Gluten or Not

I am gluten free, by necessity, not choice. I don’t have celiac, which gives me a sigh of relief. It’s been about six years that I’ve been deprived (tears), considering I’m also to follow the low-fodmap diet, and another rule – no garlic, onion, and keep my sugar intake to 5 grams or less. I mean, who in the world can do that unless you’ve locked your pantry and hired someone to guard it? When I flew to Tucson for the Festival of Books, Diana and Sally cooked gluten free while I stayed with both of them, which was very kind and much appreciated, considering I sent them my low-fodmap, sugar free, no onion, no garlic list. They reviewed the forty page list (not really that long, just seems that way in another language). The day of the Festival, Sally diligently reminded me that I “may not” want to eat the mini-sized bars sitting in a big basket behind us, within arm’s reach. I decided I’d be just fine, spun around and inhaled them. My body rebelled the next day. Just ask Sally and Diana. I wanted to pout, but more books signings were scheduled. 

Yesterday, my husband, my daughter’s family and I attended a Colorado Rockies game and were in a suite, complements of one of her vendors. They provided a nice amount of food, and I drooled past the pizza, brats with buns, hot dogs too, soft, large chocolate chip cookies, Margaritas, beer, coke, sprite and more. All I was able to eat was a bare, lonely hot dog slathered with mustard, catsup, and pickle relish. I also had a tossed salad with dressing and ate next to my granddaughter as she devoured a hot dog with bun and later, a marbled chocolate and vanilla ice cream cone.

You would think I’d get used to eating little sugar. There IS an array of delicious gluten free food, desserts included, but too often, the sugar content is high.

Considering my food limitations, I should be a Twiggy, but sadly, I’m not. I bet she ate at least over 50 grams of sugar, or I like to think she did. I’m still waiting to become her, but so far, it hasn’t happened. Oh well, I’m in a cafeteria as I write this and am going to walk past the pastries and drool. By the way, I know it could be much worse. Many have health situations much more serious than mine. It’s just that my diet keeps me healthier despite my complaining at times. But, just wondering, surely some of you out there share my whining?

Just got done staring at the pastry bar. Heck, who needs a raspberry, cream cheese-filled, gluten, high sugar scone when you can buy bottled water or black coffee. Right? Not.


In the numerous classes and workshops I took on writing, perhaps the most often used phrase was “Okay, let’s do some freewriting.” The instructor would often mention a subject or give a hand-out with different ideas and/or scenarios to write about. The time given to complete it usually ran around twenty minutes. I would stare at my paper, pen in hand, in a slight panic, wondering what to write. It seemed as if it took me half the twenty minutes to decide. All this while watching everyone else in the room bow their head over their paper, pen in hand and start. How do they immediately know what they want to write about?

Our writing group consistently included a freewriting every time we met. We used the same prompt (some are mentioned in our book) and the allotted time ran around fifteen minutes. It wasn’t unusual for us to scatter about in the kitchen, living room or patio to complete our writing. Even then, I felt as if I was last to jump into the prompt. However, an idea always came to me, especially if I got out of the way, and just let the pen and prompt take over.

I now experience the same dilemma when it comes to my turn for the blog—Fridays. I am consistently late in figuring out what to write. Late means too often, Thursdays. What in the heck am I going to write about? I squeeze my brain cells and still no answer arrives. I look around me, think of memories or an incident I experienced a few days ago and still the answer is nope, not that. I begin to panic as Thursday evening approaches. Not one iota of a subject has entered my mind. What to do?

I first heard the term “magical thinking” when I read Joan Didion’s powerful book, The Year of Magical Thinking. I was intrigued by those two words. Although her magical thinking alluded to a different subject much deeper, I believe it describes writers’ creativity. For me, the magical thinking happens when I am sitting at my desk, or driving in my car, or walking our dog or even reading a book. That elusive idea pops into my head and thoughts dance around until they form the first two or three beginning sentences. It’s just magical. There’s no other way to describe how the writing process happens.

Oh, by the way, the idea for this blog arrived early–Wednesday morning. What a relief. 

