Monster Road

It was an old dirt road, not much wider than any one car passing over it. After school, my friends and I would pile into Dinky’s mom’s shiny green Chrysler and head to Monster Road. From the back seat, I could only see the sky ahead, a rugged mountain nearly scraping the passenger window on the right, and sky to the left. Just a few inches of space allowed clearance between the car and the edge of the road that dropped off to a highway far below. 

We had no legitimate reason to take Monster Road other than the thrill and adventure of doing something our parents would absolutely forbid. We laughed hysterically throughout the ride, especially when we reached a dead end, and Dinky had to back up all the way along that narrow, winding road, to where it started. 

Monster Road is only one unique memory of living in Morenci, a small mining community. Families leaving the company and relocating tend to stay connected, sharing endless stories about a special place that was thriving back in the day. 

San Francisco River Party

As teenagers, we created our own fun with picnics at the cemetery or driving “up the trail” along a zigzagging road called the “666.” A typical Friday night on the town was attending a high school football or basketball game, then cruising the bowling alley to meet up with friends under “the shed” to learn where the party was. Our options included “Cow Palace,” a section of horse corrals on the side of a road leading down to the river, or the “Backstop,” an old structure that once stood upon a baseball field that later became a cemetery. But the best place to party was the San Francisco River. I never understood why it was called that, since it ran through a small town in Arizona and nowhere near San Francisco, California. 

Parties at the river meant enormous bon fires, 70’s music, kegs of beer, and climbing up the side of a crag to swing across a canyon over the river below. We’d lift each other up, one at a time, to grab hold of a wrought iron, triangular contraption attached to a cable suspended from what, I don’t know. We trusted the process. A friend hoisted us up by our legs until we could grip the metal bar, and then with a slight push, we’d swing high above the river to a mountain on the other side, then push off with our feet to swing back across the river hoping to be caught by the next person in line. 

After high school, life there for me was like reaching the mountain but not pushing off, and dangling…lingering over the river with nowhere to go. I wanted to live in the city, rushing through crowded streets among skyscrapers, living the fast life, wearing business suits and spiked heels, carrying a shiny briefcase, and earning everyone’s approval. But that life didn’t give me the freedom and peace I craved. In the end, I found peace inside myself, right here at home, near a mountain, or on an old dirt trail, just like the one we called Monster Road. 

Growing up in Morenci provided an opportunity for life-long friendships, principled values, and a rich bank of memories. So many memories…and stories we’ll never forget. 

Messages From Heaven

I uncovered this collection of notes during my lowest point of the pandemic, after leaving my career, not seeing family for months, and feeling sorry for myself. One quiet afternoon, I unearthed several boxes of old pictures and greeting cards. Among those treasures was a manila envelope holding letters and quotes my Grannie had written before she left this world on May 8, 1978. She reassured me before she passed not to worry about her, and she continues guiding me through unfortunate circumstances to make the best of things: 

  • “If God be with us, who can be against us?”
  • “Patience and fortitude conquer all things.”
  • “Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
  • “It takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow.”
  • “When you’re at the end of your rope, make a knot and hang on!”

On the backside of one of the many pieces of paper, written sideways, is one word, “Leslie.” Were these pages meant for me to find on a day I needed them the most?

Letters from Grannie were lovingly handwritten in her distinctive cursive, using the edge of an envelope to keep her words lined up evenly on the paper. Sometimes she would forget to go back and complete the hanging loops on a “g” or “y.” I can almost hear her sweet Hispanic accent in a letter from San Diego dated July 9, 1973, when I was twelve. “On the fourth of July, we eat a nice dinner out at the patio and after supper the man of Bobbie and some friends lighted a beautiful fire work, just like the real McCoy.” She didn’t mention she was staying with my Uncle Bob’s family while undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer. And she didn’t say she was afraid, sad, or in pain although she must have been. 

