Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

It’s been a week and we’re all still alive.  There’s been deep grieving and deep joy.  It’s time to move on.  Let’s look at a few inconvenient truths about this election and politics in general in the spirit of trying to bring a hearty dash of reason and healing to the table.

If you voted for or against a candidate solely or primarily because s/he is white/black/male/female/other/gay/Hispanic/non-gay/non-Hispanic/Democrat/Republican/Independent/Green Party/Tea Party, etc.,  you’re missing the point and are part of the problem.  I heard in this election “It’s time for a woman to be president.”  Great.  If you voted for Clinton because she’s a woman, (I’m going to use all last names here in the interest of equality), would you have voted for Condelezza Rice?  She’s both woman and black, so you could scored twice.  If you voted for Trump because he’s white, would you have voted for Biden?  Step back, take a few breaths, and be honest. And while I’m on this, guess what?  Blacks (and Hispanics) and women can be conservatives and shouldn’t be attacked for it, as if by race and gender they’re supposed to automatically be Democrats.  By the same token, Christians, small town people, and farmers might actually be Democrats.  I know.  Radical stuff.  I hope you were sitting down. (more…)

Although I’m an optimistic person who sees the glass as half full, these days it seems that people are not only seeing the glass half empty, they’re taking other people’s glasses and hurling them to the ground to break.  Civility is an unknown word and “discussion” = name-calling. It both tires and saddens me.

In his latest book Manitou Canyon, William Kent Krueger mentions the gifts of the seven grandfathers as told by the Anishinaabe, gifts will guide a child to a good life. (more…)

Thinking about babies

Posted: May 3, 2016 in Musings
Tags: , ,

No, we’re definitely not thinking about having another baby, even ’twere it possible.  However, I have a very good friend in the last stages of pregnancy, whose shower I attended this weekend.

I’m not a connoisseur of baby showers by any means.  I was never given one, most of my friends being men, and I don’t know if I’ve attended another one.  My greatest fear for this one was that we’d play all sorts of (dumb) games, but we didn’t and it was fun.

However, I was amazed and amused at the variety of baby/parent “necessities” my friend received.  I didn’t even know what some of the things were, so I guess things have changed quite a bit in the last 30 years!  Although we didn’t have any family members to hand things down to us, there was an older couple at church who had a crib and changing table for their grandchildren, now too old to need them, who sold us these used but serviceable items for very little money.  That was helpful, as we didn’t have much.  We got a used swing from someone else, an item worth its weight in gold.  A good stroller and car seat are necessary and we bought a comfy chair, Monty-Python style, for me to sit in while trying to stay awake to nurse the girls.  A front pack for carrying a baby while walking was also a necessity.

As for clothes, we bought most of their things for many years from a children’s thrift/resale store.  No shoes until they were actually walking outdoors.  Until then, socks and bare feet were fine.   All too soon, children want/need more expensive clothes and shoes, although thrift stores/resale stores have always been a major part of our shopping.

There are, of course, more things were useful and I don’t mean to denigrate anything given as a shower gift.  I’m just saying, don’t get distracted by the “stuff” and define your worth as a parent by what’s on your baby’s back or how fancy the room furnishings are.  Don’t overwhelm with toys.  Get and read books from day one (or thereabouts.)  Carry a child around, show him/her things while naming them, take walks, spend time with them.  They grow up all too soon and that love and time and those experiences are the things  they’ll remember most, not how expensive or how expansive the room furnishing or the items filling the toy box.


My name is Janet and I’m an addict.

Yesterday I owned up to one addiction.  Now I admit I have another, of earlier origin.

My parents introduced me to my drug of choice before I could even use it myself and fed it to me daily. My mom read aloud to me and my brother every day.  I “read” to myself or my brother once I knew the stories, turning the pages when I knew I’d reached the time to do so, reciting the stories by memory.