Rainy Days

Rain and lots of it has arrived. It has been desperately needed here in Colorado these past years, the front range included. During the time we’ve lived here, over twelve years, fires have raged; engulfing forests, annihilating homes, destroying animals, and even taking human lives. Just three years ago, during the Cameron Peak Fire, my husband was working on a golf course and said it was raining ash, turning the day into an eerie dusk. The powdery residue was actually drifting like snow. At the same time that he was on the golf course, I was sweeping ashes off the porch and brushed the cars to remove the same. It was devastating to hear over the news of the acres and acres destroyed, 208,000, with only a small percentage being contained day after day. 

So, as I watch it rain outside our window for three days now, I am grateful. With a little luck, this moisture just might douse any ember trying to start a forest fire this summer. At the same time, there is the combined concern of flooding considering the mountains were inundated with a vast amount of snow this winter, some areas breaking records. There was so much, there was a concern for wildlife because they were unable to dig deep enough for food. It’s a fact that Mother Nature always has the last word. Sometimes we agree with her, sometimes not.

Even though we are grateful for rain, there is one glitch—Rusty, our dog. Every day by 3:00 P.M., if he hasn’t been walked, he notifies me. If I am sitting, he saunters over and rests his nose on my arm, his brown eyes staring up at me in near desperation. On these rainy days, I pretend I don’t see him, even though his desires usually run my life. I don’t want to walk in the chilly steady rain, but rather watch it from inside. I don’t really believe him wanting to walk anyhow. With this wet weather, I kneel down for more leverage to push his butt out the patio door so he can relieve himself. The minute one drop of rain lands on his nose, his ears lay flat against his head as he tries to spin around and come back in. We start the procedure all over again until I win. No matter what, I’m still delighted we’re receiving moisture, dog battle or not. 

Beloved Books

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is absolutely, without a doubt, my number one favorite, despite the many books I’ve read over half a century. Just ask my kids. They will tell you. Every time I hear it mentioned, which isn’t often, I say, “Oh, that’s my favorite book ever!” I’m guessing I have company with others loving it, too. Who wouldn’t love Little Ann and Old Dan?  Hound dogs that win your heart. Break it, too.

            In District #37, our country school, one excellent teacher, Mrs. McGuire, read a book to us every day for fifteen minutes after noon recess. We had an hour for lunch and recess time, plenty of time to rev up. She encouraged us, all grades, to lay our heads down with our bright red faces with sweat dripping off our foreheads. We fell into a quiet relaxation, not a sound in the room except her voice reading, taking us to different places and characters. It might have been the only silent time in the entire day and certainly my best-loved moment.

            Once, when Mrs. McDonald reached the last chapter of Where the Red Fern Grows and the plight of Old Dan (I’ll try not to explain it, though you probably have an idea), sobs could be heard around the room. Mrs. McDonald could hardly read it, tears running down her face too. I thought it was just our tears, but later realized she, too, couldn’t get through the story. It made me love her forever, how the book touched her too, that she was unafraid to show it and let her tears flow with us. She finally said, “Okay students, here’s what we’ll do. You can use the mudroom with a friend and read the chapter to each other to finish it.” 

            We three girls in the fifth grade took the book and drug our three chairs into the small room with its swinging door to the classroom, the faded wooden floor, and mint green walls with a small window near the ceiling. It was no longer used as an entrance, but rather to study with each other, which usually ended up in giggles or sneaking open the old squeaky door to bravely run around the schoolhouse in hopes to not be caught. We figured she wouldn’t know. The sometimes naivety of children.

            However, there were no giggles this time. First, Peggy read a few pages of the last chapter, then Debbie, then me. We sobbed through the last pages, Kleenexes in hand. I’m sure the kids in the actual school room heard us, but never to mind. It would soon be their turn to sit in the little room and cry, shedding tears after those before. 

            This story always warms me. The way a book can take you into a world and connects you to others. Relatable characters, vivid scenes and great dialogue combine to make a remarkable book, just like Where the Red Fern Grows.

