Mental Feng Shui for a Peaceful and Orderly Mind

I was given this reminder in 2008 and I refer to it often. I hope you find it helpful.

 1. Exceed expectations and do it cheerfully.

 2. Remember the three R’s: Respect for self; Respect for others; Responsibility for all your actions.

3. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

 4. When you lose, DON’T lose the lesson.

5. When you say ‘I love you’ mean it.

 6. When you say ‘I’m sorry’ look the person in the eye.

 7. Believe in love at first sight.

 8. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it’s the only way to live life completely.

 9. Be engaged at least a year before you get married – know the person through all seasons.

10. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

11. Never laugh at anyone’s dreams. People who don’t have dreams don’t have much.

12. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling. Speak your truth without rancor.

13. When someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, smile and ask, ‘Why do you want to know?’

14. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

15. Talk slowly but think quickly.

16. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

17. Remember memories are made with people, not things. When all is said and done, it will be the experiences you have and people you love that will be important – not the car or jewelry.

18. Don’t judge people by their relatives.

19. Don’t believe all you hear, use your common sense; don’t spend all you have, give some away; don’t sleep all you want, just all you need. Life is short – be part of it.

20. Smile when you answer the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

21. Be kind to animals, we share their planet.

22. Say ‘bless you’ when you hear someone sneeze.

23. Daily – Spend some time alone. Spend time with God.

A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.

A Very Successful Weekend

Jackie flew to Tucson from Colorado on Wednesday to join Sally and me for the Tucson Festival of Books. She brought a snowstorm with her. Fortunately, we live in a high desert where snow can stomp in and wrap us in a big downy blanket in the morning and by afternoon the snow disappears under the gentle smile of the sun, and all is clear. Snow lingers in the mountains to remind us it is still winter, but we can go about our tasks with no restrictions of weather.  

Our weekend began Friday with our appearance at the author’s table at Barnes and Noble on Broadway. We greeted customers and introduced them to our book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets, a collaborative memoir of twenty-five years of writing and being friends.  We sold some books and had great conversations with readers, other authors, and would-be authors. Our book is designed to encourage writers to create critique groups to enhance their skills and help them toward publication. We share stories we wrote throughout our time together, so the book is also an anthology of fiction and non-fiction, short stories, essays, and poems. Something for everyone. It was hard for the store to put us in just one genre because we fit in many so they call us “Local Authors”.

Saturday was our turn in the independent authors’ tent at the Tucson Festival of Books. The Festival attracts thousands of people from all over the world for the two-day event. We met dozens of readers and writers who came to our tent to learn about and buy our book. We made new friends and met new readers. Some old friends stopped by too. We were invited to do a podcast in the near future. Stay tuned for more information on that.

The third day, Sunday, of our marathon was at the Barnes and Noble store on the northwest side of town at the Foothills Mall. Again, dozens of old friends, new friends, and readers surrounded us. The two hours sped by in a blink. Sally and Jackie will add more pictures to our story in their blogs this week. Even better than the book sales engendered we were filled with the excitement of people learning about our journey as writers. Some readers shared their opinions of our stories and said it was the kind of book they would read over again because the stories are so varied, and they get something new out of each reading.

At the end of the weekend, we were exhausted and exhilarated, but ready to put pen to paper and start a new journey of words.

They’re Back. The Boys of Summer

Baseball is back. The opening weekend of Spring Training for the Cactus League is finally here. Tucson once hosted Cleveland Indians now Guardians, Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies. Now all have gone north to be in the greater Phoenix area, a larger spectator base and less travel time between each of the fifteen Cactus League teams. The weather has been a little iffy.

Friday was in the 40s with clouds, Saturday climbed into the 60s with clouds and Sunday started with rain showers and overcast skies in the 50s for the day. That may not sound cold to those in the midwest or on the east coast who are experiencing freezes now but to a Tucsonan like me, being below 80 is considered a freeze.

Our daughter and grandson braved the frigid temps to attend a Cubs vs Dodgers game on Sunday – Dodgers won 9-4. The Dodgers this year are so weighted with talent, they may be a bit top heavy. On paper they are a slam dunk (basketball) – a monster outta-the-park grand slam cinch to be in the World Series; but time and the baseball gods can make those paper predictions just so much shredded confetti. The rules are different this year, one I applaud – the limited field shifts (that was out of control); two I’m skeptical of – the 15-second pitch clock and bigger bases. We’ll see if they improve a nearly perfect game.

