Hildie and Caroline: A Commentary on Perception


Imagine 2 women, Hildie and Caroline,  living next door to each other on the same quiet street.

Hildie is sixty years old and known as the town’s One-Woman Welcome Wagon. Friendly, garrulous to the point of hyperbolic.  She’s delighted when Caroline moves in with three young sons, a dog and 2 cats.  Through the smudged windows, Hildie notices clutter within. Ever crafty, she fixes up a welcome basket with 3 crocheted dishcloths, a matching scouring cloth (also crocheted), a container labeled ‘Home-Made Scouring Powder ☺” and a spray bottle containing her own special white-vinegar glass cleaner. Tucked within the cleaning supplies is a note written on cheery yellow notepaper which reads, “Welcome to the neighborhood! Looks like you could put these to good use!”  Satisfied that her gift basket looks presentable, Hildie carefully avoids tripping over the 3 bikes lying carelessly in her neighbor’s front yard and deposits the basket on Caroline’s front porch when she knows Caroline is at work and the boys are at school.  She hears a dog bark furiously from within the small house and two wary felines watch her from the living room window.


Caroline is a 32-year-old divorced mother just starting a new job as a nursing assistant. She and her 3 sons just moved into the house next to Hildie’s, and unpacked cardboard cartons are piled high in every corner. The pets have left Caroline’s carpet stained and the second-hand furniture threadbare. Dirty dishes clatter in the sink and the boys scatter their dirty clothes everywhere.  She comes home dreading the filthy squalor she knows will greet her.  One of her elderly patients passed away that afternoon. She’s tired and her back aches. She doesn’t even have the energy to order a pizza for the boys’ supper.

When she arrives home and discovers the welcome basket, her first feeling is curiosity. Then she reads the note; “Welcome to the neighborhood! Looks like you could put these to good use!”

Annoyed, the weary young mother immediately becomes defensive. She glares at Hildie’s house. She’d heard about the old busy-body. Who the hell is she to insult my housecleaning skills? I work sixty hours a week and the boys refuse to pick up after themselves! How DARE the old bat be so rude! Infuriated, Caroline enters her home and slams the door behind her. The dog barks, The kids start making demands. It’s all she can do not to throw the damn basket and its stupid contents into the trash can.


The next morning, Hildie stoops over her front yard flower bed. She knows Caroline will leave for work.  She doesn’t expect a ‘thank-you,’ but just in case, she thought she’d make it easy for her neighbor to catch her.

As a scowling Caroline emerges from her house, wrangling her 3 sons into her car, Hildie straightens up, smiles and waves.

“Good morning!” Hildie cries cheerily.  “How did you like your welcome basket?”

With the boys tussling into the car, Caroline slams the car door and marches to confront her nosy, pretentious neighbor.

“I don’t know who you think you are, lady,” Caroline begins. “But I don’t appreciate you insulting me and my home. I have cleaning supplies and I know how to use them. I just don’t have time. So you can take your basket of judgmental cleaning supplies and –”

And that’s when profanities were uttered.

Hildie was left stunned, confused and hurt. From then on, the 2 neighbors avoided each other, sharing only cold stares and stony silence.


I wrote this little anecdote because misconceptions have happened often between me and those I’ve known in my life. Sometimes the misconceptions are easily mended, other times it’s pointless to even try explaining your point of view.

Reading Nanea Hoffman’s quote in the accompanying photo reminds me of how problematic clashing perceptions can be. Depending on one’s state of mind, some folks almost actively seek out offense in words or actions where none was intended.

And that’s when you have to remind yourself that

You are NOT responsible for how others perceive things!

Unless you flat-out INTEND to hurt someone by your words or actions, it benefits no one if you admonish yourself when someone chooses to take unintended offense. That’s THEIR choice. THEIR perception.

