And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I’m a little late this week; I’m sorry. But I had to get to my piano lesson, my second one. And that’s my moment of happiness, including my first lesson last week!

I wrote several weeks ago about deciding to take piano lessons, because I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve had a piano sitting in my living room for a few years now. My daughter Olivia’s first grade teacher was giving her piano away to anyone who would pay to have it hauled. I always wanted a piano, just like I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve even thought about getting a player piano, so that I could have piano music in my house, and I could watch the keys, or even pretend to be playing it. But here was this piano, from a lovely woman, who took care of my daughter when she was only six years old, and who played a big part in helping Olivia become who she is today. So I knew she took care of this piano too.

I will never forget watching it be hauled up to my second floor. The first floor is AllWriters’. We live on the second and third floors, so there was no choice but to bring it up. I hired movers off of CraigsList. They misread my description of what was needed, and so they thought they only had to get it down the few front porch steps of its original house. They didn’t notice the second floor part, so they didn’t bring a dolly. But between the two of them, and lots of swearing and sweating, the piano made it into my living room.

Where it sat.

I’d thought Olivia might play it. She doodled with it for a while, but then left it behind. It was played from time to time when my granddaughter came over and doodled too. But there was no music. From time to time, I’d pat it as I went by. Being a writer, I’ve always had the habit of giving inanimate things feelings and thoughts. It’s like my ability to pretend never went away. And so…I felt the piano was sad, and I kept telling it, “Someday.”

Which is now.

I took my first lesson last week Thursday and came home with an armload of homework. I had a music theory book, where I learned all about notes and how to draw them. I know a lot of this already, with my high school experience in chorus and band. Then there were flash cards, my nemesis. I was to use them to learn the notes that I didn’t know…which in this case, was the entire bass clef. And then there was the book of exercises and songs.

I came home from that lesson, set the books on the piano, the flash cards too, and my assignment notebook…and then I ignored it all until Sunday. I admit it, I was intimidated. I knew (and still know) that I just don’t understand the bass clef. And homework? I had to write with a pencil! I don’t even have a pencil in the house!

But Sunday, I pulled the piano bench back. I sat down. And I opened the books.

I played the exercises, and I swear I heard the piano sigh with relief. I played each exercise four times. And then I turned to the first song on treble clef. It was “Ode To Joy”. I looked at the notes, and I looked at my fingers, and then, I played the song.

I played the song!

And the song, of course, is about joy. Which it was. I was playing music! Music that I recognized! Music I could sing along to!

The piano sang too.

The next song was for the bass clef, and it was “Aura Lee”. I also know that song, and many know it as “Love Me Tender”, by Elvis. I prefer Aura Lee. This was harder, because it’s that damn bass clef, which I don’t understand. I lined my fingers up with what it showed on the page, and then I played it.

“Aura Lee” doesn’t mention joy specifically, but as I played, my mind ran through the verses. One of them is “In her blush the rose was born, ’twas music when she spoke. In her eyes the light of morn sparkling seemed to break.” Twas music when she spoke.

And the piano was speaking. Music.

I wish I could explain how it feels to be playing music. Putting my fingers on the keys and something that makes sense coming out. What it was like to feel like I was resuscitating a beloved instrument, which I now had the honor of having in my house. And that the piano and I were partners, we were working together, and she didn’t mind if I made mistakes. She just patiently waited for me to gather myself again and start over.

Music has always meant a lot to me. In my own writing process, I assign each of my books a song, and that song, in my mind, represents what the book is all about. Each day, when I sit down to write, I play that song first. The song guides me back into the world of the book, bringing me to the people within the pages, their stories, their needs, and the conflict which needs to be solved. The music reflects the emotion. Years after each book is done, if I hear its particular song, I am brought right back.

My first published novel was The Home For Wayward Clocks, and the song I listened to every day for the three years it took me to write that book was “Clocks” by Cold Play. The book was accepted in 2010 and released in 2011. A total of 13 years ago. Yet when I hear that song, James, the main character, is immediately sitting by my side and I can hear his voice as clearly as I heard it in my head for those three years.

Music, like writing, is magic to me. And now, I am helping a piano to raise her voice, and at the same time, I am raising my own. Not the voice of a fictional character, but mine. My own voice.


And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

My piano, with my music book!

To see a video of me playing these songs, click here:



And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

There were so many incredible moments in the last week, with the college graduation of my daughter, Olivia. Olivia is at the tail end of my parade of four children. She is my third child to graduate from college. She is my second child to go on to graduate school.

So you might think that watching Olivia has become ho-hum. I’ve seen it all before.

Trust me, nothing about Olivia, or any of my kids, is ho-hum!

We were told Olivia wouldn’t talk.

We were told she would never look at us with any recognition.

And her Early Childhood teacher, someone who worked with Olivia for three years, who was there to make sure she would be able to reach all that she was capable of reaching, didn’t believe Olivia would be capable of going to college.

We were told so much. But then we looked at Olivia, and Olivia looked back at us, and we all decided not to listen.

Olivia not only began to talk, but she gave a speech at the Light of Learning celebration at her college the night before graduation. And she brought people to their feet.

She not only went to college, but she remained steadily on the Dean’s List, even through the confusing time that was Covid. She was inducted into the Delta Epsilon Sigma national honor society, which only accepts students in the top 5% of their class. And she’s going on to grad school.

In her speech, Olivia told the audience that, when she was 9 years old, we brought her to the school’s Starving Artist show. Afterwards, we found the labyrinth on campus and walked it. Well, Olivia skipped and danced it. When she got to the middle, where the meditation bench was, she sat quietly, then suddenly flung her arms skyward. “I’m going to college here, Mama!” she shouted. “I’m going to college!”

She was right.

