Sunday, May 2, 2021


I'm not sure exactly when I heard it but it might have been in the middle of the TED talk I was listening to last week. It was a generally funny talk by Tim Urban about procrastination, which focused on why people procrastinate, how deadlines affect us, and what happens when we don't have deadlines, in important areas such as our families, friendships, or entrepreneurial work. Near the end of the talk, he put up a screen filled with tiny boxes.  Each box represented a week in the life of someone who lived to be 90.  As Urban pointed out, everyone in the audience had already used up quite a number of those boxes. And of course, no one knows how many boxes they have left.

I've seen many different portrayals of how time flies, how little time we actually have in our lives, and how we have even less left. But somehow the starkness of those boxes laid out in rows on the screen spoke eloquently to me, particularly coming at a time when a number of my big projects are almost finished.  

I have gathered a 72-page collection of my poetry, In our green visions: The Pacific Trail, and it is currently being judged in a contest for poetry collections. I wrote a middle-grade novel, Sooners in Backwater,  which I have begun shopping to literary agents. I have written a non-fiction book, Spectacular Marriage, which is with a publisher and I hope will soon be coming out. I am waiting for my daughter Mary's final critique of my 42-page poetry chapbook, Portal of Light, so I can begin to submit it to publishers and contests.  Each of the books has taken years to complete; the chapbook was begun in 2018 and has gone through more changes than any of the others, but I also judge that it is the best thing I have ever written.  In the process of writing it, I have rediscovered in a deeper way that my charism, the primary way I am called to share my gifts, is through poetry. I have been writing more poetry than ever before, and working on revising and polishing it with a passion that has become more intense as I pursue it. 

As I pondered the boxes on that screen, I knew that I want to fill more of the life I have left with what I can say and share with my poetry. Therefore, I am singing a swan song for this blog with a poem I wrote when I was a young mother often feeling tied to a brown house and endless mundane chores involved in raising 6 children and cooking and cleaning for them as well as for my husband and parents, who lived with us. My beloved husband was far more of a help with everything than part of the burden, but there was still an exhausting round of things to be done.  I can remember my son at about age 3 sitting at his little desk, saying "There's lots of work to be done."

When I thought of giving up this blog, I realized that I have learned much from writing it, especially since I started publishing every week, but I also have grown wings to soar into my chosen land of poetry. Look for me in the air.


Drained at dawn, the night

sky is scoured blue;

soapsuds curl up on chaparral slopes,

with beckoning roads still

in morning lull:

here, there are no forced marches.

If I deny this gravity,

ignore the pull of house and street

and rise on buoyant feet

day lengthens into light,

mockingbird lyric, summer space

and glimpse of western ranges.

Heartbeat lengthens to a lope--

but calendars weave cocoons

of sentinel pines and splintered moons.

In the dark, gargoyles colonize

the eucalyptus trees,

coydogs, possums, cricket-charged breeze

swirl into dream.

I do not seem

a prisoner of this brown house, these days

of subtle routine chains,

riveted to a window view

--clock time framed--

distilled, restrained,

sparse slices of seasons,

like flint to flame:

one intense vision

held at bay.

Birds paying morning calls

light the blowtorch of sunrise

etch arches 

in these stuccoed walls

I fly free.

Sunday, April 25, 2021


Recently, I finished re-reading Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, the third in a series of four novels about her detective, Peter Wimsey and  Harriet Vane, the woman with whom he falls in love. It has always been my favorite of the four, although the last, Busman's Honeymoon, is a close second, and has one of the funniest scenes I have ever read.

Gaudy Night is set mostly at a fictional woman's college at Oxford and looks with a scholar's eye at the potential conflict between a scholar's work and one's responsibility to one's family. It could easily be expanded to an examination of what has been called work-life balance, which is being re-examined after a year of the pandemic lockdowns when working and studying at home have become prevalent and many of the things that were taken for granted are suddenly up for grabs.  I can remember when my beloved husband's company moved from the San Diego area to Orange County, and he negotiated to work from home 3 days a week, to avoid the hour and a half commute each way.  He told the CEO, that he thought he could be more responsive with that schedule than many lawyers could be when they were in an office where the CEO could walk in and talk to them whenever he wanted.  Every CEO balked at his suggestion but after a couple of weeks in which he exceeded his commitment, nothing more was heard of their concerns.  Now many companies are finding that having most or all of their employees working from home has not limited their ability to do their work.  