It was hard being apart from Grannie that summer and wondering when, or if, she would come home. But her cheerful voice comforted me, every word emanating from the heart. In one quote, she imparts, “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” Growing up, my greatest fear was that one day I’d lose my Grannie. But this letter from her gave me peace:

“My dearest little Leslie. I was so happy to get your letters. I know you miss me as much as I miss you, but it won’t be long now, just three more weeks. Then I’ll never leave again I promise. I’ll be so glad when I’ll be able to see you dance, play cards, laugh of silly things. Gee, I sure miss my Leslie girl.”

 I didn’t realize then that Grannie’s inspiration and influence would follow me through life, giving me strength and solace, especially when I’m alone. These quotes are written on lined steno-paper that has started to yellow, “Any person with an active mind learn to live alone and like it. I learn to like it.” And, “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” My favorite, “I hope dear Lord, that you will forgive my anger and impatience with other people. Please help to restore my feelings of compassion and understanding. Amen.” I pray this every day when I hear negativity filling the air and try shutting it out. 

On an envelope buried under scraps of paper with quotes, jokes, and prayers are words from a pen running low on ink, “Things to put on your book.” Everyone said Grannie could write a book. Despite adversity in her life, she wouldn’t have written about her misfortunes. She would have written a lovely book of inspiring quotes or an anthology of short stories about history, family, and the hope of prosperity. 

The night before Grannie died, our private conversation is stamped into my memory. “I don’t want you to suffer,” she said, knowing my life would be forever changed. She was eighty-two, with the mind and valor of a young woman. So beautiful still. 

I saw her for the last time in a light pink nightgown and matching house coat, finally at peace, as if she had fallen asleep. I didn’t touch her because I wanted to remember how warm and comforting it was to sit beside her and lay my head on the softest shoulder I’d ever known. 

Grannie’s death came the summer before my senior year of high school. She’d been living in our home, still helping me with homework (she swore by the Britannica encyclopedia) and making my favorite meals—fideo, arroz con pollo, and carne con chili. We were as close as it gets, and I didn’t know how to live without her. 

Within a week’s time of her passing, a dream came to me. It was as vivid and clear as a scene on a motion picture screen. She and I trudged together through a large sea of water, an ocean of pastels, tumultuous waves whipping past us, washing over us, as we held tight to each other. The shore waited patiently far in the distance. Grannie’s message to me in those moments, “Thank you for staying by my side when I struggled with illness and fought my own death, even though you too were afraid.”

The scene came to life again as we reached the shore, our feet held steady by warm sand, soft and consoling. I smiled, thankful to have overcome our distress. Yet before any time passed, Grannie let go and walked on her own, without struggling. She moved with confidence, never looking back. I watched and waited, not taking my eyes off her, as she drifted away from me, across the sand, until I couldn’t see her anymore. She was saying, “Thank you for letting go when it was my time to walk away.”

I looked down at my feet, not knowing where to take them, or how to move forward. When I raised my head and looked into the distance, there she was. This time, Grannie faced me, her right arm linked with the man who stood beside her. This man, I’d seen in her wedding photos, but never knew. He died at the age of forty-two, when my mother was just a teenager, and Grannie never remarried. They stood, as they might have on their wedding day, dressed in white gowns with gold sashes, wearing bright, untroubled smiles. Beaming with peace and oneness. Their unspoken message was powerfully clear, “Thank you for looking up with wide eyes, and for opening your heart and mind. We are here together, and we’re safe. There’s no need for you to suffer.” Though not a word was spoken, I understood.

The dream ended there but remains as vivid now as it was that night. From the moment I awoke, I never suffered for my grannie. I miss her, sure. But I remember her with a content smile and a heart filled with gratitude. 

Now, a grandmother myself, I’ve become the lady who craves words, reading and writing passionately as Grannie did. And loving my own grandchildren, the way she loved me. Through her messages, I know our connection is everlasting and unbreakable. 

Once a message is received, a dream may end. But its meaning lives on forever.

(Published by Phoenix Oasis Press, May 2023.)

