Lessons learned in the past few years

I’ve been away from my blog for a while. I’d like to begin 2020 with a recap of the lessons I’ve learned in the past few years and ideas for the future.

Stuff that didn’t make sense in 2014

It didn’t make sense to me how the media members believed they were covering a story, but they were actually publicizing a fringe opinion. When the media exposed the actions of an extremist group/organization, they appeared to actually give them credence, especially when repeated ad nausium.

It didn’t make sense to me how polarized my country was, how relatives and neighbors could hold such opposite opinions. Even though we disagreed with many, we don’t want to shoot them like they do in other countries where people fight over politics or religion.

It didn’t make sense to me how people looked at land or location as a place to be exploited and not see the beauty of the place. It didn’t make sense to me how destroying a landscape, improves it;  e.g. why do neighbors bulldoze 100-year-old trees that protect fragile land to farm another acre more or build another grain bin.

What did make sense?

It made sense for a society to take responsibility to care for people unable to care for themselves (disabled, elderly, children and disenfranchised). It made sense to me that wealthy people should be taxed more to pay for roads, police, schools, health care, and even bombs. I often felt that I could do more than I do to help others.

It made sense to celebrate life’s events, like holding a Halloween party for friends and family whenever we are able. We may not pass by a person, group, of part of life again in just the same way – it made sense not to miss opportunities. This sentiment has grown stronger as I age.


What made sense in my life?

It made sense to always support my children as they figure out life.

It made sense to bury the hatchet of conflict with others and let go of past hurts. This one was and is very difficult for me. I take injuries and hurts to heart, expect apologies that won’t be coming, and find it easier to live without hurtful people in my life.

It made sense to learn to forgive so I don’t feel the agony of resentment all the time. It made sense to bury those feelings in the soil, to plant new life internally as I plant flowers and tomatoes in the spring. I’ve been given another year, another spring to work on this and I was grateful to be alive, or as a friend used to say, “every day above ground is a good one”.

Tiger lilies-3

It made sense to me to focus my daily life on things I could manage and control (like mowing the lawn when it is tall, cleaning the house when it is dirty, taking care of pets and livestock, giving my colleagues a place to vent about the very strange politics of the work-place, participating in groups that improve the little space of the world that I live in) and let alone the neighborhood’s, state’s, nation’s bigger problems.

It made sense to celebrate every sunrise, appreciate every sunset, savor the taste of coffee, the luxury of time to sip a couple cups in the morning, dinner with family or friends, finding time to stop, listen to birds sing and share the bounty of my life. I felt very fortunate to be in that place at that time.


What makes sense in 2020?

This is the first time I’ve considered these issues in the past six years. It seems appropriate to revisit them again as 2020 begins. I noted in 2014 that Americans may disagree but at least we don’t shoot people. I’m revising that statement based on the history of the past few years. People in this country are more polarized now than six years ago.

In recent years people have started to shoot people they don’t like; target racial groups they don’t like, and pursue whole groups of people whose politics they don’t like. People shoot other people in churches, synagogues, and mosques. People shoot children in elementary and high schools, and at colleges and universities. People shoot people in nightclubs and at concerts. People shoot people in restaurants and corner stores. I understand this exhibition of hated even less than I understand the hate that fuels it.

Perhaps I’m looking through the wrong end of a viewfinder, but I don’t understand the continued exploitation of land and water in this country as if there’s always more land out there to move to, dig up, pump water from the ground via irrigation, build wind farms on, or clutter landscapes with mechanical equipment. It makes no sense to me to encase towers in fifty-feet deep cement platforms for the next generation to worry about removing.

It also makes no sense to mine oil from Canadian tar sands and transport it via pipelines to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to be sold on the world market. Pipelines that cross the United States and pollute our land with every pipeline break seem nonsensical to me as well as being another source of ill-gotten revenue for the one present of ultra-rich that spend fortunes lobbying politicians to make it happen.

Stuff that does make sense.

Generosity to others and kindness continue to be important qualities. It makes sense to help others when possible. It makes sense to adopt shelter pets, like my dog Pickles rather than buy from pet factories.


I wish sensible actions and attitudes combined into a longer list and perhaps I need to remove my rose-colored glasses and view the world with a different lens. However, I love my country and its multiplicity of residents regardless of our political divisions. We are all more than our political opinions. Please, let’s stop shooting each other!

It also makes sense to me to record events and attitudes as I experience them. This time and place will not come again. I’m still grateful to be alive at this time. It continues to make sense to celebrate life’s gifts.  I hope the world will be a better place for future generations. If each of us demonstrates one kind gesture toward another and befriends folks rejected by others, we will have a beginning.



High Summer

It’s late July, high summer season for garden  harvests, flowers and mosquitos.  It’s also the general timeline I gave myself to make a retirement decision.  I can busy myself picking green beans,  husking sweet corn and pruning flower beds to avoid difficult decisions.  It’s been a great year for green beans.  This is an early harvest.


Plentiful rain results in beautiful flowers.

