Stella’s Buck

Whitetail deer buck close-up head shot.

Whitetail deer buck close-up head shot. Photo from The Hunting Broker

This morning at just past 6:30 Wisconsin’s gun deer season opened. I’m not sure anyone who is not from a part of the country where people hunt could understand the excitement hunters feel this time of year. My students, both girls and boys, were heading off to the woods with their families and friends to enjoy the outdoors and the camaraderie of pitting their wits against their prey. They mostly want the bragging rights of killing a big trophy deer, but many of them put food on their families’ tables with the deer they kill. Hunting is not just an activity here in Wisconsin; it’s a tradition families share that brings them closer together without the distractions of the modern world to interfere.

My husband decided not to hunt this year, so we had the luxury of waking up late, at nearly seven o’clock. Usually during hunting season gun shots wake us up, but this year we heard none. I’m not sure why the hubby decided not to hunt. Maybe he felt bad about the deer he shot two years ago. That’s the last time he ventured out. She was a doe with a yearling, obviously hers. When he took the first shot, he missed her, but neither she nor the yearling ran away. When he took the second shot, he dropped her on the spot. The yearling only ran about a hundred yards away. Bruce couldn’t bring himself to shoot the youngster which finally ran off when Bruce went out to”process” the doe. It was kind of sad. He talked about that kill for a while but in a wistful way.

Later that year in autumn a young buck made our backyard his home. He was a big deer, tall and strong, but obviously young. We saw him often on the perimeter of our property, but he ventured closer each time he appeared, finally coming into our yard. Our Lab Stella believes it her mission to keep our property deer free. She loves seeing deer in our yard, then running full-speed to chase them off the property. For her it is great fun. One day I let her out to chase away this big, young buck I mentioned. She was appropriately fierce, but the buck stood his ground though not in a defiant way. He was curious about Stella. When she ran out barking at him, he put his head down and took a couple of steps in her direction. Unnerved, she ran a few yards away and barked again, her hackles raised. The buck stayed put. They stared each other down for a few moments before Stella lost her nerve and came inside. This same scenario repeated a few more times when this buck visited our yard. Then we didn’t see him for a long time.

This morning when I looked out the window of my bedroom, I saw a big eight point buck grazing on the grass next to the stream in our back yard. He was quite at home.

“Do you think that’s Stella’s deer?” I asked Bruce.

He got out of bed to take a look. “I doubt it. That deer is really big.”

We let Stella out the front door so she wouldn’t see the buck and he wouldn’t see her. We fed her, poured ourselves some coffee, then watched him graze and amble through the back yard only about fifty feet away from the windows. He was magnificent with a big basket of a rack, antlers nearly white in the early light.

When he had nearly reached the treeline, we pointed him out to Stella. Since not many deer have been wandering through our property of late, she had almost forgotten about them. Once we showed him to her, however, she growled and was ready to run, stamping and whining at the door. Bruce opened the sliding glass door. Stella sprinted toward the deer, clearing the steps to the backyard in one leap. She barked as she ran. The buck raised his head. He didn’t move. He didn’t startle. He looked as though he recognized her. She skidded to a stop, turned around with a glance and a token growl over her shoulder, then trotted back to the porch.

“That’s him,” said Bruce.

I watched the buck walked toward the power lines and marveled at his power and grace. I liked that this beautiful creature was still with us, still walking the property that he believes is his, still trying to make friends with a prickly creature who wants nothing to do with a deer who isn’t afraid of her. I think Bruce regretted not having a hunting license this morning, but I’m glad he didn’t. If that was Stella’s buck–and I hope it was–I hope he survives this year’s gun deer season. I would like to see him again.

