Back to Writing: Morning Pages

I’ve been deliberating about my return to writing as if it’s been a long time since I wrote. The fact is I write almost daily.

Rosenwald Collection
1943.3.5345 “L’Ecrivain” by Alphonse Legros

My dark side always snidely adds, “if you can call that writing,” which is neither kind nor helpful. My morning pages are not intended to be shared, but that doesn’t invalidate them. They are not intended to have meaning even,  but they continue to be an exercise to put words down on a page. Maybe you have never heard of Morning Pages or the workbook from Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way that inspired me to start mine back in 1999. This book motivated me to get a dog, to consider myself a kind of artist, and to begin a decade of self-help workshops. It also introduced me to a new concept in journaling.*

The way I remember it, morning pages have these guidelines:

  1. write them first thing
  2. write longhand for three  pages
  3. use any size notebook
  4. write quickly without too much thought
  5. keep it private
  6. don’t reread them

I break these all the time–mostly #4 and occasionally #6. Although Julia tells us to throw them out! I can’t do that**–I now have 79 notebooks stuffed in a closet, filled with blather.

And it is blather. It’s intended to be blather! The purpose is to let your stream of consciousness go to town and write out the petty emotions, fears, issues of the day so that you can greet the rest of the day with a clean slate. It’s like emptying a stinky trash can. You can rant about the injustices that you know you’re making up, you can be sorry for yourself, hate yourself, get pissy about the people in your life, and it doesn’t matter. Of course you can also dig up pearls of wisdom, and that doesn’t matter either. No one will see this (because #5 is really important); no one will judge you. If you keep #6, even you can’t judge you! It’s done. It’s over. You got that out of your system. And if it’s still there, that rant, you can repeat it the next day. And the next. No one cares. This is for you.

I’ve been doing my MPs most week days for 23 years. Sometimes it takes me an hour, but if I really do them as directed, it’s half that time or less. When I miss, I am simply not as grounded in my day, and everyone pays for that. My pages help me process my life, clarify my emotions, and focus myself on what matters to me. Because I can complain in the pages, I don’t have to complain to others! (You’re welcome) Occasionally, my pages erupt into something more creative and purposeful, but mostly not. It’s so relaxing to just fill them up. A hot tub. A ritual.

Writing this, I really want to revisit The Artist’s Way. It had such an impact on me in my early 40’s! What could it teach me more than 20 years later?

Have you gone through it? What did you learn? Any other recommendations?

*Prior to this, my journaling had been sporadic at best.

**For some reason I imagine in my very old age I will want to look back on the angst of my prior life. And I still giggle at Gwendolyn’s line in The Importance of Being Earnest:

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

(Oscar  Wilde)

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Freedom of Expression

Maybe this is true everywhere these days, but it has surprised me in my sweet town of Bellingham, WA that there are people who are using their homes as platforms for political statement/insult.

One such home, just down the street from me, offends me so much I don’t like to walk near it.

Trump House

But just like I tend to push at a bruise to see if it still hurts, I do walk by to check out what this man has added lately to the sides of his house.

Why would someone do this to their house? To their neighbors? Because it is SO in the face of the Black Lives Matter signs and Gay Pride flags we have adorning other homes nearby. I sense he has a need to offend in order to feel like his perspective shows up. His house is quite large–an enormous canvas for his “screw everything you believe in and hold dear and important!” message. At least he seems to have limited himself now to only one sign that reads “Joe and the Ho Gotta Go!” He must have taken down the 5 or 6 replicas to make more room for other “ultra MAGA” messages.

But if I walk in another direction, I see a house that has a very different, but no less in-your-face message.

This house’s message hits my gut in a different way. While I think the Trump House is an unpleasant reminder of how some people live in a hate-filled alternative reality from mine, this home reminds me with brutal honesty of a reality I believe exists. Of course it hurts my heart to remember the children lost to crazies with guns. It’s supposed to hurt.

People have had signs in windows and on their lawns for as long as I can remember. Some are political; many are issue-based. I had not realized before that our very houses themselves can advertise our beliefs and politics.

I, too, have shared who I am with my decorating choices. My house is a bright green green with bright blue doors– a choice so loud my husband calls it cartoonish. Perhaps it pains people with more delicate tastes to look at it.

My car is yet another canvas for me.

Silly polka dots make me very happy–and make my car easy to spot!

My neighborhood obviously doesn’t have zoning laws or restrictions against distinctive colors or signage on private property. I know that in gated communities there are often many regulations. In my beloved Chautauqua, NY, for instance, you are not even allowed to post a “For Sale” sign during the summer season. Too much of an eye-sore. When my family put up a “Black Lives Matter” sign, we got flack for it. 

