Archive for October, 2013

When the news first broke that we’d been spying on some of our closest allies, Grandpa Hudson immediately nailed our collective indignation with this remark, “Skullduggery!” Don’t you just love obtuse and ancient words? I knew immediately I’d have to dig into this Halloween-themed noun which according to the Slang Dictionary comes from an earlier Scottish term, “skullduddery” and means: “deceitful doings; dirty work. :  Without skullduggery, politics wouldn’t be interesting.”

So if the NSA was involved in “tricky behavior” of the “hanky-panky” variety, and we now learn that well, really, everybody’s doing it, spying on each other that is, we can all rest assured that the Bourne  or for that matter, Bond movie machine will live on in perpetuity. I’m just not so sure I can recover from my binge watching yesterday morning of CNN and the public spectacle aka witch’s hunt we now call a “congressional hearing.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held up rather well under her grueling three+ hours of testimony. Here are some of the low-lights I gleaned from yesterday’s “monkey business.”

A Texas Representative, R- Joe Barton, likened the roll out of the Affordable Care Act to a scene in another classic movie, The Wizard of Oz. Maybe he thought of this because Sebelius had served as the Governor of Kansas or maybe he just likes “hanky-panky.”

“Dorothy at some point in the movie turns to her little dog Toto and says, ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ Well, Madam Secretary, while you’re from Kansas, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Some might say that we are actually in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ land given the parallel universes we appear to be habitating.”

Another GOP gambit was trying to get Madame Secretary to tell us which health policies covered abortion. A hot mic caught another congresswoman say in a plaintive voice, “Oh, here we go again.” While a NC woman of the right got into a bit of “kerfluffle” over whether single young men should have to buy insurance with maternity coverage saying, “To the best of your knowledge, has a man ever delivered a baby?”

There was more posturing, and posters of college boys doing a keg stand, I’m not sure why; oh yes this “chicanery” lasted well into the lunch hour. Which got me thinking about Niccolo Machiavelli.

“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”

Happy Halloween from one parallel universe to another. I’ll close with a bit of “funny business” from my little trick or treater who adores going to puppet shows in her pachyderm costume! ps the nose is on the hood in back but don’t you just love the Pebbles pony?


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A twelve year old boy was killed on Saturday in our neighboring county. He liked playing roller hockey, video games and being outside in the woods in the fort he and his friends had built, His father was working, and his son was supposed to have been with a relative. Instead he was in the fort with a friend and a gun. http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/year-old-boy-dies-in-apparent-accidental-shooting-in-madison/article_f1e95c7c-3f63-11e3-aaf6-0019bb30f31a.html

The American Academy of Pediatrics writes in its policy statement on guns, “The safest home for a child or adolescent is one without firearms.”  I think this bears repeating:

“The safest home for a child or adolescent is one without firearms.” 

In a country where at least six states have put forward legislation that would actually prevent a doctor from asking his/her patient, or the patient’s parents, if there are guns in the home, this is the kind of local news that flies under our national media radar.

We childproof our homes when a baby is born. We buy gates, and locks for drawers and electrical outlet covers. We strap them into padded car seats. And yet, what the gun lobby does not want us to know, is that nearly 800 children under 14 were killed in gun “accidents” from 1999 to 2010 – and any research on recent gun violence, thanks to lobbying efforts by the NRA, is almost impossible to find.

We hear about mass shootings in schools, and we mourn as a nation. But what we don’t always hear about are the incremental, single, child by inquisitive child deaths that are happening every day in this country. Millions of children live in homes with guns, yet half of their parents or guardians do not keep them locked and unloaded.

According to the CDC, the rate of firearm deaths among children under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. American children are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die in a firearm accident than children in these other countries.

Of, course these statistics include suicides, homicides, and “accidental” deaths. But it turns out that children living in the South, in rural areas have a much higher incidence of unintentional gun injuries. And surprise surprise, boys are more likely to be the victim. Proponents of guns would like us to believe that gun safety is the panacea, that if they teach their children to respect guns, nothing will happen.