IMG_20180708_211918_073 The flowers are pretty even when shared with another of Mother Nature’s creatures.



Tending to nature’s bounty is a peaceful way to consider options.  Time on the lake fishing is another kind of peace.  My pole’s in the water on a foggy morning.

Lin's fishing pole

This view and the cover photo are of Lake Oahe in South Dakota. http://sdmissouririver.com/follow-the-river/the-four-lakes-and-dams/lake-oahe/

How to Host an Outdoor Wedding

Have you ever considered hosting a wedding in your back yard? Does that sound like fun, or do you wonder how to make it happen? Especially if it’s early October, you live in a rural area, miles from the nearest towns, the weather is unpredictable, and the country is still in the grips of a pandemic. I’ve included a “how to” outline in this blog.

A long and lonely road.

Then you begin to think about the implications of having a hundred of your daughter’s friends settling in for the evening. What do you need to do? If you are lucky enough to have a super-organized daughter like mine, you can relax a bit and just talk over the details with her.

My daughter and her special guy were married in a private ceremony with just the two of them and a minister last November during a Covid shutdown. This upcoming event will be the celebration they were not able to have last fall. Wedding invitations detail that the event will be outdoors allowing people to spread out as much as they wish to avoid possible Covid contact.

I have three dozen folding chairs and assorted benches acquired over the years to host other events. I’m borrowing tables from a community group. My organized daughter contracted for a caterer, a brewer, a band, a wandering guitarist, a photographer, and a florist. Our local neighborhood brewer applied to the county authorities for permission to sell his beer and other drinks in our location remote from his brewery. The permit is approved, thankfully.

Choose a band

The band, Stonehouse, plays at multiple venues in the area and will be performing for this wedding as well.


My daughter also plans for decorations, lights, gifts for attendants, and tartan scarves for the moms and grandmothers. Her husband is of Scottish descent. He, his brother, the best man, and a few others will be wearing kilts. We are missing someone to play bagpipes but everything other than that seems to be coming together as I write this ten days out from the event.

Pick a Theme.


This event has a tartan theme.

Consider the Weather.

The weather is predicted to be 72 degrees during the day and edging toward 45 degrees later in the evening with several days of possible wet weather between now and then. Rain could be a complication; we hope for a dry day, but forecasts can change significantly in ten days. The meal will be in a large garage we call The Shed. The band will be in The Shed under cover as well. There’s just the question of what to do with the guests if it rains.

Select a Venue

The photo is of a previous event held in The Shed.

To answer the potential wet guest question, we have been cleaning two old barns to serve as extra indoor sites… just in case. Barn cleaning is challenging to say the least. We are sweeping down years of cobwebs, removing old manure in wheelbarrows, and chasing unfriendly smells with bleach and deodorizers. The next step will be to scatter chairs around the barns.

Repurposing Barns


There is also the question of parking and bathrooms. My daughter ordered porta-pots to set up in my yard (my rural plumbing will not service large numbers without problems.)  I don’t have a paved parking lot. If the days stay dry, guests will be able to park in a pasture near the house. If it’s raining, they will need to park along the side of the graveled road. Guest can walk to the back yard, or we will ferry them in a Gator two or three at a time.

Outdoor Seating

During the coming weekend the bride, groom and I will do a final cleaning in The Shed. We also need to pick up the borrowed tables, set up chairs, and assemble lawn chairs for outdoor seating. I have a stack of shawls and small blankets to loan for anyone who gets cold.

Enjoy some time outside

Keep you fingers crossed and hope that Mother Nature cooperates to give us a beautiful fall day

Generosity of Strangers

A tied quilt donated to the Winside Museum by a friend of the museum to auction during a fundraising event.

Quilts and generous strangers are often associated. People donate quilts for fundraising events as evidenced by the photo above. Strangers buy raffle tickets for quilt drawings and attend fundraising events where quilts are sold or auctioned.

In my blog Quilt World, I describe how a quilt is assembled and finished. A tied quilt, like the one pictured, is another way to fasten the quilt top to a quilt back with a piece of batting between the quilt sandwich layers. This often involves attaching the parts of the quilt sandwich on long wooden stretchers to establish a flat surface then running a needle and thread through the layers and tying each thread on the top of the quilt. It is often thought to be a faster method of connecting quilting layers, but it requires a large space to set up the quilt frame, and time to add all those ties.

This is a quilt I made and machine quilted, then donated to a museum to be sold at a fundraising event.

In my blog entry, Quilt World, I mention writing a letter to the editor of Nebraska Life Magazine about the International Quilt Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Please check out that blog for more details. That letter led me on an interesting journey.

The answering machine on my phone screens calls. I answer it’s ring when the number appears to be a person rather than a telemarketer. Consequently, something moves me to pick up the phone one Saturday to talk to a woman who says her name is Nancy Smith (this is a pseudonym to protect her privacy). She asks me if I am the person who wrote the letter to the editor in Nebraska Life Magazine about quilts last winter.

