Friday, January 29, 2021


The movie Hidden Figures helped us reconsider our recent history and highlighted the part women, as well as men of color played in further our defence and science. The women in Hidden Figures were called computers because of the work they did with numbers. The space race would not have been won without them. Other women during World War II participated as spies and codebreakers for the U.S. and Britain. They used their puzzle-solving abilities to crack codes.

 Could you have been a codebreaker? Do you like word puzzles? Try this.

Do you know how many words in a paragraph start with the letter U?

There is no right answer to that question of course, but words that begin with U are not that common. After reading three paragraphs in the newspaper, I found only one word that started with U. Yet U words can have significant meanings.

Think of some words that start with U:

I picked these words because of their positive meanings.

Other U words:

All of those start with UN and connect to words that mean their exact opposite. You could write an interesting poem with just a list of U words:

Five days a week, I finish the mini crossword that the New York Times offers. Since the pandemic started, newspapers have filled their pages with fun things to do. Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the East Bay Times offer special sections of word puzzles. The NYT includes them in their new At Home section, which provides ideas to nurture creativity.

My favorite puzzles are CRYPTOGRAMS, a secret code puzzle that relies on your knowledge of the number of times a letter might appear in a sentence, what letters usually end words, and other tricks or rules of a language. Like a codebreaker, I start out looking for patterns, I look for three-letter words that could be THE and also single letters, which will either be A or I. E is one of the most used letters and often ends a word. THE is common too, though sometimes the puzzle master will give you three letters that turn out to be YOU instead. If I find an I, then I start looking for ING. Raymond Carver, the writer, tried to eliminate gerunds in his writing.  He wanted his writing to be direct. Instead of saying "I am going," he would say "I went." But not everyone writes like Carver and words ending in ING stand out. The letters B, F, and J are uncommon. You will need to discover more of the meaning of the sentence before you can uncover a B, F, or J word.

In the paragraph above, there are four words that start with U. Can you find them? In comparison, there are 20 words that begin with T.


"N Q P I J   X F J G   F O   J E D P Q C J X   F E   G S   L J Q P A."    G. Y. T.   Y F O L J P

Hint: A equals T

Find a list of words that begin with U. Then send me your U poem.

Remember what Sherlock Holmes said, "The game is afoot."

You can find a list of words that start with U here:

If you like Cryptograms, check out the article in the Smithsonian Magazine about the women codebreakers in World War II:

or read The Code Girls by Liza Mundy

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Spymistress by William Stevenson
The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

"Service is the price you pay for the 'rent' you owe in this life, the space that you occupy on this earth."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 22, 2021


When I am in the throes of painting or writing, I can become so enamored of what I've created that I don't always see what needs to be fixed. I put the work down and walk away. I need fresh eyes. I need to listen to those gut feelings that tell me something isn't right. I need to question my certainty. 

I need to let go.

A one-layer painting

Recently I signed up for a painting challenge with Andrea Chebeleu from A Work of Heart Studio. She asked us to produce an abstract painting each day for 20 days. Usually, when I paint abstractly, I put paint to paper and find the results just fine. With the painting fresh, I often see parts of it that I really like. I want to stop right there. I don't want to lose that precious piece. This time though, Andrea challenged us to layer our paintings. The results surprised me because the new painting was just as satisfying, better or worse maybe, but a good exercise in letting go of what, in the moment, seems so precious.

Layer # one

Many layers later

I attended a Zig Ziglar seminar a long time ago. I came away from the event with one quote that I remember to this day, 

"If you learn one thing at a meeting or seminar, the meeting has been a success."

I remembered that quote when Andrea recommended adding sticky circles to areas in a painting. I tried several neon pink sticky circles, a color I wouldn't normally use. I painted over the circles, added stencils, patterns, dots, brush strokes, and then rubbed some areas of paint with baby wipes. Rubbing slightly damp paint off of other layers of dry paint makes for interesting layers and changing colors. I stepped back and liked how the neon pink showed through still. I wondered how I had mixed that shade of pink and then remembered the neon pink circles hidden by new layers. I decided to peel off part of the circle, leaving some of the pink in the painting.

Neon Pink

I loved the result, even though one of the circles broke a basic design rule when I placed it in the middle of the painting. My attention was immediately drawn to it, but then my eyes started wandering all over the painting. I added another pink circle for balance. Now I need to set the painting aside for a few days to see if my creative love will stay or if I will recognize other parts that need work.

This need to work and rest is so important to me in both art and writing. In the moment of creativity, I love what I am doing. Sometimes what results is worth loving, but other times it is just my impulse to save something that becomes precious. 

In my first blog post of the year, Unfinished Year 2020, I originally wrote the piece with the paragraph about Carmel at the end. I knew instinctively that the paragraph was the most important part of the essay, but I wasn't ready to change it. It wasn't until a couple of days later, that my impression was validated. Several people in my writing group suggested that the paragraph belonged at the beginning.

Letting go of creative preciousness is a good lesson for me to learn.

Check our A Work of Art Studio here:

And please remember President Biden's words: "We shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness. An American story of decency and dignity. Of love and of healing. Of greatness and of goodness…. The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.”