So freedom of expression is not always guaranteed in our “free” world, despite the first amendment to our constitution.

Part of me wants to be protected from tastes that clash with mine. It’s easier. Tidier. It feels better, creates a pillow of comfort around my psyche. Like-minded people make me feel like I fit in. My tribe. My peeps. In such a world no signs are needed,  right?

And a part of me thinks talking too loudly (printing too boldly, coloring too wildly) is just crude. I hear a voice in my head: “You were raised better than that.” That is the shushing voice of a woman in gloves and a hat that matches her shoes. The message tells me to ignore my passionate beliefs and let them simmer inside or, for heaven’s sake if I care that much, write a letter to the editor or to congress. No one else wants to hear about it. Or see it.

Of  course now we have twitter and facebook and heaven knows what all to use as a vent for diatribes. I date myself so easily when I forget that letters and newspapers are part of a more tasteful past. I REALLY find the diatribes on social media I read about (in news articles mainly) tasteless and scarily omnipresent. I hate rants. Rants are really fun and freeing for the person doing them, but tedious and distressing for those who have to hear them. Good heavens. I AM my  grandmother!

And yet. And yet. Keeping things comfortable is not right. Zoning and banning, protecting the sensitive, whatever name you want to call it when people are silenced and not allowed to speak their piece or express themselves –that all makes me extremely uncomfortable. Who gets to decide what is acceptable? Who gets to speak? It always seems to be the people in power, whether an elected group or self-appointed, who make those decisions. And those in power want to appease others with power. In our divisive current culture, there’s a lot of silencing going on, a lot of judgment and not listening to anyone else–which is the same thing, isn’t it?–as silencing someone. Both sides embrace a cancel culture of those who offend. Both shout so loudly they drown out any argument.

We all (and maybe this is me channeling my activist mother) have a duty to express ourselves. To speak up and confirm what makes us who we are. But we also have a duty to look at, listen to and take in who others are. To acknowledge them as just as validly human as we are. So, even though these houses make me uncomfortable, part of me really admires the courage it takes to broadcast so loudly what you stand for.

Hafiz says “And God said “I am made whole by your  life. Every soul completes me.” We have a Threshold song that chants that. The owner of Trump House challenges me to open my mind and my heart (harder!) to the broad spectrum of humanity.

It’s one way for me to honor diversity.

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EGBOK: Everything’s Gonna Be OK


In my last post I referred to a family event that sent my trust muscles into spasms. From a distance of  several months now, it’s hard to remember just how challenging a time that was for me, let alone for my beloved husband who suddenly lost the use of both his legs through an accident at work.

But I want to remember. People go through terror in their personal lives all the time: a scary prognosis, a loved one’s accident, a war, a wildfire, a shot fired. Sometimes it’s just a moment of fear, but when the stress continues, how do they find the courage and stamina to keep going in the face an unknown future? Where do they find the resources? I think of the uncertainty of those living in Ukraine and other war-torn countries right now, of the millions in refugee camps around the world, of those who don’t have a home at all. When they are not actively struggling/working to survive, how do they bear the stress?

You have to have faith in something. Trust in something. It can be in God or in people or in luck. Or maybe it’s in yourself. You know you have do it, so you do. And maybe, if there is another side you can come out of, you are stronger, more resilient, because of the challenges you lived through.

Sometime you can get a sign that helps you see the light. That literally happened to me  during the months of Andy’s  recovery. A friend’s mother had just passed away and my friend called me to come sing. An honor from any perspective, but as others gathered around her, my friend shared what the huge sign on her mother’s wall meant:


Early in her parent’s marriage they had heard a song in a musical that resonated through their lives together:”Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.” EGBOK. (I’ve tried to find the musical, but haven’t had success). Coming into that room at that time–I so needed reminding that yeah, everything’s gonna be ok! It felt like the biggest gift.

Trusting it’s going to be okay takes conscious effort. We will make it through. We’re gonna be okay. We got this. That was my mantra to Andy and myself this past spring.


