Monday, June 25, 2012

The Next Right Thing

I few days ago (dear readers! you may recall) I blogged about my Law of What Needs to Happen First. It was sequential theory with a bit of the spiritual thrown in.  And, even still, it is hard to reconcile that sometimes a bad thing needs to happen before something good can take its place. This law perhaps cannot be applied to everything. Because, indeed, VERY BAD things happen to children.

See Murders Up in Chicago 60%

You can also read/hear/absorb through the airwaves the Jerry Sandusky story. Even if you wanted to avoid this one, it's been impossible. And every time the radio/TV/newspapers/Facebook reported on it, I felt sick to my stomach, and angry.

But today I received confirmation that even out of this VERY SORRY EPISODE can come the next right thing.

A wonderful woman I met last summer at a writer's conference A Room of Her Own, Dora McQuaid, a poet and activist who worked at Penn State as a voice against violence to women has been chosen (her image) to REPLACE Jerry Sandusky in a mural decorating the outside of the Penn State college bookstore.

Dora told us her story of being a victim of domestic violence. She physically removed herself from the situation and then went on to try to empower other young women to fight back also, using words. Too late for some. Here is a link to story about Dora and the mural.
Also please check out Dora's website and her books.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm a winner!!!!!!!!!

Last year I was challenged by Kate Gale of Red Hen Press to up my game. Kate's a good one for a challenge.For me upping my game meant submitting my work to second and first-tier magazines etc and trying for contests. I'm way too cheap to pay entry fees but lately I've been breaking down and entering--no luck so far. But right after AWP I entered the Bluestem Postcard contest and GUESS WHAT--I'm a winner.

I tied for second place. Still . . . .

I'm trilled and here is a link to Bluestem Magazine and my winning submission (it's less than 100 words so go for it).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My Uncle Bob Myers ran a heating and plumbing business in Upper Sandusky. It is my guess that these pics are from BEFORE the War. The one above says Aug 1941.

P.S. If anyone is interested in reading more about Upper Sandusky--which by the way is south of the city of Sandusky (lower on the Sandusky River--go figure) then order a copy of my book Beyond Paradise where the main character Louise hails from Upper (what the locals call it!). For more info--see BOOKS


I'm calling this one HATS!

Photo reads Ann 1947, I'm guessing she is in Columbus at Ohio State for this pic

Mom looks like she's working for the Salvation Army, but she's actually a WAC, 1943 - 1945

Here her hat is a bit washed out, but the suit look like the same one below

In this pic even my brothers Steve and Tom are rocking some great hats! April 1955
P.S. to see these pics are any of the pics at my blog bigger and better--just CLICK on it and that should work!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


from left to right: Aunt Mary, Aunt Gwen, Aunt Mart, aunt Izzy (Uncle Bob's wife), Grandma Myers, 1967 Aunt Lucilla & Uncle Jim 50th wedding anniversary
middle is Mom, then me, Nancy, and cousin Debbie

Mom as a WAC, Aunt Izzy, Aunt Jane holding Terry, 1945

Aunt Mart, Mom, Aunt Becky (the fun one), Aunt Gwen looking like Dorothy of Oz, 1943

Aunt Becky as a WAC, and Uncle Bob who had joined the Navy

Mom and Aunt Becky with Gwen in the middle, 1945

Aunt Jane, Mom, Aunt Becky, Aunt Gwen, 1945

"The gang.", Mom is on the end and is still in high school I'm guessing, next to Mom is Gwen, Rose (a friend), Aunt Becky, then Jane, another friend. Photo taken at Upper Sandusky water works.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Changing the World

I was a very idealistic kid: I wanted to the change the world. Unfortunately I’ve grown up. Yet I still want to change the world.

On the other hand I have no skills to stop/prevent:

Climate change
Greece from defaulting

Face it—there is so much bad news out there that I can do nothing about, except read/hear/watch it on the news. AND there is more bad news about the news:

There is no such thing as fair and unbiased!
Media frenzy/hysteria/overload!

I can do nothing about the above either. Even the stuff I think I have control over is a fiction. My fiction is fiction—so too is a lot of my non-fiction.

