All Letters

Giving Thanks for Dissent and Cookies

3 Min read True Story On Gratitude and Dissent 1 Cookbook rec * Giving thanks this time of year is a practice in gratitude. Gratitude is vogue, hip, lit. It's handy and eternal, an ever-ready virtue, making an appearance at holiday tables before the first sip of wine....

On Perfect Love and Longing

4 Min read 2 Book recs True story AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify Apple Podcasts E-Bar in SONO's Nordstrom * The espresso and warm froth quicken the senses, which I need for what I'm about to hear. I'm sitting at the E-Bar on a Tuesday with my mother. I like it here and...

All Souls’ Day and the Haunting of 4714

4 Min read True story Paranormal activity, Scott Barracks 1 Book rec * All Souls' Day (NOV 2) is the day to remember the dead, observed by Roman Catholics. It follows All Saints' Day (NOV 1) and All Hallows' Eve (OCT 31 or Halloween) which commemorate the saints, the...

“Kinda This, Kinda That” in the Mid-pack

3 min read Mid-pack running True story 1 Book rec, ancient Toltec wisdom AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify Apple Podcasts * Mid-life has its miseries. As does adolescence and old age, and while we're on the topic, puppy-dom. My 11 month-old shepherd-boxsky mix Simba is...

What to Say When People Thank You for Your Service

3 Min read True Story from the SMA (The Sergeant Major of the Army) Army Ten-Miler, race in Washington, D.C. with 20,000 runners * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston with West Point cadets * I want to share something I...

We Are All Made of Nouns*

2 Min read Short take 1 Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. Anais Nin. In Anna Quindlen's new book, Write for Your Life, she says that people are "made of nouns, live by verbs, and enlarge and...

What Music Teaches Us About Writing

7 Min read The Music in Prose Creative Writing Forum, West Point Sentence rhythm, Beryl Markham and David Foster Wallace Writer's Toolbox, Improve writing immediately * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes I met with the Creative Writing Forum at West Point to discuss...

The New Words Are In, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

2 Min read 13 New words Late to Coffee with a Baker's dozen * New words are in. And, 370 words have been added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary this September. You likely know many and below are some of my favorites. The editors break them down by category, but I...

Reading for Foodies

5 Min read 2 Book recs, memoir and craft Improve writing immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * "Buy me five, ten, okay? That's 50, make it a 100," my mother says, leaving a Ben Franklin on the counter with two packs of TJ's peanut butter cups.* I order the...

Bringing Writers and Readers Together: Why I Write

2 Min read Short Take Creative process For writers and readers AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Maybe the better way to think of this letter is, why you read TreeHouseLetter. For me, it's about why I write. Which, are two sides of the same coin. I updated my site...

“Old Age is Not for the Young”*

6 Min read 2 Book recs, by elderly writers Serial comma 10,000-hour-rule Explicit language, 13 to 103 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * If you believe 10,000 hours of practice will help achieve mastery, say, on the violin or as a volleyball player, then the...

Books I Love

5 Min read 17 Books, 19.5 including mentions in footnotes Genres: Memoir, Essays, Fiction, Writing, Love, Poetry, War Toolbox, Texture in writing Contemporary and classic books from the top of my stacks, my more current reading. * The most common question I get is,...

What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

7 Min read 2 Book recs Film rec Article abstract, on Virtue and Vice* Toolbox, Improve writing, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * What book would you take to a desert island? I didn't know and hadn't given it much thought until Saturday when I told my...

Charlie Munger and the Art of Swearing

5 Min read EXPLICIT language, Ages 13 to 103 True Story, investing Toolbox Essay and book rec, Ursula Le Guin Patton's Speech AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Charlie Munger was making the rounds with investors. A living icon in the investing world, he was some...

The Sentence Fragment

3 min read Toolbox, Ages 9-99 Improve writing immediately 2 Book recs: on writing and on essays AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * (1) When you haven't seen someone you love for a while, you notice them anew. The tongue that touches the side of the mouth. The wisps...

No Ordinary Hike: Marchback for USMA Class of 2026

7 min read Figure of speech, synecdoche Long Gray Line Marchback AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes * The long gray line of us stretches / through the years of a century told / and the last one feels to the marrow / the grip of your far off hold.* To the...

On Fighting and Writing: Blackwing and Bruce Lee

5 Min read Bookstore and Bakery rec, Augusta Blackwing limited edition Writing tips AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify on iTunes I'm back from Georgia. I visited The Book Tavern and the Boll Weevil Cafe and Sweetery. My daughter hosted me and loves the cake. She's a fan...

Spandrel: Byproduct of Evolution and Thing of Beauty

3 Min read Word of the week Architecture, evolution, philosophy, philately AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On iTunes On Spotify The word of the week is spandrel. In my mind, it has vague associations with an Iberian water dog or a large red-faced primate. Spelling Bee...

Thoughts on Music and the Brain

5 min read True story 2 Book recs Songbook Collection AVAILABLE ON PODCAST on Spotify on iTunes Each morning, Simba crosses the end of the driveway tail first, three feet above the invisible fence. He is set down in the grass across the road, then walks his porter on...

On the Double Negative, Circular Definitions, and Children

4 min read Double negative 2 Book recs, 1 short story Roe v. Wade A Double Negative by Lydia Davis At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.*...

Simba the Designer Dog? The Perfect Combination of 5 Breeds

3 Min read Dog DNA Wordplay with breeds AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes Simba in June at 7 months, post "Breed Reveal" Bel-Ger-Sam-Box-Sky. Belgersamboxsky. Bel-Ger-Box-Sky. Belgerboxsky. Shep-Sam-Box-Sky. Shep-Box-Sky. Herd-Box-Sky. Box-Herd-Sky. BoxShepSky...

Notes on a Year of Love

3 Min read The Music in Prose Simile and metaphor 2 books AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes My book group chose to read love stories. We read seven or eight books, a mix of modern and classic. The night was perfect, the trees lush and full; my skin felt alive...

Why I Write

5 Min read Creative process AVAILABLE ON PODCAST ON SPOTIFY The main window with view of pine, poplar and birch in the TreeHouse where I do most of my writing. MacBook with this letter on a portable table. I sit in a Herman Miller office chair, an essential for the...

“The Q-tips Are for Your M4” and the Art of the Paragraph

3 Min read Writer's toolbox Improve writing immediately Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On SPOTIFY The Q-tips are for your M4, Norah's uncle said as she held them up when unpacking her 7.62 ammunition canister. Norah reached in the green ammo can and took out 100 feet...

“Keep the Faith for Which They Died”

4 Min read 3 Poems by John McCrae, a Poet Warrior Poetry for Emergencies Memorial Day The "MURPH Challenge" or Workout of the Day AVAILABLE IN PODCAST On SPOTIFY Click links above to listen to the poems This Memorial Day I read other poems written by the Canadian...

The Last Recital

2 Min read Piano music, composers Writer's Toolbox: the series and the infinitive phrase AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Silvermine School of Music, former Carriage House (built 1903) I shall not forget the old carriage house, the hayloft used for bedrooms, the balcony...

“Django with One Finger,” a Living Music Icon

4 min read Book rec Music in Prose Songwriting AVAILABLE IN PODCAST I finished Willie Nelson's memoir or musings from the road, as he titled it. The book is a short reflection on a long life, punctuated throughout with song lyrics and crude jokes and notes from family...

On Puppies and Babies: a “Communion with Terror”

4 min read Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST AT THIS LINK I have a Kong chew toy but I prefer to eat my bed. Three dog beds, seven stuffed toys, multiple socks, countless tissues and trash, the corner of my coffee table, a small remote, a pair of Hoka running shoes. I’ve...

Most Underused Punctuation Mark in American Writing*

Short take Writer's Toolbox Em-dash Book recs So says the lexicographer and usage genius Bryan Garner. My desk copy of the 4th edition of Garner's Modern English Usage states on page 750, "The em-dash is perhaps the most underused punctuation mark in American...

Books for Mothers and Daughters

Short Take, 2 min read Mother's Day Book recs, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST CLICK HERE It's a gray day full of drizzle in Connecticut though it's not as cold as it has been. The yellow lilies in the porch planters are in full bloom and they remind me of my...

What Makes a Speech Great? An Admiral Tells 3 Stories

6 min read Writer’s Toolbox Public speaking AVAILABLE ON PODCAST HERE Admiral McRaven commemorates the 11th Anniversary of Operation Neptune's Spear What makes a speech great? There are a lot of good speeches and good speakers. But a great speech is one you remember....

Exercises in Style: a Writing Tribute

3 min read Book rec Writing Toolbox Wordplay Ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST HERE Titles begin with letters as human forms Narrative One day at about midday in the food line, behind the checkout of a more or less busy Costco, I observed a person with a very big...

1000 Push-ups? Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

6 min read Memoir rec Work-outs, push-ups and running AVAILABLE ON PODCAST CLICK HERE On Spotify On iTunes Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s the short take on Living with a SEAL*, 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planet. Jesse Itzler, the...

Bedside Counselor on Parenting in Anger, in Two Translations

6 min read Book rec Prose for emergencies Writing feature AVAILABLE IN PODCAST, CLICK HERE For solace and for counsel, I have several books I find myself returning to again and again, and to this one, most recently, as my third child prepares to leave home.* For...

What I Learned Walking With a Friend

8 min read True Story Military service Road walking, trail notes AVAILABLE IN PODCAST - CLICK HERE Not 30 miles as the crow flies, that’s how far I was from my childhood home. It was gray and threatening rain, the time in spring that’s cool, tree buds just coming in,...

A Poet Warrior Learns Kindness

4 min read Book Rec, Tokaido Road Poetry for Emergencies AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast It made me feel flawed as a human, this passage from Lucia St.Clair Robson's book, Tokaido Road. The protagonist Cat is disguised as a young man when she meets...

