Dear Kim,

Onward to the letter O!

Open — I like open spaces, open people, open doors. In yoga, it’s the classes where we focus on opening up — the shoulders, the chest, the hips — that I feel the tears come.

Opera — I went to my first opera this summer. My daughter Mary is working at the Glimmerglass Opera this summer as an apprentice in Front-of-House. Yes, we have a professional opera company not far from the small rural town where I live.

The Glimmerglass Opera Theater (aka Alice Busch Opera Theater)

Since Mary is there, I started taking a little more interest in the opera people who come into the gym for memberships. “What do you do at the opera?” I would ask as they sat across the desk from me completing the necessaries for membership. They would tell me. I would promptly forget.

One day, I was having just such a conversation when the man asked, “Do you enjoy the opera?”

“Um,” I said, “I’ve never gone. I don’t think it’s my cup of tea.”

“You should go,” he insisted. “Try The Sound of Music.” They do one musical theater production each summer in addition to the operas.

“I’ve seen The Sound of Music so many times,” I replied.

“But you’ve never seen it unmiked and with a full orchestra,” he said.


I asked Mary to get me a ticket to the show. I went and loved it.

A few days after my opera visit, I saw the guy at the gym who had talked me into it. “I went to The Sound of Music,” I told him. “I really enjoyed it!”

“What did you like about it?” he asked.

I told him I liked the orchestra. I told him that I thought the young woman who played Liesl was amazing. Then I told him how much I liked the dancing.

“Oh!” he said, bringing his hand up to his heart. “That’s what I do.”

I looked him up. He was, indeed, the chief choreographer.

And it turns out I may actually like opera. I now have tickets to two more shows.

Old — I was going to say that I don’t like growing old — the aches and pains of it — but I really LOVE the older people who come in the gym where I work. Recently, an 84 year old woman joined and she’s been trying all the different classes we offer. “I don’t want to do those old people classes,” she said to me, so she signs up for Spin or Zumba Dance. More than once, I’ve seen her watching people climb the high wall. “I don’t think I’m quite ready for that,” she said the other day, “but maybe next year.” When I’m 84, I want to be like her.

There are so many other O’s that I like: the ocean, orchids, being outdoors, and October, to name a few.

I don’t like overbearing, overly-opinionated, offensive oafs. Enough said.

Thanks always for your encouragement.


M and N

Dear Kim,

Thank you so much for your text the other morning. I know that I haven’t responded, but you have no idea how much I need to hear from people like you. People who love me — warts and all.

I really want to try to finish the alphabet thing I started. As much as I WANT to write, writing just doesn’t seem to come. Maybe, I thought, if I write it in a letter to you — a long overdue letter — I’ll actually be able to put some words to the page.

So, here we go —


I like Magical places. A few weeks ago, Mary and I got permission to explore the grounds of an old estate house that had been razed decades ago. As we walked around, Mary kept saying, “This is magic. This place is magical.”

Here are a few pictures from that day:

Hmm…what’s sealed up behind that cement?
A well-cap? Or a secret tunnel?
A sundial! Bricked into the earth — but it no longer gets full sun!

I don’t like mean girls. See, I thought Mean Girls was a movie based on my life in high school back in the mid-seventies. It turns out Mean Girls still exist today. And I work with some.

It’s disheartening to know that some women never outgrow the manipulative back-stabbing ugly behavior of their teenage years. However, I decided last weekend that these are the women who will help me grow into a better me. Every morning I thank God that they are part of my life.

Today I worked with one of them and the only thing she said to me all day was “Where’s the stapler?”

I smile when I think about it. How silly we can be!


Okay — N is hard. I was going to say that I like the New Moon because I took this picture when I got to work the other morning. The moon was so crisp and so pointy — all I could think was that it would hurt if I stepped on it. My photo does not do it justice. Plus it was a waning crescent, not a waxing crescent.

the moon

I like Neatness — to a point. I also like a certain amount of mess. I’m not sure why that is.