In the example, Caroline mistook Hildie’s gift as a slight, where Hildie simply meant to give her a useful assortment of cleaning supplies for her new home. Had Caroline’s perception not been so negatively skewed, she would have appreciated the thoughtful gift, thanked Hildie, and they would have remained amicable neighbors.  Likewise, aside from having minded her own business to begin with and not delivered the gift basket in the first place, Hildie could have chosen not to be hurt by Caroline’s outrage. For her part, Hildie could have forgiven Caroline for her outburst after realizing how tired and haggard the young single mother looked, and instead of icy silence, she could have explained she meant no offense by her gift, and the relationship would have been much healthier.

Perception is the key to everything. Just because someone forgot your birthday, stood you up for a date or declined your invitation to a special event, pause for a moment before you take the offended route. Consider the affront wasn’t done to hurt you. Change your perception, and you could save a lot of hurt relationships.








A Word On Diversity


Yesterday morning I had the happy privilege of joining a group of Nichiren Buddhists for one of their monthly discussions. I had  been to a smaller gathering before, and experienced a group chanting Daimoku , but to hear it chanted by a larger group was amazing. The experience evoked a happy peace that resonated within.

I’m still the spiritual eclectic you’ve come to know and love, and I wouldn’t consider myself a Buddhist (although I do own 2 sets of Buddhist beads and other paraphernalia– all gifted to me, and I do appreciate their principles), I’m enjoying learning about Soka Gakkai International,  the organization these nice folks belong to.

Besides the sense of joyous camaraderie and arms-wide-open welcome I felt, I was pleasantly struck by the beautiful diversity of the group–we were like a mini United Nations!

Having grown up in a rather homologous environment, I can honestly remember the first time I saw someone of another ethnicity (the black and white, 2-dimensional ‘people’ on TV didn’t count).  I was probably in first or second grade, and a dark-skinned gentleman gave a lecture on some subject I no longer remember. As he gestured, he revealed palms that were several shades lighter than the rest of his skin, and I marveled at that.

Yesterday’s energizing experience was made all the more special because of the wide array of ethnicities present, and I look forward to attending more meetings and getting to know this lovely rainbow of humanity.


Meet Historical Novelist Ellie Midwood!

ellieAnother successful author friend of mine is Ellie Midwood. Ellie’s preferred setting is World War II, and to date has written 15 novels! Ellie graciously replied to my questionaire and her answers are below;

Name: Ellie Midwood

Website: http://elliemidwood.com

  1. You’re a prolific novelist and your books are set primarily in the World-War II era. What about that era appeals to you that you choose to write about it?

I grew up, on my grandfather’s war stories. He volunteered for the Army when he was only 17 and the war was raging, so, naturally, he had a lot to tell about his experiences there. He fought on the very frontline and was among the troops that took Berlin and everything that he described had fascinated me from an early age. The war touched many other of my family members; my grandmother still remembers the bombing and how the AA-flak would shoot down German aircraft not too far from their house; we lost several family members to that war so it was always a subject that was “close to home”. Eventually, I began reading about the war, studying different aspects of it, collecting memorabilia and documents, and eventually – writing about it. I feel like it was a war that can be studied and written about to no end since there are so many aspects about it that are fascinating, horrifying, inspiring, traumatizing, and sometimes outright unbelievable. Most of all I like taking those unbelievable true stories and make them into novels.  

  1. What awards have your novels won?
  • Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical Fiction category (2016) – “The Girl from Berlin: Standartenführer’s Wife” (first place);
  • Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical Fiction category (2016) – “The Austrian” (honorable mention);
  • New Apple – 2016 Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing – “The Austrian” (official selection);
  • Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2017) – “Emilia”;
  • Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical fiction category (2018) – “A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son”.
  1. When you’re not writing award-winning novels, how do you spend your time?

I’m mostly busy writing. I’m a workaholic, so it’s difficult for me to sit still and procrastinate, in good conscience, hahaha… When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing research, reading, watching documentaries – basically, everything writing-related. I only take breaks for my yoga classes and the occasional outing with my SO and our pup. But yes, ninety percent of my time is spent working.  