A Fool is Full and a Pool Not a Pull

2 min read Word play Nonsense and numbers AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast For you can spring into march like a soldier or a lion, since you leave it like a lamb. Soldiers march and lions roar, but today is the 32nd or the 60th if you prefer, because...

Three Sunsets in One Day

AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts 3 Min read True Story 1 Hike, Grand Canyon South Rim 5 Photos, South Kaibab Trail Second sunset heading up South Kaibab Trail It was 4:42 PM when I hiked the South Kaibab with my husband and daughter. The trail...

Each Sentence Reflects 3 Choices

2 Min read 1 Essay Toolbox How to improve your sentences immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast Each sentence reflects three choices. What to write about and what we want to accomplish by writing about itWhich words to useWhat order to put them...

Spicy Rooster and a Salt Lake City Outpost

4 Min read Veteran owned business AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Google Podcasts Spicy Rooster shirts were sold out of the sizes needed. My cousin Priscilla and I bought the last on the shelf. A red shirt with a Sriracha motif, the tee had the hot sauce's...

Firecracker and a Humble Queen

3 min read True story AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Google Podcasts You know those moments in your life that you will never forget? your first dog, first kiss, when Princess Diana got in a car accident. She died on my husband's birthday and I can remember waking...

Essays that changed me: Rachel Cusk and “Making Home”

5 min read The Music in Prose Rachel Cusk St. Augustine, Montaigne Why an essay breathes AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts The essay can make the best of people cringe, with its connection to the dreaded common application or the college assignment....

Writing on the Road and the Creative Process

5 min read 4 book recs on writing 1 novel Toolbox, Ages 9-99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts     How do you write on the move? A computer and phone work for me. When I'm not in the TreeHouse I miss my books, dictionaries, and style...

Poetry for Emergencies: Ukraine, Howard Nemerov, and the War Dead

6 Min read Howard Nemerov 2 Poems TreeHouseLetter feature:  Poetry for Emergencies   AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify.com anchor.fm/emelle Poetry is a way of getting something right in language. Nemerov It's a batshit crazy world, especially for our friends of...

Sex Over 70 Years and the Synecdoche

7 min read, EXPLICIT content 2 Books 2 Rhetorical devices The Music in Prose - THL feature focused on writing that 'sings' and why AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify ITunes Google Podcasts It's a double entendre, this letter's headline, but it's fitting. I'm not...

Adult Child and a Zen Koan

2 Min Read 1 Book Rec 2.5 Zen Koan** Em Dash* AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes My adult child--an oxymoron when you consider that there is no single word for grown offspring in a language with 171,476 words of which 47,156 are obsolete, but please...

Love in a Sad Cafe

5 Min Read 1 Book Rec The Music in Prose   AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes The Music in Prose is a regular feature of the TreeHouseLetter. The idea for this came from my work on music and language, considering just what it is about the...

A Valentine Canine and the Circle of Life

3 Min read 2 Book Recs AVAILABLE  ON PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes   Herz is a good name for a dog adopted on Valentine's Day, especially for a shepherd mix because Herz is the German word for heart. The dark face and fawn body resembles the Belgian...

If You Want to Write, Your Writing Has to Have Rhythm

7 Min Read Ages 19 to 99 Precocious 9+ AVAILABLE ON PODCAST   Anchor.fm/Emelle Spotify iTunes   Toolbox: On Sentences and How to Improve Your Writing Immediately   If you want to write, your writing has to have rhythm. No one ever taught me this. But,...

The Meaning in Music

4 min read AVAILABLE IN PODCAST (Listen to this letter to hear the piano music) Spotify iTunes Anchor.fm/emelle Your job will change, where you live will change, the people in your life will change, but you will always have your music. It’s been my mantra for years,...

Books as Trophies? the Bibliophile vs the Bibliophagist

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify anchor.fm/emelle I have a book problem. It's a good kind of problem because books teach me a lot and I get to hang out and learn with the best. The books don't break the bank. But the books might break my back, or my shelves, or my...

Thay’s Miracle: Short Take on a Long Life (Thich Nhat Hanh)

AVAILABLE ON POCAST Spotify iTunes Anchor.fm I read the book No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life after my father passed away.  The author was the Zen Master and spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, who died this month. He was born in my mother's central...

The Sexy Semicolon, Really?

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm Loved and loathed, sexy and sinister may not be modifiers that come to mind when you think of the semicolon. Cecelia Watson argues otherwise in her deep dive on this misunderstood mark, concluding a decade of research,...

Poetry for Emergencies: Lain S. Thomas at Daybreak

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and I’m scared. It’s not often and I usually can get back to sleep. I’m lucky that way because people do suffer from insomnia and my waking is not like that. An overactive...

A New Year: Goals Versus Habits

Available on Podcast iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   The  New Year means resolutions and goals, or so it has for me for decades. My father would ask my brother and me as children what our resolutions were. This has been a good practice to reflect on the prior year and...

Graveside Gratitude, Giving Thanks in November

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm         I learned more from two friends in death than I had learned from them in life. I had not known them well and perhaps that is why, but they were men I met whose lives touched mine, in a fashion,...

Summer’s End

AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Anchor.fm Late August meant vacation. If in town it meant more parking, easy shopping and less traffic. As a child, the family business tethered me to an insular life, volatile at times in its routine and intimacies. At middle-age...

Alaska Mountains Will Spoil You for All the Rest

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   Alaska mountains will spoil you for all the rest. Two weeks in Southeast Alaska re-shaped a life-long sense of this remote place, which earned its statehood over sixty years ago in 1959. The fjords and mountains...

Father and His Letters

AVAILABLE on PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes     For all the fathers, grandfathers, with us and no longer with us. I wrote this to my children yesterday, Sunday June 20th.   Dear C, D, and N: I sat down and read my father's letters today, not all of...

A Memorial Day Reflection and Celebration

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes     It’s been an emotional week and Memorial Day reminds me that I am ever grateful for this country. Flawed, even divided, or reeling from the aftermath of a pandemic, it may be the worst from of government, as...

April Dreams: a Story & Two Poems

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.  Goethe   The bleachers were full and folks were talking...

Two Truths and a Lie, a Fools Game

Available on Podcast iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm Happy Spring to you on April Fools’ Day! This popular game Two Truths and a Lie is often used as an icebreaker and has a simple object, to guess which is false. On April First each year, I live to make people laugh....

I Met a Man at the Top of Chimney Rock

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   “Would you mind if I take off my shirt?” he said. He asked me to take a photo and didn’t want to offend. I said I wouldn’t be offended. He smiled, posing atop the 315-foot granite monolith, the Broad River flowing...

Family Travel in a Pandemic – By Air and By Land

NOW AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Anchor.fm   Travel highlights for Key West in bold or with hyperlinks for reference Key West In December, my family flew to Key West direct from Newark Airport. The flight was cancelled because of snow, a foot dumped north...

Giving Thanks in 2020 and Simon’s List

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST ANCHOR.FM SPOTIFY iTUNES GIVING THANKS in 2020   Some might say that’s a tall order but I think the tough times define us. I’ve been so blessed that this is the first Thanksgiving in 21 years when I will not have all of my children home. I...

Just a Common Soldier by Vaincourt

This post is for  "the ordinary fellow, who in times of war and strife, goes off to serve his country and offers up his life." It is popular on Veterans Day.     Just a Common Soldier by A. Lawrence Vaincourt He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was...

Spirits of the Fall: Episode (4) Toddler Vision

AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     Spirits of the Fall: True Stories of the Season This is the fourth in a series of True Stories for the season, of eerie occurrences, real-life horrors, visits from the beyond and haunted rooms.   Toddler Vision My...

Spirits of the Fall: Episode (3) Visits From Beyond

AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     This is the third episode in the series, Spirits of the Fall: True Stories of the Season, eerie occurrences, real-life horrors, ghosts and second sight.     Visits From Beyond   Last Night I...

Spirits of the Fall: Episode (2) Where the Driveway Ends

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify anchor.fm     This is the second episode in the series, Spirits of the Fall – True Stories of the season: eerie occurrences, real-life horrors, visits from beyond, ghosts, and second sight. For this episode, I want to...

Spirits of the Fall: Episode (1) In the House

AVAILABLE on PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     This is the first in a series of True Stories for the season, of eerie occurrences, deathly visits, haunted rooms, and childhood visions.   EPISODE 1               In the House   Fall is the season when...

Learning to Run

* AVAILABLE on PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   I can’t say it’s something I like to do. It is something I ought to do and when I’ve done it I feel better, though it wasn’t always that way. I learned how to run a lifetime ago, when I joined the military. Life in the...

Birthday and Death Day, Catholics and Customs

PODCAST AVAILABLE iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     September 2 is a special day for me, the birthday of my daughter and the death day of my father. The cemetery is beautiful. I’ve always had a special regard for cemeteries in spite of the ghosts and the...

The Vulgar Parrot

Available on PODCAST ANCHOR.FM SPOTIFY iTUNES   I’ve gotten to know my son better now that he’s left. I’ve been looking after his fish and turtle and I’ve been noticing his absence. Connecticut’s mandate had prevented gathering for his graduation in May, so...

On Becoming Sheepdogs, a Modern Fable

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes In the wake of recent events regarding the tragic death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, this letter seems more relevant than ever. It has been updated to relate my own experience and the role of the brave men and...

Memorial Day Reflection – Two Poems and a Tribute

POEMS AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes     Two short Memorial Day poems to remember and reflect on the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for freedom.  The first is a notable World War II poem, graphic and difficult, because war is...

Why Nursing Homes Suck

PODCAST AVAILABLE Spotify Anchor.fm iTunes   It was my first time visiting a nursing home and I don’t remember its name, but it was somewhere near Seal Beach. I was in California for spring training with the West Point track team and I spent my days working out...

