3 C’s: Clutter, Cosmopolitan, and Chocolate

January 12, 2022

Dear Kim,

Today is One-Liner Wednesday and the prompt is clutter.

I find great comfort in clutter.



My cluttered desk in Greene (2011) The clutter has moved with me to Cooperstown.

January 11, 2022

Dear Kim,

I had to look up the definition of the word cosmopolitan today. It’s the word prompt for the day, and cosmopolitan is one of those words that people use — quite honestly, I don’t think I ever have — but I’m not 100% sure of the meaning.

For the record, dictionary.com says that cosmopolitan means “free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudices, or attachments; at home all over the world.” It wasn’t quite what I expected.

Also for the record, I think I am NOT cosmopolitan. I’m quite provincial (dictionary.com definition: “belonging or peculiar to some particular province; local”). I have such deep roots here in upstate New York that I think if someone tried to uproot me, I would shrivel up and die.

That’s about all I’ve got for you today.



January 10, 2022

Dear Kim,

I looked up the benefits of chocolate today.

According to wizardingworld.com, “Chocolate is the perfect antidote for anyone who has been overcome in the presence of Dementors, which suck hope and happiness out of their surroundings.”

Please send chocolate.



p.s. You don’t really have to send chocolate. In fact, please don’t. I want to be a reasonable size for Helen’s wedding.

And dementors aren’t real.

But there are plenty of real things which suck hope and happiness out of their surroundings.


Dear Kim,

I know that somewhere I started a post about unicorns years ago, but I’ve searched and searched and can’t find it. This is what happens when you have a troll and you delete blog posts and whole blogs and then try to reinstate them and also start new ones under fake names etc etc etc.

I have no idea where that post went. [sigh]

And today I am so uninspired.

Insomnia last night and no coyotes to soothe me.

But unicorns are awesome and magical and can’t be explained away by physics the way my tensegrity table can.

I choose magic and wonder and coyotes any day.

Or night.

Sleep well, my friend.

Thanks for being you — as unique and magical as any unicorn.



my Christmas present from Sam

In the Middle of the Night

Dear Kim,

In the middle of the night
I sometimes wake up
No, no — I mean
I often wake up.

I hear the coyotes howling
And lately I’ve heard an owl

But that’s not what wakes me up

It’s the thousand thoughts
Racing through my mind
Of this and that
And nothing particular
And everything all at once

The thoughts scurry around
Like the mice I hear in the walls
Not as much since we got the cats

The mice, I mean
Not the niggling thoughts

But just like the cats keep the mice
At bay
I think the coyote howls chase the thoughts

There’s a strange comfort
In those howls

You’ve struggled with insomnia
And I know you pray your way through it

I need to work on that.



Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS) means no editing and little planning. You get what you get here.

I also tried my hand at Six Word Saturday which requires a six word title.


Dear Kim,

Speaking of Brian Doyle (again), have you ever read any of his work? He’s from Oregon! Maybe you were the one who sent me the copy of A Book of Uncommon Prayer that I found when I was cleaning our family room in preparation for Christmas. I’m pretty sure someone sent it to me but I can’t remember who. Was it you?

Today’s prompt is tempest.

I’m reading Brian Doyle’s book, The Plover, and it is SO GOOD. I’m only about a third of the way through, but, one scene early on has the main character in the midst of a terrible storm trying to shout survival strategies to a friend on his boat.

We can’t run away fast enough. The only thing to do is face into it. If we try to run we’ll get pitchpoled for sure. The chute holds us facing into it. If we go sideways we sink. If we get rolled we sink. This is a serious bitch and we basically have to endure it. The boat will float if we stay facing the storm.

Brian Doyle, The Plover

I love that — facing life’s storm instead of running. “The boat will float if we stay facing the storm.” Also, Sally will float if she stays facing the storm. Kim will float if she stays facing the storm.

All this tempest stuff is wearying. But there’s also a calm that follows — a time of drying out and making repairs, of deciding what’s salvageable and what isn’t, of rest, of looking ahead.

You might like The Plover, if you hadn’t read it yet.

You might also like A Book of Uncommon Prayer — which may be a kind of silly statement if you’re the person who gave it to me. In that case, it is an amazing book — so up my alley — thank you!

I hope this letter finds you in a calm. But if you’re in a storm, face into it. I’ll be doing the same.




Dear Kim,

When I was trying to choose a word for 2022, I confess that anticipation didn’t make the list. It’s cousin, expectancy, did. (For the record, I ended up choosing aware and I’ll explain it another time.)

Anticipation (today’s prompt word) walks a little too closely with anxiety. To anticipate what’s coming next may feel thrilling, but it may also shift into dread.

I nixed expectancy for similar reasons. Expectancy sounded too much like expectation — and you and I both know that expectations from others can feel like a heavy thumb pressing down on us.

But, you know, I have been an expectant mother nine times over (if you count my one miscarriage) and that kind of expectancy is pretty wonderful. Each time, though, I remember in the early days holding the secret close and not telling anyone because I needed to get used to the idea of my life changing — again. I’ve loved being a mom. I truly have.

