When I first picked up this book, I didn’t know how valuable it would be for me considering my “unattached” status. The title, An End to Arguing, made me wish I’d had this resource decades ago when I really needed it. But then I read the subtitle, 101 Valuable Lessons for All Relationships. Key word All. The truth is at this stage in my life I really have nobody I can say I argue with except the sales associate at the Sprint store. But throughout every chapter, I found guidelines and tips, not only about arguing, but about living in peace with myself. 

The authors, Linda and Charlie Bloom, are psychotherapists who have been married to each other for more than fifty years. They speak from personal experience in addition to their professional education, training, and counseling experience, which lends to their credibility! The chapters of the book are brief and titled by specific lessons so a reader can go back and review a specific area where help is needed to rescue a conversation, conflict, or relationship. I know I’ll be keeping these words of wisdom close at hand for those times when I need some reassurance or guidance when connecting with others.

Because An End to Arguing is packed with so many great lessons, I’ll touch here on those I related with most. I urge you to pick up a copy to enjoy the full experience! Tips I learned about:

Communication or “Conscious Combat” – What works:

  • Acknowledgement of differences and preferences
  • Apology (if sincere)
  • Authenticity
  • Commitment
  • Forgiveness (ourselves and others)
  • Honesty
  • Intention
  • Language using “I/me” versus “You”
  • Listening to understand (without interrupting!)
  • Managing breakdowns when they occur
  • Reacting without defensiveness
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Vulnerability

Communication – What doesn’t work: 

  • Attacking
  • Blaming
  • Concealing
  • Holding grudges
  • Judging
  • Name-calling
  • Passivity
  • Resentment
  • Sarcasm
  • Shaming
  • Threats or ultimatums
  • Turning up the volume
  • Victim mentality (wallowing in self-pity)

With commitment and perseverance, old attitudes can be unlearned as we identify and practice new ways of thinking and communicating. Many conflicts arise out of fear. Some (like me) do everything possible to avoid conflict. Preserve harmony. Keep the peace. Yet, allowing feelings of anger, disappointment or fear to build up inside waiting to explode is not the answer. The result is usually escalated anxiety or resentment—not a healthy state when trying to recover. And sacrificing our own well-being to accommodate others is a loss for everyone. 

The authors tell us it takes two to repair a conflict, but it only takes one partner to initiate the process. Slow down. Choose words carefully. “Tone” is more important than the words themselves (serious, not heavy-handed; committed, not controlling). Preparation is key! And although it takes two to tango, dancing around a conflict also isn’t the best way to connect. 

When things start to escalate, a time-out period, or a taking a few minutes to return to calm, may help us regain composure so we can re-engage in a non-defensive way. During a time-out period, we can use curiosity to explore and uncover feelings buried under the surface. Self-care during this time isn’t selfish; it’s necessary.  

Winning an argument is not the goal. What both parties usually want is a mutually satisfying outcome. Arguments can be productive versus destructive. The goal is to gather information from each other without trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong. Recognize the gifts each partner brings to the party.

Resist the temptation to give advice unless requested and remember we cannot “fix” or “change” someone. First, it is disrespectful. Second, it will never happen. 

Avoid making comparisons, e.g. “You’re just like your mother” or using absolutes, e.g. “You always…” or “You never…”

Don’t punish with silent treatment. This can be more harmful than verbal abuse, which can be more harmful that physical abuse. 

Sadly, even successful relationships sometimes can’t be repaired. To quote from the book, “Not all relationships can or should be saved. Knowing if and when to make that call is critical.” A “deal-breaker” is an abusive, addictive, or destructive behavior that can’t and shouldn’t be tolerated. If unsavory behaviors are tolerated for too long, the relationship can become toxic, and we lose our motivation to repair it. Without intention and commitment to changing hurtful behaviors, the relationship is unlikely to survive. A critical point made by the authors is: “Knowing when you need outside help and seeking it isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of intelligence.”

The help and guidance from this book is a resource everyone can benefit from. You can purchase a copy of the book on AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Be sure to also add it to your GoodReads reading list.

