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Monday, December 8, 2014

Just say NO to 50 Shades on Valentine's Day

February 14 is the traditional day to celebrate love. Valentine’s Day is named after a priest in ancient Rome whose memory lives in many legends. One version says he presided over secret Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. Valentine was such a popular name in old Rome that the stories of Saint Valentine may come from the lives of more than one loving man.
A huge media campaign has already begun to let us know that this coming February, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s Day with the opening of the movie “50 Shades of Grey,” based E.L. James's book that celebrates sadomasochism.

Valentine’s Day…love...sadomasochism…seems there’s something mixed up here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bored in the USA?

I just finished a book called I Am Malala. It was written by Malala Yousafzai, a devout Muslim girl who was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When she was a young teenager, she lived in Pakistan and became a public defender of education for girls. The Taliban didn't like that. They shot her in the head, but she survived. She suffered some permanent injuries from which she'll probably never recover, but she continues to work for education for all young people from her new home in England.

Malala's account made me realize that universal education of young people is precious and rare. With her struggle and suffering still fresh in my mind, I encountered Josh Tillman's song "Bored in the USA," posted on Facebook by a young friend of mine.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why Visit the Sick?

When I was younger, I didn't understand the phrase "Judeo-Christian tradition." Now I understand a little better. Both Jews and Christians have some common directives, like visiting the sick. (Other religions that trace their common origin to Abraham, including Islam and the Baha’i faith, also tell their people to visit the sick.)

This past Monday, Sept. 29, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there was a beautiful, beautiful article on visiting the sick. The article explained how this tradition is a holy mitzvah (good deed/duty/ commandment) of the Jewish faith. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Two Weeks Alone at the Lake


It's become a tradition for me to spend as long as I can during the month of August at our house trailer on Little Green Lake, writing, writing, writing...with a little biking, walking, swimming and paddling thrown in.

This year, I had only two weeks for my annual writing retreat, but  it was long enough for me to learn some stuff.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin

More notes from summer police calls in a small city, courtesy of Markesan Regional Reporter...

Friday, August 1 - Parking problem - Police were notified by a local gas station that a vehicle would be parked in the parking lot overnight because the owner was unable to get it started. The owner of the vehicle stated they would get the vehicle removed as soon as possible the following day.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fourteen Things I Learned Painting at Splash Studio

I made a picture at Splash Studio last evening. In three hours there, I learned more about painting and art than I had learned in my whole life. I guess it proves that we learn best by doing.

I learned:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin

It was a bad week for street poles and signs, but a good week for some clever detective work in the small city of Markesan, Wisconsin...(Thanks for reprinting from the Markesan Regional Reporter)....

Monday, July 21, 2014

Thank you Google Doodle: Mandela and making peace in our lives


A friend alerted me to the Google Doodle from July 18, which I had not seen.

This is what she wrote in the email that she sent to me and a few other friends:

Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin

Here's another installment of small-town crime details. I think the first report especially speaks of the kindness that lives in little cities. Remember to hum the march from "Dragnet" after you read each item... (Thanks again to the writers at Markesan Regional Reporter.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Begin Again" a fun movie for all those who love music

"Begin Again" is a fun movie for everyone who loves its star: MUSIC.

It's about writing music, singing music, playing music, arranging music, producing music, recording music, selling music.

It's also about various ways to sell out. Or not to sell out.

Goodbye Jimmy Bum

Heard the news first thing this morning: James Garner died at age 86.

Aw dang. I know that no one can live forever, but it was nice knowing that James Garner occupied the same planet.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Calling All Horses, Second Edition, is Published

I'm happy to announce the publication of the second edition of my first book, Calling All Horses. I have added and rearranged a few things inside the book, and there's a cool new cover designed by Karen Cluppert of Not Just Words. I offer the book for $0.99 on Kindle and $8.99 as a paperback through Like my most recent book, Dessert First, it's full of slices of life - a nice book to pick up and read before bed. Here is a summer-y excerpt from the book, first published in 1993:

We just came back from six days at Long Lake and I can still feel the aaaahhhhhhhhhh of it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tearing down the barn


It's a great day to tear down a building. A mild 72 degrees, low humidity, blue skies.

