Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Decline of American Politics

I recently heard an interview with David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times.  He made some succinct points about our political climate right now. As much as I want to be apolitical and stop reading about it and ignore it—I can't seem to stop. I can't seem to stop being disappointed in the "United" State of America.  In my lifetime it has never been like this.

Brooks said that politics now is making us cynical and that some people go to certain channels so they can be reminded how right they are all the time. Constant political reporting on these channels turns politics into a team sport—it's just my team, my team.  He stated that politics has come to replace morality and when we talk about things now we do it through the guise of politics. It turns politics into a holy war.

In my view all of these statements are both true and disturbing.

There was a similar discussion on NPR's Dianne Rehm show this week.  Diane said that when she covered the campaigns of George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis in Iowa in 1988 she recalls people discussing issues through the respectful discourse of facts.  Those in her discussion proclaimed how people now seem to hear the shouting and not the facts—that we are, in fact, less informed because of all the outrageous statements on the news each day.

I will not write the name of the person who has made our presidential process a joke. I am sick to death of him.  Whenever I challenge someone who says they are voting for him because "he says it like it is"  they cannot give me one policy or idea that they agree with except building a border wall as if that will solve all our problems. Will that solve poverty, our education failures, foreign policy, the economy etc etc. Does anyone really think that immigrants are the only problem?  Many pundits on both sides are calling him a demagogue.

A demagogue is a leader who make use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power. He preys on people's fears and bigotry.

How are we allowing this? When has fear and blaming solved anything?  When did bullying and name-calling become a presidential trait?  What happened to civility?  And most disturbing of all to me—are we really a nation of xenophobic, bigoted citizens completely lacking in compassion and dignity?

I wasn't going to rant on this blog any more but Facebook often provokes arguments and anger. People act like you do not have a right to your own opinion on Facebook. This is MY blog.  No one has to read it and I know very few do any longer—so there it is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Memories of Tamir Rice (published in Scene Magazine November 18, 2015)

My Memories of Tamir Rice': A Personal Essay

Posted By  on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

    You never expect to open the newspaper in the morning and see someone you know. Especially not a former student. Certainly not a child. It took me a few moments to comprehend what I was looking at when I saw Tamir Rice’s smiling face in front of me. I had last seen Tamir a year and a half earlier, when I was his fourth grade math teacher.

    As I slowly processed the information that he was dead and had been shot by a police officer in a neighborhood park, I felt a deep and disturbing indignation. Someone was to blame for the killing of this child—and it was not the child. I was sure that those who blamed this 12-year-old did not know him.

    I remember a tall and handsome boy. Tamir looked older than his years but he was emotionally immature for his age. The thing about Tamir was that even if he gave you a hard time you still liked him. I don’t remember the tough days as much as that smile I frequently see on the news. He had a keen sense of humor and I sensed the capacity in him to achieve and even be a leader if life went his way—which it didn’t. What a waste.

    Tamir was in my special-needs classroom, but, unlike most of my students, Tamir did not have a learning disability. He did well in math on the days that he chose to participate. On some days he wanted to answer every question and would become frustrated if he was not allowed to do so. He was placed in my room, in part, for the extra attention that he craved, for the attention he could not get in a larger classroom and, on certain days, could not do without.

    Tamir, in his best moments, had a wonderful personality. He could be charming and funny. I believe his childhood had been a confusing one. Tamir enjoyed attention and, like some other children I have known, negative attention can sometimes be as stimulating as positive attention. So you can imagine the attention he was getting in the park that November day as he wielded an airsoft pellet gun, pointing it at passersby and other kids. The orange cap on the tip of the barrel that was supposed to indicate it was a fake was missing, so it appeared to be a real gun.

    He’d been playing in the area of the recreation center gazebo when one of those passersby called 911. We later learned the caller had stated that the gunman was probably a juvenile and it was probably not a real gun. The dispatcher never relayed that part of the message to the police. We will never know if those words would have changed the deplorable outcome of that day.

    What we know for sure about that day was caught on a park security camera. We saw a police vehicle drive up within feet of the boy and within two seconds he fell to the ground. There was no audio to tell us whether he had been asked repeatedly to drop the gun before he was shot (witnesses said they did not hear that). We did not see the police officer use a taser to get the child to drop the gun, or get assistance in any other way—we just saw the 12-year-old’s life end at that moment, never to use those leadership skills or engaging personality again.

    Inevitably I feel compassion for the wounded, the underdogs, the young men whose lives have been taken, and for the families who will never stop grieving for them.

