Friday, February 7, 2020

Clean up clear out time.

Happy New Year

It pays to clean off your bulletin board.  Here are a couple of fun things I found:

“She said she usually cried at least once each day, not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful and life was so short.”

Small Boy by Norman MacCaig

He picked up a pebble and threw it into the sea.
And another, and another.
He couldn’t stop.
He wasn’t trying to fill the sea.
He wasn’t just throwing away, nothing else but.
Like a kitten playing, he was practicing for the future when there’ll be so many things he’ll want to throw away if only his fingers will unclench and let them go.

I say amen to both of those!

Thursday, January 30, 2020



The English document after which the Declaration of Independence is modeled read, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.”  The United States changed it to read “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” So, I guess happiness is pretty important.

Happiness often emerges as the result of something we do for someone else, with the goal of bringing them happiness. Is there such a thing as altruism, the completely selfless act of one who has no personal expectations in regard to the outcome of an act? On the other hand, does the motive of the doer matter if the result is to create happiness for someone else?

Can someone create happiness for another?

Do we ever really know what brings us happiness? Sometimes what we think will make us happy does not. Other times we are surprised by happiness when it sneaks up on us.

Chasing happiness, that state in which all is right with us and with our world, is an iffy enterprise given the imperfect nature of life and of human beings.

Still, we can make lists of things we love—that bring us joy—that make us happy. But we must beware that we can’t depend on others to make us happy. We gotta be our own instigators.

What makes me happy? A deep sleep between sun-dried sheets, making a candlelit meals for friends, a long, frosty, early morning run, a movie that tickles my funny bone, “discovering” a new friend, watching a student “get” a math concept, kneading bread and watching it rise, learning something new, solving a dilemma however small, completing a task I didn’t think I could, hot chocolate when nothing else will do, writing something worthwhile, fooling around with gel pens, knowing that my house is temporarily clean, cross country skiing in deep woods, knowing I have accomplished something in a day, being alone, being with people, getting everything on my to do list out of the way, receiving newsy Christmas cards, being part of a special group of college friends, watching the lives of my children and grandchildren as they evolve, and experiencing life--taking it as it comes. (This is a partial list.)

What makes you happy?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Colorado Shoe School

Annabel was finishing up a paint job when there was a minor explosion resulting in dark brown paint dripping down the side of the counter top and onto the floor.

She began to wipe it up when Dan looked over and said, “ Wait a minute. That looks good. Let’s leave it.”

And there it remains to this day, along with another dribble of blue, welcome aspects of the expansive two story studio artists Dan and Annabel share in the village of Bellvue north and west of Fort Collins.

The pair, so obviously two of a kind, live and work together, and following a honeymoon in India, just spent their first Christmas as a married couple.

In their short time in Bellvue, the unusual fence they built in hopes of slowing down  traffic travelling along County Road 23 has become a local landmark. If it had not been for their fen constructed of huge round logs interspersed with kindling-size sticks, I would not have had the pleasure of meeting the couple. A friend let me know about the fence and suggested I might do well to check it out.

But she did not mention the enormous shoe resting on a truck bed in their front yard or the old train car converted into funky sleeping quarters for visitors, the gnomes in the garden or the fact that Annabel and Dan are the founders of the Colorado Shoe School.

And there is no way for this friend to know the story behind these refugees from the world of circus performing, costume design, and entertaining which included juggling and stiltwalking.

Dan is a Denver native who graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in art focused on sculpture and printmaking. Along with his brother, he formed a company that entertained at corporate parties, and in parades. Dan also worked for New Belgium Brewery promoting their Tour De Fat event and sustainability in 15 cities across the country.

He met Annabel, who trained as a dancer, at a corporate Christmas party. At the time, she had her own stiltwalking business and was also working with Cirque du Soleil in costume design flying all over the place in charge of the care and maintenance of shoes for the famous dance company. 

