Saturday, November 19, 2022

Grown up daughter

 Us and our kid, Brianna, at the restaurant she is buying in Minneapolis. 



 Old World Pizza, Inverness Grove Heights, Oct 2022

If you go, check out the desert pizza buffet! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Observations from a Literary Conference in Summer, 2022

Mythopoeic Society Conference, July 29 - August 1, 2022, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

·      Every day, every person wore a mask. The COVID guidelines were sent out with the conference materials, and participants were expected to abide by them. And they did!

 ·     More women attended than men. 

·       One Guest of Honor speaker urged participants to explore, in more depth than ever, representations in fantasy literature of women, LGBTQ+, and the disabled.

 ·      Several talks included discussions about the affects of colonialism on current populations, and how fantasy writers dealt with—or ignored—those issues.

 ·      A popular topic was the Chronicles of Narnia, and how C. S. Lewis dealt with the children who had experienced that land as youth and faced continued disorientation when they returned as adults. Did you know that he killed them all in a train accident? Except one?

·       A presenter about Latinx fantasy and the use of “alien” images in protest literature, was unaware of the UFO Watchtower. He found it on Google Earth and plans to visit it soon. 😊

 ·     A heartfelt and heated discussion took place about whether to hold the conference next year, or the year after, with the intent of shifting to an every-other-year format. Why? To reduce our footprint of travel on the planet.

·       An equally heated, and even more heartfelt discussion took place about whether a proposed state was worthy of hosting this event due to their current stand on abortions.

 ·     The second Guest of Honor, an author who lives in Taos, urged participants, especially authors, to find ways of telling stories that do not include the use of violence to solve problems. She wants to see fantasy literature move toward problem-solving for social justice, rather than the use of swords.

 ·      This literary gathering ended with a rousing rendition of “What Do You Do With a Drunken Hobbit?” Well, what would you do with a drunken Hobbit?

[Shrug.] Ah, these modern times!

Saturday, June 4, 2022

My Brief yet Lifelong Link to Ukraine

        I have been to Ukraine. 

       Romanian friends of mine regularly traveled the 40 kilometers from Suceava (su-CHA-va), the city where I lived to the city of Chernivitsi, a western Ukraine city south of Kyiv.

       In autumn of 2007, I was serving in Romania, a free democratic country since 1989, as a Peace Corps volunteer. I served as a non-profit professional, but my background is history and teaching social studies.

       The three times that I accompanied my friends on their trips across the border, I stood in the historic downtown, mouth agape, admiring the gorgeous, Baroque, Gothic and Byzantine architecture, and we shopped at what was for me, born and raised in Colorado, an incredibly large, multi-item market.

       At the market, my companions bought Ukrainian wines and liquors, condiments, clothing, and rice. I bought Babushka nesting dolls, souvenir t-shirts, and hand-stitched tablecloths that have become family treasures.

       Mostly, I took photos to record an experience that I never would have believed could happen to me, if I hadn’t been there in the flesh.

       That part of the world had been so distant during my lifetime, that if you asked me which was more likely, that I would stand on the moon or in Ukraine, the answer would have been easy: “The moon.” It was inconceivable that one day my feet might be standing on Soviet soil,.

       I grew up under the threat of thermo-nuclear war. In 1960 Colorado, we first grade six-year-olds practiced air raid drills where we cowered under our little desks to protect ourselves from dropping bombs that we were told would come from the Soviet Union. I didn’t understand what bombs were until years later; as a child I simply knew that they must be scary if we had to hide when a siren blared. What were the adults thinking, I wonder now? A child’s desk is no protection from nuclear explosives. Still, we practiced, and some neighbors built air raid shelters in their back yards filled with canned goods and water—the lucky ones I thought at the time, though now I know there would have been no such thing.

       The fear of atomic attack became accepted as normal, and air raid drills in schools became a thing of the past, the stuff of fables. When I graduated from high school in 1972 and college in 1976, the Iron Curtain, beyond which lived and lurked the threat of nuclear war, was firmly in place, a part of our world, invisible but woven into daily life. On the other side of it were people I had little chance of ever meeting, sharing meals with, learning their histories. There were stories about Americans, with very special visas, sneaking in bibles or blue jeans. If caught, they would be arrested and—in the best-case scenario—sent home. Magazine stories and news reports indicated that the people who received these precious commodities, could be persecuted, imprisoned, possibly killed.  

       The Sighet Memorial Museum in northern Romania is a former Communist prison where many dissidents and innocent people were incarcerated and tormented. I visited there in August 2008, and it is a grim place. People were imprisoned for such heinous crimes as writing a letter to a friend in England, painting pictures without authorization, stealing milk for their starving relatives. I wept to think that their despotic leaders had committed these atrocities against their own fellow citizens.    