Bob said the latest study on gun violence shows “..that if there is a gun in the home, the chances of that gun killing or injuring a member of the household is 25 times the likelihood that it will protect a household member.”   

My heart goes out to that family in Madison County. And to the young boy who accidentally shot his friend, and his family, I cannot imagine their pain. Grief counselors have been on duty at their middle school.  Children will be children, and they are not bulletproof.

Wetsel school pic




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Every single place you go there is an opportunity to learn something new. Last night, we were picking up some comfort Mexican food at our newest neighborhood restaurant, when we overheard this guy waiting for his to-go order say that the deer would be starving this winter. He wasn’t exactly a mountain man, but he did look like he knew a thing or two about hunting. So I interrupted his conversation about how many deer had been spotted and/or hit by a car on his way over here, a common subject in this neck of the woods, to ask him why the deer would starve this winter. I was expecting to hear about another snowmageddon.

Instead, he told us that their main food source, acorns, had been decimated by those tasty little critters Ms Bean loved to crunch. IMG_0595In this year of the cicada – where numbers reached one million per acre and sometimes more – not only did the insects hatch their eggs in the branches of oak trees, they managed to feed on and kill off those portions of the tree. I had noticed splotches of dead, brown leaves at the ends of many of our oaks, and I knew the cicadas were responsible. Even though this was the 17 year plague of the cacophonous insect, I was told our trees would survive the onslaught. I didn’t think about the loss of acorns.

Don’t look away Ms Bean, you know you loved them!

 An acorn on an oak tree grew,
The wind around him gently blew,
It whispered to him quite softly
‘Some day from your mother
You will be free
To grow and be a mighty tree’
‘Who’? ‘Me’? A mighty oak’?
The little acorn thought this a joke.

Acorns have been the subject of poetry, like the above poem by Joseph Enright, and have been used in heraldry designs for centuries. In fact, I believe they gave bonny Prince George’s mum, Kate, a crest with an acorn when she married into the Royal Family. Here it is on the right, joined with Prince Wills. There are three acorn sprigs that represent the three children in the Middleton family. And the leaves represent Berkshire, where she grew up.  I like the unicorn!article-2434825-1850314F00000578-643_634x505

Yesterday morning I looked out my kitchen window to see a mama deer with two young fawns nursing underneath her. She stood straight and tall and we just stared at each other. We’ve posted our property so that hunters are forbidden, still I don’t want these beautiful animals to starve. This weekend I’ll be going to a farm supply store, to see what deer would like to eat. They’ve finished off my roses, and the new growth of a few tender shrubs. One even managed to find and trample the fence around a new fig tree, but he only ate half of it. Considerate don’t you think?

Kensington Palace released this photo of the new conjugal coat of arms for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2434825/Kate-Middleton-Prince-Williams-new-Conjungal-Coat-Arms-revealed.html#ixzz2iqKSH400
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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Who can resist a Snickers shaped like a pumpkin masquerading as a Reese’s peanut butter cup?

It’s funny really, I’ve never had a sweet tooth. Never stored bars of candy in a drawer in the kitchen. Maybe that’s why Halloween was so sacred to my kids, and they milked it for as many years as they could. They knew which houses had the full-size candy bars and which gave out bags of raisins. 

The first time I said “No” to my baby Bride was in a check-out line at the grocery store. I was trying to be all “natural mom” back in the 80s. with real diapers and pureeing my own baby food in a Mouli grater. We even joined a food co-op from Vermont! I didn’t think I’d ever have to say the word “No” about anything, after all couldn’t distraction and/or avoidance solve most discipline problems? Turns out, there’s no avoiding that stack of candy within arm’s reach of a toddler determined to get her hands on some gummy bears.

Now put a bag of chips in front of me, and it’s a different story. I’m just a pushover for salt.