Or, Visit the authors online:





The “Faulty” Physician

Having retired a few years ago, I have extra time to clean out my garage and reflect on a 35-year career in healthcare professional credentialing. Just out of college, forty years ago, I’d never heard the term “credentialing” and learned about it while on the job. I now know that sometimes doctors mess up. It’s not always their fault, but circumstances and poor influences weigh in. In my position, I was part of conversations among medical staff leaders who decided which doctors could join them on the medical staff of a hospital, and then once on staff, which ones were screwing up and how they would be disciplined. It can be a stressful job especially when hearing stories of patients who were harmed. Therefore, I had to try and find humor in some of the stories and tales I was “exposed” to.  

I sat at a table in the board room with the CEO of the hospital, the Chairman of Surgery, and medical staff leaders from Emergency Services, Internal Medicine, and Cardiology. When considering the professional history of a physician applying for privileges to care for patients in the hospital, the Credentials Committee considers medical education, training, and experience, but also any undesirable past experiences, e.g., malpractice claims, criminal offenses, and behavioral issues. On one particular day, the committee discussed a candidate who had a misdemeanor for peeing in public. In other words, “exposing himself” –to whom I don’t know, but he was caught. The women around the table found this a disgusting fault—poor judgment—and a crime that should not allow this man to practice in the hospital. All the men on the committee laughed heartily. “I do it all the time when walking my dogs!” “Me too!” “Why walk all the way home to pee when there’s a nice bush nearby?” The women rolled their eyes. Ultimately, the candidate was allowed to join the medical staff. Lesson: When walking your dog, if you see a guy standing near a bush, don’t stop, don’t look. It just might be your doctor.”

Another memory had to do with credentialing a surgeon. The process requires primary source verification of mostly every aspect of a physician’s professional history, past and present. In my attempt to verify this surgeon’s current professional practice, I called the office number listed in her application, to verify employment. When the woman on the other end answered the phone, I asked to speak with the practice manager, which she indicated was her. She added, proudly, that she was also the surgery scheduler and billing manager for this surgeon. “Great,” I said. “I’m requesting written verification of this surgeon’s employment, and I also need to know the names and addresses of the hospitals where she performs surgery since it was not provided on the application. I need to verify the physician’s status and quality of care provided within those hospitals.”  The sweet little voice responded, “Well, I am her mother, and I can absolutely vouch for her employment and her quality of care. The address of our office is: P.O. Box ####, City, State, Zipcode, and you can use this same address to verify her medical staff memberships.” Thinking she must have misunderstood my question, I probed, “but ma’am, I need to know the names and addresses of hospitals where she performs surgeries so I can verify her current competency.” She replied, “Again, it is P.O. Box ####, City, State, Zipcode.” This is all the information I was able to get from her. The conclusion was that a post office box is much too small a place in which to see patients or perform surgeries, so the doctor’s application was denied.  

Things I find humorous these days may not have the same effect on others who were not in my profession, but this experience occurred as I was perusing employment ads in the healthcare field. One that stood out was from the Catholic hospital where I began my career. In big bold print, it read “Faulty Physician: Looking for a faulty physician to provide clinical services in areas of specialty and to serve in pivotal academic research and leadership roles.” For someone like me who identified any type of fault within a physician’s professional practice, and who had retired from the industry, this was icing on the cake. I couldn’t stop laughing for several minutes. Intrigued by this, I checked back the next day, and apparently, I wasn’t the only one who noticed, as the ad was now looking for a “Faculty Physician.”  I can only hope that the faculty physician they hired will be discreet when peeing in public and will care for patients in a space larger than a post office box. 

Latest Book Review: From Promising to Published, by Melanie Faith, MFA

(Open the “Book Review” tab from my website to find a full review!)

When I learned Melanie Faith had written and published this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I had taken three workshop courses from her through Women on Writing, so I was aware of her writing talent and teaching skills. This book, From Promising to Published, came to me at the perfect time, just before I typed “The End” on my manuscript. I’ve made notes and scribbles throughout the book, a good sign that I’ll be coming back to it again and again. 

