For Christmas, my husband got me a Lego set.  Yes, I’m a kid at heart, but that’s not why.  This set makes, like, the grooviest model 1960’s Volkswagen Bus ever.  We’ve owned three of them, a 1973 Bus, 1984 Vanagon, and a 1966 Splittie with a rare Freedom America snow cap. I’ve been known to collect VW Bus memorabilia like t-shirts, magnets, die cast models, bird houses, Christmas lights, etc, and I could hardly believe my luck when this beauty popped up on Amazon.com, just in time for Santa to deliver it.  One tiny caveat: Legos require assembly.

I grew up making things, with blocks, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, erector sets.  There were no Legos yet, but building is building, right?  The box said “Expert, for ages 16 and up.” I wasn’t intimidated until I opened it.  This particular set contains 1,334 pieces in twelve different colors and 235 different shapes.  Many of them are smaller than my pinky finger-nail.  There were two instruction manuals.  I figured one was English, the other, Spanish.  Nope.  You need both.  There were no words, just diagrams of its 115 complex steps.  I shoved it all back in the box and it took me a month to work up the nerve to open it again.  You build a Lego Bus the way you eat an elephant… one bite at a time.  Now that it’s done, I feel like it should be displayed in a glass trophy case, right next to my Olympic gold medal for Endurance Lego Construction.


Legos, Legos, a thousand plus
in the kit for the Volkswagen Bus
What mere mortal hand and eye
would dare attempt its assembly?

I dump the contents of the box:
thirteen bags of plastic blocks,
instruction books marked “1” and “2”
with diagrams out the wazoo

This potpourri, I organize
first by color, then shape and size
Special parts in their own piles:
headlights, hinges, bumpers, tires

I build each module, step by step,
awed at how the parts connect
Frame and axles, checkered floor,
engine, cockpit, windows, doors

Splittie windshield, louvered vents,
a roof equipped with a pop-up tent
Ensconced inside, a small homestead
cupboards, table, fold-down bed

When the final page I reach
and snap in place the crowning piece,
Do I smile, my work to see?
Take photos for posterity?

(You betcha!)

Legos, Legos, a thousand plus
behold, transformed into a Bus
and due to the level of difficulty,
they’ll remain a Bus eternally

  front view

 with splittie windows open

 in the driver’s seat

 rear view

 back hatch open

 engine compartment

 side view

with side doors open

 pop-up tent

 living area

 Z-bed down

 my favorite piece

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It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the football event known for its multi-million dollar commercials.  In my mind, commercials are best avoided; they are designed to make us want things, to plant seeds of discontent.  If you’re like me, your closets and cupboards and garage shelves are overflowing with items you used once or twice, then wondered what possessed you to buy them.  True liberation lies in freeing yourself from “thneeds.”


The work-n-spend treadmill
can make it quite tough
to decide for oneself
just how much is enough

Some extra square footage,
a big SUV,
a fancier cell phone,
each touted as key

to a blissful existence,
a short-lived reaction
when this or that thing
doesn’t bring satisfaction

Less really is more,
like freedom from worry
Coffee at sunrise
with no need to hurry

Homegrown tomatoes
red-ripe from the vine
The fresh smell of laundry
dried on the clothesline

Meals made from scratch
Time for reading and play
Communing in silence
with nature each day

The treadmill can’t offer
what money can’t buy;
she’ll tease and she’ll tempt
but you needn’t comply

Turn off her commercials
Stop buying her stuff
Instead, count your blessings;
they’re more than enough

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In a prior post involving supernatural phenomena, I mentioned the FahrverGremlin that lived inside my 1989 Volkswagen Fox.  I owned Foxy for ten years, until she was nineteen with 279,000* miles.  That little “driving annoyance” kept me junking, jury rigging, and devising workarounds until the minute the title changed hands.  I presented a potential buyer with a two-page list of Foxy’s quirks and he scoffed, saying I “wasn’t gonna scare him off that easy.”  We settled on fifty bucks, but before I could collect it, he laid a hard luck story on me.  I gave him a 100% discount, but still felt as though I’d ripped him off.