The question in Gaudy Night was not so much whether people should be able to work from home, but whether the integrity of one's scholarship was of more value than a person's commitment to his or her family.  

The woman who was the guilty party in this book gave an impassioned defense of what she had done. "You wouldn't have cared. You killed him and you didn't care.  I say you murdered him. What had he done to you? What harm had he done to anybody? He only wanted to live and be happy. You took the bread out of his mouth and flung his children and me out to starve. What did it matter to you?.... Couldn't you leave my man alone? He told a lie about somebody else who was dead and dust hundreds of years ago. Nobody was the worse for that. Was a dirty bit of paper more important than all our lives and happiness? You broke him and killed him--all for nothing."

In these days when lies and half-truths are being published and promulgated everywhere and people who differ with the prevailing philosophy are attacked as intolerant, it might be a good idea to look at these issues again and see which barricades we are willing to die upon.

Sunday, April 18, 2021


One of my daughters told me that a way of focusing mindfully is to pay attention to what comes to you from each of the senses. I began with my walk along the horse trail near our house, and the first sense that attracted me was the sense of smell. I recognized the fragrance of honeysuckle, and stopped to smell the blossoms on the fence; I had never noticed that there was a honeysuckle vine there, but the perfume clued me into it quickly. Further along, there was an orange tree close enough to the trail that I could stop and smell the tiny white blossoms and inhale one of my favorite scents in the world.  

As I continued my walk, I noticed winged seeds on the ground, like the winged seed that played an important part in the movie Soul. In all the years of walking the horse trail, I have never seen those particular seeds. I wondered whether a new tree had been planted--although they were quite large and didn't look like the seeds from a sapling--or if the winds we've been experiencing recently had blown them from a greater distance.

My sense of taste has been delighted many mornings recently with an orange freshly picked from my tree when I have gone out to be sure that I inhale my own orange blossoms as long as they last. They have almost all dropped from the navel orange tree, but the Cara Cara is still covered with them, and the lemon tree has an abundance of almost pink blooms that are almost as sweet.

I discovered fluffy white cylinders of soft fibers that will become red cylindrical bottlebrush blooms later on, and I rubbed my fingers on the last of the yellow broom blooms that look like tiny koosh balls.  

Finally, when I had finished my walk and opened the window to practice my horn, and I played a minuet to a recording of my granddaughter playing the piano part, the male house finch who shares nest duties with his wife, sat and sang with me while I was playing. It was a melodious accompaniment and I look forward to the peeping of tiny house finches when the eggs are hatched.

Becoming aware of how many of my senses are engaged just in the course of one day has filled my heart with thankfulness for how many blessings are poured out over me. May I be alert to their presence in my life!

Sunday, April 11, 2021


Easter Wednesday is my favorite day, liturgically, of the entire year.  It is during the Octave of Easter and is filled with the joy of the Easter Season, and the two readings for the Mass of the day combine to make a special day.  

The first reading tells how Peter and John were going up to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem when they encountered a man over 40 years old who had been crippled from birth and was brought every day to beg at the Beautiful Gate.  He asked them for alms, and Peter looked intently at him and told him, "Look at us." The beggar paid attention to them, expecting to receive something. Peter, however, said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk."  When Peter took him by the hand and raised him up, his feet and ankles immediately grew strong. Then he "leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God."

The first year I became aware of this passage, I had filled in as lector at the last minute. I was myself in my forties, and I imagined what it would have been like to have been crippled my entire life and suddenly to have been healed. I was sure that I also would have been leaping and jumping and giving praise to God right there in the aisles of the church!