Eventually, I began to self-medicate, checking out books from the library.  I knew where on the shelves all my favorite books and series were, mostly about horses.  I was allowed to buy Scholastic paperback books from the order forms at school and couldn’t imagine a home without books and, at that time, newspapers.  When my mom taught at a predominately minority school in Omaha and told me some children had no books, I went through those paperbacks to donate some of my bounty. Even now, when I enter a home where I see no books or magazines, I wonder about the people who live there.

Before I got a library card in the nearest town, when we went on vacation to Wyoming during the summer, I took grocery bags of books along so that I would hopefully not run out during the time I didn’t spend outside.  Home schooling our girls gave me the perfect excuse to buy even more books.  I got each of the girls their own library card so that I could check out more than the 50-book limit on mine. Once the librarians got to know me, they didn’t worry about the limit. The treats I brought them at Christmas helped, too.

The opening of the first Half Price Books in Cleveland not far from our house saved us thousands.  I try now to declutter, going through the boxes of books that are still with us, but the books have an uncanny habit of sticking to my fingers and ending up back in the boxes.  What I really need, I realize, is a room for a dedicated library.

Speaking of libraries, I believe them to be one of our nation’s greatest treasures and a tax levy increase for them is the only tax increase for which I’ll vote.  I even persuaded my husband to vote for the last one.

The argument about whether books or e-books are better is to me ridiculous.  While I prefer real books, how can I revile something that allows me to carry a thousand or more books with me with ease while traveling, even overseas?  I want to read and I want others to read and whatever means feeds that is fine with me.

I’m addicted to reading.
I decline intervention.
I seek to addict others.

My name’s Janet and I’m an addict.

It began innocently enough just over four years ago.  It wasn’t my fault.  My husband and younger daughter are to blame.  They told me, “You love to write.  You’ll love blogging You’ll be good at it.”  After a time, I took the plunge, soldiering through the process of actually setting up my blog.  The last step (as my muddled mind recalls) was to enter the name of my blog.  Name?  I’m supposed to have a name?  Not wanting to start the process again, I decided on something to cover all bases:  “This, that, and the other thing.”  The first step down the road to addiction was taken.

Initially, I wrote…about this, that, and the other thing.  I reveled in the first non-family person to “like” one of my blog posts and the first to hit “follow.”  I sourced my few photos online (with attribution), until I realized that it was difficult to find some that I knew were available for use and weren’t going to infringe on someone else’s work.  Even free clip art isn’t always free (go figure) and any photos I wanted to use, I didn’t unless I asked permission.

Then I got an iPhone and a digital SLR and things changed again.

I discovered how easy it was to use my own photos. I discovered challenges,both writing and photographic, a great way to meet bloggers and get people to visit your blog.  BUT (and as you can see, that’s a big “but”), you have to be prepared to visit lots of other blogs, which is fun, but also time-consuming.  Eventually I discovered editing apps for my photos and another addiction was truly enabled.

And I discovered something I really love:  meeting and talking with new people, people all over the world, with no long-distance costs.  I experienced the joy of meeting some of these people in person.  I discovered that I was blogging every day and couldn’t imagine missing a day, even when it felt overwhelming, when I struggled to keep up with all the blogs I followed.  I discovered my blogging time was sometimes fighting with time for  real life.

I’m addicted to blogging.
I fight to keep control of blogging, rather than letting it control me.
It’s an ongoing battle, one I fight each day to win.

Not a taxing day

Posted: April 16, 2016 in Musings, Nature
Tags: , ,

April 15 is not normally an enjoyable day in the U.S.  It’s the day tax forms must be filed, payments made if required, lines at the post office.  This year, the date is Monday the 18th for some reason, but the oppressive feeling lingers.