Just getting up each morning is a leap of faith.

There is one skill I do have and which I frequently employ—my ability to write.

Recently, I wrote a story about a leap of faith, about coming to Chicago straight out of college in 1982 to work at a non-profit here in Chicago. THAT WHICH I SHOULD HAVE DONE I DID NOT DO is a flash (1000 words) about one of my visitation ladies. The title is based upon a painting of the same name by Ivan Albright hanging at the Art Institute of Chicago. It is a picture, painted in great detail, of a door. Graduating from college is like a door: a door you can run SLAM into or a door that can open—perhaps to other doors or lead me somewhere. Who knows!
That Which I Should Have Done, I Did Not Do

The cool thing about THAT WHICH is that I submitted it to Adroit Journal, a literary mag dedicated to ending poverty. If that isn’t idealistic, I don’t know what is. Adroit was started by Peter LaBerge a high school senior. Yeah, just a kid out to change the world. He spearheaded the journal with all proceeds to go to the Acumen Fund an organization that strives to one day give every human being access to the critical goods and services they need – including affordable health, water, housing, energy, agricultural inputs and services – so that they can make decisions and choices for themselves and unleash their full human potential. About Adroit. About Acumen Fund

Isn’t this the coolest thing ever. It’s about writing for a change. Peter and his staff put a lot of hard work into this current issue, so why not check it out. Maybe ORDER a copy. It’s only $15 and each issue purchased contributes $7.22 to Acumen. Do something today: Read, Write, Take a Leap of Faith, Change the World.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rudolf's Castle

When traveling, my husband and I always wished to be adopted, taken home by a local. The closest we came was in Croatia, at the bus station in Split (I know an unfortunate name, I’m sure it’s pronounced differently) where tourists are descended upon by little old ladies vying to rent out their extra rooms/beds/suites. Two ladies actually fought over us, calling each other liars. Finally we went “home” with an old lady with teeth problems because I didn’t trust the other woman who spoke better English and tried to convince us she lived only 5 minutes away from the historic town center. I thought—no way do you live only 5 minutes away—it was a Unesco World Heritage site.

So we followed our chosen old lady to her apartment (about a 15-minute walk) where the den was set up with a fold out bed and she offered us Nescafe and a package of stale cookies and with hand gestures and some Italian! told us how we could get back into the apartment before we left to go eat dinner and cruise the old town. Can’t remember how much kroner we paid for the two nights. I’ve often thought though—why don’t more people do this? I guess Air B & B serves the same purpose.

One other time we were in Sienna, Italy walking back from a supper of heat lamp pizza (Somehow heat lamp pizza is better in Italy than here in the States. Go figure) in the rain when we encountered a VERY old lady. 1) She was old, 2) she was walking in the rain without an umbrella, and 3) this was a very small alleyway, called a vicolo with like a 65% slope. Meaning one false move and this old lady in orthopedic shoes carrying groceries would be sledding to the bottom on her bum. And, remember, this is Italy, where ruins are the main attraction and ancient, cracked, uneven streets are historic and not a pedestrian hazard. In the States you could sue the pants off the city or file a complaint if the sidewalks are not fixed. In Italy it’s supposed to be this way, it’s why you go to Sienna and pay 500 euros for heat lamp pizza. They’re Italian broken streets, not American 21st C. potholed ones.

Anyway, I walked the old lady to her door. One hand holding our umbrella over her head and the other arm extended for her to hang onto while ascending the slippery cobblestone street, all the while I hauled her bags. She kept up an incomprehensible monologue until we reached her heavy wooden door (Italian style, built to withhold battering rams) where I liked to think she was inviting me to come inside and be her daughter and live forever in Italy. I nodded and told her my husband might not be okay with her plan—except I used the word for wife—when suddenly Mike showed up with another umbrella and she kissed him and said buono, bravo, over and over. I was jealous. I think she immediately wanted to adopt him instead of me.

So when Mike and I discovered Couchsurfing a few years ago, it made total sense.

