I move from porch to patio where the western sky puts on its own colorful show, streaking the horizon with pinks and purples. It's a lovely night, and I'm grateful to live in a country that affords me the freedoms America offers its citizens and grateful for a Creator whose creation is unparalleled, even tonight as we celebrate a birthday.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Being Home Alone

My "home alone" weekend ends tomorrow when my husband and his ball team return to Missouri.

What I accomplished:
  • Cleaning up my Internet Favorites. Everything is now organized into folders and sub-folders. I never did find the link I made for a site that rated bathroom scales. I know I saved it twice in "shopping" and "health." Looking for it is what inspired me to work on this in the first place! But it is such a good feeling to be organized!
  • Dead-heading my flowers before the rains cames.
  • Washing one load of towels.
  • Freshening the bathroom by removing the coat of hairspray on my side of the vanity.
  • Grocery shopping.
What I did for myself:

  • Got a haircut, which will hopefully cut down on the amount of hairspray I use!
  • Read a book: I Capture the Castle -- recommended by Columnist Libby Gruner at Literary Mama
  • Celebrated a friend's birthday with lunch and an afternoon of shopping.
  • Lived in my pjamas.
  • Visited my parents.
  • Went to church.
What I learned:
  • A whole week is a long time to be alone!
  • Living alone can be pretty boring and lonely after a while. I was be glad to see my husband!
  • I need to do more for my widowed or divorced friends who are always home alone.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Home Alone

My husband has taken his baseball team to Florida for a week! Our granddaughter's birthday is next week, so when he was making the reservations back in March, I opted not to go with him as I wanted to be available for any family celebration.

However, it has now ended up that no one is traveling to Kentucky for a party; instead we will celebrate when my son's family visits later in July, so. . .

I'm home alone.

I love my husband, and I love my son's family, but I do love being home alone. The house is quiet, and I can have a bowl of cereal for supper if I want. (Not that my husband complains about any meal I fix or if we eat out five nights in a row -- I truly have a gem of a husband.)

I hope the team, the coaches, and the parents that joined them have a wonderful time -- I hope they win all their games and have fun at MGM Park and at get nice tans at Daytona Beach. I pray they will return home safely next Monday.

Until then, I'm going to grab a book and settle in for a nice evening of reading.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Good Books

It has been several months since I have read a really good book! The kind of book that makes me want to read quickly because I can't stand the suspense, yet the kind that makes me slow down because I'm not going to want the book to end.

When I retired, I compiled all the book lists I had stuffed in a folder into one long list. My goal was to read all of the books, or at least give each one a try. I soon discovered that is a futile endeavor because I keep adding new titles to my list. I now have three typed pages of three columns each typed in a 6 point font.

This problem is only becoming "worse"now that the Literary Reflections Department at Literary Mama has expanded with two new features: "Essential Reading" and "Now Reading." What a delightful dilemma!

This month's Essential Reading focuses on fathers. "Now Reading" will be posted soon.

Hope you will take a look!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Happy Birthday, Son

Thirty one years ago today I was in labor at Research Hospital delivering my oldest son.

Just the day before I had had my last office visit with my OB/GYN Joe Williams. His parting words to me had been : "If I don't see you before, be at the hospital at 7 a.m., and we will induce labor."

Following the appointment, I was at lunch with my mom and aunt when it hit me that this time tomorrow I would be in pain. A wave of nausea washed over me, and when I expressed my thoughts, my mom asked, "Why? You've known all along you are going to have this baby at some point."

"I know, but now I know the appointed time of the labor, the appointed time of the pain, and the anticipation is a bit scary." (That all seems so silly now!)

The rest of the day was uneventful, and at 5:30 the next morning, I was up showering and packing my suitcase. I don't know why I had to be up so early -- except I'm sure I showered, fixed my hair, and maybe put on makeup, if that was allowed. (In those days, I'd never leave the house looking unpresentable.) Anyway, to muffle any noise, I had shut the door to the bathroom.

We were staying at my parents' house, as we lived an hour away from Kansas City, and my mom, who was getting ready for work, (She was supervisor of the recovery room at the same hospital.) told me our dog Smokie was poking his nose into the crack of light under the door as if he knew something noteworthy was going on.

