Category Archives: Longreads

Half of the Whole…Part 1



Dad grew up in Michigan, as an only child.   His mother never worked outside the home, and his father was a machinist.  They had a nice home, one that I don’t really remember, but they also had a summer cottage in Nova Scotia, Canada.  This I do remember because ever since I was born we visited every weekend during the summer months, and my parents took many pictures. Throughout the years they would talk about neighbors, and neighborhood dogs at the cottage.   How could I not remember!Unknown

Dad only had one real job in his lifetime….he worked for General Motors.  This was what he always wanted to do, and what he went to school to do.

Mom and Dad married on Friday the 13th, in the month of December.  Dad felt he could not take time off from work, so they spent one weekend  on their honeymoon in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Who would go to Cincinnati  for a honeymoon?  Mom told me later, she wasn’t impressed with a honeymoon in Cincinnati!  I can’t imagine why!  Like most young women, I’m sure Mom had visions of a romantic honeymoon in someplace like Niagara Falls.


In 1947 Dad was transferred from Flint, Michigan to the General Motors Plant in Van Nuys, California.  Our family was still small with only Mom, Dad,  my sister and myself.  I was about three and a half, my sister was about six months old when we moved.   Sure it was an adventure for me, I busied myself by serving pretend coffee and tea on the airplane to all the passengers.  They thought I was so cute, they were partially right.  Little did they know I was a cute princess!

Dad worked long hours, especially in the summer, and fall.  Being a General Motors man, he was busiest when the new models of cars were being produced for release in the fall.  It seemed to never end!

GM Flint, Michigan

GM Flint, Michigan

I remember him telling me that GM wouldn’t promote him to Plant Manager because he didn’t go to a University, only a trade school.  That must have been a tough pill to swallow, because he was very conscientious about his work, and was known for being very fair with the people who worked for him as well.  But he was a perfectionist, and  he expected the people who worked for him to  be as conscientious as he was with their work.   Everything had to be perfect!
I once was told by a peer of his that he was well-respected, because of his work ethics, he always tried to work things out for the betterment of his employees.

Dad being a hard-working GM man, would come home after a long day, and step into whatever was going on at home. Usually we were bickering, or Mother was deep into disciplining one of us. He would hear part of an argument, and immediately one of us was in deep trouble!  There wasn’t necessarily any trouble, it could have been just a discussion, but someones head would roll!  I can only think Dad must have been very tired or stressed over his work.

His fuse was short, and it wouldn’t take much for us to annoy him.
This one time I remember Dad getting really upset about something we did, probably bickering.  He stormed into the bathroom, turned on the bathtub faucet, and proceeded to fill the tub with water.  Before my sister, and I knew what was happening, we were grabbed by the ankles – at the same time – and dangled over the tub of water. This was presumably to scare the bejeebers out of us so we would stop fighting!

OK  –  so it worked, we stopped fighting, and the bejeebers were gone!

My sister and I thought we were goners, and marched like good little indians!  At least for a couple of days!   I don’t think either of us will forget!  Usually the day was pretty quiet, and unless something upset our mother, Dad usually  stayed out of the adventures of child raising.  He also never used those tactics ever again!

Each summer we would take a vacation. Mom and the three of us kids would pack up and take the train to Indiana, or Michigan to see our Grandmother, or Great-Grandmother, and after we’d been there for a few weeks Dad would take three weeks off from work to pick us up.    That was always a fun trip, and we looked forward to it all year!
After we visited with our Grandmother, we would pack up and go visit our Great-Grandmother in Indiana. After we’d been visiting for about three weeks, Dad would fly back to retrieve us, first   checking into GM in Michigan, and picking up a new car. We’d drive back to California, and have a fun family road trip.

The family traveled all over the United States seeing many  wonderful places our beautiful country has contained within its borders.  We’ve been north, south, east, and west, but never south of the border into Mexico, and never into Canada.  Dad was terrified to travel outside our boarders.


We started out camping in a tent, and slowly worked our way up to a tiny trailer.  One time I remember camping  in the woods, and it was snowing.  Now, I was a princess, I didn’t camp, let alone camp in the snow.  But, we were camping in the snow regardless of my status in life.  Apparently neither of my parents paid much attention to my status!


Another time, we went camping in bear country, and my parents warned us not to take food to bed with us, or have any food in our tent.  They even explained to us about the bears, and their passion for eating everyone’s food regardless of where it was or, who was there.

