Tuesday, June 30, 2015


In storytelling and in writing, point of view or perspective can turn the story around, on its head, going a different direction.  Picture book author, Jon Scieskza, illustrated this masterfully when he wrote The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by A. Wolf, as told by Jon Scieskza.  If you are not familiar with the book, Alexander T. Wolf proclaims his innocence from his jail cell.

A fun storytelling “game” is to take a familiar story and retell it from the point of view of a minor character.  A few summers ago in the graduate level storytelling class I teach for University of Denver’s Library and Information Sciences Department, one group of students retold Cinderella from the point of view of the step-mother.  They had great fun with the assignment and the class enjoyed a top-notch off-the-cuff performance.

So when Lynda La Rocca gave the Shavano Poets’ Society gave us the following assignment: “Point of View: Turn It Upside Down,” I thought ,”What fun!” 
I searched for a poem which I could turn upside down by writing from a different perspective and finally settled upon “Warning” by Jenny Joseph.  You may not recognize the title, but many of you know something about the poem.  It spawned the Red Hat Societies.  Here it is in its entirety.

©By Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
My Closet - lots of purple!
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth. 
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and a pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and the read papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

I am at a stage in my life where I am realizing there were lots of questions I should have asked my mother before she left this earthly plane.  Questions I now know some of the answers to through experience, sometimes the hardest way to learn, sometimes the only way to learn.  My daughter is about the age I was when I should have started asking questions.  I’ve also been reading Women in Middlehood:Halfway Up the Mountain by Jane Treat and Nancy Geha.  So the poem I wrote is from a younger woman to her mother.

©Julie Moss, 2015

When you are an old woman wearing purple
With a red hat which doesn’t match, and doesn’t suit you,
I shall be entering the Forest of Middleood
That place where I am sure, but not sure
Climbing toward Wisdom  ---  the Wisdom you already have gained.

When you act like you are crazy
I shall sigh and shake my head just like everybody else,
But I envy your freedom to run through the rain clad in your slippers
While picking flowers from their gardens.

When you are Wise and I am sure but not sure
I shall ask questions  ---  of you.
Questions I may not know how to ask, but to which you know the answers.
Questions about the Forest of Middlehood
About the Cairns you left for me to follow.
Questions you wish you had asked, and now desire to answer.

If you answer my questions, I can practice a little
Before suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Here's another blog, Meanderings along the Narrow Way, I found while looking for pictures.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Dad and the Summer Solstice

Sunday (June 21) is a double day – Father’s Day and the Summer Solstice.  It got me thinking about the summers when I was a child and some of the things we did during the summer with my dad.  For me those are good memories.

My dad was a typical father of the 1950’s.  He accepted the fact that he had three daughters and no sons by becoming the favorite uncle of the 11 boys who were my cousins.  He spent long hours at work and relaxed at home.  We took a two week vacation, and almost every year traveled to Iowa to see my mom’s family.  That’s where my summer memories begin – I became the family navigator at the age of five, since my mom was unable to read a map.  It gave me, the oldest, the privilege of sitting in the front seat of the car so I could help Daddy find where we were going.  As I grew, the route changed because the interstate highway system was being developed.  One of the best memories was the restaurant in Joliet, IL, that served PB & J sandwiches!  It was at that restaurant that I learned about tipping.

Courtesy of Firefly
Two of my dad’s summer memories were at the root of two of my favorite summer memories.  Chasing and catching fireflies.  We’d put them in a jar with holes in the lid and let them go before we went in to wash our feet and go to bed.  The other had to do with the Fourth of July celebrations.  Fireworks were outlawed in Ohio, but sparklers were okay.  Dad purchased several boxes of sparklers each year, and we ran about the yard waving our magic wands as the soft darkness grew darker.  Our yard in northeast Ohio was surrounded by trees, trees that we climbed during the day skinning elbows and knees, scratching arms and legs on the rough bark.  We called the trees surrounding the yard “The Jungle.”

