Books, Music and eZines: My Creative Friends and Family Were Productive in 2022

I’m blessed to be surrounded by a lot of creative people. 2022 was a highly productive year among my circle of acquaintances — so much so that I’m still trying to work my way through everything they produced. It’s a good problem to have. Here’s a sampling:

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Marley’s Ghost by Brian Katcher:

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” That would be Uncle Marley to his teenage nephews Aaron and Kyler — cousins to each other. Marley was the wild one in the family, but always loving to his kin. When the two boys find what appears to be a treasure map in Marley’s fishing cabin, they decide they could both use a little adventure, along with money. Of course, it might be drug money and there might be some bad guys who are also tracking it down, and the boys might accidentally involve two girls they like and they might not actually make it to the church camp which is the cover for their road trip.

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Talk Smack to a Hurricane by Lynne Jensen Lampe

In these poems, Lampe grapples with the life-long effects of growing up with a mother who was mentally ill. There’s compassion and pain and laughter and sparks of joy, with a good dollop of love throughout. Many of the pieces examine not only her relationship with her mom, but her mom’s relationship with a society that didn’t listen to women, but tried to control them.

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Three-Penny Memories: A Poetic Memoir by Barbara Harris Leonhard

The first selections in this memoir are poems reflecting on the author’s childhood experiences with encephalitis, an illness that was debilitating for quite some time, requiring intense care from her mother. As the book progresses, the roles reverse and Leonhard finds herself caring for a mother afflicted by dementia. The complexities of the mother-daughter relationship are explored in-depth.

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Shivah by Lisa Solod

Fiction that’s on my to-read list for January. From the inside cover of the novel: “When Leah’s mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it becomes clear that there will be no reconciliation with the woman who has played a big and dangerous role in her life. As Leah chronicles her mother’s descent into nothingness, she both mourns and recreates the life her mother might have led. In the process, she paints the portrait of a wife and mother who struggled to raise a family, who had contentious mother-daughter relationships with her children, and a woman who struggled with mental health and addiction: A complicated human being who was loved.”

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You Don’t Fall Out of the Universe: Surviving the loss of our son by B.J. Jewett

Another memoir with poetry. This is an intimate look at grief, healing, and survival after devastating loss. You can read an excerpt in the “Compassionate Friends” newsletter.

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Glass Awash by Ken Gierke

I confess I haven’t started reading this poetry collection yet. But I have heard Ken Gierke read a number of times and find his poems both insightful and enjoyable.

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“Tiny Frights” a horror ezine published by Carl Bettis.

A new horror zine published by my brother. It features “Horror-themed poetry, fiction, artwork, visual poetry, etc., in small bites. Horror reviews in larger gulps.”

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Mirage by Samantha Fierke (music)

A delightful jazz album from someone with a load of both talent and skill, along with a terrific voice.

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I can’t wait to see what my friends and family accomplish in 2023. Happy New Year to all!

Poem for This Weird Week

Three cartoonish light-up reindeer, standing upright & waving, with people faces visible in cutouts.
Waving goodbye to the old year, or hello to the new year

This week before New Year’s Day is weird, isn’t it? We’ve wrapped up the 2022 things, but somehow it’s not 2023 yet. What is even happening?

I shared this poem here a couple of years back, but I’ve tweaked it a little since then, so I’m sharing it again.

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That Lull Before the Renaissance

That lull between Christmas and New Year’s Day
Pajamas serve as uniform
The chocolates are polished off
The one jigsaw puzzle of the year takes shape
Noble intentions gestate

We sleep in mornings 
Before the date arrives after which 
Every day
We’ll stir ourselves early 
To accomplish worthy deeds

We watch a few mindless movies
Before the date arrives after which
Every day
We’ll spend free time 
Working out and reading classics

We create grocery lists 
Full of carrots and broccoli
While crunching chips

We indulge and relax while we can
Before next week
When the work of the Renaissance begins

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On Today’s Walk: BRRR Christmas Edition

Two feet in black snow boots.
Ready to go

I spent a good deal of yesterday cooking, enough to carry my household through two days in fact. We opened gifts yesterday evening. That means I was free to take a nice long walk today.

For some reason

Screenshot of weather conditions. 19 degrees F, feels like 9.

I had the park to myself today.

Frozen creek

I discovered a portal to another world, but it looked equally cold there, so I stuck with this one.

log with round hole, showing snowy ground through it.


It was a peaceful neighborhood stroll. But I did find the superhighway to Rabbiton:

lots of rabbit tracks in snow


Merry happy to everyone!

Poem: Theology 101

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

The short days of mid-December get me down. I desperately await the post Solstice days when we get a little more sun each day. This seems like an appropriate time to share a pantoum I wrote many years ago about waiting for the sun, after an ill-advised attempt at winter camping.

Theology 101

After one night under the stars
Starry-eyed ideas were blown away
My communion with nature
Left with the frigid north wind

Starry-eyed ideas were blown away
I spent hours of desperate misery
Left with the frigid north wind
Cramped muscles and aching bones

I spent hours of desperate misery
Waiting out eternity for the sunrise
Cramped muscles and aching bones
Greedy for the blessed new warmth

Waiting out eternity for the sunrise
Ancient religions took on immediate relevance
Greedy for the blessed new warmth
I worshipped the great sun source of life

Ancient religions took on immediate relevance
After one night under the stars
I worshipped the great sun source of life
My communion with nature

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Missouri Libraries Under Attack: Take Action

I usually stay away from politics on this blog, but this issue is urgent and huge. Missouri Secretary of State, Jay Ashcroft, who seems desperate to stay in the spotlight through ever more extreme and controversial measures, has proposed a new rule for public libraries in the state, deceptively title “Library Certification Rule for the Protection of Minors.”

