Thursday, April 6, 2017

sidewalk wisdom

During a lovely walk downtown Boise yesterday afternoon, I came upon this chalked message on 9th Street:

"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. -- Indian saying"

Friday, March 24, 2017

family emergency = plea for health care

In the emergency room six months ago, my husband and I learned he had suffered an "R-Triple A": Ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. His first response: "I want a second opinion." The surgeon shook his head. "Buddy, you don't have time for a second opinion. You're going to die in thirty minutes. If you have surgery you might survive, but there's only a 5% chance." 
I'm writing this today for three reasons:
1 -- The insidious debate about health care in the United States. What Speaker of the House Paul Ryan proposes is scurrilous. Millions of Americans will be forced to chose between seeing a doctor and putting food on the table. People will die.
2 -- In the ER that dreadful night, my husband asked for a second opinion because he worried this medical emergency would bankrupt our family. I foolishly had driven him to the hospital instead of calling 911. Ambulances are expensive.
3 -- I recently found my ER notes, jotted in between calls and texts with our sons, and questions to the medical staff. I'd begun a list of stuff used, to double-check against our future bill, having experienced double charges in past care: "...nausea meds, painkillers, IV, barf bag, cotton swabs, urine container, "robe", blood tests..." 
      Looking back I see a frantic couple married 35 years, terrified of losing each other but more so, terrified of the financial hit. We are fortunate and grateful. A skilled surgeon, Dr. Christopher Alessi, saved my husband's life.
     Short of having a single-payer health care system, we need the ACA to be improved and expanded, not repealed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ada, the neighborhood elk, her bittersweet story

Idaho cares about wildlife. I love this bittersweet story.

Feb. 27, behind Boise Co-Op
From Sitka Koloski re Ada the elderly elk:
"Ada was blocking traffic so the BPD were trying to feed her and give her water and she drank once but couldn't hold it down or leave the road so they sent traffic around her waiting for F&G to come assess. She was bleeding out both ends and went down on her own and was just at the end of her life so F&G put her down to end her suffering at this irreversible point where her digestive system shut down and they took her to the foothills since not diseased. Feeding her clearly just eased her final days. All positive and caring."
Boise Northend, Fort Street

Thursday, March 16, 2017

letter from an immigrant 5th grader

Kids who love to read are a breath of fresh air in these turbulent times. This fan letter from a fifth grader arrived yesterday and really touched me. She created art on both sides of the envelope and on her two pages. Then she wrote, "I've only been in America for half a year. I left my family in China, I am here with my mom." In the margin she drew a sad face with tears. Oh gosh. I wonder about her story.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

hope is in our youth

At the Idaho State Capitol, listening to senators debate SCR 108, which called for a Constitutional Convention -- thankfully it was defeated 24-11. I was inspired to see students from 3rd grade to 12th learning about our democratic process. My hope is in our youth.

civics lesson
Idaho Senate floor
at the Capitol with my buddy Tracy Olson

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

mem fox, new revolutionary

Mem Fox described her experience with LAX custom agents last week. Her finally comment resonates: “I wasn’t pulled out of the line because I was a revolutionary. But now I am.”

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ada, the neighborhood elk

Yesterday morning I watched what I thought was a baby moose behind the Boise Co-Op, chewing the bushes at Dr. Bodily's dentist office. She was scruffy adorable. Seeing wildlife in town however, may become a joy of the past, with no more stewardship of our environment. The president's new puppet, Scott Pruitt, says eliminating the EPA "is justified" -- that Americans look at it "much like they look at the IRS." Words fail.

Fortunately for now, Idaho Fish & Game is on duty. They've been out to see her and have determined she is an older elk they call "Ada," but because of her age she can't be sedated and moved. Most likely she'll forage in the neighborhood and eventually make her way back to the foothills. The best thing is "to give her space until she's ready to leave on her own;" and especially NOT to feed her, so she won't become dependent on humans. Thank you, Idaho Fish & Game for checking on "Ada."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

boys who read

Josh, Joel and J.D. Frees, now college graduates
One summer day years ago, friends from Colorado drove through Idaho and stopped in Boise to visit us. During our lunch of BBQ'd hamburgers we somehow got on the subject of books so I showed the brothers to our shelves. After an hour the adults realized the house had grown quiet and the boys had vanished. We found them out front in the backseat of their van. Seeing them engrossed in reading warmed my heart then and does to this day. This photo [ABOVE] is still on our fridge; their books: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847. These brothers obviously kept reading and reading because they're now college graduates -- and happen to be married to lovely, smart women. I'm so delighted for them!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

mem fox

Mem Fox

My favorite children's book author from Australia, Mem Fox, doubts she'll ever visit our country again. On her way to Milwaukee to address a convention she and a room-full of travelers were detained at LAX for visa checks. She said the border agents acted as if they'd been given "turbocharged power" by the president's executive order. 

