From the Depths of My Heart

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Friday, February 5, 2021, was National Wear Red for Heart Health Awareness Day. Coincidentally, one of my family members had major heart surgery that very day. (All is well! Problems repaired.) And here comes Valentine’s Day when we celebrate all that is heartfelt.

These events have made me reflect on my own heart surgery back in November of 1994.

My surgery was a seven-hour open heart repair of a congenital birth defect called Atrial Septal Defect. Basically, the two upper chambers, or atria, of my heart had a massive hole the size of a fifty-cent piece in the wall, or septum, between the atria. Little wonder I had been tired my entire life with very little oxygen getting to the right places!

No one caught this problem until I was in my forties. After complaining for years of shortness of breath, chest pains, and lethargy, I was told every time that I was just stressed and working too hard. I will always believe that it took my switching to a female primary care physician in early 1994 to get the problem properly diagnosed and a surgery date set.

I arrived at the hospital on a scary, cold and gray Friday morning. As I later told my students, my heart stopped beating (to begin the surgery), and I lived to tell about it! But I almost didn’t live. I was taken to another planet until Sunday night, having slipped into unconsciousness due to a grand mal seizure from an air bubble left in my bloodstream after being taken off the heart-lung machine. When I wouldn’t come to, the doctors told my family, including my thirteen-year-old daughter, that they gave me little hope of a full recovery–if I survived. My poor daughter, God bless her, remained strong and a staunch advocate at my side in the ICU.

But my time wasn’t up. I had more to do–like raise my daughter, see her graduate from high school and college, marry, and give me grandchildren; teach kids for almost twenty more years; and, retire and become a children’s mystery book author! So I opened my eyes, did everything I was told to do to recover, which took a full six months since I was so sapped, and finally learned to swim in the summer of ’95. My energy surged back like a tidal wave that June and hasn’t left. I count my blessings every day. No more naps, just verve and a strong heart that serves me so well. I’m an Energizer Bunny!

I thank the doctors, hospital staff, and family and friends who kept up a long vigil at the hospital to pull me through and care for me in the aftermath.

So, get a clue, Readers. We all have our stories, don’t we? This is one of mine. You never know when you’ll need every ounce of strength to survive a physical ordeal. And, kids, don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or do drugs. If I had slipped into any of those bad habits in my youth, I wouldn’t be here today. So the doctors told me the day after I rejoined Planet Earth.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you from the depths of my healthy heart!






Dear Readers,

As I write this blog, many of you are probably sinking in snowdrifts and sorry the groundhog has announced six more weeks of winter. How about an escape? –at least as an armchair traveler, for now!

But first, I feel compelled to introduce to you the Italian word bramasole. It means “yearning for the sun.” It’s also the name of Frances Mayes’ villa near the town of Cortona in Tuscany, Italy. She and her boyfriend Ed restored the abandoned, scorpion-infested house in the early 1990s to turn Bramasole into “una bella villa!”

If you haven’t read Under the Tuscan SunI highly recommend Mayes’ book so you can savor her gorgeous descriptions of their labor of love over five years on their sienna, rose, and ocher-colored house fit for summer clothes and open shutters, the overgrown garden with blackberry brambles, and the sun-drenched fields around their home. All will warm you to your bones.

In the Preface, Mayes says that Italy “is thousands of years deep” with herself standing “on the top layer . . . on a small plot of land” where she is “delighted today with the wild orange lilies spotting the hillside.” She hopes the reader will become a visiting friend and “walk down the terrace paths singing of the grapes . . . see hill towns of round towers and spilling geraniums . . .  and feel the breeze rushing around those hot marble statues.”

I’ve only just started reading the book but already, I have become that friend Mayes mentioned, entering their three-story house, and walking through each room with rose-tangled balconies where I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a few glimpses of spindly cypresses on nearby hilltops and the warm green valleys beyond.

So, get a clue, dear Readers. I recommend this book over the movie so you can allow the author’s superb language to wash over you like a hot spring and drool over the scrumptious Mediterranean feasts conjured up in the couple’s rustic kitchen. Under the Tuscan Sun will certainly transport you as well to sun-saturated Tuscany. Bramasole! And grab the sunscreen.





Beginning Remarks

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

While listening to President Biden’s Inaugural Address on January 20, I was inspired to see what other presidents had said on their Inauguration days.

I purchased Collected Presidential Inaugural Addresses 1789-2017, by Eupator Classics Law and Liberty Library, 2020. It covers Presidents Washington through Trump. (I have added a copy of Biden’s speech to the back of the book to make it current.)

In my opinion, this is a book to be savored, not read straight through too quickly. I have decided to read the speeches in order, but at a pace to allow me to appreciate the words and to visualize the historical times when these leaders lived.