By 7:30, I was in the labor room where my water was broken, and I was hooked up to all the monitors, waiting for contractions to begin. Eventually someone came in and poked me for an IV drip. I hate needles and immediately tensed until I was as flat and straight as a plank. "Relax, relax," the nurse kept repeating.

At some point, a group of student nurses came into the room to observe, and when their supervisor asked me if they could observe me all day, I said, "Sure, that's fine."

As the contractions strengthened, a nurse administered a shot of Demerol, which I thought was not working because I could still feel the pain. I pressed the call button and told the voice on the other side that I could still feel the pain and thought I needed another shot. I could tell she suppressed a laugh as she explained, "The medicine won't stop the pain; it just takes the edge off." I could just hear her telling her colleagues about my first-time-mom naivete!

The labor continued, slowly but surely, and my husband, who was going to school that was an hour's commute each way, dozed in the chair and then went to lunch with my mom. Along the way, my mother-in-law arrived and was sitting in the waiting room, where my husband delivered updates of my progress. Every hour or so, my mom checked in to note my progress.

Preparing to wheel me to the delivery room, a kind nurse was rubbing my back as the contractions strengthened. It helped take the edge off the pain. After a few minutes, she asked Jim to take over while she took care of some other duties. Jim said yes and gave me a couple of strokes then stopped. I whipped my head around and snapped, "Don't stop!"

To which he replied, "I think having babies makes you cranky." (GRRRRRR!)

The atmosphere of the delivery room was electric -- as though we were waiting for a noted celebrity to make his entrance. Student nurses lingered in at the edges of the crowd, like wallflowers awaiting their turn to fully participate. Nurses came and went through the swinging doors, reminding me of a serving staff moving from kitchen to ballroom. The doctor rushed in and took his assigned seat, finally saying that blessed word: "Push!"

And then -- there he was the star of the afternoon -- our son, our first born, who was received with a round of applause and (on my part) a grateful sigh of relief! As the nurses were cleaning him, I watched him craning his neck, inspecting the room, marveling at the crowd. (Okay, maybe not that -- but he did look awfully intelligent!)

In the meantime, one of the nurses went to the waiting room, where by now, my mom had joined my mother-in-law, and said, "Dixie, Dr. Williams wants to see you."

As my mom stood, my mother-in-law remarked, "She's not going any where without me." So, there they were, peeking through the doors, so they could see their first grandchild.

Later when he was bundled, and I was wrapped in a wonderfully warm blanket, I stared into his eyes, marveling at the awesome miracle he was (and is) and the awesome responsibility that was now mine.

I love you, Son! Happy Birthday!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Life Lines

We bought a webcam, so when we call our son's family in KY, we can "see" them! "Them" primarily being our granddaughters.

I hooked the cam up, which was no easy task. Because our tower sits inside a cabinet, I had to pull it out, so I could see the back of it. Doing that made the speaker cords and the mouse cord come unplugged. It took me several minutes to determine which cord was the cam's and which was the mouse's and get everything (re)connected.

I don't know what all runs from our tower: the mouse, the screen, a printer, the speakers, the modem. That's only six cords and a couple I can't account for. But as I followed a line from the tower, untangling and separating them, I felt a bit like a surgeon, trying to determine which blood vessel is the one leaking. Nurse -- flashlight (It's shadowy inside that cabinet), nurse -- dust rag -- to mop up the dust bunnies, nurse -- gauze (to wipe my sweaty brow). Okay -- I said a bit.

Finally, I got everything connected and then opened the software instruction book, which said, "If your webcam is connected to the computer, unconnect it before beginning the installation!" I pulled the tower out again, disconnecting the mouse and speakers again.

When all was installed and reconnected, we called our son. And while we could hear and see them quite well, they had no audio from our end.

Back to the operating table.

Friday, June 1, 2007

More Serendipty

Yesterday while out running errands, I drove past the back of the Firestone store where three male employees were doing a dance that was a cross between the Monster Mash and the Funky Chicken.

Closer inspection revealed they were trying to round up a mama duck and her ducklings who had apparently placed themselves in danger by wandering onto the back lot of the store. The ducklings were scattered hither and yon, while the mama waddled into the street.

Traffic came to a standstill while the mama climbed the curb and disappeared between two cars. Within seconds, she reappeared, this time with the ducklings obediently lined up behind her. They crossed the street, apparently headed home to the ditch of water across the street.

