At what point does admiration cross over into envy? Not the kind of envy that finds its roots in what another person owns but rather that stems from what another person is.

K’s quiet home was a refuge; not that I thought of it that way. I was far too young. But I knew it was different from the often chaotic home of my childhood. Coloring in our color books at K’s house was calm. Her mother always seemed to have peanut butter cookies cooling on the porch, ready for two hungry little girls after school.

As we got older, I sensed the simple joy of being there turn into envy. K’s crayons were organized and always sharp. Mine were a jumble of colored waxy sticks with torn labels, tossed in a shoebox. As much as I loved breakfast oatmeal reheated with a quarter pound of butter, it lacked the sense of specialness that those cookies implied.

Sadly, more than 60 years later, I still feel pangs of jealousy, but now it’s the character traits of someone I admire that bring that unwelcome specter into my consciousness.

Example (and I’ll confess that I’m embarrassed to admit this): A woman I know writes. Faithfully. Every morning. Five days a week. Me? I think about writing. I plan to do it. I make promises. But my latest Kindle download, games of Solitaire, and the “need” to check Facebook yet again take priority.

So what am I waiting for? Inspiration? “Inspiration is for amateurs,” said Chuck Close. “The rest of us just get up and go to work.”

My current project, still in its early embryonic stages, is a memoir. Working title: “Blue Collar Neighborhood, White Collar Dreams.” The title works; the ideas are there; the notes are made. But writing it? Frankly, I’m scared of merely organizing those notes! It smacks of work!

And there, inherent in the word “work,” lies my answer: Creating is hard work. And with hard work comes the possibility of failure. After all, it’s far less work to fail by avoiding all that work in the first place.

I’m not the first to address this fear-of-failure challenge. I’ll certainly not be the last. But as soon as I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know.

Redrawing my past

“Redrawing My Past” © (pastel by Judy Westergard)


AT THE MALL (aka I’m too old for this!)

imagesWing of a huge mall (no, not the Mall of America); overwhelmed with sensory impressions: the smell of perfumes and soaps mix  with the odors of deep fried foods and the rubber soles of running shoes. 1980s R&R competes with the screech and clunk of mechanical sweepers. Store mannequins model dresses that take me back to the 1960s with their nipped waists, wide belts, and inverted four-inch box pleats. Stores seem to howl for my attention in a way that makes me long for the quiet of the 60s…though not for those skirts with their four-inch inverted box pleats.

COFFEE SHOP SNAPSHOTS #5 (gotta come up with a better title for these)

Some mornings you just have to change things up.

Given the way caffeine affects me, I knew a second cappuccino was ill advised. So a pot of herbal tea, shared with my spouse, seemed the perfect soul-soothing beverage on this gray, damp April morning.

I’m not particularly fond of tea but I love the idea of it. I also love where it leads me…warm memories of trips to England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales…(well, Ireland offers other great beverages, too, but….)

A summery afternoon in a park in Bath. Scones with clotted cream and just-picked strawberries. And, of course, a cuppa.

The best part of trip dreaming is that it’s free!


Dried oak leaves play tag across the newly greening lawn. This is a different kind of coffee shop…set along the small lake that edges a nature center not far from my house.

Geese call from the south shore. Pre-school boys try to mimic the honks.

I sip my icy root beer and watch the carbonated foam capture the sunlight as the soda  bubbles out the bottle’s top.

I sit on the terrace and watch springtime emerge.


A young woman works with a fellow who is apparently an architect. She leans over blueprints that cover the table. Phrases like “front elevation” and “breakfront” drift over the rock music.

Recycled yellow-orange electric sconces line a wall, providing a dim glow at four foot intervals. A three-year-old tiny dancer, her pink tutu falling off her little hips, twirls across the room. Well worn moon boots, a baseball cap, and a cowgirl jacket complete the outfit. Confident, free, uninhibited…and such fun to watch.


The clank of coffee cups on saucers and the hiss of the cappuccino machine blend with the voices of Saturday morning patrons who balance cheek-by-jowl on stools made from recycled lumber.

High energy music reverberates against the brick walls and recycled planks that formcoffee 2 the bar. FDR smiles benevolently on the baristas from the confines of his 8X10 black-framed photo. The clank of coffee cups on saucers and the hiss of the cappuccino machine blend with the voices of Saturday morning patrons who balance cheek-by-jowl on stools made from recycled lumber.

The baristas maneuver in a well-choreographed dance, skimming but never bumping one another in their narrow prep space.

And despite the packed house, I’m impressed with everyone’s patience. Some things are just worth waiting for, and cup of well-roasted coffee is one of them.


Music from a thumping bass echoes from a speaker in the ceiling. A clash of dishes behind a swinging door briefly mutes mumbled voices.

coffee shop 1Four husky St. Paul firefighters sprawl over stools, baseball caps pushed back on their heads. Unlike the women around me who carry on several conversations, these fellows take turns.

Music from a thumping bass echoes from a speaker in the ceiling. A clash of dishes behind a swinging door briefly mutes mumbled voices.

I notice a woman with a striking, pure white pageboy. She and her companion lean back on their wooden chairs and laugh often and heartily, each comfortable in her own skin in a way that seems to come only with age.

I want to join them.