Olivia also told the audience at the Light of Learning ceremony that she thought she is where is now because of her neuro-divergent brain. It’s not a deterrent. It’s an asset.

She’s right.

It was a wet handkerchief weekend. Not only should I have had a handkerchief, multiple handkerchiefs, but I could have been one. By the end of the graduation ceremony, after watching her walk across that stage, get her diploma, accept her cheers with grace, and smile at the audience, you could have wrung me out and hung me up to dry.

But my mind kept returning, and returns still, to one moment, a moment I haven’t shared anywhere on social media. Because I wanted to hold it to my heart. And then I wanted to share it here, because I knew there would be no bigger moment in my week.

At the Light of Learning ceremony, after Olivia spoke, received her standing ovation with a dazed expression on her face (she sat down, leaned over, and asked, “Should I have bowed?”), there was the walk and presentation of lanterns. Each graduate was given a small lantern, lit by a battery-powered candle. When we were waiting for the event to start, I read that each graduate would be offering up who they are thankful for, and then they’d be passing their lantern on to someone else. Olivia hadn’t mentioned this at all, and it put me into a panic. Did Olivia know? Did she know what she was going to say and do? Spontaneous things can be hard for her.

But before she left to line up with her lantern, Olivia said to me, “It’s okay, Mama. I knew about it. And I’m going to give my lantern to you.”

Whew. I was so relieved that she wasn’t going to be hit with a surprise, I didn’t really stop to think about this. I just sat back to watch.

Olivia was the second graduate to approach the podium, her second time at the podium that night. Looking straight at the audience, she said she’d made it clear in her speech who she was grateful for (everyone at Mount Mary University for the place of belonging they gave to her). And then she said, “I’m going to give my lantern to my mom. She’s been my number one fan for my entire life and she’s supported me in everything I do.”

Each word just wrapped around my heart and squeezed. As a parent, we don’t often hear gratitude, and we don’t really expect to. We’re parents – we’re supposed to love our children unconditionally, we’re supposed to raise them up time and time again, we’re supposed to be there when we’re needed, and be close by the rest of the time, and…well, we love our children.

The little lantern in Olivia’s hands glowed with a whole new meaning now. It glowed beyond its batteried power.

I had to walk to Olivia, meeting her in front of the podium, so she could give me the lantern. And all I could do was throw my arms around her and hug her with all the strength of all the hugs I’ve ever given her for 22 years.

The little lantern sits on my desk now, right in front of my computer. It sits next to a stone meditating elephant she gave me for Christmas, because “I just thought you would like it, Mom.” She got it at a Mount Mary craft fair.

Every time I look at it, I become a wet handkerchief all over again.

I was told this child would never know who I am.

But she does.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Olivia giving her speech at the Light of Learning celebration the evening before graduation.
She gives me my lantern, and I hug the stuffing out of her.
My lantern.
Olivia graduating. She’s the one standing on stage.
Olivia dancing at 9 years old in a sun storm on the labyrinth at Mount Mary University. “I’m going to college here, Mama! I’m going to college!”
Olivia on the Mount Mary Labyrinth, moving-in day for freshman year.
Olivia on graduation day!


And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This coming Saturday, my daughter Olivia will graduate from Mount Mary University. I want to start this week’s blog by repeating a blog I wrote before she began college, and then I’ll add to it in the end.

From May 16, 2019, exactly 4 years and two days ago:

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Many years ago, when my daughter Olivia was four years old, I took her to a shoe store in search of pink sneakers. For Olivia, the world was pink. Her room, her clothes, her stuffed animals, her ponytail holders, her backpack, her bedspread. The day before, she was in an art class where the teacher had the kids creating their own kid-versions of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, a painting filled with a myriad of rich, rich blues. Olivia studied the painting, studied her paints, and did it in pink. The teacher sighed as she handed the finished project over to me. “We tried to get her to use blue,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

She looked at me like I was crazy.

In the shoe store, Olivia quickly grew bored with the kid aisle and so she skipped around, looking at women’s shoes. I wasn’t worried; we were the only ones in the store and Olivia kept up a constant chatter that always let me know where she was and that she was okay. Nonverbal until the age of three, at four, Olivia was a fountain of never-ending conversation. She made up for lost time by speaking to everything and everyone – our pets, her toys, the walls, strangers on the street, herself, and at night, in her sleep, she spoke out loud of her dreams. Now, she talked to the shoes and I pondered pink sneakers with white rubber toes, sequins, and cartoon characters. And then I heard, “Mama! Mama! Lookit!”

Around the corner, she careened, her pink-socked feet tucked into a pair of brilliant silver women’s STILETTOS. And she was RUNNING.

Instantly, I pictured a twist, a fall, two broken ankles, a concussion, a broken nose, an unconscious pink child. At the end of the aisle, the store manager stood with both her hands to her mouth, her face a mask of horror as I’m sure she pictured a lawsuit. Olivia skidded to a stop in front of me and then stood, proud, perfectly steady, popping a hip and tilting her nose to the ceiling, her mouth a model’s sneer.

“Those are just lovely,” I said to Olivia. “But we need to get you sneakers. Go put those away, okay?”

“Okay, Mama,” she said. “I just wanted to show you.” She strutted away, hips swaying, and she gave a queen’s wave to the manager.

The manager and I looked at each other, both of us letting out a breath. “Ohboy,” I said.

My life with this child has been 18 years of ohboys.

Tonight, I am taking Olivia shopping for shoes to wear with her prom dress. Prom is in two days and we just discovered that the shoes we thought she was going to wear are not tall enough to lift the skirt from the floor. While the dress, a two-piece, isn’t bright pink, it does have a pale pink cast to it, and soft pink flowers on the skirt. The sequins on the top are rose gold. Last week, my pink child said to me, “I want a crown to wear to prom.”