In the middle of the night, I was awakened by something outside our tent, and I was sure it was a bear.  I tried to stay quiet, not wake anyone up, but I just knew we were going to be eaten by a bear.   Soon I had the entire family awake, and searching for the food.  I  was positive there was food  in our tent.  Sure enough, my sister had taken cookies to bed with her so she wouldn’t starve in the middle of the night, and sure enough, there had been a bear outside our tent that night.  We awakened to tracks, and a rip in our tent.  Some kids (my sister) never listen!

By the end of this camping trip, we were all ready to go home, and were finished trying to convince my sister she wasn’t going to starve in the middle of the night!  That was a worthless endeavor!

Shasta Trailer

Shasta Trailer

I think that was the end of our tenting days, and after that Dad had purchased a small trailer to do our camping in.

Chevrolet all the way!

Chevrolet all the way!

Thank you for taking time to read a day in my  life.  Karen

Stay tuned for more later…..




(Somebody asked me the other day if I would re-post this message I wrote last year on Facebook, so here it is….)

Dear Ones –

OK, we all know about the “inner child”, right? The innocent being who still lives inside of us, who needs and deserves love and care, and whom we sometimes have to channel in order to learn self-compassion?

I’m a big fan of the notion of the inner child. It can be a really healing construct. Once, when I was going through a particularly dark season of self-loathing, I taped a sweet photo of myself (age 2) on my mirror, and taught myself that any harm I did to me, I also did to HER. It made me kinder and more tender to myself. Imagining other people’s inner children makes me kinder and more tender to them.

So the Inner Child is a good thing.

These days, though, I find myself spending less time thinking about my Inner Child, and more time focused on my INNER CRONE — the old lady who lives inside me, whom I hope to someday be.

Because she’s a serious bad-ass.

The really old ladies always are bad-asses. I’m talking about the real survivors. The women who have been through everything already, so nothing scares them anymore. The ones who have already watched the world fight itself nearly to death a dozen times over. The ones who have buried their dreams and their loved ones and lived through it. The ones who have suffered pain and lived through it, and who have had their innocence challenged by ten thousand appalling assaults…and who lived through all of it.

The world is a frightening place. But you simply cannot frighten The True Crone.

Some might consider the word “crone” to be derogatory, but I don’t in the least. I honor it. The crone is a classic character from myth and folklore, and she often the bearer of great wisdom and supernatural power. She is sometimes a guardian to the underworld. She has tremendous vision, even if she is blind. She has no fear of death, which means: NO FEAR.

I keep a wall of photos of some of my favorite crones, for inspiration. The photo below is of a Ukrainian babushka named Hanna Zavorotnya who lives in (get this) Chernobyl. There are a group of about 250 such women — all tough elderly peasants — who have all recently moved back to the radioactive area around Chernobyl.

You know why they live there? Because they like it.

They like Chernobyl because that’s where they came from. They are natural-born farmers, who got kicked off their farms when disaster struck. They hated being refugees.They resented being shunted off their land after the catastrophe. They hated living in the shabby and crime-infiltrated and stress-inducing government housing in the city, and much prefer the independence of living off the land.

So they moved back home — illegally — to the most contaminated nuclear site on earth. They have formed a stupendously resilient retirement community there, in what some would call the world’s most terrifying landscape.

Is it safe? Of course not. Or, whatever. After 90 years of hard living, what does “safe” even mean? (If you survived World War II and Stalin and famine and communism’s ravages, how worried can you be about “safe”?) They drink the water. These women plant vegetables in that radioactive soil and eat them. They butcher the wild pigs that scavenge around the old nuclear power plant, and eat them, too. Their point is: “We are old. What do have to fear from radioactivity? At this age? Who cares?”

All they want is their freedom. So they take care of themselves and each other. They cut and haul their own wood. They make their own vodka. They get together and drink and laugh about the hardships of their lives. They laugh about everything, then they go outside and butcher another radioactive boar and make sausage out of him.

They are living longer and healthier lives than their peers who stayed behind in refugee housing in the cities.

I would put these women in a Bad-Ass Contest against any cocky young alleged Bad Ass you’ve got going, and I guarantee you — the Chernobyl crones would win, hands down. Put the lady in this picture in a survival contest against any Navy SEAL; she will endure longer.

We live in a society that romanticizes youth. We live in a culture where youth is considered a real accomplishment. But when you look at a seriously powerful classic crone like the woman in this photo, you see how foolish we are to obsess over youth — to imagine that the young offer much for us to aspire to, or learn from.

