As my dear husband reminds me whenever I am flummoxed by events that modify my circumstances, “The only constant is change”. The world is always in flux. Change is life. We are not the same, day in and day out, because our lives are not static. We live in an ever-modifying world, shifting conditions and changing views. As we get older our bodies transform as do our wants and needs. Change brings growth even when we don’t immediately realize it. Change is a catalyst for learning about ourselves, others, and our world.

What I’m getting at is there is a change on the horizon with me and the A Way with Words blog. This is my last post as a regular blogger. With the permission of Sally and Jackie, I will occasionally be a contributor. Our friendship remains intact. I will always be grateful for their generous friendship and their mentorship. We spent many years learning to write together and now we are going separate ways as writers.

I deeply appreciate all those who read and comment on our mutual website and I hope you will join me on my personal journey with words.


A friend can tell you things you don’t want to tell yourself ~ Frances Ward Weller

Friendship isn’t one big thing. It’s a million little things ~ Anonymous.

Friendship is built on mutual respect and trust ~ Stieg Larsson

Strangers at first, we built a friendship word by word. Words we spoke and words we wrote. We learned about ourselves and each other over decades of sharing ideas, personal memories, and experiences. It did not happen immediately. It took time to build our relationship, a bond of trust. There were four of us, Sally, Linda, Jackie, and me, at the core of our writers’ group that lasted years. A few others joined for a brief time and left for a variety of reasons. The group has now run its course, but the friendship endures. Over the years we had many dinners, lunches, and breakfasts together. We shared millions of gut-busting laughs and quite a few tears. We had overnights and out-of-town trips together. We slept on the floor next to each other. We shared beds in unfamiliar cities. We explored cities, towns, and countries, attended workshops, and took classes together. The tapestry of respect and love is tightly woven thread by thread.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about a memory I have of a dinner celebration the three of us, Sally, Linda, and I, had together. We went to a restaurant and in the parking lot we found a token of kindness hanging from a tree, Ben’s Bells. I wrote that I retrieved the token from the tree and had it hanging above my desk as a reminder of that time together. Sally later reminded me that it was she who retrieved the bell from the tree and had it in her studio at home. The next week she gave each of us, Linda and me, a ceramic token in remembrance of that date. The token that hangs above my desk is even more precious to me because Sally wanted us to keep that memory as she did.

I have a great memory for experiences, but I do not necessarily get all the details right. I remember the sensory aspects, the emotions, like pictures in my head that can be easily misplaced in time and space. My husband and children often correct me when I tell a story. Yes, the event or experience happened but it happened in a different place at a different time. I’ve gone to other relatives to corroborate some of my earliest memories. I’m so happy to have witnesses to my life, but it does not preclude my enjoying memories in my own way.

Sally, being the chronicler of our group – she has a scrapbook of all our escapades and calendars kept over time – is the go-to person whenever I want to authenticate a memory. I love that about her. I treasure her ability and willingness to keep things straight. She knows me and laughed when she read the post, then reminded me of the facts. Thank you, Sally, for being my tolerant friend.

Summer Legacy Project

Our grandson, Henry, just began his first year of high school. Oh, the nostalgia that bubbled up in me. Our daughter, as a single mom, gave us the opportunity to be a big part of his childhood. Instead of putting him in daycare, she asked if we would be willing to have him at our house during the week while she was working. Willing? We jumped at the chance to be part of his growing up. What a privilege! He was the focal point of each weekday from the time he was one (she stayed home with him for his first year) until he started school full-time at age six. Then he was with us after school and holidays for several years until he was in middle school. Thereafter we became traditional grandparents, seeing him once or twice a week. We have settled into a lovely routine for Sunday mornings – brunch and a visit weekly to catch up on his news.

Final seat wall

For this past summer, Henry spent part of each Friday with us. He had a job Monday through Thursday as a camp counselor at Steam Pump Ranch archeology camp. He had been a camper there for a couple of weeks every summer until he aged out at thirteen.

