Friday, March 30, 2012

Leaves of Glass

With all the early warm temperatures the trees have fully blossomed.

In fact most of the blossoming trees are now PAST and are losing their petals. The air was filled with white.

And as I was riding my bike yesterday, I suddenly freaked out thinking I was riding over glass--but it wasn't; it was all these white blossoms on the ground.

Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

For Steve--Mom Really Did Love You

I don't have room for a lot of stuff where I live, but after both my parents passed away this winter (I know, incredibly sad) I asked if I could bring home with me a large collection of pictures. It was a HUGE job. Scads of miscellaneous ephemera and pictures of who? when? why?

Then I stumbled upon an envelope--and truthfully it made me cry. It was full of pictures, some you can tell only taken a second or two after each other, of Mom and my oldest brother, my parent's first-born. Anyway, I never knew this person. Mom looks SOOOOO young and thin and in love with her baby boy. I think the word would be PROUD. Steve--you made Mom proud.


back of this one says at Aunt Sallie's house in Cincinnati

Our Friend's Documentary

Kevin Nikkel is raising funds and completing a side-by-side documentary about 1) finding "lost" footage of a documentary made in 1920 about the Hudson's Bay Co. 2) Now with that footage and some recent stuff making a documentary.

But, really, folks I love the Arctic, the Far North, stories and myths from those regions. READ Jack London's To Build A Fire a GREAT short story that has stayed with me ever since I read it as a kid. Anyway, Kevin has been spending time way up north, going to various villages and meeting with tribal leaders and with an IPAD showing them footage. What is amazing is that some of these elders are recognizing ancestors, grandfathers, great-uncles, etc. Can you imagine the look, the wonder, the idea that this way of life, this person caught forever in film! I'd be excited and I am excited to see the completed documentary.

Monday, March 19, 2012

School in a Cart

A friend of mine who is a friend to writers (actually a saint to writers) has turned her energies to a project that combines her love for writing and writers (and her saintliness).

Cheri Peters who used to be the administrative director of the Sewanee Writers Program is giving a boost to a fellow writer’s project called Lift the Lid

Lift the Lid, Inc. helps struggling schools with little more than a roof and four walls. Overcrowded, lacking in tools, teachers and structure, these schools are often the only hope for children brimming with talent and the desire to learn.
We believe encouraging students to be creative instills confidence and hope. It also sends the message that someone cares. Sometimes that’s all it takes to reveal the hidden talent in children and to give them a future.
Join us in encouraging creativity! When you give to one of our sponsored schools, you also show interest in a student’s writing.

Cheri’s parents were involved in missions work in the Philippines and when she read my book Beyond Paradise she felt a real camaraderie with my protagonist. I had to confess to her that as the author I’ve never been to the Philippines—just deeply-imagined a story. Anyway, on the strength of that book and that tenuous connection she brought me into the Sewanee Writer’s Program in 2009. I’ll never forget her kindness and how she reached out to me—as I was among writers of a much higher caliber and reputation.

Please go to

And read about the woman who started the non-profit and also Cheri’s part School in a Cart

Isn’t this fabulous! A teacher pushes a cart through the slums and crowded streets and on the spot recruits students and teaches them right there on the curb.

The school is an alternative, innovative approach to learning that steers the children toward obtaining an education and helps break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty in their families.

Now Cheri is encouraging writers in a global and much BIGGER way. Click on School in a Cart and read their success stories and view the slide show and consider giving toward their goals and wish list. PLEASE.

Wish List:
  • Books, pens and paper;
  • Locally produced materials to teach the children about their culture and heritage;
  • Money for food: $100 can provide 10-15 meals for the children.
Future Goals include:
  • To open a preschool, in addition to “The School in a Cart”; Alfredo and Nonie are currently negotiating with the Women’s Club of Cubao to use their preschool facilities, which have been idle for the past 5 years. Once the space is obtained, it will need to be renovated;
  • To grow their scholarship fund in order to put dedicated students through college.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Festival of Faith & Writing

If anyone you know is going to the Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids April 19 - 21 let them know about the Festival Circles. Here is a link to the Circles:

This year, we are once again offering Festival Circles, small groups that will meet at least two times during the Festival to discuss a topic of common interest. Each circle, composed of approximately 12–15 attendees and led by a Festival participant, will meet during Thursday dinner and Saturday lunch.