This Bus is Empty – A COVID Photo Journey

    This Bus is Empty   My town opened park trails this week at April's end. Come walk with me on this photo journey, no mask and no worries. Let me show you what the COVID-19 Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate looks like in Connecticut, less than an hour...

Poetry Dinner Night – A Quarantine Scene

Does she or doesn’t she? Do you recognize this from the 1956 ad campaign? Does it elicit unsavory thoughts? This Hall-of-Fame advertising slogan was used for Clairol’s Hair Color and within six years seventy percent of women were dying their hair. Maybe you remember...

Are We Killing the Fat Man? The Corona Trolley Dilemma

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY ITUNES ANCHOR.FM THE TROLLEY PROBLEM The Trolley thought experiment, first put forth by the philosopher Philippa Foot, pits two schools of moral thought against each other: deontological ethics and utilitarianism. In simple words, the...

The Three Gifts – So what have you learned in 50 years?

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   ** A child's note, three gifts from a parent, and Tolstoy's famous story **   I stumbled upon a note recently from my ten-year-old son, written in print with a pencil, the scrawl tending slightly downward. To...

On Presidents, Politics and War, and Poetry

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm You ever have that moment when something you’ve believed for some time begins to shift and slip, leaving you a bit off-balance? I had that happen in a foundational way. Flipping to the date of a page-a-day calendar, I came...

Raise Your Glass! A Toast by W.B. Yeats

AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify Anchor.fm iTunes   I wanted to share a short poem and what makes it special, why it works as a poem and a toast. Along the way, I’ll talk a bit about punctuation and words, and why they are important to making language sing. This...

The Light in Your Day – A New Take on Winter

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY Anchor.fm iTunes   It’s winter; the holidays have passed. It’s a new year and a new decade. Each morning, I’ve been checking to see how much earlier the sun rises, its orb in the poplars outside my windows a rosy welcome to the day....

Solzhenitsyn and the Gulag – A Russian Novel About Your Life

What can we learn from the Gulag? About the military, about the body and soul? AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     Walking up Hawks Hill near my home, I discovered a pebble in my shoe. I had taken a couple of them out of my right sneaker before...

A Book for Everyone, Even Nonreaders and Grinches

PODCAST INTERVIEW Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes   PODCAST SUMMARY  (please click on links above for full interview)   I talked with editor, writer, and friend, Hayley Swinson, about books and how they help us get into the spirit of the holidays.  She shared a...

Giving Thanks in 2019 – Looking Back on Life’s Big Questions

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify AnchorFM iTunes   Each year at this time I give thanks for my blessings. Some years the mire and muck in life make that harder than others. This year, a blessing came as a surprise. I had a chance to talk to a friend’s mother who was...

TikTok Connect the Dots – the United States and China

AVAILABLE on PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes   My friend’s daughter Sue left to attend the University of Rochester this fall and had shared a story. The school website lists international students as twenty percent of the undergraduate population but Sue said...

A View from Above: an Army Commander in Afghanistan

 Hear Colonel Mintz on PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes   *** Please listen to Podcast to hear full unedited and unscripted interview: Colonel Mintz shares the story and reflects on Afghanistan and the broader context of the war today ***     What is...

Murphy’s Law & the Army Ten-Miler

Listen to Podcast iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, an adage that’s been around for decades. But, did you know that Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was a military officer* and 1940 graduate of the United States Military...

On Poetry and Mondegreens and Teenagers

 Listen to PODCAST iTunes Spotify I had a teacher in eighth grade named Miss Michaelson. She was a bit long in the tooth and had a jagged helmet of black hair. A big boned woman, she wore dresses which wrapped about her like robes on a Greek statue, the overall...

The Making of a Myth or Legend – Stephen Siller

LISTEN TO PODCAST iTUNES Spotify   What goes into the making of a myth or a legend? I listened to my daughter’s English teacher explain the importance of myths in contemporary culture, the idea that something new is often created from the weaving of old threads,...

The Case for the Personal Letter

Listen to PODCAST iTunes  Spotify To Read or to Listen?  This is a letter about letters.  In the age of electronic books and audiobooks and podcasts, I don’t read like I used to and I certainly don’t write like I used to. Friends and family tell me they listen to...

Whales, Migrations, & Back-to-School

APPLE PODCAST SPOTIFY PODCAST The sperm whale takes 40 years before it masters the global oceans, traveling with its mother for years and then joining a pod of wandering bulls. I heard this on National Geographic’s Great Migrations. These massive animals weigh up to...

In These Walls

NOW ON PODCAST at iTunes, Spotify, Anchor.fm/emelle Click Link below iTunes Apple Podcast - In These Walls Listen to Podcast on Spotify It was the middle of July and the middle of the week. I’d been hearing it for a few days, a faint sound, the kind you weren’t sure...

Kili at 50 – Hiking Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route in Six Days

NOW AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify  AnchorFM   View of Kibo from atop the Barranco Wall “Did you train much?” my guide Evans Erick asked, the man with two first names, the grandson of a Maasai tribal chief. It was on the descent when he inquired in his...

Work Hard & Do the Right Thing – A Tribute to an Old Sailor

“Work hard and do the right thing,” was Ted Varga’s mantra.  His son Stephen Varga shared this in his eulogy at the Hoyt Funeral Home.  I had come to know Ted these past years through Meals on Wheels, when I delivered his Monday food. He was an old sailor with a brass...

Walking With Homer – A Connecticut Odyssey

Today I was in for a surprise, an unlikely and timely gift. It was a sunny Sunday in January, just breaking into the 30s after a cold spell.  I put on yoga pants and dressed in layers, a puffy vest, a sweatshirt with black date stamps printed on the front, like the...

Volleyball and Veterans at West Point

King School Visits West Point This Veterans Day weekend passed like most others, but I want to share a bit about our visit to West Point.  Army beat Lafayette in football and that made my husband and me feel good, as army veterans.  After the game we hosted our...

Little Free Library – One Year Anniversary

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Joseph Addison   One year ago my children and a couple of West Point cadets helped install our little road-side library, digging a two foot hole, steadying the large bird feeder shaped box and its post with...

ON WALKING – Sedaris, Gornick, Cadogan, & Thoreau

  I've come across the topic of walking in my reading, especially lately, as well as over the years.  Writers walk and maybe the converse, while not logically true, is true on occasion. Walkers write. I need to walk, I must walk, but like my need to run, I am...

A Remedy Much Desired – Suicide & Three Poems by Max Ehrmann

Fun, colorful, classic. The first two clash with the third, because when we think of classic, especially in fashion, we think modest, elegant, subdued.  Designer Kate Spade made the trio possible for professional women, the idea that classic could also be fun and...

Things Desired – Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

  April is National Poetry Month, which makes sense. If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?* And here is spring, eluded and long postponed by wintry flurries and storms, yet the sun is shining in the window. The daffodils sprouted, even amid the snow, and the...

Deep Work, Digital Detox, and the Year of the DOG

Deep Work If you haven't read Cal Newport's book Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, I recommend it. A friend gave it to me for my birthday and I finished it in a day, putting off any type of work to imagine the lasting impact of getting in the...

Fruitcake & Friends & Truman Capote

WINTER SOLSTICE There are sunnier days ahead! The days are getting longer with the winter solstice just past. Day length on December 22 is two seconds more than yesterday in my town, if you consult the chart for 2017. It's hard to believe the sun sets at 4:29 PM, but...

Pawfect Rescue – Our First Adoption Dog

  Buster Brown came to town on September 16, 2017. He is our family's first 'rescue' dog. Until now we had dogs from a breeder and the pet store, and a cat from the hedgerow. We've had success with each source, though not without challenges. Dogs, like other...

Little Free Library – Charter # 46480 – For the Love of Reading

The Little Free Library (LFL) is up, in the yard, along the road, by the wooded end of our lot. It is full of books of all kinds, fiction, non-fiction, young adult, children's, and even an Inaugural Poem, mind games, and a field guide. It is open for fall and school...

Revisiting a Classic –  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  I've been reading a lot for grad school, a dozen plus books in a short time, some of which I'd read already, like this one. So yep, graduate school, ME and going back AGAIN  for another degree, in writing. It shouldn't be as much work because I'm already doing...

July 4th – An Oath Ceremony at West Point

"I, [state your name], do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and bear true allegiance to the National Government; that I will maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States, paramount to any and all allegiance,...

The Body Bearers of Marine Barracks – a Memorial Day Reflection

This is a somber holiday, to remember those who have made the final sacrifice. Sometime this weekend, amid the shopping, beach-going, and picnics, take time to reflect and say a prayer or read about how this tradition began. Share it with your families, your children....

The Pursuit of Excellence – Music & Mother’s Day

What is the average amount of time a student spends on task without interruption? What are the three root causes of interruption? How do students achieve excellence given these digital age realities? To answer the first, a Ted-Ed survey of 260 students said the...

Keep Chirping – Poetry & What Divides Us

Word of the day: a cephalophore is any of a group of Catholic martyrs who were supposed to carry their heads in their hands.  Also:  The family of mollusks with distinct heads. Family of ventricose or filliform mushrooms. (wordnik.com) I came across this image in a...

Spring Cats – Feline Poetry & T.S. Eliot

    This spring cats are everywhere, in my reading, on my whiteboard, in illustrations.  I came across Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot in Haslams, a sprawling old book store in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The subject didn't appeal to me and...

Unity or Chaos? C.S. Lewis on Stage in NYC

On Thought & Existence Do you believe that thought is a collection of atoms rolling about at random in a bony skull? or that the arrangement of such atoms for physical and chemical reasons happened at random? Because if you’re waiting for an answer to this...

A Lifetime in Books – Sandy’s List – Daedalus’s Bookseller

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.  Jorge Luis Borges When I travel I visit local bookstores, often the highlight of a trip.  Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores is a collection of tales and colorful illustrations by writer and...