Under this proposal, public libraries would lose funding if they continue their policies of allowing parents and families to make the choices about what their own children are allowed to read. Instead, libraries would be required to make available to minors only books approved by the state.

Beyond the free speech implications, this kind of rule is setting libraries up to fail by making it logistically impossible to function. How do you enforce it at the library level? Do you station a staff member at every self check machine to demand photo ID and act as a bouncer for anyone under 18 trying to check out materials?

A similar state law has already gone into effect regulating public school libraries, to chilling effect. Thanks to SB775 “School districts have banned works on Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, graphic novel adaptations of classics by Shakespeare and Mark Twain as well as The Gettysburg Address, the Pulitzer-prize winning Maus, and educational books about the Holocaust. Also banned have been comics about Batman, X-Men, and Watchmen; The Complete Guide to Drawing & Painting by Reader’s Digest; Women (a book of photographs by Annie Leibovitz); and The Children’s Bible,” according to this article in PEN America.

Public library boards, professional organizations such as the Missouri Library Association, workers’ unions, and many others are uniting their voices to oppose this radical attack on libraries and the right to read. See what some of them have to say on the matter:

Kansas City Public Library
St. Louis Public Library
Daniel Boone Regional Library
Missouri Library Association
Daniel Boone Regional Library Workers United

The time to take action is now. Public comments are accepted through December 15. If emailing, send your message to comments@sos.mo.gov (15 CSR 30-200.015 must be included in the subject line.)

SAVE OUR RIGHT TO READ. SAVE OUR LIBRARIES.

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On Today’s Walk: Gratitude and Staving Off the Food Coma

Concrete walking trail winding between leafless trees. Overcast sky.
Doesn’t this trail look inviting?

After a morning of cooking followed by an hour of eating, my spouse, my son, and I faced a choice between lapsing into food comas or getting out and moving. Though the hubs much prefers bicycling, he allowed me to cajole him into a walk and even suggested a trail to me. Since it rained most of the morning, we decided to go for a paved option.

I tried to stay in the spirit of the day and exercise gratitude along the way, which was easy enough. The afternoon provided what is for me optimal walking weather — 54 degrees and overcast. I was with two people I love. We had the luxury of being stuffed with a full meal of good food, and we all enjoy the health to be able to stroll away those calories on a beautiful walking path in a community that builds and values such things.

Sights we saw along the way:

Shallow creek with many rocks, winding through autumn landscape.
Grindstone Creek

Water puddle on concrete, reflection of tree limbs and sky.
Rain Puddle

A couple of curiosities:


After this hearty three-mile trek and a piece of pumpkin pie, the food coma finally caught me. I’m also grateful to own a comfortable napping couch.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A Little Christmas Cactus Obsession and a Poem

Last spring, a friend who was paring down her possessions for a cross-country move gifted me a Christmas cactus, the first one I’ve ever owned. I keep it on the corner of the desk where I do my writing. Eight days ago, I noticed the first flower buds sprouting — twenty-one of them. Maybe it’s a Thanksgiving cactus after all. I’m a little obsessed with the plant.

Part of a Christmas cactus, with several pink blower buds.

In fact, I wrote a poem for it. It’s still a little rough, but I’m sharing it anyway.


First Flower Buds on My Christmas Cactus

Twenty-one sudden blushing pointed buds
Twenty-one pieces of evidence
That I, erstwhile perpetrator
Of negligent planticide,
Have been successfully reformed
I myself have blossomed into a being
Capable of nurturing
A living thing incapable 
Of speaking its needs
As a toddler or a cat would do
Twenty-one velvet spear tips of validation
Twenty-one prizes to reward
My diligence and faith,
Twenty-one shots of dopamine to my brain
Payoff for my daily ritual of care,
Of arranging the curtains for optimal sun,
Of speaking aloud, Good morning
Christmas Cactus, a greeting unreturned 
Until now


Here are a couple of photos to track its progress, one taken four days after I noticed this first buds and one from this morning. The lighting was a little different.


You go, little desk plant! Live your best life!

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A Little Poem for Spooky Season

Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

Wolf, Running

Full curious, half afraid
I followed the wolf 
in my dream last night.
Where could its journey
be leading on city streets?
I never knew.
It picked up speed and
disappeared from view.
No longer did I run behind it,
but pushed myself top speed
in pursuit of something
I can’t recall.
Something urgent, a primal need.
I remember dead-ends, a full moon,
unexpected stairs, so steep
I ascended, panting, on all fours.
Pebbles embedded in my bare feet.
When did I leave my shoes behind?

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On Today’s Walk: No Bears Detected

At the start of the year, I stated my ambition to explore as many local walking paths and trails as possible. That has…not happened much. But I had the day off work today, the temperature was perfect, my to-do list had several things crossed off, and my son-in-residence was willing to join me. No excuses not to go exploring.

These photos are from the Bear Creek Trail in Columbia, MO. We found the creek, but no bears (because there aren’t any in this part of the state so far as I know.) Not pictured are the spots where we discovered an unofficial connector between two trails by navigating rock-to-rock across a narrow part of the creek, in the process startling dozens of tiny toads on the opposite bank. It was a good old-fashioned nature walk after all.



Be still my heart — not just one, but two wooden footbridges! I have an unreasonable attraction to wooden bridges. I must have been a troll in a previous life.


All in all, a very satisfying 2.3 mile micro adventure. The jaunt wasn’t too short or too long, not too hot or too cold, not too scary or too boring, but in every aspect just right.