Friday, June 18, 2021


 When Gertrude was 16 her maternal grandmother gave her a sardonyx ring.  Sardonyx was her ‘birthstone’. Why couldn’t it have been a sapphire or diamond or ruby?  Sardonyx was just a brown stone, usually with little streaks of white (the onyx). Yuck.  Still, she loved her grandmother, and the stone was set in a delicate framework of different shades of gold. So, she kept it and wore it (especially when her grandmother visited). 

That was more than sixty years ago.  Some wisp of memory prompted Gertrude to fish it out of the small bowl where she kept her rings. It felt a little loose when she put it on.  Maybe her finger had shrunk. The rest of her had (at least vertically) . She used to be five feet two inches. Now she was just five feet none.  Twisting it around her finger, she smiled at memories of her grandmother, Olive Jenkins Walker, aka Nana. They were buddies, sharing giggles over stories about Gertrude’s mom and conspiring to have secret adventures. This was easier because she and Nana were about the same height, literally seeing things eye to eye. They shared many stories and sort-of secrets.  She died when Gertrude was twenty-five, a year after her first child was born. Gertrude had a photograph of Nana holding her infant son.  Both of them looked awestruck.

Now that son was grown up and lived a thousand miles away.

Now Gertrude had a computer through which she can follow any train of thought to myriad destinations.

She began by looking up birthstones. It turned out that the concept of birthstones evolved sometime in the 15th or 16th  century in Poland or Germany as a sort of derivative of Arabian astrology. Or something. There were even some biblical implications . . . in Revelations! Gertrude did not dwell on these. She was more interested in learning that people born in August could have three ‘birthstones’. She could choose between peridot, spinel, and sardonyx.  Why hadn’t her grandmother known that? And choose one of the others, both of which looked prettier than sardonyx. 

Sixty years later, that point was moot. She had a sardonyx ring. Period. So, Gertrude hopped on another train of thought.

Sardonyx seemed phonically related to sardonic. So, Gertrude looked that up, then wandered around in virtual comparisons between the words sardonic and sarcastic. It turns out that sarcastic is meaner.

Her father was sarcastic. Most people who knew him would never think of him as mean but both Gertrude and her younger brother bore the psychological scars of his scathing remarks. For her dad, stupidity and laziness were cardinal sins. He often pronounced them guilty of these, making them feel inadequate. To this day, Gertrude became inordinately defensive if someone suggested that something she did or said was stupid.

It was an unfortunate heritage. Eventually, she was able to realize when this verbal trigger had been pulled and to reduce her defensiveness. She became a little better at accepting criticism without crumbling … dissolving into  mea culpa.

But remnants of those early harsh judgements clung to her psyche.  When she was overly tired or overwhelmed by a whirlwind of events or an avalanche of bills and obligations, she could slip into her soul dungeon, smothered in dark layers of self-proclaimed inadequacy. 

Salvation, in the form of common sense and memories of her grandmother’s love and laughter could lift her out of despond.

She decided to wear the ring more often.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

An Acknowlegement

It may well be Aunt Zoe’s fault. My little family used to visit her in Laguna Beach, California back when people could still afford to live there. She was my father’s father’s sister… a fervent Protestant Republican school teacher who never married. She scared me because she was loud and opinionated. She had rules and brooked no transgressions, but her affection was as voluminous as her anatomy. Everyone loved her. Neighbors, students, church members, strangers at the grocery store … all who fell within her orbit stayed within her orbit, smiling. 
    One day, returning from an afternoon at the beach, I sat at her desk and wrote about the waves marching to the shore in endless synchronicity. Aunt Zoe said it was brilliant and that I would obviously become a great writer. And I, who was barely seven at the time, believed her. Thereafter, I turned to writing whenever I found myself in new or uncomfortable territory. 
    When we moved from southern California to eastern Ohio, I forged a niche in my new world by writing for the junior high paper, then the high school paper, then, later for the college paper. Then, after graduation, for an actual newspaper. 
     When my marriage became untenable, I wrote a collection of poems and verse that became a program I presented to women’s groups. That helped. For a while. After divorce, I found a job … writing. When my employer decided to move to its offices from Chicago to Tampa, I found another writing job in the Chicago area– one that eventually gave me the opportunity to travel to other countries [Canada, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, England, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Australia, Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, The People’s Republic of China, Switzerland, and France. When that job fizzled, I quit and got another job … writing… that took me to South Africa (and Zimbabwe and Namibia]. And when that job disappeared, I quit and moved to Colorado to work on writing for myself. So far, two books.     
    I am working on a modest collection of essays but not with the discipline Aunt Zoe would have preferred. She was a great believer in discipline (and honesty and temperance). Actually, there might be much about my life that would generate her disapproval. Still, I know that nothing makes me feel more alive than when I am sitting in front of my computer letting the words accumulate in a fashion that makes some kind of sense, or point. Or both. Every time my dad pulled up in front of Aunt Zoe’s house, he would comment on the state of the hibiscus plant by her front door. I have my own garden now (in Colorado). Recently, I planted my own hibiscus. The flowers are my private memorial to Aunt Zoe in gratitude for her encouragement in a craft that has sustained me my whole life. And pulled me around the world.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Gertrude's Bras