I have to think for a few minutes to recall her reference, having forgotten about the brief letter to the editor. Nancy tells me she is looking for a home for four quilt tops. After some discussion, it became clear that she wants to give me the quilts. Surprised and curious, I ask for pictures and measurements. Nancy engages the help of her daughter who takes photos and texts them to my phone. Nancy measures the quilts and texts that information as well over the course of the weekend.

This is quilt #1, a crazy quilt design made from scraps of silk and satin connected with decorative stitching. It appears to be the model for two cotton quilts described below.

The next hurdle for this generous gift is “the how” of accomplishing the quilt handoff. Nancy lives in Lincoln, NE. I live in a rural area approximately 100 miles or around two hours’ drive from Lincoln. I confess to Nancy that I didn’t know when I’d be able to get to Lincoln and ask if she has considered giving the quilts to someone closer to her home, or perhaps donating them to a shelter, imagining it might be easier for her.

Nancy is not interested in donating to a local source. However, she is a determined person, motivated to get the quilts out of her house, and generously agrees to drive more than halfway to meet me that Monday afternoon. I drive to our agreed meeting place. Nancy and her husband soon arrive. He greets me, steps out of his vehicle, and retrieves a box from their SUV. He hands the box of quilts to me.

I stow the box in the backseat of my Chevy Malibu and profusely thank them. Nancy says she wants to talk to me. Her husband walks around their vehicle and gets a walker from the rear seat, unfolds it, and helps Nancy out of the passenger seat. Nancy then walks, using her walker, around the SUV to talk to me. If I’d known about her condition I certainly would have walked to her side of the vehicle.

Nancy explains that she has been diagnosed with MG and asks if I’m familiar with that condition. I am not familiar. Her husband explains, MG is short for Myasthenia gravis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myasthenia-gravis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352036 The Mayo Clinic describes the condition as one characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of the muscles. Nancy explains that she no longer has the strength to finish the quilts.

Quilt #2 is a crazy quilt design using larger pieces of cotton and 1940s feed sack fabric machine sewing to a muslin backing.

I ask for more information about the quilts. She tells me she acquired them from a man from Yankton who advertised them as quilt tops. These quilt tops were not what she was expecting. Nancy said she offered the quilts to her church group, but that group was afraid to work on quilts they feared might be antique.

Quilt top #3 is constructed in a similar fashion to #2 and uses some of the same fabrics.

Nancy also isn’t sure why the original unknown quilter chose to machine sew the crazy quilt pieces to muslin backing. It makes the tops difficult to quilt. Three of the quilts can be considered crazy quilts. The fourth pink diamond quilt is hand-pieced without any facing.

The pink diamond quilt is all stitched together by hand. This quilt top does not have a backing fabric.

After returning home with the quilt tops, I decide to take a tough love approach to the quilts and clean them, like I’ve done with previous rescues quilts. I add a little vinegar in the wash to remove stains and any possible mites. I place the three machine-sewn crazy quilts in the washer, turn it on and hope for the best. I launder the hand-pieced quilt by hand and then hang them all on the clothesline in sunlight, muslin side toward the sun in three cases, backside up on the pink diamond quilt. All of them come through the laundry process in good shape. Two of the quilt tops will need minor repair. Two are ready to be quilted.

The quilt tops are an amazing gift for Nancy to give a stranger. I will try to be a good steward of her largess. One or more of these will make great donations to a community organization when completed.

Quilt World

It’s good to periodically air one’s quilts. This photo shows multiple quilts airing on a clothesline.

I am a quilter and have made many quilt tops, most from established patterns and some I’ve designed. My first quilt was mad from scraps of fabric from old clothes. I enrolled in a few quilt classes and learned that 100% quilter’s cotton is a much better choice. The fabric will last longer, and all pieces of the quilt will be of consistent quality. These characteristics contribute to the longevity of the quilt.

A quilt is like a sandwich, in that it consists of a top, the middle, usually commercially prepared batting (like meat or cheese in a sandwich), and a fabric back, the second slice of bread in the sandwich. Quilt backs are usually one large piece of fabric, although one can piece a quilt back to create a reversible quilt, most people do not. The quilts airing on clothes lines are part of my quilt collection.

I’ve also “rescued” old quilt tops from antique stores and auctions where the unfinished quilt top is an unrecognized treasure. Making quilt tops is the creative part of the quilting process for me. I made the following quilt. It is an example of a finished quilt with a log cabin block design. After machine sewing the quilt top, I took it to a professional machine quilter to assemble and stitch the quilt sandwich. I finished the quilt by adding a binding strip to the edges.

Nebraska Life Magazine https://www.nebraskalife.com/ published an excellent article about the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s International Quilt Museum last year https://www.internationalquiltmuseum.org/ . Coincidentally, the editor of Nebraska Life Magazine asked if I would be willing to write a Letter to the Editor for an upcoming issue about an article of my choice as the magazine needed more letters to the editor that edition. Since I’m both familiar with and love the International Quilt Museum, I wrote a letter praising that institution. It was fun to see my letter in the editorial section and then I forgot all about it.