I like my Neighbors. My brother lives right next door! He’s a good neighbor. I know he’s always willing to help — and he calls to check up on me, which is nice. I also like his neighbor, the one on the other side. I see her at the gym often and she is a delight. I like our neighbor in Greene. She still helps with our lawn care. I liked our neighbors on Brooklyn Ave. I still see one of them at church every week. I liked our neighbors in Cheyenne. I guess we’ve been pretty fortunate in the neighbor department.

I don’t like the News. It is depressing. And yet I read it — multiple times a day. What is wrong with me??!?

SInce I wanted to end in the 500 word range, I’ll end now. Next time I’ll go for O and P. Maybe even Q if I can be succinct. It’s not really my strength, but I can always try.

Thanks again for messaging me.

Love you so much.



Last week, after a brief amble in the park where my son works I fell asleep on a blanket in the grass. I woke up to this:

The blue skies, the lake, the grass, the daisy just beyond the edge of the blanket.

This week’s SoCS (Stream of Consciousness Saturday) prompt is “amble”, or a word that ends with “–amble”.

One of the first things that came to mind was “preamble” and what a silly word that is if you consider what amble means. An amble is a leisurely walk, but a preamble is not what happens before a leisurely walk. A preamble is an introduction — like the Preamble to the Constitution: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…” then something about domestic tranquility, common defense and blessings of liberty. Whatever all it says — and my memory is weak here — the preamble is not leisurely. It’s the gritty laying of groundwork for a legal document. What follows the preamble isn’t an amble either. It’s bedrock.

But I love language and that’s my “L” in this pitifully late A-to-Z Challenge.

There are so many avenues to explore in languages. Etymology of words, exceptions to rules, idioms.

You probably already know all of the these, but I’ll throw them in here anyway — If the plural of goose is geese, why isn’t the plural of moose meese? By the same token, mouse becomes mice, louse becomes lice, but house never become hice. Right?

And weird is just a weird word because the i comes before the e and there’s no c involved.

My husband used to work with a woman from Germany. Her husband called her once when she was running late at work and told her that she needed to pick up the pizza for their dinner and step on it. She turned to Bud asked, “Why does he want me to step on the pizza?”

Laurel has been saying the word “Schnikes” for a while. “Is that a real word?” I asked her.

“I think so,” she said, and looked it up. It sounds Yiddish to me, but it came from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Aren’t words fun? Isn’t language fun?

When I was about two years old, we lived in Ethiopia and our housekeeper taught me to count to ten in Italian. When I was in high school, I took French and Latin. When I was in college, I took Latin, Greek, and Italian. A few years after college I took American Sign Language through a community college. Before I went to Croatia and Bosnia, I downloaded an app to learn some Croatian. (We actually got free admission to a museum after I attempted to ask for our tickets in Croatian.)

Now I’m learning Scottish Gaelic. In early May, I hit the 700 consecutive days milestone.

I may not be able to say amble in Gaelic, but I can tell you that I’m walking — Tha mi a’ coiseachd.

I love languages. I love learning. Two good L’s, eh? (<— that’s my Canadian.)

What don’t I like that begins with L? Hmm…. how about liver and onions? My mom used to make it. Not my favorite.

How about you? What do you like that begins with L? What’s something you don’t like?


Back at the beginning of June I had this brilliant idea to encourage myself to write — I would do my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month, choosing things I like and don’t like that begin with the letter of the day. Pshaw. Looky here. June is almost over and I’m only up to K. Still I will forge ahead with the goal of completing this before 2022 ends. Today I will tackle K.

I’m also using Linda Hill’s Stream Consciousness writing challenge to further encourage me and to get the job done. This week’s challenge is “product/produce.” She says, “Use one, use them both, use them any way you’d like. Bonus points if you use both. Have fun!”

K was a tough letter for me. I can think of a thousand things that I like that begin with the letter K — my son, Karl, being at the top of the list. I also like kayaks and kangaroos, kids, kindred spirits, and kookaburras. I could go on.

However, because I recently started delving into Kierkegaard, I’m going to use him as my like.

Soren Kierkegaard is fascinating. Utterly fascinating. He’s way over my head, but I feel like a beginner swimmer (I used to teach them) who delights each small success. I put my face in the water! I floated! I’m a long way from actually swimming, but when a tiny bit of understanding lights up my dense gray matter, I am thrilled.