Both of them were ready to leave the entertainment industry and were looking for new challenges. Three years ago, Dan found the house in Bellvue and it seemed a perfect fit. He bought it and set to work building their large multi-use studio using any scrap of lumber or materials he could find.

On a visit to New Zealand to see Annabel’s parents, the pair participated in a five-day workshop on shoemaking, and they were hooked.

“Everyone wears shoes,” Dan says. It seemed to both of them that there just might be enough interest in old-fashioned shoemaking to establish a business.

“It’s not just about making shoes,” Annabel says. “It’s about having fun. It’s playtime. It’s a chance to be wild and crazy, if that is what you choose.”

The Colorado She School offers one, two and five-day workshops conducted in the spacious second-floor studio, flooded with light and filled with fascinating artifacts such as the Singer treadle sewing machine that belonged to Dan’s great grandfather, a shoemaker in Chicago.  It still works and Dan uses it.

Participants who come from a distance are welcome to stay in the old train car Dan bought from a neighbor who found it in Nebraska. Dan converted it into sleeping quarters complete with bathroom and kitchen area, filled with antiques and open to the sky during the warm weather.

Dan, who has always been a builder of things, has an impressive array of tools and equipment in the lower level of the studio. You get the sense that he can build anything, more often than not out of scraps and leftovers. Nothing goes to waste in this place.

Dan and annabel take pride in showing me a pair of shoes, the surface made from a paint-splattered drop cloth – funky and comfy-looking—honest!

Anyone who is interested in investigating the opportunity to take a little time off and emerge with a self-designed pair of shoes and a new outlook for 2020 is welcome to get in touch with Annabel and Dan: write to them at:

As we parted Dan said, “I feel as if you have heard only half our story.” I felt the same. You can learn more by watching the PBS show, Arts District on January 24 or seeking out the U Tube: “”Living big in a tiny house.” They have also done a radio spot for KUNC.

This story was in North Forty News this week. I liked these people and what they do so much that I wanted to share with you.  See more at

Monday, January 6, 2020

Advice from Granny Gert

 Some advice received from my grandmother many years ago, struck me that it just might have some relevance for today.

Since you will be teaching, you won’t require too many dresses and clothes. You won’t have time to wear them and fashions soon change…

The state of happiness in this world is to bring your wants down to just requirements.

Don’t buy anything on “hire purchase,” (meaning credit). That is like living a lie to world, having things you can’t afford to pay for. Pare down and don’t owe a penny.

Life these days is not easy. The old Victorian days were slow but sure, heavy going and thrifty. Leave cocktails and smoking alone: two ways for money to vanish.

Granny Gert had four children and was widowed when the oldest was ten. Money was scarce and she often prefaced a purchase with: “Now, I’m a widow with four children…implying that she was owed some kind of a deal!

She was also famous expressions such as:  “If you are as big as a house, you’ll obey me!” and:

“Home, the place where you grumble the most and are treated the best.”

She lived her whole life in England. In her 70s she boarded a freighter for a six-week trip to visit her daughter (my mother) and family in Seattle, Washington. Her favorite activity while there was to take a bus downtown to the skid row area and see a movie. It cost her 15 cents.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Happy Birthday Bess

Happy birthday, Mom. In a few days you would have been turning 115.

I never expected you to become that old, but when you died a few days after your 57th birthday, I had not had enough time with you. I had two young children at the time, but there were two more to come and I don’t like the fact that you never knew them or any of your dozen great grandkids that they produced. You would have been the ultimate grand and great grandmother.

I remember you:

Because of your joy in life: Whoever said the Brits didn’t have a sense of humor? Yours was the best.  You had a sparkle in your eye, an infectious smile, and you weren’t above fluttering your eyelids. You would have loved laughing with your grandkids and telling them stories of your youthful exploits such as buying a forbidden motorcycle and vacationing in South Africa.

 Because of your life journey: It took you from Harold Wood in Essex County to London for secretarial work where you met an American during his first week in your country and married him less than a year later.  Little did you know that you would follow him to the U.S. even though he had promised to live in England forever. That you would bear him three children, the last one born when you were in your forties and not so happy to redo the infant phase another time and in a strange country.

