Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I love trains and I love riding on Amtrak. I’m a little kid again when I hear the train whistle going through towns and hear the rails on the track.

When I was a little girl in Libby, Montana, one Christmas I got a train set. It had real smoke and logs. It was glorious. One summer day, my dad drove my mom and me to Troy so we could ride on the train back to Libby. All this started my love of trains.

There’s something magical about trains. You’re going somewhere. I feel the excitement in the air. It would be fun to work for Amtrak and serve food in the dining car. Everyones nice who works for Amtrak.

This is the 4th time this year that I’ve traveled on Amtrak round trip from Albany to Seattle and back. My son, Benjamin and daughter-in-law, Amanda sent tickets four different times so we could see our newest granddaughter, Anna. This time it was for five days. We had the joy and honor of babysitting for Anna.

On the way home on the train between Seattle and Portland, I got to see the movie Julie and Julia. I’ve been wanting to see this movie because it was written by Nora Ephron, my favorite screenwriter. It was everything I thought it would be. I loved it and it was such a treat to see it on the train.

You never know what the future brings but I hope there are more trains in my future.

Everyone should go on vacation this New Year, 2010, on Amtrak. You don’t have to fight the traffic. You can sit back and relax. There are dining cars where you can sit down at a big table to eat and look out the windows. There are sleeping cars where you can sleep during an extended trip. There are double-decker sight-seeing cars. Many smart business people travel by train. I also see a lot of students. If it is game day in Seattle and I am going home at the right time, there are people coming back to Tacoma from a game in Seattle. It’s all fun and well worth the money.

Plan your next vacation or business trip using Amtrak. You’ll be so glad you did.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ellen Beier

I had the honor of visiting the home of Ellen Beier last night, the gifted and talented children’s book illustrator, for the monthly Corvallis Children’s Writers critique group. I love her art. She’s meticulous about research, planning her illustrations, and working in collaboration with her editors to achieve perfection. Ellen told about researching handmade paper and the handmade paper used by her favorite illustrator for watercolors that costs $40 a sheet. She showed her drawings for her current book project, THE CHRISTMAS COAT. As everyone was leaving, she gave one of her children’s books that she has illustrated. I selected MRS. PEACHTREE AND THE EIGHTH AVENUE CAT and I asked her to sign it. One of my favorite illustrations that she has painted is of Mrs. Peachtree riding a bike. Ellen illustrated the children’s book version of Anne of Green Gables.

Only one of the members of this critique group read their work to be critiqued. Nancy Matsumoto read her delightful manuscript for children ages 4 through 7. Everyone agreed that it was a polished manuscript ready to be published. She just attended the Silver Falls Conference for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and connected with NY editors. I have no doubt that her book will be a best seller. I know I would love to read it to my grandchildren and I know other children would love it.

Lill Ahrens shared her current sculpture project that she is working on for a deadline. Linda V. Smith showed her yearly project of creating a book of photos and poems that she passes out to her family. There were over 70 poems in the thick book and it is filled with love for her family. The creativity and talent is off the charts in this group.

Linda Smith recently visited the Alsea School and taught three classes about constructing poetry. It was very kind of her to come. She's a master teacher.

It’s always been my dream to go to the SCBWI conference and also to the Willamette Writers Conference. I’m sitting on a lot of writing—stories and a novel for juveniles and two mystery novels, short stories, and articles. I need to revise and start submitting again. I need recommit to writing every day. I received the latest issue of THE WRITER yesterday in the mail and there is a quote by Donald M. Murray that says, “A piece of writing is not finished until it is submitted for publication as many times as is necessary for it to appear in print.” I’m also toying with the idea that I need to sign up for National Novel Writing Month even though I am 6 days late. I would start on a memoir. I’m inspired to write. I've been trying to concentrate on exercise and reading but writing MUST in there too. I NEED to write. It is essential.

Health Care Reform and Senator Bob Casey

Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania testified yesterday in the Senate about a study by Johns Hopkins University that said that uninsured children are more likely to die when they enter the hospital. This study was done in 37 states from 1988 to 2005 and for the 23 million children’s hospitalizations, 60% faced an increased risk of dying. This great senator asked “Would Congress be a faithful friend and sturdy shelter for children?” Senator Casey also asked, “Why have we tolerated this?”

We desperately need health care reform. We desperately need single payer health care. We desperately need health care for all Americans. There are enough votes, if all Democrats unite and if Republicans with a conscience will support health care reform.

I do not have health care. No one in this country should be without health care or housing or food. Basic needs must be met for all Americans.


My husband has Humana as his prescription drug plan. He found out through asking questions and looking at documents that they’re raising the deductibles higher than the price of the drugs. Between the premium and the co-pay, you pay more than what the drug costs. They’re cheating everybody. This is the free market system!

Republicans in Washington

Republicans are in Washington with great strength in numbers carrying out the agenda of those who do not want health care reform. For several weeks, every time I watch the Senate leaders on C-Span 2, I hear Republicans whining, confusing facts, and ranting about fear of change. Our country faced an economic collapse because of Republican greed. Our country needs to change to make sure that the needs of all Americans are met with health care. We need single payer health care. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate need to remain strong and vote to support the change that President Obama is trying to bring about so that all Americans have health care.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Black Swan Classic Jazz Band

Yesterday I was in the right place at the right time. I saw an announcement in the Corvallis Gazette Times that the Black Swan Classic Jazz Band was going to play Dixieland at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Corvallis so I went. I was there over an hour early because of the changing of the clocks for day light savings time so I read several articles in the latest issue of the Writer. That worked great.

When they started to play it was glorious. There is no happier music on the planet, in my opinion. You can't be sad in the presence of Dixieland or Disneyland. Just a fact. This group is amazing. They are all great performers and versatile musicians. They are good enough for a world tour and to pack in crowds. They are good enough to be on the David Letterman Show and on the Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

I experienced pure joy and happiness during those two hours tapping my foot, slapping my leg, and shaking my head to the beat. This is heaven--listening to the Black Swan Classic Jazz Band.

Marilyn Keller tours Europe, Australia, and also plays with New Orleans Delight. Her voice is strong, powerful, and clear. She's a great performer. Ron Leach is great on the drums. He keeps it all going. Dave Holo is gifted on the cornet. It was joy to listen to him. John Bennett played solos on the piano from ragtime to dixieland--perfection. Pat O'Neal was amazing on the trombone. He's played for stars like Della Reese, Mel Torme' and others. He knows his way around on the stage. He's electric. The great Kit Johnson plays the tuba in the background and introduced the band. John McKinley has played with Pearl Bailey, Lawrence Welk, Helen Reddy and Burl Ives. He's on the banjo and knows his way so fast up and down the frets that you can't keep up with his fingers. Steve Matthes on the clarinet plays like Pete Fountain, my favorite of all times. He's from Corvallis and is Director of the Corvallis Community Band.

As I was leaving and put money in the basket, the lady said that it looked like I was having a good time. I said yes and it would last for several months. She said there's lots of great music in Corvallis. I don't know. It seems like the best music is in Portland.........Pink Martini, Black Swan. I wish I could be part of something so fine..........

Kit Johnson, manager