    In personal conversations, most people I spoke with blamed the black parents for teaching their child disrespect for authority—specifically white police. How do you know that, I wondered? Why is that the assumption? Would you be saying that if it was a white child?

    Tamir’s academic and emotional development was most likely affected by transience. Tamir left our care abruptly right before the end of that school year. Many children in low-income areas are constantly on the move from school to school, neighborhood to neighborhood. They lose their apartments for various reasons and move on to another dwelling or move in with a relative—often in a different school district. The work educators do with a child is often interrupted and negated at another school. The principal, Tamir’s mother, and other teachers, as well as myself, spent many heartfelt hours and much energy trying to meet Tamir’s individual needs and help him be successful in school.

    A generation ago it was acceptable for children to have toy guns to play cowboys and Indians. It’s a shame that toy companies have created more realistic weapons and that so much focus is on guns in our society. Very few television shows or movies exist without guns. What else would we expect a young boy to want? It was reported later by an FBI agent who happened by that while lying on the ground wounded, Tamir asked for his gun back. Maybe we, the collective American society, are the ones to blame for constantly glorifying all types of guns and emphasizing the rights of everyone to own one.

    To me, Tamir Rice is not a news item or a conversation starter. He was an unforgettable student I taught and cared for during a brief period in time. He was a kid who struggled with being moved from school to school. He was a child who needed a significant amount of attention. Like many inner city children, Tamir had probably seen and experienced more than his 12-year-old brain could process. On November 22, 2014, he was simply an innocent soul who just wanted to have a good time as most children do.

    What I imagine from knowing Tamir was that he was having great fun that day. He was a child pretending he had a real gun. He was a young boy who was getting the attention he craved. And he will never know the attention he received after that fateful day.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2015

    My First Amendment Rights

    Under the protection of the first amendment I have the right to express myself on this blog as I have been doing for the last seven years.  Recently I have been attacked for certain viewpoints I have posted on Facebook.When I say attacked I do not mean that someone disagreed with my opinion - that is certainly acceptable.  Attacked means that my character as a human being is slandered because of a viewpoint.  And I can guarantee you that I have never posted on Facebook or on this blog anything evil, vicious or malicious towards anyone.   I often forbid myself from posting again since I'm tired of being told I am wrong to have an informed opinion. But then I ask myself - why should I be bullied into not posting things I believe in?

    I do not argue with things that other people post because I believe in their right to have an opinion. I have been accused of not being able to have a "discussion," but a discussion is not one-sided. It is not someone telling me I am wrong and they are right. A discussion requires respect. I have, in fact, have those types of discussions with people whose political viewpoints are the opposite of mine and who do not get enraged over the issue.

    I have cogent reasons for what I believe. My opinions are almost exclusively based on personal experience—on my life—not something someone told me or some pundit on TV telling me how to think.  I read extensively, and while I am sure I am not always correct—opinions are just that—opinions, not facts.

    I probably have always had a stronger than average need for self-expression. I have accomplished that through art, music and writing. In each of those cases I have been told I have touched people at times. But you can take it or leave it. I am no one special, but I am also not a immoral human being because I do not agree with you. I am a progressive Christian and I  not find any dichotomy in that.  This is what I identify with and to me this is an ideal that I continually work towards.  And I am not ashamed of it.

    Thursday, September 3, 2015


    All I want to ask right now is what ever happened to civility?
    If I could stay off the internet and Facebook maybe I would still believe that we live in a civilized society.
     A certain party of politicians and pundits have obliterated the concept in this country.
    They are nothing but rude, disrespectful, bigoted, insensitive, egotistical, judgmental bullies.
    All the things we tried to teach our children not to be.
    I am truly afraid where this boorish rhetoric is leading us.

    Civility:  polite, reasonable and respectful behavior.

    Thursday, August 6, 2015

    Religion in Our Politics

    For all the political debaters tonight (and throughout their campaign) who will use religion, specifically Christianity, to make their moral judgements on the citizens of this country which was founded on religious freedom - freedom of religion means freedom from it as well.

    Monday, July 13, 2015

    Why Are Symbols More Important Than Unity?

    I don't understand why we need symbols to live out what we believe in. Yes, I know everyone has the right to self-expression in this country, but it seems to supersede any sense of unity in these UNITED States.

    Why do some need a flag to say they're proud of being from the south? The north, east and west don't have one.  Won't you still be a southerner without a flag?  Why insist on something that hurts other fellow Americans?  Won't you still be free with or without a flag? If it's still the south against the north than we haven't made any progress in over two hundred years.