I'm sitting under our big maple and watching the demolition of our old, beloved, barn.

Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin

Things have been hopping in the little city of Markesan, Wisconsin. Reading crime reports up there is kind of refreshing to those of us who hail from bigger towns. The report below is thanks to reporting in the Markesan Regional Reporter....

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Death for Death: Can it Ever End?

First: Two Palestinian boys (ages 16 and 17) are killed by an Israeli soldier.
Then: Three Israeli teen boys (ages 16, 16, and 19) are kidnapped and murdered.
Then: A 16-year-old Palestinian boy is killed, burned alive.
For years, I have thought about the rather cryptic saying by A.J. Muste: "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." At first I didn't understand it. But I think I get it now. Peace will come only when people say "ENOUGH."
It is time for Israelis and Palestinians to say ENOUGH.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dill time, time for clatite

It's dill time, which means it's clatite time. I've been eating it as often as possible. Apparently lots of other folks like the dish, because my post about it gets more hits than most of my other posts.

There are no sufficient words to describe the delicious combination of flavors produced by fresh dill, cottage cheese, and a good dough.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I finally read Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It's a short book, first published in 1955, and now considered a classic.

I was surprised by the beauty of the book's language and by its relevance to today's world. Morrow Lindbergh uses nature to help her think about her role in her world. For help, she refers to the words of famous poets - and of her own friends.

She is as poetic and philosophic as T.S. Eliot in "Four Quartets," but easier to understand. Hers is a gentle touch, and a humble one.

In an afterward she wrote in 1975, she says she is astonished that a book of essays written to work out her own problems "should have spoken to so many other women." I would suggest that her words are just as poignant today for men as for women.


Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin

Here are some recent police calls in the small city of Markesan, Wisconsin, courtesy of The Markesan Regional Reporter (There were some more serious calls, but I'll omit those):

Saturday, June 28: LOST PROPERTY - A Markesan resident contacted police to report that he had lost his cell phone at some point the previous night when he was walking home from downtown Markesan. The complainant provided a description of the cell phone to police.

Friday, June 27: LOCKOUT - Police were dispatched to a N. Margaret Street address on the report of a vehicle lockout. Police confirmed the complainant's license and registration and safely gained access to the vehicle.

Same day: ANIMAL PROBLEM - Police received an anonymous complaint regarding a loose dog running in the neighborhood of West Vista Boulevard. Police were able to identify the dog's owner and provided a written warning.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Beatles, Bell-bottoms and Bombs


In honor of the 50th anniversary year of the Beatles' first live performances in the USA, here is an essay I first published in 1989....

My initiation into the era known as “the Sixties” began on September 4, 1964, when I attended the Beatles' concert in Milwaukee.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Outdoors Summer Checklist (Before You Grow Up!)

Priceless ideas for summer fun...written by my friend Mary Kult and published in my church newsletter, Good Shepherd's "Breaking Bread":
How will you celebrate the bonus daylight? Consider the following for yourself, children and grandchildren:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pop was a person

     He told the worst jokes and the best jokes. He couldn’t open a milk carton or an aspirin bottle. He was almost twice as old as I was when he died. Yet no barriers ever prevented us from talking, dancing, drinking, laughing together – two friends.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writer’s Diary: Relearning an Old Lesson

Why must we learn the same lessons over and over? It’s true in life and true in art. Darn it.

Here’s the ever-so-basic writing lesson I relearned this week: Write a first draft. Put it in a drawer. Wait a week or so. Revisit it with new eyes.

You’d think I would have remembered such an elementary lesson after writing for the public since 1977. But I had lost that gem. Maybe I misplaced it because my years of freelancing were followed by steady assignments in newspapers, magazines, and advertising – where I learned to write fast and meet deadlines. Then, last March, when I found three writing contests I could enter for free, I ran amok and dashed off three entries in a fell swoop. I wrote headlong and e-mailed them in one evening of hyper-inspiration.

Yesterday, three months after I entered the contests, I pulled out the entries to share with my friend Liz Rhodebeck, an excellent writer, for critique. To my dismay, I read the first entry and found it choppy and hard to follow. Here and there I found confusion with my descriptions of bodies in motion. Worst of all (and inexcusable) was the fact that a character’s name suddenly changed in the story. Yeah…that might throw a reader. That mistake was a result of careless editing: I had changed the name every time but one. Had I simply used “Find and Replace,” I could have remedied the problem. But I was rushing along too fast for that sensible solution.

