Connecting the Dots

Paying Attention


“Pay attention.”

I recognized these words from math class to mountain highways.  I wasn’t aware what could happen when I did so in my everyday life.

Once a month “Mary Ann” lines up five crock pots  in her kitchen.  She will use them to prepare enough pulled-pork sandwiches to feed 15-40 hungry young people, drop-ins  at a nearby Attention Center.  (The Center is part of an independent network of Attention Homes* serving young people who are runaways or experiencing homelessness for any reason.) Administrators have let Mary Ann know that her pulled-pork sandwiches are a favorite menu item.

What it takes

 While the meat and seasonings are slow cooking, she leaves for a run to the local grocery store.  There she purchases bags of apples or oranges for snacks and  enough fresh produce to take home, wash, chop and toss for the meal’s (large!) salads.


By mid-afternoon Mary Ann is ready to load up the back seat of her car for a 20-minute drive where she will drop off the fruits of her labor.   But not before she fills an additional grocery bag with varying purchased or homemade desserts, including at least one that is gluten-free.

It’s been a long day. The time and energy required to prepare a Dinner-for-20 (or more) has left her feeling “pretty exhausted” as she climbs behind the wheel.  Would she like help?  No, this is her thing.  She enjoys both the meal prep and the assurance that what she’s doing is making a difference.

This volunteer cook is not a fix-it glutton. A wife, mother and grandmother, along with being an accomplished author, she knows her limits. She can reasonably donate one day a month to provide a mouth-watering meal for a population that is often ignored.  Other volunteers or staff will keep food on the table the rest of the month.

Attention Inspiration 

Mary Ann’s story inspired me.   Given that the word “attention” is key to what is happening at the Center where she volunteers, I asked myself what I could be paying attention to in my life.  Is there a need I have the interest and ability to meet? I know that cooking is not my thing.

I learned, by taking the time to read my church bulletin, that there is a monthly gathering of women who knit shawls for those in need of warmth or comfort.


I joined the group.  It’s a win/win for me.  I am motivated to do handwork, something that’s been missing from my life for way too long; and the recipient of the shawl I knit will be aware that someone cares.

Is there something going on in your corner of the world with the ingredients for a win/win situation? 

*More information can be found at

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Happy Holiday Gifting

Still hammering away at your Christmas list  for those hard-to-buy-for family members?

Oldest Daughters: What to know if you are one or have ever been bossed around by one is a book of stories,  insights, and suggestions for building loving family relationships.  For  everyone in the family — oldests, siblings, and spouses!

Available as a print or ebook at and on request from Barnes & Noble stores.

Merry Christmas to all— and to all, happy gifting!

Happy Hanukkah and Christmas Gift-Giving


Wrapping up your gift list for Hanukkah or Christmas? Tis the season when family relationships are front and center.

  Oldest Daughters: What to know if you are one or have ever been bossed around by one is a book of stories, insights, love and suggestions for everyone in the family–oldests, siblings and spouses.

Available on request from Barnes & Noble stores, and as a print or ebook at

Happy holidays to all —

What (some) Writers read when not writing – A Holiday Guide



This past weekend our local writer’s group, The Writer’s Idea Factory, got together for a Christmas party and a “match-your-number book exchange.” 

Following is a list of some of the favorite books the Writers in our group brought for the exchange—in no particular order:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Connections across time; International bestseller)

The Lost Child by John Hart (Thriller with jaw-dropping twist)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Young-adult novel about teenager whose friend was shot and killed by a police officer)

Hemlock Bay by Catherine Coulter (FBI thriller)

Stone’s Fall by Iain Peers(Historical mystery novel)

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry)

Gerald’s Game by Stephen King (Psychological thriller)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid (Novel—the aftermath of 9/11 on a young Pakistani man chasing the American dream on Wall Street)

Hounded by Kevin Hearne (First novel in an urban fantasy series)

Liberty by Stephen Coonts (Espionage thriller)

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Fantasy Novel)

The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande (Life before and after illegally immigrating from Mexico to the US)

And (maybe expected)  two books on writing—

On Writing by Stephen King

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

Happy Browsing, Reading, and Holidays 

Pre-Hallowe’en, A Too-True Tale

It was a dark and stormy night

when I found myself in the village of Boxes, just south of Boulder, Colorado.