One of our first experiences hosting was a German journalist pretty close to our age that we had to talk out of train-hopping. (His wife later thanked us.) Rudolf was a kindred spirit. In the universal world of books and writing we had a lot in common. The first night we stayed up til midnight talking. The second night we stayed up til midnight talking. This might not sound like a big deal but we really love to go to bed early or if not early then shut down and watch TV in the dark, starting at about 7 o’clock. We’re old, okay. Sort of. Enough to be couch potatoes as well as couchsurfers.

I think it was about night 3 or 4 that we got talking about castles. Rudolf had one. No way!

It was easy to talk in exclamation points with Rudolf. As opposed to the German stereotype he was not stoic or on-time or only ate dark, dry healthy bread. Rudolf talked like an Italian and often got so excited that he used his hands. Yes! He lived in a castle!

And you can too! He told us.

Yeah, right. I wasn’t buying it.

He reckoned because we had a German-sounding last name we most likely had a castle somewhere in Europe. Look it up! He directed me.

Readers of this blog have probably figured out I have some basic Google experience. I’ve Googled Jane, Jane Hertenstein, but never Hertenstein castle. But I did as Rudolf said and lo and behold under IMAGES was a thumbnail pic of the Hertenstein castle. I clicked on it.

It was a pile of rubble. Pretty much what I would expect for a Hertenstein hailing from Peoria, Illinois. I mean there wasn’t even enough there to re-hab—if in case we were to inherit the old homestead. Maybe a homeless Hertenstein could crawl under the bricks and weeds and seek shelter. Nevertheless, we had a castle.
remains of Hertenstein Castle

Rudolf was so pleased. We truly were European comrades. We now had in common our castles. Only his was fabulous, situated on top of a hill in  Lichtenberg, a part of Bavaria, and ours was really nowhere, at least nowhere where a train went and the trains go everywhere in Europe.

We hosted Rudolf two more times over the space of two years, him and his lovely family who are now like family to us. He reminds us we must come and visit him sometime—at his castle. It’s nice to know that through the internet-miracle of Couchsurfing we have friends from all over the world that we can drop in on: Turkey, Spain, Italy, and Tillamook, Oregon. Oh, yeah, and while over there in the old country we can try to find our castle.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Transcendentalists would turn over in their graves

The Transcendentalists would turn over in their graves
Emerson at Harvard today
Thoreau on the Merrimack and Concord, gliding past glitzy waterfront casinos
Alcott would have a fit over No Child Left Behind
They would not recognize 21st C. Boston, their New England
Emerson would likely snatch a blackberry
From a passerby and Thoreau it into the Charles River.
Where would Thoreau walk, there are no wild paths anymore leading to Walden Pond.
Can you imagine Bronson Alcott ranting on Facebook?
He’d be as bad as me quitting and starting, several times a year.
Where would Thoreau shop for building supplies—Loews’s?
Where would the Transcendentalists source groceries?
Buy a book?
Who buys books?
Veterans of the Civil War and civil disobedience,
Would they recognize today’s wars?
Would they occupy?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Law of What Needs to Happen First

Law of what needs to happen first
--before the next thing
--before the miracle
--before more pain
--or more joy

Where is God in this sequence, at each juncture?
Lately I’ve been mulling over an existential story I’m working on writing. And in the midst of existentialism I came up with my own Einstein theory=the Law of What Needs to Happen First.

We all have at one time or another questioned God, gods, or the universe. When confronted with evil, injustice, the ugliness of humanity. There are never any easy answers. Even the questions are difficult. So hard in fact we begin to wonder if there is a God, gods, or comic book heroes that control/avenge the universe. I mean if there were such mythic being(s) then WHY? Why do certain things happen?

Of course we never seem to ask why good stuff happens. Maybe because we’re too busy being happy.

Anyway holding the baby of a friend who had joined the community, left, divorced (like a double divorce analysts would say), who went through his own personal hell before finding a great gal, truly a best friend and wife. They married a few years ago and now have 2 sons, one a newborn. Holding him recently I imagined God over my shoulder saying to said infant: I knew you when your dad was in a commune and married to his first wife, God bless her, I knew you before his “lost” years.

