“The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them” – Albert Einstein














“Life isn’t like those books you read”

my mother is saying,

she is standing in the doorway to my bedroom;

Her arms are folded together, Indian-style,

“You are going to find out,

Life isn’t like Nancy Drew’s” she repeats angrily.

I keep my eyes on the page of my book;

I refuse to make eye contact with my mother.

Nancy Drew is solving a mystery.

I want my life to be like Nancy Drew’s;

I want to live with my father and a housekeeper

who makes cinnamon toast and hot cocoa,

who doesn’t have a mother interfering in everything.

I don’t respond.

The words in my book are blurry from my tears that

fall onto the page.

My mother and I have had yet another argument and I escaped

to my room, to sit on my bed and read, hoping to forget.

I am thirteen years old.  My mother is right.

Life isn’t like the one Nancy Drew leads; I learn that for myself,

but I never forget the words of my mother, spoken bitingly,

grimly, ruthlessly.

Many years later, I found myself wondering – did my mother ever

wish to be like Nancy Drew?  Was she sharing her harsh reality with me?

Life hasn’t been like Nancy Drew’s but I still have some of her books and

occasionally enjoy reading them.

I never told my sons that life wasn’t like that of the Hardy Boys.

I don’t tell my granddaughter that life isn’t like Nancy Drew’s–or, for today’s

generation, that of Harry Potter’s.


Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted July 10, 2009

Updated October 9, 2018


There are perhaps, a dozen or more

authors whose work I know and trust;

When I see a new book on the bookshelves

with a name I immediately recognize,  I don’t

I don’t hesitate–

I pluck it off the shelf and into my basket–

I don’t have to read anything about it on

its dust jacket–I know this author, I trust his or

her work. I know I won’t be disappointed.

“MY” authors are varied, some mystery, some suspense.

Some pioneer fiction, some biographies,

And surprisingly, you may not expect it,

some cookbook authors.

There are perhaps a dozen cookbook authors

whose work I collect–some are no longer alive

or no longer writing –but occasionally, I find something

I didn’t have, or didn’t know about and want

to complete my collection of this author’s work.

Even if, as happened recently, my “find” is an old

discontinued library book with decades of

cancelled date-stamps on the first pages

before it was “discontinued”

but it was one I didn’t have in this cookbook

author’s extensive writing career…so I bought it,

pleased to have it.

Sometimes it’s as much about the search as it is

the acquisition.


Sandra Lee Smith

First posted March, 2012

Updated September 6, 2018



IT was always exciting,

Going back to school,

at the end of summer,

Going to Shiff Shoes for new Oxfords

or Penny Loafers (my personal favorite)

My mother making new dresses for

my sister and me, or sometimes a box

of dresses would come in the mail

from my mother’s friend, Vera,

whose daughter, Carol, was one

year older than I;

Carol had many beautiful dresses

and I  loved all of them. I inherited Carol’s

dresses when she had outgrown them.

There was a plaid rayon dress that I loved

more than anything and when

I outgrew it,  my mother gave it to

Patti, my best friend across the street.

We had new pencils and if you were going

into third grade, a bottle of India ink and

a fountain pen was just for you.

We had boxes of colored pencils

and in the third grade we had

Fluraphones and a music book;

all third graders took Flutaphone


Going back to school, you would

find out which class you would be in;

There were usually two classes for

each grade.

The nuns made sure that my cousin,

Renee, and I were not in the same class.

The greatest joy I ever experienced

was going back to school

for Sixth grade and discovering

that Sister Doris Marie, who had

been my fifth grade teacher would be

my sixth grade teacher as well.

Everybody loved Sister Doris Marie

and like it or not,    in her class you

learned long division and how to

diagram sentences.  Going back to

school was really exciting –

for the first week or two, anyway.


Sandra Lee Smith

Originally composed January 2012

Updated August 26, 2018




I found it amazing when, one day, I was gazing,

at page after page for novice beginners–

Topic after topic and some of them graphic,

(some losers and maybe some winners)

Tearch yourself Calculus or Chess or German,

Play the Guitar or perhaps learn chemistry–

There’s a book for beginners to learn the stock market,

Aerodynamics and Solar Eclipses;

You can buy a book on Digital Photography,

The world is filled with books for Beginners,

The list is endless – I just haven’t found one

to teach myself how to be me.


Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted January, 2012

Updated August 26 2018


I made the San Fernando Valley my home,

Just like Bing sang it in a song in the Forties;

Roy sang it too and so did Frank,

They all had hits and sang riding to the bank.


I arrived in a car in nineteen sixty-one,

with a husband and baby–(a one year old son).

and a crib and an ironing board tied to the roof,

We were a sight to see and slightly uncouth.


We rented a duplex on Screenland drive,

In Burbank, close to Hollywood Way,

I walked wit the baby up the street,

to visit bookstores and shops every day.


We were poor as church-mice but happy to be

in the land of golden opportunity–

No one had food stamps or welfare checks,

We got by on our own and did what it takes.

We ate a lot of homemade soup,

In a pot that would last a week

And watched Soupy Sales on a little tv

and visited Knotts Berry Farm–it was free.


That was the start of a brand new life,

I wrote poems on a small Smith-Corona,

a portable typewriter–not electric,I wasn’t ready to be selective.


But I sold some poems and then got a job,,

Downtown L.A. at Hollywood and Vine;

It took three buses to get to work,

I didn’t drive and I went berserk,


Back In Ohio in sixty three,

to await the birth of a son,

What was I thinking? That things would get better?