Which is fine, since it turns out that Americans ingest about 138 pounds of sugar a year, and that only serves to increase our risk of heart disease. Because a new study in the British Medical Journal suggests that sugar could be worse for us than fat – raising our cholesterol etc. It’s certainly always been good news for dentists,  Sorry Eric. Now we know something I’ve always known intuitively – grass-fed Irish cow butter is better for us than cookies! There, I said it. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/top-heart-doctor-unprocessed-fatty-foods-may-actually-be-good-for-you-8897707.html

Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather put a little real sugar in my coffee than an artificial sweetener. Sticking with real food can never lead us down that scary grocery aisle with processed homogenized cheese spread. I recently modernized the Flapper’s version of Depression mac and cheese when my Bug was visiting.

Mac and cheese please

Mac and cheese please

Since butter was scarce in the 30s, my Mom used bacon to start her scrumptious recipe and inserted slices of Swiss cheese from the deli. I found some Gruyere and shredded it instead. I can still remember her saying that she made this mac and cheese for my brother Michael, because it was his favorite dish. It turned out he was her favorite child.

And no matter how many times I said it was my favorite dish too, it didn’t matter. So when you watch this video poetry slam by Lily Myers about “The Shrinking Woman,”  “I have been taught accommodation, I have been taught to grow in…to create space around myself.” Think about how we too are entitled to calories, about how we women are worthy of filling that space. And pass the bread and butter please. 

You may have to click over to the wordpress site to watch the video, but believe me, it’s worth it.


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Yesterday my in-Laws drove off into the Northern sunset. They followed us home after the Richmond wedding for some Blue Ridge bonding, barbeque, and leaf peeping. Not only was I happy that these two amazing octogenarians were able to climb onto the wing and into the tiny 4-seater Piper Arrow, I was shocked to find out that Great Grandma Ada had successfully used her new iPad to take pictures of the Shenandoah Valley! 1383893_245892032233078_2040041987_n

Because A) My old iPad doesn’t even have a camera; and 2) I’m still learning how to use iPhoto.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty tech-saavy for my age group. This past year a new store opened up in town that is not exactly an Apple store, but it’s the closest thing to one. PeachMac http://peachmac.com offered the citizens of Charlottesville a very special deal; one-on-one training for a year on anything Apple for $99. Doesn’t matter where you bought your device, and did I mention that’s once a week classes…let’s see, that adds up to about a dollar a session.

Now this makes alot of sense from a marketing perspective since we went to this store to buy Ada’s iPad. And I just happened to be in the middle of my iPhoto lesson when the store started buzzing. Seems they were all watching the live stream of some mothership Apple news event in California and the word was “Mavericks is free!”

Named after a wicked surf break in Cali, I was told that this is a new operating system and I’m not sure if my one year old Apple MacBook Pro can even handle it, but I was determined to appear delighted along with everyone else. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/oct/21/apple-mac-os-x-mavericks-whats-in-a-name

And while Apple is trying to stay tops in the tablet computing game, knocking a little weight off their iPad Air, and lowering prices and oh btw, assembling their new cell phones in America instead of Japan, the Bride sent me a Love Bug crack text pic of her delight in finding an orange leaf. With Ada nearing 90, and our grand baby just celebrating her first year of life, who doesn’t love Facetime in the morning and Fall?  photo

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Bells were ringing in the old capital of the Confederacy. This was the wedding weekend to beat all wedding weekends, our high school buddy’s baby girl, Maggy, married her Marine. Which means the Big Chill got to celebrate another milestone together. Reunited, and we all sang Suite: Judy Blue Eyes one more time.

It’s funny to think we were all showing off our grand baby pictures when once upon a time we’d have been comparing different methods of nonviolent resistance. We’re lucky really, to have stayed together, to have so many marriages survive the 80s. Big shoulder pads and big egos. We’ve mellowed.

I caught ten minutes of Hillary’s speech in Northern VA for Terry McAuliffe yesterday. When I heard her say “evidence-free zone” I knew we had our sound bite. Ms Clinton is one of us. Our generation fought against war, and we can tell the difference between a political stunt and a fiscal policy.