So if anyone you know is going to the Festival of F & W let them know about it and maybe SIGN UP for my Circle: The Relevance of the Arts in Personal Worship

This circle, led by a singer/songwriter, a poet, and a blogger, will encourage participants to uncover their creative talents and use their gifts to the glory of God.
Facilitators: Jane Hertenstein, Nancy Hughes, and Jan Krist

Bios: Jane Hertenstein is the author of numerous short stories. She blogs at; Jan Krist, an award-winning singer/songwriter, teaches songwriting workshops and has been a church worship leader for nine years. Her essays have appeared in Image Journal and been anthologized in More Like the Master: A Christian Musician’s Reader. Her current release is “When Planets Collide”; Nancy Hughes currently works as the Executive Director of St. Louis Poetry Center. She has worked closely with both visual and spoken word artists within the community as well as at Grace and Peace Fellowship (PCA) in St. Louis.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is in the Cheese these Wisconsin legistators are eating?

The Violence Against Women Act became law in 1994 to protect women from domestic abuse.  Both parties agreed and signed on.  No more.  When the VAWA came up for reauthorization on Feb. 2 it had to wiggle in under the doorjam with a 10-8 vote split right down party lines.
Republican committee members didn't support the bill.  Seriously.
(Wisconsin officials are now trying to enact legislation equating single-parenting to child abuse.)  Part of the language for that is below:
“In promoting those campaigns and materials, the [Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board] shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”--snip--

Republican State Rep. Don “white” Pridemore, speaking in support of the bill he co-sponsored with State Sen. Glenn Grothman that says single parenting is a contributing factor to child abuse (emphasis added):

The bill’s co-sponsor, Representative Don Pridemore, told TODAY’S TMJ4 he thinks even in abusive relationships, there are other options than divorce. “If they can refind those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place it might help,” said Representative Don Pridemore.
So it's better to stay in an abusive relationship and try to make it work than to get out with all your teeth.

Hmmm. As someone who has worked with women fleeing abusive relationships at a homeless shelter--I'm shaking my head here. Where have some of these legislators been for the last fifty years?

I know! Once they figure out how expensive it will be when the State has to pay medical bills for these women beaten up by their spouses maybe they'll change their mind.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Live Your Life For a Change

Live Your Life For a Change

I never realized when I started this blog how freeing it would be. Imagine: the ubiquitous of the Internet--there are over 651835100 million active users on Facebook--and yet on this public forum I am invisible. I track my stats. I have a few readers, but largely I can say anything without fear of offending or slandering.

It's like I can tell all my secrets.

Hours before Dad died (unfortunate timing, to be sure) my sister told me I had been written out of my father's will. Later my grief clung to that revelation, wanting to milk it. But then Christmas rolled around and my daughter came home from college and the things that were important to me returned. We celebrated with homely gifts, either handmade or bought for 25 cents from floor sales. We, all three of us, agreed it had been our best Christmas ever.

Then Mom passed--and the details of the will have again come back into focus.

If my dad had just been middle class then this all probably wouldn't matter, but he wasn't. He'd invented the label gun.
I know--it sounds ridiculous, almost as absurd as claiming my father invented post-it notes.

So there was a tidy amount put away. Not that I'll be getting anything.

But the point I want to make, the treble string that gets plucked in self-pity is this: I must have been a terrible disappointment to him.

