On Life

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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)."...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...

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...

“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...

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...

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...

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...