Maggy’s invitation asked just one question of us, besides the requisite RSVP. “What song would get you up on the dance floor?” So I’m asking my fellow Virginians the same thing. What’s it going to take to get you to the polls on November 5th? “Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now.”


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Extra extra, read all about it! I’ve been reading about the comparisons to Steubenville for awhile. So it comes as no surprise that A) Anonymous has taken up the plight of two young girls in Maryville, Missouri and 2) the alleged rapists are football players. What is surprising, besides our government being open for business this morning, is that the Nodaway County Prosecutor who dismissed the case, has now asked the court for a special prosecutor to review the facts.http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/16/us/missouri-rape-case/

Nodaway County, nod.away, could the name get any more Shakespearian?

I won’t bore you with the facts as we know them so far. Except for the fact that the encounter was filmed, in a similar vein to Steubenville, but the video was erased that same evening and evidently cannot be retrieved. Maybe these football players are smarter than their Ohio counterparts…maybe the detectives at “Law and Order, SVU” should be called in? I’m not going to reiterate my previous opinions – that “NO” means “no” and  “…a rape is a rape is a rape, no matter who you are or where you live.” https://mountainmornings.net/2013/01/04/a-rape-is-a-rape/

What I do want to focus on here is the Holy Grail of high school, football. Because it’s usually not the captain of the chess club who finds himself hauled into court over a sex crime is it. I was reading a fascinating article about our American obsession with sports on the bike the other day, I know, the irony. Still, Amanda Ripley of the Atlantic makes an excellent argument against school sports in her article “The Case Against High School Sports.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-case-against-high-school-sports/309447/

Sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else. Yet this difference hardly ever comes up in domestic debates about America’s international mediocrity in education…When I surveyed about 200 former exchange students last year, in cooperation with an international exchange organization called AFS, nine out of 10 foreign students who had lived in the U.S. said that kids here cared more about sports than their peers back home did. A majority of Americans who’d studied abroad agreed.

This is required reading for everybody since Ripley dares to expose the tax money we Americans spend on athletics, which includes coaches, buses to away games etc (instead of say, math) and the culture that goes along with an adoration of the body and not the mind. She shows us what happens when administrators  in failing schools actually suspend sports – surprise, discipline reports go way down, while teachers’ salaries went up along with their students’ academic scores.

And here is my last lesson. As the budget talks are stalled on the Hill in a Hail Mary pass from a team of women Senators, and before we start slashing music and art budgets in public schools around the country, I think every single school board member from Albemarle to Marin County should find out exactly how much their district is spending on sports. Subs usually are hired for the days a teacher travels to a game, finding and maintaining playing fields can be costly. There are insurance costs and athletic supplies and trainers, a sports budget can also hide under other line items, you’ll have to dig deep.

Schools have been known to spend a quarter of a million dollars to install and maintain a running track around a football field. I know.

Because at the end of the day, if we want to compete on a global level and we want our daughters to feel valued, we may have to revisit a creeping patriarchy that began with private schools at the turn of the last century. The fear of new immigrants led Teddy Roosevelt to say about the American Boy – “Hit the line hard; don’t foul out; don’t shirk.” He should have added, don’t rape.





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This morning I devoured my first cup of coffee with the Love Bug on my iPhone. Oh Facetime, how wonderful you are! She kissed me and carried me around with her while she cruised the living room, demonstrating her superior walking technique. I wish they could return to the Blue Ridge this weekend for our next wedding, but the Groom is on call every other night in the MICU. Great Grandma Ada and Great Grandpa Hudson are coming South to see a Big Chill daughter tie the knot in Richmond. Her fiancee was is a Marine, “…once a Marine always a Marine. There are no former Marines”

Who doesn’t love men in white gloves and dress uniforms holding an arch of swords? Unfortunately, we’re not sure if that arch will be there due to the government shutdown. We also had planned to take Hudson, who is a woodcarver and an ex-Baptist minister who officiated in 2010 at the Bride’s wedding, J&M  0622to the National WWII Monument in DC after the wedding. Gpa Hudson is an 86 year old WWII vet and has wanted to see the memorial since it first opened. We may have to storm the barricades next week if the Park Police are still guarding the gate. Listen for my Tweets people, if I’m arrested with Ada and Hudson get us a wheelchair and a lawyer!