And read, once again, Amanda Gorman's inauguration poem, a great example of re-working a piece of writing:

Two good, timely essays to read:

Eric Rhoads, an artist and publisher, writes about Suspending Belief

John Pavlovitz, a thoughtful, insightful writer, he has a great perspective about America:

Friday, January 15, 2021


In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am always looking for hand lettering and different ways to display it. When we lived in Japan, we often walked the grounds of a shrine or temple, especially during the first week of the New Year. Hundreds of omikuji and ema hung from tree branches and bamboo rods. We watched as people clustered at a window where a monk provided either small pieces of paper with fortunes on them or wooden tablets with traditional Japanese design motifs. People wrapped the paper fortunes (omikuji) on railings and tree branches. They wrote prayers for success at exams or other favorable outcomes on the wooden tablets (ema) that also hung clustered together from red strings on boards near the monks' shop.

EMA photo by Bill Slavin

OMIKUJI photo by Bill Slavin

Collecting quotes provides me with a way to practice hand lettering. Even if quotes were first written hundreds of years ago, sometimes the right words together can make me consider the present-day implications of the quote. When I find a quote that resonates, I write it down on a Weathergram. Lloyd Reynolds, an art and calligraphy instructor at Reed College in Oregon, invented Weathergrams, which are 10-word poems that convey fleeting moments of interaction with nature. He often wrote the quotes on paper bags, which he would hang on tree branches. His inspiration for Weathergrams came from the Japanese sense of impermanence known as Wabi-Sabi and from the omikuji and ema at Japanese temples.

To make a Weathergram, all you need is a paper bag to write on. Sometimes you can write the first letter or word in red ink. You can make a list of words or write down your impressions of looking out a window or do what I am doing: write down quotes that mean something to you.

Hand them from a tree branch where other people can see them too and know that the weather will quicken their ephemerality.

Read about Lloyd Reynolds here: 

Christine Colasurdo, a calligrapher teacher, teaches Weathergrams in her courses:

Rachell Hazell writes a beautiful blog about bookbinding:

Kristine Mietzner has started a travel blog. What better way to spend time while we begin 2021.

Friday, January 8, 2021


 I had an essay to post this week, but under the circumstances, I put it aside. I think you probably have  said the same: you put aside normal activities this week. I think too many words have been spoken already.  Right now  I need to find solace in nature, to hold on to the truth, calm down, do some deep soul searching, and give myself time to regroup. Then I can join with others to get to work supporting those who realize the critical moment in our country and our democracy. As a friend said last week, "I'm so tired of seeing people perform at their worst." We can find our strength if we work together.

Stay safe.

Friday, January 1, 2021


UNFINISHED YEAR 2020 was published December 30 by Story Circle Network on their One Woman's Day blog. I am honored to have been chosen.

Not traveling during Sequester In Place hasn’t been an issue for me. The other day, though, I walked into our kitchen and felt a deep desire to go to Carmel, a place I’ve been going to since I was a child. I know the cracks in the sidewalks, the slow uphill climb from the beach, the woodsy smell of the neighborhoods, the quaint little houses with names instead of numbers. I know the drugstore on the main street, the numbers of dogs, the art galleries, and the alleyways that lead to intimate courtyards. 

I am not a person afflicted with Fear Of Missing Out., instead I feel anxious about the re-opening of our lives. I’ve discovered that sheltering in place has been a benefit to me. I’m no longer rushing around, doing the busy things that kept me interested and aware all my life, but also left me always feeling like I didn’t have the time to do what I truly wanted. 

I discovered that not everything on my potential to-do list was valuable to me. Instead that list included many ideas that I knew deep down I would never finish. One example: trying to make something out of all the broken pieces of china we have dropped over the years. I also discovered time to do some things on the list that I didn’t have room for when my day included meeting with friends, exercising, writing, doing artwork, taking classes, going to lectures, volunteering, cooking, reading, and gardening. 

As things opened up this fall, my husband and I were tempted to sit at Peet’s as we used to after a long walk down the Iron Horse Trail. We remembered the times we whiled away an hour or two chatting with friends. As we drove by Peet’s, we were tempted to stop but turned our car away when we saw groups of people gathered around the outdoor space, many without masks.  The news about rising COVID cases turned our thoughts back home.

Even with sequestering, my to-do list of possibilities has started to grow once again. My new daily walks may disappear as my time fills up with the necessary, but inconsequential, actions of a life. Soon I will barely set aside a half-hour to walk and I will gain back the weight I’ve lost by walking daily. Our neighbors, who came for an outdoor physically-distanced cocktail each Friday evening may disappear again behind closed doors. I will wonder where the moments went that I didn’t get to my new projects on my list.

I am surprised by my desire to travel to Carmel. Perhaps it is my internal reaction to the stress of COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the election of the last year. It’s my response to being overwhelmed and scattered and not wanting to ignore what needs to be done. Deep down it’s my need to have some peace.

May 2021 bring us all peace and kindness. Thank you one and all for continuing to read my blog.

Check out Story Circle Network at 

So much credit for my writing adventures goes to Elizabeth Fishel, the fearless leader of our Friday Writers group. Check out her websites here: