American Writers Museum

On the suggestion of Judy Alter, a native Chicagoan and fellow writer at Story Circle Network, I made the trek over to the American Writers Museum today.  I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Ray’s and my host for the week, our friend, Mother Shireen Baker, who is an Episcopal priest in Elmhurst, a suburb of Chicago.  According to the brochure, this museum is the first of its kind, celebrating American writers, past and present.

The museum has only been open to the public since May 16, 2017, and boasts many interactive displays centered around American authors.  A large video screen shows photos of famous authors accompanied by a photo and a quote, while two full-length walls have displays of a wide range of American authors with photos, histories, quotes and inspirational advice. One room celebrates American libraries while another room centers around the original manuscript scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. A bank of old typewriters with paper already inserted lures many a person to sit down and type out a message.

I felt almost overwhelmed with the amount of information presented and could easily see how I could devote four hours to this museum, at the very least.  Alas, we did not have quite that much so I concluded I’ll need to return for a longer visit in the future.

One highlight of the museum trip, besides having Shireen with me and being in a space that celebrated American authors, was an impromptu rendezvous with our St. Thomas the Apostle seminarian, Brit Bjurstrom Frazier, who happened to be in Chicago for a meeting of the Society of Catholic Priests. She attends Virginia Theological Seminar but had flown into town for this meeting, which, coincidentally, was being held within a 15-minute walk of the Writers Museum.  Happy days! I had the pleasure to sit with these two women – one already an Episcopal priest and the other studying to become one – and enjoy hearing all about their mutual acquaintances and similar experiences at VFS.  This made me especially happy since I was the chairperson for each of these young women’s discernment committees and have a special spot in my heart for them as a result.

After our visit, we met Ray, who had skipped the Writers Museum in favor of heading straight to the Art Institue. He had a chance to catch up with Brit over lunch before we went our separate ways later in the afternoon. Brit went back to her meeting and Ray, Shireen and I headed over to the Art Institute.

Here are a few photos of the American Writers Museum just to give you some idea of what was there.  It is well worth a trip if you are in Chicago. It is located at 180 North Michigan Avenue and the website is americanwriters  Go there for more information celebrating American writers.

What a lovely day indeed.




The Farnsworth House

The Farnsworth House, designed by Mies van der Rohe between 1945-1951, is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in Modernist architecture. It is located on 62 acres outside of Plano, Illinois, which is about an hour and a half outside of Chicago.  The house, currently a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation,  sits in a meadow 100 feet from the banks of the Fox River. Tour groups walk down a path from the Visitor’s Center for 1/2 mile to reach the 1500 square foot glass and steel structure. The meadow where the house is located is surrounded on three sides by mature trees with the river flowing past on the fourth side.

The house was built as a weekend retreat for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, a Chicago physician.  She wanted to live in a home that was surrounded by nature and that gave her the feeling that she was virtually living outdoors. This house does just that. The glass walls afford views in every direction and allow the house to blend naturally into its surroundings. The perfectly balanced design and clean lines are very pleasing to the eye, and the house is lovely from every angle.

The interior is elegant in its simplicity.  Also, when the door is closed, it is completely quiet. Serenity is the word that comes to mind.

Visiting the Farnsworth House was quite a treat.  Seeing this beautiful piece of architecture in its natural setting was worth the time and trouble to get there.  I would highly recommend the trek west of Chicago for anyone who has a penchant for Modernist design.  You will sense you are seeing something very special when you are there.  The photos simply can’t do justice to this beautiful living space.


Chicago Yesterday and Today

We spent all day yesterday finishing up work that we had brought with us.  This was okay. We holed up in our friend Shireen’s apartment and enjoyed the quiet while Ray worked in one room and I worked in another. We were finished in time to visit with Shireen when she returned from work in the late afternoon and we had an excellent supper together and lively conversation.

Today, Ray and I headed downtown to the Art Institute where we spent most of the day.  We saw a wonderful architecture exhibition. Here is the link: and a new photo exhibition as well.  Here is the link to the photo exhibit:

We also ate lunch mid-afternoon and spent just a little time drinking coffee in the members’ lounge before heading back on the L.

This evening, I had four hours of students on the phone, plus another hour and a half working on reading responses to my students in my online class.  This work was unavoidable since I decided to leave at a time when there was so much going on work-wise at home. Students have deadlines and those deadlines dictate my need to help with the process. The good news is that I only have one more 2-hour phone conversation tomorrow night and then critiques for my online class over the weekend.  I can make that happen and not feel too pressed.

Tomorrow, we are heading to Plano, Illinois to see the Farnsworth House designed by Mies van der Rohe.  Here is a link to that house. It is mid-century and supposed to be fabulous. Clearly, I’ll know more about it after our visit tomorrow.  Here is the link for more information:

I love these art vacations. They feed my soul.

Will check back in again tomorrow evening.

The Art Institute of Chicago




Train Adventure

Ray and I boarded the Santa Fe Chief yesterday afternoon at 6 pm in LA and are now in Colorado 24 hours later. We have eaten in the dining car for four meals already, made several new friends and have relaxed more than either of us has in years.