Today, however, it’s a red letter day for me, as spring finally springs.  I begin the morning walking in the park with both my iPhone and my Nikon AND not wearing a jacket, although I do have several layers.  Green lines the edges of the path, now including grass as well as the odd plants. Buds decorate the bushes, not all of them, but enough to look new and beautiful.  Red-winged blackbirds chatter endlessly, puffing up while talking, perched on the highest part of bushes and small trees.  I hear a cardinal, stop, scan the trees.  There he is in his scarlet coat, high above me, almost directly overhead.  Perched next to him is his less showy mate.  I crane my neck and my camera, get a few shots and enjoy just watching them for a time.

The river is empty of all but a few ducks.  I take a seat on the steps used by those putting in canoes and kayaks.  The sound of the rushing water soothes the annoyance that the broken glass on the steps provokes.  If you’re going to be crass enough to drink beer in the park, for Pete’s sake, take your empty bottles out with you!  A friend and I are planning a garbage collection day once it’s nice all the time.  We’d better take a lot of bags.

On the way back, I’m passed by two park rangers in a pickup.  A moment later, I spy a small snake, fortunately missed by their tires.  He (she?) keeps its eyes on me, tiny forked tongue testing the air as I take a few shots with my phone. I veer off onto one of the small paths heading toward the river and into the woods.  Once I get farther in , delicate wildflowers appear: white, pink, and purple.  I sit quietly on a downed tree for a time, just watching and listening. A biker flies by on the path, not seeing me.  I like the feeling of being invisible, surrounded by woods.

Back at the house, it’s warm enough to open windows and, when I walk to the post office to mail our tax returns, I’m in short sleeves and my lime green Keen sandals (and pants, of course.)  The joyful feeling of finally saying hello to spring is almost indescribable.  Almost.

The birds have sprouted.

Posted: March 29, 2016 in Musings, Nature
Tags: , , ,

Spring has arrived and so have the birds.  The park is full of them and the first one that caught my eye and ear was a small bird, the avian equivalent of a peasant child in Les Miz, dressed in tattered grey but with the voice of an angel.  He was singing his heart out as you can see.

© janet m. webb 2016

Other than geese, the red-winged blackbirds are the most numerous.  They’re loud and not particularly afraid.  Some trees appear to be bird trees, with a good crop in full bloom and voice.  Last year, there must have been a nest close to the path and one of the parent birds would dive bomb me as I walked.  I talked to several other who also had fly-by’s, which were more than a little disconcerting.

© janet m. webb 2016

But what gladdened my heart the most was spotting the first heron as I approached the dam.  As soon as I stopped, it kept its eye on me.  I alternately stood still and slowly moved down toward it, trying to get a slightly better iPhone photo. Eventually, it flew a bit further down the river and I continued my walk, satisfied that spring is truly here.

© janet m. webb 2016



Posted: March 8, 2016 in Musings, Poetry
Tags: , ,

e. e. cummings is a poet I enjoyed while growing up and probably the reason I don’t use capital letters in my name unless signing something, although I use them elsewhere, being the English/grammar nerd I am.

I find it ironic that there are three somewhat random caps in the poem and I love the way he used spacing and hyphens as well as sometimes smushing words together. When I lived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a few year, spring was certainly mud-luscious!  In fact, we had mud season between winter and spring and at the library, everyone left their shoes at the door.  Wasn’t spring “puddle-wonderful” when you were a child, when puddles were still places to float boats and stomp in, rather than irritations that soaked your good shoes?

There are photos and poems that make you “feel” whatever they show.  This poem is spring for me: the anticipation after a long winter, the child-like joy of play and make-believe, that inexpressible feeling in your heart that any and everything is possible.

[in Just-]
By e. e. cummings
in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan          whistles

Happy hunkering!

Posted: February 26, 2016 in Miscellaneous, Musings
Tags: , ,

 (I’m on my way to Ohio today for an extended weekend, so my photo challenge entry will have to wait until tomorrow.  In the meantime...)