She Reads

Yesterday, while driving for errands, I had the radio station turned to NPR. The famous author Judy Blume was being interviewed. She no longer writes, but the interviewer discussed her books and writing life. In fact, a movie has just been released regarding her first popular book, are you there god, it’s me Margaret. The subject matter? The story is about Margaret being upset her period hasn’t started while others her age have. Blume’s books have been definitely controversial as she writes of situations youth face while growing up. She has even received death threats. That never stopped her. Not to be OCD on banned books (or maybe I am), she has clearly written an unbelievable and relevant number of beloved books for youth. She has won more than ninety awards and none more important than those coming directly from her youngest readers. She was also honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement.

I bring up Judy Blume and her books because first, I’m looking forward to the movie. I regret I’ve read very few of her books. I’m not sure why. Guess I was busy being a mom. However, I plan on reading more.

Secondly, my thirteen-year-old granddaughter, an age Blume addresses in her books , has recently been invaded by the reading “bug.” I need to ask her if she’s read Blume’s books and truly love watching her curl up into a chair with her her newest book, her legs tucked under her, closing all out as she enters into the world of her next read. 

A few days ago, I picked her up from school and was a few minutes late. She was easy to locate sitting on the school’s front steps, her head bent over a book as she devoured another mystery. She didn’t look up even though a few students were hurrying down the steps beside her, locating their ride home. Luckily, she raised her head as I pulled the car up in front of her, closing her book until she could revisit her characters and the story once more. 

Her recent passion for books warms me, makes me happy. It reminds me of my days in country school when all grades, around thirty students were in the same room – the sound of feet shuffling on wooden floors, the teacher instructing another grade, other students softly talking back and forth, discussing assignments. I disappeared, sitting at my desk, my nose buried in the latest animal book. I heard nothing as the book’s characters surrounding me took over.  

I still experience the same as I continue to enter my next a book. 

My granddaughter now asks what I am reading every time she sees me with an open book, which like her, could take place in any setting. She always shows me her “latest” book purchase and I read the first chapter to discover its tone. She loves that I do, and we discuss the book a little bit. I’m delighted, not only because she shares with me the book she’s reading, but also because it gives us a special connection. Thank heaven for books.


Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is associated with Colorado State University in Fort Collins. A year ago, a friend mentioned it to me. Providing classes for 17 years, they offer over 70 courses for adults ages 50 and better. I clearly fit the age requirement.

I recently took three classes by the same instructor regarding banned books in certain areas of Colorado. Books like Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, James and the Giant Peach by Dahl, Captain Underpants by Pilkey, The Storyteller by Picoult, To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee, Glass Castle by Walls and more. There were over twenty-five attendees and due to the comments and questions, I’m certain we were all on the same page (no pun intended). Basically, we were saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Currently, some places have already taken these certain ones off the shelf or are currently in the process of the “fight” to do so. I learned that it could take only one person to request the ban and depending on the city board, the library board, and others, it can happen. One person! I knew that bans were being introduced across the country, but even so, I’m sure my mouth gaped open when the instructor showed book covers on the screen that are currently in the “penalty box.” In fact, license has been used to change some words within the book to appease the protestors. 

This recent movement isn’t new. For generations, books have been banned due to use of certain words, graphics, and subject matter. Classics have also been a target, now and before. I’ve read many and enjoyed them—they’ve also taught me much. I earnestly am appalled at what’s taking place today. I don’t believe any of us readers and writers want extraordinary readings written by the ordinary removed from us. It’s time to pay attention.

A Night Show

It’s coming soon. Most likely in July. Fireflies of the Midwest. It’s capitalized because it sounds like a team to root for. Which most Nebraskans do. Growing up on a farm, I loved how the winged beetles skittered about everywhere, announcing summer was in full swing. The lightning bugs, as we called them, traveled about our farmyard as soon as the sun lazily dropped below the horizon. They seemed to tease as they glowed, “I’m over here!” Enamored and wanting badly to catch one, their lumination emanating from its underside, I followed its light or thought I did. However, as soon as I reached where I believed it to be, its glimmer disappeared, only to reveal itself somewhere else, taunting, “Here I am now, come find me.” 