       This was life—and still is, I believe—under Russian rule.

       But life takes twists and turns, doesn’t it? My husband and I wanted to be Peace Corps volunteers, but for important reasons—jobs, experiences, children—we postponed applying until our 50s. By the time we did, in 2006, Eastern Europe was an option for service, and we were invited to serve in Romania. We looked at each other with joy and said, “Where the hell is Romania?”

       It’s embarrassing for me to admit this, but true for many that I spoke to in the Peace Corps: we just didn’t know about Eastern Europe because, until the Berlin Wall came crashing down in November 1989, it had been closed off from most Americans for many decades. However, by the early 2000s, Romania and Ukraine hosted hundreds of volunteers.

       Suceava, the city we served in, was just south of Ukraine and many of the people living in the area spoke both languages. We frequently attended “Get Acquainted” conferences where citizens from Ukraine and Romania—and us because we were American and added a Western element to their attendance lists—gathered for a few days to come up with mutual projects. For example, the teacher’s association I worked with organized a children’s summer camp of shared folk dancing and music with a Ukrainian school. Sometimes no project was created, but always friends were made, and celebrations were held, often at fine hotels with pristine white tablecloths, an abundant variety of alcohol, cultural foods, and regular toasting.

       While Romania is close to my heart, Ukraine holds its own special place. I saw no armed guards but plenty of welcoming smiles. Commerce was thriving. I witnessed the influence and acceptance of Western ideals: freedom, democracy, and pride. The Iron Curtain had indeed come down.

       These past weeks, watching the invasion of Ukraine by Russians, I wept again. Those wonderful people threatened with reassimilation under that harsh, autocratic rule!

       But then, a surprise! They were holding their ground. Their President refused to flee. Governments from across the globe are pledging support. The assault has met with stiff resistance.

       Just one more reason to respect Ukrainians: after surviving decades of despotic dictatorship, faced with its return, they are repulsing the incursion. They are fighting for their beautiful historic cities, the choice to elect their own leaders, the betterment of their children’s futures, and the kinds of freedom we take for granted.

       Losing this newly freed country to a Russian dictator would be a heinous criminal injustice.

       I am not like Vladimir Putin. I don’t want a return of the Iron Curtain; living on this side of it was horrific enough.

       I don’t want Ukraine to be as distant as the moon.

       I want Russia out of there. 


Published in Mid-week Message, First United Methodist Church, 23 March, 2022



Saturday, May 7, 2022

A Cheerful Look at Mortherhood on Mothers Day at Church

For today’s Moment of Peace, at church, on Mother’s Day, I planned to read a poem I had written about being a mother. Unfortunately, every time I read it—heck, even looked at it—I cried.

Believing that making people weep on Mother’s Day is probably bad form, I sought a different path. Instead, I found some funny, light-hearted thoughts about being a mother that I hope bring smiles rather than tears.

We’ll start with a few thoughts from Reader’s Digest, Originally Published: April 24, 2018.

- Silence is golden, unless you have kids. Then silence is suspicious.

- When your ‘Mom Voice’ is so loud, even the neighbors brush their teeth and get dressed.

- When my kids act up in public, I like to yell, ‘Wait till I tell your mom!’ and pretend they’re not mine.

Then there was Phyllis Diller who said, "I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them."

“Any mother could perform the jobs of several air-traffic controllers with ease.” Says Lisa Alther.

"No matter how old a mother is,” says Florida Scott Maxwell, “she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement."

Ambrose Bierce wrote, "Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly."

"There is only one pretty child in the world,” according to a Chinese Proverb, “and every mother has it."

"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out." Remember Erma Bombeck?

Peter De Vries claims: "A suburban mother's role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car for ever after."

Olivia Wilde says, "If I wasn't at work, I just wanted to stay home and party with my little man--and by 'party' I mean, of courese, endless rounds of 'Itsy Bitsy Spider'."

"Working mothers are guinea pigs in a scientific experiment to show that sleep is not necessary to human life." Anonymous, but probably female.


Here are a few random thoughts:

A mother is the person you can always call to see how long chicken lasts in the fridge.

"Mom, I love and your super long voicemails."

Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out.

If at first you don't succeed, try doing it the way your mom told you to do it from the start.


And this final thought from Penelope Cruz:

"All those cliches, those things you hear about having a baby and motherhood--all of them are true. And all of them are the most beautiful things you will ever experience."


Wishing you smiles on this Mothers Day.


(Mother’s Day Moment for Peace, First United Methodist Church, Alamosa, CO, 8 May 2022)