A winter storm warning, high winds, and blowing snow bring to mind the comforts of hunkering down at home. “Hunkering” is a wonderful word, full of nuances and associations. Strictly speaking, “hunker” means to squat down, often for a long time. But it’s the informal meanings that contain richer meanings:

 to hide, hide out, or take shelter.

 Those meanings might not be so enjoyable if you’re caught outside without shelter or if your weather forecast includes a tornado, hurricane, or other natural disaster. But that’s not where we’re going.  We’re headed home or, if you prefer, to a lodge hidden away somewhere that’s special to you.

Come in. Grab an armful of wood while you’re on the porch, leave your boots by the door. Sit down. Relax. Watch the flames dance in the stove. Tea or hot chocolate? I have marshmallows and more tea choices than you can imagine. Grab a throw if you’re cold. Yes, that’s soup you smell and the bread’s almost ready to come out of the bread machine. You’re welcome to work the puzzle on the dining room table, board games are over there, books are everywhere. Or we can just sit and talk. It’s so good to see you.

In my mind, “hunkering” includes being able to look out the window and see the beauty of a snowy day. You could hunker during rainy conditions, but no one can hunker when the sun’s shining and it’s hot.  Heat allows you to lounge in a hammock or on the beach, stretching cat-like in the warmth. Hunkering is curling up, drawing inward, conserving warmth, battening down the hatches.

After food, drink, and renewal, I want to be able to don outdoor clothes and boots, head outside with my camera, phone or Nikon, to take post-hunkering photos, followed later on by an evening of watching a hockey game while sipping a dark beer and eating home-popped popcorn.   In the morning, the sun will hopefully be shining on all that newly fallen show.

Those of us in the northern hemisphere are moving inexorably toward non-hunkering time, while those in the other half of the world are anticipation (or dreading), the approaching hunkering time. Whichever part of the world you call home, I hope you have at least one time soon to enjoy hunkering; alone, with a pet, or with family and friends.  Happy hunkering!

“Free” is a word that’s been overused and abused in recent times.  Here’s one definition from the online Oxford Dictionary that’s relevant to my point:

Given or available without charge: free health care.

Notice that is doesn’t say, there’s no cost.  Free health care, or free anything else, is simply given without charge to the recipient.  It doesn’t come at no cost.

To this, add “free phones”, “free college”, etc.   A similar sentiment is expressed by the phrase, “The government will pay for it.”

Let’s start with the last one first, although they’re really all related.  The government gets their money from us, the taxpayers.  No matter how you feel about what they spend our money on, the money comes from us, and from the people who make up the government as individual taxpayers and spenders.  True, the government can and does print money that’s not back by anything worthwhile, but when they pay, we pay.  There is always a cost.

If you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that nothing can really be free.  In health care, doctors, nurses, orderlies, secretaries, everyone who work in the hospital or office, must be paid.  Drug companies, hospital equipment companies, all those who supply health products, office products, even toilet paper for bathroom in all these places, need to be paid or paid for. Despite objections, legitimate or not, to what companies might charge for drugs, there are high costs associated with bringing a drug or any other innovation to market.  Supply companies have to be paid so their workers can be paid, so they can buy more materials to produce more goods, etc, etc., etc.

Teachers, administrators, janitors, and other have to be paid at colleges.  People who work in the dining hall, making and dishing out the much-abused food must be paid.  Food must be bought. Dining halls, dorms and campuses need to be cleaned.  There are myriad costs, even when those costs are inflated.  Donations pay for some things, but there are still high costs.

Free phones?  Just continue the thought. Someone somewhere pays.

My point?  No matter on which side of the political aisle you find yourself, be honest.  Nothing is free.  You may use things you didn’t pay for to garner favor or votes for yourself.  You may give away things for a worthy cause.

But none of them are free.

To paraphrase Janis Joplin,  these days “Free is just another word.”


Apologies to everyone who read, subscribed and commented on the tea blog I mentioned yesterday.  For reasons that will remain unpublished, I have to take it down.  Thanks for your support and enthusiasm.