Living in the city makes it difficult to see and feel an incoming thunderstorm. The dark clouds are visible but distance is hard to measure and the horizon is hazy. One of my favorite memories from childhood was sitting on the front porch steps and watching a thunderstorm come in. With my eye on the horizon I watched the storm clouds form. There was rumbling and changing cloud colors. It was striking to see the dark clouds on the horizon and the beautiful rich green of the Iowa countryside in one frame. It was beauty with an edge of danger.

The air was intense and immediate. I was small and just a spectator. There was nothing I needed to do but sit and watch. Anticipation was part of the fascination but I was patient. I wasn’t waiting for Santa Claus. It seemed there was so much to be seen in slow motion. Just before the rain began to fall, there was a change in the air like a sharp intake of breath. Would it be a bad storm? Bad was the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. All I needed to do was run inside the house and I would be safe. I knew what corner of the basement to run to in case of tornado! I had a plan, but usually I was on the porch when the rain and wind came. If Mom didn’t insist I come in I stayed on the porch until I was getting wet from the rain blowing onto the porch.

Grown up concerns about damage to crops and property were not on my radar. I never worried that hail might damage the crops or fields would be flooded. Just a few years ago I was looking out my patio door and watching the hail pummel my 2 tomato plants. I was fascinated by the hail but worried that my plants would be destroyed. Awe and worry in the same moment. I remember digging the hail stones out of the bed and freezing my fingers. 90 degrees and ice is falling from the sky. The plants survived and even thrived to produce a bumper crop of tomatoes. The farmers in the area were not as fortunate and crops looked like they had been shredded and never came back.

When I go to my AlAnon meetings I am reminded I am powerless over alcohol, people, places and things and I remember the thunderstorms in Iowa. I was powerless over the storms and I accepted that powerlessness easily. I am a grown up and acceptance does not come easily these days. I see and feel my body getting battered by age and I often want to fight the changes the years bring. What about watching and feeling the changes with curiosity and awe like I watched the storms come in? After the storm and the rain, the air was so clean and full of hope.

Coffee Grounds



Annie Lamont is my hero. She is fearless, funny and vulnerable. It’s more than she is a good writer, or writes well, she is…. the teacher, the healer, a mother and a best friend. If I could write and live half as well as she does I would be successful beyond my wildest dreams.

For now I will be humble and learn from the words I write. I will ask good questions, participate in the discussion, and remember that I am the student not the teacher. I write to define myself. I really do pull words out of thin air and put them on the page, hoping I can put them in the right order. Initially I may write nonsense, but I keep going and wrestle with the sentences. Sometimes it looks like All-Star wrestling —lots of hype but no substance. When I least expect it my words begin to dance, pirouetting across the page…got a little carried away …clogging or crawling, not pirouetting. Whatever the style of dance, my words got rythym..

What’s the word I am looking for? What do they call that? Words are labels, they name people, places and things i.e. table and chair,Tom, Dick and Harry, Paris and Iowa. We identify these words as nouns. Then of course we have verbs, the “doing” or action words: walking, thinking, laughing, yelling, etc. Adjectives describe nouns: table and chair; Tom,Dick and Harry are gay; beautiful Paris, green Iowa, etc…. Those of you who loved to diagram sentences know that we still need adverbs to express “how” : running quickly, walking slowly, swearing loudly, etc…. So isn’t it a miracle that words can create sentences, sentences become paragraphs, paragraphs fill a page and pages can be put together to make a book? I appreciate this miracle even though I have never gotten past the paragraphs on the page level.

We communicate with words, but the problem is that words can have emotional meaning too. Words are very powerful. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” is an alternative fact: definition, a lie. Labels are very dangerous when negative adjectives are associated; cheap Jews, stupid blacks, sinful gays etc…. Personal relationships are full of land mines that can be detonated with angry, judgmental words. Loving and kind words can disarm some of the land mines, and build connections.

Mean what you say, and say what you mean. Ronald Dahl said, “Don’t gobblegunk around with words.” Good advice.








Princess With A Pea

Admit it! You too were sick of the princess’ complaining about not being able to sleep because of a teensy pea under the 9th mattress on her bed. I wanted to tell her to just get over it! Or take a sleeping pill! I surprised myself today by using the Princess and the Pea tale to describe my state of mind. There’s a pea in my psyche and it is most irritating to me —I can’t get over it and Zanax and/or a sleeping pill are not options for me. I know I am not a princess but I sure am sensitive and just plain bothered lately.

Dis-ease. Irritated. Narked.(British) Vexed. All of the above. It’s no dark night of the soul, more like a tiny rock in your shoe that needs to come out. I can limp along for awhile but its such a relief to get the rock out of there. Maybe the irritant is my job. I have such varied duties from day to day it is hard to feel any mastery, but I like the variety and maybe there is nothing to ‘master” except my need to feel in control. Speaking of control, or lack of control, of course I am not working out as long and hard as I should and I can’t seem to lose those last 10 pounds( more like 20!) either. I am disappointed in myself for my lack of discipline and resolve. I can’t even return calls or stay on top of emails. There’s more but I’m too tired to think about it.

No wonder my psyche is narked ! I have a boulder of failed expectations under my mattress that is already lumpy with 2 dogs snoring away. There’s a lot of little negatives, regrets, disappointments and self -recriminations unsettling and stealing my peace of mind. What it all boils down to is I need to be perfect and meet all expectations of others and myself while maintaining perfect control. No problem! There’s that nagging feeling of nagging myself! No one likes to be nagged and picking on myself makes minor issues into major issues. What would happen if I let go of all my expectations and accepted myself just as I am? I could maybe take some deep breaths, relax and fall asleep on a bed of nails.