The single ones I pursued weren’t solo fliers. There were many lightning bugs signaling their appearance with intermittent flashes – one behind you, above you, next to a tree, in the bushes, or in the cornfield nearby. It was beautiful entertainment, no video gaming involved, just nature with no cost. 

A few years ago, during a summer weekend, I drove to Nebraska from Colorado to spend time with my father and sister. Dad and Mom lived in the small town of Cairo and their single level house had a porch with a not so steady white railing to frame it. My sister lived with Dad as his caretaker once Mom died and one evening, my sister and I decided to sit outside on the porch and hash over all the subjects we’d talked about year after year. We usually added a new spin as we shared stories. Night had already arrived and within moments of sitting outside, we saw our first lightning bug appear in front of us. “Lightning bugs!” I exclaimed, having never seen one for some time. Within moments, they were everywhere. Small little stars twinkling in the yard just before us and thick in the cornfields just beyond, dashing in and out. We’d never seen so many. “Aren’t they beautiful?” my sister said. I agreed. Sharing the spectacle once more with my sister created a memory of feeling like children once more, in awe of nature’s glorious night show. 

Wind for Easter?

“Spring has sprung.” Isn’t that a long-time saying? I think, maybe think, hopefully think that it’s happening right here in Colorado now. It’s a wild guess, though. Winter has been longer than usual, and it seems we’ve had more snow and gray than the color of geese. The wind has been unruly and wild, much like our middle child. Tumble weeds and bits of gravel slam against the side of our house, much like someone shaking a baby rattle in both ears, only with the volume turned up exponentially. Sometimes the windows rattle so much, I’m sure shards of glass will land in my lap and on the kettle corn I’m chomping while watching a favorite television series with my husband. That would push me over the edge. Kettle corn is just too delicious to waste. 

This spring’s wind reminds me of years past living in western Nebraska. Our family would wake up in the morning to stillness with a big smile spread across our face. No wind! Not until an hour later when it sounded like a train was roaring around both sides of the house. Our smiles faded, turning upside down into a frown, our eyebrows scrunched low over our eyes in disapproval. Why bother brushing your teeth? Grit would soon look like small bits of Oreo cookies splayed on your teeth. No reason to comb your hair. Once you stepped out of your car, the wind did it for you, only it stood up much higher and wider than you would have preferred. Don’t wear a skirt or dress that day. You might look like the famous picture of Marilyn Monroe standing over a sidewalk grate. Or maybe not, depending on how you truly looked. 

Hopefully, Sunday’s weather will be nice, wind free. Forecasters say it will be. The children will be delighted to find their “real” eggs, decorated the night before. Much like our daughter was excited when she was twelve and still into Easter egg hunts, or mainly the candy. She found an egg under a bush, and unknown to us, shoved it into her coat pocket and later hung her coat in the basement hallway. All through the summer, my husband and I sniffed and sniffed like bloodhounds, near the hall, down the stairway, wondering where the dead mouse was located? Late August, I went to wash her coat, started cleaning the pockets and pulled out a rotten decorated egg. Mystery solved. Happy Easter everyone!


My passion for animals is no surprise to friends and family. Horses used to be my number one favorite, but due to various reasons, I couldn’t have one after leaving the farm. However, I did ride for years at other facilities. So, I ended up switching my number one favorite to dogs and horses second. I love both for sure. Which leads to this blog:

Every morning, as soon as I awaken, I draw open our curtain and look out the picture window that frames the pasture just below. I like seeing the goats and their newly-born kids, the stocky pinto, and the bay horse – my morning, afternoon and evening fix. Three days ago, it snowed the evening before and as I gazed down, I automatically sucked in my breath. I saw the bay lying flat, snow blowing over him. I rushed into the living room and told my husband. He grabbed the binoculars and tried to assure me it might be something else. Like a pile of hay. It was only his protection of me – he knows this passion I carry. But I viscerally knew the bay was dead. The shock was almost more than I could bear. Please God, let it not be true. I texted my dog-walking friend next door. She looked out her window and texted. “Oh no, I think he’s dead.” I immediately pulled down the living room curtain, but within minutes, something deep within me told me to honor him. I opened it. He laid there and his owner drove into the yard and went to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and it was apparent she was sobbing. She left, a truck came mid-afternoon and took him away. That, I couldn’t watch.