From Promising to Published is a necessary guide to the many options a writer has when publishing, or not publishing, the words that have swirled inside our heads for years and are ready to go out into the world. The final chapter I will carry with me, in my head, as a reminder to give myself permission to write without seeking external validation. The author says, “Some people won’t like what you’re writing and will be harsh about it… (none of these are your people, by the way). Don’t let that stop you. You have an inward fire simmering to keep you going.” And I will keep going. Thank you, Melanie, for the inspiration! 

Material Love

Today I started thinking about different kinds of love. Some say it’s not cool to love material things. But as I look around this room, I’m immersed in material things I love. And unlike some of the non-material kinds of love I’ve known, these things are here for me, day in and day out, carrying memories, giving solace. 

Each item has significance and value, like my Grannie’s upright piano, built in the 1940’s, coffee brown with nicks and scratches revealing its maturity and sophistication. How I loved the lady who played “Alley Cat” just for me, when as a little girl, I’d sit underneath the piano bench in my own magical world.

My Hummel collection is a source of love that springs from a glass cabinet with antique Hummel wine glasses, a music box, and precious porcelain figurines in the likeness of children bearing gifts, sharing a song, weathering a storm. Hummel blessings are portrayed in charcoal drawings from Germany.

I couldn’t leave the antique store without the school master’s desk, late 19th century oak, that sits in my room, facing open windows where nature takes hold of my senses. The desk cajoles, woos, and even seduces me to write as if the school master himself were sitting there demanding to see my work. 

To the left of the desk is my wall of inspiration. A print at the center represents the 1945 painting of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s “The Reader Crowned with Flowers” or “Virgil’s Muse.” On either side are framed quotes by Hemingway and a poem prompting “Be fearless in the pursuit of your dream.” A Sid Dickens Memory Block defines “Joy,” a state of happiness. A modest wooden shelf holds a miniature Victorian typewriter and two pocket-sized bibles. One in Spanish, the other in English, gifts to my grandfather on the day of his First Holy Communion, May 15, 1908. How could one not love such things?

And then I begin thinking of colors. Blue is the 1972 GMC four-wheel-drive pick-up truck my dad drove. That old truck held a hell of a lot of stories. Before I was a teenager, I’d sit in the middle seat next to Dad and shift gears. Sometimes I’d shift too soon before the clutch was in, grinding the gears, and we’d both laugh, shouting “Hamburger!” He taught me to drive that truck once I was old enough. “If you can drive this ol’ thing, you can drive anything,” he would say, showing me how to “ease the clutch,” when starting on a hill. 

My son was twelve when Dad took him out to the boonies to drive the pick-up. Nick would later tell me, as a high school senior, “My truck was in a long line of cars today and kept dying. Everyone sped around me to pass, honking their horns, and I was late for class.” His 1972 blue prized possession was surrounded in the parking lot by Mustangs, BMWs, and Audi’s, yet it may have outlasted all those fancy cars. Nick will never forget that pick-up truck or the familiar stories Dad told him over and over again. 

My infatuation with yellow started with a housecoat the color of daffodils, faded to flaxen sunflower gold. A gift from a lady named Lesley Haley for my 8th birthday. She somehow got the idea I was named after her, and though I didn’t know her well, she always remembered my birthday. The yellow housecoat grew with me; its hem once kissed my ankles, its sleeves hovered at my wrists. Now drifting above my knees, its sleeves rest at my elbows. For more than 50 years, it has held together minus its buttons, with only one small tear. Embroidered green flowers nestle between two rows of lace trimming the seam along the front. 

In every shade, yellow has defined all that I love about life. Light, warmth, safety, neutrality, and simplicity. Playful. Roasted corn. The start of a new day. 

As a teenager, my bedroom was yellow from top to bottom. Yellow shag carpet, yellow curtains, matching bedspread, and a yellow teddy bear now ragged and worn, sitting on a high shelf in my closet. Photos of the yellow formal gown I wore to prom, and yellow roses delivered for no reason at all, remind me of the guy I wept for well beyond senior year. 