I’m also a writer and periodically submit poems to Nebraska Life and request the poetry editor’s consideration to publish those poems. The magazine has accepted and published an occasional poem in the past. This spring, I have a new book of poetry titled, as happenstance has it, A Quilted Landscape, published by Scrufpea Publishers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in May 2021. They are poems about place and a few poems in the book have quilting metaphors, like my poem, Truth Unraveled, in the first section of the book.

"Everything you add to the truth subtracts from the truth"  
Alexander Solzhenitsyn 

Psychologists report that memory 
is susceptible to alteration,

like decorating unsightly facts with rickrack,
lace edgings added for good measure.

Each recollection we believe is memory 
is mentally sorting 

and rearranging the past, 
like wearing hand-me-down clothes 

faded from the sun
last worn by older cousins.

People with recovered amnesia 
have the truest memories; 

like comparing bright colored quilt blocks 
stored in an old trunk away from light.

to the faded quilt on a bed. 
If police investigators and historians 

could time-travel, 
they wouldn’t need to stitch 

stories together, 
just visit the scene of the crime. 

Reality is a moving target,
an invented truth, 

leaving humankind adrift 
in a roiling sea of ethical dilemmas 

and accusations of fake news. 
We treat each other on today’s whim, 

ripping the seams of fragile lives,
frayed fabric and costs be damned.

To promote the book, I’ve made an author page, found a venue for a Book Launch in July, posted information to my author page, developed a postcard, and mailed them to libraries, colleges, and far away friends, hung a few posters in different towns, and will be doing another email barrage to friends and colleagues. I find that self-promotion is one of the most challenging parts of the writing business. Marketing after a book is published, like binding the quilt edges at the end of the quilting process, is necessary, but not always fun.

The cover photo is my photograph taken from the window of a small plane.

Spring into Summer

It felt great to have a few warm March days after a very cold February. It was warm enough to finally bring in the Christmas lights that I strung around the yard during the last warm days in November. All the electric cords were buried under inches of snow and ice for months. John Greenleaf Whittier memorialize winter’s bite in this poem.

by John Greenleaf Whittier

All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary voiced elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.

Many large groups of snow geese fly north in March. I live in the great middle-of-the-country flyway and get to hear their calls and watch them pass overhead. The flocks have some dark geese in their ranks that look like dark silhouettes in the sky. In researching snow geese, I learned these are unusual blue geese that look like shadows in the snow-white flock. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snow_Goose/overview

The spring bug bit me for sure, but it was too early to work on the yard. The lawn showed signs of green as snow receded. The garden was still under a snow blanket. I planted a pot of lettuce in an unheated garden shed, placed it in a south window, and after a few days of sun through the window the seeds sprouted. A pot of spinach survived all winter in that space. In a few weeks, a salad.

I spent too much time sitting at my desktop or laptop during the pandemic year. I took classes, attended meetings, and participated in work groups via zoom on the laptop. I’m writing this blog entry on my desktop computer. However, I believe it’s possible to find ways to finish projects without sitting in front of computer screens.

Spring had special meaning this year after a year of Covid seclusion. I emerged from my home this spring like a tulip pushing through cold soil to feel the sun on my face.

March arrived like a lamb delivering a warm spell perfect for basking in warm sunshine, reading, and re-reading books I love like the books listed below that influence Twila Hansen, storied poet. She was Nebraska State Poet for five years and has many publications to her name. Randal Eldon Green interviewed Twila Hansen recently. In that interview he asked Twyla about books she considers important. https://helloauthor.substack.com/p/interview-with-twyla-hansen-2021?fbclid=IwAR2ZvPuk8aBcThJU80DjsSypujeIAICP6mCvOh7zrx9AjErTjUPp3auso6U

In no particular order, here are just a few books that have influenced Twila Hansen:

  1. American Primitive – Mary Oliver
  2. My Antonia – Willa Cather
  3. Giants in the Earth – O. E. Rolvaag
  4. Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
  5. Old Jules – Mari Sandoz
  6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  7. Black Elk Speaks – John Neihardt
  8. The Unsettling of America – Wendell Berry
  9. A Sand County Almanac – Aldo Leopold
  10. Cottonwood County – William Kloefkorn and Ted Kooser
  11. The Solace of Open Spaces – Gretel Ehrlich
  12. Teodoro Luna’s Two Kisses – Alberto Rios
  13. Above the River – James Wright
  14. She Had Some Horses – Joy Harjo
  15. The Immense Journey – Loren Eiseley

The list of books that have influenced me is similar. During the winter of 2020, I read and reread Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt. I am deeply interested in and impressed by Black Elk’s vision dream. I used time in Covid seclusion to craft a quilt with many elements from the vision applicated to a unique visual field.

I enjoy making quilt tops but usually take them to a professional quilter to do the actual quilting, as I have done with this quilt.

This is the finished quilt completed in March 2021.

