Tuesday, June 23, 2020


See the source imageI got a letter! From a real person! And I stopped what I was doing, sat down and opened it. For just those few minutes, I fell into someone else’s world. The slant of the words, the loops and whorls of penmanship, I was touching something she made - just for me.

Emails speed up the communication. They lie in a long line of other messages that demand my attention. Even when they take up the whole screen, I know that once that note is closed other messages will wave and call. My aunt prints out her emails in order to give them the personal attention they deserve.

Emails are not letters.

But a letter! In an envelope! My surroundings actually drop away. I can’t read a letter and unload the dishwasher - as I can when I am talking on the phone. With a letter in my hand - and in my sight - I don’t look around and notice Things That Need To Be Done.

Texts? I think of texts as Need To Know Quickie Notes. They ask questions. They call for attention. “What time…?” “Give me a call…” “Thinking of you. Let’s talk later…” “Could you?…”

Texts are not letters.

Video calls connect me to people far away. I love seeing their faces and hearing their voices. But just like actual meetings, video calls end, and unless we record every single one, we have only our memories as souvenirs.

Video calls are not letters.

This letter? I can read it again and again. I can smile as the words race across the paper. I can imagine my sister’s desk. She might have written it there - or at the table in the kitchen, or even sitting in her yard under her orange tree.

I got a letter! and it lifted up this hot summer day - like a scented breeze from somewhere faraway!  I got a letter and because I did, I am going to take the time to write a letter- or two - right now.

Monday, June 22, 2020

BLM - Book reviews

Hmmph,!  I just spent two hours trying to make a book review video and my tongue tripped over so many words that I quit!  I quit!

Instead, I will review four books that address, however tangentially, the issues that Black Lives Matter protesters hope to change.

This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewel. Written for students, this book is a primer for understanding who the reader is and how they fit into the various circles of influence in society. When the reader figures that out, they are given tools for speaking out and taking a stand. Finally, Jewell offers ideas for finding allies, joining organizations and campaigns to make our society more fair for everyone.

We Are Power by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Hasak-Lowy covers six long-running nonviolent campaigns that suceeded.  Mahatma Gandhi's march to the sea earned India its independence. Alice Paul worked tirelessly and very publicly to gain the right to vote for women. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Project C campaign worked to end segregation in the south.  Cesar Chavez fought, non-violently, for better wages for the migrant farm workers of California and the Southwest and he won!  Vaclav Havel led the Velvet Revolution which turned Czechoslovakia into a democracy.
The last nonviolent protest is still ongoing, Greta Thunberg's protest to bring attention to our dire climate crisis continues to this day.
Nonviolent protest does NOT mean no one gets hurt. This book shows that we can change the way people think and act without inflicting violence on others.

Thurgood Marshall by Teri Kanefield. This book is part of The Making of America series of biographies by Kanefield. The biography is eminently readable and gives a lively overview of the
first Black Supreme Court Justice's life as well as an overview of Civil Rights in America in the late 20th century.

New Kid by Jerry Craft. Winner of the 2020 Newbery Award, this graphic novel follows Jordan, a aspiring cartoonist, as he starts at a new prestigious private school a train ride from his neighborhood school. Jordan is one of a handful of kids of color at this school. To deal with new-school-itis, Jordan draws these awesome comics that describe his trip to the new school every day, how he thinks his teachers see him and the other students and his feelings.  The interactions with the teachers are so realisitic that I wonder if this book is based on Jerry Craft's own experiences. It's awesome and eye-opening and hopeful.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sunday Selfie - What I Believe, Stuff I Learned

Things I believe:
I believe Black Lives Matter.

I believe families should stay together.

I believe in social distancing and mask wearing as a community attempt to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.

I believe that Native Americans have the right and responsibility to protect their sacred lands.

I believe that the Earth is our Home and should be kept clean.

I believe that our National Parks MUST be protected.

I believe in a whole lot more (universal health care, voting rights for all, we are all one family,  dandelions are not weeds), some serious, some not.

And I believe in YOU!
Thanks, Pixabay.

It’s been a time, hasn’t it?  Are you keeping a journal? Do you write down the events as they happen? Do you make note of the realizations you have had, the joys you rediscovered, the small happinesses of your days? YOU could be the Samuel Pepys of 2020.  Those entries will create the stories of your future.