I had a special project for him. I asked him to build a brick seat wall on our front patio. I wanted a legacy project that would be a permanent part of our house – something he contributed that would be functional for us and would occupy those Fridays. I always wanted more seating for guests on our front patio, a place we sit with coffee or cocktails to look at the mountains and enjoy the activity in the neighborhood. He was in charge from conception to finish. We had final say on design and materials; he planned and built it, and we reviewed it and paid for the materials.

Henry began with internet research – of course, he’s fourteen and everything begins with the internet. He came up with a plan and put it on paper showing us the front, side, and top scheme of what the wall would look like. He made an interlocking pattern for stability. Then he researched materials, where to buy, and what adhesive to bind them together. Finally, he was ready to order materials for delivery. That was a biggy since he was then spending real money. Bricks were delivered (not without drama over missed shipments and duplicate shipments). A pile of bricks then had to be made into a real structure according to his plan. There were only three bricks left over – now I call that great planning.

Measure for sure
Following the plan

Amazing! It worked. He built it just as he envisioned it. Now we have exactly what I wanted, and his brain and hands created it entirely. What a legacy!

Partially built

Things That Matter

In the hustle bustle of our everyday life, we lose sight of things that matter, even if they are right in front of us.  I was attempting to clean up my office area in the library/cat grotto. It is one of those tasks that never really ends, just begins – again and again. I get it mostly done then find something I meant to read or something I want to ponder or write and there goes an hour or two. By the time I’ve come back to the task, I’ve lost momentum and the remaining mess is shuffled to a corner until tomorrow or mañana, whichever comes first.

Along the way, I rediscover treasures. They are treasures of the heart. Part of the beauty of having a special place of my own to write, read, and think is that I surround myself with what my husband calls stuff. Photos, cherished books, posters, artwork, and objets d’art that have meaning for me. If piled all together they wouldn’t have the market value of a head of lettuce.

On the wall above my desk is a homemade birthday card from my grandson when he was eight or nine. Homemade in every respect. He made the paper and then printed the greeting on it. It reads Happy Birthday Grandma. You have a heart of pure – there he glued some gold fragments in the middle of the paper. It is signed Love Henry. There is no currency that can equal the value of that piece of handmade paper.  

On the wall next to it is one of Ben’s Bells that I found one evening when I was out with friends. It is a pay-it-forward symbol of intentional kindness. The story behind it is of a two-year-old boy who died suddenly in 2002. His grieving mother and family began making ceramic wind chimes to heal their grief. They were joined by others who helped. Four hundred bells were made and distributed around Tucson in random places on the first anniversary of Ben’s death. The one I found was hanging on a tree branch in a restaurant parking lot – it says “Be Kind”. Thousands of people joined the effort to make and distribute the bells. The movement grew as a non-profit educational program of kindness in schools and businesses all over the world. Every school I’ve been to around Oro Valley has a kindness program with the Ben’s Bells logo at the center of it. The green Be Kind symbol is displayed on school walls as a reminder. Awards are given at the end of the year to students who have displayed kindness toward others.

Those are just a couple of items that make my fortune more valuable than gems, or gold, or silver.

We Must Risk Delight

I read a lot, usually two or three books at a time. I’m now reading the Collected Poems of Jack Gilbert, The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina, and The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. I’m also rereading Rules of Civility by Amor Towles for book club. Prompted by the poetry of Jack Gilbert, I am finding much needed messages in each book. Our world is in turmoil. Human beings are being cheated, chained and tortured, enslaved and murdered, and there is still good in the world. We must celebrate those pockets of delight. It is not about denying the strife of living, it is about acknowledging the wonder of life. I am alive. I have pain, I am alive. I have problems, I am alive. There will always be human suffering, but even the poorest barefoot women at the public fountain in a war-torn country find occasion for laughter. Celebrate the wonder of being alive.