    I don't need a flag, a bumper sticker, a motto, the name of God in documents or even a church to live out what I believe in - and I certainly don't need a stranger to wish me a Merry Christmas to celebrate Christmas with meaning and joy.

    What would happen if everyone stopped fighting about the SYMBOLS of our freedom and beliefs and just enjoyed having them in this country? We keep saying America is so great but all we do is defend our right to offend each other.

    Other countries with much less freedom than we have probably find our petty arguments laughable.

    Even though we have the RIGHT to express ourselves - why is it more important than proving that we are in fact UNITED in any way?

    Friday, June 26, 2015

    A Great Day in America

    This morning I read in the paper that the US Supreme Court has upheld the subsidies for the Affordable Health Care Act so that deserving Americans can continue to seek out health care for their families.

    Then later in the morning the Supreme Court once again did the right thing and made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.  From this point forward it should be simply known as marriage.  I found myself in tears thinking about all the dear friends and family members who will finally have this affirmation of their rights. The sad part is that it has taken so long for all United States citizens to have the equal rights in the area of marriage. (There are still many issues to be addressed ).

    I will not argue the case here because I have written about my beliefs a number of times. Those of us who understand that we were ALL created in God's image and that love is just love need no explanation of my tears of joy today. Anyone who knows and loves a gay person needs no explanation.

    THEN !!! After all that - I had the television on and they broke into the show to broadcast the funeral service of Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was murdered last week in his sanctuary by a 21 year-old racist along with eight other parishioners.

    President Barack Obama got up to speak and he didn't just speak he preached a sermon - a beautiful, passionate and uplifting sermon. Then to top it off Barack began to sing Amazing Grace.

    What a day in America.

    Monday, June 15, 2015

    What Makes A Woman

    Well, I am not going to mention her name because it's been over-sensationalized, but there is a famous person who suddenly became a woman. We have been bombarded with photos of her looking very much like a statuesque beautiful woman. But is she a woman just because she looks like one?

    I am all for people being who they want to be. I do not know why some people are born in the so-called wrong body or why some people are not solely heterosexual, but I am sure that none of them would choose their circumstances (unless they enjoy being bullied, hated, judged, and discriminated against personally and in the law, or living a lie.)

    Allowing other people to be who they want to be without any harassment or judgement seems to me to be the least we can do for each other as human beings. So, I am totally fine with this famous person finding her happiness and stop living her lie.


    I am going to quote Elinor Burkett who recently wrote a piece in the New York Times.

    People who haven't lived their whole lives as women shouldn't get to define us. That's something men have been doing for much too long….they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman.

    Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven't traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails.  They haven't suffered through business meetings with men talking to their breasts or woken up after sex terrified they'd forgotten to take their birth control pills the day before.  They haven't had to cope with the onset of their periods in the middle of a crowded subway, the humiliation of discovering that their male work partners' checks were far larger than theirs, or the fear of being too weak to ward off rapists.

    Hmmm, interesting, right?  As a woman, can't you think of dozens of other emotional and physical experiences that men have never had?

    Developing large breasts by the age of 13 completely changed me and affected every day of my life after that. I did not want them (that big).  I hated the attention they drew. It stopped me from continuing things I loved like gymnastics.  Throughout high school I never knew if a boy liked me or them. I couldn't wear the same clothes my friends wore.   THAT, for example, is an experience only a female can understand.

    This article did not change my beliefs about people who struggle with gender and sexual identity issues at all but it did make me say - yes, being born a female is a completely different experience than this particular person saying at the end of an interview that she most looked forward to wearing nail polish.  I never wear nail polish and yet, I have lived a lifetime of being a woman.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2015

    The Shocking Facts About America's Children

    Marian Wright Edelman recently spoke at the City Club of Cleveland. She is the president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund. Her accomplishments and credentials are too numerous to include here. She spoke on the issue of child poverty in the United States.

    "A nation that does not stand for its children does not stand for anything and will not stand tall in the 21st century or before our God."

    This so-called great United States of America has the second highest child poverty rate among 35 industrialized nations despite having the largest economy in the world.  Shocking. Shameful.

    There are 14.7 million poor children in this country.  This exceeds the population of Ohio and Iowa put together.  An American child has a 1 in 5 chance of being poor.
    Six and a half million are in extreme poverty. This exceeds the population of Connecticut and Mississippi put together.

    Cleveland and Cuyahoga County:
    Over half the children in Cleveland are poor (54%) with 28% considered in extreme poverty.
    Twenty-four percent of Cleveland's children were food insecure in 2013.