Previewing the book has shown me that President George Washington’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered on March 4, 1793, is the shortest to date. I timed myself reading it aloud; it clocked in at one minute. Also, Washington delivered it just before he was to be sworn in, not after, as is now done. Washington warned that if he didn’t uphold his oath, he should incur “constitutional punishment” and “be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.”

President William Henry Harrison’s Inaugural Address, delivered on March 4, 1841, is the longest to date. (It covers thirteen pages in the book and must have lasted well over one hour!) The average timespan for most other speeches since appears to be 20-30 minutes.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Second Inaugural Address on January 20, 1937, was the first to be given in January, not in March. The Inauguration date had been permanently changed to January 20 (or the 21st if the 20th is a Sunday) with the passage of the “Twentieth Amendment” in 1933.

Also, many presidents made references to other presidents’ remarks, usually in a positive way! And God’s name was invoked often for guidance in the task ahead.

So, get a clue, Readers. Reading inaugural addresses or other politicians’ speeches can be a rich, fun way to learn history, or to launch more study of the period in which our presidents lived.


“The Hill We Climb”

Dear Kids and All Readers,

During the January 20th Inauguration ceremony, I, along with others worldwide, were captivated by a twenty-two-year-old woman named Amanda Gorman when she gave a dramatic recitation of her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” It contains themes of grief, pain, labor, hope, healing, transcendence, and unity.

Ms. Gorman is the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate and the youngest to read a poem at a presidential inauguration. Dr. Biden discovered Gorman when the poet did a reading recently at the Library of Congress.

Gorman referenced herself in her poem as “a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother.” She has shared elsewhere that she suffered a speech impediment as a child but learned to “dream big.”

As a result of her now-famous, televised appearance on the Inauguration platform, Gorman has earned two book deals! Her collection of poems, The Hill We Climb, and her picture book, Change Sings, will be published on September 21, 2021, by Viking Books.

Awesome. You go, Girl!

So, get a clue, kids and all readers. If you missed Ms. Gorman’s memorable poetic reading, or if you’d like to hear it again, please click on this link.


Resolutions: From Love . . . or Fear?

January 14, 2021

Hello, Readers!

Did you make some New Year’s resolutions for 2021? If yes, how are you and they progressing?

According to Victoria Price, daughter of the late actor Vincent Price and author of Living Love: Twelve Heart-Centered Practices to Transform Your Life, “studies have shown [she doesn’t cite which] that although sixty percent of us make resolutions every year, less than eight percent of us achieve them!” And we do so mostly out of fear, not love–even if our fear-based choices have the intent of making us do “better.”

For example, we might want to eat less, save more money, or reduce our time on social media. Why are these desires based in fear? Because, Price says, they reveal that something is missing from our lives (health, money, fitness, time, etc.), so they are generated from “a place of lack” or deprecation. This keeps us focused on our worries and needs, which produce anxieties. We beat ourselves up. Not good.

How do we solve this problem? Price says to start with a practice instead of a fear since practices are rooted in love, not fear.

To explain, instead of writing down everything you want to change about yourself, write down what is working and what you like about yourself. If you’re too modest, write down compliments others have given you, e.g, “I have long eyelashes,” or “My dog likes me.”

If negative thoughts come up, acknowledge them, then quickly put them aside. As often as possible, accentuate those positive practices and features, or as Price says, “the good stuff that comes from loving ourselves.” She suggests going to sleep each night focusing on all those things that have come into your life because of love.

So, get a clue, Readers. Perhaps it’s time to jettison fear-based New Year’s resolutions, especially after the horrific 2020, and replace them with positive practices, loving thoughts, and kind actions that shift us away from old negative habits of being. With that, I wish each of you a happy, love-filled, joyous 2021.







Up, Up, and We’re Off!

Hello, Kids and All Readers–

Happy New Year! Let’s get 2021 off to a great start with a little humor.

The following was sent to me by a friend who got it from somewhere on Twitter.

So, get a clue, Readers. I wish you a truly happy 2021! And please, pay it forward–whatever positive thought, feeling, or action “it” is for you.

“Welcome aboard Flight #2021. 
We are preparing for an on-time departure into the New Year. Please make sure your Attitude and Actions are secured and locked in an upbeat and upright position. All self-destructive thoughts should be turned off at this time and remain off forever. Any negativity, hate, and discouragement must remain completely stowed. In the unlikely event we lose Altitude while under pressure, simply reach up and pull down a Prayer. Prayers will automatically activate if you have Faith. With Faith, you will be able to assist other passengers.
There will be NO BAGGAGE allowed on this flight. Our Captain has cleared us for takeoff. Our first destination is Love, with continuing stops at Peace and Joy. Before you deplane, make sure you don’t leave any of your Hopes and Dreams behind. Once these are lost, they cannot be reclaimed. If there’s anything we can do to make your flight more enjoyable, please do the same by paying it forward. We wish you a pleasant flight!”