This was followed by the Gospel telling the story of the two disciples traveling on the road to Emmaus, discouraged and heartbroken after the death of Jesus, whom they had hoped was the Messiah. Now their dreams were shattered and their hope was gone and the rumors that some of their friends had seen Jesus alive were simply delusions; no one could come back from such a brutal death. Although traditionally this passage was interpreted as two of Jesus' male companions, Fr. Chuck Gallagher, the founder of World Wide Marriage Encounter, envisioned them as a married couple. Only one of them was named, and after I heard him discuss it, I could easily imagine a husband and wife talking over their disappointment as they walked away from Jerusalem. When a stranger approached and asked them what they were talking about, one of them asked if he were the only person who hadn't heard about what had happened to the prophet from Galilee. When he pointed to every passage from the prophets in Scripture that explained what had happened, the couple were so intrigued that they asked him to come in and stay with them since it was getting toward evening.  As they shared their meal, he took bread, blessed it and broke it, and vanished. In that moment they recognized who he was.  It was this passage that both my daughter Mary and my spiritual advisor had suggested I ponder throughout Lent, and as we approached the end of the Lenten season, I had written the missing poem that Mary had been asking for almost since she began helping me with my chapbook.


Trudging back home in despair

our hopes and dreams threadbare,

we’d thought he was the one

but then he was tortured and killed.

We plodded along, tears in my eyes,

disillusionment on your face,

our strength nearly gone.

A stranger approached, we slowed

and moved over to let him pass.

“What were you talking about?” he asked.

Irritation stung me. “Are you the only man

who doesn’t know what happened in the capital

three days ago? How the man who inspired

us was nailed to a cross and crucified?

We had thought he’d save us but he died.”

You added, “Some of our friends

claimed they’d gone to the tomb

and couldn’t find his body—maybe stolen

by enemies.  I don’t know.” 

Then he began to unroll the scrolls of prophets,

to illuminate verses from Torah to Malachi

revealing the suffering servant, the paschal lamb,

the leader to gather the nations, the great I AM.

We were spellbound. “Don’t leave us—

it’s evening, getting dark, come eat with us.”

He sat silent at table, then pronounced Berakah,

broke the bread and vanished.  Then we saw.

Weren’t our hearts on fire?

Weren’t we drawn within his flaming heart

before you took off on your journey through space

like Perseverance roving off for Mars?

Unlike the landing watched by the silent room 

of expectant, breathless engineers,

you’d no telemetry to transmit 

photos from your new universe

but with all my soul, I believe: you did land,

artisanal, received with love that glows

within the sparks lighting up your soul

blazing with the name he signed

and freeing you to shine.

Sunday, April 4, 2021


This week, I was driving half an hour to physical therapy for my shoulder, which had been bothering me for several months, after a fall. It's a drive I've made innumerable times since we moved to the San Diego area 37 years ago.  For some reason, as I drove along the divided parkway, dotted with trees covered in pink and purple blooms, I unexpectedly realized that I was happy.  I have had moments, hours, and days of happiness since my beloved husband died, but I can usually point to a reason--a member of my family or a friend is coming for a visit or I finished a big project that had been hanging over me for a long time.  My trip to France with my son in 2019 was a wellspring of happiness, both in the anticipation, in the actual experience, and in the delightful memories afterward.  But on this particular day, I was just going through the routine of things I needed to do on an ordinary day, and happiness burst upon me suddenly very much as my orange tree had gone from a couple of blossoms to a vast cloud of white with a fragrance that carried from the back of the house all the way to the front yard.