  1. Do you have a personal favorite among your own novels?

It feels like choosing a favorite child, to be honest but I’d say, as of now, it’s my latest one, “No Woman’s Land”. I feel like it’s my most mature work so far, however, “Emilia” and “A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son” are among my favorites too, each for a different reason. 

  1. Are you currently working on another novel?

Right now, I’m getting my newest manuscript, “Auschwitz Syndrome,” ready for my editor. It’s also a Holocaust novel based on a true story but this one is much darker than “No Woman’s Land”. It has two parallel timelines; one taking place in Auschwitz in 1942-1945, and another – in a Denazification Court, in 1947. It’s also much more psychological than “No Woman’s Land,” since it’s told using the unreliable protagonist technique and the reader is not sure till the very end whether the main heroine, Helena, is giving an impartial testimony concerning one of the guards in Auschwitz or whether she’s suffering from the still-undiscovered Stockholm Syndrome, which distorts the manner in which she sees the events of the past. One of the points of view in the story is that of an American psychiatrist and he sure faces quite a challenge since the psychological disorder, from which he suspects Helena suffers, has never been mentioned before in any textbooks or studies. So, while she’s telling the court her story, Dr. Hoffman is jotting down the possible symptoms and is trying to sort the truth from the illusion. Psychology was one of my favorite subjects in college (not counting history, of course), so it was very interesting to write from this perspective. 


Laughter is a Multi-species Phenomenon

Sometimes the arrogance we humans express toward other species frustrates me. The thinking seems to be because we created tools and mastered fire, we’re truly above everything else in the Animal Kingdom.

But just through my own observations alone, it’s clear other species do enjoy a sense of amusement and fun, and apparently repeat the same joy-inducing activity (fetching a ball, pouncing on a toy as if it’s prey) because it brings them happiness.

And some animals are ticklish! And when they’re tickled, they laugh!

According to a June 2015 National Geographic article :

So far, apes and rats are the only known animals to get the giggles.

So what about this penguin’s response to being tickled? Clearly the little spheniscidae finds being tickled a pleasurable experience, thus evoking such a joyful trill.

There’s no argument that laughing brings tremendous mental and physical health benefits to humans,  so I surmise that if  humanity isn’t alone in the ability to laugh,  perhaps we’re not alone in receiving the health-enhancing, stress-reducing benefits.

Just something to think about when you’re tickling your dog’s belly trailing a piece of string for your kitten to gleefully follow. You may not hear it as a recognizable laugh, but your pet is thoroughly enjoying this moment with you. And the happiness that brings could send you into some healthy chuckles.


black chimpanzee smiling
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Importance of Friendships in Literature

Holmes had Watson. Crusoe had Friday. Don Quixote had Sancho Panza.  Laurel had Hardy.

In fiction, establishing viable relationships between characters is crucial. This requires establishing well-defined roles for each character.  A story would be pretty drab with just the protagonist and antagonist battling wits. Enter the secondary characters–the pals, the co-conspirators, the foils and the dweebs.

Herein lies yet another stumbling block for the elusive Book #4 I hope to someday write!

My characters—the 2-legged, naked ape ones anyway–refuse to fall into their required roles.

The lovable albeit chameleon-like Main Character originally was going to radiate eccentricity. But then she brought friends with her. They, too, insisted on being eccentric in their own ways ( my editor assured me having more than one eccentric a story was fine as long as their eccentricities weren’t similar. The story would lose pizazz if multiple characters wore matching crocheted sweaters and hats in the summertime, after all).

I’m all for eccentricity. I Peni-fy things every chance I get. But it takes real effort to be patient with these annoying characters who refuse to behave.

The goal is to weave strong, believable relationships between the characters, and likewise between the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s).  My concern is, these wonderful characters of mine will never populate Book #4.