A crown. Ms. Pink Van Gogh wants a crown. Well, of course, I found one. A rose gold tiara. The night we realized the shoes were too short, I had Olivia get into the full outfit. I placed the tiara on her head, and there she was.

There she was.

I thought about all the things you read these days, about putting girls into STEM, about rejecting princess-dreams, about, well, all of that. I have a girl who has always loved pink, who loves to draw and paint, who writes, who plays violin, guitar and ukulele, who does well with math and science, but doesn’t embrace them, who ran in stilettos at the age of four, and who wanted a crown for prom. She stood before me, tall, shoulders back, head upraised, surrounded by soft pink, topped with sequins, and she was the picture, the definition of strength. Of courage. Of determination to be who she is, no matter what the world proclaims is the right way to be.

I called her father upstairs to see. He looked straight at her and said, “You’re beautiful.”

Before he went downstairs, he turned to me, and I saw his eyes were filled with tears.

On August 21, we will take our pink child to college. We will unload all of her pink necessities into her room and we will help her hang posters of VW Beetles on her walls. And then we will kiss her goodbye, get in our car, and drive away. I’m not going to think about that now.

But I am going to hold that tall, beautiful, confident, I’m-not-afraid-to-tell-you-who-I-am pink young woman in my heart forever. That moment with her, echoing the four-year old who stood before me in stilettos, gave me enough joy – and ohboys – for a lifetime.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

And so, we did all of this, the driving, the unloading, the hanging. Over and over, for four years. We kissed her goodbye and we drove away, leaving our pink girl for her college experience.

In that time, she:

  • Had to come back home for online school because of Covid. Second semester of freshman year blew all of her college dreams and expectations right out the window, and she had to learn how to deal with online classes and interactions and being at home again.
  • In-person school resumed for her sophomore year, where she took on a job as the front desk receptionist in the dorms. Asked to fill out a daily form about Covid symptoms, she said her throat was sore, and she immediately was sent to a different dorm room, isolated, with no food, no water, no toilet paper, no curtain on the shower, no support. She wrote about that experience and won an editorial award.
  • There have been challenging classes and challenging instructors. One, in particular, looked down her nose when Olivia attempted to give her her accommodations letter. “Oh, you don’t need that,” she scoffed. Olivia found who to talk to, she stood up for herself, and her needs were met.
  • There have been new boyfriends and lost boyfriends. New friends and lost friends.
  • She created art. She wrote for the college literary magazine. She joined an orchestra outside of school, the Wisconsin Intergenerational Orchestra, where she continues to play violin.
  • Through it all, she kept her pink. Pink bedspread. Pink end tables. Pink desk lamp. VW Beetles on the wall.
  • Dean’s List. Top 5% of her class. Delta Epsilon Sigma national honor society.

All by the girl who wasn’t supposed to talk. The girl who wasn’t supposed to go to college.

In that older blog, I said, “There she was.” Now she looks at me, smiles, and all I can think is There she is! Oh, there she is.

Today, I am going in to Mount Mary to watch Olivia deliver her Capstone project, about developing safe places for the LGBTQ+ community. Tomorrow, I am going to watch her give a speech at the special Light Ceremony, the day before graduation.

And then I will watch her graduate.

(Next is grad school!)

She’s learned to raise her voice. She’s learned what her voice is. She’s developed her talents, her beliefs, her confidence, and she’s become so fully Olivia. She used to wear a shirt that said on the front, “I can and I will.” On the back, it said, “Watch me.”

I’ve watched and I’ve watched and I’ve wept and I’ve laughed and I’ve loved and loved and loved. Do I even need to say what my moment of happiness is?

There she is.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Olivia. 2 years old.
Olivia. 5 years old.
Olivia’s little hands on the violin. Photo by her instructor, Marie Loeffler.
Olivia. Senior in high school.


First day of freshman year.
First day of sophomore year.
First day of junior year.
First day of senior year. 
Always my girl. (Olivia at the immersive Vincent Van Gogh experience)


And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I admit, I am one of those people who has several different astrological forecasts delivered to my email box daily. Do I believe them? Not necessarily, though I do tend to watch for signs, though maybe those signs happen because I watch for them, and not because of divine intervention! I have a new student who recently offered to do my astrological chart. It was very interesting to read, though I wasn’t surprised by much. I’ve been told almost all my life that I’m a classic Leo, and I can buy that. I also just figure that I’m me. 😊

One of the things that I receive in my mailbox that is similar to the astrological forecasts is a daily fortune cookie. These are just fun. They arrive in the evening, and one evening early this week, I tapped the image of the fortune cookie on my computer screen and it opened to say, “Your love of music will be an important part of your life.”

I agreed with that. I’ve always loved music, took part in band and chorus while in school, almost always have something to sing along to in the car (even in the convertible, and people who pull up next to me often join in!), and I assign a song to every book I write. I listen to the song faithfully every day as I work my way through draft after draft of a book, and it helps me to shove aside anything (everything) else that is going on in my life so I can focus. Like Pavlov’s dogs at the sound of a bell, I drool creatively when I hear the chosen song.

So I nodded and moved on with my evening. The next day, at lunchtime, I sat down with a book, Tom Hank’s (yes, THE Tom Hank) short story collection, Uncommon Type. I was happily munching on my sandwich when I read, “Would you own a stereo and never listen to records? Typewriters must be used. Like a boat must sail. An airplane has to fly. What good is a piano you never play? It gathers dust and there is no music in your life.” This was from the story, “These Are The Meditations Of My Heart”.