I sent this to my greater family in early March of this year:

Andy had a fall at work while trying to manipulate his body around a kid who was running down the hall. We think Andy’s legs twisted together, the kid ran into him, and Andy fell badly, tearing the quad tendons on both legs. This happened February 9. It took a while to realize this was not just strained or pulled muscles and to get him into the ortho surgeon. He can’t walk. We now know the implications of the saying, “doesn’t have a leg to stand on”! (Luckily we can both still laugh). Alas there have been other delays for surgery, but we’re hoping he’ll get in very soon and can start the healing process. The pain is WAY down, Andy’s  spirits are amazingly strong, and his ingenuity inspires me as he figures out ways to maintain his independence. He has great arm muscles and scoots around our stair-heavy home on his rear end, dragging his legs. It’s scary and challenging to have this shift in our lives, but we feel quite blessed that he will heal given time (and a fair amount of recovery pain after surgery).

When it first happened, Andy really needed me. I became chief care-giver and chief advocate, though our son who lives nearby was a godsend. We three became a team brainstorming solutions to challenges, and that felt wonderful. Andy never stopped working (that he could do so virtually was another godsend. He needed the distraction in a big way!), so it was up to me to handle practical realities to cope with the future needs and issues to help him recover, much of which were unclear and uncertain.

We didn’t know when surgery would happen to reconnect his tendons back to his knees, though it needed to be pronto. Each delay (there were two) made the surgery harder. Tendons recede up the leg when not attached, and it becomes a greater challenge to stretch them out to make the suturing into the kneecap work.

We didn’t know what post-surgery recovery would look like. Having both tendons tear at  once is rare,  and yet Andy, only 61, was in terrific shape. He’s also 6’3″, with proportionately long legs. In other words, no one was willing to go on the record to predict what his recovery would like.

It’s a killer living with the unknown.

We knew he’d be in braces to hold his legs rigidly straight so the tendons could grow into the kneecaps. He wouldn’t be able to go up and down stairs, not like he could do before surgery (During the five weeks between the accident and his surgery, he actually had a lot of freedom: “You can’t hurt them worse”). Having him recover in our house was not an option.

We knew this because we tested ideas out ahead of time —

Andy really wanted to be self sufficient, with some hilarious results. That said, a footstool was crucial as an aid for getting on and off chairs at a certain point.

What a sport! Before surgery, Andy tried out what it would be like to have the braces on and still navigate our house with some  independence. (We ended up buying another stool to keep  upstairs)

Would he be sent to Rehab after surgery? Should he be? He so didn’t want that, and I didn’t blame him, but I didn’t know how much care I’d need to provide. Would I be up to the task? It was so scary not to know.

But EGBOK indeed. Things started to fall into place:

A friend said that they were going off on vacation anyway, that leaving a bit early would be a splendid idea, and we could rent their one-story home for 4-6 weeks. They’d designed the house to age in, and how lucky for them we could test it out. Both the rent  and these assurances assuaged Andy’s Yankee guilt enough to impose on them. Before they left, they took doors off hinges so we could get a wheelchair in there, moved furniture, explained how their king-size, remote controllable bed worked. The relief to have this in place! I can still feel it.

The L&I claim was finally opened. That alone took four weeks, due to some miscommunication with the original ER doctor. But it meant that Andy’s medical bills would all be covered, and that stress issue lifted.

The surgeon Andy had was fantastic and the operations went well, despite the delay making it quite a challenge to reconnect one of those tendons. The delay worked in one way for me: surgery happened in a COVID window where I was allowed to visit! Andy stayed there two nights, something a single-leg accident would not have needed. Much to my relief, the hospital wouldn’t release him until he could stand and use the walker and get in and out of the wheelchair, which did come in time! Not only that, a social worker arranged for Andy to be delivered to our new home, for PT and  OT to visit him there (no need to transport). We were going to make it!

From then on, problem-solving became almost fun: The transportation issue was huge: how to get a tall stiff-legged man into the car. We could not make him fit into the front seat, let alone navigate the angles for a safe ride! The Ultimately, I drove with him sitting sideways in the back seat. Once again,  his strong tricep muscles came in very handy. Very quickly he gave up on his uncomfortable ramrod wheelchair setup and relied entirely on his walker.

By mid April (4 weeks out), Andy  had convinced the PT and OT that he could navigate the stairs in our home–even stiff-legged! And by the end of that month  (6 weeks out), the surgeon allowed the slow process of stretching the tendons to begin. It wasn’t even that slow! Because Andy was religious about doing his exercises, each week he could flex at least 15 degrees more: another notch of freedom on those braces! By the end of June, Andy got to take them off.

Note he has the handicapped parking in his hand ready to throw in the garbage!