    Poverty has life-long consequences.  The younger the child the poorer he or she is likely to be - this is during the time of crucial brain development.  Growing up poor decreases the likelihood of graduating from high school, and increases the likelihood of having poor health, being poor in adulthood and being  involved in the criminal justice system.  It costs this country dearly everyday.

    As Edelman said - these children did not ask to be born, did not choose their parents, their country, state, city, faith or race but in 35 other nation they would be less likely to be poor only ahead of Rumania whose economy is 99% smaller than ours.

    "Saving our children is about saving our country. I hope we will begin to counter the fact that too often our politics trumps these policies, moral decency and responsibility for the next generation."

    Edelman stated that there are nine programs, already proven successful, that could eradicate at least 60% of child poverty. Her organization has detailed them and shown what they would cost.  The cost would be 77.2 billion dollars as opposed to the $500 billion that poverty costs this country every year.   These programs would include things like basic housing (which would in itself eliminate 2.3 million  children from poverty), food availability for children, early childhood programs, school nurses, and home intervention programs.

    (These could easily be paid for if only our leaders would allow it.  If they simply eliminated tax breaks to the rich in America we could save $84 billion.  Congress just voted to repeal the estate tax for the wealthiest 5400 Americans at a cost of $269 billion. They just voted to give the Pentagon $38 billion even though it was not asked for.)

    WHY can't our government do what's right?  Why wouldn't they want to eliminate our citizen's suffering? Why wouldn't they want to improve children's futures? Why wouldn't they want to actually save money by spending some on the poor?  Why wouldn't they want to reduce the billions of dollars spent on mass incarceration in our country?

    The answer is moral judgement.  What other reason could it be?  They are against "hand-outs". They want people to pull them up by their bootstraps - but children don't have bootstraps - they are victims. And what poverty does to children will simply be passed down to their children. Poor health, poor education, prone to crime.

    And moral judgment includes that those who have comfy lives think they deserve it. They've earned it. They do not recognize the advantages they started out with because they do not want to admit that they could have been born into poverty as well, but were simply fortunate not to be.  They do not want to share what they have. It is greed. It is entitlement. It is discriminatory.

    You may not believe in helping poor people that, in your judgement, have no reason to be - but children don't have those choices.  Yet, they are the future of America.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    A New Kind of Bucket List

    Being retired I feel like I should have a bucket list. I am pretty much open to doing anything I haven't done before and traveling anywhere I have the chance to go. A bucket list has to be feasible to be successful and I am a practical thinker so we'll see.

    I already wrote a novel and published a lot a of poetry but I would like to find a way for more people to read what I have labored over for so many years.

    I mostly think about traveling, but my husband is not retired and time and money are a factor. (We are planning a trip to Italy, but we have planned that trip before and life got in the way.)

    I truly feel like this is the time in my life to just become a better person - the person I've always wanted to be but couldn't always focus on. My time is not filled up with raising children, building relationships or working full time.  I believe retirement gives you time not just for yourself, but for others. I am currently caring for my mother and tutoring people studying to get their GEDs.  But there is so much more I would like to do. I don't want to spend every day purely focused on myself. (Also, spending time with my grandson, but that's just pure fun.)

    Cleveland's popular local writer, Regina Brett wrote a column about a new kind of bucket list. These are excerpts from her column of April 29, 2015.

    What if you turned your bucket list into a bucket life? Instead of making a list of things you want to do once in your life, how about a bucket full of gifts for others?  

    Instead of risking your life for a thrill, save a life. Learn CPR, the Heimlich maneuver and how to use a defibrillator.  Donate blood, be an organ donor or a bone marrow donor. Become a disaster action volunteer with the Red Cross.

    Instead of learning something new, teach someone to read, to speak Spanish, sew, bake, play guitar, change a tire, or to hit a home run.

    You want an adventure? Become a foster parent or adopt a special needs child.

    If travel is your thing, spend Sunday in a church with people of a different race or religion. Build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Spend a week living with the poor in Africa, El Salvador or India, not to fix them, but to learn from them.

    If you love challenges, try this one: Forgive everyone everything.

    Instead of writing a book, write a will so your family isn't left confused over who gets what. Write thank you cards to every teacher who shaped your life. Write love letters to everyone you love.

    Write your eulogy, then live a bucket-list that will make it all come true.

    Thursday, April 30, 2015

    A Good Eye

    I have been like the little bird
    with one good eye.
    As I moved to the feeder 
    to refill the seeds
    she didn’t see me.
    So I poked her purplish wing
    once, twice.
    She hopped about to face me
    with her one good eye
    then flew away.