So today I rewrite…and swallow my pride. As a lesson to myself, and to any interested writer, below you’ll find the original bollixed essay (which appeared here as a blog post, in a slightly different form), followed by a rewrite. The revision isn’t perfect. We writers know that no work is ever perfect; we don’t finish anything so much as abandon it. But I think the rewrite flows better and makes more sense.

Too bad I can't re-enter the contest! Haste makes waste. May I never bollix up such a chance again.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin

Almost every weekend during the warm months, my husband and I live in our trailer on Little Green Lake in Markesan, Wisconsin. We appreciate the slow pace there and the relative lack of crime. Yes, there are some serious crimes in Markesan: domestic disputes, drunken driving, some burglary. But much more often, the local paper features news like the following items in its weekly "Police Beat" (courtesy Markesan Regional Reporter):

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

First Dessert First reader comments

We writers do our work in solitude. We’re alone so much that sometimes it’s hard for us to keep believing in the worth of what we do. When people tell us how our words affect them, it’s like getting the biggest hug in the world.

This is an official thank you to those who have shared kind reviews about my new book, Dessert First.

Here are some of the comments:

Police Beat - Catching Up

I live in Menomonee Falls, just outside the City of Milwaukee. When I open the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I read about murders, rapes, and armed robbery. When my husband and I drive "up North" to Markesan, Wisconsin, I find the police reports somewhat refreshing. There are a few serious crimes, but most police calls involve dogs, cows, car lockouts, funeral processions, and lost items. I haven't posted a Markesan Police Beat summary since last summer. I'm here to catch up, courtesy of the staff writers of the Markesan Regional Reporter (I don't include the more serious crimes, of course) ....

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Cult of Polka

My husband, Mike, and I have been dancing for forty-two years, but until recently had never met anyone in the CULT OF POLKA.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stuck in the 60s: The Fugitive and Me

David Janssen as the fugitive, or "fyooge," as we called him
 I have become a fan of black and white TV shows from my youth, thanks to "Me-TV". This old-time network first took me to "Twilight Zone," then to "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," and finally to "The Fugitive," my love from high school years.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hosting a Successful Book Launch Party

at my book launch at Ally's Bistro, May 1, 2014
(photo by Nicole Fischer,

This is for my writing friends. So many of us are publishing books these days that there's a lot of curiosity about hosting a "book launch" - a term representing your very first public party celebrating the publishing of your new book.

Since 2011, I've published three books and hosted three book launch signings. The one that I hosted on May 1 was by far the most successful. It took me three tries to get it right. Here's what I learned the hard way:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Farewell to Wick Place – A Story of Family and Healing

6710 W. Wick Place, Milwaukee

A house holds the soul of the family who lives there…or so it feels to some of us. And thus it has seemed at 6710 W. Wick place, a white and blue Cape Cod house on a tiny city lot near 67th and Lincoln Streets in Milwaukee. This is the place called “home” to my husband’s family since 1953.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Prelude to a Kiss

There was a time before, then there was Alzheimer’s Land, then there was the kiss….

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dessert First Free Book Drawing Results!

THANK YOU to all people who entered my book give-away drawing. Because a number of folks reported that they could not get into the blog to leave a comment, I also took entrants from my Facebook account and email.

And the winner is: Michael Uprichard! I'll contact Michael soon to see if he prefers the paperback or Kindle version.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stop Diabetes Now! Test Yourself for Diabetes 2 or Pre-Diabetes

I am diabetic. So was my grandma. So are many of my cousins on her side. It's a family thang.

Diabetes can be a blessing because it can alert you to live right.

In honor of  Stop Diabetes Now Alert Day March 25, try this test to determine if you are at risk of Diabetes 2 or Pre-Diabetes:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Waking Up to My Irishness

[Originally published in 1993]

     Somehow it was hidden from me, my Irishness. It took me a long time to figure out why. I started putting the pieces together this summer, after a sixteen-year-old Irishman became part of my family.

Tony Memmel and the Symphony: Hearing His Music So Big...