Because you managed to remain loyal to your homeland: You refused to become an American citizen at the same time embracing the country where you lived and making lifelong friends in the U.S.

Because of your love of sports: When your front teeth were knocked loose with a hockey stick, your mother pressed them back into your mouth and told you to put pressure on them. You always had slightly protruding front teeth but they were your own.

Because you learned to live so many miles away from all your birth family: You welcomed your mother to Seattle for a long stay. She arrived as one of a very few passengers on a freighter that took six weeks to travel through the Panama Canal. She was a welcome addition to our family for those months.

Because you were a loyal friend to so many people: You lighted up their lives. You were a friend in need. You were a talented cook and hostess and always ready for a party.

Because you provided a rudder, a stabilizing influence for your husband: You stuck by him when his itchy feet and issues with authority caused him some workplace  problems that caused moves that were not always welcome.

Enough already. Happy birthday Bess. I remember a little poem you shared:

Here lies a woman who always was tired.
She lived in a house where help wasn’t hired.
Don’t mourn for me now.
Don’t mourn for me never.
I’m going to do nothing forever and ever.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A few words of wisdom from my fridge

Kofi Annan

It was time to clean up the messy collection on my refrigerator door. In addition to a bunch of photos, here is what I found:

“Kofi Annan’s deep well of grace, humility, and calm energy set him apart. Such was his seemingly boundless vigor and the gravitas he exuded, that his death, at the age of 80 on August 18 (2018) shocked all who knew and loved him.

A career diplomat, originally from Ghana, Annan led the U.N. from 1997 to 2006, one of the most difficult periods in its history. He crisscrossed the world in an effort to bridge divides after the September 11, 2001 attacks. One can only imagine the pressure he was under, yet it never affected his demeanor.

After he retired from the U.N., his peacemaking continued through the efforts of his foundation and, later, as chairman of the Elders, an independent global leaders’ group. He understood on a visceral level that true peace resides within us all; that justice and human rights are not far-flung concepts for war-torn countries, but reside in our homes and our communities; and that childe marriage is as abhorrent as bombmaking.

Over the years I came to regard Annan as a wiser, younger brother. Five years ago in Cape Town, he spoke of the need for societies to” embrace diversity as a source of strength.” The fact that Annan was a product of Africa did us especially proud, but he could not be defined by his Africanness. He embodied the global citizen. For him, there was no them, no other—just us.”
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“The American male doesn’t mature until he has exhausted all other possibilities.”  Wilfred Sheed

“If we come to think that the nursery and the kitchen are the natural sphere of women, we have done so exactly as English children come to think that a cage is the natural sphere of a parrot—because they have never seen one anywhere else.”  
George Bernard Shaw

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” John Adams

“I would like to see us overcome our tribal divisions and begin to think and act as if we were one family. That would be real globalization.” Arthur Clark

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Birthday Presents

I just finished writing a birthday card to Jacqueline, my soon-to-be 22-year-old granddaughter. I slipped a $50 bill into the card.

And then I got to thinking. I added a note to explain to her that I really didn’t like sending money but that it did seem better than sending a gift that she might not need or want. I know how much money she makes as a brand new registered nurse and I know that $50 is a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Then I got to thinking and decided to share a small bit of family history with her. I remembered that Evelyn, my husband’s only aunt and great aunt to my children, never forgot any of their birthdays. 

On each occasion she sent a little white card with a cute sticker on it to the birthday boy or girl. Taped next to the sticker was a quarter. In the same envelope were another three little white cards with the other kids’ names on them, stickers, and with a shiny dime attached for each of them.

A quarter wasn’t much, even a half century ago. The money was not the point.  She remembered their birthdays and their unbirthdays as well, and that was what mattered.

I’m hoping that Jacqueline will understand and get a chuckle out of that bit of history.