About that miscarriage, he or she would have been child #2. I hadn’t even told my husband about the positive pregnancy test. He was going away to a class and was going to be gone for a week or more. I wanted to think of a special way to break the news. I remember spending that short period of time whispering secrets to the little person inside me, with my hand on my abdomen, while I lay in bed at night alone. My first son was sleeping in the next room and he had already been such a joy.

Anyway, the night before Bud was to come home, I started bleeding. This was back before cell phones and I think he was already at the airport for his first flight. I had no way to reach him. I called my closest friend and she came to take care of my son while I went to the hospital.

I was alone when they did the ultrasound and then the laparoscopy. I was alone when they gave me the news — an ectopic pregnancy. Honestly, it was probably one of the loneliest times in my life.

But I had a son who needed me and a husband, home again, who had picked up a virus somewhere in his travels and wasn’t feeling well.

You know how we women do it. We get up and we start the next day and the next day and the next day. We make breakfast and do laundry. We change diapers and go to the grocery store. We press on — because what is the alternative?

I think back then was when I first chose to live in hope. Hope is also a cousin to anticipation and expectancy. They’re all good words. It’s that looking ahead that keeps me going.

Why does God allow us to go through awful things? I don’t know except that our experiences in the hard places build compassion and hope — and for that I am grateful.

Sorry for such a heavy letter.



the sign I painted and put on our barn

Brian Doyle

Dear Kim,

In the spirit of Brian Doyle, I’m writing one long run-on sentence for you because the prompt is One-Liner Wednesday and Brian Doyle wrote masterful lengthy run-on sentences which I have enjoyed so much that I decided to read as many Brian Doyle books in 2022 as I can, focusing on Brian Doyle, the Catholic American writer (even though I’m not a Catholic), not Brian Doyle, the Canadian children’s book writer, although in my ordering frenzy I did end up with one of his books and I’ve always liked children’s books so I may read it too.



My current collection of Brian Doyle books


Dear Kim,

Yesterday at work, a little boy wandered in front of the desk and finally stopped to ask if he could borrow a pencil.

(Months ago I brought in a small stash of Blackwing pencils which are the greatest pencils ever made and I wanted to have them on hand for moments like this. “Where did these cool pencils come from?” some of my co-workers asked, but I’ve never fessed up.)

“I have to write a sentence using the word ‘pact’,” the boy told me.

“Pat?” I asked. I had trouble hearing him.

“Pact,” he replied.

“Like you packed your bag?” I asked.

“No. Pact. P-A-C-T,” he said. “It means agreement.”

“What grade are you in?” I asked.

“Third,” he replied, and hurried off to write his sentence.

I turned to my co-worker. “That’s not a 3rd-grade word. I didn’t learn that word until I don’t know when.”

She laughed at my irritation.

When he brought the pencil back, I asked him what sentence he wrote.

“My brother and I found a pact,” he said confidently. “It means we found an agreement.” I like that he felt the need to explain it to me.

A pact, to me, is a more abstract kind of agreement and a 3rd-grader lives in a concrete world. In his 8 year old mind, he found a tangible something with his brother. He probably packed it in a pack. I wondered what his teacher would think of the sentence.

But this is supposed to be about generosity, the prompt for the day.

Generosity is also an abstract idea. I can’t pick up in my hands and hold a generosity.

I was thinking, instead, of coining a new phrase for a group. You know, like, a pride of lions or a murder of crows — except it would be a people group. A generosity of sons.

I have five sons, all of whom are now amazing men. It’s a marvel. A gift that I don’t deserve. A generosity.

My father used to tell me that I was the richest person he knew, and then he would add, laughing, “And maybe someday you’ll have money.”

To fill you in on what my sons are doing, I’ll give you a few clues, like one of those logic-grid puzzles. Two are still in school. Three are gainfully employed. One owns his own company. One lives in Canada. One lives in Florida. Three live in New York state. Three are married. Two have children. I”m proud of every single one of them.

Maybe in a future letter, I’ll tell you more details.

But I did want to say, in closing, that the very first person I think of and associate with the word generosity is you. You are such an amazingly generous person. You could win prizes for it if someone gave out prizes — but you’d probably give your prize away if I know you.

And I’m so glad that I do know you.



My five sons (2014)


Dear Kim,

I want to use this letter to tell you about some of the abundance in my life. In your most recent message to me, you asked me about my girls. Talk about abundance! I’m so proud of each one of them.

My oldest daughter has her master’s degree in nursing. She works for an organization that cares for low-income elderly, trying to keep them living independently. Her career path was inspired by both my parents. The other day, one of the other kids said something about Helen pursuing law school. That may have been just idle conversation and have absolutely no substance to it — or maybe it’s true. I could see her doing that — arguing on behalf of people who cannot. She’s strong, strong-minded, and compassionate.

And she’s getting married — to a kind, compassionate man who knows how to handle someone who is strong and strong-minded. I’m so very happy for her.