It’s bad enough that Ted Cruz and his ideologic idiots have been holding our government hostage over their ever-moving concerns about affordable health care and debt ceilings, but it becomes meteorically worse when they try to claim this memorial as their own and blame our President for its closure…it almost made me sick in fact. It’s not only sightseeing that has been curtailed for 14 days, this shutdown has left “…vital drug trials on hold, which is a matter of life and death for some patients.”

Yes, life and death, real people who cannot participate in life-saving treatments because the NIH has stopped accepting new patients. 75% of their staff are sitting at home while 15% of their patients who cannot start a treatment protocol are children. The GOP can make up fictional scenarios like “death panels,” but they are so much better at creating real tragedies for the 99% of us.

Under normal circumstances, 200 patients at NIH enroll in clinical trials each week, 30 of whom are children. While 12 exceptions have been made for the most critical cases, this still leaves hundreds of sick patients and families stuck waiting until Congress can settle its differences. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24525913

So that comes out to about 400 people so far, who may not have a month or two to wait…two weeks after giving birth a young mother diagnosed with stage 4 sarcoma had her application for a clinical trial delayed. Michelle Langbehn has started an online petition on Change.org in order to pressure Congress and has over 140,000 signatures:  “I speak for everyone battling cancer when I say we don’t have time to wait.”  http://www.change.org/petitions/help-me-fight-cancer-and-stop-the-shutdown

Crossed swords it seems are the least of our problems. We need to vote the old guard out, get money out of politics and organize policy makers who will speak to the wide breadth of our country, with common sense and dignity for all. I can’t wait to see the new documentary “Inequality for All.” http://inequalityforall.com I’m usually pretty optimistic about life, I like to think we can take our country back, from the fringe GOP. Fingers crossed.







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Slut shaming, it’s nothing new. Long before that Rush ‘to judgement’ Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” on his radio show, young women everywhere have been objectified and marginalized for ages. Think of the adulterous “A”  sewn onto Hester Prynne’s bodice, now think of the “walk of shame” I first heard about when the kids went off to college. If you haven’t heard about it, ask a twenty something. I remember feeling pained even then, we “Our Bodies Ourselves” feminists burned our bras for what?

Now it’s back with a vengeance – the public humiliation of a young woman for embracing her sex. Yes, I’m talking about 20 year old Miley Cyrus, and isn’t everyone else? The Rocker and Cait first filled me in on the controversy between Miley and Sinead O’Connor last weekend. Odd I thought. One rocker who chopped all her hair off and ripped up a picture of the Pope 2 decades ago vs the Wrecking Ball baby. I missed her stellar performance on SNL, but did catch Miley on Ellen this week, doing her best to explain her fascination with her own tongue (turns out she just hates smiling on the red carpet) and her love of wearing onesies, oh and teddy bears. And this morning I read a great new blogger’s take on the whole shebang, http://fishershannon.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/the-s-word/

The problem with the word “slut” is that we don’t have a male equivalent. It’s like the French don’t have a word for “snack.” It’s because they just don’t do it, no fast food, no eating in the car, no walking down the street with coffee in hand. Nope, the French sit down and savor every single morsel of food and drink. Let’s think for a minute, what if we did have a derogatory term for a man who was enjoying his body and didn’t mind having a little sexual fun with it, no regrets. What would it be? Player, no since this is gender neutral. Manwhore, no since the whole whore part is female specific. Sex addict, maybe. Hmmm, a promiscuous man. “A single young man who sleeps readily with a number of women would probably not have any label attached to his behavior.” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201302/certain-aspects-promiscuity

