Friday, December 30, 2016


Images by Bill Slavin

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are in the spotlight? You say something, then later you remember all the really pithy ideas you could have expressed? Don't you sound brilliant in your own mind?

That's why I started writing: to get those brilliant thoughts out of my head that I never uttered out loud. Writing them down at any time (they often got me out of bed at night) worked. By writing my ideas down, eventually I gained the confidence to speak my mind more completely when I had the chance.

I was a speaker in a Writers' Panel recently. Someone asked us a question. She said that she had an idea for a story. She could write scenes, but was stuck on how to move forward with the story so that she could complete her imagined 350-page novel.

Another panelist, an editor and writing coach, suggested that she focus on developing her characters. If she had an antagonist, write about that character. Put the character in scenes with other characters and see how they reacted to each other. She had several other good ideas to rekindle the writing process.

Later I realized that this want-to-be-novelist was stuck in a way that many of my writer friends get stuck. Writing a novel can be daunting when you think of the complete book in its final form. Just as my writing coach friend suggested, these writers had to stop thinking 'novel' and had to break their ideas down into many parts.

Here is what I could have said:

You have more than one story to write.
If you are stuck, put what you are writing aside.
Write something else: poetry, memoirs, or personal essays.
Go back to the original piece and add another scene.
Just don't stop writing.

You may find that you never complete that novel.
You may find joy in writing in other directions.
You may find by doing the practice of writing daily, step by step,
that you have more than enough to complete your story.
You may find instead that your first writings become a gateway
into what your mind really wants to write.

Just keep writing.

To help you along, check out these two writing coaches:

Elizabeth Fishel,

B. Lynn Goodwin,

or join Story Circle Network, an online women's writing network:

To see more of Bill's photos, see him @slavinbill on Instagram

At the end of 2016, I want to thank all my readers of Postcards in the Air.  You keep me going!

Friday, December 23, 2016


Our neighborhood used to be filled with alder trees until disease and insects brought many of them down. We've been lucky. We planted two alders, no bigger than yardsticks, in our backyard over 30 years ago, and they have thrived. Until last summer. One of the alders died. We waited in hope that the few green leaves left would generate new growth, but instead they curled up and fell off. Another victim of drought, we thought

Recently we watched as the 20-something foot tall tree came down in a matter of three hours. One man agilely climbed up the tree, rope and saw in hand, took off lower branches -- many larger than the original stick we planted -- lowered them to the ground on the rope, and then cut chunks off the main trunk.

His careful maneuvering through the tree reminded me of the tree pruners in Japan, who wore soft tabi socks on their feet instead of boots, as they nimbly stretched from one branch to another. They seemed, just as this worker did, to be one with the tree, careful with its branches, respecting the great growth from a small stick many years ago. When he was done all that was left was a 6-foot tall stump.

A week later, we watched as Glenn Sievert, a tree sculptor, used a buzz saw to carve out two bears from the leftover trunk giving new life to an old tree. We topped off the bears with Santa hats. 

This is our tree story.  Do you have a story about a tree?

Best of the holidays to you and yours. May you be filled with joy, comfort, and good cheer.

Friday, December 16, 2016


Layered leaves

This week Caroline Sanchez shares her story of an inspiring mentor:

While raising my daughters in the 1960's and 1970's, I painted, stripped, stained, and varnished old furniture. My favorite challenge was taking discarded pieces of furniture and redoing them. I refurbished a dated dining room set by removing the center legs, painting and antiquing them, and upholstering the chairs. When my friends visit my home, they often comment on the unusual collection of furnishings and accessories I have, most of them one-of-a-kind. I explain that I made or refinished them all myself, thanks to my years of study with Ralph Siegle, my favorite adult education teacher. Mr. Seigle taught me how to gold-leaf a table to look like one I had seen in a museum. He showed me how to make a picture frame, cover it with lace, and then antique it. With his inspiration, I refinished my great-grandmother's discarded Lincoln bed, made a bedspread, lined drapes, padded a cornice, made pillows and covered a matching chair.

Examples of Caroline's work

Ralph Seigle, a retired teacher from the California College of Arts and Crafts, led me through class after class. During ten years of study, I learned about still life and landscape painting, interior design, art history, color theory, personal color, and even millinery. Mr. Seigle not only aroused my interest in creative projects, he encouraged me to tackle almost any challenge -- from something as simple as silver leafing a large glass water bottle to creating a jardiniere to painting a mural on our bedroom wall. He taught me how to refinish, stain, antique, guild, marbleize, and crackle finishes. I learned to gold-leaf furniture, to mat pictures, and to refinish frames. Mr. Seigle's motto was
"If you don't like it, change it."

Before becoming a college professor, Mr. Seigle worked for Walt Disney, designed costumes for stars such as Joan Crawford at Universal, entertained with marionettes, and played piano at the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair. His paintings were exhibited in the U.S. and in Europe. On the side, he designed fabrics, wall coverings, and Christmas cards.

Thanks to my hands-on training with Ralph Siegle, I not only beautified my home, I went on to teach art and arts and crafts in our local high school. My mentor, Mr. Seigle, served as an inspiring teacher, role model and friend.


Thank you, Caroline, for submitting your story to Postcards in the Air. 
We can all use Mr. Seigle's motto in everything we do.