But I haven’t given up. I just need inspiration.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to blog and hope my characters eventually decide where they want to go in relationship to each other.

Laurel & Hardy - publicity shot (1) Shorts

The Sacredness of 108


Being a spiritual eclectic, I tend to see similarities as opposed to differences in belief systems. One discernible similarity is the use of prayer beads.

According to Wikipedia:

Prayer beads are used by members of various religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and the Bahá’í Faith to mark the repetitions of prayers, chants or devotions, such as the rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Catholicism, and dhikr (remembrance of God) in Islam.

I’ve been blessed twice with the gift of prayer beads. First, many years ago, a dear globe-trotting Australian friend gifted me with a set of Tibetan prayer beads made from Bodhi seeds.  More recently, a new but also dear friend gifted me with a different style of prayer beads fashioned from purple-colored wood. What they have in common is, they contain 108 beads.

Why 108? Students of sacred geometry will be familiar with this number.

According to the previously cited blog:

Mathematically and Geometrically:
108 is a Harshad number (1+0+8=9) / 108 is divisible by 9
108 pattern in reduced fibonacci numbers
366 days in sidereal year; 3x6x6 = 108
1 squared plus 2 squared plus 3 squared equals 108
108° degrees on inner angles of a pentagon

Theology and Culture:
108 beads on prayer mala
108 repetitions of a mantra
108 types of meditation
108 paths to God
108 dance forms in Indian traditions
108 time frame in Rosicrucian cycles
108 gopis of Vrindavan in the Gaudiya Vaishnavism
108 defilements in some schools of Buddhism
108 earthly temptations
108 beads on a juzu(prayer beads) worn by Zen priests
108 questions for Buddha in the Lankavatra
108 previous incarnations remembered in modern Gnosticism
108 chances or lifetimes to rid the ego and trancend the materialistic world
108 earthly desires/lies/delusions in Buddhism
108 is maximum number of repetitions in Kriya Yoga
108 Sun Salutations in yoga
108 breaths in a day reaches enlightenment in meditation
108 energy lines or nadis converging to form the heart chakra
108 sacred books in the holy writings of Tibet
108 epistemological doctrines in Hinduism tradition
108 virtues in Jain tradition
108 steps in temples mentioned in the Lankavatara Sutra
108 sins or 108 delusions of the mind in Tibetan Buddhism
108 pressure points in body according to Marma Adi and Ayurveda

Throughout history 108 has always been a highly revered number, coveted by many religions for its practicality in nature and design.

As stated in the beginning, I consider myself a spiritual eclectic. It seems obvious to me there must be some validity to numerous belief systems when they agree on factors like the sacredness of numbers.

I have blogged previously on The Sacredness of Spirals, expressing my fascination with sacred geometry.  Having never had a strong mathematical mind, geometry was one of the least anxiety-inducing of the mathematics for me. Now I find sacred geometry fun and enlightening to explore.


Sure I’ll Go!

Sure I’ll go! I replied with a smile

I’ll match you all mile for mile!

Remembering how, in my youth,

I walked every day–thats’ the truth!

I once walked 6 miles each morn

On flat prairie land not buckled nor torn

by steep inclines and boulders amuck

So, sure! I’ll go on this nature walk!

Wearing comfy sneakers with good tread

and sunhat placed squarely on my head

I set forth with this group of gals

Into the woods I followed my pals

The incline was subtle as we trekked uphill

I marched in damp heat up until

My heart complained and cried, “No More!

Go any further and you’re done for!”

Alarmed, I turned back and returned downhill

Disappointed, I felt a bit unwell.

There was a time I could outpace anyone.

What happened to me? This used to be fun!

Age and weight are taking their toll

Lean young thing is no longer my role.

So enjoy your hikes, dear friends I’ve made!

While I relax with a book in the shade!