My middle daughter just finished her first semester at an all-women’s college in Virginia. I was driving her to Syracuse yesterday to catch her flight back to Roanoke when she got a text from the airlines that one of her flights was canceled. She had gotten an email the day before from the school that a water main had burst in one of the residence halls. We had been watchingbracing for news that they would go remote because of COVID but that didn’t happen. Last night, though, she heard that in-person classes are being postponed for a week. In my heart, I rejoiced. I LOVE having her home.

She has blossomed so much at school. During the fall semester, she would call or text things like, “Guess what I learned today?!” and it made me so happy. My father would have been thrilled to see someone so excited about learning. Heck, I was excited about her excitement.

My youngest daughter also finished her first semester at college — a straight A student, but she’s not going back. Instead she’s going to pursue dental hygiene. It’s an interest she has had for a long time. Maybe I didn’t encourage it enough in recent years because the thought of working in people’s mouths all day was so YUCK! It’s the right path for her, though.

Today she came to visit me at work. “What a beautiful girl!” my co-worker remarked — and she is. Absolutely lovely.

I realize as I write this that abundance may have been a better word to describe my sons since I have five of them. But I’ll save that for tomorrow when the word is generosity. I have a generosity of sons. God’s generosity.

I also have an abundance of blessing — three daughters.




Dear Kim,

Today’s prompt is the word “gobbledygook.”

I’m not really sure why, but that word makes me think of my mother. She liked to use words like that, but I’m not sure I ever heard her say gobbledygook.

Words are fun though, aren’t they?

I like that you like the word blithering — a word which rather aptly describes me and my writing style.

I was trying to remember when we first met. Was it Hutchmoot 2012? I think so. I remember seeing you sitting in the front row at Church of the Redeemer — watching, watching, watching, because that’s how you gathered the words that the rest of us so easily picked up through hearing.

My mother was still alive then. She didn’t have hearing problems. In fact, sometimes her hearing was too good. But she had the processing problems of dementia — and I think she knew that she was not grasping everything that was going on around her. It made me sad. It made her frustrated — because her reality wasn’t making sense and she couldn’t get us to understand what her reality was. Instead, at that point, I kept trying to bring her up to speed, orient her, help her understand truth. Over the next few years I had to learn to meet her where she was — in her strange netherworld of place and time.

But I saw you sitting in the front row and I remember thinking, I could try to help her. I tried sitting with you and taking notes that you could read but my handwriting is terrible and I couldn’t write anywhere near fast enough.

When someone would say something funny from the back of the room and everyone would erupt in laughter, you would look at me, questioning, what just happened? I would try to write it, but other things were being said that were meaningful or funny and I couldn’t keep up. I just couldn’t keep up with it all.

It gave me the tiniest glimpse into your world.

The funniest thing about that whole experience was that I thought I would help you, but you have ended helping me ever so much more.

Over the past nine years of our friendship, you have been the steadiest and most encouraging of friends. I have notes from you taped to my door where I can see them and think of you. I have books on my shelf from you, a mug in my cupboard, a small pottery pitcher with a rabbit on it, and a dress that you made for me — remember that? I wore that dress for two weddings!

There’s so much more.

But enough blithering. Enough gobbledygook for today.

You’re the best. I am so blessed to have you in my life.



Dear Kim

Gah — It’s New Year’s Day and I really want to get back into writing.

“I resolve to write every day in 2022.”

That sounds so pretentious. And lofty. And ridiculous. Yes, that’s it — utterly ridiculous because I barely posted anything in 2021 and I probably made the same resolution.

That’s where you come in, Kim. As I sat here squirming in my chair, feeling knots in my stomach — knots of both of anticipation and dread — I thought, what if I just wrote a letter to Kim every day?

I can picture you reading it. I know you’ll be kind in your responses. I owe you so much.

I think that‘s it, too. I owe you so much. So many thank you’s. So many responses to your faithful checking in on me. You know the road I’m walking — and you know how to encourage me on it. Have I ever thanked you for all that?

And here you are — unbeknownst to you at the time of my writing this — helping me again.

For the month of January 2022, I resolve to write to Kim every day. I’m going to use the prompts from Linda G. Hill’s blog. She calls Saturdays “Stream of Consciousness” and I’m not allowed to go back and edit. This may explain some of the blather in this post. I would ordinarily cut some of it out. But, then again, I probably wouldn’t end up posting because I would say, This is total blathering. Or blithering as the Scots might say.

Wednesdays are “One Liner Wednesdays.” Not exactly sure what happens there, but I’ll jump in and give it a go. At least for January.

All the other weekdays will have a prompt. So if I write to you about gobbledygook or unicorns, just know that that may be the prompt and I’ll try to work it into something meaningful I’d like to say to you.

Because I do have so many things I want to say to you — most of them centered around gratitude. You’ve been a good friend.

And if I fail to write you any of the days of January, just know that the failing is mine, not yours.

You’re the best.



Remember this?