I thought of the internet fortune cookie the night before: Your love of music will be an important part of your life. I turned and looked at the lovely piano in my living room. Which no one plays. Just the week before, the piano set off a cleaning spree in my home, when Michael said he couldn’t stand the dust on it any longer and had to wipe it down.

Your love of music will be an important part of your life. What good is a piano you never play? It gathers dust and there is no music in your life.

This piano came into my life in August of 2018, when my daughter Olivia’s first grade teacher posted on Facebook that she needed to find a home for her beloved piano. I have always wanted a piano, even though I don’t know how to play.

So let’s wind the clock back even further. I come from a family that lived in a house where music came from every corner. We used to joke that our neighbors must slam their windows shut because coming from our house would be big band and opera from my father, Jim Nabors and Sergio Franchi from my mother, the Beatles from my brother, the Moody Blues from me, and country music from my sister. We all had our own stereos, plus there was the big console stereo in the living room, used mostly by my mother, and my dad’s reel-to-reel tape recorder in the family room. My brother was also a musician, playing practically everything, but especially partial to the organ. Because of him, we had first a Wurlitzer, and then the mighty Hammond in our living room.

But I wanted to play the piano. I’ve always gravitated toward bands that had a keyboardist, and that feature the lovely sounds of the piano. But my parents said no, we have an organ, play that. I didn’t want to. And so I didn’t.

But I always wanted a piano. And now, here was one being offered for free, from a woman I knew who was instrumental (ha!) in Livvy’s upbringing. I told her I would take the piano and rearranged my living room so it would fit. She was delighted, and so was I.

Fast forward now to 2023, and there’s the piano. It’s been silent, except for when Grandgirl Maya Mae comes over and asks if she can pound on the keys. I look at it longingly from time to time.

And now:

Your love of music will be an important part of your life. What good is a piano you never play? It gathers dust and there is no music in your life.

My husband dusted off the piano.

And so I closed the book and lifted my phone. I talked to someone at the White House of Music in Waukesha. Next week Thursday, I will walk in and take my first piano lesson.


I am a Leo. One of the hallmarks of a Leo: I make things happen.

I wanted to play the piano. But I was told no.

And then, for heaven’s sake, I was GIVEN a piano. There is a PIANO in my LIVING ROOM.

And then I’m told, in the words that I love to read and write, “Your love of music will be an important part of your life. What good is a piano you never play? It gathers dust and there is no music in your life.”

I read astrological forecasts and I watch for signs and I even believe them when the news is good.

But sometimes they have to wallop me upside the head.

I’m gonna play the piano.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The day the piano arrived. Olivia, in 2018, plays it. Kind of.
The piano today. No longer dusty. Staring at me and ready for action.


And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

When the pandemic started back in 2020, I began a routine with my granddaughter, Grandgirl Maya Mae. Most every night at 8:30, we Zoom, and we read a book together. Even now, after things have finally calmed down and I can actually see her again, we continue with our reading routine. We read all of the Junie B. Jones books, followed by all of Beverly Cleary’s books. We read Lois Lowry’s Gooney Bird Greene series, which were a lot of fun, given that Gooney Bird Greene is an elementary school kid full of writing advice for her classmates. We read this, that, and the other thing. In the three years we’ve been reading, Maya has grown from 7 years old to 10. And I’ve absolutely delighted in a grandchild who loves to read.

As soon as I learned how to read, I fell fully in love with it. I learned in the first grade, like most people of my generation, but I very quickly took those words between my teeth and ran with them. One afternoon, partway through first grade, I spent afternoon recess in the school library with my teacher, Mrs. Knuti. We scoured the shelves for books that were at my accelerated reading level, but that didn’t contain “inappropriate topics” for a 6-year old. We found a few, but Mrs. Knuti gave up and for the rest of first grade, then second grade with Mrs. Johnson and third grade with Mrs. Campbell, the teachers put their heads together and ordered books for me from the middle school and high school libraries. I was ravenous, often carrying these books outside at recess and plopping myself under a tree to read.

The public library librarian also quickly befriended me. She led me to a corner where Young Adult books were kept, though I don’t know if they were called that then. It was a small library and I think I ripped through every book they had, also crossing over into carefully selected adult books, then rechecked everything out a second time, and a third time.

In the basement of my home, my mother kept her collection of books from when she was a girl, and so I read all of Louisa May Alcott, and Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers series. There was also a series about a girl named Mimi who attended Sheridan School, and her adventures. These books were wonderfully old-fashioned and I loved them. I also began to ask for books for Christmas and my birthday, and so there was always something to read or reread.

Mrs. Campbell, my third grade teacher, and the public library librarian both gifted me with books as well. Mrs. Campbell read a chapter from a book every day after recess, and so I went from reading a book outside to listening to her read a book inside. Lovely. When she finished a book, she’d let us take turns bringing the book home to read for ourselves. I was fifth in line for the book Daddles by Ruth Sawyer, and when I finally got my hands on it, I just kept forgetting to bring it back. When I finally did, she told me to keep it and I was thrilled. It sits behind me even now, always within reach. With the public library, I checked out the book A Candle In Her Room by Ruth M. Arthur so many times, the librarian told me to just keep it. I still have that one as well. And The Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell too. In that book, there was a wild dog named Rontu, the leader of the pack, and when I was given a stuffed dalmation dog with bells in his ears that Christmas (bought with S&H Green Stamps!), I named him Rontu.

And now, a granddaughter who loves to read? Oh, heaven!

Somewhere along the way in our reading adventures, Maya and I stumbled across the author Katherine Applegate. I know I chose the first book for Maya because the cover had a picture of a boy sitting next to a six-foot cat. Maya is obsessed with cats. The book is titled Crenshaw and we were enamored. Just as I tore through favorite authors when I was a kid, I now ran along behind Maya as she did the same thing. We read everything Applegate wrote, and then we waited for her next book. Impatiently. But we waited. When we received word that a new book would be released in May, Maya Mae marched into her school library and demanded that it be ordered. Even though she knew that she’d be getting a copy from me. She likes having the books at home and at school. That way, she’s surrounded with those she loves.