No wisdom like the wisdom of survival. No equanimity like the equanimity of somebody who plants a garden right on top of a nuclear disaster and gets on with it.

So these days, when my Inner Child gets all fluttery with the panic of living, I just ask myself: ” WWMICD?”

“What Would My Inner Crone Do?”

Ask yourself that same question. See what she tells you.

One thing I can promise you she will never say? She will never say: “WORRY.

She will more likely tell you this: “ENDURE.”

So listen to her, and get on with it — get on with the powerful act of LIVING.

Hang in there, all you future awesome crones!


ps — and if you want to read more about Hanna and her fellow bad-ass Chernobyl crones, and see more photos, here is a really wonderful article:

As I read thru this on Facebook, I couldn’t help being inspired, & wanting to repost it on today’s blog.  It’s written by Elizabeth Gilbert, & who has written a new book, The Signature of All Things.

Elizabeth is one of my favorite writers, & her new book didn’t disappoint me on bit.  If you get a chance read it.

I know this was a little long, but interesting enough to take the time to read……I hope you enjoy your day, see you next time.

I Need a Vacation from My Vacation!

Amsterdam Gate 121...

Amsterdam Gate 121…

This is where it all started!

How many of you get home from a vacation, and find yourselves totally worn out?  This was certainly the case with us.  After all, we went to a most unexpected place, and we wanted to get the most out of this adventure as possible.

Each and every day on our cruise we booked shore excursions.  The first day we were scheduled to take a Shore Excursion in Helsinki, Finland, the tour was cancelled for lack of interest.  Really…..lack of interest?  All the other excursions that were offered, had been fully booked.

Another setback!

Not actually.  After traveling an entire day to get to Stockholm, so we could board our ship, both of us were exhausted, so a cancellation although disappointing, was not the worst thing that could happen to us.

What was the worst thing?

The worst thing was after landing in Amsterdam, and waiting a little over an hour to board our flight to Stockholm……just as we were getting ready to step onto the ramp to the plane, we were flagged to the side and told we could not take our luggage onto the plane!   What?  Apparently one of the airport attendants decided our carry-on, together with  our backpack was too much.  As we tried to sort all that out, many people before, and after us were walking onto the plane with as much or more, and not  a word was said.   The airport staff  spoke perfect english, however there didn’t seem to be any way we could resolve our problem  with them.  After going through security,  and screening, this one person had made his decision, and that was that.  We were told to pick one – the roll-on or the backpack, but not both.  I don’t have to tell you the contents in both of those items are things you do not want lost, and are imperative to have them with you.  Since our backpacks had all our money, we said we’d take our backpacks with us.

As it turned out that was a choice I’d come to regret.  Of course they promised us these bags would be on the plane, and at the terminal when we arrived in Stockholm.  Of Course!  But, as it turned out they weren’t on the plane, nor at the terminal when we collected our luggage.  As it turned out, they didn’t know where our luggage was.  All I could think of was how do I even begin to replace these items while in a foreign country?  My husbands electric razor, all our medication,  all my makeup,  all the cords to my camera, iPad, and computer were in my carry-on.  I had shoes, art supplies for journaling, a few pieces of jewelry, and my new blow-dryer that I never should have taken in the first place – for just this reason.  It sounds silly, but I started grieving for  my my own personal creature comforts.    How can I replace my blow dryer that my daughter gave me for my birthday, or the handmade necklace that my friend Cathy made, and make-up, I couldn’t even imagine not having any makeup on a trip…any trip.

It was difficult, but finally I told my husband,  how difficult I knew this was for him, as well as it was for me, but since we couldn’t do anything about it, lets please not talk about it!  We both agreed to make the best of it, and not discuss it.

We arrived in Stockholm a day before boarding the ship, so immediately we had the Hotel start tracking our luggage, and they did a great job.  They sat on the phone with the airport for long lengths of time in an effort to track them down.   Nothing seemed to help.  The airport would say they had one, but not the other on time, the next conversation, both were missing.  It was difficult to know exactly who to believe.  Sunday evening when we boarded the ship, we received a message that if the airport couldn’t get our luggage to us before we reached St. Petersburg, we’d have to wait until Estonia.  Of course, I wouldn’t want my luggage delivered to Russia.