In Jack Gilbert’s poem A Brief for the Defense, he says, “We must risk delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”

I finished reading Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. I was reluctant to start reading it after learning the topic, thinking it would be a complete downer. But it was for our book club, so I dove in. What made a story about the downtrodden and drug-addicted in Appalachia an enjoyable read was the resilience of Damon, the main character. No matter what life threw at him, he found a way to make lemonade from lemons – to survive, even thrive. A victory of the soul over circumstance.

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World explores grief, seemingly unrelenting sorrow without being overly sentimental or self-pitying. It is about two survivors of the tsunami of March 2011 in Japan who lost their dearest loves and find hope and laughter in their memories and in their survival.

I finished rereading Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. In it the storyteller, Kate sees two photos of a former lover in a gallery. The first shows Tinker dressed in a suit looking very dapper and successful; the second is of Tinker in rags but with a light in his eyes. A glow that the first photo did not show. It was a riches-to-rags story. Kate explains to her husband that the second photo, taken years after the first, was of Tinker happy without the chains of society’s expectations dampening his spirit. Tinker’s character is summed up later by his brother Hank. “Wonder. Anyone can buy a car or a night on the town. Most of us shell our days like peanuts. One in a thousand can look at the world with amazement. I don’t mean gawking at the Chrysler Building. I’m talking about the wing of a dragonfly. The tale of the shoeshine. Walking through an unsullied hour with an unsullied heart.” Tinker rediscovered delight. I love Amor Towles’s way with words.

Another poem Falling and Failing by Jack Gilbert is about divorce. He opines that divorce should not be considered a failure. It is the memories of the love and time together that are celebrated in his poem. The first line reads, “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.” The last line is, “I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph.”

“Life is just a bowl of cherries” as the song says. Some are sweet, some sour, and some have pits. “Don’t take it serious, life’s too mysterious.” Stubborn gladness is more than happiness. It is a choice, the decision to see the juicy wonder in life and toss the pits.

An Open Letter to Elected Officials

I started to write about our magnificent monsoons that make life so wonderfully dramatic here in southern Arizona in the summer and tell of another visit by Miss Piggy and her family. Then I saw an open letter on the opinion page of the Arizona Daily Star and decided that even though it isn’t about nature, it is about human nature. I do not like to expound on things political or religious because I believe that, as important as they are in each individual’s life, they are personal. I prefer to relate to individuals as whole humans not as labels, colors, textures, or genders. I am bending slightly to recommend this article, which is political, but I believe written with common sense. Is common sense Idealistic? I think it is an important message to those to whom we have given the responsibility of leadership. We live in troubled times – troubled because of hubris and greed. It is the unfortunate story of humanity as far back as history itself. To paraphrase Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, – What we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat.

The author of this letter, Tom Chester, is a fellow member of the Oro Valley Writers’ Forum. I included a link to his blog page where you can read other essays and to the Arizona Daily Star Opinion Page. With permission, I am posting Tom’s letter.

From the Arizona Daily Star July 22, 2023

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

An Open Letter to Our Elected Officials


I am writing about the responsibility that elected officials such as you have to the people, our system of government, and the rule of law.

That responsibility transcends personal ambition and political differences. It is antithetical to the churlish behavior so common in news stories of politicians and candidates for office who say and do outlandish things to gain attention of supporters and to vilify those with whom they disagree.

Your role is to govern and serve, not rule. Your primary obligation is to the common good and to the general welfare of the people. It is not to your own political aspirations, nor to your funders or supporters.

Your constituents are not just those who voted for you or who are members of your party, nor are they only the people in the jurisdiction from which you were elected. Your responsibility is much broader than that. It is also to others whom your votes and actions affect, and moreover, it extends to future generations whose well-being will be influenced by your actions.

There is much you can do to help bring civility and honor back to politics — and to set an example for your peers.