I know it’s still scary for Andy. He still doesn’t  know for sure how much of his past life is gone  forever. Will he ever ski moguls again? Will he bounce down mountain trails on his bike? And he may not. He was told that perfect recovery would still just be 80% of his prior capabilities so there’s a lot of grief there. But he’s a very stubborn and determined  man, and if anyone can get back to a 24  year-old body after a major injury at 61,  it’s him.

As for me, this was a very challenging five months, but it left me feeling more secure than ever in my relationship with my husband. The future is always uncertain. Freak accidents occur. We may all be going to hell in a hand  basket, but we will make it through. We’re gonna be okay. We got this.

A final gift for you: “Light of a Clear Blue  Morning” by Dolly Parton, arranged by Craig Hella Johnson (with the Coker Singers).


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Photo credit: frenchdave on Visualhunt

In Consolations*,  David Whyte takes the reader on an exploration of words. The book is subtitled “The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.”  The dedication reads:

Dedicated to


and their 

I don’t think I could find a more beautiful and expressive way to explain why I so love having a word of the year. My word for 2022 is “Trust.”

The uncertainties surrounding this word indeed beckon me! The more I explored the topic early in the year, the more confused I became. I drafted this post back in early February. Since then my family suffered an upset that has required a new and unfolding relationship with trust, but I’ll talk about that another time. But on to my original exploration of the word!

Trust can mean so many things:

It can mean allowing myself to let go of fear to bodily do something even though it scares me.

I remember the trusting game where someone leads you around, blindfolded, with a gently guiding arm or directions in your ear. You have to trust that they won’t let you do something dangerous. And another where you stand in the middle of a tight circle, place  your hands across your chest, stiffen your body, and allow (force) yourself to fall into the arms of those surrounding you, trusting them to catch you.

As a sophomore in college, I was in a children’s play called “Humpty Dumpty.” I was the narcoleptic Horse, dependent on my very strong and trustworthy Man to catch me before I crashed to the ground.

When I was younger, I found it easier to trust. I was less afraid of getting hurt! Because, let’s be honest, I didn’t have much experience with hurt.

On a deeper level, trust involves the safely of my mind, the values I hold, and the conclusions I draw from information I am given. In other words, my trust is a belief in the integrity of another.

I need to trust my news channel to have done the proper research and give me an unbiased rendition of the truth. I admit I don’t.  I don’t trust anyone (let alone the media) to give an unbiased view of anything. With rare exceptions I expect to be manipulated by politicians or, really, anyone in power. A person or news source may tell me the truth, but do they tell me the whole truth or do they hide from me what they don’t want me to know? Because perhaps they are afraid that if I know the whole truth, I won’t respect them any more or like them, or I will blow the information out of proportion and put it in an incorrect context, and their whole power source will blow up into smithereens. They don’t, in other words, trust me to be smart, rational, and forgiving.

Is trust the same thing as optimism? “I trust all will be well.”

Is it the same thing as faith?

Does trust even have to be positive? Does distrusting something mean that you can’t depend on its happening or, more negatively, that you expect an outcome that is downright unpleasant? Or can you trust that someone will be a jerk?

As a wordsmith, this is driving me a little zooey.

I haven’t really gotten much closer to figuring out how I feel about the word. Except it’s loaded with emotional baggage for me. So I remain intrigued.

Earning trust. Someone recently told me that my trust issues are what creates drama in an organization I’m involved in. She told me she knows that people have to earn my trust. “No!” I said. It felt like an accusation. “I trust people until they break my trust–but then I admit it’s hard to win it back.”

[As an aside, David Whyte (remember the poet I quote at the beginning of this post?) claims “Denial” is invaluable to humans, because often we need time to take in the stressors of reality, and denial is how we give ourselves that distance. When you’re ready to accept reality, you will.]

Anyway, with distance and a bit of time, I’m ready to acknowledge that I don’t leap into trusting people, and I think that is just as normal as can be. I think most of us have devised subconscious little tests for people we engage with to see what kind of trust they rate. That’s what profiling is all about, be it racist or agist or economic or about the political signs they have plastered on their property. We assume that because someone is one thing, then they are likely to be another (and another and another and another) and therefore we’re more or less willing to trust them.

Trusting others is a skill. It takes practice. It takes a willing suspension of distrust.  I, like so many in our world, have allowed my trust muscle to get flabby. And trust is a muscle that needs to be exercised.

But why does it matter? Surely it’s safer not to trust others, safer not to trust that chair or the rule of law or what a news source is telling you.

Maybe you start wearing a t-shirt to remind you not to trust.