I had stopped there, intending to stay only a little while.  It didn’t work out that way.

The village was populated by ghastly, inhuman residents with the power to trap and hold me for days on end.

What I saw at first as I slowly surveyed my surroundings was Boring. No design committee had been at work here.  Every structure had the same dull brown siding. The only variances—size and signage.

From small to large, each boasted a hand-lettered sign on the front, identifying the wares to be found inside.   A tall garment house.  A small store of  cosmetics/personal items.  Even one named Memories.  Office Supplies. Food.  Seasonal clothing. Kitchen appliances. Pantry items.  Everything a person would need.

The seemingly endless array quickly became overwhelming.  Yet I felt myself forced into spending more time there. One day followed another in hours of dark monotony.  I wanted to be done with it.

Finally, the clouds lifted and I saw  before me a sign pointing to a now-open highway.

I didn’t look back as I left.   I had learned the hard-truth bottom line:

It takes a village to move a person in a New Direction.

Where did you say?

Where did you say??? No mistake. I didn’t ask, What did you say? No, my question is a twist on what every real estate agent knows, “It’s location, location, location!”

Recently, in the mysterious ways of “smart” phones, the keyboard from my phone suddenly disappeared. At first I was frantic—how was I to text??? Then I discovered that by tapping the little microphone icon, I could speak and the phone would transcribe what I said into text(!) No finger power involved.

It’s a wonderful feature, but with that amazing technology comes a definite need to enunciate clearly. Speaking into the face of the phone, I sent a message to my daughter that I would be having two routine tests as an outpatient. The magical mike interpreted it as two chests.

Firefly Books. Pictures supplied by The Science Photo Library

While that might be an uplifting thought, my tests had nothing to do with that part of my body.

So I repeated my message, this time speaking very slowly and very distinctly.


One lesson learned, but maybe actually two. Because while speaking into a microphone icon is a newer place or way to communicate, the more common place is still a keyboard.  The place where your fingers do your talking.   But whichever you use–Make sure the words you choose are ones that clearly convey your intended message with the least amount of misunderstanding possible.

I join the millions of high school teachers and parents who have told their captive audiences (including oldest daughters):

Simulated image of light bent around a supermassive black hole. (Alain Riazuelo) UC Berkley Astronomy

“Be careful what you say on social media.

The ethernet is like a black hole. What goes in, NEVER comes out.”


Another bit of sage advice comes, as quoted above, from real estate professionals. It’s all about location. Where you choose to broadcast your opinions matters hugely. Some of our elected and appointed officials in Washington, D.C. seem to have learned that lesson the hard way.

Originally broadcasting referred to an agricultural or landscaping process—sowing seeds with the help of a broadcast seeder. That implement makes it possible to quickly sow seeds into a large area of ground.

Today social media is the most democratic form of broadcasting. Anyone with an electronic device can cast opinions and ideas onto an almost limitless field of potential viewers.

It’s important to be aware that neither a Facebook nor a Twitter follower—or a corporate reader—can hear your intended tone to know if you are kidding or being just a little sarcastic or hopefully sounding civil. They only have the words they can see, and possibly remember!

Point of blog: Before you say something in a text or on social media, be sure you’ve thought through what you’ve written before you hit “send.”

Just saying…

The Tale of a Colorado Teenager, German POWs and the Upshot


Last week the book club I belong to was discussing a book involving family responsibilities. One member, Catherine, suddenly interjected —

“When I was 16 I was supervising 15 German POW’s on our farm.”

Her statement commanded everyone’s attention.  What did you say?  

“It started in ’41. Dad got these workers from a POW camp in Ovid. He picked them up and then drove them back at the end of every day.”