Battleground State – Shots Fired in Virginia

  Range The shooting range was set up for the use of handguns and rifle using handgun ammunition from 22LR through 45 ACP (long rifle and automatic colt pistol), not most long arms.  My brother brought both handguns and rifles to the range and he had to return...

Can You Just Spell Your Name? Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

      If any man should ask you how the name Antoninus is written, would you, with a straining of voice, utter each letter? What if the questioner grew angry, would you be angry, too? Would you not go on with composure and spell out every letter? Just...

Chuc Mung Nam Moi – A Rooster Year with a Cock-y Start

  The monkey year ends today and we welcome the sign of the Rooster as the Lunar New Year festivities begin tomorrow.  Two descriptions on the Chinese zodiac follow. Rooster (or Chicken) ranks the tenth among the Chinese zodiac animals. In Chinese culture,...

An Inaugural Weekend – Hats, Cats, & Spittin’ Mad in D.C.

We stayed in Old Town Alexandria this past weekend for a very different reason than the multitudes heading south from New York for the inauguration and protest march.  We went to a volleyball tournament at the National Harbor Gaylord Convention Center.  Even though we...

The Daily Stoic – Only They Truly Live

  Of all the people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live. Not satisfied to merely keep good watch over their own days, they annex every age to their own. All the harvest of the past is added to their store. Only an ingrate...

Hapa Haole in Kauai, Oahu, Pearl Harbor & More

Happy New Year! A PRIME YEAR The number 2017 is prime, which means it is divisible only by itself and the the number 1; factors for this year are 2017 and 1.  It is an inauguration year which means we will have a new president on January 20; inauguration years follow...

Why Send Christmas Cards? Yankee Ingenuity & Real Miracles

The Christmas card may be a casualty of digital media and social photography. There's reason enough to loathe it and love it. I loathe it for the time involved, the process, and the inevitable complaints from my teenagers when they arrive. I love it when I hear from...

Keeping Christmas by Henry van Dyke

  For the next couple of weeks, I will share essays, poems, stories and readings . Here's a good "sermon" for the season, regardless of religious background. The words are skillfully chosen and arranged to highlight the idea that we are part of something bigger,...

Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea & the Madwoman in the Attic

Jane, Rochester, Fairfax. The mention of characters in literature conjures emotions and memories, as much as the scent of balsam fir and the crackle of a fire reminds us of Christmas. Simple plainspoken Jane Eyre and the brooding Mr. Rochester may take us back to high...

Veterans Day Sketches and a West Point Reunion

“It wasn’t a cold war for us,” Billy said. “They caught us in their nets, the Russians. Usually 200, 250 feet below.” The pub smelled of Buffalo wings. Dart boards and arcade games flanked the walls. “What’d you do?” “Sent a guy to cut us out. Had to come up to 75...

National Punctuation Day – the Vulgar Pronoun – Read THIS

I was looking up the definition of the demonstrative pronoun this last week, and got a lesson in modern American slang. Gestures help with understanding just what this means in certain circles, but if you give it some thought, you will realize that the mean and the...

Grammar Matters – So, Three Pronouns Walk Into a Bar

    Grammar matters. OK, really truly, it does.  So here are some grammar matters worth sharing with fellow word nerds.  AND there's even a little something for math geeks too. BAR JOKES Three pronouns walked into a bar.  She let him have it. An interjection...

BitterSweet Dreams – The Tea Ceremony & Life’s Rituals

Woke from my dream at 4:00 AM with the word 'bittersweet' in my mouth, the accompanying silence and absence of flavor, a dark room, the image of my father's grave. The day before was the seven year anniversary of his death and the sun was shining, the hydrangea blooms...

The Nordic Chronicles – The Norwegian, the Doctor, & the Terrier

How can you tell the difference between a Norwegian introvert and a Norwegian extrovert? When she's talking to you a Norwegian introvert looks at her feet. A Norwegian extrovert looks at yours. I read this years ago, though the joke was about the Finnish. The...

On Riddles & Language – A Cabinet of Curiosities by Roy Sorensen

Assassination Proof? As Nero became more powerful there appeared to be no limit on who he me could eliminate -- even his mother. His philosophy teacher, Seneca, warned Nero that there was someone he could not kill. Who was it? (Sorensen) This riddle felt appropriate...

Which President Succeeded His Successor? – Boston by the Books

“Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread.  François Mauriac   BOSTON FOR BOOK NERDS Boston by the books meant a visit to four bookstores and two stationary shops this past...

Volleyball Nationals – Heroes Wanted in an Age of Victims

Whistles screeching, balls flying, and girls screaming were served daily for nine days at the world's largest volleyball event in Orlando, Florida on 177 courts, with 27,000 athletes aged 10 to 18 from all over the country, 40,000 spectators, 9000 coaches, and 502...

A Toast for All Times – Weddings & Graduations – Marcus Aurelius

The flight to Seattle from JFK was perfect, a clear day across most of the country.  I had a window seat behind the wing on the left side of an Airbus 320, or the south side going west, giving me a bird's eye view of the good old U.S. of A. My neighbor slept and most...

What is a Good Life? – Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Stop philosophizing about what a good man is and be one. The Roman emperor (161 - 180 AD) Marcus Aurelius wrote this in his personal notes. Considered the last of the Five Great Emperors and regarded as the philosopher king by historians, Aurelius left a legacy in his...

Poetry Month – Today – Billy Collins Welcomes Spring

Spring came late this year to Connecticut with mornings still in the 40s. We hosted an exchange student from Spain and she experienced her first snow in April, not once but twice.  It was just the right amount to cover the ground, dust branches, and melt by afternoon....

WORDPRESS FATAL ERROR – When Your Site Crashes

You know the game of 20 questions. Check out these three and see if you know the answer. What is your mother’s maiden name? What is the name of your big dog? Who is your favorite uncle? If you’re not sure, Eric said they only need “two out of three” and Jade didn’t...

Alan Rickman & Kate Winslet on Women & Beauty

  Today is International Women's Day. If you're like me, you saw it on Google's search page, and by holding your mouse cursor over the Google logo, you can watch the video and proceed to the link to learn more. So it's a good time to share this exchange between...

David Foster Wallace on Kafka’s “A Little Fable”

  David Foster Wallace is my latest literary obsession: a state of consumption and immersion in his essays, conversations, speeches, and thoughts. DFW was an influential writer and professor, who had an assignment to review Bryan Garner's A Dictionary of Modern...

Why Read The Martian?

  Here’s something to consider: girls reading science fiction, and more interesting, girls liking science fiction. The ladies in my book group met last night to discuss The Martian by Andy Weir. Yes, it’s a book. The movie came AFTER the book. SCIENCE The science...

Thinking Inside of the Box – A Merry Birthday

  My mother was worried my gift would not arrive on time. I checked later that day. The mailman put the well taped package with nine priority mail labels and tracking sticker in my mailbox. Just narrower and taller than a shoe box, the Amazon prime tape showing...

“Does your cup runneth over?” – Tao Te Ching – Verse 9

The bible mentions this cup, but how very different are its meanings in Psalm 23 and the Tao Verse 9. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Psalm 23 V5 (Link to NIV Commentary) The cup...

The Year 2016, Monkey Stamps, & Volleyball

  As we return from warmer climes, wintry adventures, distant family, geographical and emotional rambling, we find ourselves back in our homes and at our desks. Here are some random thoughts. The Year 2016 2016 is an election year and a leap year, evenly...

Blooms in Winter – Faith Amid the Darkness

My mother’s plant has not bloomed for a long time, years she thinks. She gave it to us when she moved and it sits in the front window which faces south. The sun is lower in the southern sky during the winter since we live in the northern hemisphere. The light is weak...

A Gift for Readers – Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck

Last night my twelve year old was tired from homework and nervous about two quizzes and a test today. She changed into her pajamas and came downstairs, her plush toy seal tightly in her arms, her brow wrinkled with worry. We sat by the Christmas tree and I read her...

Giving Thanks For Teenage Children

My first baby screamed for six weeks. We didn’t know what we were doing; neither of us ever babysat a child, much less an infant.  I remember coming home from the hospital and setting our baby and her carrier in the entrance, letting out a breath, thinking “Phew, the...

“Do you feel lucky?” – The Luck Factor by Dr. Richard Wiseman

Here’s a story I shared with my teen-aged daughter when things weren't going so well in class. Martin and Brenda Martin stopped by the coffee shop one morning before his meeting. On his way in, he noticed a five pound sterling note by the door and he picked it up. He...

Women of the Year – No Glamour, All Guts

They don’t make Glamour’s list. Its 25th Anniversary  Women of the Year Awards include a fashionista, Hollywood hero, transgender champion, and the president of Planned Parenthood. There’s little glamorous about the path these two women took, no time for navel-gazing,...

Running With the Marines – the 40th Marine Corps Marathon

The 40th Marine Corps Marathon may well be my first and last time running around Washington, D.C., but oh what an event it was.  Four days later the race is with me still, the image of double amputees on handcycles, veterans running on prosthetic legs, photo placards...

Poetry is in the Trees – Frost & Dickinson on Autumn

Poetry is in the trees this time of year. They whisper and wink, with emerald eyes and golden hair, all aglow with love.  This couple welcomes the day and I see them on my morning commute.   Nothing Gold Can Stay  by Robert Frost Nature’s first green is gold, Her...

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – a Reader’s Guide

What modern classic makes #4 on the banned book list? It’s on 8th grade reading lists around the country. The author’s ‘new’ novel was released this summer and stirred up a controversy, maybe because Harper Collins made historic sales of more than 1.1 million copies...

Don Quixote on Presidential Debates and Military Service

The Republican debates have made history with 23 some million viewers, just north of the average NFL football game at 19 million! Americans are concerned about this upcoming presidential election, or at least as much as their fantasy football league. This is progress...