Tony and his wife and band-mate, Lesleigh

I can only imagine how much fun it was Saturday night for Tony Memmel to hear his own rock music made BIG by the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and Chorus.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Launch Give-Away Contest!

My new book, Dessert First - Glimpses of Wisconsin Life, is out in paperback. To celebrate, I'm having a drawing for a free copy of the book. Anyone who puts a comment on this blog post is eligible. The deadline for comments is midnight March 31.
On April Fool's Day, I will write the names of commenters on slips of paper and put them into my husband's fuzzy ear-flap hat. He will reach in and draw the name of the winner.

I hope there is more than one name in the hat!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dessert First is published!

In these pages you’ll travel from city streets to haylofts. You’ll encounter mice wearing clothes, a bad guy stopped by a smile, a St. Francis in need of recapitation, and two old ladies whose racy conversation leads them to calamity. You’ll find leaves to kick, spring peepers, chickens, fruit flies, deer, drought, and frost. There are earthly delights like a blue Fiestaware dish – and bummers like walking to the gym shower wearing socks.

Inside you’ll find seventy-seven glimpses of Wisconsin life, to be read in any order. This book has your name on it if you like short true stories – if you laugh at everyday comedy – if you’ve lived through highs and lows – and if you believe good trumps evil.

Dessert First is Wisconsin life transcribed through my pen. I'd like to think that my eyes are open and that I see the world as many folks see it. I think you'll find that I describe that vision with clarity, compassion, and humor.

I grew up in Wisconsin, which means that through weather, through rearing, and through schooling, I grew up hardy – and that helped me when, at twenty-seven years old, I lost my parents and younger brother in a car accident. Those deaths taught me to live. From more than three decades of writing, a message comes through: Life is short and often hard – but it’s full of desserts. In this book, I share those desserts – tastier than Wisconsin frozen custard. 

The stories are true...some names have been changed.

You may order Dessert First from

Hope I can keep up with this 85-year-old

I had coffee yesterday with my friend Peggy Ludeman, who just turned 85. Peggy used to be a student in my writing class, and she's become a friend. I remember back a few years ago, when she came to class all excited because her first great-grandchild had been born. She mentioned that while that baby was being born, Peggy (the great-grandmother) had been playing tennis!

Another story she shared awhile ago: she could tell she was having a heart attack, so she quickly drove herself to the doctor. She said climbing the stairs was a bit difficult.

Yesterday she told me that she has stopped playing tennis because she wishes to stay home to care for her husband, who is battling an illness. With tennis no longer in her life, Peggy wants to ward off fat and heart attacks. So she installed a gym in her basement, with equipment she found at Goodwill.

I told her that Mike and I don't go snowshoeing on days when it's zero outside, but I too want to do something active. I added that I've good a good, weighted hula hoop but haven't gotten into the habit of using it.

She said, "I use a hula hoop!" She explained that she doesn't count her hula hoop use by the clock, but rather by revolutions. She aims for 100 revolutions. She said the secret is to keep a wide stance. "The other day I did 500...but not all at once," she told me.

Okay. I have my inspiration. On to the hula hoop. I love you, Peggy!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Go Outside, Beat the Blues During Winter's Doldrums

Milwaukee Central Library, formerly the public museum
[originally published in 2001]

     It was a little world, and it was all blue. I pressed my nose against glass to gaze at it, to become part of it, at least in my imagination. It was a small diorama at the old Milwaukee museum downtown, a classic marble building (now the Central Library) that had a totem pole out front. The diorama housed a village of tiny people at work and play, Eskimo people as I called them then. Their houses were made of snow, not of wood like the white Cape Cod I lived in. Their transportation was sled and dog, not a red 1953 Ford like our family used.

     In the diorama, the people seemed to live in an atmosphere of blue, dark blue. Either the sun didn’t shine at all that day, or the land simply took on a blue cast from so much snow and ice and so many clouds. I didn’t care then about the explanation. It was my favorite place in the museum.    

     During the month of December 2000, I felt like I was living in that little diorama. It snowed almost every day. When it snowed, it usually snowed all day long. I’ve never seen a succession of days where such light, fluffy snow fell. There were no driving blizzards, no wet, heavy flakes.
     Nearly every weekday morning before work during the past year and a half, my husband and I have spent about forty-five minutes outside. In summer we go biking, in spring and fall we walk, and in winter we go snowshoeing.