Just so  we didn’t waste our time in Finland, we decided to take a Hop On- Hop Off bus to town, and check

IMG_3289out Helsinki ourselves.  We really didn’t get to see much of this modern town, only what we could see by walking, but enough to realize that Finland is progressive in both their architecture, and merchandise.  We purchased a few necessities like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shower jel, and just to help us feel less lost, a couple of shower scrunchies.  Those few things were enough to help us start getting  back on track.

Really, they couldn’t have put more effort into returning our luggage to us?

Estonia was four-days out, and I’m guessing my makeup wouldn’t reach me before I took the land excursion for that day.  Once again, we had to let it go, or chance ruining our cruise.  Also, I haven’t mentioned that we were traveling with friends, and they certainly were sympathetic, but I’m sure didn’t want to continually hear about the major screw up – even one more time.  So again, we had to stop talking about it!

Skip ahead four days…..

After touring around  Tallinn, Estonia for seven hours, and dragging ourselves back to the ship hot, sunburnt, & exhausted, I open the cabin door only to find our luggage sitting by the bed just waiting to greet us. What an unexpected surprise.  To be honest, I never thought we’d  see our luggage again.  This restores my faith in humanity for sure, and somewhat restores it in airports in general!

That evening I showered, put on just a little makeup, and went to join our friends, and traveling companions for a lovely dinner in the dinning room.  The topics of discussion was varied, but not before we exhausted all accounts of our missing luggage.  Thank heavens, we don’t have to beat that dead horse any longer!


Day 20: A Treasured Old Friend!


Once upon a time, in a state far to the midwest  (from California that is), near a large body of water, at a time almost too long ago to mention, just after my birth…..I took a buggy ride with my mother pushing all the way!  Phew that took the wind out of me. I was very small, but old enough to go for walks, and eventually…go shopping with my mother.

Mother, & myself in my English Carriage

Mother, & myself in my English Carriage

Before I was born, my parents bought me a very large, Black English Perambulator… because that’s what they did in those days.  It was probably large enough for Mother to climb into, and take a nap with me should the occasion arise –  to my knowledge, that never happened!

We started out walking around the neighborhood on the very mildest, and most beautiful  days of July…  Since I was born the 23 of  May, I’m sure  we never left the house for at least six weeks after my birth. Who knows…maybe longer!

Things were different in those days, everything was different.   Hospital stays after giving birth were ridiculously long, something like two weeks.  If I had to stay in the hospital for two weeks after having my children, I would have chewed my arm off out of boredom!  But… I’m guessing that didn’t happen in those days.  On the other hand, sometime after being sleep deprived for several months, it would have been really nice to spend two weeks in the hospital being pampered!  I’m told…you can’t have it all!

I’ll bet you’re wondering if the Perambulator was my treasured friend?

Maybe at the time…but NO!    When we would take a walk, people would want to look in and see the baby (that would be me).  My poor mother would cringe at the thought of anyone touching, or breathing on her prized possession (again, that would be me)!   It was quite a conundrum because, Mother really wanted to show me off to all her friends, and even the people who would soon be her friends because, I was so cute, and they would tell her so!  Finally, Mother quickly realized that netting placed gingerly over the entire carriage would solve this problem, and then, and only then would she be able to show me off  without having to constantly tell them not to touch the baby (me).  After many walks around the block, with Mother prancing all the way,  we finally made our way to downtown Detroit. Maybe I forgot to mention being born at the Mount Carmel Hospital in Detroit Michigan.  This was in the early forties, and since then the hospital has been torn down with the newest of hospitals, probably state of the art,  being built-in it’s place.

Mount Carmel Hospital

Mount Carmel Hospital

On this particularly perfect day in September, Mother and I packed up all our gear, and proceeded to walk into downtown Detroit to a large department store by the name of JL Hudson’s.  Now,  this store was the place to go if you were anyone, and we were anyone!  I’m sure Mother packed diapers, bottles, rattles, blankets, and anything, and everything …just in case.  Just in case, because you never know….  As we wound our way around the  wooded streets of Royal Oaks, in the suburbs I could smell the fresh air, and hear the rustling of the trees.  After a while, the noise was getting louder, and louder…apparently from all the traffic when we reached  the city.

JL Hudson’s

I snoozed off and on while Mother huffed and puffed her way along the busy city streets.  Finally we reached Hudson’s, and I must say it was BIG!  Never in my entire life had I seen anything so big as this store, except maybe Mount Carmel Hospital, and I really didn’t see very well at the time!