Like Job of the Old Testament, we need to keep in mind the Law of What Needs to Happen First. Before the baby was the second marriage, and before the second marriage came the hard time, the loneliness and feelings of abandonment. He could blame himself, he could blame his ex. He could blame his parents or the church or even God. In the depths of despair Job did all of the above, plus plus. Without the Law of What Needs to Happen First we cannot begin to understand the second law, the Law of What Needs to Happen Next.

Maybe this will explain better what I’m trying to say. Marina Keegan was a promising 2012 graduate from Yale, getting a degree in journalism and writing. If anyone needed the Law of What Needs to Happen First it would be today’s young graduates—especially one getting a degree in the Liberal Arts—because the Law of What Needs to Happen Next is lookin’ pretty scary. No one knows what’s going to happen next except that surely something is GOING to happen next.

Unfortunately for Marina Keegan she was killed in a car crash days after graduating. But she left us this  her last essay. The world is full of possibility, and the Law of What Needs to Happen First.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fringe Communities

What happens when developers set out to create hip, urban art districts?

No there there. The kind of clunky, over-hyped monstrosities that artists usually RUN from. Just as real art is often the result of serendipity and chance, art districts emerge from an organic center rather than from city managers or top-down planning. An art district is not created from slapping up banners proclaiming “ART DISTRICT”.

In an article at by Will Doig Salon article several factors have been identified that go into artist initiated art districts:

  1. cheap rent=usually odd, old buildings/space. The coolest bars/cafes/boutiques/galleries have architectural nooks and crannies that lend mystique, or at least create cozy sitting areas.
  2. flexibility=to adapt said space w/out rigmarole or inane restrictions—usually imposed by the city to create a “district”. Hip cannot be legislated. Once left alone, Detroit has re-invented itself. Yes, it has a LONG way to go, but the number of young radicals moving there and trying new things is giving Detroit a go-to verve. The same thing happened to Wicker Park in Chicago and now Logan Square. The frontier (storefronts, old, abandoned warehouses, dilapidated Victorian houses, coach houses) get settled by people (radical theater groups, herbalists, old men with long beards who are killer with their camera, booksellers, vegetarians, lithographers, Communists/socialists/anarchists, fill in the blank) willing to take chances—sometimes these are the same people running from the law.

Another great image of Uptown from Jonie Snake's photo stream
 (That being said, when a neighborhood is cheap and, perhaps, a bit dodgy ie some crime, some homeless, some trash, etc it will attract artists and people wanting to open new kinds of restaurants. And eventually the neighborhood will change. The artists will make friends with the homeless, the restaurants will feed vets and people suffering from AIDS, trash will get picked up or recycled into art. Murals and planters will brighten up the dingy streets.

Once a “district” gets established it will continue to attract residents. The “right” kind of people will want to move in to take advantage of the hip, urbane atmosphere created by the artists. Because it is now a neighborhood on the edge, property rates will be reasonable, so more of the “right” kid will buy in. Within a few years the whole place will flip or gentrify. Mission accomplished—

Except then the artists will be priced out, and the residents will say “not in my back yard,” and the neighborhood associations and Chamber of Commerce that the restaurants now are a part of will declare war on the homeless and fringe element. There will be talk about property values and better schools. The movement that brought so much to that neighborhood will move on; all that’s left are the banners hanging from lightpoles declaring it an “ART DISTRICT”.)
My friend Fred Burkhart, check him out on Facebook!!!

  1. Chaos. That’s right. You need chaos in order to create. Nothing makes art more possible than a jumble of confusion, massive mistakes. I can vouch for this. The “what-the-hell” mindset is necessary, “I’ve-got-nothing-to-lose” is the fertile soil required for planting seeds of change. Fringe needs chaos. Only when we’re driven to the edge can we stop, think outside the box, and shake things up.

This year is the end of Cornerstone Festival. It is bittersweet. The sadness that surrounds the end of the festival goes hand-in-hand with fear. I’m afraid of what next will end. We are truthfully on the brink—maybe we always have been and we just haven’t recognized it. Maybe this is the essential problem of “man”: mortality.

But at the same time we’re free to begin something new. This isn’t simply spin. Some parts we know about and other ideas are still in their infancy, roughed-out stage. So stay tuned for details. More fringe to come . . .