    Even with two good eyes
    I have only seen half
    of what can be seen.
    But year by year
    my callow vision improves,
    like veils being lifted away
    one by one or
    like a foreign language
    that sounds like nonsense
    until you learn it, speak it
    understand its beauty.

    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    There is No Reality (The coming election year)

    Many years ago I read a book by Dr. Phil.  (Life Strategies) This common sense book had a big impact on me.  In the book he gave some basic life strategies and two of them changed my thinking.  I think these are particularly pertinent in light of the political animosity that this country is currently experiencing and certainly will be in the coming year.

    There is no reality - only perception.
     My first reaction to this was, of course there is reality!  But think about a time when you and another person have been at the same place at the same time but have interpreted what happened there differently.  It's almost like someone telling a joke and one person finds it hilarious and another person doesn't. No one is right and no one is wrong. It's just their perception.

    Everyone's perception is colored by a lifetime of personal experiences and observations and it is quite common for two people to view the same thing in two different ways.  Just look at the way the bible can be continually argued. One of us reads a passage to mean one thing and someone else sees it another way.

    Here's an example:
    One of my friends has managed his rental properties for many years. In that time he has witnessed people sitting around watching television while collecting government assistance. So naturally what he has seen influences his viewpoints.

    I spent 22 years teaching children living in poverty. I saw firsthand the devastating effects on their lives. I listened to the single mothers whose husbands had left them with no financial support for their children.  The mothers who wanted to help with homework or be at conferences but had to take a third shift job and weren't home for their kids - just trying to put food on the table. So my viewpoint has been highly impacted by years of seeing those situations firsthand.

    Those stories are simplified versions of the problem - but even though I did not agree with him I could understand my friend's viewpoint based on his life experience - not mine.

    We teach people how to treat us
    This is a tough one to accept but I've found it to be true.  The premise is that you must take responsibility for how people treat you and react to you.  It's YOU, not THEM.  So if you feel like a doormat at home or work, maybe you have allowed yourself to be treated that way. Maybe you have even subtly rewarded the other person for doing it by giving them what they want.

    The same goes for being ignored, disrespected or being treated in a rude way. What have you done to bring this behavior out in the other person?

    So as we enter a volatile time let's remember that we will receive what we send out. How often do we criticize someone for being judgmental when we are actually doing the same thing to them? Everything goes BOTH ways for all of us.

    Even though many of these problems seem to be human nature I know I am going to try to keep these truths in mind much more in the coming years.

    It's all part of COEXISTING. :)  It's not my expertise - it's my ideal and hope.

    Thursday, April 9, 2015

    The Gift of Stressful Times

    These past two years have been heartbreaking, revelatory and soul-changing.  It has also been stressful, exhausting and confusing.

    I have been through several heart-wrenching and life changing times in my own life - divorce, depression, difficult relationships, stressful work situations - and yet I have discovered that a painful experience in your own life is nothing like watching someone you love going through trials.

    Even after so much turmoil in my own emotional life I have discovered that being a daily participant in the end-of-life struggles of my beloved parents has been much more stressful.

    I keep asking myself why I am not handling this better. Why it has completely consumed me and I cannot separate myself from what they are going through even when I am not with them.  My life revolves around their needs, physical and emotional.

    The natural reaction seems to be to try to keep something of your own life intact.  Try to find stress relievers, a little joy amidst the sorrow.  That in itself is a huge effort and one that constantly gets slapped down as needs change, as unexpected crises arise.  You can never truly get away from your grief and concerns.

    I began canceling out my own life because I couldn’t be counted on to fulfill any commitments. I did it willingly and said to myself - this is my life now and it’s ok.  I am grateful every day that I am now retired and yet that sense of constantly being torn between my life and theirs has not changed.

    I feel like I am lost, unfocused and starting to slide into a depression.  Depression, I learned many years ago, happens when something is too much for someone to handle.
    But this can’t be too much for me. I have no choice but to care for my mother now. I am extremely fortunate to have one other sibling to share the care-taking. How can it be too much when I am so willing to devote myself to this right now?

    But on those days when I am off-duty I flounder. I still feel sad. I miss my father and want him back to help us through this.  We didn’t really have a chance to grieve his loss before we were consumed by my mother’s needs.

    The stress comes not from chores and visits or from advocating for her welfare everywhere we go - but for making choices for someone else’s life. It is heartbreaking telling her she is once again going to the hospital or the rehab facility.  We spend a lot of time encouraging her and the rest of the time agonizing over how we will deal with the next need, the next change in plans.