This happiness carried me through Holy Week, as I reflected on the many people whose friendship has sustained me in the years since my beloved husband died. I looked forward to being with my two oldest daughters and their families, as well as my son. I am very conscious of the fact that this year I can attend the Easter Vigil at my parish instead of being home alone and watching the Mass being live-streamed. In addition, I won a raffle run by the Knights of Columbus for reserved seats and parking spaces for the Easter Mass of my choice. Every other year for the past 12 years, I was playing French horn in our church choir and had my own chair.  But this year, I came to the Vigil, and found my seat, with a pot of tulips next to it and an Easter card from the parish staff saying that they were glad my name had been chosen.  My daughter and her family's reserved seats were just outside, since they haven't been vaccinated and felt safer sitting there.  All of us had front row seats for the blessing of the new fire and the Easter candle, and for the Baptisms and Confirmations of the catechumens and candidates, among whom were many children, with the little girls in their First Communion dresses and the little boys in small suits. By next year, I hope our choir will be back together in church, but we will then be sitting at the full length of the church from these special moments. This year, it was wonderful to be celebrating them together and being so close as lives were transformed and joy radiated from their faces. It was an Easter I will always treasure.

Sunday, March 28, 2021


When I was growing up, my mother would sometimes have me help her in our little garden. She was a farmer's daughter who couldn't wait to get off the farm, but we usually had a small garden where she raised a few vegetables. She also knew which of the "weeds" that grew in our neighborhood would cook up into greens--dock and dandelions are the two I primarily remember. She would cook them for hours and I always enjoyed them.  However, it was when I spent summers at my Grandmother's and uncles' farms that I really got a glimpse of gardening. My Aunt Jeanne had a huge garden filled with all kinds of vegetables. There is nothing quite like picking a ripe Missouri tomato from the vine, sitting on a swing, and eating it out of hand, with the red juice running down your fingers. My aunt would pay any of the nieces who happened to be about to help pick peas and then shell them. We'd sit together on the porch and listen to her stories as the peas rolled out of the pods and into the measuring cups.

After my family moved from Oklahoma to New Jersey, we seldom went back to visit my parents' relatives in Missouri. I was soon sucked into academics in high school and then college, and after I got married, my husband and I lived in Manhattan, so the closest I got to gardening was in a begonia I set in our windowsill looking out on Broadway.

When I got pregnant, we moved to an apartment in Hackensack, and the begonia came along with us. I added a few plants to our balcony, killed a bonsai that my boss gave me (unintentionally) and proved that I didn't have a green thumb.  

Then we bought a house in a town of 6,000 next door to where we had lived when we met in New Jersey years before. It was on half an acre, and I discovered how little I knew about gardening. There were green things coming up in the middle of the grass, and later, larger green things coming up in the flower beds.  I had to ask one of my neighbors what they were; she told me I had crocuses in the yard, and daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips coming up all over the flowerbeds.  The couple who owned the house before us must have planted 500 bulbs over the years they had owned the house, and I added several hundred more, so that from our first January thaw well into June, we had a symphony of color as well as fragrance, for in addition to the hyacinths, we had mock orange bushes and lilacs. I perused plant catalogues all winter and planted madly as soon as the plants arrived, in addition to all the bulbs I put in the beds in the fall.  I read gardening books and would dash outside the minute the baby was asleep. As she was an excellent sleeper, I put in hours of work in the yard every day, with her window open so I could hear when she woke up and started shouting "Mommay!" Looking back, those seem like idyllic times, though I was struggling with depression and didn't realize it until much later.  But when I was out in the sunshine life seemed happier and the dark clouds in my mind retreated. And even now, when planting my fourth tomato plant out in the garden, I realized that gardening is always a choice for hope--hope that the weather won't get too cold at night for the new tomato plants and hope that the 2" tall sugar snap pea seedlings will reward me with a delicious harvest before the weather gets too hot. The liquidambar trees are budding, and the plants that my gardener put in my flower beds this year when I decided to do a makeover are flourishing in many colors and shapes.  Spring is shaking out a many-colored patchwork quilt and my whole being is rejoicing.

Sunday, March 21, 2021


My daughter Mary and her daughter Bernadette were with me recently, and she commented that a friend was concerned that her child, who seems to be a melancholic, wouldn't know that she loved him.  Many in our family read The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett, as a means to understand ourselves, our spouses, and our children.  Mary has one son who is definitely a melancholic, and one of the things she has learned is that when he is in a melancholic mood, talking to him is useless.  But what she has learned is that a hug does wonders.  He is definitely a boy who loves hugs, and now that I have had my two Covid vaccinations, and they can come over, I can get my wonderful hugs from him again. 