Spring merges into summer quickly on the Great Plains. Temperatures range from minus twenty-five in February to ninety-five in early June. I wrote this poem to commemorate Black Elk’s vision, my quilt, and drought gripping the west in 2021. Today there is rain.


                                     by Lin Marshall Brummels
                Summer heat,
awake late, reading Black Elk Speaks,  
how Neihardt’s daughters’ record 
the sage’s words, for their father,
Black Elk named Word Sender.
		My quilted dream
version presumptuous perhaps 
in comfort of home these many years 
after John G sat around Black Elk’s 
campfire for months to hear him. 
               Sleep evades
as high pressure builds, I yearn 
for the right words for this poem, 
get out of bed, physically search
for inspiration,
              find a drawer full 
of hair ribbons like rainbows Black Elk 
saw on mountain top after he called 
for rain, sky darkened, rain came, 
earned him title Rain Maker. Today
             Thunder Gods 
from the west sound off, warriors
riding matching black horses,
carry spears flashing lightning,
bring much needed rain.


Constructing a Building is like Crafting a Life

Over the summer, I oversaw the renovation of an old garden shed in the back yard and the construction of a new horse shelter in the corral. The garden shed remodeling effort was like remaking my appearance by getting new clothes or dying my hair – mostly cosmetic. However, in the process I learned it’s important to examine fundamentals first, by asking why I want change e.g., am I trying to deceive someone with a new look? If one wants to have more than a decorative fix, foundational defects should always come before surface pretties, e.g. a new outfit or hairdo do not fix underlying anxiety or depression. Hidden issues encountered when remodeling the shed is a construction example of this principle.

Remodeled Garden Shed

I communicated my vision for the garden shed to the contractor, as a three-season building, to extend the growing season in the fall, and a place to start seeds early in the spring. This included adding insulation, windows, and a new door. In this discussion, I requested that they repair problems, seal the building from rodents, bugs, and moisture. I thought those were clear instructions but found I was wrong.

After the shed’s cosmetic remodeling was nearly finished, I discovered the sills under three sides were rotten. The contractor either didn’t notice the rot or decided not to tell me about it. Although he wouldn’t admit it when confronted, I believe he hoped I wouldn’t notice, and he could skip this important step.

I scraped away the rotten wood as much as possible without starting the entire project over and repaired the sills after a fashion with cans of liquid insulation and multiple tubes of calk. This important step should have been done by the contractor before the cosmetic part of the project was accomplished. I learned the hard way to be more hands-on with contractors.

Construction of a new building, on the other hand, requires beginning with a clean slate. Creating a physical clean slate is akin to emotional housecleaning where we dig into our psyche and purge jealously, mean-spiritedness, or other emotional baggage that pulls us down. It can be helpful to consult a licensed mental health professional to assist with this process. Just as we hire professional contractors to build buildings, our emotional life is worth paying a professional counselor to help us monitor our mental wellbeing.

In the new building example, over the course of several years, we made plans to replace a decrepit thirty-five year old windbreak with an open front shed that could serve more than one function; both replace the windbreak and provide stalls for horses. 

To create a clean slate, an old tin windbreak was removed. Rotting posts and support pieces were piled for a future fire. We dedicated two years to removing trees one at a time, cutting and splitting the downed trees into small enough pieces to burn in the house’s woodstove, and finally removing all those pieces from the building site and stacking for future use to heat the house.

Branches from the trees we cut were added to the old lumber pile. We had a bonfire in the spring while the ground around it was wet from snow melt and we didn’t have to worry about the fire getting away.

 After the trees were cut down, about two dozen tree stumps remained. During the third year a friend brought over his giant stump-grinder, and we spent a day chewing the stumps into sawdust.

My tall son, who did all the tree cutting and log splitting), requested a building tall enough to saddle and mount his horse inside during inclement weather.

Oats before a ride

At this point in the journey I hired a contractor to build the new building. He committed to a starting time and I ordered the building materials. As a novice at ordering materials, I overestimated the height of the project. The site we selected was on a slope (a flat space was not an option as every bit of land in this part of the county has rolling hills). Next, I consulted with another contractor about leveling the site. He accomplished this task admirably well and recommended adding bridge planks under the building to help with drainage. The bridge planks provided additional and unanticipated height to an already tall pole shed. It looked like it was made with tinker toys in the beginning.

Horse shed frame with one wall section installed.

The height has provided friends and neighbors with lots of ammunition to give me a hard time. This oft repeated sentiment gives everyone a laugh, “Kind of tall, isn’t it?”  I laugh with them. It is kind of tall but working admirably well to house a weanling filly. There’s room for the older horses to shelter during blizzards too.

Finished Horse Shelter

Now, time to get to work on my emotional baggage this winter while I wait for spring to sow seeds in the garden shed and begin again.


Greetings, I’m beginning this blog with a confession. I spent too many hours of precious free time during my working years shopping in antique stores. Many items ended up packed in boxes and now have little value for resale.

