Tuesday, July 26, 2016


I've been continuing to struggle with the same work/life balance issue ever since I returned home from Indiana two months ago: how do I find any time at all for my early morning writing and walking while living with a beloved little girl who tends to wake up VERY VERY EARLY - while one of her parents has left for work well before dawn and the other is zonked out exhausted after a night of sleep interrupted from bouts of nursing? 

I still have no good solution except to note that the earlier I get up, the better the day goes. Plus, sometimes willful toddlers don't get their own way and have a good ol' tantrum about it, and that's okay. And sometimes, I learned recently, I don't get my own way - and the results can quite wonderful.

The other day Kataleya got up just as I was about to leave at 5:30 a.m. for my cherished hour-long walk with poor little Tanky the dog who lives for our outings. (In houses with new babies, older siblings aren't the only ones temporarily dethroned). But there Kat was, doing what she always does whenever I prepare to leave the house: running to get her shoes, as if they were some magical talisman to ensure that she can come, too. "Shoes on! Shoes on!" she wailed inconsolably. 

Oh, well. Often I come up with some excuse she will accept: Mimsie has to go to work, Mimsie has to go to that mysterious thing called "a meeting." This time, I sighed, loaded child and dog into the car, and drove down to Viele Lake. Because this time, I had something splendid to share with her: goats!!!

The city of Boulder has decided to control noxious weeds on public lands not with environmentally toxic herbicides but with a traveling herd of goats accompanied by a guard llama. They are currently down by the lake in the park where I walk, behind an electric fence just a foot or so away from the yellow-net fence beside the path for cyclists, pedestrians, and their companion animals,

What a magical half hour the three of us had, in that crisp, cool dawn air, so close to two dozen goats that we could practically reach out to touch them.

I didn't get a proper walk that day.  I missed getting it desperately. Those of us with Fitbits hate sacrificing any chance for steps!! But I shared sweet companionship with an enthralled toddler. (And don't you love the purse?)

Before she became an acclaimed novelist, Elizabeth Berg was a frequenter contributor of personal essays to the women's magazines I love to read. I still remember one from decades ago. She wrote about attending an elementary school music program and looking at her watch to make sure she wouldn't be trapped there for too long. Then she had a revelation: if she didn't have time to hear little children playing Mozart, what more important thing did she have time for? Her answer: nothing.

Ditto for spending the first, best hour of the day with a two-year-old and a flock of hungry goats.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Baptism Day

Today was the baptism of my second grandbaby, Madilyne Jane Wahl, who will be two months old tomorrow.

I love the rite of baptism so much, the welcoming of a child - or an adult - or anybody - into the family of faith. Today I knew I would cry as the pastor held Madi and touched her sleeping little head with holy water, baptizing her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To make the day even more emotional, her daddy, my son Christopher, played the piano for the worship service, and he chose the hymns, including this one that always makes me bawl uncontrollably:

It begins:
I was there to hear your borning cry,
I'll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.

It then proceeds through all the stages of human life, from birth to death, celebrating God's presence in all of them.
In the middle ages of your life,
not too old, no longer young,
I'll be there to guide you through the night,
complete what I've begun.
When the evening gently closes in,
and you shut your weary eyes,
I'll be there as I have always been
with just one more surprise.

Unfortunately, the pictures that are right-side-up on my phone, and right-side-up when saved onto my computer, and right-side-up when I emailed them to friends, are (well, some of them) at the wrong angle here. So you'll have to tilt your head to see them. But when I tilt my own head to see them, I view them through a film of happy, grateful tears.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Santa Fe Surprise

A few months ago I got an email from the Rocky Mountain Division of the American Society for Aesthetics asking if I would give a keynote address at their summer conference in Santa Fe.