Ada Lovelace: Mathematical Visionary


Photo courtesy of Google Images

Google’s tribute to Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and it does, mostly. I’m sure I’m not alone in my struggle to learn the nearly constant changes in technology I’m supposed to apply in both my work as a teacher and also my work as a writer. I must admit part of the problem is I’m reluctant, not because it intimidates me though sometimes it does, but also because I’m tired of change. Society lacks a human connection and a connection to the natural world these days, and technology is making that lack more pronounced. I resist the indoor/sedentary lifestyle that has been imposed on me to become and remain connected to the world through technology. The paradox of this dilemma is that through technology I am more connected to people and places far away from me  than I ever could have imagined 20 years ago, but that connection comes at a cost of being disconnected to physical reality. Technology is more than ever a matter of the mind in much the same way writing is.

More of my life than ever is spent at a desk or sitting with a laptop warming my thighs as I grade papers, write blog posts (though I’ve done precious little of that lately) or work on my novel. Seldom do I drop everything and walk outdoors to enjoy the brilliant colors of autumn or call a friend or better yet, meet a friend for a walk amongst the brilliant colors of autumn or for coffee outdoors. This school year I’ve tried to balance the demands of a demanding job, to satisfy my creative calling, and to learn the technology skills I need to use to do both well, but I also don’t want to neglect the part of me that requires the sun on my face and the feel of stretching my legs on a long walk. More on that in another post.

Who I would like to pay tribute to here is a woman for whom creativity and poetry was mathematical–seems a contradiction of terms to me because I’m language oriented, but I understand the elegance of math, just not the mechanics of it. I wish I did. I know I would have a far greater appreciation of the world and the workings of minds like Alan Turing’s, the man credited with breaking the Enigma code, or Ada Lovelace’s, the first computer programmer.

Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of the Romantic poet, George, Lord Byron, and his wife, Anne Isabella Noel. Theirs was a stormy relationship and one that inspired Ada’s mother to foster in her a love of logic and math  to prevent her from developing what Anne Isabella Noel regarded as the insanity (read poetry here) Ada’s father suffered. Despite her mother’s influence, Ada was fascinated with her father even though he left her mother and her when she was only a month old and died in Greece when she was only eight years old. Perhaps the influence of his reputation as a passionate, free thinking poet rubbed off on her after all or was handed down in her DNA. Whatever the reason, Ada became a mathematician who approached her subject using, to quote her, “poetical science.” She described herself as an Analyst and a Metaphysician.” I believe she had the same free-thinking tendencies, the creative vision, if you will, her father had and was able to make connections no one else had done because of those tendencies.

Her mathematical talents led her to begin a working relationship and friendship with the brilliant British mathematician Charles Babbage, working in particular with him on his Analytical Engine. Babbage called her his “enchantress of numbers.” After she translated an article about the engine written by an Italian military engineer, Luigi Menebrea, Lovelace added her own extensive notes that she called simply Notes.

The significance of Notes is that many consider it to contain the first computer program, (and here’s where the description of it escapes me) an algorithm that was to be carried out by a machine. Ada Lovelace’s remarkable accomplishment took place in the 1840s. Over 150 years later I struggle to understand basic computer coding to deal with my blogging program or my interactions on the web for my technological teaching needs, but I appreciate the intelligence that went into making those technologies possible. Her research and Notes along with Babbage’s work on the actual hardware paved the way for the work of Alan Turing and others of the Bletchly Park mathematicians who broke the code of the Enigma machine. Their successful breaking of the code is credited with saving Britain and, very possibly, the world from Nazi Germany and Japan. If you extend that credit, we would have to also thank Lovelace’s mother and Lord Byron’s the scoundrel ways for inspiring Lovelace’s mother to raise her to become a clear-eyed, logical but creative thinker!

Tomorrow is Ada Lovelace Day, a day celebrated world-wide to honor the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering, and math. My hat goes off to the women like Ada Lovelace who have made our world what it is and have made technology to ease our handling of information. I just wish I were better able to understand the complexities of how it all works. I also wish there were a way to handle the new tasks created by technology. Wait, no I don’t. I love my world of language and the images and emotions it conjures. I’ll leave it to those women (and men) who make it possible for me to reach out to the world with my words. Tomorrow, October 13, I’ll raise a glass to the women who have made this blog possible through technology! Here’s to you Ada Lovelace and your poetical science!


