June 8, 2015

'Tis the season

June is the season for new life on our little curve of a street. We've been sure for several days that birds were nesting in the holly tree outside our kitchen window. For nearly a month I've seen cardinals flying in and out of the prickly leaved branches, chattering away. I was positive there was a nest in there somewhere but couldn't see it. Peter spotted it near the top of the tree the other day, the same time he saw a sparrow nest lower in the holly branches.

 Farther out in our backyard, a cowbird family has nested in a dogwood tree, but the nest is nearly invisible. Only a birdwatcher like my husband can see it.

 A few yards down the garden, a wren house has its usual spring occupants. 

And last Saturday, just before dawn a baby boy was born next door. Babies and new life abound on McGee this June! All welcome signs of hope in the future and the bonds of family love.

May 25, 2015

By one of those wonderful coincidences that make life so interesting, the book CONSCIENCE arrived in my mailbox today--Memorial Day--the day we set aside to commemorate and honor those who fought in the wars our country has waged over the years. (It's also a legal holiday and there was no mail delivery--except for this book.)

Written by Louisa Thomas, the book explores her great-grandfather's life and the beliefs that impacted his decisions over the years. Norman Thomas and his three brothers were raised in a religious home, but they each followed a path formed by his own conscience. At the beginning of World War I, Norman was a Presbyterian minister, but by the end of that terrible war, he had become a pacifist. One of his brothers was sentenced to prison for life because he was a conscientious objector. The other two brothers joined the military and served in that "war to end all wars."

Norman Thomas' book,THE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR IN AMERICA, begins with this dedication:
"To the brave who went for conscience' sake to trench or prison." Although the four Thomas brothers often disagreed, they apparently came to respect one another's choices.

I've just begun reading CONSCIENCE, but already I feel a connection. the family in my book CALLAHAN CROSSROADS is divided over the right way to respond to Woodrow Wilson's call to serve in the war. The twelve-year-old narrator George begins to realize that things are not always black and white and that each person has to make an individual choice, according to what he or she thinks and believes.

I'm glad Louisa Thomas' book arrived on Memorial Day. Just the first few pages offer insights into conscience--how it's formed, how it changes and how it impacts our lives. It promises to be a thoughtful read.

February 20, 2015


We Americans often say that people from foreign countries emigrate to the US in order to find a "better life." I'm sure that's true. Today and throughout our country's brief history, others have sought our shores to escape poverty, prejudice, and lately, terrorism and its effects. They've come seeking freedom and all that word implies.

But in the past two weeks, I've had occasion to look at immigration in another light. First, a woman from South Vietnam cut and styled my hair. She was outgoing and pleasant and did a good job on my hair, giving me just the cut I'd asked for.

A few days later I went to a lab for a routine test. At this time of year, the usual opening conversation is about the weather, which in the Midwest jumps from frigid to warm in a matter of a day. When I called this "yo-yo" weather, the technician looked puzzled. I demonstrated how the toy works, going up and down, and she smiled. "I remember this from my physics course." We began talking about idioms and how they take one deeper into the cultural aspects of language. She asked if I'd read The Kite Runner (I had read that wonderful novel.) and told me she was from the same ethnic group as the main character.

During the following week, I went with my husband to visit his cardiologist, a quietly confident, friendly man from India. His nurse, calm and pleasant, was from Laos. They both answered questions and offered reassurance as we talked.

So, in the course of several days, a beautician from South Vietnam, a technician from Afghanistan, a physcian from India and his nurse from Laos all offered me kindness, professionalism, courtesy and provided me with a variety of services.

I'm trusting that their lives are better than in the country they came from. I know for sure that my life was made better because they're here!

August 16, 2014


I last posted here in June and wrote about my tendency to have incredibly clever ideas for writing while I was planting and weeding in my backyard garden. I lamented that as soon as I stepped inside, those ideas vanished before I could sit down at my laptop or even make a quick note on paper. Summer's drawing to a close and now I'm reaping tomatoes and argula and and summer squash and kale--and, of course, still weeding.

Tomatoes, fresh from my garden. 

I'm also reaping ideas while gardening, but they seem to be more remembrances than the creation of something new. I've just finished a massive revision of THE PRIVATE WARS OF G. P. CALLAHAN and so am on a writing furlough for the moment. My gardening thoughts have turned to memories of friends and loved ones. People dear to me, important to me, some of whom I haven't called or emailed for too long a time.

My garden thoughts fly away.

While pulling weeds, I remember the past and make a promise to myself that I'll drop an old friend a line, or email a sister-in-law, or give an elderly friend from church a call. But, like my writing ideas, those promises seem to fly away before I step inside my home.

Why does this happen? I'm not sure. Could be that the duties of my "inside" life crowd away any thoughts I had in the sunshine. Could be that my attention span is way too short. Or maybe my brain can't handle more than one thought at
a time. Surely it's not because I'm growing old!

I once told a friend that, although I hadn't called for a while, I often thought of her. She assured me that she believes that whenever we think of someone, it's a blessing for that person. It's as if we're offering a prayer for her, even though she may never know it. I find that comforting. This summer I've prayed for lots of people! Amen.

June 9, 2014


I wish could store ideas in this fanciful hat until I get to the computer.
I'm appalled to see how long it's been since I've posted anything here. It's not because I haven't composed any blogs. It's just that I seem to come up with ideas and their development while I'm digging or weeding or planting something in the garden. I'm full of meaningful thoughts and clever ways to embellish them when I'm outdoors, but they all seem to elude me once I'm inside, where phone calls and bills and unfinished manuscripts take me away from my garden thoughts.

It's as if my mind opens up when I'm down in the dirt. Ideas are planted and nourished. A blog thought blossoms into unbelievable beauty and depth. I smile as I weed, picturing readers who will be amazed at my clever turn of phrase or unusual take on a news item.

Then the wind of life blows across my garden plot and pulls me inside. All those ideas scatter like seeds not planted deeply enough and I can't retrieve them. Sigh!

Well, at least today I've managed to sit down and blog about not blogging. There are parallels I could draw here to the writing process, but I'll think about that tomorrow.