Since my favorite players have done the musical bases game and switched teams over and over, I now have no favorite teams. I just root for my players. The big advantage to that is I am rarely disappointed in the outcome of a game because somebody I like is nearly always on the winning side.

Besides the opening of baseball in Arizona, Tucson hosted La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros this week, a nine-day celebration of everything cowboy. It started as a three-day competition back in 1925 so we are in year 98 of the Festival. It is a big deal in Tucson. The kids are out of school on Thursday and Friday for rodeo week. Historically the Festival attracts cowboys, Indians, calvary, horses, steers, and bulls from all over the country. Each year there is a parade on Thursday. It is the longest non-mechanized parade in the country, 2.5 miles with over 200 entries. Sunday was the culmination of the competitions. Cowboys and cowgirls of all ages enter. Muttin’ Bustin’ and Junior Rodeo are for those 5 to 13. The reigning rodeo king, Trevor Brazile who has won eight All-Around Titles and numerous championships was here. He didn’t do so well this time around. The official results were not announced at the time of this post. Prizes amount to over $300,000. The Tucson rodeo was featured in several movies including, The Lusty Men, 8 Seconds, and Ruby Jean and Joe.

As a side note Tiger Woods was here in Tucson for a Match Play game this week and the Encantada Gem show, a part of our Gem and Mineral extravaganza, was this week. The G&M Show starts the first week of February and this was the final weekend. Buyers and dealers from all over the world gather to compare rocks.

This week my co-authors and I will participate in the Festival of Books on the campus of the University of Arizona, Saturday, March 4th from 10 am to 1 pm in the Indie Author Tent.  It is the third largest book festival in the U.S.  We have book signings at both Barnes and Noble stores, Broadway on March 3rd, 1 pm – 3 pm, and Foothills Mall on March 5th, 1 pm-3 pm.

Tucson is a Happenin’ Place.

Transformative Power of Poetry

I recently read “Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield. It is a dense study of how written expression moves the human soul during times of strife and turmoil and the virtually muscular articulation of happiness. W.H. Auden wrote that “Poetry makes nothing happen”. However, poetry has the power to soothe or enlighten people. Jane says, “In the simplest act of recognizing the imaginative, metaphoric, or narrative expression of another, you find yourself less lonely, more accompanied in this life.”

I often turn to poetry when I’m troubled; when the outside world is not making sense to my interior world. I write, painting emotions in visual terms. Recently in a journal I wrote, “a sepia smear slides through the doctor’s words as the verdict is rendered”. It gives a deeper meaning for me than simply recording a sad but expected diagnosis.

It can be said as well that joy expressed in poetic terms layers an event with a calculus beyond the dictionary rendition of words.  My feelings when I witnessed the birth of my grandson could not be contained in words like joy or elation. “His first breath coursed through me, the first breath of new life, evergreen hope, a rainbow of possibilities exploded my lungs. Tears sprang unheeded in rivulets of gratitude”, I wrote.

One example Jane uses in the book is a poem by Czeslaw Milosz, a Nobel Prize winning Polish-American poet of the twentieth century. He expresses the transitory nature of life in this short poem. A simple memory stirs a wider wonder. Who are we and where are we going?


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.

A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.

One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive.

Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going,

The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebble.

I ask, not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

Czeslaw Milosz

Being able to use words to convey the deepest sense of who I am is my joy.

The Blessings of Grandparents

I read a post, Nostalgia, by Cerebralintrovert yesterday ( and it happened to coincide with a short piece I recently wrote and presented at our library writers’ forum about my great-grandparents, Nellie Mae Hutchison and James Uriah Kasenberg. Children who have good memories of their grandparents are very lucky indeed in these days of scattered fractured families. I am very fortunate to have known all four grandparents well, plus three of my great-grandparents. Of course, I wish I had asked more questions of those wonderful people about their lives. All were born before the 20th century dawned, ordinary lives in extraordinary times including the aftermath of the civil war and reconstruction, two world wars, a worldwide depression, the 19th amendment, and consequential inventions such as the telephone, automobile, airplane, electricity in homes, typewriter, and camera.  Things we take for granted impacted their lives in new ways. I’m sure they had inciteful words to offer beyond, “don’t get too close to the creek when it’s runnin’ hard” or, “the dust will still be there tomorrow, so go have fun today” or, “good manners don’t cost a thing and are a gift you can give everyone.”

I spent many Sundays, holidays, and celebrations at the Kasenberg home in Wichita Kansas. We were blessed with a close family that even included some ex-wives of my great-uncle Jim (a crowd in itself). When I became an adult and tried sorting out the relationship of the grownups in our “family”, I discovered some were not really related. They were neighbors or church friends of my grandparents. They all rated the name Aunt or Uncle because they were always around at family gatherings.