Now I think of yellow in all its tones, the warmth of the sun, juicy citrus on my tongue, and the scent of fresh-cut lemongrass. In the morning, the rite of Spring. A polka dot skirt. In the afternoon, the yellow of jackfruit or honey locust, until it melts away into the night. 

It’s material love that never fades, in all its colors, consumes my heart, lightens my soul, brightens my days, a lasting love, that won’t go away.

Sweet Potato Casserole (aka “Leslie’s Camote”)

The holidays are around the corner, and without a doubt, my contribution to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners will be sweet potato casserole. My family calls it “camote.” I can’t recall a time when this casserole wasn’t part of our family’s holiday tradition, and I’m not sure why I was tagged as sweet potato casserole queen. But, never have I seen an actual recipe. So when my sister-in-law asked me to share it with her, I had to go through the motions in my head and write down each step. I’m sharing this with you along with a few “tips” from my experience. 


  • 6-7 small, round, red sweet potatoes – Several years ago, on the night before Thanksgiving, I braved the crowds and lines of last-minute shoppers at my neighborhood grocery store. My shopping basket was piled high with wine bottles, vegie trays, cheese platters, and other starters to the holiday season. On my way to the check-out counter, I passed through the vegetable section and was greeted by a lovely, petite, older African American lady who commented, “I can’t believe there are still some sweet potatoes left! Usually when I wait until the last minute, they’re picked over or sold out.” It wasn’t until then I realized I hadn’t picked up the ingredients for my casserole, so I grabbed a baggie and began looking through the pile of potatoes. “Always choose small, round, red Garnet potatoes. These will cook up nice and tender with no strings,” she said. I never understood the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, but I now know exactly what to use in my recipe. Now, every year when I shop for sweet potatoes, I think about that kind lady who made a difference for me and my casserole.
  • Butter – Real butter (versus margarine) works best, softened – 1 cube or 1/4 lb.
  • Carnation Evaporated Milk – Small can, shake well, open with a church key can opener (seriously, this is what it’s called).
  • Light brown sugar – Soft (if you happen to forget to buy this, regular sugar is okay).
  • Cinnamon, Allspice, Nutmeg, Pecans (diced tiny) – I don’t have measurements for these items. My practice is to sprinkle and taste, using a clean spoon each time, of course.
  • Medium-sized marshmallows –These are a hot commodity at holiday time so shop early. 


Peel potatoes – Never put peelings into the garbage disposal! I promise, you’ll regret it. 

Cut potatoes into pieces about the size of a ping pong ball – Be careful not to cut yourself.

Boil potatoes for about 30 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork.

Drain potatoes in a colander and return to pan.

Add butter and just enough of the canned milk to achieve smooth consistency when mashed.

Add brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg (to taste); mash by hand until smooth.

Fold in pecan pieces.

Spread mixture into a large casserole dish – 9×11 inch clear dish works well.

Place marshmallows evenly in rows on top of potatoes –Don’t burn the marshmallows! My family has been known to set them on fire!

Bake in 450-degree oven until marshmallows are golden brown. 

Serve and enjoy with lots of love and gratitude!

I’m a Chameleon

Photo by George Lebada on

I scored a nine (out of nine) on the Enneagram test, a personality type indicator. I’m a peacemaker. A chameleon. A lizard with a highly developed ability to change color according to mood or situation. Black when stressed, green or bright blue when happy, and dark red with black stripes if angry. When I’m stressed, I’m so dark you may not notice me. In fact, I might be invisible. When I’m truly happy, I’m usually alone, or with pets and toddlers, and only they can see my shining blue and bright green colors. When I’m angry crimson red, you won’t notice that either because I’m especially good at hiding it.                   

Like a chameleon, I’m anti-social although my friends and family wouldn’t agree. I can blend into any social environment, either as life of the party or quiet and reserved. This was true throughout my career working with doctors and hospital administrators. By day I was a credentialing guru in the corporate board room wearing heels, a suit, and a somber expression. By night, a fun-loving, gregarious dancing machine at medical staff retreats. Blending in becomes a useful skill when it’s necessary to be socially acceptable and included. Chameleon-like people often show their colors in the work environment where they feel it’s important to impress others to achieve success. 