A Place of Peace


Photo courtesy of Caitlin Podemski








Publishing my novels is still my dream, but twice now I’ve submitted my writing to Word of Art, the creative brainchild of In Print Professional Writers Organization, an affiliate of the Chicago Writers Association. Each time I’ve had something chosen for publication. On Friday, September 4, my husband and I drove to Illinois for me to read my very short descriptive essay for the book release reception to a packed room of artists, writers, and their guests.

At last year’s reception, I read a poem about my son leaving home to go to college. I was terribly nervous to read, partly because I had never read anything I had written out loud to my peers before and partly because the poem was so deeply personal. Also I am not a poet, but that was the form that piece wanted. I felt then and still feel at times blindsided by my children growing up and becoming independent adults. Through that poem I relived the emotions of letting go of a child, so I was off-balance and aching. Even now when I read it, I choke up. I managed to finish reading the poem last year after stumbling only once.

This year was different. My essay, “A Place of Peace,” was about a grassy area beside the river behind my house where I can see both the river and the surrounding grassy prairie and marsh, a place I’m lucky enough to visit every day. Though the room was very hot and I was one of the last people to read (third from last),  I didn’t stumble over the words or the title even once. A feeling of quietude came over me before I even began.

Sometimes when we write, a confluence of events come together, serendipitous moments that seem to have been arranged by God. I felt that as I read this year. When I was working on this piece for submission, the snow was on the ground and the bitterly cold winds of winter were blowing outside my window, but I was standing by the river in the heat of summer beneath the shade of the oaks and basswoods. I saw the summer sunset and was surrounded by birdsong and the sound of running water. I was enveloped by the heat of a summer day rather than the heat generated by man. That same feeling of inhabiting two places at once happened again as I read. Seldom am I able to overcome being present in the room by being present in the writing. Often I’m too aware of my own shortcomings to do that, but at Word of Art 2 only the writing and the place it evoked mattered, and I managed to be there in both places at once.

Writing transports me. I experience the place and time of my imagination. At the podium in Illinois on September 4, I relived quiet moments by my river, experienced anew the place and its atmosphere. I didn’t see my audience, only the natural world of my memory and imagination combined. Last year I read a deeply personal poem which carried the emotional weight of a mother’s love for her grown son. This year I read an essay which transported me to a place where a river runs, washes away the weight of the world, and leaves behind the peace of reverie.  Even in a crowd.

Here is the beautiful art that Sarah McCashland created to go with my words:














Here is the essay, “A Place of Peace.” The book is so popular that there is a second printing of it. You can order a book here.

A Place of Peace
On summer evenings the river gurgles past boulders and trills over stones. On the riverbank, damselflies light on my sandals where I stand amid rushes and purple irises. The breeze slides down the riverbank setting the tall grasses atremble with a sound like rain. Behind me oaks and basswoods climb the rise toward the collapsed line fence that separates the river from the prairie. Bluebirds streak across the dusty grassland, where goldfinches roller-coast toward the river. The last rays of the sun sparkle on the water and gild the treetops.
Then the light grows soft. Mayflies hatch, a sylvan spectacle. Trout feed in arcing, splashing frenzy. Cedar waxwings, like the bandits they resemble, swoop and dart, giving chase to escaping flies. Chick-a-dee-dee-dee echoes in the canopy behind me as twilight arrives.
No longer spangled with sunlight, the river mirrors the shift to early evening, its surface the murky greens and browns of the brook trout beneath it. A tender pink sky glows above me, intensifying summer’s green. By the river I think no frenetic thoughts, worry about no deadlines. Time passes, but the river remains the same, a place of peace, true and beautiful.

Many thanks to Kristin Oakley, my sweet friend, president of In Print, and award-winning author of Carpe Diem, Illinois, who told me about this opportunity, and to Mary Lamphere, super creative and talented writer and artist who designed and took the pictures and everything for the Word of Art books. Check out her very clever blog here.  You ladies rock!