Almost daily, some municipality in our area hosts a rally to support Black Lives Matter. It gives me hope that people will eventually start treating others as members of the same community.

Our county has moved to “yellow” - stores and restaurants are re-opening with social distance requirements and mask requirements.  Yesterday, I went to a store!! And bought crafting supplies…of course.

While I ease into finding my new normal, I wonder what I have learned.

I have options that a lot of people don’t have. I learned that. Things as simple as a choice in what I eat for breakfast can fill me with gratitude and awareness.

When I walk around my neighborhood, there is beauty everywhere I look. People grow kaleidoscopes of flowers in their yards. Rabbits are everywhere! Small things can bring joy. I learned to look for them.

I learned that I have enough! Enough food, clothes, room. Stores will see less of me, I think.

I like my own company. It’s nice to learn that I like myself, even while I stew over my shortcomings.

I learned that change takes way, way too much time. We just have to keep working, trying, picking ourselves up and marching forward. Our goal is to always “spiral upwards” towards joy, towards love, towards a unity that makes room for everyone.

Stay safe, everyone. Keep striving for peace, hope and love.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

5 Pandemic-related thoughts; Sunday Selfie

Whew! I can barely type anymore. My brain is in a fog. There is garden to be planted, house to clean; stuff to sew and thoughts - so many thoughts.

I scuttled my first Thought #1. It was divisive but writing it made me feel better.

So my new Thought #1 is this.
Write down the things that anger you instead of shouting them out. Write down your worries. Write down your disappointments. Write down your hardships.  Somehow, seeing them spread out in black (or blue or red or even chartreuse) is a release.  And, sometimes it puts your worries into a more healthy perspective.

(CAVEAT: Writing down reports of dangerous behavior will NOT help you. If you or your loved ones are abusive or dangerously careless of themselves or others, reach out for help.)

Thought #2
How does going over and over the timeline of missed opportunities help us?

Now is the time to concentrate on finding solutions. If our government can't get moving due to lack of science, or lack of experience, or lack of attention, or, blast them, lack of concern, then we have to save ourselves. Support our front line workers. Invest in companies that are producing research based tests and treatments. Also, vote the buggers out! Write your representatives. now.

Find ways to work with others to promote responsible behavior. Make masks. Wear masks. Wash hands. Stay six feet apart. (Oh, that one is so hard when there are Moms to hug.)

Thought #3

Thought #4
Give thanks for all the people who are finding ways to connect safely; the artists who post their songs, artwork, dance, musical pieces and theater attempts, stories and writings online for everyone to enjoy.

Libraries that offer meetings on internet based networking sites; teachers that contact their students often to keep them up to date; friends who photograph the beautiful and delightful things in their life and share those photos; children who create chalk drawings to cheer up their neighbors. Poets who find new ways to view our predicament. Be grateful for what we have. Reach out to others who have less.

Thought #5
Lift each other up.  Sing. Breathe. Bake. Find the flower in the sidewalk and celebrate it.
Be kind. Be truthful. Be careful. Be brave.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Sometime Selfies

What day is it? Did I miss the whole weekend? When our schedules are turned upside down, it is easy to lose track of the days.

Sunday came and went and no selfie from me. But, I have the same excuse we all have. So here is my Someday Selfie.

I have been staying up way too late. After midnight, one night last week, I heard a train whistle off in the distance.

It was a soft whistle a mile or so away. It was so soft that the only time I would ever hear those late night wails is on a night when I could not sleep.

Yellow Train

We lived about 1/10th of a mile away from the train tracks as I was growing up. The trains ran more frequently back then but they rarely woke me up. Kids can sleep through anuthing once they get used to it.

When the train whistle did wake me up,  the cars creaked and crashed as they made their away around the gentle bend at the end of the park.

The train's horn sent me messages back then - and now. Sometimes the messages were forlorn, the way train whistles are often imagined. Other times, as I lay safe in my bed, the train sang out, "Love to you! Love to you!

Love to my mother who still lives in that house on the side of the hill.
Love to my brothers and sisters who heard their own messages when the whistle blew.
Love to my husband as he sleeps soundly through the train's soft wail.
Love to my son, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter who live close to another segment of that same track.