The older we get, the more experience we have with people and things and our bodies failing us. With experience comes fear. I know the cost of misplaced trust, which can devastate me: physically, I can break if you let me fall; psychically, emotionally, it’s my heart that breaks.  Distrust builds.

And yet as I age and grow more vulnerable, the more I must trust others. It’s a great irony. If I give up on trust, I’m giving up on getting anything done. I’m giving up on having adventures and meaningful relationships. I’m giving up on life.

And these days, even if you give up on life, you have to trust someone else to stand up for your wishes voiced in your advanced directive!


Conclusion: trust is an important skill to cultivate and strengthen. But it’s complicated! And that, my friends, is what makes it a good word for the year.

*Whyte, David. Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.  Many Rivers Press, 2015.

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Being Brave (Baby Elephant)


What a proud word that is! It tastes great.

I grew up with a delicious picture book that is sadly now out of print: Brave Baby Elephant.* The story with its wonderful illustrations quickly became iconic in my family. Baby Elephant’s big adventure celebrates whimsy and dressing up and food and love and supporting the reality of the world others live in. For Baby Elephant, this is a huge, huge day. His family bends over backwards to acknowledge how special it is, how special he is. He is AFFIRMED. And spoiled. And thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. The quintessential feel-good book of my childhood, it shaped me.

To celebrate the Big Adventure, Mother Elephant makes a special Baby Elephant Dessert that, however, does not look at all like him.

Spoiler alert: Baby Elephant’s big adventure is getting ready for bed for the first time all by himself. It’s laughable, right? But it also represents a great truth: challenges that may appear tiny to others are actually huge to the person taking them on.

For some reason, late last spring at age 62 plus, it became critical for me to have my own All By Myself adventure. I decided to drive from where I live on the coast of Washington State to my family’s summer home in Chautauqua, NY. It’s over 2500 miles. I wanted to take my beloved 18-month dog to show off to people and to keep me company. I wanted to camp and be brave and show I was strong enough to do things on my own without my marvelous husband around to hold my hand.

I knew it was no big deal. I have female friends who take their campers for months at a time. They are fine on their own. I didn’t have a camper, but we own a couple tents. Decades ago we traveled with the kids to distant family during the summer and we camped on the way. How hard could it be?

In the Baby Elephant book preparing for the adventure is exulted into the joy it is!

I too had my lantern and my  sword (read, bear spray. In case.) Beforehand,  and with my husband along, we got out our old tents (one was broken). I set up camp and took it down under his eagle eye. I reminded myself how to work the stove (you bet I thought about food!). I planned my route, called friends, assessed how long my dog Honey and I could reasonably travel each day.  Planning and prepping filled me up. It’s basically all I thought about, dreamt about, and probably talked about for weeks. Family and friends gave me advice, cans of mace,  spare gas canisters for the stove (which I couldn’t find to buy anywhere).

I’m not alone in my love of preparing. Recently my great niece, similar to Baby Elephant, readied herself for an expedition:

“Today she got ready for a trip. She put on 2 birthday crowns and a unicorn headband. She carried two large bags and put Gerald into the wagon. She was humming softly to herself as she put on shoes (her father’s) in the front hall.”–note from my sister, her grandmother

Preparing can, alas, be a personality disorder. I have to be careful not to get so neurotic that the planning takes over my life. Because, no matter how much a person plans, the real adventure begins with the unexpected, those things you simply cannot prepare for. The unexpected is what I remember from my trip:

The maybe grizzly, maybe brown bear on the old lumber road just beyond my first mountain pass (about 3 hours into my trip) who luckily ran the other way when it saw me and Honey. I did not have my bear spray on me because the warnings on the label were enough to scare me off from carrying it.

The gale winds that came up at the Lewis and Clark campground on the banks of the Missouri River and almost blew my tent away.

I was very grateful for that tree when I was trying to break camp that next morning.

The heat wave that had me accepting a couch in an air conditioned cabin instead of setting up a stiflingly hot, buggy tent for myself that night in Minnesota.

How kind my friends were to include Honey and me in their comfortable getaway!

The delight in having my dog along, appreciating her joy in grass





and how she made me stop for walks along the way.




Discovering hidden treasures across our wide and wonderful country.

On the other side of a creek or river in Montana, an artistic car graveyard

My time of independence didn’t last long. Honestly? Just three nights and four days of solitary travel. But oh, it sank into me as an achievement! My own very Big Deal. I got infused with feeling capable and strong and brave. Like Baby Elephant.

“Well,” he said. “here I go, by myself. All alone.” And holding his lantern up and his sword out, Baby Elephant walked bravely down the long hall. He turned bravely into his bedroom and jumped bravely into his bed, pulling the covers well over his head.