Tonight while returning home from furniture shopping, eight Canadian geese stopped traffic while crossing a four lane, busy suburban road. Their destination appeared to be a small pond on the other side of the road, which meant they had to cross the median and another four lanes of cars going 45 miles an hour.

It would have taken less time and been less dangerous to have taken wing, but there they were, plodding along like old men on their way to the local cafe. And respectively, traffic slowed for them.

Oh! I wish I had had my camera!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy Birthday

Twenty-eight years ago today at 12:18 p.m. I gave birth to my second son.

Labor pains began at 5 a.m., and I lay in bed timing them, remembering the last time I'd felt this way three years before. Fortunately, we were staying with my parents, so they were able to care for our older son, giving us ample time.

Operating on slow, I
brushed my teeth
washed my face
woke my husband and my mom
(surely called my doctor -- though I don't remember doing so)
finished packing my bag
got in the car
arrived at the hospital twenty minutes later . . .

There, the contractions stopped, and I walked the halls to encourage the baby to make his appearance. (Though I'd had no sonogram to know the baby was a he.)

Since it was a holiday weekend, the hospital operated with a skeleton staff, and the labor and delivery floor was eeriely quiet, quite different than the day I delivered my older son, and a team of student nurses observed my every move.

In the delivery room, Jim and I were alone for what seemed a long time. (Though I know it must have been only a few mintues.) To kill his monotony, Jim pretended to be a sports caster doing a live interview prior to a major sporting event.

"Here we are, ladies and gentlemen, here at Research Hospital, awaiting the birth of our child." Turning his imaginary microphone toward me, he asked, "Would you like to say a few words?"

I answered, through clenched teeth, "I don't feel like talking; I'm going to throw up!"

Fortunately, the microphone was imaginary. If it had been real, I would have hit him with it!

He replied, "Sorry, just trying to add a bit of excitement to the moment."
Trust me, there was plenty of excitement for me -- I needed no more!

A few minutes later, with no fan fare, the doctor arrived, and our second son made his appearance, looking just like his older brother.

Today I celebrate his life. He is a handsome young man whom I admire. Though I still try to find the balance between mothering and befriending, I enjoy his company more than he knows. His mere existence makes me smile!

Happy Birthday, son! I love you!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How'd I Get Here?

Lately, I've been in another writing slump -- dreading to draft -- dreading to revise, dreading to blog. Instead of dealing with it, I've, instead, let it sit on my shoulder like a ten-pound parrot, whispering discouraging lies in my ear.

A prompt about writing in my Advanced Parent-Lit class brought me back to my senses, and I realized this morning that I've come full circle -- back to the reason I started this blog -- just to write! Not to worry about how many read these posts, not to impress anyone with my abilities or startle anyone with my inabilities, not to claim notoriety, not to enter an elite club, not to judge my ideas as worthless.

Clink! Clink! Here's to just writing!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Whimsy in Kansas City

One of my favorite things in Kansas City, Missouri, are sculptures of two badminton shuttlecocks, which are part of the Sculpture Garden at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Americans who were born in Sweden and The Netherlands, respectively, these sculptures stand almost 18 feet high and measure 15 feet at the crown and 4 feet at the nose.

Sitting on a huge expanse of lawn, juxtaposed by the stately design of the museum, they always make me smile.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Short Story Meme

After a long hiatus, I'm online tonight, thinking about what I'd like to post here, catching up with friends' blogs. I came upon Susan's post about favorite short stories (ReadingWritingLiving), which, naturally, made me contemplate my own list.

So far, I can only think of five favorites (in no particular order):

"The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst
"The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
"Gary Keillor" by Garrison Keillor
"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner
"Marigolds" by Eugenia Collier
"Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allen Poe

What are yours?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What Writing Does

This is the last week of my PCLOWC! I can hardly bear it and realize some may find it startling that I can feel so passionate about the lives and writings of these nine women whom I have never met face to face.

The site message board is "lit up" with posts about our future goals and promises of staying in touch. It is much like the end-of-the-school-year flurry as seniors pledge to never forget one another -- to stay in touch -- to return to visit -- to write. Their words are honest, and their intentions are good, but having been a teacher for a long time, I know it won't be as they picture it.

New adventures bring new settings, new friends, new concerns, new commitments. Some of them will follow through for a time; many will not follow through at all. That is just the way life is. Some of us are participating in an advanced parent-lit class, so that helps ease my sadness, but still it won't be exactly the same.