Love to all those who are gone, or far away, or out of touch. Love to everyone sheltering in place, close but out of reach.

The train I heard the other night sang another song. It wailed "Soon!" "Soon!"

Soon, the engineer and the brakeman will get home to their famiies.

Soon, the train and all of its cars will rest in the train yard.

Soon, the packages, or cows, railings, or gravel, or people - soon, they will get to wherever they are headed.

Soon, a train load of good health will roll our way. We need to be patient. We need to be ready. Soon, friends and loved ones, we will hug each other again. Stay safe. Stay at home. Stay well.

Listen to the train...."Love to youuuuuuuu!"


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Just read the BEST book - Weekly Book Review

Bad news: The Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference has been canceled. I am NOT HAPPY about that but there are books to read.

When the yearly Book Awards were announced by the ALA, this title showed up in the Honors. I never heard of it. I never read a review of it. But! Oh! My! This book is so good.

Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidegger, with illustrations by Junji Wu, gives an insder's view of what might turn a fox kit's blood to ice.  As a family of kits listen to an old fox tell scary stories, we learn of Mia and Uly, two kits who are separated from their families in horrible - for foxes - ways.  The short stories are cautionary as well as terrifying. One brave kit makes it through ALL the stories. Will you?

I made a book review video because that is what we do when we must stay confined to our homes. Those of us who can play instruments are playing beautiful music. Me, I review books.

BTW, the first book I mention on this video was so good!  The book is chock full of historical details about the silent film business, for us adult readers, and LOTS of adventure for younger readers.

Also, in my preview of Astronuts:Mission 2; The Water Planet, the book by Jon Scieszka, at the end I say it's by Steven Weinberg - Steven Weinberg is the illustrator.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay well. If you can, please stick close to home. If you must go out, be careful. The world thanks you.

Keeping reading!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Detectives at work - Stay at home with the Grand!

On Monday, Dulci came to us for the day.  It was beautiful - a tad breezy - but an awesome day for the playground and so off we went.

These days, we are orphan girls trying hard to stay out of the grips of the evil orphanage - think Annie!.  Sometimes, we are running away from a certain tycoon who sells everything. Dot - as D calls herself - works for A@@@@@ Prime editing videos. (I did NOT make this up.) I, Mary Ann, (not my real name, haha) work in one of the warehouses and it is HARD work.

But on Monday, we did not have to report for work because...nobody actually did, except first responders and medical personnel and support staff and postal workers, etc.

We maintained appropriate social distance from the others on the playground - grandparents and their grands.

Before lunch, we went home, grabbed our notebooks and went out for an adventure walk.  We wrote down everything of interest that we saw, including a pipe sticking out of a clump of grass, daffodils, plastic from a car, we think, grape hyacinths blooming in the middle of a lawn, and a huge pile of sticks stacked next to a tree.  Little did we realize that, much later in the day, these notes would come in handy.

We had other adventures right after lunch.  Then we got to work at our OTHER job as Dulcinator the Investigator and NanaLou, the Gumshoe.

We wait for your call.
We received a (completely fictional) call that pets disappeared from the neighborhood in the last few days.  Who could be responsible?  We floated several theories. But I remembered something from our adventure walk. Why would anyone have a big pile of sticks in front of  their house?

Dogs love to chase sticks!!  We agreed that this was certainly a clue.

D wondered if the pipe she saw could actually be where a laser pointer came out to lure all the cats in the neighborhood to play.

We are - I have no words for how clever we are.  So, now we just had to figure out which one of our favorite criminals may have perpetrated this theft of cats and dogs.

We examined the car of BGR (Big Gray Rabbit) and his crew of "workers", Hog, the Hedgehog and Fiddle-i-Fee, the fiddler and... you will not believe what we found. Plastic strips were missing from the edges of their car doors.

We caught our bad guys as they were loading up another (fictional) puppy into their damaged car.  Within hours, all the pets had returned to their (imaginary) owners.

Dulcinator was proud and happy to tell the last caller.  "We work for free.  Stay out of trouble."  Actually I added the "Stay out of trouble" part.

It's good advice. Stay out of trouble. Keep your distance. Be kind.  Wash your hands, etc.  Dulcinator the Investigator and NanLou the Gumshoe will be here to take your call!  We work for free.