Incidentally, this last photo below is near the spot beside the river I wrote about. It is never as beautiful in my photographs as it is in my imagination.


Practice Art to Be Forever Young

A fellow blogger and wonderful writer, Paula Reed Nancarrow, has been taking a break from writing posts for the month of August and has instead complied a number of quotes from writers about different topics. She has used the using the hashtag #AUTHORity to  highlight authors’ views.  If you haven’t yet, you should follow her on Twitter here. The first week she posted about family, but the second week she posted about aging, a topic I readily identify with both at this time in my life and because my mother is currently struggling with some issues related to aging. This particular quote below fell at number 33, particularly auspicious number I thought for a particularly auspicious quote and one which rings true for me.

On the whole, age comes more gently to those who have some doorway into an abstract world-art, or philosophy, or learning-regions where the years are scarcely noticed and the young and old can meet in a pale truthful light.

―Freya Stark

To have age arrive more gently is a wonderful reason to practice some sort of art, especially if it allows us to scarcely notice our advancing years. I think I know why this is the case. Art gives us access to a collective consciousness. Those who don’t practice writing, music, art, or some other discipline that requires intense concentration and intense thought can neither know nor understand the attraction to it. Once you’ve been there, it is impossible not to experience again that place where creativity and inspiration live. It is the place we meet our muses.

Practicing art–in my case writing–allows me to enter into the doorway of the abstract, to spend time outside my body and outside time. I experience the world anew and from a perspective other than my own. It renews my spirit and somehow keeps me young and passionate about life and its mysteries. Writing also allows me to discuss with my students, or  anyone who cares about the written word, something which defies time, an abstract at once mysterious but accessible.

I’ve thought so much about Freya Stark‘s words since I read them in Paula’s post, especially since I’ve begun another year of school. I’m of an age that I am beginning to see some of my former students join the faculty of the school where I teach. That happened last year and this year. One of my colleagues who was hired with me and whom I enjoy immensely, could be my daughter.  Juxtaposing those two parts of myself–my aging body and my still agile mind–at times poses problems. You see, even though I realize I’m aging, I still think of myself as a young person. That can be awkward at times. However, my art, my writing, is what keeps me young, keeps me dreaming, keeps me thinking of when I’ll achieve my dreams.

That’s one of the things I love most about writing. Writing makes me feel limitless, something I try to communicate to my students. When I’m writing, I can be anyone, do anything, live anywhere. In fiction, nothing is impossible. That is the place where I hope to meet my students, the young people with whom I try to forge a connection, a place where they see me not as I am but as I want to be. That’s what I try to see in them also. And it can happen through writing.

If we practice our art, whatever that might be, we remain forever young and free in that “pale, truthful light.”

Raspberry Time


Look what greeted me when I got home today! Our first berries of late summer. The raspberries have been coming in rather sparsely this year because we (and when I say we, I mean my wonderful husband) reworked the beds where they were planted. Raspberries spread. We started out with only about 12 -15 plants about four years ago. When my hubby dug them up at the beginning of the planting season this year, we gave away probably close to forty plants. Our neighbors have some and I gave some to a good friend at school.


The sky several days ago must have been foretelling the raspberries with these colored clouds. That was during the cool snap we had, but next week, just in time for school to start, the weather is supposed to turn hot again, raspberry weather and late season tomatoes and beans. I’ll be picking and eating and freezing what we can’t eat. Raspberries are a sure sign of the end of summer here in Wisconsin, but just around the corner are crisp weather and delicious Honeycrisp apples! For now, I’ll savor the end of summer and the sweet flavor of raspberries!