    There is not enough money to provide 24 hour a day home care and yet, that is what she needs right now.  Even though my father planned well for these years the money is quickly dwindling and we must make decisions about that as well. 

    I believe what is needed now is to embrace this experience for everything that it is.  To stop the battle between her life and ours. Some of the effort is in trying to avoid the most difficult situations. Times of indignity and humiliation, times when nothing goes as planned.  

    I have a praying family and I pray as well. Yet, one of my biggest life lessons has been that God does not make anything easier no matter how many prayers are sent up for you.  What will happen in this world will happen.  He does not make the elderly young again. He does not make care-taking pleasant. He does not heal the body when it is worn out. He does not follow our well thought out plans, or even give us what we are so sure we need ( which is usually to make it easier).

    I have thought a great deal about prayer in these years because so many people say they are praying for you.  Even in my life-long faith I began to wonder what good prayer is when the situation never gets better or even clearer.  What exactly are we praying for?  We can pray all we want for someone to be healed, but if they have a life-threatening illness they will not heal. They will die anyway.

    I have honestly not felt uplifted by prayer at this time in my life even though I have at other times. So what am I missing?  I am not blaming God for anything. This is life on this Earth and sometimes I long for heaven myself - something better than this.  Why is the journey to get there so difficult? Why do we never stop grieving those we have lost?

    Then I think about how I have changed as a human being during this process. How much I have accepted, how much I actually have handled. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been tears (buckets-full)  or anger or frustration - but we have made it through so far.

    We kept our Dad in his home until the end - and that was the plan. We spent two beautiful days surrounding him with love.  My mother knows she is loved and cared for and that we will do whatever we need to to help her through this transition in her life.  My own children are seeing and experiencing these years, which is something I never saw in terms of my own grandparents - and maybe they will do better than I have in the future.  I was given a beautiful, joyful grandson in the midst of the sorrow to brighten every moment I am with him.  He was and is a gift beyond measure and has probably saved me from true desperation.

    I am more compassionate to others that have gone through these same trials (and most people have or will at some point since so many people are living longer). Maybe in the future I will be able to help someone else through the same thing.  I have a husband and friends who listen and care and when I am at the end of my rope. I have learned that my life is not really mine after all. Surrendering to what is has been an on-going learning experience for me in life. Service to others is something that is part of a rich and full life.  Compassion is a divine goal. Love is always the answer. 

    Friday, April 3, 2015

    Harp of Love

    This is a painting by my mother and favorite artist, Martha Vogel . It is called "Harp of Love."
    Happy Easter to all.

    Monday, March 30, 2015


     In light of the new legislation in Indiana that allows business owners to refuse service to LGBT citizens may we remember these truths. This is no less than blatant discrimination - the same kind that refused African-Americans the right to eat in restaurants, drink at drinking fountains and go to integrated schools. No difference except it is possibly even worse to do it in the name of Jesus.

    Have we really not grown as a society since the 1950's ?

    Sunday, March 22, 2015

    America From An Outsider

    I have been struck by a series running in the New York Times Magazine by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knaussgaard. He was assigned to travel parts of America and give his impressions.
    I don't know about you but I say OUCH!!

    Here are two excerpts:

    I had never really understood how a nation that so celebrated the individual could obliterate all differences the way this country did. In a system of mass production, the individual workers are replaceable and the products are identical. The identical cars are followed by identical gas stations, identical restaurants, identical motels, and as an extension of those, by identical TV screens, which hang everywhere in this country, broadcasting identical entertainment and identical dreams. Not even the Soviet Union at the height of its power had succeeded in creating such a unified, collective identity as the ones Americans lived their lives within. When times get rough, a person could abandon one town in favor of another, and that new town would still represent the same thing.  

    Nowhere in the world has shared culture been a more imperative requirement than in America. More than 300 million people live here, and they had descended over the course of a very few generations from a huge number of disparate cultures, with different histories, ways of behavior, world views and experiential backgrounds.  All of them, sooner or later, had been required to relinquish their old culture and enter the new one.  That must be why the most striking thing about the United States was its sameness, that every place had the same hotels, the same restaurants, the same stores. And that must be why every American movie was made after the same template and why, in this sense, every movie expressed the same thing. And that must be why all these TVs were hanging on the walls, unwatched; they created an immediate sense of belonging, a feeling of home. 

    Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    America the Beautiful

    We just spent a week in Arizona and were overwhelmed by the beauty and diversity of the landscape. We traveled by car from the Grand Canyon in the north, to Sedona midway through the state, to Phoenix in the south.