“I have done it!” Baby Elephant said. “I have certainly done it. All alone and by myself.”

He’s not quite done. He has to let everyone know he’s okay. And, let’s face it, trumpet his success.

We all need to trumpet our successes sometimes, or at least I do. Hence this post!

Let’s hear about your bravery. It’s your turn to trumpet!


*Brave Baby Elephant by Sesyle Joslin, Illust. by Leonard Weisgard: Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1960.

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A Year to Work on Balance

Photo by Travis Wheeler

I haven’t blogged since October 2020. I’ve thought about it, felt guilt about it, and then released the guilt because, well, the turmoil of these last 6 months has been both national and deeply personal. I have felt on the edge, out of balance, out of control.

I’m 62. Until the end of November, my children had all four grandparents alive, along with three of their steps. What that means is that we have several elders in our family, beloveds who are in their 80’s and 90’s now. And almost all are shifting noticeably closer to death. The first


, my feisty and funny mother-in-law, died on November 30.

Anne Hotchkiss Wheeler, always curious, unique, beloved. d. 11-30-20

It had nothing to do with COVID. She was 87 with more internal garbage going on than anyone should have. But she’d fought cancer and severe diverticulitis. She had jumped back from death so many times in the past, part of me had stopped thinking she could die! And then she had a fall, which didn’t even seem so bad, but which killed her. Just like that. My husband rushed off to be with his siblings, two of whom had been with her at her death (and I know what a huge blessing that is, especially in this era). It was very important for him to do that; their time together was bonding and healing and my being there would have been an unfortunate addition.

But, left alone in my own grief, I didn’t know what to DO with myself, with those huge emotions. And this is from someone who, because of my volunteering with Threshold Singers,  has made a study of grief, who deals with death and the emotions it reveals on a very regular basis.

Since then I wanted to write about “Balance”–it’s the word I chose for 2021–but I haven’t. I haven’t felt any drive to write at all, let alone add to this poor occasional blog of mine. Instead I have been visiting parents, trying to help out as they struggle to live and maybe struggle to die at the ends of their lives. I want them to have joy in their lives. Sometimes it seems as if they still do. My mother, in a nursing facility with her husband (who is on hospice and now unable to communicate verbally), points out that she gets huge pleasure at looking at flowers.

Thank God for them.

I too take enormous pleasure in the beauty of the natural world. I love the fact that I almost always have a camera with me in the form of my cell phone. I take photos that sometimes knock me sideways, like this one.

Outside of Taos, NM

This January my father had a stroke which, on top of his Parkinson’s, made him face Death in the eye and basically say, “bring it on!” But with excellent care, he’s recovering some independence. I visited to help my stepmom out for a couple of weeks (basically provide some support), and I learned how very important my father’s dignity is to him. He wrote a very specific letter in August saying that he never wanted anyone to feed him. It’s in his health care folder. That was the line he was drawing. He got very close to that place.

Dad perked up with daughters visiting (and great support from his wife and visiting professionals)

And it’s his choice. My stepmom (bless her!) totally honors the fact that my father’s choices are his. With her strength modeling that for me, I hope I can stop myself from my knee-jerk response to voice my own opinion at a time when that is not wanted or asked for.

We adult children think we know so much. And I’m not just adult. My own children remind me quite regularly that I am old! Oh, if only that age came with assured wisdom, but I have so much growing still to do. The world keeps rocking under my feet–pandemics, politics, divisiveness, climate change, worries about just about every aspect of life. How do I stabilize?

At my Threshold rehearsal in January I asked my fellow singers to share what strategies they had to re-ground or find balance. So many mentioned self care: Breathing with Chi Gong, Tai Chi, walks in nature, noticing little details, or focusing on a task as a kind of meditative practice. For me, I’ve been so blessed to have my family of sisters and moms to connect to. I have my rock of a husband. And I have my dog and friends, and a new practice of self forgiveness.

I think of the song by the Byrds, To Everything Turn Turn Turn:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

There is a balance to everything. Good heavens, I have everything to help me balance! Just got to pay attention.

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Inktober Delight

This is the first year I have tried my hand at Inktober, a month-long sketching challenge created by Jake Parker years ago. Urged to draw by the friend who told me about it, I mainly just share my creations with her, but this is so much fun that you need to know about it too.

As last’s month’s post discussed, I have a need for whimsy. Inktober definitely feeds that need!