As you might imagine, Foxy’s impish stowaway caused a few crazily comic scenes.  The look on a friend’s face when I hit the brakes at a stoplight and the glove box flew open, spewing its contents all over
her feet.  The glower of the parking valet when I tossed him my keys with a warning that both the AC and reverse gear were out of order. The E-check gal’s wide-eyed alarm when she brushed the horn button with her boob during the emissions test and it blared mercilessly until she pulled it out of the garage and shut off the ignition.  I wonder if Foxy’s still on the road, how much more mischief the FahrverGremlin has stirred up.  Below are some examples from my own experience:

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I’m into writing parodies, of late.  I read a classic poem and into the hopper it goes, where the Muses can do what they do best — muse.  Within a day or two, they toss out an idea.  I don’t know if it will work until I try it, thus my Word files are full of false starts.  Sometimes, the Muses fixate on a particular poem.  That’s what happened with Emily Dickinson’s Hope is the Thing with Feathers.  I have already composed three parodies of it; I’m ready to move on.  But another inspiration hit while I was taking a shower.  SOAP.  “Soap is the Thing that Lathers.”  Now, where is a poet supposed to go with that?  The BAR, of course!

Soap is the thing that lathers
into IVORY suds
whose soft CARESS conceals the ZEST
with which it captures crud

The BASIS of this clever trap
is an age-old recipe;
just simple chemistry

LUXurious or LAVA tough,
it reigns from COAST to COAST
Our SAFEGUARD in this dirty world,
the humble bar of soap

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I adore parodies, and The Parody Project is cranking out some real gems.  Just in time for holiday viewing, 12 Months of Trump’s Mess,
a month-by-month summary of his insane political agenda in 2017.

The Parody Project does non-Christmas parodies, too, like Confounds the Science and Fifty Ways We Can Recover.  Check them out.  There’s a “donate” button on YouTube.  You’re welcome, and Merry Christmas!

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‘Tis the season of charitable giving.  The most cheerful givers tend to
be those who’ve been on the receiving end, often quite recently.  This week, I would like to share a Christmas story that’s near and dear to my heart.  They say you cannot spread joy to others without some spilling back on yourself.  Luckily, joy won’t stain your shirt, like turkey gravy or cherry pie.  So feel free to spread and spill as much as you want:

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a young couple who lived in a drafty rental house in upstate New York with their five cats, three of which were not sanctioned by the landlord and had to be kept hidden. They dreamed of owning a home and taking in all the strays they wanted. When they learned the Air Force was moving them to Dayton, Ohio, they contacted a realtor in Yellow Springs, a liberal village that felt right to them.  There were only a couple homes in their price range.  They trekked across I-90 three times that autumn to check out the possibilities and made an offer on the best one, a small, sturdy brick ranch with a fenced backyard, located on a quiet cul-de-sac.

The bank required a thick stack of paperwork, their finances laid bare on the loan officer’s desk.  They had overextended themselves in the past:  a new car, a motorcycle, a vacation to Europe, vet bills for the cats.  They had gone through credit counseling and reined in their spending, but they were still a long way from paying off their debts.  The loan officer reviewed their forms and shook her head.  But if they were willing to jump through some hoops and obtain a VA guarantee, maybe she could swing it.  The VA packet was thicker and even more daunting, but they persevered and the guarantee was granted.  Even so, their application was iffy.  The loan officer issued strict instructions not to touch their credit cards or deplete their accounts for anything frivolous.  Just rent, utilities, food, and existing loans.  Nothing else.  Every dollar counted and the approval of their mortgage hung in the balance.  This meant there would be no tree, no presents, no trip home, no Christmas.  They sighed heavily; the thought of it was almost too depressing to contemplate.

The next morning, they took stock of their assets.  A trunk of lights and Christmas decorations.  Flour, sugar, and cookie cutters.  Miscellaneous craft supplies.  Paper, envelopes, and a book of postage stamps.  They pooled the cash from their wallets and added the change from the big Mason jar, a grand total of $64.  They obviously couldn’t buy and mail gifts to everyone, so they devised a plan.  They would fulfill one wish from the Angel Tree, spending fifty of their precious dollars on a fancy dollhouse for an underprivileged child.  The wife sent a letter to their closest family and friends explaining their circumstances.  Inside each, she enclosed a handmade angel ornament crafted from white felt and lace and buttons, a reminder that however little one might have, there is always someone who has less.  They baked sugar cookies to munch on.  There wasn’t enough left over for a tree or a holiday dinner with all the trimmings, but it didn’t matter.  All they really wanted was good news about their house.