    We took a rafting trip in a canyon, loved the beauty of Sedona, saw a billion stars and the Milky Way in the darkened sky, explored a slot canyon on Navajo land, drove up a mountain to an old mining town, saw Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West and went to an Indians spring training game!

    If you leave this country for your vacations or go to the same place every year do yourself a favor and explore America.

    The vast magnificence has a story that these mere photographs cannot begin to tell.

    Thursday, March 5, 2015

    All the Light We Cannot See

    This is the book I have been waiting for: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  If you are a reader you wait for that book that you don't want to put down but you also do not want to end. It's rare.

    I savored this book, stretched it out as long as I could.  When I heard it was set during WWII I was not excited. I had vowed not to read anymore novels set during the war or of slavery. While they are mostly all wonderful it just felt like enough was enough - but this one is different.

    First, the writing is exquisite. Every page has at least one beautiful sentence that you want to write down, underline, keep in your heart. There is not a single cliche in the 530 pages - quite a feat for a writer. (I love long books too).  I'm sure Doerr spent years in research, but you never feel like you are supposed to be learning something historic. You are caught up in the experience of these two young people.

    Marie-Laure is the girl at the heart of the story. Some of the best writing is seeing the world through the perceptions of this blind girl:

    Music spirals out of the radios, and it is splendid to drowse on the davenport, to be warm and fed, to feel the sentences hoist her up and carry her somewhere else.

    Marie-Laure sits at the square table, a plate of cookies in front of her, and imagines the old woman with the veiny hands and milky eyes and oversize ears. From the kitchen window comes the wit wit wit of a barn swallow, footfalls on ramparts, halyards clinking against masts, hinges and chains creaking in the harbor. Ghosts. Germans. Snails.

    You know from reviews that it is the story of two young lives are interwoven at some point, but it happens in an unexpected way.

    There are so many awful books that make it to the fiction best seller list that it was a relief to find one that actually belongs there.

    Thursday, February 19, 2015


    February 20, 2015 would have been my Dad's 92nd birthday. 
    This birthday will have no pain or suffering.


    I want to touch your hands again.
    I memorized the shape of every finger;
    the ones that held, fixed, carried, loved.

    The hands I clutched on your last walk on this earth
    after sixty years of steps
    across the living room and back.

    Then for two days we circled, spoke in your ear,
    held those hands, wept, questioned,
    and we were one - covered in your final gift.

    You know the glory now, Dad,
    the reward for always choosing love -
    and we are bereft here

    on the surface of this incendiary planet
    to wait
    and wonder.

    Friday, February 6, 2015

    What I Have Learned From Caregiving

    About two years ago both of my parents became ill at the same time and were not able to take care of themselves, their home or their finances.  After some painful confrontations they slowly allowed us to know more about their formerly private lives.  As the months went on they were in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation facilities - sometimes in two different places at once and they needed knowledgeable advocates everywhere they went.

    It is easy to step in and do laundry, shopping, cleaning, cooking and transporting. But caregiving is much more than that and involves a lot of personal sacrifice. At first it is a shock. Suddenly everything has changed for all the people involved and there is no choice but to do what is needed whether you think you have the time or not.  There are also events in which you see and do very unpleasant things you never thought you would.

    One of the most stressful parts is the responsibility of making decisions for my parents as well as navigating the medical system for them.  If someone is not present when a loved one comes to a hospital there are many things that can go wrong.  We have had to fight battles to get them what they have needed over the past two years. We have fought to change doctors and medications and whether to send them off to yet another facility. I often ask myself what happens to someone who has no one to do that for them.

    There have been numerous calls in the middle of the night that someone has fallen and when I got there I still had to decide whether he or she was hurt and whether to call 911 and put them through the ordeal of an ambulance and yet another hospital stay. It is just horrible to see your frightened mother or father loaded into an ambulance. You somehow feel responsible for their suffering in those situations.

    There are so many moments that remind me of caring for a young child - the responsibility, the worries, the need for respite sometimes too.  But with adults you are dealing with their emotions, pride and dignity as well. There have been constant battles over for the best medical and financial decisions for them. Doctors do not tell you what to do, but give you options and it is often the caregiver's decision.  Did I make the right one?  This is a tough position to be in when it is your parent.

    Everyone has suggestions for you but everything you put in place takes time and often the problem is immediate. We have hired helpers but they have often been useless or caused more problems. We have had them enrolled in various programs for home health care which is always a long intake process and then suddenly they are dismissed and we are back to square one.  We have sometimes decided to go against the doctor's suggestion for rehab and brought them home to care for them ourselves.