My kinda girl.

On Monday, I received word that the new book, The One And Only Ruby, the third book in this series, was on its way and would arrive on Tuesday. On Tuesday, I received a text message saying that my package was five stops away. I paced the big windows in my classroom, watching for that van, and when it arrived, I met the driver in the parking lot. I took a picture of the book’s cover and reached for my phone to text Maya, to say, “It’s here! It’s here!”, but then I remembered she was in school. So I watched the clock and texted her after I knew she was home.

And then came my Moment. Maya texted back.

Not one.

Not two.

But NINE “Yays!” spread across my cell phone screen. And about a bajillion exclamation points. I could hear the shriek behind them.

“Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

A granddaughter who reads. A girl after my own heart. I have no doubt that when Maya Mae is 62 years old, like I am, she will turn from her desk and see a book from her childhood, saved in this extra special, always close by place.

And when she sees it, I bet she thinks of me.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! from the future.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Me with the books Daddles, by Ruth Sawyer, and A Candle In Her Room, by Ruth M. Arthur.
Some of my books in the AllWriters’ classroom.
The One And Only Ruby by Katherine Applegate!
Preparing to read The One And Only Ruby with GrandGirl Maya Mae! I’m above the computer screen with the book, and Maya is on the screen.



Due to the launch of Kathie’s novel, Hope Always Rises, there won’t be a “This Week’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News” today, because she’s living it!
Please attend the launch, either live or on Zoom. The launch is a Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books Special Event. It will be held at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Waukesha campus, 1500 N. University Drive, in Waukesha, beginning at 6:00 p.m. tonight. To attend via Zoom, go to:
Kathie Giorgio is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Hope launch
Time: Apr 27, 2023 06:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 850 6514 7767
Passcode: HopeRises
One tap mobile
+13052241968,,85065147767# US
+13092053325,,85065147767# US
Dial by your location
+1 305 224 1968 US
+1 309 205 3325 US
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 931 3860 US
+1 929 436 2866 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
+1 507 473 4847 US
+1 564 217 2000 US
+1 669 444 9171 US
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 689 278 1000 US
+1 719 359 4580 US
+1 253 205 0468 US
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 360 209 5623 US
+1 386 347 5053 US
Meeting ID: 850 6514 7767
Hope Always Rises. Oh, it does indeed.


***Sorry I’m late today! I was giving a presentation to the Women’s Club of Wisconsin. So much fun!***

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Yesterday, April 19th, was my “teachaversary”. I’ve been teaching now for 27 years, and the last 18, have been through my studio, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, though I am always appearing and teaching elsewhere.

27 years. I think that’s pretty good for someone who never ever said, while growing up, “I want to be a teacher.” Teaching wasn’t a goal, a dream, a passion, not even something that I thought would tide me over as I was earning my riches being a writer (HA!). I’d heard, over and over again, “Those who can’t, teach.” And I didn’t want to be someone who “can’t.”

27 years ago, I received a call from the Park & Rec department of my city. The person they had teaching their one creative writing class, Seniorscribes, for those 55 and up, suddenly just up and quit, fleeing for Ireland. Somehow, the Park & Rec people heard of me, and they called me to see if I might want to take over the class.


55 and up? I was all of 35 years old then. I didn’t want to teach “old” people. They’d likely be writing about their operations and their grandkids! And I didn’t want to teach in the first place.

For some reason, I told my then-husband, who never turned down the opportunity to make money to support his gambling habit, particularly if he didn’t have to do the work. I finally agreed (gave up) and said I would do it, but that “if I’m ever teaching more than I am writing, I’m quitting!”


I walked into that classroom, full of angst and assumptions. I walked out excited, my mind spinning, and I couldn’t wait for the next week. My students weren’t the ones who had a lot to learn; I was.

Word got out that I was teaching, and that my students very quickly began to see success. By the end of my first year, I was teaching 65 hours a week, at Park & Rec, plus the University of Wisconsin – Waukesha, the College of Lake County, online for Writers’ Digest, Writers’ College, I-University, and many more. I began to develop my own private classes, went back to school to earn my MFA in fiction, and in 2005, did something else that I never wanted to do. I opened my own small business, AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop.

Teaching grew into a passion. A dream. A goal. I was, of course, teaching more than I was writing, but because I was teaching, the writing remained steady. I would never ever allow myself to teach writers if I wasn’t writing and publishing myself. It became a hallmark of AllWriters’ that, whatever class you took, you were led by someone who was succeeding at doing what you wanted to do. I was all about proving that teaching had nothing to do with the “can’t” in “Those who can’t, teach.” Teaching made me even more devoted to my own work.

I didn’t realize, when I got up yesterday morning, that it was my teachaversary. It was my day off, and it wasn’t until I slept in, lazily got up, wandered to the laptop in my jammies and shared my breakfast with my email, that I saw, in Facebook memories, that this was the day. I wasn’t on Facebook 27 years ago, but I’ve celebrated that anniversary in the years since getting on board with social media. So after reading about my own milestone, I sat there for a bit and stared at the screen.

27 years. 27 years! I finished my thirties, my forties, my fifties, and I moved into my sixties.

Other than writing (started in elementary school, published at 15) and parenting (39 years), there is nothing else I’ve done for a longer amount of time than teaching. I am so glad I started doing what I so didn’t want to do.

We often hear that we should “follow our passion”. And I have, with writing, without a doubt. But I think I’ve learned that you also have to be open to what comes along. Sometimes, you don’t recognize a passion until you’ve been doing it a while, and then suddenly, you realize you never want to stop doing it.