I used to ask my students at the end of the year, "All of us will never be together in this place, this way, ever again. Don't you feel a bit sad? "

They would all stare at me and then respond in a unison, "No!" I would smile at their lack of sentiment -- especially knowing I am the queen of nostalgia.

Still, that is how I feel this evening. I have a vested interest in each of these women. I can't help it. We have written together, and that is what writing does.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


I am 56 years old and never think about ordinary "firsts" being part of my life. Of course, there are many extraordinary things I've never done like shaking hands with a U.S. President, publishing a book, or flying in a helicopter. But I'm speaking of the every day type of things.

This week I've had two "firsts": I made navy beans and ham. (That's unbelievable considering how easy it is!) AND, ta da -- I wrote my first pantoum.

Perhaps writing the pantoum needs to classified with the extraordinary. After all, it is a challenging form of poetry!

The Men in Her Life

On frosty winter mornings when the sky was black velvet,
Oatmeal bubbled on the stove while
Daddy turned the dial to WDAF 610
And crooned a tune with Harry Belafonte.

Oatmeal bubbled on the stove while
Daddy brushed the tangles from my hair
And crooned a tune with Harry Belafonte
"Day-oh, Day-oh -- Daylight come and I wanna go home."

Daddy brushed the tangles from my hair,
Rinsed the breakfast dishes,
And crooned a tune with Harry Belafonte,
"Workin' on banana boat all day long -- Daylight come and I wanna go home."

Daddy rinsed the breakfast dishes
And turned the dial to WDAF 610:
"Day-oh, Day-oh -- Daylight come and I wanna go home."
On frosty winter mornings when the sky was black velvet.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Suddenly, she realized she would never write a novel the caliber of To Kill a Mockingbird, much less a decent short story, so she ripped the mouse cord from its connection, threw it across the room and collapsed on the floor in a sobbing heap.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Writing Retreat Day Two

Saturday morning I had breakfast with former U.S. Poet-Laureate Billy Collins who was the featured speaker. Okay, I didn't actually sit with him . . . but we were in the same room. He read several of his poems, sharing ideas for his inspiration. I was particulary struck by this comment: "Poetry is a bird. Prose is a potato. Where prose ends, poetry begins." Apparently, his remark reflects a friendly feud with a fiction writer (name unknown to me), but it made me think of "found poems" by taking a piece of prose and pulling words and phrases from it to create a poem. I often assigned this to my students as we were reading a novel or short story and was always amazed at the different poems emerging from the same piece of prose.

Too often teachers beat both prose and poetry to death, encouraging students to detest it, so I appreciated Collins' suggestion to begin each day reading a poem -- just reading it. No formal analysis, no required discussion -- just read and enjoy! Think about it -- when I eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut, do I analyze its ingredients? I don't think so! I just enjoy it. (Okay, sometimes I might ponder the fat grams -- but that is only sometimes!) The Library of Congress, inspired by Collins' idea, has created a website: Poetry 180: A poem a day for american high schools where teachers can access poems of various writers.

Amy Lannin, Associate Director of the Missouri Writing Project through the University of Missouri, presented a workshop titled, "It's All Routine: Writing Creative Nonfiction." Perfect timing as that was the week's genre for my PCLOWC. Her presentation focused on how every day routines could provide inspiration for creative nonfiction. Using her own work as an example, she shared part of an essay she had written about packing a suitcase for a family trip. As she explored the topic, the piece eventually evolved into a memoir of packing for her grandmother as she left her home of forty years.

I liked her suggestion to freewrite a list of routines. Choose one and list all the steps of the routine. Think about the routines within the routines. Now, choose an object from this routine. Describe the object. Personify it. All of this prewriting moves the writer deeper into the subject matter. Once a text is drafted, Amy demonstrated how working with sentence structure (Her focus was participle phrases.) could take the writer more deeply into piece.

Books Amy recommended are noted in the sidebar. I'm familiar with Barry Lane's After the End, which I used when I was teaching. Though geared to working with students' texts, it has valuable ideas for any writer. Zoom by Istvan Banyai is a picture book that depicts zooming into the details or additional stories of a topic, and I definitely want to add it to my library. The pictures were fascinating!