My dad has been physically gone from my life for 37 years.  But he lives on in the memories and stories I have.  When he left this earthly plane he became my son’s Guardian Angel.  Although my son never knew his grandpa, he shares many traits with my dad.  And I know in my heart that Dad would have been the best grandpa in the whole world.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  Happy Solstice, Everyone!  Go outside and make some memories with your family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Word Pictures

DISCLAIMER: I am purposely not adding any pictures to this post.  I want you, Dear Reader, to form your own pictures for this post.

Shortly after I began working on my last post about Words, Kevin Cordi posted the above quote on Facebook.  "Hooray," I thought, "the lead-in to my next blog."

I promised a story or two; so I'll start with a poem I wrote one morning while watching the world from my backdoor as the rain stopped and the mist began rising over the Valley.

After Effects of Rain
© Julie Moss
March, 2015

On a misty, moisty morn
Vapors rise from the valleys
As smoke rises from
The village fires.

Damp air hangs heavily
Clinging to the mountains
And even though the temp
Is warm, a chill permeates.

The cat refuses to stay inside
Prowling the new wetness
Instead of sitting by her
Fire.  What does she seek?

The mistress dreams of a day
With no obligations
A day of her own
To do with as she wishes.

Here's a link to an older post that tells the story of how I came to be in this world.
What's your coming into the world story?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


"Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth."  ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Words, we all use them.  Words, they help communicate our needs, desires, pleasure, disdain.  I’m using them right now to communicate with you, Dear Reader.  One of the greatest events I witnessed was my grandsons learning language through sign language before they could talk.  They were communicating with words before most children do much more than cry, point and try their darnedest to make their wants known.  If these two toddlers wanted something to eat or drink, they told me with words.  Exciting!

Sometimes our words run all over each other and at other
times we cannot find the words to express what we feel, need to communicate.  Relationships grow and change and fall apart (not necessarily in that order) through words as well as actions.  Some of us use a language with a set alphabet that is put together in ways to make words which we, who speak that language, understand.  One of the first pieces of knowledge I gained when I traveled to China was that with the Asian languages where a symbol represents a whole word, most people never learn all the symbols for their language.

So what do we do with our language made up with words?  One thing we can do is tell stories.  We can pass down family stories so that future generations know why Uncle Oscar wouldn't speak to his sister and she wouldn't speak to him for the rest of their lives.  How did our parents and grandparents meet and fall in love, or did they fall in love?  How did we come to be?

The folktales and fairy tales which are a large piece of our collective heritage are fun to learn and tell and retell and change a bit and retell again.  I learned how to do this at a young age.  Mom read many folktales and fairy tales to my sisters and me.  I retold them as best I remembered, while sitting in the rock garden, to my imaginary brother who never seemed to be around for Mom’s reading.  It was fun.  I corrected what I’d forgotten with the subsequent readings of the same tales.

Have I told you the absolute truth with my words? No, I have only told you my truth.

What do you use your words for? 

(Come back for the next installment which will include a story or two.)

If you found this post interesting or useful, please let me know by leaving a comment.  Your words will let me know that I am not just blowing hot air into the atmosphere.  Thanks.

Julie Moss © 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zip-piddy-do-da!

Zip-piddy-do-da!  Finished Done I did it!  I finished the A-Z Blogging Challenge.  I've been blogging sporadically for some time using random thoughts that sorta, kinda had something to do with storytelling. This month of daily blogging has taught me a number of things about blogging.

·       Blogs don’t have to be long.
·       There’s a lot to write about storytelling.
·       Pictures count.
·       Write from the heart.
·       Tell a story of some sort within the blog.
·       I’m pretty sure I can do this at least twice a month now.

I have to credit my friend and “alter-ego,” Pam Faro with getting me to do this challenge.  She did it last year in order to see if she could.  And she did.  And so I took on the challenge even though April is typically a very busy month for me.