A Little Background

The POW camp in Ovid and its prisoners/farm laborers were part of the United States Emergency Farm Labor Program.   Between 1943 and 1946 there were 45 agricultural-related camps in Colorado.  They were in areas where the ordinary source of workers was greatly reduced because of the Armed Forces need for American men.  Between May and October, 1943, approximately 20,000 POWs arrived monthly.  By the end of 1945, the number of POWs totaled more than 340,000.*

Catherine’s family farmed 360 acres in Northern Colorado, where they grew sugar beets, “acres and acres of potatoes” and corn. The oldest of six children, Catherine had convinced her father when she was only nine years old to teach her to drive a truck “real slow” so she could help out in the fields.  By 1943, the 16 year old was such a skilled driver (farmers used to come and watch this oldest daughter who could turn the tractor on a dime) that her dad entrusted her with managing 15 German POWs.

Catherine’s WWII story

Eye on Kansas. “German Prisoners of War…” Dorothy Masters

“I was boss of the potato group. Some of them spoke English, badly, but they spoke it. I didn’t have sense enough to be afraid. I never worried at all working with them. They were just a bunch of men to me.   They were really very nice. They didn’t ever try to hurt me. Sometimes one of them, Hans, would jump on the tractor and ride along next to me. I have no idea why. I didn’t ask any of them anything.”

German Prisoners of War in Mississippi:

Catherine remembers them looking young, maybe in their 20’s, and that all were muscular. They wore POW uniforms. She wore overalls or jeans and a shirt.

“Years before, both my parents had been immigrants from Germany. My father could speak German and treated the POWs nicely, so they worked hard for him. Nobody caused any problems.

“Mother would sometimes bake a birthday cake for them even when she shouldn’t have. My parents treated the POWs like human beings.”

After the war ended, the POWs were returned to Germany. It was not the end of the story.


“One day Daddy got a letter.  It was from  Hans who asked my dad if he could marry me.  Daddy read the letter and he just smiled. ‘Well,  mom,  looks like we’re going to lose our oldest daughter…’   I said, “Oh no, Dad!”

Whether Hans letter was motivated from a crush that grew in the midst of a Colorado potato field, or whether Hans simply wanted to come back to America — Catherine doesn’t know.

What she does know is the long-lasting impact those experiences more than a half-century ago have had on her, even today.

“Those experiences made a hard worker out of me, gave me a work ethic.  Even today I can’t stop working without thinking I am wasting my time.  As for the POWs, I think about them from time to time.

I wonder what they are doing in life.  I saw how my mother and father treated them, like they were human beings, too.  They way my parents acted affected how I see things.

Catherine went on to marry, have children, and  become a school teacher. In 1975 she was honored by the State Department of Colorado as one of the top three teachers of the year.

Asked if she would be afraid today of immigrants or refugees coming to the U.S. from countries some people consider hostile, Catherine responded:  “No, I think they are human beings, like the rest of us.”

*“The Enemy in Colorado: German Prisoners of War 1943-1946,”  Allen Paschal, The Colorado Magazine, 1979.

All the World’s a Stage


The two actors stood stage left, on an otherwise empty stage.

One asked the other,  “What do you get when you put a spider together with an ear of corn? (*Find out at end of blog)

The answer drew hoots and cheers from the audience watching a sold-out performance of How to eat like a child—and other lessons in how not to be a grown up (Based on a book by Delia Ephron).

But there was a more intriguing question behind and underlying the entertainment. What do you get when you put young people with special needs together with middle and high school students who are passionate about theatre?

The answer is CenterStage’s Tapestry Theatre Company (CSTC),  in Louisville, Colorado.

CSTC is the brainchild of Elizabeth Goodrich, a special ed teacher and member of the Board of Directors of CenterStage, and Lynne Niston, a special needs paraprofessional. Each has a long standing interest in theater as part of the arts and both were initially members of other theatre groups.  Through their professional and personal interests, they became aware of groups around the world that cast individuals with special needs in theatre productions.   Then six years ago Ms. Goodrich and Ms. Niston put their heads, hearts and talents together and started Tapestry.