The rules are simple:

  1. draw to the daily prompt
  2. anything goes
  3. share it with someone

I guess I would add, for  my own benefit:

4. don’t take it too seriously!

Here are the daily prompts for 2020:

To add to my cheeky thrill, I decided to illustrate potential scenes for a story my daughter and I are creating together. She gifted this collaboration as a birthday present (brilliant, Clara!) with a long first episode that made me positively giddy. To give a hint to the fun this inspires, here’s her first paragraph to this sky pirate adventure:

“The sound of wood creaking, the flap of canvas. People shouting at each other across the deck, stoking the furnaces that feed the balloon, keeping the boat in the air. Far below, the poison sea waits for unlucky vessels whose balloon cannot keep them at a safe height. Things churn in the deep, things with enormous tentacles and too many eyes, and they are always hungry.”

After her nine pages of real adventure and character study, there was so much glorious potential that I didn’t know how to start. So I dithered–until Inktober came  to my rescue and helped give me some ideas. I didn’t–and won’t– use them all, but they got me “in.”

My first “Ink” was  “Fish”:

A very creepy character Clara created popped into illustration when  I misread the third day’s prompt to be “Bulge” (instead of bulky):

Inking also helped me refine details as I wrote.




How small does that small ornamental box they stole have to be? Ah, now I  know. And I know its gems are very sharp.



Now that I’ve handed it back to Clara for her next installment, the continued illustrations are keeping me  grounded in the story world until it comes back to me.


Maybe the main character has to take care of the rats so they don’t chew the ropes tied to the big balloon keeping the ship afloat.



Regarding the quality, I have to remind myself that this is not any sort of competition! I’m not a creative artist–the best I can ever do is to copy from a photo I find on the internet or one I  have taken myself. But to be honest, I think real artists do that too! So if it’s cheating, it’s a well-established cheat.

Not all of my sketches are illustrations. I don’t always feel inspired. I find I bounce mostly between current life “commentary” and the illustrations.




Self-portrait while traveling



Sometimes the commentary is political–hard to avoid these days!

Sometimes, like today,  it’s personal.

Inktober reminds me that even very short forays into creative output feed my soul. Plus creativity feeds creativity. Don’t you find that? Makes me want to draw a bunch of delightful monsters gorging happily on themselves, growing, amassing into some STORY, but I don’t know how to draw that.

You can do it. 🙂

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Looking for Whimsy

Let’s face it, times are stressful. I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed, I get depressed and negative and cranky. All the mean little voices in me pick up their volume and though I can sometimes remember to be kind to others, it’s too easy to forget that I need tender attention also.

One of my friends I used to sing bedside with had a beautiful phrase. At the end of a sing, she would smile gently at the wife or daughter or husband. “Be tender with yourself,” she’d say. “This is such a hard time.”

This is a hard time. I know it. You know it. But do we know how to be sweet to ourselves? Tender? Gentle? Kind? We are humans with so many failings. I feel like it would be a very good habit to say to myself, “Thank you, Mathilda, for getting up this morning. Bravo! Go ahead and have another piece of chocolate.”

My last post talked about needing a reset button in order to find HOPE. Lately I’ve found one that works for me, at least for now. My reset button is whimsy. If you’ve followed many of my posts, especially the early ones, you’ll know that I adore what sparks my imagination and puts a giggle in my heart. To me, whimsy is something that doesn’t quite fit the norm or the expected. Because it’s a surprise, it brings with it an element of delight. So my new strategy is to LOOK FOR IT.

Like this:

Just a decorated sculpture in my neighborhood–but how fun to notice it! And I only noticed because I was looking. I now put “LOOK FOR WHIMSY” on my goals for each day! It’s amazing where I can find it.

A flamingo hides in a friend’s backyard.

A funky green thing inserted into a colorful birthday bouquet. So yes, sometimes whimsy is a gift given.

I’ll tell you something. I have polkadots on my car, because I have always liked the ridiculous. But shortly after COVID shutdown one of the biggest passions of my life (bedside singing), some mystery person put google eyes on the dots.




That small and wonderful act of kindness, that shared whimsy, has cheered me up for months.




Some other kind soul put a painted pebble in my garden. I bet it’s been there a while, but I just noticed it the other day. CALM, it says. Thank you.

And look at the effort that went into creating this elaborate configuration, another neighborhood gem.

Seeing something like that gives me hope for humanity–and hope for my own survival.

What does it for you? Curious folk want to know.


