Growing Up

Our son, the youngest of our children, is visiting us in a few days. We plan on spending nearly a week in the mountains in Steamboat Springs. He has lived in Minnesota since 1998, raising his daughter, who is now twenty-two, graduated from college and on her way into life. He and his partner are currently raising a six-year-old and yes, that’s quite an age gap.

When he graduated from high school, my husband and I happily had the moving van in our driveway. We were headed to warmth in sunny Arizona. He moved with us, but missing his life and friends, moved back to Minnesota the next year. Our children grown and on their own, my husband and I slept soundly at night, with nothing to wake us but a hoot owl in a tree outside our bedroom window. We were unaware as to how our son was managing his world in another state, completely on his own. We found the not-knowing delightful. We’d spent years pulling him by his heels out of bed in the mornings to attend school. Once he graduated, we figured our job was done, no more wringing of hands. We ignored the fact his immaturity was as apparent as the small lizards exploring our patio.

It wasn’t until a few months later, while visiting him, we learned he overdrew his bank account (more than once) buying $3 meals at McDonald’s. Really? We wondered what he was living on, figuring his overdrafts probably exceeded his income. His apartment was smaller than a closet or pretty darn close. We were on the road to more gray hair.

Luckily, things changed. Over the years, it may have progressed slowly, but he matured—a relief to both my husband and me. When it comes to your kids, there are always surprises. This was a good one.

A couple years ago, during zooms and phone calls, he told us he no longer watched television in bed at night.  He was instead reading books. I was surprised, to say the least, considering he never read, buried himself in video games, and tackled maybe just a couple books and only because they were Stephen King’s. 

There were many events that helped our son reach maturity, and I can’t help but believe that to some degree, reading books helped. They expanded his world.  Out of our three children, it’s he and I that share book titles, the stories and our likes and dislikes. Somewhere and somehow, he grew up, raising two daughters, has a successful career and my favorite—is reading! I’m looking forward to seeing him and his family in a few days. Who knows? Maybe he and I will be reading the same book.   

July Jubilee

Two days ago, July 4th arrived. Who among us doesn’t like July 4th, except for certain dogs with superb hearing and young children with their sensitive ears?  Memories rush in for the 4th. Such as family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins leaving their fields, arriving at our farm during early evening, just as the darkening sky begins to illuminate the stars. As a ten-year-old, containing my excitement the entire day was nearly impossible. 

If anyone relished the celebration, it was our father. Every year he ordered a massive number of fireworks from a company called Rich Brothers. The box was so large, full of every kind of fireworks imaginable, that a few days before the 4th, he had to drive the five miles to our little town and pick it up from either the train passing through or a freight company. My siblings and I waited impatiently, watching in the distance for his pickup to come barreling home down our country road, dust trailing him, swirling in the air, a precursor to his arrival. He’d carry the hefty box into our kitchen as we oohed and aahed when he set it on the linoleum floor and opened the cardboard lid, revealing the adored sparklers, roman candles, bottle rockets, fountains, helicopters, snakes and so much more. My heart quivered and my stomach flipped as I envisioned a show that would be just like Disneyland’s fireworks. Our father allowed us to have the snakes early and the long carbon ashes forming snakes stretching this way and that over the sidewalk was pure delight. The cement path leading to our house was marked with patterned dark powder everywhere. But, oh the fun.

Once the relatives arrived and it was dark enough, the adults lit the show. We leaned against the parked cars and trees nearby as one after the other firework shot into the sky, bursting loud enough to vibrate one’s eardrums or reveal spraying colors painting the sky. Near accidents happened. Once, a guy dating my cousin was chased by an out-of- control flying spinner that was supposed to go up, not sideways. He was the target and as he took off running for the porch door, it followed him like a hungry mosquito, burning his pants pocket before he reached safety. Our parents also told of the time when all of us cousins were much younger, and someone accidentally dropped a lighter into the box of fireworks. They said parents scrambled, grabbing kids standing everywhere, and ran. 

During each 4th, the finale was sparklers, sometimes one in each hand as we waved them, burning our names and shapes against the black tapestry. Once the last sparkler fizzled out, everyone drifted inside for homemade ice cream and cake, a delicious top off for the evening.

I miss it. Family living closer, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins no more than thirty minutes away in all directions. I long for those special times when we joined for a celebration. So much laughter filled the air. I took for granted this connection with one another. If I could grab my children’s and grandchildren’s hands magically for just one summer evening, I would show them the entire event from picking up the box of fireworks to the last sparkler. I know they would love it.    


My neighbor and I walked our dogs this morning on a country road not far from where we live. It’s just the right distance for exercise and the road follows a large pasture holding two boarded horses, one a bay and the other—not sure? But it’s pure white with a swayed back, a marker for being older. There’s also a brown mule in this pasture which clearly has plenty of acres for all three. They spend the day grazing in lush grass nearly touching their rounded bellies, thanks to days of an unusual amount of Colorado rain this spring. 