I wrote a week’s worth of blogs in March just to get myself started.  I limited my word count to fewer than 300 (most of the time) which is hard for a wordy person to do.  I chose my daily subjects.  After looking at the daily subjects I chose the theme “It’s All about Story.”   As I wrote pictures came.  I became more familiar with Blogspot and found it easier to use as I became accustomed to the format.

So for the ending a very short story, one from my book, Old China through the Eyes of a Storyteller - The Snipe and the Mussel,”  a 2300 year old fable about cooperation.

A Snipe found a Clam on the beach and decided to eat it for lunch.  But the Clam would have none of it and clamped down hard on the Snipe’s long beak.  They pulled and tugged but neither could get away from the other. 
The Snipe, through his nose, told the Clam, “If you don’t let go there will be a dead clam on the beach tomorrow.”
To which the Clam retorted, through clenched shell, “If I don’t let go there will be a dead Snipe on the beach tomorrow too.”

They pulled and tugged but neither could get away from the other.  Then along came an unlucky fisherman who saw the tugging and pulling.  He laughed, calling them both bulls (stubborn).  Then had snipe and clam stew for dinner.

Y is for Young

Young children – meaning babyhood through toddlerhood – love to be told stories.  Of course the stories have to be short, involve things they know about and perhaps even involve lap sitting.  All these things I learned from the youngest among us.
Two years ago while attending a meeting with educators where Colorado's Lt Governor, Joe Garcia  was speaking (his two pet projects are Early Childhood Education and Higher Education), I was given three precious minutes to explain why storytelling is important in Early Childhood Education.  I spoke with storytellers who work with the youngest children and mapped out a plan for my three minute speech which went well. 

But not everything goes according to plan.  While the Lt Governor did not jump on the “Band Wagon,” the director of the San Luis Valley Early Childhood Education Council did.  The upshot being that I was to teach a college class in Storytelling for Early Childhood Educators.  The class was full.  The class was fun.  The instructor learned a lot.  And so did the students.

One thing we addressed was the Vocabulary Gap where we centered our discussion on the merits of storytelling in teaching vocabulary.  (More Vocabulary Gap websites here.)  It’s the second best way, you know, following closely on the heels of conversation to teach vocabulary.  It’s the eye contact, the closeness, the feeling of “I’m the one being paid attention to!”

So tell stores to the little ones in your life.  As they grow older they may ask you, as my grandsons ask me, “Read us a story from your head, Grandma.” or "Let's make up stories together!"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for X-traordinary

I know, I know some would call this cheating, but I really want to write about the extraordinary, okay?

Webster defines the prefix “extra” as “beyond” what the root word means.  So beyond ordinary.  Better than ordinary.  Most of the time ordinary is just fine, but sometimes, sometimes happenings come along that are so much more.  These happenings for me are like jewels, sparkling where you least expect them.

Love is one of those extraordinary happenings.  That’s Love with a capital ‘L’ not lust, not like, not “you’re fun to be with.”  I wrote earlier about unconditional love.  That’s the kind of love I’m talking about here.

I've experienced unconditional love in several ways.  From my parents, of course, they, as most parents do, loved their children no matter what we did.  For my children because I, as a parent and grandparent, love my children and grandchildren no matter what they do.

I believe in the Divine and the unconditional love that comes to all of us from our Great Creator who, like a parent loves us no matter what we do.  My daughter-in-law lent me a book to read titled When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life by Squire Rushnell.  This small volume speaks to how we can use the “untapped power of coincidence to vastly improve our lives.”

Then there’s the unconditional love or a partner.  I believe I've experienced this kind of love twice.  Once was many years ago when I was in high school.  The feelings I had lingered long past the time the relationship ended.  I thought perhaps the relationship might be rekindled when God winked almost three years ago.  But I’m not so good with long distance relationships.  But we are in touch and the friendship is there.

The other time began about a year ago when God winked again.  After shaky starts and stops, this time has blossomed into a real partnership of unconditional love.  I am so glad it’s finally my turn to experience the X-traordinary!  This story is still unfolding just as the path on the heart to the left keeps going.

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