Amy is a lovely woman -- warm and professional -- just being around her is a joy, and her presentation was excellent! In fact, I left with an idea taken from the routine list she had us make.

On the way out of town, my friends and I stopped at our favorite tea room at the Yankee Peddler. It has become a tradition to lunch there before leaving for home. I topped off my sandwich with a warm slice of chocolate cake. (Talk about fat grams!) What a sweet way to end my writing retreat, which I hope will also become a tradition!

My Retreat: Day One

"The weather outside was frightful, but the writing so delightful."

Thursday evening ushered in bitter temperatures, but Friday morning I was cozy in my new pink and white nightgown and fluffy pink robe. The writing muses were smiling on me as my friends and I were assigned a suite (at no cost to us because of a hotel bookkeeping glitch) overlooking the lake at Osage Beach in the Ozarks. Room-service breakfast arrived late but warm, so I munched on scrambled eggs, toast, and Canadian bacon, while the tap, tap, tap of the laptop keys kept me company. I chose to write about the tender memory of my grandson's still birth. This topic evoked tears, but the few details I had scribbled on a scrap paper needed to be turned into something more, and I knew it would be safe to share it with my PCLOWC -- women I have never seen face to face, yet feel linked to through our writers' hearts.

In the early afternoon, I went to a Scholastic Books' display and bought a couple of books for my granddaughters and then browsed the vendors' tables. With my goodies in tow, I headed back to the room and began drafting a piece about being a mother-in-law. I didn't get too much done on it, for the next thing I knew, it was time to attend a reception for Writing Project members.

Later that evening, we all attended an open mic. Being reader #28, I grew nervous as I listened and enjoyed others' readings. Insecurities whispered in my ear. Who was I to share my work with these people? They were obviously real writers. But as I shared a piece titled "La Fleur" (posted at marmee's musings), I purposely looked for my friend Betty Jo, my writing buddy and cheerleader. Her smile gave me courage to believe I, too, deserved my brief moment in the writers' spotlight.

I was especially intrigued by one woman who is married to a former Buffalo Bills football player. Her narrative was centered on a ouija board's prediction of the Bills making it into the playoffs.. Though I'm not an avid follower of professional football, her mention of the Kansas City Chiefs caught my attention, and I wanted to interview her: How did she become a writer? How did she end up in Missouri? Did she teach then? Where does she teach now?

Back in our suite, we played a word game (can't remember the name). Then Dottie (my roommate) and I and turned out the lights, quietly chatting. Our sentences floated lazily through the air -- becoming phrases -- becoming words -- becoming pauses. I drifted off thinking what a lovely way to spend a day -- with people I love, doing the thing I love. I looked forward to Saturday.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Write Away

Today I am leaving for a writing getaway! Though I have attended and helped facilitate a local retreat for the past four years, this is the first time I've done this on my own. So, tomorrow while two friends are attending workshops at the Write to Learn conference at the Lake of the Ozarks, I'm going to dedicate the day to writing. I have even decided to splurge on room service for lunch tomorrow! (I love room service!)

Another plus, I'm registering for Saturday's conference because Bill Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate is speaking at breakfast, and there are a couple of writing workshops where I hope to pick up some tips or receive further inspiration.

Everything is packed, ready to go! Hope my Muse shows up!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Writing Friends

Today has been a good day for writing. Not my own but for some writing friends. In our PCLOWC, I read a beautiful piece titled "Nancy's Kitchen" written by Nancy's daughter-in-law. The piece took me back to my childhood, sitting around my Grandma Young's oak table that seated 10 people comfortably. It also reminded me of my Grandma Fizer whose hands performed magic on every chicken she fried and every cake batter she mixed (from scratch!) I've been thinking about writing about her talent for a while now. and this essay has inspired me further.

Other writing by Caroline can be found at "food for thought." The link is in my list, and I encourage you to visit there.

Then another lady (my writing partner for the next five weeks) began a blog! You can visit her at "Life Comes in Bunches Like Bananas." Her link is also in my list.

Actually, all the writers in my class who have blogs are listed in my link list. I hope you will visit them all! Some great writing is going on here -- some great "cyberspace" friendships are being forged.

Living in a writing community is so rewarding!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Marmee's Brag Book

Please allow me a moment to be a proud mother: I crafted the following sentence (by the grace of God) and am so pleased with it, I want to march it across the page and give it a moment in the spotlight.