A Different Kind of Theatre Company

CenterStage’s Tapestry Theatre casts actors with special needs, ages 11  and up in lead roles.  Peer mentor actors are partnered with them as understudies and support. They work together during rehearsals and appear together on stage during performances.

I have been attending their amazing, talented, heart-opening productions for the past four years. In the interests of full disclosure, one of my grandsons is a Tapestry peer mentor.  That’s how I learned about this unusual company.

As their website ( explains: “Tapestry Theatre provides actors with an opportunity to participate in Theatre that is safe,  welcoming and adaptive and inclusive.  This creates a community that encourages youth to experience diversity and forge long-lasting friendships, culminating in high quality musical productions.”

Tapestry is not affiliated with any other theatre groups.  As part of CenterStage, it receives support from various community organizations,  including the Association for Community Living, which is part of The ARC; The National Endowment for the Arts; the Boulder County Arts Alliance; and the City of Louisville.

Originally the intent of the two directors was to provide involvement to  individuals with special needs through the age of 21—the age when school services end.  However, they have now started a young adult program and have also expanded their performances to include multi-generational and multi-ability casts.

Ms. Goodrich is passionate about the results she sees.  “Our mentors bring an openness to relationships with people of all abilities and an understanding that persons with special needs have valuable gifts or talents  that are most often overlooked.


“Mentors not just there to share their own talents, they are there to receive those gifts. Understanding this can lead to a breakthrough in changing society.  It is what is so magical about what we are doing.”

Shakespeare Got It

In penning his play, “As You Like it,” Shakespeare included this line: “ All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”  In directing Tapestry, Ms. Goodrich knows how she would like it.  “It is my hope that beyond entertaining our audience, our performances will open doors past theatre into everyday life for people of all abilities.”

I applaud that thought and all that Tapestry is accomplishing.

*Answer to the riddle:  A cobweb.

Oldest Daughters: what to know if you are one or have ever been bossed around by one (Rudzik Press, 2017) is available at, and select book stores.  For more information, go to


Oldest Daughters and Our Dads

Happy Father’s Day!

Following are a few favorite stories from my conversations with oldest daughters about their relationships with their dads.  The number in parentheses is the age each was when I spoke with  her. 


“Kristin” (30): After I graduated from college, a girl friend and I decided one weekend to quit our jobs and move to another city.  Nine days later we had given notice on our jobs, found an apartment and moved.  It felt great to get away and say, “I’m going to live my life.”  My family was very surprised.  It was one of the first times I got a look from my dad that said, “Go ahead.  You’ve got it all figured out!” I was so happy about it.

Cathy (51): I was very influenced by my father. There was no boy before or after me.  I identified with my dad.  I wanted to be his son.  I followed him around, mowing the grass, etc. He did not treat me in a girlie kind of way.  He built things for me all the time (like) skateboards for my dolls.  We were very close.  I adopted all of his political positions.  I used to parrot what he said.   When I got married, I kept my own name.  He  objected, but I said, “Hey you taught me to think on my own and I’m not going to take someone else’s last name.”   He felt in a little way like he’d created a monster.

April (34): I was raised by a man.  When I got a “whooping,” I wouldn’t cry. I refused to let my father see my weakness. I succeeded all the time.  He gave up. I certainly identify with my father.  I was his favorite child.  I remember one time when we were in the backyard.  I was hanging clothes on the clothesline. I said to him, “I will always be here for you.”  He said, “I know that.  I can always count on you.”  Both of us had tears in our eyes.

Kimi (35):  My parents thought I was going to be a boy, but that’s not what they got. I think they were a little disappointed.  But I was a tomboy.  I wanted to make my Dad proud, to be a toughie, to fulfill something for him.  In some way I’d picked up or perceived that he wanted a boy to go hunting with him, go to the lake with him.  I think up until the time I was in middle school, I didn’t want to wear dresses, but then somehow my femininity took over.