At first, I dug in by trying to read one of his books. I was like a newborn baby trying to eat a steak. It didn’t go very well. So I started listening to podcasts discussing him. I started reading about him.

Since this is stream of consciousness, please forgive me if I don’t get this exactly right — but I heard this Kierkegaard quote, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” And whoever the podcaster was talked about anxiety being that staring into the abyss of too many choices. Whew! Yes!

Another podcaster (or maybe the same one) talked about Kierkegaard’s idea of losing yourself in the infinite — that dizziness of freedom — but also losing yourself in the finite — where you aren’t allowed to be yourself because you’re so busy conforming to prescribed ideas of who others think you should be.

It’s heady, mind-boggling, and I’m loving it.

(Non-Stream-of-Consciousness warning. I wrote this post just writing — true stream of consciousness — but I have a thousand and one misgivings about delving into controversial topics. Please feel free to stop reading here. I won’t be offended. And if abortion is a hot button topic, by all means stop reading. I’m not trying to push anybody’s buttons.)

What don’t I like that begins with K? This was hard. Even things that didn’t make my “like” list — for example, kebabs — didn’t make my dislike list either — I’m kind of neutral on kebabs.

However, yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on abortion left me with so many mixed feelings. Please bear with me as I sort them.

I don’t like killing — that’s my K. I don’t like war. I don’t like murder. I don’t like the death penalty. I don’t like abortion.

However, abortion is such a complicated issue. When we reduce it to slogans on t-shirts or on protest signs, we miss that fact.

I know people who have had abortions. A high school friend. One of my freshman college roommates. Another woman who got pregnant in college. The wife of a Bible study leader. Yep — you read that one correctly. She was a diabetic and her kidneys started shutting down. Her husband said, “We can find another way to have a baby, but I can’t get another (fill in the wife’s name).”

I know people who have chosen to carry the baby despite adverse circumstances. The woman who cuts my hair. The daughter of some missionaries.

I know people who have adopted babies carried by unwed mothers.

In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller talks about listening to other people’s stories instead of judging. It’s been years since I read that book, but I remember a part where he set up a confession booth, not to hear other people’s confessions, but to confess his own judgmental-ness.

We’re too programmed with our knee-jerk reactions. I’m too programmed with my own knee-jerk reactions.

I hate killing. I don’t like abortion. But, then, there aren’t too many people who seriously like abortion. The issue is just so much more complicated than that.

If you are 110% pro-life, you need to sit at a table opposite someone who has made that awful decision and listen to their story of their hows and whys. If you are 110% pro-choice, you need to sit at a table opposite someone who has lived with the regret of that decision, or who was forced into that decision by some well-meaning person, and you need to go watch an ultrasound of a 10 week old fetus moving and see its tiny heart beating.

It’s complicated.

I realize that I have not used produce or product once in this post. But, hey, I produced a post! There!

How about you? What’s something you like that begins with K? What’s something you don’t like?

Jasmine, Lavender, Jobs, and Junk

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. I’ve fallen behind but haven’t given up! If you want to join me, just add a comment naming something you like and something you don’t like that begin with the letter J.

Also, I know this is Sunday night, but I’m going to try to incorporate Linda Hill’s (actually, this week Dan Antion’s) Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday which was “cent/scent/sent.

Stream of Consciousness writing is supposed to be no editing and minimal planning. Trust me — I have not planned this. Life has been too busy.

“I should be able to crank this out,” I said to Mary as I headed in my room to write.

“You can do it,” she said — always my best cheerleader.

“It’ll be crap, but it will be done,” I said.

I forget what she said next.

Stream of Consciousness —- blah — I can’t even remember what was said to me five minutes ago.

Jasmine is a scent that begins with J. Do I like it? Do I not like it? I don’t know. I’m not sure I would recognize jasmine.

I like lavender. Does that count for anything? My friend Leah once sent me a bunch of lavender scented stuff. Here’s the problem, though. Lavender begins with L, not J.

I like my job, and that begins with J. The other day, the cash drawer was off by a cent — a single penny. Problems like that are so easy to solve. We have a little stash of coins to fix those problems.