Born to Run, and Fall – Oso and Athena – Big Runners

The cement gutter seemed to rise towards me after my foot caught on a perfectly fine stretch of road across from the Chevy dealer. It happened so slowly, the images were a series of stills. My center of gravity was beyond recovery and my legs were like drying pasta,...

Classical Music is Cool, Again

    Four dads from Utah performed an uplifting, classical/modern, soul wrenching performance at Tanglewood Friday evening. I laughed at corny jokes and cried to the sweetest notes I’ve heard this year. My tween introduced me to the Piano Guys. They made...

Interracial Love, the World Child, and Pearl Buck

The name Josui Sakai sounds lovely; it rolls nicely on the tongue, JOH SOOEY  SAH  KAI.  Josui left the United States with her parents during WWII to avoid being placed into the Japanese American internment camps, a decision her father made. American born and raised...

History Teacher Provides a Lesson – But Not One She Intended

Some unlucky souls have already returned to school and we will keep them in our thoughts. Meanwhile, stretch out on the lounger, kick off your shoes, and crack open a cold one while we consider our luckier path, no school till AFTER Labor Day. Let's contemplate the...

When Lightning Strikes, Are You Ready?

We were all shaken out of bed this morning at 5:25. I'm pretty sure the house, or very nearby, was hit by lightning. I smelled electrical smoke.  Spent the last 2 hours walking around inspecting but could not see the strike. Cable, Internet and phone still out. No AC...

A Stone Pig and Cold Feet – Common Core in New York

He wasn't tall but he was fit and wore the beard of a man in charge of his own schedule. His shop opened last year and he doubled its inventory since, adding furniture like a stool with inlaid walnuts, another with legs of horn, and collectibles like the Adirondack...

Walking on Water – Faith & the Adirondack Loon

“I was artfully created by God!!!” screamed a young man, the words loud on the morning lake and louder still than the bell rung before to begin the daily ritual. We had paddled across to see the camp and explore the far shore, the water still and dark from its evening...

Postcard from New Orleans – a First-Timer’s Sketch

Jamal pulled his Black Chevy Impala along the corner of Toulouse and Chartres where we flanked the bay window of a jewelry store, hiding from what amounted to a spit of rain, a gift from above. The heat dropped into the 80s and the rain tamped down the smell of human...

An Appeal to the “Supreme Judge of the World” – July 4, 1776

Just 1300 words long, the Declaration of Independence is worth reading this weekend. You'll learn something about the United States, about its history, and about yourself. If you have children, include them. For the last few years, our family has read this founding...

Three Tales from Dubrovnik

 A Story Fit for a King Long ago, two royal suitors proposed marriage to the daughter of the King of Epidaurum who decided that whoever performed the better deed would win her hand. One man set out to sea and brought back the finest cloth in the world and the means to...

Gifts From Croatia

Our Croatian driver Nico said, "What three things does the U.S. President use from our country every day?"  I didn't know when I first arrived in Split a few weeks ago, but I've returned with answers for curious readers. Nico smiled in the rear view mirror.  "The...

Battalion Commander’s Meditation on Memorial Day

 by Colonel Kenneth Mintz ... after a year of combat, I saw a group of haggard veterans, lean and sinewy in uniforms bleached by sun and sweat, soldiers who had been through a terrible crucible and who absolutely loved each other... On Memorial Day we take pause to...

Memorial Day Perspective: U.S. War Deaths Through History

On Memorial Day, we remember those who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. For many Americans this means a three day weekend, for some, a parade and visit to the local cemetery to honor these men and women.  For those serving, the experience is something they...

Millennials & the Prom – PROMposals in the Digital Age

For their fifth birthday they rented a bouncy gym, for their tenth a pirate ship, and for confirmation the country club with DJ, dance, and photography. The millennials (and their parents) do nothing by halves. Asking a date to prom is a rite of passage into adulthood...

A Mother’s Day Gift – The Lanyard by Billy Collins

Here's a gift for you to give your mother, but be prepared to laugh out loud and to cry. First I have something to share. My kids have one grandparent now though they once had five, lucky them. This weekend we think about our parents, mothers in particular. We are...

Do You Feel the Love? Thich Nhat Hanh – How to Love

Do you feel the love? Keeping Elton John out of this, when the emotional bank account is low, drained from winter and children and parents and life, I find consolation from the Vietnamese teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.  In his book How to Love, the Buddhist monk and author...

Disappointment on Ellis Island Field Trip, Shattan’s Day Off

"The field trip was a huge disappointment.  It took us four hours of driving, two ferry rides, and we had half an hour in the museum," my son said. "Did a guide or a ranger give you a tour?" I asked. "No. Our teacher told us to do three things. We had to sketch...

Spring into Books

Tulips have sprouted at the base of the plum trees. On my run this morning, bare branches shook and trees creaked from the north wind, but the sun was defiant and the ground mushy and littered from weeks of melted snow. Spring is for flowers, gardens, lovers, and...

Liberty for Sale: Philadelphia and the Downside of Capitalism

April 1   Philadelphia played a significant role in our country's history and I'm just back from my second visit in recent months.  But be warned, you won't like what I have to share. Good stuff first. The City of Brotherly Love was once our nation's capital and...

Taking a Teen to NYC

Freaky Friday is here: it's the first day of spring and there's a snow storm in Connecticut.     We're just back from a blustery cold visit to NYC.  My teen daughter and I took our first trip, three days and two nights, just us. We watched An American in...

Withdrawal From the Orgy: Rise of the Asexual and the Demisexual

American society has become so sexualized, young people are seeking refuge in labels that make them feel OK to pull out of the orgy. Withdrawal by a new name, they call themselves asexual and demisexual.  Think of the asexual or "ace" as the atheist of the religion of...

Piano and Poetry: a Primer on How to Critique Music

Here are my late night texts to my husband on how to critique piano music. Can you hear Caroline playing? Listen for clean articulation of each note, even tho it's fast A musician must be heard and given feedback. It's stunted when she doesn't get anything. But wait...

High… How are you? Cannabis in Colorado

Rocky Mountain High has new meaning after our ski vacation last week in Aspen. I visited  a pot shop. The front half was empty save for an ATM machine. It's a cash business because banks won't support the industry. The back half of The Green Dragon Cannabis Co looked...

The Super Bowl, My Son, & Home Economics

EXTRA! EXTRA!  Read all about it:  my son learned how to clean a toilet this week.  In earnest.  We're making real HEAD way. We had friends over to watch the superbowl and needed to clean house. Our housecleaner of six years retired and woe-to-my-children, they must...

Marginalia – Notes in Books – To Write or Not To Write?

Marginalia as a word may bring forth varying associations, but focus on the first two syllables for its meaning, as opposed to the last. Readers write in books along the margins, on the flyleaf, making various marks, scribbles, appendages and annotations.   As a...

American Sniper – Sold Out – Deservedly

I saw the movie this weekend and as a veteran, I found it a powerful and honest portrayal of one man's experience. Clint Eastwood shoots the scenes from Chris Kyle's life, verb intended; there are parallels.  Kyle shoots for a living too, or shot for a living.  The...

A Year of Reading

If you could see a summary of the food you digested in 2014, you might find some surprises:  17 pounds of chocolate, 47 of bottles of wine, 5.7 servings of red meat a week, 1.3 fast food visits per week, the venial sin in this quarter is fried chicken or Five...

Out With the Old & in With the New

Pruned the Christmas tree today and left the knobby trunk in the stand, because there's something beautiful about the bones of a thing, like the poplars outside my windows, skeletal and dusted in snow.  Destruction and demolition felt good.  My hand is sore from...

Crisis of Faith? Read What a Nurse Says

A friend wrote on Facebook that her son found out the truth about Santa Claus.  The post generated a few comments, my own included which I will share here. MyLinh:  Dear Laurie - please read this and maybe your son should too, the most reprinted editorial in history....

Eavesdropping on Greenwich Teens: Are They Going to Pot?

Greenwich is one of the country's wealthiest towns.  The other day, I drove there, parked the car on the main avenue, and walked 30 meters to a shop, when I overheard a conversation behind me. "Don't you want to hear my story?" a girl said.  "Jackson was so worried. ...

Where Are the Tough Teachers? Mediocre Music & Why We Need Mr. K

I drove to my son's winter concert listening to Yo-Yo Ma's holiday album with musicians Chris Botti on trumpet and Natalie MacMaster on fiddle. I wanted to get into the holiday spirit, but perhaps I set myself up for disappointment. The school's preparatory ensemble...

“Christmas Sparrow” – Billy Collins – a Holiday Poem

Stories, books, poems, and music are a favorite part of Christmas.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we take out the songbooks with popular tunes and solemn carols.  I like playing the songs and reading stories with my children; last night I stumbled on a poem by a...

Did You Mail Your Cards Yet? a History of the Christmas Card

Have you mailed your Christmas cards?  Did you receive any at Thanksgiving, astonished at the organizational efficiency of your friends, reconciled to the fact that for better or worse the season is upon you? My annual card regimen boils down to a paste and edit on...

Train Dreams – Denis Johnson – Here’s Why I Steal Books

I steal books.  It doesn't happen often and if possible, I make a confession, appealing to the owner's sympathies and good will. I replace the books when I can, though one librarian was not happy about it. The surroundings have as much to do with it as the writing and...

A Passion for Puzzling

There are puzzles and then there are puzzles. If you like jigsaw puzzles, you're familiar with the kitschy cardboard variety depicting Disney characters, classic art, nature, or animals.  The pieces often consist of two outward tabs and two inward blanks and are apt...

Giving Thanks in 2014

It was Sunday before Thanksgiving. As she guided the felt through the sewing machine, Paige suggested everyone share what she was thankful for.  Sixteen teenagers were making stockings, sewing them actually, the old fashioned way; then they decorated them and filled...