Mary commented that while she didn't think of me as "motherly," she always knew that I loved her, just as she knew my husband loved her, although he was from a family that exchanged almost no hugs and kisses from the time that the children were about 10.  In my family of origin, on the other hand, we have continued hugging one another into adulthood. It was interesting that after my husband's brother died, the other five siblings all began hugging one another and saying "I love you." This became even more prevalent when my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. With my own children, who are all adults, I have continued to hug them, kiss them, and bless them, and I do the same with my grandchildren (except for the year just past when we had to be physically distanced due to Covid).

I also didn't think of myself as being very "motherly" when I was growing up.  I was the oldest and somewhat of a tomboy. I played football with my two younger brothers, romped in the woods behind our house, and was aggravated when my older boy cousins wouldn't let me tag along with them when I visited my grandmother's and uncles' farms as a kid.  Fortunately, my mother's youngest brother, who was also my godfather, took me under his wing and let me follow him around. I often slept on the screened-in porch at my grandmother's house with my clothes on a chair at the foot of my bed.  I would wake up when the back door slammed at 4 in the morning, throw on my clothes, and be out the door to go with him to milk the cows.  I loved the smell of the barn made up of cow, hay, and manure, the sound of the milk pinging into the bucket or squirting into the mouth of a waiting cat.  The happiest day of my life as a child was when I was about 10 and he asked if I wanted to go out in the combine with him.  I rode in the cab with him for a while, and then he asked if I'd like to ride in the back of the combine where the grain came down. Nothing could have seemed like a greater adventure.  He put me in the back and I rode about with the grain falling around me; the sky was hot and blue and I sang up and down the fields with my heart nearly bursting with happiness.  When the grain had gotten up to my neck, he came around and pulled me out and let me sit back in the cab with him, covered with dust and dirt.  (Just a side note--don't try this at home.  I found out much later that it was very dangerous, but in those days we didn't think of that, and it was as perfect a day as I ever had.) When we came in the back door, my grandmother looked at me and said she didn't know what my mother would think if she could see me!  

I think I had only one babysitting job when I was growing up, and I was so inept I had to call my mother to come and help me before the parents came back.  When I was in college, although I was looking forward to graduating and marrying the boy who became my husband, I was almost totally focused on academics, especially after one of my professors mentioned that if I kept my straight A average, I would be the first student to graduate from that college with a 4.0.  From that point on, I was determined to rise to the challenge, and I did, although when I received the medal from the Bishop for being at the top of my class, the medal read "Frist Honors."  Years later, the University contacted me and said it had come to their attention that the medal was engraved incorrectly and they would be glad to re-engrave it.  I replied that I wanted to keep it the way it was to remind me of the mistakes that all kinds of people could make.

I got engaged just before I graduated and moved to New York City so I could be closer to my fiance. We thought we should have a year to be able to see each other almost every day, rather than depending on student standby flights once or twice a year.  We were married the following May, and two years later had Elizabeth, our first child.  My husband was the oldest of six, so he was the one I turned to for advice, often calling him at the law firm to see what I should do when the baby was crying.  He used to tease me that my tag line should be from Gone with the Wind: "I don't know nothin' both birthin' babies!"

But what I discovered was that I learned quickly and had a mother tiger's instincts to protect my baby no matter what.  With each new child, I learned more--about how different they were, how endlessly fascinating, and how my heart seemed to expand with each one, and with each day.  The same thing has happened with each grandchild, and I'm sure it will happen when #23 arrives in May. Each child is a new adventure and each one takes me on a new path of learning.  I may not be what I thought of as a "perfect mother" when I was a child (my Aunt Cecilia, who had 11 children, came very close), but every mother is different, and as long as she loves her child, she is "motherly" in her own way.