When I was a girl in elementary school, probably around fifth grade, so I must have been about 8 or 9 – I started school almost a year early. It had to do with New York state’s cutoff entry dates for starting school. My birthday fell on the exact end of the age bracket, so I didn’t hit five until nearly the end of kindergarten.

If you’re a girl — maybe even if you are a boy — you remember “the mean girls.” There was always a clique of them. In every schoolyard, there was a Bellwether, the girl who — for no particular reason — was the leader of the mean girl gang. While she was usually pretty, she was not a heartbreaker either. She just had that inexplicable “thing” that makes others blindly follow her. A human bellwether.

You might think that a group of girls following each other wouldn’t automatically be rotten little brats. After all, they could follow each other and do good deeds. Help others get their homework done. Protect little ones from predatory bigger kids.

That’s never the way it worked. The gang was always mean. Physical and mental cruelty was their specialty. Taunters and teasers. Nothing made them happier than seeing others cry from being relentlessly humiliated and called names by their gang. Sticks and stones are only one of the many things that hurt. Words are lethal too.

Other features of the gang? They were stuck up. They “set the style.” They also had a radar capacity for spotting an underdog They knew who they could taunt until they broke down and wept.

I never understood them. Why behave that way? What do you gain? Are you that way because that’s how you were treated at home? Were your parents’ jerks too?

I came from a highly dysfunctional family. It brought my brother and me together and we stayed bonded until he died 12 years ago. It never occurred to me that making other kids feel bad would make me feel better. There had to be something else going on that I could never see.

Early in my post-professional career, one of the girls from the mean girls of childhood tried to make friends. Online. I couldn’t help it. I told her I didn’t remember her being my friend. I remembered her as one of the mean girls, never saying anything that didn’t have a barb in it. She never wrote back.

And now, here we are and the guy who supposedly runs our country is one of the mean kids! It was deplorable in elementary schools, but to run a country like that? Sometimes I feel as if I fell through the cracks of reality and am living in a place that merely resembles the U.S. as a physical entity, but otherwise, it’s a different universe. It’s another dimension where the mean kids have taken over.

We are all their targets because there’s always something wrong with us. Of course, if you really want to get mutilated, be any kind of minority. Skin color matters, but being Jewish isn’t bad either. Or being liberal. Or an atheist. Hating is easy. Love takes effort. It ought to be exactly the opposite.

It is my personal opinion that nobody hates one group of people. If you are a hater, you have a little list. You hate gay men and black people? You probably hate Natives, Hispanics, and Asians too.

Hatred is a lifestyle. If you are a hater, in your heart, you hate everyone probably yourself most of all.


After my reasonably successful pretzels, I decided to start baking more. I promise not to get totally crazy, but a few incredible loaves of whole wheat bread might go a long way to fixing what ails me. There’s something wonderfully soothing about kneading bread. Kneading is fundamental. Basic. And you get some really great bread, too.

Kneading not only produces wonderful bread, the smell of which can lure a dead man from his coffin, but it also feels good. You dig your palms into the dough. It oozes up between your fingers. Grab a handful of fresh flour and the dough gets a little less sticky and a little more like warm bread-to-be.

But when you’re digging into the raw dough before it has risen once or twice, it sticks to everything. Flour gets everywhere. When you’re baking, the world knows.

If you ever want to feel totally helpless, get a phone call in the middle of dough prep. You can’t go near a phone or even a doorknob. Until you’re past the sticky, gooey, gluey phase, you are completely immersed in the project.

Your hair and clothing are white from flour. But, after you get the dough ready to rise, put it in a warm place and watch it grow big and puffy. Punch it down and it grows twice as big. One more punch and then you dig the base of your palms into the dough and feel its warmth.

Yeast is warm as it grows. And it smells good, even before baking. Knead it. Not too much, not too little. You can feel when the dough becomes elastic.

Divide it, put it in loaf pans, or if your are shaping the bread yourself, on flat cookie sheets. Bake your heart out. Try not to eat it all in one sitting or for that matter, watch out for hungry friends carrying their own butter.

All of this is great, except that there’s no year or flour in the grocery so I had to order it. And there’s no point in ordering 5 pounds of flour, so I ordered 20 pounds. The price is, ironically, almost the same for a five pounder and 20 pounds.

I ordered four 20-pound flour containers. Two will hold the white flour. Another will hold 10 pounds of whole wheat. The forth will hold something. Birdseed comes immediately to mind.

I’ll try very hard to not mix the birdseed with the flour.