A Relationship with the Senses

Photo by Vie Studio on

Tonight, my mind is void of words. Like static from a 1960’s television set reverberating a faint hum from one ear to the other. The house is quiet but for the air conditioner and an occasional delivery truck sweeping through the alley. I move my head side to side, up and down to relax my neck muscles. Crack, scrape, crack. My throat is dry, and an ice pick pierces my left ear deep, chipping away at my brain as it crumbles.

This isn’t always the case. Usually when I sit down to write, my body feels as if it is guest of honor at the party and I’m the only guest, not having to converse with anyone but myself. The feast is all mine. My best writing materializes when my heart is on the table. Laid out fresh and vulnerable. Like the day I learned a child had drowned in my neighborhood. Pink balloons floating upward into the heavens sent a chill through my core. Writing would soothe my heartache for this child I never knew.

Anger and hurt move me to write, my heart pulsating, crying out to escape its cavity. Occasions worthy of my anger, like the shifty way my employer sought to impale me right through the gut, compel me to write like hell, words spewing across the paper like a bitch. Beyond words, it’s my therapy. 

Rarely does love motivate me to write unless I’m overcome with adoration for my kids or my dog, or people who have left this world. I don’t write about romantic love because it doesn’t exist. Not for this writer. Although, certain songs or smells remind me of past lovers. The Grateful Dead propels me into a scene with my ex every time, but it’s too much trouble to write about him. And an old boyfriend from high school, who I was madly in love with, calls on all my senses to respond, mostly the scent of woods, extra spicy, hot and peppery. I don’t write about him either because the memory inflicts a fresh wound burning from the inside out.  

My senses stir memories of childhood. Like creaking of a screen door or the smell of dirt and sun in a child’s hair. Back in my old yellow bedroom, I’m roused from sleep on a Saturday morning by the swooshing of the washing machine or the lawn mower whirring through crackling, dry grass. I roll out of bed, sinking my feet into yellow shag carpet lit by shadows through faded yellow curtains. 

Once I wrote about a sound that emanates from an object of taste, barely audible, but enticing to one little shih tzu. I called it “The Sound of Cheese:” 

“Lazy girl coiled up on a pillow, all white fur and fluff. Peeking out through round, dark eyes, she awakens from a dream by the sound of cheese. She knows it’s cheese because it always sounds the same. The refrigerator door squeaks open, and the next sound against the quiet is the rustling of a small plastic baggie at once opened to reveal the cheese—any cheese—cheddar, provolone, Monterey jack. She knows once she stands to stretch, and listens closely for the cheese, her cuteness will be rewarded with the tiniest sliver, a sample to savor.”

Smells are often a catalyst for my writing, taking me back to places where I long to return. Citrus and olive trees waft through campus air as I scurry to class at the university. Stories flow freely from that time in my life, having no legitimate worries or responsibilities other than planning for the weekend. 

When feeling nostalgic, my writing takes off with the smell of old book pages, my mother’s wedding gown folded gently inside her cedar chest, the baby blue nightgown my son toddled around in, climbing into kitchen cabinets, lighting up my world.

I’m inspired by warm sun settling onto my skin in Spring, or orange-frosted cinnamon rolls just out of the oven in Fall, hot to the touch at first, then cooling slightly to savor the tangy citrus on swirling, puffy dough. On a good writing day, the slightest breeze tickles the hair on my arms like a butterfly teasing me, pretending to land there, hovering just above my skin.

One summer, I wrote from a balcony overlooking the ocean feeling alone but content:

“The ocean expands widely to other lands, waves rushing to meet the shore and sand. I hear the sounds of life…a steady hum of the surf rake, a jet flying high above the clouds, an occasional squawk from a seagull, and later, people…shuffling, skating or biking along the boardwalk, faintly chattering, a baby crying, music playing just for a brief moment. I smell fresh, salty air. I feel its moisture, a slight breeze cooling my skin, and I’m relaxed in the moment.”

Writing fills my senses, and my senses inspire writing, in a relationship that will never betray. 


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

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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.