20150826_181847 (1)

Seasonal Changes Afoot



I’ve been procrastinating. I was supposed to publish this post on Wednesday, but here it is Friday, and I’ve only just now begun to write. I apologize to those of you who look forward to my Wisconsin Wednesday posts. The thing is I don’t want fall to arrive, and I think that if I just ignore what I need to do, time will slow down and give me just a little more summer. That wish is only an illusion, however. Fall is coming, and the past two days have given us a taste here in Wisconsin of the change in temperature that is inevitable. The wheel of the seasons is turning.








The highs for the past two days have not risen above 70 degrees by day, 50s by night, but that isn’t the only change I’ve noticed. The scent of autumn has arrived here in Wisconsin. It’s a distinct and heady mixture of wild grapes, apples, leaf mold, fresh river water and northern air. When it arrives is different every year, but I smelled it a couple of days ago, right before the rain and drop in temperatures. Seasonal changes are occurring  quickly now, almost as if one change signals many others to begin, both in the natural world and also in my own life.
20150819_152434I talked last time about the disappearance of the songbirds. Yesterday I saw something that signaled the end of summer. Cedar Waxwings are flocking now. They arrive this way in early summer, and they leave this way too, usually with the first few cold fronts of autumn, all together like they are setting off on a road trip, gathering their family members for the long trek. Seeing them leave makes me sad, not only because they are one of my favorite birds but also because I know it will be another year before they return. Here they are gathered along the top branches of the dead tree by the river.

The goldenrod is slowly taking over as the star of the show in fields and meadows here along with a few late blooming Joe Pye Weed.








My gardens are still going strong, but not for much longer now. The Pinky Winky hydrangeas are changing colors, and the purple Liatris are nearly played out now.


All around us a gathering is taking place. I’m harvesting the bounty of my garden. The oak tree out front is loaded with acorns, the fields are full of corn waiting for harvest.








On Monday I go back to school, another sign of fall arriving. Schools have already begun football and soccer games. Cross Country is in full swing. Back to school commercials blare from all radios and TV sets, but I’m not yet ready. I’d like another month to enjoy the warmth of summer, another month to enjoy the birds, butterflies, flowers, and fruits of summer without having to think about AP, SLOs, RTI, and UDL, that horrific alphabet soup of “have to.” Can I get an amen out there? I hope to keep up with my blog all year, but I may have to move my Wisconsin Wednesday posts to Friday and have a This Week in Wisconsin instead. We shall see. Thanks for stopping by to see what’s happening in Wiconsin!


Shannon Anderson to be in Word of Art 2


I’m very excited to go to Illinois to read my short essay “A Place of Peace” about my special spot by the river here in Wisconsin! I can’t wait to see the art that Sarah McCashland created to go with my words!
I’m buying a book for my mom. Is there ever a time we don’t want our mothers to be proud of us? I’ll post news and pictures of the event here on my blog. Stay tuned!!!

Originally posted on In Print:

Congratulations to author Shannon Anderson! Her work has been selected to be in the Word of Art 2 exhibition and publication! Shannon is an aspiring novelist and teacher. She has written one novel and is at work on two others, as well as short stories and some poetry. She teaches English in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. When she’s not teaching, she is writing or gardening with Stella, her silver Labrador, by her side.

View original 187 more words

Writing Lessons from David Rhodes

One piece of advice new writers should follow is read a lot and write a lot. I try to do both often. My reading tastes are eclectic. Sometimes I read for pleasure, sometimes as a teacher, sometimes as a writer, but always as a consumer of wonderful words. What determines the books I choose is as varied as the books themselves. Sometimes a cover inspires me, sometimes a title. Sometimes word-of-mouth recommendations lead me to pick a book I might not have considered before. That is what happened when I bought David Rhodes’ Driftless a few weeks ago. I knew nothing about this author’s work, but several of my friends who also were Waupaca BookFest board members recommended his work.

I read Driftless in a matter of a few days. It took days only because I didn’t want to rush it. It was a fine meal meant to be savored, allowing each word or phrase or sentence, even at times entire chapters to move through my imagination and leave their footprints on my consciousness. The book consumed me as I consumed it. I can’t tell you how often I stopped to consider a description or a simile, its beauty or aptness, or often both, hitting me right between the eyes. I didn’t use a highlighter or a pen handy while I read because I really just wanted to read for pleasure, so I dogeared the page where the passage was so I could go back to read it again and again.