I noticed in the beginning, all three stayed close together, like herd animals do. A few days ago, my husband watched them out of our picture window and saw the bay raise its back feet swiftly, the intention of slamming its hooves into the mule’s side. The mule jumped away just out of distance of being kicked. Maybe a more knowledgeable horsewoman or horseman might explain the mule probably deserved it. Or were the two buddies just telling the mule to “get lost”? I have no idea. What I do know is that now the mule keeps his distance, far away from the possibility of getting a good punch from either of the two horses. They, however, continue to feed close to each other, real buddies. I can’t help feeling sorry for the ostracized mule. 

As we walked today, my neighbor and I mentioned we couldn’t spot him in the pasture, wondering what happened. Where was he? As we continued down the road, we looked for him. “Oh no! Where is he?” my neighbor lamented. “I don’t know, I can’t see him,” I replied, my eyes searching across the field and high grass. We continued beside a row of pine trees, then spotted him eating alone by the barbed wire fence, hidden from the other two. We were relieved to find him. It’s funny, but since our homes sit upon a hill with acreage and farm animals in the distance below, we are attached to them as we watch the antics of horses, goats with kids, feral cats hunting and dogs below. We keep track of them.   

After our walk, I decided to lounge on our deck and read my latest book, The Other Family Doctor, by Karen Fine, DVM. Throughout her stories, she tells of experiences and gives examples over and again about the connection between animals and humans and the way in which our behaviors are similar in so many ways, most importantly, how we humans can learn from animals if we pay attention.

The scene in the pasture reminded me of the days I was a teacher, with my turn being to monitor recess. It was the norm for students to run to me, accusing each other of starting a fight. Of course, half the time I didn’t see who actually did and spent time investigating or assessing the situation. Fine’s comment about humans and animals displaying the same behavior makes me wonder not only about such incidents during those years being a teacher, but even now as one negotiates their way through life, perhaps the most difficult question is, “Who started this fight?” If one did, it’s often difficult to admit it was you and banishment seems easier. 

Maybe I’m stretching Fine’s intent in her book, but it gives us something to think about. There clearly are times we can learn from animals. I just know that whoever started the fight, the horses or the mule, we humans do the same thing, but should realize there are other ways to resolve an issue besides blaming or physical aggression. At least, I hope so.

Shared History

My high school through college friend called today. We touch base just a couple times a year and have marathon calls. We call for no specific reason, just need to catch up. I love visiting with my old (literally) and longtime friend. I answer my cell, and just like that, we are in synch. As if no years have passed us by, fifty-nine to be exact, we dive in and spend over an hour, usually more, sharing our present life and recalling the past. We can be serious, we can laugh or maybe both.

The subject of a certain loneliness arises. It isn’t that we don’t have friends, but as we get older, we long for those who identify with our history and all we experienced. She and I ruminate about the tricks we played, the boys we googled over, the tears we shed, and the abominable curfews. I had one, she didn’t. If I or my siblings didn’t walk into our house by midnight and perhaps one minute later, it was death row for us. I just could not fathom why my friend’s mother (her father had died when she was a young child) wasn’t waiting on her doorsteps, ready to give her a sentence with no parole if she was late. My friend was never, not ever sentenced. It’s just not fair! I whined to myself, clearly not my parents. No need for me to lengthen the time served.

When we visited today, we laughed over all our crazy doings. Like when we lived in an apartment together during college, we regularly called her ex-boyfriend’s fraternity and when he came to the phone, we lifted our voices into a false ear-hurting soprano range and sang the 1950’s song, “Be My Love” sung by Mario Lanza. I mean, we were nineteen then, where in the heck did we come up with an old operatic song? He tolerated our rendition for about half of the first line, then regularly hung up. We, of course, we were the laughingstock, but didn’t care and a couple days later, while attempting to study, looked at each other across the table and one of us said, “Let’s call him!” We picked up the phone, dialed the fraternity’s number, asked to speak to him, and burst into song once more. We didn’t care if it irritated him. I mean, it was so darn much fun and besides, he dumped my friend and found another girlfriend–his flavor of the month. There had to be some payback for this. Was he getting sick of our phantom phone calls? Maybe, but he did keep answering the phone. Could he possibly recognize our lovely out of range voices? We didn’t care. It was just s-o-o-o much fun.

I’m sure all of you have that friend or two from your younger days you share memories with. They were the ones who navigated the former, long ago paths of life with you, even though you eventually parted, both of you pursuing your own. We needed each other then and even now, as some of us reach our older years, facing health issues and losses. We still bring warmth into each other’s lives and what a gift that is. Fun, too.

Following Sal

I think I’ll cheat just a little and follow the direction of Sally’s blog written this past Wednesday, maybe like my Rusty, a dog that trails my heels everywhere I venture, heading in the same direction? Sally made me think about this past year and all we have experienced, so I decided to stick to the same subject as hers before me. First, let me say, I couldn’t have expressed better or more thoroughly Sally’s summary of this past year. She covered it well.

To begin with, I would never have predicted I’d be posting this today. Simply because I never thought we would truly pull together all the years of our friendship and stories to fit into a book. I do know a little voice inside my head kept repeating, don’t you want to gather what the group has written? Life changes directions. Better capture it now, not later. So, we discussed the goal, then made a pledge to finish a book we’d started many times before. We intended to collect our tales, bind them into one, and hold a book in our hands to place on our bookshelves. Make it a reality. And we did.