I like the bigger problems too — figuring out to help members, guests, and even other staff. One of my co-workers is a “not my job” kind of person and I feel like she misses out on so much because of that attitude.

I don’t like junk. I bought a cheap lavender scented candle at TJ Maxx because I like lavender (see above). It was junk. I could hardly smell the scent.

I hate the junk mail that is sent to me.

I have spent waaaay too many cents on junk and thus learned the hard way that it’s better to buy quality.

Sorry for the crap post — but it’s done. And I used ALL the words so I should get lots of bonus point.

How about you? What’s something you like that begins with J? What’s something you don’t like?

Neither Jasmine nor Lavender scented. Hot toddy, I think.

Isaiah and Incompetence

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. I’ve fallen behind but haven’t given up! If you want to join me, just add a comment naming something you like and something you don’t like that begin with the letter I.

My favorite book in the Old Testament is Isaiah.

It was maybe 10 years ago when I started memorizing chapters from Isaiah. Whole chapters. I started with Isaiah 43, then did chapter 6, then 50, 51, 52… all the way up to 63. A few years ago, my memory cache was full — over-full, in fact, because when I look back at those last chapters that I “memorized”, I remember very little of them.

I can, however, say this with some level of confidence. Memorizing chapters straight through — and thereby memorizing verses that didn’t initially “speak” to me — was a life-changing experience. My view on many issues did an about-face. I can’t point to a single verse that led me there — I only know I got there, and I credit Isaiah’s words with speaking deeply to my soul — Love people. Love them where they are.

Part of my memorization process was writing the chapters out over and over, and sometimes I would write them in my own words. I published a post in 2015 of a paraphrase of Isaiah 56. Looking back at it, I see how Isaiah was shaping me.

Initially, I was going to use incompetence for my “I” dislike. Let’s just say I am frustrated at work.

“Are you sure you want to write about that?” one of my daughters asked. “It might be kind of pointed.”

Ahh — she was right. I would be venting — via blog — about mistakes someone else made and that doesn’t profit anything.

The Peter Principle is that people are promoted to the level of their incompetence. The Dilbert Principle is that incompetent people are promoted to get them out of the workflow. Either way, the result is incompetent people at high levels in organizations.

One day, as I was grumbling in my heart about incompetent people in management positions, I caught a glimpse of someone’s insecurity — and I can honestly say that my grumbling heart was flooded with compassion. It washed away my resentments.

How awful it must feel to realize that you are in over your head!

How terrible to look back at a job you were really good at — and that you aren’t doing any more — with longing while you’re stuck in an office trying to do a job that requires skills you don’t have!

And here’s the real rub — everyone resents you. Everyone complains about you. You’re alone in your little office struggling, and you can’t admit that you can’t do the job because that would be failure. That would be a losing face, losing respect from other people. You used to receive accolades for a job well-done. Now it’s the opposite.

Insecurity raises its ugly head — and you begin to lash out.

I don’t like incompetence, but I think I dislike even more the insecurity that comes out of it.

Scottish Gaelic:
Is toil leam Isaiah. I like Isaiah.
Cha toil leam mì-thèarainteachd agus an dòigh anns a bheil e a’ toirt air daoine a dhol an sàs. I don’t like insecurity and the way it makes people act.

How about you? What’s something you like that begins with I? What’s something you don’t like?


This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. I’ve fallen behind but haven’t given up! If you want to join me, just add a comment naming something you like and something you don’t like that begin with the letter H.

Also, trying to do Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday (late for this also). Here’s the prompt: Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “a picture from wherever.” When you sit down to write your post, find a picture, whether in a magazine, newspaper, or even product packaging. Write whatever thought or emotion the picture provokes. 

I’m such a rule-breaker. I didn’t find a picture in a magazine, newspaper, or wherever. My first thought, probably because of writing about my roots yesterday, was this picture of the house where I grew up.

circa 1967, hand-tinted by my sister

I found the photo, not where I thought it would be but close. I showed it to my daughter, Mary.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“It’s this house,” she said. Clearly she didn’t hold the deep affection for it that I have.

“But look — there’s the front porch! And the side porch,” I pointed out. “They’re both gone now.”

“There’s still sort of a side porch,” she said.