Darsha (53):  I was my dad’s shadow.  I remember when I was  about 10, we were pulling calves. It was a HOT day. There were flies all over us. There was no shade. I was sweating. I was wearing jeans and an old t-shirt and, of course, old cowboy boots.  We were in a lot next to the barn.  I had gloves on up to my armpits, that were coated with blood.  I had blood and dirt all down the front of me.

When we got through, my dad thanked me and patted me on the shoulder.  He said, “Squirt, if you can pull a calf, you can do anything you put your mind to.”  He said it with this very proud look on his face, like I had really accomplished everything he’d always wanted me to do. As we walked back to the house, he hugged me. My dad and I were buddies.  He raised me that if I had something to say, to say it, not to hem and haw about anything.

When my dad was ill, I couldn’t do anything.  I was a nurse by then,  but his medical condition warranted that the doctor deal with it.  I couldn’t save him.  Deep depression set in after the funeral. I finally had to tell myself that just sitting around crying, feeling sorry for myself, was not me.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, Dad had groomed me all my life for this very moment.  My time with my dad was very good, but now I had a new path to go down.

The Oldest Daughter: I remember the day I told my dad that I didn’t want him to grill a steak for me at the family barbecue because I had become a vegetarian.  His already large brown eyes widened in disbelief.  “I like vegetables,” he said, motioning to his large vegetable garden in the back yard.  “But there’s nothing like a good steak.”   Searching for something that would explain my feelings, I said, “I just prefer not to eat anything that has eyes.” His response was immediate. “How do you feel about potatoes?” His eyes twinkled, and I laughed out loud.

So this evening in honor of the man who taught me about the power of well-chosen words, I’m going to fix a baked potato—without eyes—for dinner.

Oldest Daughters: What to know if you are one or have ever been bossed around by one.  Available at, and select bookstores.

Oldest Daughter and the Dangerous Devices


An oldest daughter’s cautionary tales

Libby, an oldest daughter known for her cooking skills, was in the midst of preparing a favorite summer soup when it happened.  The recipe called for two cups of peeled, thin cucumber slices. To save time, she pulled a mandolin out from the white kitchen cabinet where it lives.  (Note: this mandolin is a kitchen utensil, not to be confused with mandolin(e), a musical instrument.)

She set her trusty mandolin on the counter and without further thought began pushing the slippery vegetable into the path of the instrument’s blade.

Instead the miniature guillotine found her  little finger and efficiently sliced off a strip from fingertip to second joint, leaving an (actual) blood-red smear across the countertop and sending the family’s chef cradling her right hand into an urgent-care facility.

This painful incident created food for thought.

Libby’s long-relied upon kitchen device had become dangerous, rather than helpful, through her use.  The mandolin actually looks a bit menacing—but it isn’t in everyone’s kitchen.

A different device can be even more dangerous, but is a million times (actual)  more common and attractive. 

  The cell phone, like the mandolin can be both useful and dangerous. Useful in connecting users by phone.  Potentially dangerous in capacity as mini-computer to divide, distance, or even create a darnel of widespreading discord.  Responsibility for how either the phone or the mandolin is used is up to the owner.

No doubt Libby’s mandolin came with instructions and warnings.  The instructions that come with smart phones typically simply explain battery use.  I’ve never seen:

 Caution.  Words spoken or texts sent cannot be taken back.  Time spent on apps is not the responsibility of apps.  May be addictive.   Distractions possible.  May mean less time for actual face-to-face interactions. Ignoring such warnings could result in damage to your personal relationships.  

Three weeks later, Libby’s wound is all but healed and her finger is in pretty good, though slightly different, shape.  The mandolin is once again residing in a kitchen cabinet.

Will you use it again? I asked.  “Oh, yes.  I can’t get along without it.  I was just careless. I knew better. From now on, I’ll be careful.  I’ll pay attention to what I’m doing.”

A recipe worth following.


Oldest Daughters: What to know if you are one or have ever been bossed around by one is now available at,, and upon request at select bookstores.