An (In)complete Biography

You’re here.  Looks like you wanted to know more.  I shan’t disappoint.  

So, as I started to say before, I was born and raised in Chicago—a southsider and (mostly) proud of it–but found my niche and have made my nest in Bloomington, Indiana where I arrived for graduate school in 1970.

I treasure family, friends, and my faith, as well as, in no particular order (that order changing depending on the day): words and languages, trees—be they in town or in the woods–, my bicycles and anywhere they take me, books, food, sunshine, a good night’s sleep, sentences that begin with “and” and “but” (just because!), back roads, mellow music (especially acoustic folk and Americana), live theater, the correct use of adverbs, travel, camping, hiking, my eyesight, rural scenes dotted with cows, sheep, horses, goats, llamas…, genealogy,  really good bread, spirituality—both new-age and “traditional”–, large desks, people a good ten years older than I am, letters (or texts or emails) to or from dear ones.

Also, I’m rather ashamed to admit, a wide variety of electronic gadgets, from Fitbit to Garmin to netbook to an array of Apple products.  Though I am woefully slow at figuring out how to use such devices and am constantly calling on geekier folks than myself for assistance, they nevertheless bring me great delight during those times when I am not swearing at them.  I’m grateful for so much more in my life, but for starters, that’ll do, right?  As for my pet peeves, I’d really prefer not to have to deal with cold weather, gray skies, barking dogs or dogs who chase bicyclists, hard to reach outlets, and crabby people.

I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a neighbor, a friend, a member of more groups than I can name.  I’ve signed up for way-too-many daily emails from way too many inspirational sites (but oh, the wisdom they contain if I could just get them read!).  I keep a trim body but a rather overstuffed and slightly neglected house (just ask my husband…; but I like the “lived in” look, don’t you?).  I recycle faithfully though not compulsively, have no interest—zero, zilch—in sports, and have been caffeine-free for 37 years.  I suspect I’m one of the rare people my age to have gotten through the 1960s and 70s and beyond drug-free.  (Not holier than thou, mind you, just pretty shy about trying new things…)  I would challenge you any day to a parallel parking contest.  Good to be aware of one’s skills, no?  I admire activists but haven’t the time, energy, knowledge base, or people skills to be one.  I’d like to be: … oh, don’t get me going on that one! (Besides, too many sentences in a row starting with “I.”)  When all is said and done, I guess I like myself pretty well, warts and all.

But yes, to go full circle to where I began: I’m a Midwesterner.  Grade school and high school in the Windy City where the Sisters of Mercy and the School Sisters of Notre Dame attempted to keep me in line.  College in Dubuque, Iowa, where I learned that men could be teachers and that Iowa could be hilly.

Grad school here in Bloomington, Indiana, once upon a time a sweet, bucolic little town until too many of us decided to plant ourselves here to bloom.  (Now an interstate runs through town and one thinks long and hard before getting in a car on a Friday afternoon, or, really, on any afternoon.  Please, stay where you are!  Let us retain some small measure of being a “best-kept secret.”)

Summer vacations mostly in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  Deep roots, really, in the land of 10,000 lakes, as my great grandfather homesteaded there just after the Civil War.  Week-long bike tours in all of the afore-mentioned states (and quite a few more).  Got time to listen to a fun song that comes to mind as I write about my roots?  Click on the video to the right and with any luck you’ll hear the group Mustard’s Retreat singing “Hopelessly Midwestern.”   You can have your tsunamis and hurricanes and earthquakes and wildfires and your disappearing coasts; I’ll take my chances on being sent to Oz by a tornado.  (If only I could figure out how to keep the sun shining and the humidity down around here…)

Words and languages. Two of my favorite things.

Words and languages.  Two of my favorite things.  I didn’t always appreciate that my dad insisted, when I was still in grade school, that I make my way through Thirty Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary and a box of 1,000 vocabulary flashcards.  I didn’t like having to underline words I didn’t know when I was reading and then having to make a list of them and their corresponding definitions as found in the big Webster dictionary that I could hardly lift.  I wasn’t keen, at first, that he limited my TV watching and constantly put books in front of me.  I softened considerably when he began paying me to read, and then, at some point, as surely happens with everyone who reads a lot, I got hooked on the power of words to create, to entertain, to change, to move, to matter to people who heard or read them.