Two of my bonus cousins were the daughters of my dad’s best high school friend. My grandparents lived next door to their grandparents in the little town of Anson, Kansas. I called their grandmother, Grandma Meyers, but as a child was never clear how she was MY grandmother too. (She made the BEST egg salad sandwiches.) Later in life, those two “cousins” became step-cousins when my dad’s sister, Nina Maurine, married their father, Mervin. Nina Maurine and Mervin had been an item in their country high school. But Nina Maurine fell madly in love and married a handsome local farmer (a Clark Gable lookalike) and became a rural housewife with three sons.  Mervin went on to college, married, had two daughters, and became a successful businessman. Decades passed. Mervin’s wife died. A few years later after Nina Maurine’s husband died, Mervin asked her out. The rest, as they say, is history. The old flame rekindled when they were in their 70s.

Oh, the stories I have about my family are priceless and were generously passed along to me. I’m very sure every family is endowed with stories and wisdom of generations, but we don’t seem obliged to pass them along. In other cultures, in distant times, before writing became universal, a designated person was told the family stories and given the assignment of orally passing them to the next generation. I mourn the loss of that cultural tradition. I applaud all biographers and memoir writers who strive to keep the links between generations alive. I’ve committed to telling my grandson our family stories as part of his birthright.

And so it goes…

It is almost like I’ve written this before. Maybe I have, maybe not. My stacks of journals are witness but I haven’t the patience to cruise them all – it would take hours, days, months, etc. The story as old as the ages. What age does. I’m seventy-seven. It is a startling revelation each time I say it aloud. I remember thinking sixty was the end game when I was thirty. What is seventy-seven? I know many people in my generation, my age group. Some are old, some not.  I put myself in the latter category. I certainly don’t feel old. My body does occasionally, but I disabuse it of that notion as quickly as it complains. ‘No, it’s not age, it’s what you ate-drank-did yesterday that is the cause of complaint,’ I tell the federation of bone, fat, and muscle that contains my spirit.  ‘Be more thoughtful in your choices’.

I read some time ago, old is ten years older than whatever age you are. When I was ten, twenty was freedom. When I was twenty, thirty was unimaginably far in the distance with countries like marriage, continents like parenting to explore. In my thirties, there were career challenges. There was so much to do between ten and twenty and between twenty and thirty and beyond.  Seeming lifetimes of choice were encapsulated in each decade. What did I know at fifty, that I didn’t know at forty? The blurrrrr of years, forties, fifties, sixties and now seventies, whizzed by. Here I am looking ten years down the road. What will eighty-seven bring? How will I evolve in that space of time? Who will I meet? What questions will be answered? What fresh questions will arise? What different territories will open? I am ever curious. Each day brings something new. Nothing is static when you are alive. Change is the only constant and change brings opportunity. Embrace each day for the treasure that comes with it. Even difficult days reveal nuggets of discovery, maybe more so.

Painting by Sally Rosenbaum
Painting by Sally Rosenbaum

It is never too late for surprises in life. Not in a million years would I have thought I’d be a published author. A writer, yes, but not published. My stories and poems have always been for my own amusement. Yet here I am in league with two other writers having a published book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets, a journey of friendship through words. Published at age seventy-seven! It is a book I believe in because it is meant as an encouragement to those solitary writers who want to be heard by the world at large or those who want to have their voices heard in a smaller way. Writers’ groups can be a support for both.

A Place to Contemplate

I recently came across a blog that I enjoyed immensely called Seams Like a Story, The author, Debra VanDeventer, is a writer in my hometown of Oro Valley. In fact, as it turns out, she is a neighbor. We met at the Oro Valley Writers’ Forum at our local library. I’m passing this along to our readers because I think you will like Deb’s take on life. She is a writer, seamstress, and grandmotherly adventurer among all the other titles accrued by a woman during a lifetime. She retired from teaching, but it is clear she is and always will be a teacher who looks at life as a learning opportunity. Her most recent blog is about a thing called Hygge – a Danish word that means “courage, comfort, joy.” In our tumultuous times, it is good to have a place to retreat, to contemplate and be comforted. That is what Deb promotes in her latest blog post. Give it a try.

I have commented on my love of writing and what my writing “place” means to me. It is my hygge place where I can retreat to write, read, and contemplate; where hours seem like seconds. I am surrounded by books, music, photos of my people, and pictures that speak to me of places I’ve been either in life or in spirit. It is also a place I share with three cats, my muses. It has taken a lifetime to curate the exact items that give my space that feeling of contentment. Everything in here has a meaning and a memory.  