Driftless tells the story of Words, Wisconsin, and the people who live there, but the Midwestern landscape is as much a character of this book as the people themselves. If you’re not from Wisconsin, you may not understand the title, so David Rhodes begins the book with a prologue explaining that the area where Words is located is in the Driftless Region, an area unaffected by the last ice age which “endured in its hilly, primitive form, untouched by the shaping hands of those cold giants.” The isolation and unchanged nature of the region serves as a metaphor for Words and the people there. It provides a a fascinating look at rural America–something I’ve become a bit obsessed with– in modern times.

I could write volumes on this book, but I mainly want to share some of the passages that arrested me and made me appreciate the poetry of Rhodes writing. I hope they inspire you as much as they did me.

1. This first passage tells of the moment two of the main characters met and fell in love. They have since lost that connection that Rhodes depicts so vividly here as something quite beyond their control:
“I’m Cora,” she said.
“I’m Grahm Shotwell,” he said, and his voice expanded like summer.
“Pleased to know you,”said Cora. She offered her hand. Grahm took it, entangling them in a mutually inquisitive texture of fingers and palms. The most primitive parts of themselves immediately began speaking to each to her, without permission. Their imaginations entered caves deep in unexplored forests, and joined painted bodies dancing around orange fires. The thin membrane of keeping the watery world of dreams from diluting the hard substance of reality stretched to breaking. Through a quick organization of bodily fluids, Grahm’s face turned bright red, and Cora tried to pull her hand away but found she couldn’t move it.
“Oh, no,” she said.
“Let’s find a place to sit down,” said Grahm.

If that doesn’t communicate the irresistible attraction between two people at the moment they recognize it, I don’t know what does.

2. In this next section, Jacob Helm, who has lost his wife and cannot stop grieving, arrives at Gail Shotwell’s house to work on a lawnmower. He hears music and goes to investigate. She is naked and playing a guitar; she’s a musician who lives alone. He is quite unprepared for seeing this beautiful naked woman and feels “accosted” by her beauty:

“This woman communicated an exuberant compact burgeoning that had years ago departed from Angela, whose bodily form had been consumed in a losing battle against disease. But even in her best days, Jacob feared, before illness had begun to exact its limping toll, Angela had never possessed this creature’s combination of raw visual appeal and unrehearsed grace. She glowed with health. Her neck, stretching out of the extraordinary suppleness of her shoulders, mimicked in every detail the curving stem of a lily rising to its flower. and the problems posed for him by the rondure of her hips were addressed in his imagination, one after another, before they blossomed into conscious questions, only to be posed anew.”

3. Later Jacob is alone looking at pictures of his wife in a photo album. He misses her and still grieves her and the closeness they shared. These lines break my heart.

“He looked away from the album and closed his eyes, as though protecting them from the unbearable glare of memory.

Her illness had driven a wedge between them, interrupting their sacred dialogue, the source of his joy. How he missed that vital center–talking, touching, and living one life in two parts. The disease persisted until what she most longed for she could not share with him at all, and their citadel against the outside world was finally breached.”

4. Throughout passages describe the landscape. These two resonated with me because even after 20 years here winter is such an enigma to me. I still am baffled and assaulted by the cold. Sometimes though, a mild day or two provide a respite from the harsh winter days. These two passages capture each kind of weather in winter.

First one:“It began to snow–not heavily, but persistently. Driven like powdered fog from the north, a dry, weightless snow arrived in Thistlewaite County with a nearly audible sigh, an empty, barren whisper that Upper Midwestern farmers recognized in the marrow of their bones and meteorologists detected through their digital instruments as the kind of snow that could get bad.