In my most recent work environment, I was black and red with stripes on the inside, bright blue and green on the outside. As a leader, I could empathize with staff and customers, exhibiting admirable qualities by being inclusive, listening to feedback, and keeping my word. But I wasn’t myself. The chameleon-like person is mostly true to herself at home, where there’s no need to be all things to all people all the time. There you’ll find me in my favorite chair, alone, silently reading or writing. And although the social chameleon can get along with most anyone, she doesn’t fare well with polar opposites, and she struggles when it comes to romance. So, you see, I’m clearly a chameleon. 

Generally, chameleons don’t like to be handled with the exception of gentle stroking underneath the chin. That would be just fine with me. A chameleon will let you know if she doesn’t like attention by walking away, gaping her mouth, or turning color. I’ve been known to do all of these things.

My Enneagram report was on the mark in describing my personality. In general, I’m patient, steady, easygoing, receptive, relaxed, agreeable, contented, and comforting. I can get into trouble by being emotionally unavailable, unaware of my own anger, and passive-aggressive, as needed. At my best, I’m self-aware, proactive, contemplative, natural, and passionate. I imagine and desire a world filled with peace and harmony. My theme song could be the jingle from the Coca-Cola commercial (by Bill Backer):

I’d like to build the world a home, and furnish it with love

Grow apple trees and honeybees, and snow-white turtle doves.

I’d like to teach the world to sing, In perfect harmony

I’d like to hold it in my arms and keep it company.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

Oh, wait, that last part was from John Lennon. But just Imagine

I’m the eternal optimist, hoping for the best and working hard to make the best happen. As a nine, I hold on to my independence and autonomy. And like the chameleon, I don’t want to be “messed with.” I focus on keeping my life pleasant and uncomplicated, avoiding conflict at all costs, and keeping my opinions to myself. 

That is, unless I’m writing or bitching and complaining about people and things in the privacy of my own home. I can be assertive when it comes to protecting my family and pets, but I conceal my anger. And after holding it in for too long, I explode in various shades of red, but you won’t see it. I’ll be invisible to you. 

The most constructive outlet for my suppressed anger is to put my energy into writing. That way I won’t piss anyone off and I can keep the peace. I express myself enthusiastically through music and dancing alone in my kitchen. I’ve heard chameleons perk up with good music. Once the rage is out of my system, the storm blows over and I’m back to bright blue and emerald green.

Latest Book Review: I Need To Tell You, by Cathryn Vogeley

Cathryn Vogeley’s memoir, I Need To Tell You, was my first experience learning of the horrific events in which unwed mothers, in the 60’s, suffered from circumstances of giving birth and giving up their babies. These women were not given a choice. 

To read my review about this mother’s relentless love for her child, visit the Book Review tab from the menu.

A Perfect Day

Photo by Diego Madrigal on

Laundry is put away. Bed made. Floors mopped and house straightened. 

I prepare dinner to an audiobook, Mad Enchantment, on the life of Claude Monet, by Ross King. Monet, my favorite French impressionist, rests in the company of Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Gaugin. Framed prints of the artists’ paintings adorn the walls of my home. 

Apple Goat Cheese Flatbread, with candied walnuts, accompanies a glass of Scott Kelley 2016 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon.

Flavors meld on my tongue as I color a lotus flower. Sweet water lily with history and meaning deep enough to fill an ocean. It blooms on the surface of water, its roots cradled by silt. A symbol of light and emergence from darkness. How serendipitous to color the water lily while traversing Monet’s garden. 

From every space within my home, nature reveals itself through open windows and doors. Grass, trees, flowers, sky, and birds fill my world, inside and out. Patio chimes wrestle with a warm breeze like angels in the wind. 

I retreat to my reading chair, where The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, awaits my acclaim, having lingered in my library for years. The okapi, a fascinating mammal of the giraffe family, wears zebra-like stripes and inhabits the rainforests of Central Africa.  

Alongside that book is Becoming Grandma by Lesley Stahl, a gift from my cousin when I earned the most gratifying role of my life. Stahl talks about the joys and science of new grandparenting. I’ll write my own book on the subject one day.