Toni Morrison’s Beloved: Should Books Get a Rating Like Movies?

Parents get upset about the book Beloved and here's why.  In the first chapter, Toni Morrison wrote about the five men who were "so sick with the absence of women they had taken to calves." Go ahead.  Read it again; I had too.  My reading group picked this as part of...

Beauty & the Buddha: the Royal Courtesan Visits Siddhartha

A woman of exceptional beauty came to see the Buddha. He was not there when she arrived, so the monks invited her and her son to wait for his return.  A monk named Kaludayi had never seen a more lovely woman in his life.  Having taken his vows as a monk not long...

Common Core in Connecticut: Bureaucracy Beats Democracy

A panel of speakers discussed the Common Core this week at the New Canaan Library with a room full of concerned citizens.  Connecticut adopted verbatim the new standards in 2010 as a means to opt out of the No Child Left Behind law. Many of us knew little about it....

UCLA today: Students take ‘diversity’ and skip history

The faculty of University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) College of Letters and Sciences voted Friday a close 332 to 303, with 24 blank ballots, in a move toward forcing students to take a diversity course as part of their undergraduate requirements. (Michelle Moons...

Don Quixote’s Advice for the New Congress

Election results are in. A news anchor announced last night that Congressman Michael Grimm from Staten Island won reelection, though he faces 20 counts of fraud and a pending federal indictment.  Then she asked, "What does that say about the other candidate?" Just who...

What would Don Quixote do? Quixote on Families and Greatness

Don Quixote himself will answer this question, and I promise to relate such counsel as faithfully as this modern, wretched hand will permit. You may ask, "Who cares what Quixote thinks or does?" The sane madman and the wise fool (Sancho Panza) are two of the most...

Why Students Don’t Write Well – the PSAT and English Today

Many children struggle to write well today.  Here's the number one problem they face. First let's consider their writing skills.  See how you fare on these three questions from a full length PSAT or Prelimary Scholastic Aptitude Test, the precursor to the SAT. Choice...

Taken for Dead – Edgar Allan Poe in Minnesota – a True Tale

I visited Rochester, Minnesota last week and stayed at the Ivy Lodge where the brothers William and Charles Mayo once resided.  Often confused with the Mayowood Mansion, today the lodge is the home of good friends who suffer an endless parade of visitors mistaking...

Two Monks and a Woman – A Zen Story not a Bar Joke

One day, two monks set out on a journey to a temple in a distant village. Along the way, they came to a shallow and fast moving river where a young woman waited, full of despair for fear of falling in. The monks looked at each other because the rules of their order...

“Who goes? who gets left behind?” – Last Days in Vietnam

Hurry up.  Last Days in Vietnam is playing in Pelham, New York until Thursday, October 16.  Book your tickets online [Link for tickets], because the screening room only has 12 seats. We watched the documentary with seven other people, starved for action on a Saturday...

High School Sports: Vulgarity vs. Virtue

Exhausted and losing, the Viking girls huddled on the court and referring to their opponents, team captain Idalis Figueroa said, “That’s not who we are. At King we believe in the virtues: kindness, integrity, respect, perseverance. This is how we play.” (This may...

Quiet: the Power of Introverts – Susan Cain – in the Top 10

  This makes my top 10 list. Here’s why. With her book, Susan Cain gave me a gift as lasting and substantial as any literary work I’ve read. Every now and then you read something that reaches you, touches you deeply in ways you could not imagine. Quiet does that...

Cut the Flab, a Writing Primer

Simple steps to improve bloated writing   In a digital world, many people only know you through your writing. At work and in your personal life, social media extends our connections across the globe.  So it’s more important than ever to write well. But who has time...

Women at West Point & Women in Combat

The New York Times Magazine ran a feature on women at West Point this month which touched on historically controversial issues such as female enrollment and women in combat arms. I thought I’d share my insight on these issues as a female graduate of the Class of 1991,...

Oklahoma Sunrise, Going West & Getting Hitched

A glowing orange ball is on the horizon, the land flat and expansive.  Here's the sunrise from our hotel window along with the United States Flag, and a pickup truck. The Hotel is located on Garth Brooks Boulevard.  It's good to be out west, but there's loneliness...

Banned Books Week, Soft Bans & Selective Shelving in Schools

People made over 18,000 attempts to remove books from schools and libraries since 1990, according to the American Library Association  (ALA article link).  Here are the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books (scroll to bottom). My family read six of them, so we have...

School Guidance, Common Core & the Orwellian State

Our Middle School principal sent guidance on the topic of town safety: students are discouraged from walking into town after school. He shares the numbers and concludes: Anyway you “do the math”, you can calculate that a large number of unsupervised middle school aged...

Ten Books That Stayed With Me, a Facebook Meme

"Ten books that stayed with me" is a post circulating on Facebook.  I write about books on this site, so when a friend asked for my list, I thought I would share them here too. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling  (favorites in series...

“As droplets fell through the dark” – a Poem for 9/11

Poet Billy Collins, then U.S. Poet Laureate, was asked by the Librarian of Congress to write a poem to remember the victims of 9/11 which he read at a special joint session in September 2002.  It is titled "The Names" and is worth listening to or reading. This is the...

Last Days in Vietnam, a Documentary in Theaters

Rory Kennedy, film-maker and daughter of the late Robert Kennedy, produced a film which debuted in theaters this week about the fall of Vietnam. I haven’t seen it yet and am debating whether I will. I'm half Vietnamese and have mixed feelings and for many years...

Did You Get Your Latex-Free Gloves? Back-to-school Supplies

My son has a rotating eight day schedule annotated in as many colors. A suggestion is noted in bold on the school's shopping list:  "Please try to have students color-coordinate their class supplies with their class colors (ex. Yellow Binder for Yellow Math class)."...

Elegant Sentences, Express Ideas & Make an Impact

I am not a grammarian but I love words, their arrangement and sound, the infinite combinations and uses, their impact. Words are responsible for founding our country, We the people; for ending a war, Tear down this wall; for perhaps the most intimate and familiar of...

The Woodcutter’s Tale – a Back-to-School Parable

Once upon a time, there lived a woodcutter who went into the forest to chop down wood.  He felled 18 trees that day and brought them to the timber merchant. "You are the best woodcutter around," the merchant said and gave him his pay. The second day, the woodcutter...

The Age of Insolence & Politically Correct Nursery Rhymes

The stair and attic lights were on when I went upstairs.  I whispered goodnight to my daughter, then reminded her she left the lights on. "David and Laura left them on," she said. I walked to David's room and told him to turn off the lights. "Why me?" he said. "I...

Hiking With Your Dog: Rocky Peak Ridge & Giant Mountain

Belle is a five year old boxer, all muscle and tireless.   She is a good running companion who keeps pace easily enough on three to five mile runs. We wanted to include her on a day hike in the Adirondacks. But dogs, like people, need to prepare. She would carry her...

Message From an Iroquois Guide

The Iroquois guide sat quietly in the pine bark room, filled to the rafters with artifacts, out of place ones like the bison head and longhorn skull and recent ones like a dug out canoe discovered at  lake bottom.  Hand designed historical posters lined the walls...

Einstein on Classic Literature

Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything...

Hiking Mt. Colvin, Blake Peak, Nippletop, & Dial Mt.

The gate to heaven is a tunnel of birch trees. There is no photo of God's Gate but this silver birch forest offers a glimpse My family has been hiking several years and we set a modest goal for our first overnight trip: to hike 4 of the 46 high peaks in the...

You Get a Line and I’ll Get a Pole, an Unlikely Catch

Mountain lakes, wilderness hikes, fishing. E.B. White who is known for Charlotte's Web was a notable American writer.  His essay "Once More to the Lake" was first published in Harper's magazine in 1941 and explains this summer ritual. One summer, along about 1904, my...

Spirts at the Blind Tiger: Signs & Superstition 2

Charlene told me Beth's old music group was playing at the Blind Tiger on Tuesday evening, June 17th. Sometime after they began, Tim suggested they play Beth's Waltz.  But Beth hadn't played with them for a long while and no one could remember the tune. (Link to Blind...

What’s in a Name?

After the funeral service, we got to talking about names.  Uncle Harley told us about his mother's.  One day his grandfather was standing on a bridge in Rochester, watching boats and ships go by, and a vessel came out on his side. Printed in large letters along its...

“Repeated Injuries and Usurpations” July 4, 1776

A family friend told me that every year on Independence Day, her family read the Declaration of Independence.  Each took turns until they read the document in its entirety. I thought that was an excellent way to enjoy the day's events and will try it in our family....

Invisible Cities – Italo Cavino – Constructs of the Mind

Italo Calvino was the most translated Italian author of his time and a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Published in 1972, Invisible Cities (link to book) is considered Calvino's masterpiece.  It's a slender 165 page volume, but beware.  The words and the...

Not in the Car! Not in the Street! Case of the Missing Wallet

It's easy to be a cynic. Police Officer Callinan met me in less than five minutes after I called yesterday.  Together we reviewed the video footage from four different cameras in the town's burger joint.  From the register to the table, we could see the exchange of...

It’s a Messy Business – “Urinal Dynamics”

I love Wired magazine and if you aren't already a subscriber, this might be motivation enough for the ladies. Most of the readers are men, which is good because they are the target for this article.  But I'll leave targets  to the experts, researchers Tadd Truscott...

In the Heart of the Sea – Philbrick – Couples Book Night

As part of an "inaugural town-wide reading initiative," our library chose In the Heart of the Sea, the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex for its first selection.  Nathaniel Philbrick earned the National Book Award for this retelling of the fateful 1819 voyage from...

Greek Stoic Epictetus – Life is a Festival

Epictetus teaches and instructs, even today, almost 2000 years later.  So it is with the great thinkers.  A freed slave and Stoic, his philosophy is often compared to that of Jesus Christ though he never met any Christian teachers. Like many teachers of the classical...