When my older sister began carrying on conversations in Spanish with our cousin, I swore she wasn’t going to tell tales about me right in front of my face; I was motivated from day 1 when I began Spanish as a freshman at the Academy of Our Lady.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I loved drama classes in high school, loved the theater, ate up Dickens and, eventually, all the Russians, anything long and meaty and saga-like, but Spanish won out.  To state it briefly, my passion for Spanish led to a summer abroad after my freshman year at Clarke, a junior year abroad in Madrid, grad school in the highly respected Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University, and another year in Madrid as part of my graduate studies.

My passion (plus the need to fill some requirements) led to many classes in French and Catalan, plus a smattering of Portuguese, some playing with Italian, and enough German to be able—we’re talking almost 50 years ago now, so don’t hold me accountable for this!—to translate paragraphs of Nietzsche or Freud or Schopenhauer.

Did I have a chance to use my Spanish?  Indeed I did.  I worked for a number of years as an editorial assistant for a private press which focused on literature from the Spanish-speaking world.  I tutored learners of a variety of ages, gave after-school enrichment classes to 1st through 6th graders, started a middle school program at St. Charles, and taught at least 40 semesters at Indiana University where, somehow, I managed not to lose my mind repeating ad nauseum that it was not “la problema” but rather “el problema.”  El, El, El, El, El, El!

El problema. El, El, El, El, El!!!

Words!  My strength and my downfall!  Set me down with a keyboard and the fingers just fly.  I’m like my dad in that regard, though he was infinitely more humorous.  No comparison there.  He was entertaining; for the most part I’m just “wordy.”  My motto seems to be: “Never say in a hundred words what can be said in a thousand.”  Nonetheless, some people seem to appreciate my missives and I tend to be a good correspondent.  But then there’s this: as I near my 70th birthday, I’m dealing with a leaky memory and my fingers work a lot faster than my brain, leaving the former hanging in mid-air while I’m  wracking the latter to come up with the sought-after word.  Just more proof that life isn’t perfect.  I doubt I’m telling you anything new.

Look over the other things I said above that I liked.  You’ll find: back roads, rural countryside, travel, woods, farmland, sunshine, the pleasure of walking, good bread, non-barking 4-legged animals, my “gadgets” and “gizmos”…  It’s all there!  Add those things to my love of words and languages and you’ve got… what?  It’s a no-brainer!  Why did it take me so long to figure it out?  

I’m going to walk the Camino!

Of course!  I’m going to walk the Camino, meet fellow pilgrims from all over the world, open my eyes to delight in the surrounding beauty, eat well, pray hard, give thanks, speak Spanish, and use way too many words to record the journey.  First and foremost for myself.  But also for the few who may want to join me as arm-chair travelers.  Maybe you’ll be one of them.  If so, welcome!  If not, not a problem.  Pas de problème.  No hay problema (remember: “el,” “el,” “el,” “el problema”).  Sem problemas.  No hi ha problema.  Kein Problem.  Nema problema.  Geen problem.  Ekkert mál.  And so on.

Caveat:  It’s anybody’s guess how easily I am going to be able to pull this off, the extent to which I’ll remember how to use the gadgets and apps I’ll have with me in Spain to actually create and upload posts onto this site.  My “tutors” will be thousands of miles away.  It’s also anybody’s guess if I’ll have the energy after walking 10-15 miles each day to actually come up with any words at all, regardless of how much I would like to and how good I might become with the technology required.  We shall see!  Also: though I consider myself a pretty good proof-reader, all bets are off for this site once I get to Spain. Forget it!  Tidying up my posts is likely to be a low priority.  Finding wine to go with that good bread and a bed onto which I can throw my weary body will take precedence.  Stay tuned!  Be prepared to be very forgiving.


For a more detailed explanation of my decision to walk the Camino, check out this post: Why?