And she’s right. The side porch in the photo is gone and has been replaced with a room we call the sun porch. I can still remember the year we went to the state fair and my mother dragged my father over to the display of modular-type rooms that could be added to the house. The next year, the side porch was torn down and the sun porch was installed.

The front porch has been long gone. I still remember the hammock that had been hung there and my father telling us ghost stories out there on summer nights.

The house faces west and my parents used to always go sit on the front porch after dinner with coffee (instant — yuck!) and watch the sun sink over Grasslands hill.

I love the house. It holds so many happy memories for me.

Here’s a photo of a house I drive by when I’m going to Syracuse. It’s on a back road, and I’ve watched its slow demise. When I saw that it had fallen, I stopped to take a picture.

When I would drive past it with Mary, she would often say, “I would love to explore that house.”

There’s something intriguing about abandoned houses.

I took the picture to send to Mary. A missed opportunity to explore.

I don’t know that I like abandoned houses. I certainly don’t like the wreckage of a house. It’s sad. I can’t help but wonder who holds the memories of the happy times that may have happened in that house.

Scottish Gaelic:
Is toil leam dachaigh mo leanabachd. I like my childhood home.
Cha toil leam long-bhriseadh taighe. I don’t like the wreckage of a house.

How about you? What’s something you like that begins with H? What’s something you don’t like?

Greene, Green, Don’t Hug Me

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. I’ve fallen behind but haven’t given up! If you want to join me, just add a comment naming something you like and something you don’t like that begin with the letter G.

In 2006, we moved from Cooperstown to Greene, NY. It was a miscalculation on my part of how deep my roots were in Cooperstown. I was like a plant uprooted that failed to thrive in its new location. Nine years later, I uprooted again and came back to Cooperstown. I don’t know how other people do it — all this moving from place to place. I definitely have roots and they are in one particular soil.

But Greene — Greene was a great place to live. Still upstate New York. Still small town. Still surrounded by farmland and wooded areas. Warm, friendly people. A great library. A charming main street (called Genesee Street, not Main). Safe. Walkable.

The economy in Cooperstown depends largely on two things: tourism and medicine. The economy in Greene depends largely on a forklift factory. I’m not kidding.

The Raymond factory is right next to the high school and it’s one of the largest employers in the area. Raymond is generous to the community, too. Kids from the high school who are interested in engineering have opportunity to be part of a program where they can test it out there. The largest scholarships from the school are named for members of the Raymond family. It’s a good relationship.

I like Greene. I liked our house there — which we still own (and need to sell). We call it the Greene house, even though it’s yellow.

The Greene House — March 2015

I liked our neighbors. I liked our church a lot! I loved walking the streets and the familiarity that grew from that. I loved the way the community would come together for events like their July craft show, Labor Day picnic, and Applefest. In December, they hold an official Christmas tree lighting and sing Christmas carols together.

So I like the village of Greene — I really do! It just never became home.

The color green is also one of my favorites. In my mish-mash of different pens within easy reach, I have ten green ones! It’s a happy color, a hopeful color, a sign of life and growth.

Our family used to vacation in Myrtle Beach every April. We would leave New York and its dirty snow and mushy grayness, and watch a progression of green as we drove south. South Carolina would be in full bloom and it was wonderful.

Driving home again was a regression, like watching a nature film in reverse, where the budded trees become sticks and the grass disappeared.

It never failed that it would be snowing when we entered Otsego County.

So green is good.

However, “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” partially ruined green for me.

Whereas Andrew Peterson sings about green being “the color of hope” (Hosea) and about God leading him by the hand into a land of green and gold (After All These Years), “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” starts off hopeful, talking about creativity, and then veers off into bizarre creepiness. The shift begins with the words, “green is not a creative color.”

I’ve only watched it about 137 times, which tells you the love-hate relationship I have with it. It’s so funny — in an awful way.

If you’ve never watched it, here it is. Watch it if you dare, but don’t blame me if you never see the color green in the same way again.

Scottish Gaelic:
Is toil leam Greene agus an dath uaine. I like Greene and the color green.
Chan eil mi cinnteach an toil leam “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.” I’m not sure I like “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.”