"I do not walk perfectly, but neither do I walk defeated."

Tha's all. Just wanted you to see one of my "children." :)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Keeping On

This week's lesson in the PCLOWC class is revision.

Having taught writing for so long, I know what to address in revision. But while reading through the class notes, I realized how much time and energy I waste by trying to address such ideas while I create a first draft. Also, being the literary magazine advisor and an copyeditor for Literary Mama has made me so conscious of tightening a text that I'm letting that also interfere with drafting. Doing this stifles fluency and creativity!

So, I tell myself once again "Just write, Kathy. Just write."

Saturday, February 3, 2007

A Burning Issue

Every year when the "Back to School" signs plaster the windows of local stores and the school buses roll out of the bus barns, administrators across America take up their collective chant: "Failing is not an option! Failing is not an option!"

Sounds good, doesn't it? Makes you picture the teachers, parents, and students pulling together, using every tool available in their communities and school districts to help each student achieve. Makes you proud to see the American spirit of can do thriving in the halls of academia!

So, what are teachers doing to make this mission statement a reality? Everything! They attend seminars, workshops, and conferences year round (often at their own expense). They sit in endless professional development meetings listening to professional gurus espouse the latest educational trend, such as the one a neighboring school district is committed to for this school year: "Failure is Not an Option." They strategize, plan, collaborate, and create, always seeking to make the curriculum, lessons, and activities relevant to their students. They post homework, test dates, and other pertinent information at their websites, in e-mails, or on homework hotlines. They contact the failing student's counselor, parents, administrator, and the advisory teacher. They fill out weekly grade reports requested by parents and return parents' phone calls or e-mails. The list goes on and on and on! There is no end to what most teachers do in the effort to motivate the failing student.

And what do the failing students do to improve their poor grades? From this teacher's vantage point: Nothing. They don't do their homework; they don't study for tests; they don't listen in class or bring the textbook/supplies. Frequently, they don't even come to school. They do nothing! Oh, wait! They do one thing: make the teacher responsible for their F. Recently a colleague from this same district mentioned above shared this anecdote: ". . . A program called "In the Margin" requires we put a mark in the margin of all students' agendas when they do not turn in an assignment. Then, they have five days to turn it in and still receive credit. . . We cannot require the student to do the work if we did not put the mark in their agenda. Apparently, a sixth grade teacher gave a student a zero on an assignment that was never turned in. The parents called and complained and our principal told the teacher that because she didn't put her mark in the agenda, the student could not be held responsible for the assignment."

She goes on to ask: "So- when exactly is this about the student's learning? At what point is it NOT our job to be sure the students do what they need to do whether we put a mark in their agenda or not?"

I add to her question: When exactly will the parents understand that it is NOT the teacher's job to supervise the students' study habits and personal schedules outside of the classroom? There is a place where the teacher ends and the student begins, and that place needs to intersect with parental supervision and high standards.

Of course, there are exceptions to this scenario. Things happen – sometimes terrible things – that prevent a student from learning or being successful in a class. There are some teachers whose job performance is insufficient. But when those situations are removed from the equation, what remains? Administrators with good, but misguided intentions, irresponsible students, and enabling parents. And while the students need to bear the responsibility for their choices, the greater burden falls on the parents. Kids will be kids, testing the limits and getting away with what they can; it's the parents that set the appropriate boundaries of accountability and responsibility.

No Child Left Behind and state-mandated tests have created high-stakes education. District funding is partially determined by these tests scores and NCLB ratings. Thousands of dollars of grant money are poured into school districts across America, so our students won't fail. Teachers know it. Would someone please tell the parents?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Another Serendipity

This week's homework genre in my PLOWC (parent-lit online writing class) is creative non-fiction. Since I'm a bit behind and still working on last week's op/ed piece, I have only been rolling ideas around in my head for this week's assignment. But through our class discussion/message board, we have been sharing how we make time to write, and as I was posting a comment about writing with my classes before I retired, I remembered some freewritings I saved.

One is about my dad's black Ford and the Mr. Peanut pin that was stuck in the passenger-side visor. Perhaps that will be my focus for a memoir or vignette! If that doesn't pan out, I'm still blessed with the warm memory of my dad, his car, and Mr. Peanut.

Hope you have a serendipity kind of day!

Monday, January 29, 2007


I love the word serendipity.