We slept until 9:15 this morning after a slightly rocky night (literally). Just getting calmed down after being so excited to go on vacation is partly the culprit plus being too tired from lots of works prior to leaving. Also we had to get accustomed to our slightly hard bunk beds (yes) and the various groans and whistles of a moving train. We jumped up this morning when we heard the final call for breakfast and dashed into the dining car with clothes hastily thrown on and slightly wild bed hair. Alas, nobody seemed to notice and we had time afterward to slow our morning down. In fact, Ray climbed back into bed and slept until noon while I visited with a woman I had newly befriended in the Observation car.

The rest of the day has been more eating, more resting and more visiting with fellow travelers. I have also done some editing for a deadline that is looming and will do more this evening. Or else, go to bed early and get up early. Whatever the case, it is no biggie. Life is pretty low-key and relaxed on this smooth-moving conveyance.

I would say these are the primary differences from plane travel:

No one is stressed, no long lines or security checks. No cramped seats. More privacy. (We have a roomette with two seats facing each other that fold out into one bed and one bed that folds out from the ceiling. We have both a curtain and a glass sliding door if we desire privacy, plus a steward named Phillip, who will appear almost immediately if we need him for anything. There are plenty of bathrooms in the corridor and a shower downstairs, which I have already used twice. We have an outlet in our roomette to charge our phones and computers and a big picture window that looks out on the changing terrain.

What is there not to love?

All in all, I couldn’t be happier. This is a lovely change in modes of travel and signals (I am certain) the beginning of some serious “training” in our future.

Hope all is well with all of you. I will check back in again tomorrow.

A Window into My Day Today

Today has been filled with mundane errands, Romeo and Juliet, and college essays.  I headed over to Beverly Hills first thing this morning to retrieve parking placards that were supposed to be sent in the mail but somehow got lost.  The City Hall in BH is an impressive building, fitting of a capital building in a small country.  Typically, the security is tight, but somehow the guard on duty waved me right through with a smile.  That was a nice treat.

Here is the Beverly Hills City Hall:


After returning home, I spent four hours on the phone with one of my college students who is attending Brown University.  We worked on a paper about the difference in the love expressed by Romeo to his friend Mercutio versus Romeo’s lovesickness for Roseline and his passion for Juliet.  This is interesting stuff to me so I enjoyed this discussion.  Much of what my student and I did was discuss various passages in the play that support the claim she is arguing.  She made notes and will construct the essay on her own. I will help edit it once the rough draft is complete.

Romeo and Juliet

Once that was done, then I was off to the post office to mail a letter, then over to the hair salon for a quick haircut.  Then home again for three more hours of students, one who is young and needs writing support and the other, a high school senior who is nearing November 1 deadlines for his college essays.

That brings me up to only forty minutes ago when I walked the dogs around the block.

Now, this is my last task of the day before heading upstairs to watch a tiny bit of television before dropping off to sleep.

No time today for much of my own writing.  This blog will have to suffice.  Alas, I learned a few things today that were satisfying.  First, the guard at BH City Hall was feeling a bit kindly this morning, which was much appreciated; second, Shakespeare is a brilliant wordsmith, particularly in demonstrating the intimacy between Romeo and Mercutio through their joking wordplay; and third, my students are quick with hugs hello and goodbye, which I find very sweet.

On that note, I’ll bid you adieu.  Sleep well.

I’ll check in again tomorrow.


RIP Tom Petty

I am very sad to hear the news of Tom Petty’s death.  Close friends of ours saw him just last week when he and his band performed at the Hollywood Bowl.  They said he was fantastic.

Life feels unpredictable and fleeting at this moment.  The tragedy in Las Vegas last night, the hurricanes, the earthquakes, the general chaos that feels as if it is unfolding in too many areas in this country and around the world makes me recognize that it is time to breathe slowly in and out.  Tom Petty was alive and performing just days ago and now he’s dead.  Life changes on a dime.  But I’ll stand my ground.


tom petty quote

Heading Back to LA

We left the orange grove after dinner this evening. We had a very productive few days there and the little house for Ron and Liz has a roof, sides, insulation and even wall covering on almost all walls. The wires are all run for electricity and there is a clear plan in place for the next work day. So all is well on that accord.

I had a glorious visit with my little grand babies since I was on baby duty when I wasn’t working as the cook. I was support for babies since Sarah was there and the primary cook. I had lots of time to chat with Sarah while we watched the kids play. I also had time to chat with Luna while we walked around the orange grove or down the road on the property. Nico chatted as well and I could even understand him about 80% of the time. At 20 months, some of his conversation is a little hard to decipher. Still, he is such a happy little fellow, his needs are pretty easy to figure out. I am very happy those little folks seem to love the orange grove so much. That makes my heart sing.

Liz, Ron, Gregorio and Ray worked tirelessly on the building project. They should sleep very well tonight. They have put in a lot of hard work.

Yes, a very satisfying few days. Hooray.

I will check in with you again tomorrow. Until then, have a happy and restful night.

Flash Fiction, Memoir and Essay

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