How about you? What do you like that begins with G? What do you dislike? And what’s your honest opinion of “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared”?

Family Feud

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. If you want to join me, just add a comment naming something you like and something you don’t like that begin with the letter F.

I love my family. I may have already mentioned that half a zillion times.

I like them.

I love them.

I think they’re amazing.

I’m proud of them.

I love spending time with them.

Since the wedding, a number of people have stopped at the front desk and asked to see photographs. I have a few on my phone, but my favorite one is this:

Those are all my children! Aren’t they wonderful?!

I was showing this photo to a woman who comes in to swim every day and she called her husband over to see it. “Look!” she said, “These are all Sally’s children!”

He shook his head. “I can’t believe it. Eight of them!”

“Look at this photo,” she said again. “That’s a great family!”

He looked at me and shook his head again. “I just can’t wrap my mind around it. You gave birth to all those children?”

I smiled and nodded. “Having those kids was the most fun thing ever,” I said. Then added — “well, maybe not the giving-birth part, but raising eight children was fun. We played games together, read together, ate together nearly every night. It was a lot of work, but it was all good.”

He just shook his head a third time. “I don’t know,” he said.

But I do. I KNOW every minute was worth it.

Lest you think that every minute was perfect, let me assure it was not.

There was one time that two boys were playing medieval times and one almost jousted the other’s eye out.

And there was the time when one boy almost removed another one’s ear in a freak accident. (Same two boys incidentally.)

There was the time I came home of a shopping trip to find a little boy scooching along a thin bit of roof to get BACK to the open window he had come out of.

Oh — and that time we came home from a dinner out to find a boy with a broken arm.

We’ve had stitches and a knocked out tooth. Also, chicken pox, ear infections, strep throat, and stomach bugs upon stomach bugs. One round of stomach bugs was just after I had come home from the hospital with a new baby. Fun times.

At the end of the day we are family.

And yet we also feud. The middle child in me wants us all to get along. If I homeschooled my children with purpose, though, it was that they be able the think for themselves.

And they do.

Because of that, they cover not a linear spectrum, but a three-dimensional one. They are eight unique points in a universe, not lined up in a row at all, but all over the map. Some are very conservative, while others are very liberal. Some attend church every Sunday, while others search and question all of that. Some own guns. Some hate guns. Some hunt. Some are vegetarian. I could go on.

We gathered for a family wedding back in May. We laughed together, ate together, and celebrated together. We were family, not feud — and I really liked that.

Scottish Gaelic:
Tha gaol agam air mo theaghlach. I love my family.
Cha toil leam sabaid. I do not like fighting.

How about you? What do you like that begins with F? What do you dislike?

Exercise and Ego

This is my own A-to-Z Challenge for the month of June — likes and dislikes. If you want to join me, just add a comment naming something you like and something you don’t like that begin with the letter E.

It’s a good thing I work at a gym. I love exercise.

I think it has to do with endorphins, another “e” word. Over the course of a good workout, your body releases neurotransmitters called endorphins. They reduce pain and improve mood.

So many people come into the gym grumpy and leave laughing. I’ve learned to send people to their workout before we talk business at the front desk, especially if they seem irritable.

They sometimes come in asking about their bill. “Go work out,” I’ll say. “I’ll pull your file and take a look. Then when you’re done, we can figure it out together.”

It’s pretty amazing what a spin class or yoga class will do for the affect. (Psychology definition for affect: an experience of feeling or emotion, mood)

Kinds of exercise I like: walking, swimming, climbing. Mostly I walk these days, though. I still don’t trust my shoulder.

Scottish Gaelic: Is toil leam eacarsaich. (I like exercise)

I don’t like big egos. We see those at the gym too.

Some guys come in so full of themselves that I’m amazed they fit through the door.

Blech. I don’t even want to give them the time of day.

But I work at the front desk, and, if they asked, I suppose I would.

Scottish Gaelic: Cha toil leam egos mòra, (I don’t like big egos.)

I almost wrote this about envelopes. My daughter spent last week making envelopes out of pretty papers. I really like her envelopes.

Here are just a few:

How about you? What do you like that begins with E? What do you dislike?