    But what have I learned from all this?  I have learned that there is nothing I have to do that is more important than being there for my parents. I slowly gave up all my activities because I so often had to miss them. I stopped making commitments for the same reason.  Have I survived it? Of course.  I have learned to do what is needed when it is needed, not on my own schedule.  I'm a pretty routine kind of person so this was not easy for me at first.

    I guess flexibility is the word.  I start the day now knowing that there is nothing that can happen that I cannot handle. In the beginning it was constant stress at the unknown and distress at missing work or other things I had planned. I have had to remember that I am not the one suffering - they are.  I guess I'm just saying it's made me a better person and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    My sister and I vowed to keep our parents in their beloved home of 61 years if at all possible. We  sacrificed to make that happen for my father who passed away in November. He was there until his last two days at the hospital (and that decision was made by hospice). He never knew he had left home.  Now we are trying desperately to do the same for my mother.

    We will never regret that decision or anything else.

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

    Are You Really Pro-Life?

    I have expressed a similar reasoning on this blog before.  To me, pro-life means you are for all life, not just the life of an unborn fetus.  It means you are against anything that destroys life.  If you treasure life you should be against war and guns because they kill human life. If you are for life then you should promote helping people not to die of hunger or neglect or homelessness. That's pro-life.  Why is an unborn baby's life more valuable than a homeless child's, or an innocent victim of war in a foreign country, or any of the thousands of people killed by handguns every year?

    Thursday, January 22, 2015


    I see Cleveland as a time not yet come,
    a book we haven’t read, the tenacious hope 
    of next year tangled in its bridges and highways,
    beaming off the silvery water of a Great Lake.

    A place where Christmas memories and food memories
    are built into our bones, where you can step into a diamond
    and hear an orchestra, or on any given day view a Rembrandt,
    a Van Gogh, or hear poetry in a courtyard.

    I believe in the Native Americans who named 
    our crooked river, the Traffic Guardians 
    welcoming you across the great divide of east and west,
    into multicultural streets and towns.

    In the jowls and crags of tumultuous industry
    I no longer see smoke and filth - its former fame.
    I see a place where Grandpa delivered ice, and
    Dad played catch with a Cleveland Indian on the streets of the Heights.

    God’s good creation surrounds and envelops us
    in the glorious greenery of the Emerald Necklace
    that we wear so well, with the fearless changing 
    of the seasons flowing in our lifeblood.

    by Diane Vogel Ferri

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    Living in the Present and Compulsive Journal Writing

    This is a photo of a couple decades of personal journals and all the pages I've deleted from them . (Actually this is the second go-round).
    After a year of spiritual searching this is my attempt to live in the present moment and accept that the past no longer exists.

    We all know that the past is gone, but sometimes our minds and hearts do not accept this fact.  I ripped out, shredded or whited out almost half of every journal because they were filled with angst, depression, sadness, regrets and embarrassing entries. I have had a compulsive need to write every emotion and thought in hopes of understanding myself and my life better. It's just my way, but my self-expression needs have been excessive as well as my incessant need to understand everything about my life.

    While it is comforting to know how far those situations and my emotional life have come over the years they are not things I want to remember any longer - about myself or anyone else for that matter.

    We all grow and change and learn throughout life and at my age I have nothing left to prove. I do not have a need to be right - just to be happy.  Forgiveness becomes easier and easier as I go through life. Not sweating the small stuff is also easier now and even addressing the small slights in life seems so silly in retrospect.

    This is a goal I've had for retirement - having the time to reread these many journals, do some reminiscing, and put them in the past where they belong. (Also, knowing that someone could read my years of instability was a good motivator as well!)

    But there are many, many pages left. Page upon page of the joy my children have given me through the years, of falling in love and marrying the love of my life at age 40, of singing, traveling and writing, of friends and family gatherings… many joys that I hope to read about again someday and know that while I spent many years in emotional pain and necessary growth -  it has been a life of many joys as well.

    Monday, January 5, 2015


    The Grief

    is a straightjacket:
    no time limits,
    the futile struggle to be set free

    awakens you with phantom voices,
    burning images,
    hovers, even when
    others think it should be gone,

    removes the things you loved,
    hides them from your eyes,
    crawls through the imprisoned body
    with waves of lethargic pain.

    No conscious control,
    just a disaster of tears pushing out
    of your ruined face, a craving for comfort
    when the comforting time is past.