"If You Don't Like It, Change It"

Friday, December 9, 2016


Twenty of us sat in Maidenform's headquarters in New York City. We came to preview the new season's underwear that Maidenform designers offered. The designers stood in front of us waiting for their expected praise. What we gave them instead was "We don't want to wear girdles and bras like that. Too tight, too pointy, too stiff, too hard to get into."

1969 Teen Lingerie Ad, 
Lovable Lace Mates Undergarments 
with Pretty Teen Girl, "Wear Lace"
Published in Ingenue magazine, May 1969 - Vol. 11, No. 5

The designers were nonplussed, not knowing what to do with a group of such unruly women. They thought they knew what was best for us, but we didn't want to listen. This was the late 60s and another kind of revolution was taking place. Women's lib and civil rights protests rang through the streets. We were no longer willing to be patronized, excluded, marginalized. We were a movement. Some of us pitched in (a friend from college dodged bullets while encouraging African Americans to register to vote for the first time, others marched in anti-war protests) while many of us, including me, stood at the side, but supported the principles through groups we joined. (I'm a member of the American Association of University Women whose mission is to support education for women and girls).

Today I find myself no longer willing to stay on the sidelines for causes and ideas that I value. I am standing up wherever I can when I see injustice or a return to pronounced prejudices.

Where do you stand?


I worked at Mademoiselle magazine shortly after graduating from college. I had been selected as one of the twenty Guest Editors for their August College issue. Part of our month of visits with celebrities and manufacturers of women's products included a tour of the Maidenform headquarters.


This post is dedicated to Madelyn McKenzie Stelmach, who died earlier this year of a brain tumor. She was a high school friend. We became reacquainted a couple of years ago. I discovered a new hero in Madelyn. She was a lifelong activist who continued to march, petition, and protest points of view that diminish, exclude, and marginalize other human beings.


Remember to send me your stories of someone who inspires you.
Peace be with you, John Glenn.

Friday, December 2, 2016


In the first of this series about inspiring people, 
Debra Busta Moore, a  member of Friday Writers in Rockridge, CA, 
wrote this touching piece about her grandma.

From the time that I was six until about ten I frequently slept over at my grandmother's house. My grandfather died when my mother was 15, leaving her mom to raise the three kids still at home. The oldest three were grown and out of the house by then. Having been a farm wife with no work experience, my grandmother supported her family by caring for a couple of invalid neighbors, taking in laundry, and running the town library out of her house. The library consisted of two large book shelves in her living room (one for adult books, the other for kids) and was open whenever Grandma was home.

My youngest brother and sister didn't want to be away from our parents, so I got to be the "only child" for a weekend. Although Grandma's house was very modest, I felt like a princess when I was there. For breakfast she let me have heavily buttered and perfectly browned toast made with Wonder bread, with fresh, hand-squeezed orange juice. Occasionally, in place of the juice, I was allowed a bottle of ice cold Pepsi to drink with my toast. For breakfast!

Each morning Grandma swept the floors of her simple three room house from end to end. I was amazed at the amount of dirt she gathered, (a result of living in a house nestled between walnut orchards and rich, brown farm land in the fertile Sacramento Valley). After the chores were done,  we walked to the store to buy groceries (Grandma never learned to drive). Although the store was only two blocks away from her house, the daily cargo train that came through the town occasionally stopped for up to an hour, blocking our path. Some days we turned back but others we waited, finally counting 100 or more cars as the long slow train blew its whistle and pulled lazily away. Once we made it to the store, Grandma gave me a nickel or dime to buy penny candy stacked on the floor-to-ceiling shelves behind the check-out counter. The grocer, Mr. Kelly, chatted with Grandma about the town's goings-on as I chose a Tootsie Roll Pop, a Bazooka bubble gum, a couple of jaw breakers, and my favorite, the long black licorice that lasted for hours. In the evening after dinner, we threw kitchen scraps to the chickens and watched them peck each vegetable as if their life depended on it. I slept with Grandma in her double bed, trying hard to fall asleep before her mountainous snoring began. If  she fell asleep first (she always did) I'd turn over restlessly, "accidentally" nudging her awake.

Saturday was laundry day. I helped her hang out the week's laundry after hours of washing and rinsing in her wringer washing machine. Once, as I threaded a flowered dish towel into the electric wringer, my fingers caught, and I was pulled into the wringer up to my shoulder before Grandma stopped the machine. My arm was black and blue for a week. Although the pain was severe the first day, I admit that the bruising was also a source of pride! Being tough was a prized virtue where I grew up.

The most enthralling event of the day was watching her get dressed in the morning. Her routine was slow and methodical, and to me hypnotizing. She never seemed to take off her paper-thin under shirt that drooped to her thighs, so I did not actually see her enormous breasts. After removing her night gown, she put on her corset, fastening each stay, one by one. Long garters hung from the corset, which she connected to thick nylon stockings. Although she lived in the country and only worked around her house and yard, I never saw her without stockings. Then she put on her large white underpants with no apparent elastic in the legs and minimal at the waist. Next came the front fastening bra that cupped, but did not lift her pendulous breasts above her waist. She slowly connected the 20 or 30 hooks and eyes from her waist to her upper chest. Then a full length slip, followed by her house dress, and finally an apron.

I was fascinated to watch this calm dependable ritual, that to her was simply getting dressed for the day. Later, when we sat together to watch "Love of Life" or read "The Cat and the Hat," she would hug me into her soft, warm bosom. Those were the happiest days of my childhood.


Thank you for taking the time to read Debra's piece.  
If you have a story about an inspiring person in your life, 
send it to me at