What I didn’t think of or clearly didn’t know was how many steps there were, how much sweat and determination would be necessary. For example, the website. “WHAT? We need a website?” As Sally wrote, Diana took on the difficult chore of providing the website’s framework and the three of us spent endless hours fleshing it out. Then came the blog. Of course, that felt clumsy at first, at least for me. I liked reading other blogs, but writing for ours? No way. However, throughout this past year, I’ve been learning blogging is a new avenue for expressing ourselves and though I am just a baby in this process, I truly enjoy writing Friday’s blog. Blogging regularly means I need to honor my commitment to our group. Accountability, you know.

I’ll stop here and just say it’s been quite a year and I’m thankful we decided to write our book and we’re even more grateful to you—our readers and writers. Like Sally, I hope the website and blog have been entertaining, informative, reassuring, and enjoyable. Thanks for reading our work and think I’ll stop “following Sally!”  

Ouray Once More

My husband and I decided to drive from our home in Berthoud, Co to visit our long-time friends living in Prescott, Arizona, hopefully before the surrounding mountainous area is visited by more intense heat and monsoon rains. I do like the monsoon season though—when lightning sprays the sky and the rain cools. We lived in Tucson for twelve years, so great memories and nostalgia linger there, monsoons included.

On this two-day road trip, we spent the night in Ouray, Colorado. It is a charming, beautiful mountain town with numerous old buildings from the late 1800’s. The San Juan mountains rise abruptly above the town, literally surrounding it. Waterfalls relieve the mountains of their extremely abundant snowfall this past winter and as we sat on a patio, my husband and I watched a fall gushing out of a cliff. Water is abundant everywhere and the meadows are so moisture soaked and green that everywhere tall grass tickles calves’ bellies. Climate change has become an urgent subject and it seemed as if in Ouray, it was only a myth. 

Nearly twenty years ago, our writing group headed to Steamboat Springs from Tucson to attend a writing conference. We gabbed, joked and on the way, stopped in Ouray for a while to check out the bookstore. It was one of those many terrific times we shared.

Before leaving Ouray with my husband this last time, I visited that same bookstore. It was now at a different location. I purchased a couple books and bookmarks. My heart ached a little, remembering when our writing group was younger. So many years have sped by. So many changes for us all. I’m glad I visited Ouray Bookstore. Sometimes, as we get older, returning to memorable times brings a smile, something we all need as time speeds along much faster than we’d like.

Grandma’s Hoya

I loved my grandma. We had a special relationship, but I have to say, she had one with all her grandchildren. It’s just I was one of the lucky ones. Our farm was only fifteen minutes away from theirs and we were with them a lot. Their house sat on a large corner lot at the edge of Wood River, a small town. The house was little with front cement steps leading to their dining/living room door. I can’t remember a time Grandma didn’t greet us when she saw our car pull up. She always held the door wide open, a big smile on her face, her gray hair ruffled, wearing a short-sleeved blouse and her heavy black shoes with a small heel like the ones women often wore then. She was large boned and rather tall. I was young and just her presence as I looked up at her made it feel as if warmth and happiness embraced me. She loved us. “Daddy! Look who’s here,” she’d loudly exclaim. He was nearly deaf and would turn around in his soft armed chair facing the television, toss his arm up in the air in greeting and say, “hello, hello!”

My brother, sisters and I would sit for a while to listen to adult conversation. I liked hearing their latest news about farming, weather, my aunts, uncles, and relatives. It felt like I was listening to exposed secrets, which their conversation really wasn’t, but it surely made me feel important. Grandma usually had a canary or a parakeet in a cage in front of one of the dining room windows. I would walk over to them, loving how their small talons danced sideways across a round, long peg the width of the cage, bobbing their heads back and forth to keep an eye on me. Once tired of conversation and birdwatching, we kids climbed the stairs to the attic and easily entertained ourselves. A small, lace-curtained window framed a corn field to the south, making the attic bright and inviting. It was like having our own special playroom, despite the fact there was a bed in it for guests. If we stayed overnight, we loved sleeping “up in the attic” as we called it. We talked, giggled and thoroughly enjoyed that no one could hear us, or so we thought.

My grandparents have been gone for a significant number of years, but I have one visible object that brings me close to Grandma every day.

It’s a plant, the original one Grandma passed on to my mother, then my family passed to me when Mom died. Its flower is unique or must be so because my thirteen-year-old granddaughter yesterday walked over to view its light pink blooms resembling the round spray of a firework.  “What is this plant, Grandma? The flowers are so pretty!” I told her it was a Hoya and we searched for more buds about to bloom. It’s at least fifty years old and thriving. The vines keep growing and growing, extending everywhere. Slips have been “stolen” from it so that my siblings and our children have one. Grandma would be pleased. My granddaughter beside me is the fifth generation able to touch and admire the Hoya. I’m sure Grandma would have liked watching as we searched for blossoms. Or, maybe she was?

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.