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The need for a reset button

Photo credit: Carbon Arc on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Our world is in trouble. So much unrest and anger can be blamed on the growing towers of  tensions we read about daily. We’re either caught inside these towers or watching them tilt crazily toward us from the ground. Every day we have to decide who to trust, who to believe, how to act, and what it means to be responsible in a world that seems about to crash. Maybe society needs to blow up in order to reset, but I sure wish we had a button to let us do it safely and sanely.

A reset button, in fact. A time out for routine maintenance. A release valve. Something! A chance for relief from this building energy.

My own body tells me I need this: with relief, tension-held muscles relax– ones I didn’t know had locked into position creak into a new freedom. Tears come. Deep sobbing. When my body finally settles into peace, it’s possible to think again, examine reality with fresh eyes. Form new vision and set new goals, maybe form new beliefs to help guide me through this new reality. or this same reality viewed with a different lens.

We are on a brink here. I’m curious and I’m worried and I’m praying more than I ever have for guidance in what to do. Our country–and maybe it’s our whole planet–cannot keep on like it is without breaking. I’m still reading the New Testament with my sisters, and sometimes Paul’s words seem perfect.

In hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.”–Romans 8:24-26

I love that last, “inexpressible groanings.” It makes me  smile. It makes me think of something I might read in The 13 Clocks by James Thurber (a childhood favorite). It makes me think that God is on my side, groaning along with me, groaning FOR me in fact.

How hard these times are for us all!  It brings me some peace to think God will provide all the inexpressible groanings we need in these crazy times. My job is to keep my hope intact, which I think is another way of saying my faith strong. The reset button is out there, for me and for my world. I HOPE my heart opens to understanding where that reset button might be, what it might look like, and what I can do to press it.








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Gospels with my sisters

The Covid Crisis has given me a deeper appreciation of my health and awareness of my shocking privilege among other things, but its greatest gift so far has been to connect me more with sisters.

Gospels bookclub with my sisters

Photo on VisualHunt

In early March before any of us were issued a “Stay at Home” order, three of my four sisters and I went to a family funeral and shared a very small airbnb over a weekend. We got into some deep conversations about spirit and faith and the importance of the Gospels. Although we were all raised Unitarian, my two eldest sisters have studied the Bible with vigor, one as a thoroughly involved evangelical christian, the other as a very active Episcopalian. We other three have never before read the Gospels, let alone studied them. We agreed it would be fun and informative to read them together; the Lock Down orders and a new understanding of how zoom works allowed this to happen very quickly. We’ve been  meeting almost daily (daily!) for about an hour since mid-March.

It’s slow going. It’s amazing how much there is to discuss! I had no idea, for instance, that the Lord’s Prayer comes from the Sermon on the Mount (which is not labeled as such, really) and that it’s only in one of the Gospels! Well, you can imagine how blown away I was by Matthew (whom we started with). It’s been fascinating to discover where so many of the famous stories and expressions come from, and a little embarrassing that I didn’t know this before. Luckily, two of my other sisters are in a similar boat so I don’t feel too much like an idiot. 

I’ve been so surprised to find out that Jesus isn’t always (ever?) portrayed as the sweet, loving person I’ve always assumed he was. I had no idea Mother Mary is barely mentioned in the gospels, and Mary Magdalene not much more. A huge amount of my prior understanding of the gospels came from Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. I grew up singing both.

In case you’re curious, I’m reading with the free Bible app, It’s an astonishing resource. You get to choose and move between editions. I mainly use the NET, whatever that stands for, because the notes in that version can help sometimes. I also frequently look at the Messenger for a more contemporary rewriting of the verses. My sisters often bring in other resources: the Jewish interpretation (can’t remember what it’s called), for example. Because we go so slowly–often just chapter by chapter–our conversations are (sometimes) deeper than, say, those of the FAB Fems podcast. Because three of us are such novices, we ask questions about verses that my more knowledgable sisters admit they’ve skimmed over.

We do love each other!

But this experience brings us so much more than a deeper knowledge of the Bible. We move into discussions about our personal faiths and family history. We are being brave and sharing–questions and answers and ponderings (and sometimes songs!)–that we might otherwise have kept private from each other. We each bring a very different perspective to the discussion. And my mother, 89, sits in. She doesn’t often participate, but seeing her face daily while she’s in lockdown has been a gift to all of us (and vice versa).  Because I am about 2000 miles from my nearest sister and 3000 from the furthest, this experience has kept us all grounded in family connection.

Although we may well morph into less frequent gatherings, I hope we are all addicted to exploring spirit together. I’m not sure, but I think we’ll be reading the Koran next. 


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