Stories are born of imagination and experience. Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets is a collaborative memoir of our writers’ group as well as an anthology of the stories we three accumulated through our time together. Most of the writing and editing that I contributed to our book was done in this room at my desk. When we three could not be together in person, we met through Zoom to keep the project alive. Have a blessed day and enjoy your own hygge place.

Tucson Festival of Books

We three, Sally, Jackie, and I, are so excited to announce we have been selected to participate in the Tucson Festival of Books. According to the Festival website, it is the third-largest book festival in the United States. It is held annually since 2009 on the University of Arizona campus during a weekend of spring break. This year the dates are March 4th and 5th. We will be in the Indie Author Pavilion, on Saturday, March 4th from 10am to 1pm with our book. Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets was one of the books selected out of over two hundred submissions. We look forward to meeting readers and writers.

We are doubly happy because being in the festival means Jackie will leave snowy Colorado to join us here in sunny Tucson. It’s been a long time since we’ve been together except for our weekly zooms. Another cause for celebration!!

I plan to attend panel discussions by other authors and get books signed by some of my favorites including J.A. Jance, T.C. Boyle, Cara Black, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Rosemary Simpson. I have to pinch myself to make sure it is not a dream when I think we are presenting our book at the same festival as they are. I’ve read many of J.A. Jance’s books and could not pick a favorite, I like them all. I love Tortilla Curtain and Terranaughts by T.C. Boyle. I gobble up the books by Cara Black who writes about Paris, my favorite city, in her Aimee Leduc thrillers, especially Murder in Saint-Germain. I was introduced to her writing in the anthology A Paris All Your Own. I met Rosemary Simpson at our Oro Valley Writers’ Forum and have enjoyed reading her series of historical mysteries set during the Gilded Age in New York. I was captivated by Luis Alberto Urrea’s book The Hummingbird’s Daughter, an epic story based on the life of his aunt who discovered her amazing healing powers during a time of revolution in Mexico. And on and on I could go.

We hope you can attend if you are in the area. We’d love to meet you and hear your opinion about our book and blog.

Tucson Festival of Books

Whose Ring Is It?

Prompts: Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, or memoir, story is the important element.  Conveying facts through story is the best way to engage your readers. Feeding facts one after another will put a reader to sleep quicker than snow melts at the equator. Creating a story within the boundaries of a prompt (facts) trains your brain to be creative (narrative). This is an example of a quick write making a one-page story from a given set of “facts”.

Jackie’s Prompt: Write one or two pages and include words: pliable, awkward, distance, imagine, sensible. Start the story with: “I picked it up to have a better look and …”

These were the things that first came to my mind.

… I discovered it was alive

…it bit me

….it appeared to be a diamond ring

          I picked it up to have a better look and I probably would not have noticed it except for a brief parting of clouds, a peek-a-boo moment of sun.  The day was covered in a thick gray blanket to keep out all but the faintest daylight at three o’clock. In that moment there was a brilliant flash in the pile of yesterday’s leaves. Is it real? Of course not was the answer that came instantly to mind. How would a diamond ring be in my backyard buried in a pile of leaves that we raked yesterday? I shoved it into my pocket, vowing to check with my housemate. I knew for sure it could not belong to Collin, but it might have belonged to Ellen, his sister. She has a collection of jewelry to rival Musk’s collection of Tweets. Possibly it fell from his pocket as we did yard work. Why would he have it?  Yesterday had been so much fun. We laughed and plunged into piles of leaves like little children as we cleaned up the last of fall’s debris beneath the oak, maple, and sycamore trees that bordered our property. My job today was to bag up all the piles while Collin was gone. The trashman comes tomorrow.

          When I finished pushing leaves into twenty-four black garbage bags I went into the house for a cup of tea. The warmth of the kitchen melted icy fingers that had clamped onto my neck and shoulders in the late afternoon chill. I wrapped my hands around the hot cup letting the steam drift up into my face. I sat at the kitchen counter and pulled the ring from my pocket, a simple wide white gold band with an emerald cut diamond of several carats. It was striking.  Could it be real?

          I reached for my cell phone. Collin left early this morning for a business trip to Hopewell, a distance of about two hundred miles, so I didn’t expect him to be home tonight. I wanted to let him know I’d found the ring in case he was worried. I could not imagine why he’d have it, but I knew he’d be concerned if he discovered it missing.  He answered on the second ring.