Coming out as a Synesthete

One of my go-to sites, dictionary.com ,  often has interesting articles I like to read and share. Recently that site featured a brief article on synesthesia, something I had BAD case of as I was growing up. I suspect  it was linked to the epilepsy that plagued me as a child, because as I grew out of the epilepsy, the synesthesia also diminished.

Try, as a child, to explain to others the compulsion you feel to say or at least think to yourself a word when you taste a particular food. This apparently very rare form of synesthesia is called lexical-gustatory synesthesia, and it’s the variety I exhibited.

Another, more common type is called color-graphemic synesthesia, where, to the synesthete, words and numbers have “colors.” I only know this because a friend of mine once told me, “Words and numbers have colors to me. I have synesthesia.” I immediately recalled my old “word/food association thing,” as I called it, and described it to her. “That’s another form of synesthesia,” she assured me.

Well I’ll be darned!

So I researched synesthesia,  and sure enough, there’s information on this yet-again anomaly I’d had as a child that only served to set me apart even further from others.

Now, as a woman in my mid-50’s, I embrace the synesthesia as another aspect of my uniqueness. The condition has all but disappeared, but even now, when I do eat a particular food, I will remember, “Oh yes, that food went with this word once upon a time.”

Wish I’d known what it was back in the day. I could have embraced it as a superpower.

photo of abstract painting
Photo by Anni Roenkae on Pexels.com

The Resurgence of My Life as a Socialite


I’d heard about THEM for years, with their “Ladies over 50” age constraints. Their propensity to have fun and be silly. Wear purple (my FAVORITE color) with outrageously flamboyant red hats. Did I mention being silly was encouraged?

So last month, well into my 54th year, I finally joined THEM. I bought a red derby hat with purple flowers second-hand from a friend and last night I ventured out into my first foray as a Red Hatter.


In typical Peni style, I of course arrived at the venue ( a pizzeria) half an hour (or so) early. With my Red Hat tucked in my purple bag, did I stand out enough? Did my frilly purple scarf and light-purple blouse convey enough “Hattitude?” Maybe I should put the hat on so the other Hatters don’t overlook me….

But one by one they filtered in, and it was another lady’s first time also, so I didn’t feel so shy. We totaled 9, counting one lady’s 19-year-old granddaughter. Over pizza, cheese fries and other goodies, we talked and laughed and I grew comfortable with these ladies. They appeared welcoming and friendly, and I felt that joining THEM might just provide the social fulfillment I’ve been looking for!

Meet Tricia Michael–another artist extraordinaire and friend of mine!


I can write, but drawing or painting is beyond me. So when I see someone gifted with this great talent, I am awestruck by their artwork.

Tricia Michael does beautifully whimsical art. I love the pure, joyful colors and the sweet faces on the characters she brings to life. Personally, I would love to see her illustrate children’s books or create her own comic strip or something like that.

Below is a brief interview she was kind enough to complete for me:

Name: Tricia A. Michael
Website: @trishjesse on Instagram
Short bio:  I’m 47 and live in a small town in Ohio. I have several health issues that I struggle with and creating art helps me deal with them.
1. How long have you been creating your art?I started creating art about 12 years ago as a way to deal with extreme anxiety. Playing with paints and other supplies really helped me to feel better, so I started a blog and started posting all of my work. I found that the online art community was full of friendly and supportive artists, and that’s just what I needed! 
2. What is your favorite medium? I LOVE watercolors! I find that playing with all that juicy goodness really helps soothe my anxiety. If I could only choose one medium it would definitely be watercolor! 
3. Where do you get your inspiration? I hoard art books and love to look through them to get inspiration. I also like to browse the art on Instagram and I have a favorite facebook art group(Sketchbook Revival)that is FULL of great artists. It’s a really supportive group and just being a part of it helps fuel my urge to create. 
4. Where can one purchase your artwork? Redbubble.  I do post most of my work on Instagram and my user name there is trishjesse.