Two evenings before Christmas, they heard a knock at their front door.  On the porch was their neighbor, Tim, wanting to know if they needed help putting up their lights.  He could lend them a ladder.  Tim peered into the living room, wondering aloud why they had no tree or decora-tions, and the whole sad story came pouring out.  He invited the couple to join his family for Christmas dinner, assuring them there would be plenty of food.  Having nowhere else to go, they gratefully accepted.

The following night, Tim dropped by again, this time dragging a lush evergreen he’d gotten for a song from a tree dealer eager to clear his lot and head home.  They retrieved their decorations from the attic.  Tim steadied the tree while they secured it in the stand.  They finished stringing up the lights and arranging the ornaments just in time for Midnight Mass.  On Christmas day, Tim and his family welcomed them, inviting them to fill their plates and grab a seat by the tree.  Little did they know, there were gifts for them, too.  Overcome, eyes glistening, they opened up packages of slippers, a throw blanket, hot cocoa mix, cashews, popcorn, and candy.  It was one of their most memorable and joyous Christmases ever.  Tim smiled ear to ear, accepting nothing but their gratitude and the promise that when they were able, they would pass it on.  He could not have imagined what he set in motion that day.

Soon after, their mortgage was approved and they moved into their very own home.  By the following Christmas, they had added a pound puppy to their menagerie and saved up enough to make good on their promise.  For twenty-three years now, they’ve been paying it forward, largely under the radar.  They’d like to keep it that way, so I’m not at liberty to say who they are or exactly what they do, but rest assured, they are real people, just like you.

There are still eight days until Christmas… it’s not too late to spill some joy.  Keep your eyes and ears and heart open; you’ll know what to do.

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Friday evening, I took a break from my Christmas prep to attend the Solstice poetry reading sponsored by our local Land Trust, an agency dedicated to preserving our little corner of the planet.  Communing
with fellow tree huggers and listening to verse inspired by the natural world was a sharp contrast to our society’s lack of environmentalism, especially during the holiday season.  I’ve put together a short list of “green” ideas.  If each of us did JUST ONE of these things, we would save millions of trees and eliminate tons of trash.

Forego cutting down a tree.  If Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a tree, invest in a high-quality faux tree.  Better yet, purchase a live pine (with the root ball wrapped in burlap) and plant it after the holidays.

Consider sending e-cards instead of paper ones.  Or postcards, which are less expensive to mail and don’t require an envelope.

Patronize secondhand shops.  They keep stuff out of landfills and offer quality books, DVDs, toys, clothing, furniture, and more at a fraction of the retail price.  You might find one of those lighted ceramic tabletop trees, like the one your grandmother used to have… another potential solution to the tree dilemma!

Instead of purchasing a new item, have an old one repaired.  When the zipper in my favorite purse went off its track, I paid the local shoe and leather shop to replace it for me.  My purse is now as good as new.

Ask Santa to bring you a reusable coffee mug and carry-out kit (a tote bag with two or three washable leftover-sized containers) and make a New Year’s resolution to use them, instead of throw-away coffee cups and restaurant to-go boxes.

Reuse cardboard shipping boxes and packing materials (like air pockets and bubble wrap) for any packages you need to mail.

Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper.  I’ve wrapped our family’s gifts in the same dozen bags for at least five years.  Our dogs and cats prefer gift bags, paws down, to wrapping paper and Scotch tape.

Gift card holders can be re-used, too.  Leave the inside and envelope blank and write the To: and From: and your message on a slip of paper or a post-it note.

Use a trash bag and a ribbon instead of a sack specially designed for oversized or odd-shaped gifts.  You’ll need one for clean-up anyway.

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The hands of the clock seem to move faster after Daylight Savings Time ends.  One minute, you’re raking leaves.  The next, you’re eating turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, watching the game, and deciding what time to set your alarm on Black Friday.  Then you’re flipping the calendar to its final page, wondering where the time went, when autumn’s colorful mane began to turn gray around the temples:

Between pewter skies
and terra cotta landscape,
November evaporates

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