One of my passions has become helping my students achieve their passion, and they achieve their passion doing what I’m passionate about. Each publication by a student or client is like a grandchild. I am so proud.

27 years. How about that?

Let’s start pushing for 30.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

An addendum several hours after posting this – I just realized something. I need to be grateful to my gambling then-husband, because if he hadn’t insisted strongly that I take that first job teaching, I would never have learned of my deep love for it. Good lord. I don’t wanna be grateful to him. But for this, I will be.

And teaching!!!


And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This is going to be a different week. I’ve struggled coming up with a Moment because there is another experience that is dominating my think-space, and every time I tried to pick out a Moment of Happiness and write about it, it was like my brain skewered in my skull and turned me back to this THING. This THING that has me very unhappy and very angry.

And so I turned my focus instead to how can I look at this THING and get something positive out of it. Instead of marinating myself in the hurt and the anger, how can I turn it around and get something good.

And I did it. So maybe that’s part of the Moment too. Not just finding a positive moment to smile about, but looking deep into a not-so-good moment and turning it around. So we’re going to talk about that.

I have a t-shirt, a gift from my husband, that shows the spines of books that have been singled out and banned. There’s a scroll of words that say, “I’m with the banned.” I love this shirt. And now, I want to add some book spines. My own.

I’ve been banned before, sure. Banned and censored. I tend to write about things that are controversial, but that I feel are so important and need to be explored so that they can be understood and solved. But this week, I discovered a new banning – and it’s so personal as to be hurtful.

In 1978, I graduated from Waukesha North High School. I went to three different high schools due to my family moving a lot, and this one was my favorite. I was only there for second semester junior year and my senior year, but those three semesters changed my life.

While I was there, I took the following classes: Creative Writing, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & The Macabre, Growing Up In Literature and Reality. Some of the books that were included on the syllabi were Fahrenheit 451, The Catcher In The Rye, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, and a short story, Wanda Hickey’s Night Of Golden Memories. I ate these works of literature up like the fine meals they are. And of course, now they’re banned.

In Creative Writing, I met the teacher who is still my friend and cheerleader today. I learned what I could do, I learned what my “power” is, what my passion is. I was encouraged to raise my voice, to write what was important to me, to make a difference. I was told I had a responsibility to use my talent.

I have.

My gratitude to Waukesha North knows no bounds. They created a pivotal point in my life, a huge impact, and those three semesters have a lot to do with who I am today.

Over the years, I’ve returned often. I’ve been guest speaker in English classes and in the few writing classes they offer. Through the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, I created a program called Authors In The Schools, where I sent publishing authors into the middle and high schools of the Waukesha school district, and in other schools in southeast Wisconsin. During Authors In The Schools, I always brought myself to Waukesha North, and I was always welcomed.

In 2021, I was inducted into Waukesha North’s Wall of Stars. According to Waukesha North, to be included in the Wall of Stars, you must be an alumni and “must have demonstrated citizenship during and after high school, and must have made a significant contribution to the community and society.” I am very proud to be on that wall.

And my books? They were in the Waukesha North library, and in the library of another high school in Waukesha. They were donated to the school by my creative writing teacher, now retired, and I donated some as well.

Note the language there, please. “They were in the Waukesha North library…”

Early in the school year, it was in the local news that the school district made a “sweep” of the school libraries, removing those books that were on the most recent banned list, and old lists too, and other books that were considered inflammatory and inappropriate. I was incensed and horrified. But honestly, I never thought my books would be included. I was a local author. I was asked to make appearances at my school. I was on the Wall of Stars.

But when Waukesha made the news again in recent weeks, this time for our superintendent deciding that elementary school kids couldn’t sing “Rainbowland”, a song by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus about being nice and accepting of all people, my mind turned to that banning again. The superintendent, by the way, said it was because the rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQ+. I can’t help but wonder if he, or his children, ever watched Reading Rainbow. Or played with the Rainbow Brite doll. Or sang along with Kermit to “The Rainbow Connection”. Or gathered around the television to watch what used to be an annual showing of The Wizard of Oz with the classic scene where Judy Garland sings “Over The Rainbow”. My gosh, my generation was just inundated with rainbows, weren’t we?

Good grief.

So when I began to think about the banning, I realized that during this school year, I hadn’t received a single email from a student who checked out one of my books from the school library for a project, or just to read for fun. I usually receive several emails a year, but this year…nothing.

I dug through the internet, but couldn’t find anyplace where I would be allowed to search the library database, to see what was there. So this week, I picked up the phone and I called. I spoke to a librarian who knew exactly who I was. She cheerfully greeted me. But when I asked her if she could check to see if my books were still in the library, her voice grew very quiet.


She checked, and all of my books are gone. Not a one left behind. Not at Waukesha North. Not at the other high school. Nowhere.

She said, “I’m so sorry. There was a sweep of the books earlier this year and –”

I said, “That’s what I was afraid of.”

We were silent for a moment, and then she repeated, “I’m so sorry.”

So am I. I’m up on the Wall Of Stars…but the students are no longer allowed to read my books.

And now here’s the really tough thing. When I was in high school, I was a part of the literary magazine, Polaris. Again, it was one of the things I so loved about this school. A newspaper and a literary magazine! (Neither of which are in existence today. Neither are those classes. And now, the books aren’t available either.) In my senior year, I wrote a short story set in Heaven. God was actually a huge computer, and Jesus was the “computer mechanic” – we didn’t have a word yet for a technician. Gabriel was a drug-using jazz trumpet player. The end of days came when the computer – God – went haywire and Jesus couldn’t fix him. The people of earth, seeing the signs in the sky, looked up in fear. But then it all stopped and life went on.