He had been full of life, young and beautiful. He arched his neck when cantering in the pasture, his gait light and smooth, his coat glistening. We watched him often and his pinto friend just over the fence, their necks nearly entwined. We grew to love them from a distance. 

Aside from the horrible pain of losing him, here’s the hard part: Only once in the 2 ½ years we lived here did we see his owner arrive, brush him and let her son comb his tail. One time. That is all. The boarders took good care of him physically and fed him regularly. But, he spent day after day, standing near the fence, waiting for the pinto to come out of the barn and be with him. They are such herd animals. I ached at his isolation, the lack of attention. If there is any good part of his death, he no longer must wait and watch for someone to come. I’ve imagined many times asking the bay’s owner why in the heck she kept him if she had nothing to do with him? Then, I try to remember we never know someone else’s story.

His buddies grieved. As soon as the pinto was let out of the barn, he went to the fence between them, as near as he could to where the bay was. He laid down in the snow, (they both used to lay down at the same time, but only when the sun shone) stared at the bay, and finally arose. He then walked over and stood at the bay’s shed, as did the goats, unusual for them all. Perhaps the most touching moment was when two mother goats reached up and touched the pinto’s nose as he hung his head. An act of comfort. We’ve never seen this behavior before, and we have spent much time watching them and their antics. They say animals grieve—I believe it. We saw it and it still goes on for them.

No matter what, it has been a heart-breaking situation and I will ache as I raise my bedroom curtain, ready to greet the morning with the bay no longer there. 

Some say there is no animal heaven. Some say there is. I choose to believe the latter. I hope he is happy there, that children surround him and pet his neck, comb his mane, and bury their nose in his wonderful smell. 

Yes for a Dress

Happy Birthday, Dad. Born in 1920, he would have been 103 yesterday. He died in November 2019, six years after Mom and just four months before he turned 100. I think about my parents a lot, reminiscing “growing-up” years on the farm. All the memories. My psychiatrist brother-in-law once said that after someone dies, we tend to remember more of the positive things. He joked, “Ever notice in an obituary how wonderful the deceased was?” It’s pretty much true. Besides, let’s face it, who wants to write a nasty one when you’re the one still living?

Dad was complex, hard to read, detached and unpredictable. Like many in his generation, he didn’t verbalize his love and rarely showed it. Sometimes, I’ve wondered if he loved me. I recall all the times where I had no idea. However, other memories drift in. Like the time he was one of the first to purchase a stereo and the Beach Boy’s first album for us four kids. Or the times we traditionally drove the two hours to Lincoln to buy our Easter outfits at the Robert Hall store. One time, when I was eleven, I found the perfect dress. Wide alternating pale orange and cream stripes ran horizontally through it with a soft chiffon ribbon intertwined through the collar in front, ending in a big bow at the back. Turning around in the three-way mirror, I loved it, yet knew it was too much money. Dad was sitting in a chair near the mirror. “Do you like it?” he said. “I do, but it’s too expensive.” Without a pause, he nodded his head and said, “Then, get it.” The memory warms me. I was in seventh grade when I somehow stumbled across a magazine by Professor Beery and showed it to my Dad. The pictures of the horses were breath-taking – their heads held high, coats glistening in the sun and arched tails. Included were instructions on riding a horse. Dad surprised me one day and told me to get the mail. I sauntered up our tree-lined road leading to the mailbox, opened it and pulled out the first of a magazine he ordered me for the next twelve months. Maybe he did know me? 

Dad was in a nursing home for two years before he died, a relief for us when he did. He was a man who couldn’t handle vulnerability. Despite this, in his last years, I told him I loved him. Tough memories, good memories – a mixture of life. I miss you, Dad. Have a good birthday; one full of peace and happiness.