A stationary cold air mass perched above Wisconsin. It lingered there for several days, until, like the Owl of Minerva, it stepped off its frigid crag, opened its monstrous shadow wings, and came south, squeezing water out of the air.”

Second one: “Sometimes in the theater of winter, a day will appear with such spectacular mildness that it seems the season can almost be forgiven for all its inappropriate hostility, inconveniences, and even physical assaults. With a balmy sky overhead, melting snow underfoot, and the sounds of creeks running, the bargain made with contrasts doesn’t look so bad: to feel warm, one must remember cold; to experience joy, one must have known sorrow.”

5. In the chapter Finding July, the reader is privy to Jacob Helm’s thoughts in finding his friend, July Montgomery, who has died in a farm accident. If you’ve ever experienced the shock of something that altered your world, you will recognize Jacob’s emotions.

“There are some things, he later reflected, that change everything else. Their breaking makes no sound yet fractures the world. Afterwards, nothing can be restored to its original order. It’s Gone. But at the time, at the moment of domestic impression, Big Events don’t appear to have any power at all, a single leaf falling. They don’t seem as if they will be important. Their terrible reckoning is hidden from view.”

6. Toward the end of the book, we see Grahm Shotwell again. He is at July’s house walking through the outbuildings of July’s farm. He is lonely for July and grieving in his own way. Rhodes manages to express the ineffable feeling of absence just after someone passes away.

“Everywhere, things that couldn’t move waited for July to touch them again. The Mason jar of arrowheads that July had picked from his fields sat on his tool bench, longing to be reseeded into the ground. Wrenches wanted to be picked up  and fitted around a nut. It wouldn’t be long, he knew, before they would be auctioned to someone else, along with the cows and everything else.”

As I wrote this post and read again David Rhodes’ words and sentences, I realized I don’t want to parse them. I can’t take apart what he put together to understand how I might do what he did. I will soon, but I am still too awed by the images he evokes to examine them too closely. I want to savor them a while more. What I can say is that  if we want to be writers who can do this sort of thing with our words, we must read books like Driftless to  absorb through osmosis, through touch and sight and sound, how he makes us feel. Read. A lot. Immerse yourself in glorious words, my friends, and write.



The “Wilds” of Wisconsin


Although technically we are past the dog days of summer, we are still enjoying warm weather here in Wisconsin. The beautiful warmth is fleeting, but during summer all sorts of plant and animal life thrive. Though many of the songbirds that I adore hearing this time of year have already fled for warmer climes, other animals and plants are just about at their peak. Here is a sampling of what I see around my home or on my walks with Stella. All this beauty is part of the charm of living in Wisconsin–that is, if you like peace and quiet and beautiful scenery!

Grandpa Ott morning glories growing on the trellis right off the patio out back.

Grandpa Ott morning glories growing on the trellis right off the patio out back.

These are my favorite morning glories. They self-sow each year. In fact, I transplanted these from another area of my garden. I never have to replant, and they are beautiful each year with virtually no pests or problems. They are thought to have come originally from Bavaria. I bought several seedlings from Turners Farm Market, and I’ve had them since!

Just down the street, my neighbor Keith has planted his backyard in native prairie flowers and grasses. Each time I walk down our street I’m treated to a new display of flowers and grasses as they bloom and grow. This year these yellow flowers were in bloom next to the lavender bee balm. I think they are called yellow prairie cone flowers.








Queen Ann’s lace blankets the roadways here this time of year in advance of the goldenrod that bursts forth from fields and ditches.



Along the way Stella and I pass the river and enjoy the eagles, deer, and sand hill cranes we see along the way. I never want for beauty when I’m here.













Just another day in Wisconsin.


Butt in Chair Equals Early Death?