The story was accepted for the literary magazine. But word got out about its topic, and some parents protested, saying the story should be pulled because it was “sacrilegious”. But my creative writing teacher – and the school administration – stood behind me, and that story appeared.

And now, my books have disappeared.

The school that backed me now bans me.

And the ultimate irony – my new book, Hope Always Rises, is set in Heaven. Though God isn’t a computer, trust me.

So where is the Moment? The moment of happiness. Well, it’s simply this.

I am so glad I was born when I was. I am so glad I went to high school when I did. When the focus was on uplifting students, encouraging them, teaching them to think for themselves. I am so glad that Waukesha North was in my life when it was, giving me what I needed that I wasn’t getting anywhere else. I am so glad for my creative writing teacher, who told me I had a responsibility, because if I didn’t know that, hold it tight to my heart, I might just take this moment and quit. I might just not have the strength to keep on going, when a place that has always been so dear to me turns out to be part of a rainbow-bashing, dream-smashing organization.

I will always be grateful for my Waukesha North. My books deserve to be in that library. The kids that attend deserve to read them.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

And just a note…I hope you will show support by attending the launch of Hope Always Rises. It will be both a live and a Zoom live-streaming event. It is hosted by the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books and Books & Company. It will be on April 27, starting at 6:00 p.m. central time, at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Waukesha campus, 1500 N. University Drive, in Waukesha. If you prefer to attend on Zoom, here is the link:

Topic: Hope launch
Time: Apr 27, 2023 06:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 850 6514 7767
Passcode: HopeRises
One tap mobile
+13052241968,,85065147767# US
+13092053325,,85065147767# US

Dial by your location
+1 305 224 1968 US
+1 309 205 3325 US
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 931 3860 US
+1 929 436 2866 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
+1 507 473 4847 US
+1 564 217 2000 US
+1 669 444 9171 US
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 689 278 1000 US
+1 719 359 4580 US
+1 253 205 0468 US
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 360 209 5623 US
+1 386 347 5053 US
Meeting ID: 850 6514 7767
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbkjfQhF0w

Please, please support those writers who are being targeted by small minds.

My t-shirt. (Thanks, Michael!)
And now…the banned. My books.
My high school graduation photo.
My Wall of Stars award.
My name on the plaque featuring those that have earned a place on the Wall of Stars. They spelled my name incorrectly.
Promo for the launch of Hope Always Rises.


And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

To sleep, perchance to dream – from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

For as little as I sleep, it still remains one of my favorite things to do. I’ve long been sleep-challenged; insomnia is a frequent visitor, but I also just don’t have a lot of time for it. I go to bed somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning, and I’m typically up at 8:20, so that I have time to bolt a cup of coffee before my first client at 9:00. Recently, when I felt I was forgetting things more often than I should be, I went to see a neurologist.

She gave me a long verbal test, that started with telling me three words, which I was to repeat to her at the end of the test. They were apple, book, coat. The test itself was a battery, but I found I didn’t hesitate with any of the answers, with the exception of counting backwards by 7s. I told the neurologist I am absolutely no good at math, and I bungled it after the first couple: 100…93…ummm…  She laughed and said that was just fine, and at the end, she told me she’d never tested anyone who answered so quickly and so correctly. All of my answers were right, except for those darn 7s. She said the issue wasn’t with my memory, but with my sleep, that I had to start getting more hours in, and that I had to stop exercising so late at night, as that also likely disturbed my sleep quality.

I went home disgruntled. However, about one in the morning, I sent the neurologist a message: “By the way, you forgot to ask me about those three words. They were apple, book, and coat.”

She emailed back, telling me to go to bed.

So sleep. During the past two weeks, when I was home with mono, I slept a lot. I spent way more hours asleep than I did awake, and I reveled. There is nothing like waking up in a warm bed, the covers all curved around you, a purring cat on your shoulder (thank goodness she’s only 5 pounds) and the sun pouring in. Getting to lay there for a bit longer was such a luxury. There was no hurry to get up, as I had nowhere I needed to be. Sometimes, I drifted back to sleep. Other times, I reached for the book I was reading the night before and read until the need for food and coffee drove me out of the bed. Or I got up and fixed my breakfast and actually ate it in the kitchen, not at my desk, and I read the book, not my emails, while I did. I was clad in pajamas. Hair every which way. And I didn’t care.

But even better were the dreams. As I slept more than I was awake, I dreamed more than I was in reality. In the dreams, I visited past memories and I experienced new things. Some people were strangers to me, and others I knew so well. Many I hadn’t seen in a long time, and some, I knew I would never see again.

By far, my favorite dream occurred this week, after I was back to work and back to my hectic schedule. It was a dream where the impossible and the real came together.

My children are currently 39, 37, 36 (turning this weekend!), and 22. But in this dream, they were all the same age: 5. Looking at them was like looking at quintuplets.

They all wore the outfits I remember as my favorite for each, though the outfits didn’t fit the age sometimes. My oldest daughter Katie, for example, was wearing purple and white shorts, topped with a white shirt displaying a circus tent with purple and white doors. The doors could be opened, to reveal an elephant. Katie wore this when she was a year old. I bought it for her at K-Mart, because I knew she loved to play peekaboo. With the tent on her shirt, she quickly learned to pull open the doors and crow, “Eek-boo!” to her big brothers’ delight. And mine too. But in the dream, she was five, and she spoke the full word, “Peekaboo!”

Seeing those faces all together was just a dream, in the very real sense, and in the motherlove sense. The faces weren’t baby anymore, but they were still round and the cheeks were still soft. There were no angsty eye rolls yet. Just looks of absolute trust and love. Their hands fit completely in mine.