Slut first appeared in the written language in 1402, according to the Oxford English Dictionary , that great repository of language information. At that time, slut meant roughly what one sense of slattern  means today: a slovenly, untidy woman or girl. It also apparently meant “kitchen maid” (”She is a cheerful slut who keeps the pots scrubbed and the fires hot.”). By the end of the 15th century the sense “a woman given to immoral or improper conduct” had come into use, and it is the only meaning in use today. Interestingly,the same second meaning, a promiscuous woman, developed for the term slattern. dictionary.com

So Miley isn’t writing songs about her old boyfriends who we must presume she’d been intimate with a la Taylor Swift. Taylor, who mostly keeps her clothes on is still rather boy crazy. Miley didn’t fade into the woodwork, like Annette our first Mouseketeer. She twerked her way into America’s pop culture, for better or worse, with her mother in the background signing her checks. And taking a selfie with the signature “tongue and wink” move in this AP pic.Miley Cyrus, Tish Cyrus

My brother Dr Jim, the psychologist, called Ms Miley a master marketing strategist, and I have to agree. So stop feeling sorry for her America, she refuses to be shamed into submission. And let’s drop the word slut from the Oxford English dictionary. After Britney’s brief affair with a boa, and Madonna’s many semi-nudist and full frontal nudist concerts and picture books, and Cher, and Lady Gaga, Miley romping around in a teddy bear outfit that covered her like a one piece bathing suit with a foam finger is pretty tame, or lame, depending on your point of view. Let’s get off our puritanical white horse…and wink back.24176_1250095808770_946372_n



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It’s that time of year again. No, not carving pumpkins time and trying to find or create a family-friendly Halloween costume. It’s the Nobel Prize announcement time; time to try and figure out just what the Higgs boson particle really is and how it’s responsible for the secrets of life and our universe, and I am not speaking biblically.

But try to find the 2013 recipient of the prize in physics, Peter Higgs, and you’d be out of luck. The elderly Edinburgh scientist left his cell phone behind and like Garbo, would like to be left alone.  Of course, once that Large Hadron Collider at Cern proved that his theory about the “god particle” was correct, Higgs was considered a shoe-in for the Nobel in Physics.

So maybe we’re closer to knowing “how” we got here, two other winners this year help us understand the “why.” A man whose mission is to heal won the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology. Since I have a few healers in the family, I was interested in this article I found courtesy of my musical great niece: http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/10/nobel-medicine-winner-says-i-owe-is-all-to-my-bassoon-teacher.html  Dr Thomas Sudhof credits his music teacher with imparting a sense of discipline that helped to forge his “…powers of analysis and concentration.”

I always try to understand everything I encounter—not only in science, but also historical and political events and music and movies—get to grips with the content, meaning, and process. This is immense fun, as strange as that may sound.
Who was your most influential teacher, and why?
My bassoon teacher, Herbert Tauscher, who taught me that the only way to do something right is to practice and listen and practice and listen, hours, and hours, and hours.
Science and art, the interconnections are endless. Next is a woman whose elegantly sparse prose helps us to understand the human condition, along with the roles we all play; an artist who is also part of the faculty here at UVA. Congratulations to Alice Munro, recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature! This 82 year old Canadian writer had her first book of short stories published when she was 37…take heed all you late bloomers! She has only taught the occasional writing class in Mr Jefferson’s Academical Village, and was unavailable when I was studying fiction as a community scholar, unfortunately for me.  She is Queen of the Short Story, and has recently published Dear Life.   
Rumor is she will stop writing now, but I find that hard to believe. Here is what Munro, America’s Chekhov, had to say about her attempt at writing a novel, and I feel her pain:“It didn’t feel right to me, and I thought I would have to abandon it,” she said. “I was very depressed. Then it came to me that what I had to do was pull it apart and put it in story form. Then I could handle it. That’s when I learned I was never going to write a real novel because I could not think that way.”imagesSo that’s my problem. Too many years writing 300-500 word newspaper columns. Thank you Ms Munro, for sharing your knowledge and sense of possibility with us.

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