Signs, Superstition, and Life

I'm not superstitious though my family is, at least my mother's side.  It could be cultural and it is certainly an individual thing.  But I am second guessing my own beliefs now. We lost our dog in April  (Link to post) and I couldn't bring myself to go back to the...

Playing His Song, Father’s Day

It seems only a short while ago when I wrote this column.  My father lived another three years. To all the fathers out there and to the friends who lost theirs, I will play you a few songs.  My father knew these by heart, the notes and the chords and the lyrics.  He...

My Antonia – Willa Cather – an American Beauty

In My Ántonia, Willa Cather writes about our American past, its western expansion, rugged living, and the indomitable spirit of the men and women of the late 1800s.  The character of Antonia embodies all this, but the book is so much more. It's a portrait of our...

Not Your Average Support Group, Teen Birthday & Fault in Our Stars

They joined her support group Saturday.  What kind of support?  The best kind, for celebration and friendship.  Do we need cancer to support each other? The book The Fault in Our Stars opens with John Green’s characters meeting in their cancer support group.   One...

Handwriting, a Foundation for Communication and Thought

During a year of homeschooling, my children practiced penmanship. The positive impact on everything from legibility to understanding and reinforcement was impressive. A year back in public school and my son's handwriting has regressed.  And he no longer writes in...

On the Beaches of Normandy 70 Years Ago

Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of D Day. Seventy years is a long time, but not for some. An 89-year-old British Royal Navy vet was so determined to get to D-Day commemorations in Normandy Friday that he snuck away from his nursing home without warning and...

How Do We Teach Creativity? Odyssey of the Mind

In the Age of Information with energy challenges and dwindling resources, we need more and more creative, innovative solutions to the world's problems.  The existing education system does not teach this well. So how do we teach creativity today? I'm just back from...

Speaker Tells Grads to “Make Your Bed”

Admiral William McRaven spoke to the graduating class at University of Texas at Austin.  If you read my earlier letter about the Yale Commencement ( link )with its Honorary Degrees and awards for everyone, you will be pleased to hear what the Admiral had to say. Every...

“The Boys of Iwo Jima”

A friend sent a story worth sharing.  I did a bit of checking and it's true, mostly.  These things get circulated online and picked up and added on and they remind me of a fish tale.  Even the photo lies.  The fish is like my finger during a Facetime chat, it takes up...

Memorial Day, Remember the 1.3 Million

I awoke one morning with a clarity of mind and knowledge I had not possessed before.  I realized something about my three children:  they will serve in the Army. My ten year old daughter brought home the “newspaper” she published in school and for a fill-in-the-blanks...

Yale Commencement – Awards for Everyone

This year's Yale University Commencement consisted of two acts, a dozen Honorary Degrees followed by Awards for Everyone. Act one occurred on the Old Campus at 10:30 AM and act two moved to the residential colleges at noon for awards and diplomas. Secretary of State...

Read Austen, Train Your Brain

Mention Austen to literature lovers and you get one of two reactions: love her or loathe her. Mark Twain was perhaps her harshest critic.  He said, “Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” I...

Mother’s Day Menu: Wild Onions & Grammar

Good morning from the Tree House where I have just been served my menu du jour by youthful decree. My selection includes omelet with wild onions, cranberry juice, and berries.  Brunch will be served promptly at 9:30 they inform me.  I particularly like the wax seal...

The Only Gift Is a Portion of Thyself – Emerson

It’s that time of year again.  In addition to a Bar Mitvah and graduations, we have birthdays and anniversaries.  I received a couple invitations from ECHOage last year.  Here’s their homepage mission:  “ECHOage is an online birthday party service where kids get the...

More Than a Vietnamese Folktale – the Goddess of Compassion

“To my mind, Kuan Yin’s gentle form is a worthier symbol than the figure of a tortured being hanging from a cross or of an awesome father god.” John Blofeld I’ve known Kuan Yin for some years now as Quan Am, her Vietnamese name.  My Vietnamese mother is Buddhist and...

Politically Correct Fractions – 5th Grade Math Today

My daughter was frustrated doing her 5th grade math homework. She had to add fractions with different denominators. She was confused for several days on this topic so I asked how her teacher showed her to solve them. She couldn’t say.  I asked if she used Least Common...

Amy Sedaris on Dogs and Humans

Friends have been supportive about the loss of our dog because many have been there themselves.  K sent along a quote which you might find insightful.   Sometimes losing a pet is more painful than losing a human, because in the case of a pet, you were not...

Number One Deterrent for Burglars or Anyone Else Visiting Your House

  Ten years ago our lives changed.  A lot.  We don’t do things by halves in our family, so we moved into a new home, I gave birth to my third child, and if that was not enough, we bought the biggest, baddest dog we could find.  A third pet.  I’ll share more about...

Sunday Aerial Banner: The Funeral is Cancelled

We were not alone on Clearwater Beach this Sunday.  The churches may have been full and Tampa columnist Steve Otto (Tampa Column) said he would attend Catholic Mass then Protestant church service, but there were as many locals hitting the silky white, 2.5 mile...

The Sybil – Par Lagerkvist – Summary & Review

The Oracle of Delphi and the Divine in All of Us The Swedish author Par Lagerkvist won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951 and this story is worth your time;  it’s just 154 pages and readable in a day.   Some readers get upset because he combines Greek paganism and...

Going Postal — Miss Trunchbull & the Chokey

I had forty five minutes at lunchtime and thought I would mail my tax checks.  It’s April, so maybe that was my first mistake. My town post office moved onto Main Street and there’s no parking unless you want to circle the block, park at the cemetery, or jog in.  So I...

Going Home, Aging Parents

A house tells you so much about a life. I’ve never visited Binghamton and my husband’s childhood home when his mother wasn’t there.   It was strangely quiet without her dogs and though the cats were still in the house, they stayed hidden the whole weekend.  They know...

White Wolf Black Wolf, A Cherokee Folktale

  Here’s a folktale that had a lasting and profound influence on a close friend. It’s also one I shared with my children. A group of Cherokee children gathered around their grandfather, filled with excitement and curiosity. That day there had been a tumultuous...

Literary Analysis or Amateur Psychology?

A friend shared her son’s 7th grade English assignment.   This worksheet makes my stomach churn.  It entirely misses the point of this often referenced, much misunderstood passage. In it, Tom Sawyer must white wash the fence but instead, convinced his peers to do it...

On Writing and Orwell

Friends often ask me about writing and here are four things I want to share. To write well, you must write.                      Practice often.  When we think of improving our reading skills, we read.  Friends often share how well their children read.  This makes...

How to Homeschool & Travel

We’re back on the bus.  Or at least David and Laura are anyway, and I’m quite thankful for it.  I should be clear about my gratitude here, which has more to do with reclaiming my time back than it has to do with the school part of it.  I’ve given some thought to last...

The Lost Brigade Memorial Day Op-Ed, Washington Examiner

America must bring its lost brigade home from Vietnam before it’s too late Tam Nguyen received the most dreaded gift. A folded flag. To the sound of a lone bugler playing taps, his son was laid to rest with full military honors. U.S. Marine Corporal Tevan Nguyen of...

A Newcomer’s Thanks

He stood in the room, a sentry to my father during the final minutes of his life.  A muscular gentleman in a well starched uniform, a professional.  Rex Sprosta spoke softly and excused himself when we attended to my father.  The morning was a blur with...

Tampa Native’s Mission in Africa is Twofold

A native of Tampa, Marine Sgt. Maj. Tim DeGrauwe grew up on Davis Islands and enlisted in the Marines shortly after graduating from Tampa Tech in 1978. Married to a career Marine who just retired after 24 years, his family is used to danger - from his deployment...

Army Leader Doesn’t Sugarcoat His Views

"If we don't finish this, it will follow us home," Command Sgt. Major Neil Ciotola says about the mission in Iraq. As the senior enlisted leader for the Multi-National Corps - Iraq, he oversees more than 158,000 service members and serves as the principal enlisted...

Rebuilding Afghanistan’s Infrastructure, Morale

U.S. - Army Master Sgt. Kevin Daugherty is finishing his year-long tour in Afghanistan. As the enlisted leader for the Jalalabad Provincial Reconstruction Civil Affairs Team [PRT], he oversees the team's operations to rebuild and improve water management and roads. In...

Letter Of The Day  – Reader Writes About ‘Voices’

"Voices From The Front" is a Tribune feature that is just about priceless, but because of the recent juvenile political maneuvering in Washington, it is as powerful as can be. On March 8 you featured a young man who is not yet old enough to even buy a beer in many...

She Makes Sure Our Dollars Go Into The Right Pockets

A finance job in Qatar may seem to pale next to that of a trigger puller, but when a soldier has a pay problem that finance NCO becomes the most important person in the world." U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kileigh Gard of North Dakota is that person. She is the...

Infantryman:  ‘I Look At Myself As A True American’

Matthew Hohenbrink was not sure what he wanted to do with his life, so at the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and joined the Alabama National Guard. "I'm a southern boy, grew up hunting and wanted to go into the infantry," he said. He deployed last October to...

We Have A Positive Story To Tell From Iraq

Watching media coverage of Iraq did not prepare U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Benny Hubbard for what he'd see on his deployment there last April. As the senior enlisted leader for the U.S. Corps of Engineers for nine of the eighteen provinces in Iraq, Hubbard instead...

 Providing Security For The Military Elite

Naval Petty Officer 2nd class Robert Corson wanted to join the police force and learned that military experience helps, so he enlisted in the Navy. He lives with his wife in Jacksonville, and they just had their first baby, Robby, Feb. 16. Corson provides protective...

 Cycling For Disabled Veterans

A wave of wounded veterans has stretched our military's medical system to the point of dysfunction. Inundated with injured troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, military medical board cases have gone from 6,500 in 2002, when the war began, to 11,000 in 2006. Significantly...