Early in March 2020 it became widely recognized across the United States that we needed to make dramatic changes in every part of our lives to reduce the spread of COVID 19. Many of us began to shelter at home. I looked at my house with a more-than-usual critical eye and tried to declutter.

Snow and cold outside

I had planned to fly to Ireland the third week in March and realized the trip had to be cancelled about the same time that the United States started closing her borders and flights were cancelled. Ireland also closed her borders to tourists at that time.

I was disappointed to miss this opportunity, just as many others across the world also had to change plans, and began to deal with days, weeks, and now months for some of us, in the confines of our homes.

One of my ways of coping with so much time alone has been to rearrange the furniture several times. It felt like I traveled when I return to a room that looked different than it did or I went to a different part of the house.

Finally warm enough to go outside.

I’m lucky to live outside city limits in a rural county where I have a couple of horses and board a few more. It has been easy for me to be outside and be socially distant from others at the same time. My heart goes out to those without the “outdoors” option.

Munching prairie hay

During multiple furniture re-arranging, and feeding the horses in my care, I hit on the idea of having a horse (representative) in every room of the house. I framed photos of horses, found tucked-away equine paintings, and discovered other horse-connected ephemera purchased and forgotten.

Early spring green grass

I was also working on a quilt top with several large plain-colored squares last winter and felt it needed some embellishment. I was re-reading Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt at the same time. Considering I was now sheltering at home and thinking about equines, I made use of the time to applique horses and other items mentioned in Black Elk’s dream to the quilt top.

Vision Quilt

The “horse in every room” project helped to pass the time during the winter pandemic months. Both the project and the quilt are nearly finished and will be concluded with addition of one more horse item for the back porch and quilting the top (pictured) to its back.


This part of Nebraska and many other states are officially in drought. If our eyes can’t see the results of this dry spell, the nightly weather forecast provides a daily update from the National Drought Monitor that shows the extent and severity of drought in our part of the country. Wildfires are raging across much of the western half of the United States. Smoke from those fires reduce air quality for millions already stressed by the effects of COVID-19.

I’m choosing to add photos to this blog from earlier in the summer when gardens and pastures were green and trees bloomed with great promise.

I’m also in a bit of a writing dry spell. The pandemic has shut down most face-to-face interaction. My writing group did not meet for four months. Some of us are now meeting virtually, but as all of us surviving zoom meetings know, it’s not the same experience as an in-person gathering. I dearly miss the people in my writing group, our conversations, and in-person writing feedback. The monthly writing group meetings provided me with valuable discipline to bring new and/or revised work to our meetings. Now, I still write on a schedule, but it feels like everything is in draft form, never finished.

Happily, I’ve had several poems published in journals this year. I wrote most of the poems before the pandemic. It gives me hope that although we meet virtually for now, eventually we will figure out how to meet in person, in ways that are safe and meaningful to everyone.

I water my vegetable gardens and flower beds. I decided to let the lawn tend to itself. Mostly only weeds grow in the lawn. It needs to be periodically mowed even though the grass has gone domant. Today it’s 95 degrees, too hot to even weed. These temps are expected to get even hotter as the week progresses.

Gardening is a process that helps me cope with both emotional and physical dry spells. Nature provides endless inspiration for me to write, photograph, and occassionally paint.

My poem Garden Therapy was published in Nebraska Life Magazine in 2019.


A recent study proves

what I’ve known

for years:

digging in the dirt

treats depression

as well as

or better than


There’s something magic

about bending, reaching,

kneeling on soil

that stretches us

out of our bad backs,

cures headaches,

helps us forget troubles

Gardening is a break

from social media,

a fine way

to chase away

a day of frustration

with government

paperwork, website


When my sheepdog

Pickles drops

a frisbee

in front of me,

it’s time to stop

and play for a while,



I approach this blog entry about language usage with trepidation because grammar is not my strong suite. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by English majors; all the members of my writing group are English majors except me. My son, daughter, niece, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and ex-husband also hold various degrees in English. Many of them are writers and published authors. Flower photos will punctuate this blog with color.


However, I’m so excited by the uses of language to express everything from infatuation to nervous anticipation, I’m twitterpated. I’m especially fond of the word “twitterpated.” It’s rarely used in descriptions of passionate love, daily life, or politics and more often found in wordsmithing novels.

Language usage is a “thing” among my family and friends. Family remembers mentioned above have been known to spend hours debating the use of apostrophes to change a word ending with “s” to plural. Should one add an apostrophe at the end of the last letter like xxxs’ or should it be xxxs’s or xxxses? Many sources tell us more than one is acceptable. To some this may seem like a wasted opportunity to communicate about important issues. But during this pandemic when so many of us are isolated from each other, I believe it provides a venue for communication, bringing us together when we often disagree about politics, religion, and social issues.

However, there are occasions that call for other descriptors like this morning as I was preparing to leave for work, the garage door malfunctioned refusing to open with the car still in the garage, leaving me flummoxed about a solution and I won’t soil your day with the list of inappropriate swear words I uttered under my breath.