Afterward she said, "I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness."

I am so ashamed of the White House puppet show.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

letter from U.S. Senator

I love receiving personal letters.

Especially from a United States Senator.

This one is from my Idaho representative, James Risch. I had written requesting a NO vote for Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary because of her zero time in public schools. He voted YES, however. Well, now that he and she will share time in Washington, D.C., perhaps she'll offer tips about how to actually read his letters before signing his name.

Oh wait! Idaho is 46th in the country in education, so maybe this is the best he can do.

Monday, February 13, 2017


When I heard that letters to Washington, D.C. go through anthrax screening and take longer to be read, I pulled out my stash of souvenir postcards, many of scenic Idaho, and bought a bunch of 34-cent stamps. Here goes!

Monday, January 30, 2017

getting off my duff

I am a daughter of American Revolutionary War soldiers. To honor their sacrifice and for the future of my children and grandchildren, I'm getting off my duff.

Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, said, "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty."

So today some brand new friends and I visited our U.S. Senators, Mike Crapo and James Risch at their offices in Boise, Idaho. Urged a NO vote for Betsy DeVos as Education Sec'y, NO to immigration ban, and chatted up other issues. Sooooo much work ahead, but I'm psyched.
Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, closeup and indoor

Saturday, January 28, 2017

NEW study guides, Revolutionary War series

Hello Teachers and Parents!

I'm happy to announce new study guides for Hope's Revolutionary War Diaries #1-3: Five Smooth Stones, We Are Patriots, and When Freedom Comes. It was a lot of fun revisiting my research and travel to historic Philadelphia. I've included writing and drawing prompts, ideas for discussion, some activities, a recipe in each, and tidbits about myself. The free guides are on my website. I hope they're fun for you and your readers!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Memoir update - Longhand: The Rise & Fall & Rise of My Career as a Children's Book Author

paperback and Kindle
A birthday gift when I turned seven was a diary, my first. Pink and palm-sized, it had a brass clasp and tiny keyhole so I could record secrets on the lined paper then lock 'em up. I hid the key in a shoe to keep out sibling spies.
     Thus began a lifelong habit of writing things down. My closet is filled with spiral notebooks, old calendars, moleskins, travel diaries, and thick leather journals. I've culled intimacies from these diaries alongside memories of writing for the Los Angeles Times and Scholastic: the rejections, heartbreak, joys, and beloved editors. My privileged career has been intertwined with motherhood, the richest adventure of all.
     The most common question readers ask is, "Where do you get your ideas?" so herein lie the answers. I hope these behind-the-scenes of book writing might inspire writers starting out and those who love the magic of words. Longhand: The Rise and Fall and Rise of My Career as a Children's Book Author.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

NEW Prairie River study guides

our back yard at sunrise
This morning the thermometer in our back yard registered two degrees below zero. Frosty cold yet beautiful, I hurried outside (eeesh...gasp!) to snap the sunrise with my cellphone, then back inside to my desk. My happy news for the day is that study guides for the Prairie River series are now on my website.  I included writing and drawing prompts, a recipe, craft ideas, and suggestions for book talks. Oh, also a few secrets about myself and the creative process. So thank you to the many readers who suggested I do this. I hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

snowed in

getting some fresh air
Happy New Year! It's -8 degrees and sunny in Boise. We've been house-bound for three days because our neighborhood isn't plowed, but no worries! Good books, a good dog, fireplace and family nearby. And with all this time indoors I've been writing more study guides for my website. By popular request from teachers I've added The Legend Of Jimmy Spoon and Jimmy Spoon and the Pony Express. Seriously, they're fun to write!
in the sunroom with Poppy