Well, I love giving talks, and I love Santa Fe. There was only one problem: I don't really know anything about aesthetics, or the philosophy of art. My area of specialization is ethics. I assumed that they had invited me by mistake, confusing me with some other better-qualified philosopher, and I wrote back to tell them so. They replied that they had indeed intended to invite me, hoping I could give them a "creative artist" talk on philosophy and children's literature. And I said, why, yes, that is exactly the kind of thing I could do!

The conference was this past weekend. Santa Fe is only a 6 1/2 hour drive from Boulder, so I invited my husband to come with me, and he accepted that invitation as well. But then I became consumed with doubt and guilt about how I would manage all my competing obligations: 1) give a good talk at the conference; 2) attend other sessions of the conference; 3) see an old friend friend from graduate school, a photographer/blacksmith/art historian who lives near Taos; 4) develop a new friendship with the wonderful, kindred-spirit philosopher who had invited me; and 5) make this a little holiday for me and my husband as well.

I really think I ended up doing all of those things. My talk was well received. I heard ten other talks and came away fired up to do more reading and maybe some writing as well on topics presented at the conference. I stole time for a leisurely lunch with the artist friend and had late night one-on-one heart-to-heart conversations with two other friends. I had dinner with my husband every night, and we also had a lovely drive up to Los Alamos to ponder the fascinating, tragic chapter of our national history that was the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II; he and I also savored the gorgeous scenery through the most gorgeous stretches of scenery in Colorado and New Mexico.

Sometimes it's a mistake to try to cram too much into too few days. Sometimes it's a mistake in life to try too hard to have it all. But this past weekend, I loved being able to combine work and play, professional development with deep, meaningful connections with friends old and new, plus family fun, too. I did have twinges of guilt for missing some conference sessions, but everybody misses a few. I did have a few pangs for abandoning my husband during most of each day, but we had more quality time together on the trip than we would have had at home. Best of all, I had long, quiet walks early each morning, all alone, past the art galleries on Canyon Road, time just for me. I had time, that is to say, for everything.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Old Elitch's Theater Outing

All outings are fun, but for me, writing-related outings are the most fun of all.

Last night my writing friend Carrie organized an outing for her writing group, and me, to the abandoned theater that was once a prime attraction of the old Elitch's Gardens amusement park in Denver. Carrie is in the process of writing a young adult novel set in that theater, where she herself once worked many years ago, before Elitch's moved to its new location and the theater closed its doors for good. I was included in the outing as I'm going to be working with her in a mentor role as she tackles revisions. 
Now celebrating its 125th anniversary, and in the midst of a decade of renovations, the theater is hosting tours on the First Friday of each summer month. The tour we attended was extremely well organized. Half a dozen different guides presented information about a wide range of subjects: the exterior of the building; the timetable for the restoration; the history of the Elitch family (with special focus on spunky Mary Elitch, who kept the amusement park, zoo, and theater going after her husband's  early death); the history of the theater itself (the first summer stock theater in the U.S.); and the roster of  visiting stars who had performed there, including Sarah Bernhardt, Robert Redford, and my own favorite, Patty Duke.

Here we are, soaking up atmosphere and looking forward to seeing some details from the theater's storied past making their way into Carrie's book:
Afterward we wandered over to Denver's delightful Tennyson Street, filled with its own First Friday delights. Tennyson Street is home to the Denver bookstore I love best, the charming children's bookstore, Second Star to the Right.
They were still open, even at 9:30 at night, so I bought two books for Kataleya. Right across the street is another inviting bookstore for browsing and lingering, BookBar, which offers the combined attractions of bookstore and wine bar. What's not to like about that? The Denver Cat Company cafe was closed for the night, but several pleasingly plump kitties dozed in the window. After waiting for two of our party to have their Tarot cards read (!), we settled down for late-night people watching at an open-air, street-facing counter of a restaurant on the way back to the theater. 

I got home close to midnight, unheard of for me, early to bed and early to rise as I am. But once in a while, it's worth it to burn the candle at both ends. Especially when you have the chance for a fascinating and fun outing with fascinating and fun writer friends.