We didn’t fool anyone.


December found us driving back West

Now with an infant and toddler,

We rented an apartment near Warner Brothers,

I went to work for Weber Aircraft.

Years have gone by but through it all

The San Fernando Valley was home;

I  knew every street from east to west

From north to south, on my own.

I could tell you what streets didnt go through,

ere the shops were the best,

I knew where our favorite restaurants were,

And the best DMV for your test.


And now I have left my valley behind,

thought I know in my heart there can be

none quite as fine as this very first one

In the San Fernando valley

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted April 14, 2010

Updated August 22, 2018





Sandy’s note:  I could present you with a hundred favorite endings but kept myself limited to ten endings–and the ones chosen have been novels I have read more than once–and probably a dozen times of reading “Little Women” – but I had a good head start on that one, having received my copy of “Little Women” when I was about ten or eleven years old, a Christmas present from my mother. I could recite entire paragraphs from memory before I was a teenager–and had the utter bliss of discovering other Alcott titles in the family bookcase when I was about twelve or thirteen years old–we inherited them from a cousin who, I was told, had “outgrown” them. (I could never understand how anyone can “outgrow” a book.) – Sandra Lee Smith


“Every morning I put on this plaid robe of Mom’s, sit down at my computer here at the old white enamel kitchen table and gaze out the window at the birds on the birdfeeder for a while before I begin and then begin again and again, still trying to get it right…           FROM THE CHRISTMAS LETTERS BY Lee Smith


“Her eyes moved” it was Cormac who spoke.

“What, son?” Dermot asked.

“I said her eyes  moved, Daddy. Granny–her eyes moved. It was just a flicker but they moved.”

Dermot gently placed his mother’s hand back on the bed, he sat down on a chair and lifted his son onto his lap.

“Of course they did, son, of course they did.” He hugged the boy.

“What do we do now, Daddy?” Cormac asked.

“We wait, son. We pray–and we wait.”

“It was three o’clock on the afternoon of 6 December, 1992 with, for the first time in fifteen years, every single living member of her family gathered around her, united, that Agnes Browne smiled and became a Dragonfly”     From THE GRANNY by Brendan O’Carroll


“Miss Lewis and me would go many hundreds of miles together and thousands of days together, but I wouldn’t never be as scared or feel as silly again.  There was nothing to do but laugh about it. Nothing else would get us through that moment. I seen your Grandma starting to laugh too, and already beginning to feel better”.

From THE HINTERLANDS by Robert Morgan


“The Hawks fly round and round and the sky7 is so blue. I think I can hear the old bell ringing like it rang to all them home. Oh, I was young then, and I walked in my body like a Queen”.



“Sometimes, for a man of few words, my husband chooses the exact right ones. As he kisses me again, I remember Scotland, how I felt when Etta told us about the baby, and picture my husband as a ten year old boy with Annie at his side as he explored the creeks, roads, and back woods of this mountain. As for the bridge, Jack needed to build it, if only to know the deep river that runs through Cracker’s Neck Holler. May it never end.”

From HOME TO BIG STONE GAP by Adriana Trigiani


“She sat up, the old bright light of battle in her eyes. “We ain’t going to fight no more, we’re not going to have any more bickering and arguing and all like that, but I tell you something, Olaf, she said in the old way, “You just try to get me a house two blocks from Sigrid’s if you dare! You just try and   move me two blocks from Sigrid.  You just try it! You got another think coming”

Olaf didn’t say a word. He looked at her with a twinkle in his eye.

She caught on. She stopped. She turned red. “No,” she said more gently, in fact about as gently as a woman can speak unless she wants to take a notion to coo like a pigeon. “But I really mean it. I wouldn’t any more live two blocks from Sigrid than I’d fly to the moon!”

From THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM by Ardyth Kennelly

(Note: The Peaceable Kingdom is about a Polygamus Mormon family; the speaker is Linnea, the second wife of Olaf. Sigrid is the first wife. I adore these books – the Peaceable Kingdom, then a sequel, titled “Up Home”. Kennelly only wrote four or five novels, much to my disappointment.  I have read “The Peaceable Kingdom’ and “Up Home” numerous times.)


“Stellie manipulated it so they had to come down Forth North past the collage of Miss Deatherage. If there had been light within, she would have hung over the fence to look, and listen for the soft piano, but when they got there it was dark as pitch and not a sign of life about the place”.

From “UP HOME” by Ardyth Kennelly


I watched Udell, wondering if he was feeling empty, with Aubrey gone, the way I sometimes did.  A thread from my pocket caught my eye in the flicker of light from the stove. I twisted to make a knot, wrapping the tip around my finger.  Niddy-noddy, knitting needles, busybody, butter beetles. When will I meet my fair, true love? I smiled. Udell looked up then, surprise on his face as if I’d caught him at something. He brushed his hands against his pants and held his right hand out to me. I put my hand in his, and Udell and I held hands and watched the fire burn down, listening to the wod crackling and sputtering”.               FROM “SARAH’S QUILT” by Nancy E. Turner



“Can you walk?” Hank said.

“Of course I can walk” I said.  I felt as weak as a newborn colt but my strength as coming back as my stomach settled. I steadied myself for a moment before picking up the pillowcase. The red sun slipping over the ridge made me squint a littler.  My belly felt  firm and calm.  We started walking again.

FROM”GAP CREEK” by Robert Morgan


“Oh my girls! However long you may live I can never wish for a greater happiness than this”

FROM “LITTLE WOMEN” by Louisa May Alcott