Mother managed to get the carriage into the front door of the store, but negotiating the perfume counter with a large English Carriage was a challenge for even the most determined of mothers.  We did it, and got there in one piece too!  As we rolled through the store, nothing was broken, we only had a few bumps along the way, but Mom did great, I was so proud of her for her determination, and energy, because I was exhausted just thinking about it!

Since I didn’t have any idea why we went to this particular store, on this particular day in September,  with the exception of, it being the place to go, I was excited to find out the purpose of our adventure.  This is something I have reflected on over the many years of my life…  what is the purpose of my adventure in life?

Quickly Mother managed to get my Buggy up to the floor where all the toys were on display, and before long we were deep in thought about …toys, stuffed to be exact!    Mother stopped at one table after the other, each having lots of stuffed animal toys sitting just there for me to look at.  As  Mother was searching  each, table,  and every stuffed toy, or maybe I should say animal,  a huge crowd of ladies engulfed my buggy, and the ooh’s and awes began.  “What a beautiful baby, how old is she?” one woman asked?  “What did you name her?” asked another?  “How long were you in labor?”  yet another asked.  The questions kept coming, and Mother answered with great pride.

But on the other end of things…

It won’t surprise you when I say…..the faces were terrifying,  BIG noses,  BIG eyes, LOUD voices, and the smell of stagnant perfume just about gagged me!  They kept looking at me from all angles, like I was a strange bug or something.  I began to cry….louder,and…Louder, and…LOUDER!   Finally Mother had to excuse us, and we took a little ride around the store, just to get away.   Boy was I happy to get away from all those Looky Loos!

When things had calmed down, we took another pass at the  stuffed toy tables, and with each of these furry creatures Mother would show me,  I simply couldn’t see the fascination. Some of them were stiff, and unfriendly, some were dark and foreboding.  Finally out of clear, and total exasperation I was shown one last stuffed animal, and do you know what?  My little legs and arms started bouncing around,  and I started talking to this lanky ball of fur. Mother was so happy, I could see it on her tired, worn-out face.   At that point, before I knew what was happening, the carriage started moving, and off we went – to a place I’d never seen before – soon  I found myself sharing my carriage with a  creature covered in  brown and white fur, little black BB eyes, a tiny little brown nose and tail, long legs and arms.  Mother told me this was my new friend, and I have to say I was really excited to have him with me.  Now I wouldn’t have to be alone all night in that big room.  Oh it looked nice, it was pink and frilly, but it was big and lonely being in there all night by myself.

After much thought, I named him Teddy!

Teddy quickly became by best friend, he stayed with me all the time. Mother even allowed me to take him to the doctors when I had to go.  Teddy had floppy ears, and he would sing to me at night after everyone would go to bed.  No matter what happened,  Teddy was there for me.

One day something terrible happened!  This was after he helped me learn to eat vegetables, and walk.  Something even more horrible than eating peas, and green beans, something worse than anything I could have ever imagined!

I had competition!!!

Yep you guessed it – That Friggin’ stork dropped a bundle of  “Pain in the ass”  down the chimney!  Well, let me tell you…my world changed forever, and not for the better either!  Teddy was there through it all.  He wiped my tears, he talked me out of  dripping oatmeal all over the PIA’s head.  I’m telling you Teddy probably saved my life…more than once!

That kid didn’t stop yapping for years!  All through growing up….yap – yap – yap!  Even my parents would complain about how this kid would never stop yapping!  But what are you going to, they couldn’t send it back!

Well in the middle of all that yapping…it happened again, and once more after that!

Crap will this ever stop?  You guessed it again…another yapper!  Two more to be exact, one shortly after the other.  It exhausts me even telling this story, but somebody has to tell it.

What happened next?

In the middle of all that yapping, I had to something to keep myself busy, and distracted from the gaggle of yappers.  Lining up all my dolls, and stuffed animals, I would hold school.  Each of them would contribute to my class but the one who contributed the most was Teddy.  He must have known my need for teaching, or maybe the need for standing on a soapbox would be more accurate!  Teddy sat there like an “A” number one student, and was every teachers dream.

Later in life,  Teddy was with me through my Sweet “16” Birthday Party, through all the dances, my heart breaks,  and  my  triumphs.  Never did he turn his back on me, and he never offered advise, unless I asked him for it.  When I married he sat in the middle of our bed…this in my eyes was an act of bravery, and protection!  He was there through divorces,  marriages, and  remains with me.

Teddy has been with me all these years, remaining loyal, and trustworthy!

He is my best friend, my oldest friend, and my Treasured Friend!