Word Choice

Day Lili

Regardless on one’s thoughts about the use of misused words, I’m not a fan of the nonstandard “irregardless” so often used in conversation. When someone says irregardless, it sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to many of us. What should you or I do, ignore the misuse, casually suggest a correction, or use the word correctly, restating the issue? I believe the correct response depends on our relationship with the speaker. This brings us back to the connection between language usage and human connection. Or, we can just get used to it as irregardless has been in use for years and is recorded in dictionaries as NPR describes in this article. https://www.npr.org/2020/07/07/887649010/regardless-of-what-you-think-irregardless-is-a-word

Apple blossoms

There are many languages in use around the world, and many more dialects within them. I’ll close today’s blog with my poem, Language, published by Story circle Journal. Be well and communicate in your preferred style.


Paris, city I haven’t visited, whose cathedral I didn’t see,

people I don’t know, faced their city’s waterloo

as they bade Notre Dame’s famed spire adieu.

The little French I recalled from my high school degree

and four college classes failed me, but like an emcee, 

evoked ancient cries like, oh, mom Dieu and, sacrebleu

and stumbled over the important question, parley-vous

Anglaise ? Fermer la bouche, bizarrely, stayed with me;

Madam often told our class to shut up and learn punctuation.

Mon nom est Lin, translates my moniker, as flax, or linseed

in French; being called a seed or a plant fits my behavior, 

whereas Linda, my birthname, doesn’t have a translation 

in French, but is bonito or beautiful in Spanish, indeed,

a language I should learn to talk to my neighbors.

Dignity for All

This is the first blog entry I’ve attempted since my failed attempt at humor at Easter this year. It’s difficult to write anything meaningful in these stressful times. I’ve written poems this spring, but since my writing group isn’t meeting, they sit in draft stage waiting for an opportunity to be workshopped. Regardless of topic, poems all relate to life before, during, or after the pandemic hit the United States. This blog is no exception. Here in the middle of the country, COVID-19 arrived as other parts of the U.S. started to see a reduction of new virus cases. Infections continue to rise in my part of the state. Writing a blog on any coronavirus- related topic, like wearing a mask or not, is problematic as every stance has been politicized.

I retired at the end of 2018 from full time work as a college counselor and started a part-time counseling business with a colleague. We just finished a year in business and were beginning to develop a caseload when coronavirus arrived here. Our Public Health district shut everything down the first week of March. My colleague and I see a few people via telehealth but haven’t gained any new clients. We suspect this will change as people feel safe to renew old activities and begin new ones. We believe and many mental health experts speculate there will be an increased demand for mental health services as people try to recover. Health and Human Services in my state provides PPE (personal protective equipment) as it becomes available to agencies like ours. We received a shipment of gloves this week and wear homemade masks.

It’s been a very stressful time for everyone, doubly so for those with immune system concerns like my daughter, older citizens including my colleague and me, and the data shows that people of color are the most susceptible. At this point there are many speculations about why minorities might be more likely to experience serious illness if they test positive for the virus. This ranges from poorer health care throughout their lifetime, more likely to live in multi-family homes, commute to work together, work in crowded environments, like packing plants, etc. It will be some time before researchers who study how the virus spreads will have any definitive results.

My state and several surrounding me host beef, pork, and chicken processing facilities, usually called packing plants. As an avid gardener, I’ve never quite understood how a mass processing of meat, or a collection of factory building has anything to do with plants. Most of these facilities hire large numbers of minority workers because there aren’t enough white workers in the area and recent migrants are recruited to come to these small towns for the jobs. The work is difficult, work weeks are often six days long, but the pay is good, and workers can work overtime to earn more money. It was reported that a South Dakota packing facility employs people who speak fifty-seven different languages. Informing such a large workforce in every language about how the virus works has not gone well but more effort is going toward communication.

This part of the state is also home to three Native American tribes. Many Native people have compromised immune systems and the infection rate among the tribes also continues to rise. I selected the photo of Dignity to pay tribute to Native American people. Although the statue of Dignity was designed as a tribute to the Dakota and Lakota people, she seems to speak for many.

Knowing that one is more likely to become seriously sick if infected, is stressful on its own, but then to watch a black man die under the knee of a white policeman, is overwhelmingly frightening to many. The courts will sort out the guilt or innocence of the four officers involved in this latest Minneapolis death. Charges have been filed against all four of them. I can understand that people of color have little trust in the legal system that often discriminates against them and incarcerates them at a much greater rate but don’t pretend to be in their shoes. My late friend Jan was a passionate supporter of human rights for all people. If she was here and well, I can see her protesting to support the Black Lives Matter movement just as she protested other injustices in the past.

Jan died a year ago, and as the anniversary of her memorial services approaches, I find that everything reminds me of her. Jan was an avid traveler adventuring to every part of the world. The enforced confinement necessary to reduce likelihood of being exposed to COVID-19 would have been a real challenge for her. She counted time in days on an adventure.