          “Busy?” I asked

          “No, the meetings are over and I’m on my way to a hotel. It seemed more sensible to stay over than trying to get home tonight.”

          “Yeah, I figured that. Guess what? I found the ring.”

          “What ring?” He sounded hesitant.

          “Did you lose a ring in the backyard yesterday while we were raking?”

          “I didn’t have a ring.” His voice was gruff, his answer felt abrupt.

          “That’s strange. How would a ring get into our leaf pile?”  There was an awkward pause.

          “What kind of ring?” he asked.

          “It looks like a diamond.”

          “Do you think it’s real?”

          “Don’t know, I’m not an expert. It’s pretty and I’d say if it is real, it’s impressive.  I’ll put it in my jewelry box and you can check it out when you get home. We’ll figure it out. Seems strange though to have a ring randomly show up in the backyard.”

          “Don’t tell anybody about it. Okay?”

          I am usually very pliable when it comes to Collin’s requests. We’ve been best friends for more than a decade and suffered through each other’s ups and downs; his boyfriends, my boyfriends, his business ventures, my writing. Something in his voice sent an alert. My skin prickled.

          “What’s up, Collin?”

          “What’d you mean?”

          “Is it or is it not your ring?”

          “No, I told you. But just don’t make a big deal of it. We’ll talk when I get home. I’m leaving now. See you in about four hours.” He hung up the phone.

What do you know differently from the story’s beginning to the end? This is an example of turning facts into narrative.

An Anniversary Remembrance

My husband and I celebrated our fifty-nineth anniversary a couple of days ago. Wow, it sounds like a lifetime. Well, it almost is. We met in high school and that was that. Going through old journals and blogs (something I do at the end/beginning of a year) I found this piece I wrote ten years ago. I think it is worth revisiting.

August 2012. Steady Eddie and I recently took in a movie called Hope Springs.  At times it was like watching someone suffer with an aching tooth remembering that your toothaches too.  Ouch!  It was also a reminder of why we are married.  Not that there is any good reason as reason goes, just that there are emotional connections and shared memories that cannot be compared or duplicated by any other couple.  They make our marriage, ours.  They make the humdrum every day and annoying things bearable.  They make us laugh together, sigh together, sometimes cry together and smile at each other when no one else can understand.  Those private moments and memories are the superglue that holds our ship together in stormy seas.

I don’t think this movie appeals to a wide audience but considering the number of baby boomers, it has a fairly deep pool from which to pull.  A good friend of our daughter, Calliope, set her criteria for movie-going to a high standard.  “No old people sex”, Lisa once said.  At the time she defined “old people sex” as any hanky panky on screen by anyone over 30.  This movie would definitely not meet her criteria.  Even though overtly it is about the sex follies of the senior set, it is ultimately about the strong link forged through fire and ice by people over years of married life.

So many times – sometimes daily – I get annoyed with Steady Eddie, like a gnat at a picnic that dives at your eyes, ears, and nose.  All I want to do is pinch his head off.  For instance, when he buys the largest container of mayonnaise at Costco that does not fit in our refrigerator without rearranging ALL the shelves and it is so big we don’t have a spoon or spreader long enough to reach the bottom of the container.  Is that not annoying?  Especially when he defends his choice and says he’ll do it again if left on his own at Costco.  To top it off whenever he goes to the frig to make a sandwich he says, “Where did YOU put the mayonnaise?”  and it is the largest thing in the front on the second shelf.  He says, “It is below my eye level so I couldn’t see it”.  Now how can you NOT want to pinch his head off? Eddie, on the other hand, has no reason to be annoyed with me.   Well, maybe I forget to take the safety brake off when I drive his truck.  But that is it.

I do admit Eddie has many endearing qualities.  For one he cooks eggs benedict for me every Saturday morning. Then there are the times when he brings home flowers just to make me smile, or he touches me gently as we pass in the hall, or remembers an obscure special occasion, or lets me know he is thinking about me when I am most vulnerable, that makes all that other stuff go away.  I could make long lists of those good moments, but they wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else but me.

Anyway, most of the time marriage is great and the rest of the time it teaches patience, tolerance, and restraint – all of which are good skills to have so you don’t go to prison for capital murder and leave the children as orphans.

January 2023. More than ten years have passed since I wrote this, and it still holds up. I laugh at the names I assigned people on the premise they can’t sue me if they are not recognized. We’ve shared so many adventures and weathered many more storms in the meantime and our ship is still upright, maybe even stronger as we age together. Thank you, Steady Eddie, you know who you are. I love you.