My eyes tire from the abundance of beauty in one simple day. Rising from my chair, I glimpse framed images of seventy-six inspiring writers. My perfect day has ended, but words and syllables will dance in my head through the night. 

Delayed Influence, a letter to Grannie:

Today, September 10, is my Grannie’s birthday. She was born in 1895. She’s the one person who influenced me the most. I’m sharing with you this letter to her...

My life is whole, as yours was, Grannie, though gaps show sorrow peeking through, a reminder of grief in an otherwise perfect world. 

My love of books, quotes, and music, even the classical kind, comes from you. If only revealed earlier, I might not have squandered my youth on the corporate ladder, failing to reach the top rung. Trying to be someone I wasn’t and wanting to do it all, while raising my family alone. Emulating others’ looks, behaviors and aspirations isn’t what I learned from you. From you, I learned honesty, integrity, and caring for family. But your greatest gift was love of language. Like you, I write words and ideas on scraps of paper, old envelopes, book covers, or napkins. 

You show up in most of my childhood memories. “Grannie, will you help me with my homework?” I often asked, and you never turned me down. “Go get the encyclopedia,” you’d say. “We can find everything there.” You’d share stories of the Mexican Revolution and your family’s run-ins with Pancho Villa, one of its most prominent figures, to make the story come alive. “The peons admired him for his generosity, but he was feared for his uncontrollable temper and incredible cruelty. To economize on bullets, he lined up three or four men, one behind the other, and killed them all with only one shot. He stole horses, cattle, and robbed banks. He was thirsty for money and for blood.” I listened intently to this and other tales, like when your family hid a little neighbor girl who had come to borrow sugar just as Pancho Villa‘s men were setting her home on fire. 

I loved hearing about you and your sister Carlota being educated in Guadalajara, at El Liseo de Ninas, a school operated by Catholic sisters. You played a piano duet at an elaborate celebration in which Porfirio Diaz, President of Mexico, hosted U.S. President Howard Taft. The occasion welcomed dignitaries with ornate décor and fine food. The presidents shook your hand after the performance. Your life was rich with such stories, yet you remained always humble. How I wish you were here now to tell me those stories over and over again. 

In a photo I cherish, I’m around three years old, sitting at your big dining table, holding a spoon to my mouth hand over top as a child does, my curious brown eyes looking straight toward the camera. You’re gazing at me from behind, standing in your pleasantly plump frame with smiling eyes, wearing a strand of black beads that rests just above the collar of your dress with a floral print. An apron circles around you and ties in back.

The table is carefully set, each place-setting perfectly arranged in the way I’ve always known. In the center of the table, facing me, sits a baby doll with short black hair and big dark eyes. The doll looks new, suggesting it might be Christmas Day. The doll’s profile is soft as she studies the little girl (me), and its white lace dress reveals the slightest bit of baby doll thigh and panties. 

The essence of this photo is powerful. If only I’d stopped to ponder and appreciate the details woven in, yet unnoticed for years. I’d seen only you and me in that photo, Grannie. Now I see a story. A rich, vibrant, lovely story in a black and white photo. And a promise of my future.

Every New Year’s Eve, at midnight, you’d give me a small fancy glass, partly filled with Mogen David Concord wine, and we’d “toast” to the new year. What I wouldn’t give to enjoy a glass of wine with you now, Grannie, while talking about music, poetry, and worldly things. 

You endured but never dwelled upon life’s tragedies—loss of your husband at the age of 48, leaving you with five children to raise—a son in college, three girls in high school, and a baby. You later lost a daughter to breast cancer and then succumbed to the same dreaded disease in later years. But you never let on that you were afraid, sad, or in pain. Your voice was cheerful, every word emanating from your heart, teaching me through your actions to be brave and kind. In one quote, you imparted “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” And you taught me to always make the best of things, reciting, “It takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow.” 

People often said you could write a book. You wouldn’t have written a memoir of misfortunes, although there were plenty. No. You would have written a lovely book of inspiring quotes or an anthology of short stories about history, family, and the hope of prosperity.  The very stories I aspire to write.