I took the COVID-19 test and tested negative this weekend when my state hosted a testing site nearby. I didn’t think I’ve been exposed but I’d really wanted to know for sure before I participate in the re-opening of economic life. I’ve been ordering my groceries online and driving to pick them up. Grocery bags are delivered to my car by young masked workers.

Like many other people, I miss hugs from my children and friends. This is a real issue for many of us who live alone. The New York Times has come up with hugging guidelines to help us out.

The example is accompanied by this quote from the author, Tara Parker-Pope — the Well columnist.
“A brief hug, as long as we stay out of each other’s breathing zones, is probably less risky than a long conversation,” she told me. But she added that we should still limit our hugs. As one scientist told her, “I would take the Marie Kondo approach — the hug has to spark joy.”

What is the point of this blog you ask? Good question. As an older Caucasian woman who lives in a mostly white world, I have no solutions to these very serious problems, only observations. It’s a conundrum to me that wearing a mask to protect others, or not, labels one as either liberal or conservative. it often appears that Caucasian folks are frightened they/we will have to give up the privileged status they/we have always enjoyed as the white/non-white population balance shifts as it inevitably will.

I can and do donate money to causes that support people of color, volunteer to help when possible, work to be a role model for positive action, and try to live by the virtues of my garden signpost.

It’s clear these efforts are not enough and I’m writing this blog to make sense of an emerging new normal where we learn to listen to more voices and show dignity to all. Trista Tippet’s Letter this week says it well, https://engage.onbeing.org/_notice_the_rage_notice_the_silence?utm_campaign=20200607_the_pause&utm_campaign=20200607_the_pause&utm_medium=email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=onbeing&utm_source=onbeing


Dear Reader, this blog is a tongue-in-cheek look at Holy Week.



Jesus won’t be riding into Jerusalem on a donkey this year, triumphantly or otherwise. Palms will still have their leaves as trees won’t be chopped apart for his fans to lay branches across his path. We might see palm trees as far north as England if the trees mature and seed at will. As a matter of fact, Jesus should be sheltering at home like the rest of us.


He’s still living with Mary and Joseph. They were at their wits end about how to get their thirty-something-year-old son out of the house even before this quarantine. Jesus and a few of his friends sit around the family’s courtyard and talk for hours every day and expect Mary to feed them. She wants him and his friends to get their own hovel, but no one will rent to a bunch of single guys.


To please his mother, he gathers twelve friends he calls apostles, encouraging the few still working at fisheries, to quit and walk along. The men wander the desert searching for a free place to live, hope for a snug, dry abandoned cave near the sea. Who doesn’t?


Jesus was exposed to COVID-19 on one of his many journeys. He hasn’t been sick, but he’s likely a virus carrier the way he mingles with poor people and then lets them touch him. He’s would only be able to meet with nine apostles at a time and they’ll have to sit six feet apart to honor the social distancing constraint decreed by the King.


Let’s say Jesus is trying to be fair to all the guys and meets with six apostles first and then the remaining six. You know how those guys can gossip. By the time the first six leave the meeting with their leader, they start spreading their notion of what was said to the others. When Jesus calls the second group in for their briefing, they think they already know what he’s going to say. Judas makes a side deal a few days later with an online banker posing as a peacemaker to sell out Jesus for a few pieces of gold.



Jesus decides to go off and meditate in the mountains for a few days as he needs to distance himself, so he doesn’t spread COVID-19. He also wants quiet time occasionally away from his rowdy buddies. His friends take this opportunity to have a few drinks at the new canteen and listen to music from a group of minstrels that wandered into the village square.


The young guys are notorious gossips and wonder which of them is going to get sick first after hanging out with Jesus, who had tested positive for the virus. From their street-side table, the apostles see a squad of official-looking Roman soldiers march into town. They whisper to each other, “what are they doing here?”

Jesus let his friends know he was back and wanted to meet them for supper. They always showed up for a free meal. Jesus set about washing their feet. The guys were taken aback by this effort. Peter even refused to participate. Jesus chewed him out about being prideful and encouraged the men to wash each other’s feet. Clean feet are good and well, but some effort should have been made to wash their hand, too. Hand sanitizer was in short supply and not available to replace a little effort with soap and water. Eventually, dinner was served, and they posed for pictures around the table.


After supper, the soldiers showed up on a tip from Judas and arrested Jesus for spreading disease and misinformation. They hauled him away. Crowds of people who turned out to see him earlier in the week suddenly turned on him, afraid they would catch whatever he was carrying. it went from a misinformation campaign to a death sentence in hours.


Mary has had time to leisurely check her social media accounts since her son and his friends weren’t always pressing her for more food all the time. She sees that someone is posting about a crazy guy sentenced to death for his uncompromising view of life and religion. With a mother’s intuition, Mary just knows this is about her son. She jumps in the old blue pickup and frantically races into town to bail him out of jail. She’s too late and joins other mourners at his feet. God only knows why Joseph isn’t here.