     I’ve discovered that my antidepressant is my time outdoors. The hardest part is getting out of bed; when we bundle up, we’re not cold (at least not after the first five minutes). The trick is to keep our coats, hats and scarves on a hook so we can put them on with our eyes half-closed.

     It’s like we’re living in that blue diorama now, especially at 5:30 a.m. when we begin our trek. Sometimes I think about those Inuit people who live in that dark blue land. As we snowshoe along before dawn, it’s incredibly mysterious and beautiful.

     Sometimes, as I’m tugging my snowshoe out of deep powder, I wonder to myself, “What am I doing?” Then I look out at the tree silhouettes on the snowy landscape. Or I look at my husband’s sweet form in that snowmobile suit, with the earflap hat on top.

     And I know that the blue world is okay. I can do this, at least for a time.
                                            [This essay will be part of my new book
Dessert First, out soon on]


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recapitating St. Francis

[written in 2007]

It always happens that something I love gets broken.
So it was with St. Francis.

I had wanted one for years,
and finally our daughter Anna made me a
ceramic St. Francis with a wolf and two birds.
She glazed them all in glossy pewter, like shiny metal.

An hour after I set St. Francis outside, Mike knocked him over,
breaking off half an arm –
so many pieces, impossible to glue.
Yet I kept St. Francis in our rock garden,
jagged arm stump jutting,
rationalizing: the break is symbolic –
we must be the arm of St. Francis.

(Mike said the wolf bit off the arm and
we should paint the edge red.
I said no.)

For years the one-armed St. Francis stood amid
grape hyacinths or impatiens.
In time, both birds fell off and
only the wolf remained his companion.
then last week Mike toppled him again.
This time when St. Francis fell, his head broke off.

For a couple of weeks, the saint’s body lay in the dirt near his rolled-away head,
until a friend visited and noticed,
and I was ashamed enough to grab
St. Francis and his head
and bring them into the house.

Last night I said to Mike, “Do you want to recapitate St. Francis?”
Mike said sure. So I got the Krazy Glue
and ran to the basement to fetch the de-antlered buck
that Brian, our son, made so long ago,
carefully glazed to look real.
The buck’s place was my flower bed,
but somehow he too got broken.
I couldn’t display him that way,
and I hate to glue things,
so for years the deer remained on my laundry table,
his fawn beside him.

“Can you glue this too?” I asked Mike,
holding out a hand full of ear and antler pieces.
“Sure,” he said.
“I’ll help,” I told him,
hoping he wouldn’t need me,
because I don’t like to glue things.

But I did hold pieces together after Mike glued them.
While they dried, we talked about how
he made models when he was a boy.
He used rubber bands to hold pieces together,
or held them with his fingers,
reading assembly directions while the glue dried.

I thought about my dad telling me how
when he was a boy
he walked around town so he could listen to his corduroy knickers rub together.
He called them “whistle britches” because they squeaked like a whistle.

Kids used to have a lot of patience, I thought.
Kids entertained themselves.

Then I realized I had glued my fingers together
with the Krazy Glue.
Mike pulled them apart without blood, but
it hurt and left a horrible glue residue
like dead skin.
I said, “I should stay away from glue.”

Today, for some reason,
I worked by myself on the buck
and didn’t glue my fingers together,
but soon realized we’re missing one whole antler.
After all our work,
the buck might have to resume laundry duty.
I can’t rationalize a one-antler buck in the flower bed,
even though antlers drop off in real life –
it just looks odd.

St. Francis was fine this morning, totally recapitated.
I used a black marker to color the white chips
on his forehead and cowl.
After wrestling all the ear and antler pieces,
I was glad St. Francis had only one head
and it was in one piece.

I might hang a little flower basket on his half-arm to hide the jagged edge;
I bet the real St. Francis liked flowers.

Normally I don’t like lawn knick-knacks,
and I hate gluing,
but Anna made St. Francis when she was a little girl
and Brian made the buck when he was a little boy.

            [This story-poem will be included in my
                    new book, Dessert First, out soon on