  • Shun tribalism. It is human nature to identify as a member of a group — not just Republican or Democrat, but other categories such as religion, race, ethnicity, or political orientation (liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc.). Despite our obvious differences, we as a people have much more in common, including our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our families, our friends, our communities and our country.
  • Avoid virulent partisanship. Political power follows cycles, and one party does not remain in power forever. If your party is now in the majority, it will not always be. If your party is in the minority, it will return to power sooner or later. As an elected official, you should serve with that in mind.
  • Be open to compromise with those with whom you disagree. Good government requires it. If it weren’t for compromise, the Constitution wouldn’t have been created. Even then, it wasn’t perfect, as evidenced by it being amended 27 times so far. Nevertheless, it was good enough to get this country launched.
  • Don’t sell your soul. In seeking financial support for your campaigns, you must be wary of the lure of money and the temptation to adapt your views to those who offer to open their wallets to you, including lobbyists and special-interest groups. As the famous California politician Jesse Unruh advised fellow members of the state legislature 40 years ago, “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, … and then vote against them, you have no business being up here.” The devil’s agents wear many disguises and are more than willing to give you financial support — for a price. Don’t bite.
  • Keep thy religion to thyself. Faith is each person’s own business. Most of us voters believe faith should be a private matter, not something to be proclaimed on the campaign trail or wielded like a truncheon in making legislation. Pharisees are bad enough in the temple much less in public office.
  • Don’t wrap yourself in the flag. While we expect our officials to be patriotic, real patriotism is not empty verbiage about the greatness of this country, but wise policies to help it fulfill the promise of the Preamble to the Constitution to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
  • Avoid name-calling and trying to smear your opponents with labels like fascist or socialist, or with gratuitous insults to their intelligence or morals. The body to which you were elected is not a middle school, so don’t act like an unruly teenager.
  • Be modest, admit your mistakes, question your beliefs, and be willing to change your mind.

Although my suggestions may seem too idealistic for the gritty world of politics, the country needs idealistic officials who listen to the better angels of their nature rather than solely to the cheers of their supporters and funders, who understand they have a higher obligation other than just to their party or the next election cycle, who follow the Golden Rule instead of the Lure of Power.

Tom Chester is a retired writer and ne’er-do-well who has lived in the West for 50 years, seven of which in Tucson.

TURN-STONE – Observations on life, society, and how to be human and humane in a complex world dominated by technology

Saturday, a July day in the desert

Saturday started in the usual way, up at 5 am as dawn cracked the horizon, then a walk through Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve, a 202-acre former golf course that backs to our property and connects with other open spaces in our town. A rambling six-mile trail (former cart path) winds through open areas and trees offering beautiful vistas of the Catalina Mountains as well as local wildlife. Birds of all kinds chatter in the trees declaring the news of the day as we walk along. Roadrunners and rabbits skitter across the paths in a hurry to go to breakfast. Animals and humans stay a respectful distance from one another. The wildlife does not seem frightened or threatened by people passing through their home.

Yes, it is hot in southern Arizona in July, but not so hot that nature cannot be enjoyed in the early hours. We are lucky to live in this amazing environment. The trails are busy with walkers and a few bikers until about 9 am when temps start to climb and everyone retreats to air conditions homes. Monsoons are on the agenda for this month yet none have arrived. They will certainly be welcomed when they do. They bring drama to our Sonoran Desert and much needed rain.

Later in the morning, Sally and I met at our town’s newest bookshop, Stacks Book Club, a long-awaited addition to the Oro Valley Marketplace. Wow! We were impressed. The owners, Crispin and Lizzy, have done a great job creating a comfy ambiance, a gathering place. They are open from 7 am to 8 pm every day and offer a variety of coffee drinks, teas, energy drinks, beer, and wine – something for every time of day – plus an assortment of pastries and sandwiches, and BOOKS. Their opening weekend drew over 1,000 people. Crispin said it seriously reduced their inventory of books which they are busy upgrading. The bookshop is a real bonus for our community.  I’m sure they will do very well. We plan to visit often. It is a great place for a writers’ group to meet to discuss individual projects and have a cuppa.

Check out Stacks website: Stacks Book Club.

That was my day – from bobcats to books to baseball (on TV). Dodgers beat the Mets, Angels beat the Astros, and Tigers beat the Mariners. Then a happy hour hosted by our neighbors, Joyce and Rick. Perfect!