And then the even more impossible happened. My grandgirl, Maya Mae, walked in and stood next to the 5-year old who would become her father. And Maya, now 10, was 5 again as well.

Even in the dream, I knew the importance of the 5-year mark. Kindergarten. For the first three, Christopher, Andy, and Katie, kindergarten was a half day. For my youngest child, Olivia, and for my granddaughter, it was a full day. And for all of them, it was the day they stepped away for the first time.

I still remember the first day that all three of my older kids walked off to school together, without me going along to make sure that Katie knew where to go. School was a block away, and I could stand on the sidewalk in front of my house and watch them step onto school grounds. Katie looked over her shoulder at me. Andy, my middle child, tucked his arm around her and led her away. Christopher was nattering away nonstop, likely telling her every single one of his kindergarten experiences like the truly old man he was at 8 years old and in the 3rd grade.

Olivia, on the first day of kindergarten, sat down at a table and then looked up at her father and me. “You can go now,” she said.

Yep. Since they’re 39, 37, and 36 (this weekend!), and 22, that 22-year old about to graduate college, I can go now too. Again.

But it was so nice, for the duration of that dream, to have them all there again, and in the most impossible way. Those faces. Those eyes. Those smiles. “Mommy!” from three of them. “Mama!” from one. “Gamma Kaffee!” from the last.

Thank goodness for sleep, and the way it makes memories do the most amazing tricks.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

My favorite photo of the 3 big kids. From the left, Andy, who is 4, Katie, who is 3, and Christopher, who is 6.
Olivia, 5 years old. “I’m posing like a model, Mama!”
Grandbaby Maya Mae on her first day of kindergarten.


And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This was my second week laying low at home, recovering from mono. I spent most of my time sleeping, but also reading (for fun), writing, and watching The Waltons (again). In writing, I worked mostly on some guest blogs that I’m going to be doing as a blog tour, starting the end of April and into May.

One of the bloggers asked me to talk about how to handle writing about controversial issues. Another blogger asked me to write about being banned. Interestingly, this came right about the same time as the first serious review of Hope Always Rises, by Sublime Book Reviews. While the review was glowing, it included the following: “From a spiritual perspective, some may take offense with the portrayal of an almost human-like God, but I accepted it as a work of fiction and was intrigued by the vision of Heaven and its leader.”

Link to review: https://www.sublimebookreview.com/bookreviews/hopealwaysrises

This got me to thinking, and I have to admit that, while I expected some push-back over the way I presented those who choose to end their own lives, I hadn’t really thought about the way I wrote the character of God, who is very active in this book.

For someone who doesn’t belong to any church, who doesn’t consider herself religious, and who flinches at the stock phrase, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual,” I’ve actually written about God quite a bit, and always as a character. This really surprised me, and I wouldn’t have made that statement about myself up until this week.

But my very first published story, written when I was fifteen years old, rewrote the story of Christ in 1970’s slang (it was 1975). It was accepted by the Catholic Herald Citizen, even though it was too long. They sliced it into four pieces and published it as a serial.

Later, when I was a senior in high school, I wrote a story where God was a computer and Jesus was his technician. The proverbial end of days came, God blew up, but the world went on. This story was accepted in the school’s literary magazine, and somehow, my topic got out and parents protested. But the administration stood by me and the story appeared.

Many years later, I wrote a series of magical realism stories about Jesus, who liked to hang out with the dinosaurs. In the first story of that series, I took on Christianity, evolutionism, reincarnation, and any number of things. God appears regularly as well, and in fact, in one story, he creates Prozac. (In Hope Always Rises, Hope mentions to her friend that she hasn’t seen Jesus yet, and the friend replies, “Oh, he likes hanging out with the dinosaurs.” You now know one of the many hidden tongue-in-cheek comments in the book.)

I also wrote a story called “North of Heaven”, where a country club blows up due to a gas leak, and as the people who die in the explosion are filing into Heaven, country club members realize they are going to be living with the people who worked in housekeeping, the kitchens, the lawnwork. I developed in that story my idea of condos being built every day in Heaven to house those that die on that particular day.

So it turns out I’ve written quite a bit about God, even though I don’t really consider myself a believer. A seeker, sure. But a believer? No.

But I’d like to be.

I’ve said often about this book that I hope Heaven, and God, are like the way I’ve portrayed them. If so, I’ve said, I’m looking forward to going to Heaven. God, as I presented him, is someone I’d really like to sit down and talk to. Others have called my version of God, “human in the most inhuman of ways.”

When the Sublime Books review came out, I began to worry a little. When you write about controversial things, you brace yourself for the comments and attacks that will undoubtedly come your way. And I was (am) braced. But then to find out there was a second thing I had to brace myself for, something that I hadn’t considered…sigh.

But then today, I received a message from a reader. A reader who is a lay minister. She was able to take the day off today, and she used it to, as she put it, sink into my book. She said, “Though I did struggle with the way God was presented at times.” When I thanked her, and then questioned her, she said, “He (God in the book) is all living and all caring.  You made me see how human he is, that is what the struggle was. It is a good thing.  Helps me be a bit more open minded.”

Wow. I haven’t stopped smiling yet.

Maybe I don’t need to be so braced after all.

(Yeah, I do.)

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

And P.S. – be watching for the links for the guest blogs. I’m writing about the two topics I mentioned above, plus about how I managed to sell 14 books in 13 years to traditional presses, why I’m both a pantser and a planner (writers will understand that reference), how to balance a writing career with raising children, and how to deal with depression.

Also, the Jesus stories I mentioned above, as well as “North Of Heaven”, can be found in my short story collection, Oddities & Endings; The Collected Stories Of Kathie Giorgio.

Writing away.
Hope Always Rises. Oh, it does indeed.