The problem? I got the 20-pounds of white flour today. But I won’t get the containers or yeast until next week. In the meantime, the kitchen is filling up. By the time I add all these canisters, I’m not sure where I can walk. There isn’t much floor space already. maybe it’s time to do something with that old table in the corner.

Do I really need 20 or 30 dog leashes and collars for every dog from a chihuahua to a mastiff? And maybe fifty leashes, many of which are long overdue for retirement?

Eventually, it will all come together and maybe it will keep me from worrying about how we are going to repair the back door, boiler, and the deck.


We have long known — more than a hundred years and I suspect a lot longer than that — how what we do to Earth is a tragedy in slow motion. But the tragedy is not slow anymore. There is little time to fix it before it fixes us.

Each time I pass the river’s edge and see all the garbage thrown from passing cars, I feel sick. Each day if weather allows, we go to the road to clean up the mess passing cars have made by throwing bags from fast food joints into our woods. 

Now that America has moved most of our polluting industrial companies overseas, they are free to pollute in another place rather than here. As long as it isn’t next door, we feel free to ignore it. Nonetheless, we continue to wreak havoc with leaking pipelines, drilling rigs, and of course, fracking.

Digging down into the center of the earth for natural gas? What could possibly go wrong?  In case you would like to really watch the movie, here is the entire movie, straight from YouTube.

This wonderful movie was made by John Ford in 1941 about a coal slag destroying a once beautiful town. It is worth watching for many reasons including a highly intelligent script and fine acting, It’s also a reminder that today’s tragedy didn’t begin this year or even this century. We humans have been diligently working at destroying our home planet as long as we have been “civilized.”


The history of coal mining in Wales, spoil tip disasters and Roddy McDowall’s eternal youth are up for debate in our examination of this 1941 Best Picture Oscar winner.

Source: Episode 4: How Green Was My Valley – Green Screen


Blogging Insights and the Pandemic

From the author, questions about the pandemic and blogging and where you stand as a blogger in relation to it:

Posts about the pandemic feature prominently on many (if not most) blogs these days. Blogs by definition are chronicles of the lives and views of their authors and the world around them. It is no wonder that the pandemic features prominently in many (if not most) posts today. 

Articles and posts about corona virus/COVID-19 could be seen dotted about the internet since the beginning of this year. These were mostly articles about health, epidemiology and the environment.

In the beginning , Covid-19 had not spread across continents. It reached the status of pandemic a couple of months ago and turned our lives topsy turvy. The lockdowns and social distancing that followed are things that we have never experienced before. The pandemic has changed the world as we know it . It has deeply touched the lives of all, even those who have not been infected.

In today’s Blogging Insights we discuss how it has affected our blogs and blogging.


1. How frequently do you post about the pandemic? Please share links to a couple of your “pandemic posts” that you particularly like. If you have not written anything about Coronavirus/COVID-19 (seems unbelievablewhat are your reasons for this?

There are many others written by different people, either those who share this blog with me, reblogs, or other contributors. There is often a paragraph about the current “state of affairs” hooked onto another post which isn’t focused on COVID — for context.

2. What kind of “posts about the pandemic” do you like to read? (If you don’t, then please tell us why?“Like to read” is probably a misphrase in this post. Although if someone thinks they are making a breakthrough, I’ll read that until I get to the end and realize it is all early experimentation and probably won’t go anywhere.

I read enough news to keep current. Other blogs which seem to contain opinions from other countries. Sometimes, a headline and a paragraph are more than enough. We watch some of the evening news, then abandon it. Colbert, when he’s on. John Oliver, when HE is on.

Somewhere inside, I’m enraged. Furious. Angrier than I have ever been. I can’t fix it. I can’t even try, not if I want to live.

3. How have you and your blog adapted to “the new normal”?

More pictures, more memories, rewriting older posts that feel appropriate, and simply need updating. I try hard to not rant but often fail. When I need to write about the here and now, I reblog when I can since digging into my soul to write it is not the fun stuff I signed up for when I began this blog.

4. Have you seen any change in your blog stats during the pandemic? Also, are you posting more or less than you used to?   

My stats are higher than they were, but that could as easily be an unrelated fluctuation. I think I have been writing better, at least some times. I’m trying to include more photography and “upbeat” material because everyone is bummed and they need things that don’t remind them of the mess we are in.

Many are outright depressed. I know I can’t read dark stuff at all. Other than enough news to make me feel connected, I can’t deal with it. It makes me sad, depressed and feeling helpless, and hopeless. Not the best set of feelings in such a stressful period.