It would always be the first vocabulary word I'd teach my classes. The following day I would have the students get their class folders from the basket. When everyone opened his folder, they found a coupon from me: a free homework pass, 10 bonus points, or something else fun for them. Then I waited for someone to make the connection!

Today I was thinking of posting something about Emily Dickinson and decided to get her book of poems from the desk in my room. I opened the book and discovered thirty-three dollars that I had tucked inside the cover! What joy! A visit with Emily and an unexpected gift of cash!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship."
Louisa May Alcott

To a landlubber, sailing looks so easy. For he believes one just gets in the boat, hoists the sails, and lets the wind do the rest. Of course, any sailor would scorn such a description! Armed with needed terms: hull, stern, keel, bow, helm, rudder, he understands the wind's goal is to capsize the boat, and his job is to keep it afloat. "It is an exciting game, in which man usually comes out ahead, but the wind gains enough victories to keep its courage up."(How to Sail)

Isn't it the same with writing? Armed with writing terms: thesis, voice, point of view, metaphor, symbolism, doesn't the writer struggle to keep her craft afloat by coaxing the words to "suit her own ideas"? Doesn't she find writing to be "an exciting game" when words billow onto the paper or swell into waves that crash against one another? Doesn't the writer who perseveres "come out ahead"? And by always sailing -- always writing -- doesn't she find a haven to help her weather life's storms?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Favorite Quotes

"Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea." (on a Celestial Seasons tea cup)

"Don't try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." (I do not know the original source, but my friend Jan first quoted it to me.)

"You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him think." (Dr. Don Gray, a fine principal)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Back to Marmee

A member of my online writing class, offered this insight after reading my first post: "When I read the passage, I saw Marmee’s corner not as a 'perfect' place but a place that is 'as usual,' which is revealed to be something that requires daily, repetitive work to keep it so."

Hmmm. . . work . . . Isn't this what I am trying to avoid? Isn't this what prompted me to approach my blog in a different way? I liked my posts at marmee's musings, but it was the work of writing those devotionals that discouraged me.

So how is it that Marmee's corner remained "as usual" when the rest of the house fell into disarray due to the Little Women's experiment? Marmee knew the value of a routine -- the "daily, repetitive work." She knew the need to keep an uncluttered space where she could address the day's tasks. It was a space where she could be Marmee: mother, wife, and advocate.

Writing the devotionals became burdensome because I was not doing the "daily, repetitive work." Writing needs to be a regular routine; otherwise I will never have the fluency I desire, and I won't grow in the craft. I must not censor my voice and deny myself permission to explore many topics and ideas. By giving myself permission to "just write," I can sweep away the clutter of self-imposed "shoulds" and "should nots" of perfectionism.

Now I understand -- Marmee's corner remained "as usual" through a labor or love. May my motivation be the same.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Marmee's Corner

I'm into the second week of an online writing class, and the experience has been rewarding and enriching as I've "e-met" writers from across the nation and abroad. This week's topic is blogging/columns, which has led me to think about my abandoned blog "marmee's musings." I had such high aspirations to post devotionals there that I could someday compile into a book. Though this is not the usual goal of blogging, the first few posts came to me so easily, I was confident, I could blaze a new blogging trail! Self-imposed pressure to produce a perfectly polished post dammed (damned) the creativity, and Marmee lost her desire to muse.

With the encouragement of Susan Ito, the leader of our parent-lit class, I've opened this new space with a new name: marmee's corner. A passage in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women provided the inspiration for this new title when, at the turn of spring, the March girls seek permission to abandon their normal work routine and instead, do whatever they wish:

"May we, Mother?" asked Meg, turning to Mrs. March, who sat sewing in what they called `Marmee's corner'.

"You may try your experiment for a week and see how you like it."

. . .Next morning, Meg did not appear till ten o'clock. Her solitary breakfast did not taste nice, and the room seemed lonely and untidy, for Jo had not filled the vases, Beth had not dusted, and Amy's books lay scattered about. Nothing was neat and pleasant but `Marmee's corner', which looked as usual. (128)

I don't know exactly what "Marmee's corner" looked like in the March home, and I don't know what my corner is going to look like either. It may not be "neat and pleasant," but instead strewn with one word, one sentence, one paragraph -- all unpolished, undusted -- but honest, as I ponder how to accessorize this write spot.