Two or three years ago, buying bras was a big deal for Gertrude. After initial trials and errors, she finally found a store and sales attendant that could measure then find the particular brand of lingerie that could sustain her profile.

No more.

First, she broke her left wrist. Before that particular catastrophe, Gertrude had donned her bras with the usual struggles and contortions that enabled her to get the little hooks into the little metallic circles, reinforcing her profile. This maneuver was impossible with just one functioning hand. It was (oddly) her accountant who advised her: fasten it first then just slip in on over your head. It worked.

Then came the pandemic. The store with the wonderful sales attendant closed. Indeed, many things closed and [although she never tested the premise] Gertrude assumed that going to any store, working with any sales attendant, and trying things on would [if not illegal] risk serious contagion and/or death.

Time sagged. Gertrude sagged.

One day while sorting through the usual avalanche of mostly junk mail, Gertrude saw a catalog for female underwear. Guessing which might be the right size and variety, she placed an order.

Ten days later, the catalog bra arrived {ironically, in a padded envelope]. She unwrapped the item, fastened the hooks, and slipped it over her head and shoulders and yanked it down to the appropriate latitude. It worked. Or at least worked well enough.

So, hooray! Gertrude’s spirits and anatomy were lifted.


 It has been a VERY long time since I posted a blog.

There was so much other stuff to deal with, I just let it slide.

I have still been writing: mostly short, mildly amusing essays about an aging woman named Gertrude. Not so coincidentally, I am an aging woman. 

I have no idea why I didn't post those little essays on my blog. Perhaps it was a form of hibernation. But enough already. It is time to re-enter this particular area of cyberspace. This is your fair warning. Mim's blogs are coming back.


Friday, June 26, 2020


What's with all the moths? Miller moths a pest for people, but become a buffet for bears
Yesterday a miller moth flew out of my jeans as I was putting them on. I will not comment on the symbolism of that moment.

Later, another moth flew out of the glass I use to take my pills.

I know they are harmless. They do not bite. They do not chew holes in your clothes or curtains. But they are so rude! They hide in the shadows, along window moldings, on stair bannisters, and in paneling and window frames.  

They are small, dull brownish creatures that you would barely notice if they didn’t move.
As these insects migrate from the plains to the mountains, they seem drawn to my house and front porch and garage. It’s the wood. They like the wood on the porch and the west side of the garage.
And there are so many of them! 

One evening noises from the interior caused me to hesitate before opening the side garage door.  Fearing an intruder, I peeked in only to discover legions of moths flying into the garage windows. There must have been sixty of them hurling themselves against the panes. When I open the garage to drive somewhere, a cloud of moths rushes out over the alley.

Although they seem to be everywhere (little moth corpses pepper my carpets and floors) there are fewer than in years past.  When my two cats were younger, they loved to chase them, catch them, eat them . . . then regurgitate them. By turning off all lights except those in the upstairs bathroom, I would entice both the moths and cats away from other parts of the house then close the door, leaving the insects to their feline fate.

Now I have only one cat, who is old and totally disinterested.

This year’s gang seems, at last, to be diminishing. Those that are not dead have evidently made it to cooler altitudes. And I can put my jeans on without checking.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Getting to know you . . .

I walked around my block this morning.

That’s not a big deal. I’ve lived here almost 18 years. I know the territory.

But today was different. People were outside. We exchanged greetings and pleasantries [from CDC-approved distances]. And in some cases, names [which I will probably forget because I tend to do that].

It was all cheerful and friendly. I learned more about my neighbors. About the kids with amazing bicycle helmets. About the sculptor setting up a new studio, and his wife who created their garden and took their daughter on bike rides. About the retired gentleman fixing up his front yard. Even about the woman re-re-planting a corner of her property where plants seemed never to flourish.

And all it took to ignite this flurry of friendliness was a global pandemic.


Friday, April 17, 2020

beauty in the time of Covid19

In the middle of a pandemic, there was a heavy snow that transformed our world.
 Even locked inside

Or standing on the front porch

Or walking through the Sculpture Park

We could see how the snow cushioned the trees with beauty
Yes, it battered tulips, but they will probably survive.

And so will we.