I've alluded to certain family dysfunctionality in my short stories, Freeze Dance, Google Earth, and the forthcoming Sense of Smell (ROLL: A Collection of Personal Narratives, the anthology!!), and That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do, coming out in the spring. My life choices were not validated by my dad who had grown up during the Depression and had pulled himself up by his bootstraps; he was a self-made man. He'd never had to take a handout--yet his whole life, "the greatest generation" sat at the confluence of the GI Bill, job security, low insurance rates, affordable heath care costs, and even college education for his kids, all of us, we were able to pay as we went without loans. It was a time when one could pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Anyway, my life choices represent a life given over to hand-outs. When I came to Chicago in 1982 fresh out of college I worked at an inner-city mission handing out sandwiches, serving an afternoon meal to dinner guests, sorting clothes at our Freestone. I had a neighborhood club for kids which included Cambodian refugees who were still learning English.

All I did was give things away.

Thinking back over 30 years spent here in Chicago serving the poor makes me wonder: Am I such a financial risk that he couldn't leave me anything? I suspect he thought I would give away the money he'd saved.

And, maybe I would have. A little.

But we'll never know.

So as I walk the sidewalks of Uptown to and from the shelter and hear someone bellow from across the street "Hey Teacher Lady," I don't feel so bad.

Dad lived his life how he wanted to, just as I'm living mine.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I’ve been running at warp speed these past few days at the AWP (Associated Writers and Writing Programs ((I think))) conference and bookfair that was here in Chicago. Now my body and head are playing catch-up. And a terrible job at that. I think I’m coming down with a cold/strep/mono.

At least, thank God, I’m not needing any contraception—because I might be out of luck there.

Yeah, I’m just now getting around to reading about the LATEST brewhaha. I write here LATEST because it’s all truthfully beginning to run together in my head. I can’t keep up.

Most of the time I try not to pay any attention to what “the other guys” are saying—as I’m not voting in this primary—on the federal level. Even that Susan G. Komen thing, which was irritating, I thought to myself—give it 2 days, then see where that decision lands them. Did anyone else see the word similarity between Komen and Women??

I like to say I’m a feminist, but in the back of my head I have to ask myself—what does that mean? Really—what does it mean? I care, of course, about women’s issues. I don’t want to see Roe VS Wade overturned because I think there needs to be a choice. I strongly believe in equal pay for equal jobs (notice I didn’t use the word “work”). I’ve never thought though that there was a War on Women.

Until recently.

Okay, maybe there have been scattered skirmishes, I’ll acknowledge that. But I’ve been way too busy raising my daughter to stand up for herself to get involved in some draconian law getting passed in South Dakota. Funny how things tend to work themselves around, leveling out to where they end up affecting all of us.


When I finally heard about what the Rush brewhaha was all about. I sat there like, SHUT UP! I couldn’t believe my ears. For real?
 Now I thought don’t any of these men have daughters they care about. Maybe not. But I know FOR SURE y’all had mamas.

So as I stood over the grill this morning making pancakes for 300 people’s breakfast, I thought about my mom and the kind of health care that was offered to her. One might say, that was another era, another time. Yeah, the one I was born into. Pre-choice, pre-pill. Mom had very few alternatives. Even the idea of women’s health was usually handled by a male gynecologist.

The story goes that when Mom found out she was pregnant again 4 weeks after having my sister, she quit her doctor.

Of course, I’m glad she had me. (YAY!) But she had almost no help or services offered. She was alone in a house with 4 kids and the last 2 were only 12 months apart. Equal work? Dad left each day to go to his job while Mom literally worked all day and most of every evening.

And here’s the thing: when she went to her doctor to tell him she was tired, depressed, feeling overwhelmed, he put her on tranquilizers.

That’s how it was done back then.

And it took most of my growing up years for her to get free of them. I cannot tell you the misery Mom went through because of the toxic mix of pills prescribed to her by her physician.

So Rush—put an aspirin between her legs? Really? Give the little lady an anti-depressant and she’ll quit her harping and feel better? Really?

All I can say is that you’ve stirred up the hornet’s nest and gotten yourself a brewhaha.