The Sound of Freedom

usa flag waving on white metal pole

Several days before July 4th we were invited by dear neighbors to attend a showing of the movie, The Sound of Freedom, with them on our nation’s birthday. It is not a movie I considered attending had Suzanne not extended the offer. I avoid TV shows and movies with violent topics in order to save my peace of mind. It is not that I am unaware of the terrible scourge of human trafficking, it’s that I feel helpless to do anything so prefer to bury my head in my pillow and dream sweet dreams. This movie gave me hope and a way to help. It is well done with no gratuitous scenes that make you turn your head away.

I did not know that the movie is the true story of an American hero. It is a genuine heart-thumping thriller, the story of a necklace that connects two children with their rescuer. I am so very glad I went and extremely happy to tell everyone I meet to see the movie. It is an amazing story and one that should be shouted from the mountaintops.

The movie was written and directed by Alejandro Monteverde. I read that it surpassed Indiana Jones on July 4th at the box office, with $14.2 million for Freedom vs $11.6 million for Indie. It was an uphill battle to get the movie made and distributed. It was dropped by 20th Century Fox and Disney Studios and finally taken up by Angel Studios. It took more than ten years to get the movie to the public. It has been virtually ignored by the press and main media outlets.

Quote from Jim Caviezel who portrays Tim Ballard in The Sound of Freedom.

“I want this to be so huge that they’re forced to look at this. I lost my agents over this. Yep, 17 years, 15 years. I lost my lawyer over this, and now I understand why all these actors didn’t want to do the movie because of this. Listen, you do Schindler’s List fifty years later, you’re a hero. Try doing Schindler’s List when the real Nazis are right there. Understand how that becomes more dangerous? I don’t understand why people are willing to let children be hurt, but in this time, Hollywood says, ‘No, no, let’s kick that down fifty years from now and then [see where we’re at]. That’s crap.”

The Nitty Gritty. There are 40.3 million trafficked persons globally today and 25% of them are children. * Sources: Child Liberation Foundation, International Labour Organization. Every year approximately 350,000 children are reported missing and an estimated 100,000 of them are being trafficked; reported in all 50 states. *Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  According to the 2021 Human Trafficking Report, 57% of human trafficked victims are minors. The U.S. is one of the top destinations for human trafficking and among the largest consumers of child sexploitation. Human trafficking is a $150 billion-per-year business, more than the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL combined. It has overwhelmed the illegal arms trade. The U.S. current border situation makes it even easier for children to be trafficked. God’s children are NOT for sale.

Tim says that he would not have been able to start O.U.R. if it wasn’t for the unwavering support of his wife Katherine. Actors Jim Caviezel and Mira Sorvino portray the couple in the movie.

Tim Ballard initially worked for the CIA for a year, then for twelve years as a special agent working at the border for the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. At one point he quit his job in order to complete his mission to save children. Without giving away the beautiful, tearful ending to the movie, I just want to say Tim Ballard is an American hero. At the time the movie was made, Tim and his wife Katherine were the parents of six children. Now they have nine, two of whom were adopted after Tim helped in their rescue. He and his wife founded an organization called O.U.R. – Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit organization to search out and rescue children who are victims of this vicious global business that turns innocent children into commodities. If you go to their website, linked below, it tells how you can help. Stay until the very end of the movie to see photos of the real heroes and to download a QR code to participate in “pay-it-forward”, an opportunity to pay for someone who cannot afford to go to the movie. This movie needs to be seen by as many people as possible. It is a cautionary tale for parents and children. Not all their stories have happy endings as this one does (spoiler alert).

End Child Trafficking | Operation Underground Railroad (

Sound of Freedom vs. the True Story of Tim Ballard (

Prompt 7-6-23 – Last Chance

Think upon the idea of a last chance and follow wherever your mind wanders. What does it mean? The end of something or a new beginning? Turn it over and over. Then write a short story, essay, or poem about a last chance. It can be a personal last chance or a character’s last chance. Where does that last chance lead? Have fun with it or delve deeply into the unknown.