Teaching Survival Skills in the Horn of Africa

After 28 years in the Army and earning the highest enlisted rank, Command Sgt. Major Daniel Elliott has seen a lot of things as an infantryman. But even he seemed surprised when three of his sons enlisted in the military after he deployed to Africa from Guam last...

Bomb Disposal Experts Secure ‘Route Tampa’

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recently requested an additional $2.4 billion in an effort to defeat the impact of improvised explosive devices. About 70 percent of American deaths from the war are from IEDs. Coalition bomb experts from the United Kingdom are...

Training Iraqi Soldiers to Defend Their Country

With 25 years as Emergency Medical Services Captain at Jacksonville Fire Rescue, Command Sgt. Major Robert Lane is used to dealing with crisis and making sacrifices. Lane deployed to Iraq, where he leads the Professional Development Standards Team in Camp Taji, 30...

Interpreting A Language And A Culture

"Relations and negotiations never stop from the minute you meet somebody until the minute you leave," says Raouf Khalil, an American interpreter serving with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division from Minnesota and currently in southern Iraq....

Battling History And Terrorists In Afghanistan

"Afghanistan is a beautiful country that has been ravaged by too many years of war, and the people are in desperate need of education, health care and a little help to escape the clutches of radical Islamists and get back on their feet again," says U.S. Army Major...

Teaching Human Rights In The Horn Of Africa

In addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, many service members deploy to Africa. Northeastern Africa is a region where the U.S. military works to abate the growth of terrorism. The Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) focuses on regional stability in order...

‘Folks Over Here Struggle To Survive’

With recent airstrikes on terrorist targets in Somalia and the retreat of Islamic extremists from Mogadishu, northeastern Africa is a hotbed of activity. In the neighboring country of Djibouti, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. William Welch is group superintendent of...

Special Forces’ Motto: ‘Pressure, Pursue, Punish’

Returning from Afghanistan for a conference at MacDill Air Force Base was a homecoming for U.S. Army Capt. Eugene "Geno" Fewell. Fewell graduated from King High School in 1995 and got married in July before deploying in August. His wife and son got to see him at Fort...

U.S. Advisor: ‘I Never Compare Them To U.S. Forces’

The Iraqi army's role is critical in addressing violence and stabilizing Iraq. U.S. Army Capt. Eric James serves as the operations adviser for a military transition team (MiTT) embedded with an Iraqi tank battalion. Based out of Fort Bliss, Texas, he and his wife have...

‘They’re able to see an American There Helping’

More than 217,000 Ethiopians were driven from their homes during immense flooding in November, and the U.S. military transported more than 80 metric tons of food and emergency relief supplies. Master Chief Petty Officer Andrew Smith worked in this region before the...

‘At Times It Seems We Won’t Accomplish Our Mission’

The Iraqi infantry and U.S. forces successfully fought back Sunni insurgents in November in the town of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. U.S. Army Capt. Damon Holditch took part in this firefight and shared his account of the situation with Tribune...

‘We Go Where We’re Needed, When We’re Needed’

In support of the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon this summer, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sharon Walters was notified one morning and got on a plane later that same day for Cyprus. As an electronics technician first class, she leads a mobile communications...

‘Insha’ala’ – God Willing – A Secure Iraq

The ability to secure and protect the Iraqi people is essential for a free Iraq. Each day Iraqis risk their lives, as well as their families' well-being, to serve in the Iraqi army. U.S. soldiers make their own sacrifices to train them. This Thanksgiving the Carroll...

 ‘A Medic Is A Pretty Versatile Soldier’

The "golden hour" marks the most critical period for combat casualties. Wound data and casualty rates indicate that 90 percent die within that first hour if they do not receive advanced trauma life support. The aim of military medicine on today's battlefield is to...

‘We Want To Help Africans Help Africa’

Craig Bonnema always wanted to be a doctor. He couldn't go directly into medicine when he joined the Navy, so he served as a flight officer for eight years before attending the Uniformed Services University in Health Sciences in Bethesda. He is a board-certified...

Iraqi Force ‘25,000 Strong Policing Every Day’

The Iraqi National Police are fully operational and working to secure Baghdad against sectarian violence, militias, terrorists and criminal elements. Army Sgt. Maj. Rocklyn Shiffer has been deployed to Iraq for a year as part of a 15-man team advising and training the...

U.S. Coast Guard Secures Oil Platforms In Arabian Gulf

Two oil platforms in the northern Arabian Gulf generate the majority of Iraq's revenue and are the shipping point for a significant portion of the world's oil. In 2004, terrorists attempted to attack one platform, but coalition forces deterred them. Today the U.S....

‘A Wonderful Way To Build Bridges’

In a volatile region of northeastern Africa where the United States is trying to prevent the seeds of terrorism from taking root, Maj. Mark Ingles, an Air Force chaplain, worked with religious leaders to address humanitarian needs and challenges. He recently finished...

‘I Save Lives With My Job’

A soldier from Tampa contacted the Tribune to share his story with correspondent MyLinh Shattan. Army Specialist Miguel A. Collazo-Quintana graduated from Leto High School in 2004 and enlisted in the Army shortly afterward because of benefits like the college tuition...

The Long War, Changing the Conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan

Command Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Brownhill is the senior enlisted leader and primary adviser to Gen. John Abizaid at U.S. Central Command. He oversees U.S. military interests and troops for 27 countries in the Middle Eastern theater of operations. Meeting recently...

Knowing The Enemy Vital To Winning War

For a budding al-Qaida operative, marriage has its advantages. Married members earn 6,500 Pakistani rupee per month and 700 rupee for each additional wife. They also receive a week's vacation every three weeks. By comparison, bachelors receive only 1000 rupee and five...

Afghanistan Still Battles Remnants Of Taliban

Air Force Maj. J. Scott Sanford is the Security Forces Squadron commander at Bagram Airfield, the largest base in Afghanistan. Sanford has an excellent vantage point of U.S. military operations against the Taliban, progress of the country's new government and its...

They’re In The Army Now: Sailors Fighting As Soldiers

The Navy has expanded its traditional role by augmenting the Army and Marine Corps with sailors who fill infantry positions alongside soldiers. With 27 years in service, Master Chief Pat Flavin takes on the new job of command master chief of Naval Central Command in...

“See the World and Try Not to Focus on the Negative”

Lance Cpl. Fredrick Wyman of Durham, N.C., enlisted in the Marines one month after his 18th birthday. At 19 he finds himself deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit on the USS Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship in the Mediterranean Sea. Last month his unit...

Vacationing With Alberto:  A Whirlwind Adventure

Florida, Orlando, Tampa – we’re the destination for many Americans, arguably the tourist capital of the world. So, where do Floridians go on their vacation? We experienced this firsthand recently with our friends, the Bennett family, who makes a summer trek to the...

Playing His Song

“See the streaks?” my father asked, pointing at the window. “Do it again.” I protested since I had ‘cleaned’ half the windows in the house already. He showed me how to buff the window and I did it right the next time, having learned a tough lesson as a young child....

A Veteran Of The Mommy Wars

"Who cares if you work or stay home? … Be the best mother that you can be … and ignore what everyone else says." This is sage advice from a Tampa mom who chose to start a law practice, but later made the tough decision to scale back and spend more time with her family...

2006:  The Year of the Dog

My Vietnamese mother reminded me that Tet, the Lunar New Year, fell on Jan. 29 this year. As an American, I’ve never been quite sure what that’s supposed to mean for me. I know a little about the sticky rice cakes, altars with incense and fruit, and prayers for a...

Teachers Come In Threes

Driving home on Dale Mabry, my daughter noticed a construction trailer on the side of the road and exclaimed, "Hey, a portable! They're probably making a school, Mommy."She's in first grade, so her experience with public school includes numerous portable classrooms....

The Real Treasure To Be Found Under The Tree

My father climbed into the attic and brought down the large Pampers box where he stored our artificial tree. Dusty corrugated boxes with the tops held together by masking tape followed. Decorating the house kicked off the holiday season for our family. When it came to...

Foundation Keeps Promise To America’s Fallen Warriors

Foundation Keeps Promise To America's Fallen Warriors Eight-year-old Meagan pulled herself up to the bar while hundreds of Army Rangers looked on, counting, "Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen …" Col. William E. Powell told his men that if they couldn't do as many pull-ups...

It’s Not About The Shoes

It's Not About The Shoes I knew it was time to be concerned when the sales guy informed me that the running shoe was designed by someone from Porsche. And did I mention it includes biomorphic fit technology that conforms to my individual foot? The sneakers looked like...

Books Reveal Volumes About Their Readers

Books Reveal Volumes About Their Readers Three years ago I convinced a few friends in Lutz to come together to enjoy each other's company and some good books. It's a diverse group, not only in life stages, but in our reading interests, which include everything from...

Who Says Cheating Doesn’t Pay?

Who Says Cheating Doesn't Pay? I observed two of my students conversing in the back row during a test. They were on the same page and whispering about the answers. The students explained they were only helping each other, relating that this had been common practice in...

A Nation of Above Average

A Nation of Above Average The fragile French ego struggles with history. Or at least the British think so. During a re-enactment this June, the English used blue and red ships rather than identify them as British or French. They were celebrating the 200th anniversary...

Military Families Carry A Nation’s Burden

Army Spc. Louis Neidermeier should have been coming home from Iraq this summer to his family and fiancee. Instead, June 1, he stepped out of his Humvee in Ramadi into the sights of a sniper. At his memorial service, his father, Eddie Neidermeier, told The Tampa...

Mirror, Mirror:  Motherhood and Self-Image

When my 4-year-old daughter considers her reflection wearing her Sleeping Beauty costume, adjusts the tiara just so and smiles, she is clearly pleased. What do I see when I look in the mirror? I see a loosely assembled version of my former self: a woman in a T-shirt,...