Known spread of the virus. Obviously changed since this was published.

All of this has taken a terrible toll on my ability to laugh, a real pity because that’s what I most need.

I’ve counted on laughter to make life bearable when times are hardest. These days,  it’s hard to get so much as a chuckle. Maybe someday, should we all survive, we’ll be able to look back and find the “funny,” but it’s pretty hard to find it right now. Not surprisingly, pictures of birds and flowers are doing better than much of the writing.



The Changing Seasons, May 2020

To say that the world is a different place than it was last month and completely different than the month before, AND has almost nothing to do with last spring or even last winter is probably an understatement. I hardly know where to start. Plagues,  riots and warm winter without snow which, in one night, turned into summer.

Whatever comes out of this, it’s going to be different. Possibly very different. Or maybe not. Does anyone know? I sure don’t know.

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (Photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month

Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (Choose your favorite format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month

Don’t use archived stuff. Only new material! Except for maybe this and last month when a lot of us have gotten out of the house much — or at all.

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to SuLeslie’s post, she can update all the entries with links.



Every mystery written by Gretchen Archer has been complex with multiple subplots and complication upon complication building to a crashing yet happy ending. In this novel, the complications are so intricate you have to read carefully to pick up the clues.

Many authors write convoluted stories with the inevitable corpse showing up where a dead body is most unlikely. When it gets too labyrinthine, ye olde “Deus Ex Machina” drops by to fix everything.

Ms. Archer doesn’t have a Deus Ex Machina. If Davis found her way into the disaster, she will claw her way out. For every knot, she finds a way to unknot it before the book concludes.

This story begins with the Bird lady who runs the Lost & Found department. She is old. No one is sure how old, but very would be a good guess. She is forgetful. She has a unique way of doing things and that being said, no one knows exactly how she does whatever she does. Her entries use a unique shorthand. Birdie has her own coding system.

Gretchen with granddaughter during COVID-19 pandemic

Her codes and shorthand made letting her go a bit scary. Who’d figure out what was going on unless Birdie explained it — if she could explain it? She didn’t hear well or remember much. No one entirely understood her and she didn’t seem to fully understand herself.

There has been a massive rebuilding of the Belissimo Casino and Resort since it was nearly destroyed by Category Four Hurricane Kevin.

Davis Way is no longer in charge. She is a part-time employee. A quarter-time employee or even less. She adores her children but misses her work. She was warned to let Birdie go before something went terribly wrong, but Davis hadn’t quite gotten to it. Firing a very old woman from the only job she ever had isn’t easy. She intends to take care of it, but it’s been waiting in the wings.

Then, calamity happens. Just like everyone said it would.

Five-million dollars that never should have arrived at the Casino go missing. Birdie might have the money (probably not).  It might be one of the people Birdie worked with who Davis had not been allowed to vet. Or a third unknown party.

Bradley’s away on business and Davis hasn’t told him what’s happening. Moreover, she can’t find a babysitter that she desperately needs. This is why her mother arrived accompanied by Bea (her former mother-in-law) who definitely should not be there.

Also arriving are many baby tomato plants doused with dangerous fertilizer and the smell from hell. Davis hadn’t wanted to tell Bradley what was going on, positive she could handle it in just a few hours (NOT). Bianca won’t talk to her and …

Where are the $5 million dollars? What does the money have to do with the wedding cake? Who is taking care of Birdie’s cat? Who stole the Mercedes? Did I mention all those Elvis impersonators?

“Double Trouble” is the most complex Davis Way caper ever. You’ll need your best mystery-solving abilities to find your way to the end. It’s an exciting ride with never a dull moment! But if you know Gretchen Archer’s work, you’ll know that somehow, despite the madness, it will be resolved … and hopefully, all will be forgiven.

On a personal note, I wish that Gretchen would stop keeping everything to herself and tell Bradley the truth. Upfront rather than after the disaster. I always find myself muttering, “Good grief, just TELL him already!” But of course, if she did, there wouldn’t be a story to tell.

Other reviews of previous Davis Way Capers:


bushboys world

As it happened, I took these pictures yesterday late in the day. This really is the last photo I took. Usually, I’m not sure because, for reasons I can’t explain, this aging version of Photoshop doesn’t necessarily number things in the same order they appear on your SD card. This time, they did … and also, I remember taking the picture.

All I did was crop it slight, sign it, and make it small enough to not fill up my blog space.

The last photo of May 2020

It could have used some color adjustment but this is au natural.