This past school year I gained 12 pounds. Yes, you read that correctly. Ordinarily during the school year I gain anywhere from 5-8 pounds, but this past year set an all-time record for me. I was horrified and still am because 8 of those twelve are still hanging on. School starts in only three weeks. I wouldn’t be concerned about gaining the extra weight if I felt good, but I felt like crap at the end of the year. Not only was I busting out of my jeans, but I also was tired all the time, and my lower back and neck hurt ALL the time. I knew I had to employ drastic measures to get back into shape.  For me this means walking and running usually, and dreaded body weight exercises. My vanity made me want to lose the weight I had gained, but a little voice inside me whispered that for the first time my health was at risk.

During last school year I became really sick, bronchitis in the fall and then pneumonia in the spring. That had not happened in about four years. Was that only a coincidence of working really hard last year? Maybe, but I had also fallen into the routine of doing my job over every other aspect of my life, including spending time at home with my husband and taking walks with Stella, my Lab. I was overwhelmed, over-stressed, and sedentary, a potentially lethal combination. Does that sound familiar to any of you?

Last year author Tom Rath, author of such books as Strengths Finder 2.0, How Full is Your Bucket, Strengths Based Leadership, and now Eat Sleep Move, said that “sitting is the most underrated health threat of modern times.” How does that square with the “butt in chair” mentality of writers? And teachers? And secretaries? Or anyone who spends much of his or her time plopped in a chair either by choice or necessity? Read this article in Forbes Magazine for more information about his research. I guarantee you’ll think twice about how you work.

Having a health crisis last year made me sit  stand up and think about my future (or lack thereof) if I continued my work only sedentary lifestyle. If I were going to be happy, healthy, and successful person, I had to take care of myself first. To that end I decided I had to do something to shock myself into changing. I have always been inspired by pictures people take of themselves when they were really overweight and then the after ones of them in bikinis or swimsuits with ripped abs. I think that is the appeal of The Biggest Loser. We get to see how people transform their lives each week, their successes and failures. When they first weigh in in public and expose their fat in front of people, I cringe for them because I know how embarrassed I would feel. Heck I can barely wear a swimsuit in public and not because I’m fat but because I’m modest. I think Victorian Era swimsuits look pretty good! Weighing themselves in public like that I think is designed to make them accountable and give them nowhere they can hide the fact of their weight from anyone, especially themselves. They can no longer deny how much they weigh or o how big they really are.

I decided that I couldn’t be quite so public with myself–aren’t you relieved?–but I did take a picture of my stomach. I will never show it to anyone, but I do look at it when I want a cookie  or don’t want to take a walk because I’m too tired. I also want a record of how far I’ve come and what I don’t want to look and feel like again when I must choose between my health or my job this school year. No job should consume so much of my life that I don’t have time to fill the well of creativity that keeps me happy. That only fills when I have time to spend with important people in my life and my writing.

I have dedicated myself to my writing and my health this summer. I haven’t lost the weight that I want to lose yet, but I’ve already changed my life by exercising nearly every day and working either on this blog or on my books. Though progress in my writing is much harder to quantify, I’ve made progress in both areas. I now walk 4.5-6 miles most days. I also do Spartacus workouts twice a week with some modifications for my weak upper body, and Popsugar is my “go to” site for fun workouts that are doable and short. I’ve built muscle and no longer have pain in my lower back or neck as often. I’m not where I need to be yet, but I’m getting there. I’m also using my Pinterest profile to keep track of  workouts I like. Checkl out my Pinterest Health and Fitness board. The inspiration for the sculpted belly I want is the cover picture on this board.

You can also find my board for my novel on my Pinterest page too, but I’ll be posting about that soon.

Any job that requires that we put our job responsibilities above our health and time with important people and activities in our lives is asking too much of us. In those cases the time we invest to accomplish work tasks is not worth the money we make because once we don’t have our health, we can’t be successful at anything. We can’t even enjoy our lives. I truly believe “sitting is the new smoking” because last school year I lived the kind of life that endangered my health.  I allowed my job to take precedence over everything else including my husband, my family, my friends, my art, and my spiritual life. I won’t live that way ever again. I am making a pledge to myself to move more, write more, love more, live more, and work less. I will care for myself first so that I have the energy and health to take care of everything else.