My relatives thought I’d be a nurse. At the time there was a popular nurse doll called Nancy. I put my fingers in my ears and hummed when anyone teased, “Nancy Nurse, it’s your curse.” I don’t remember like dolls. But, I did want a talking doll like my sister’s Chatty Cathy with a pull-string that activated a recorded voice. How I wanted to figure out how it worked. As a young scientist, I was a disassembler, an engineer as well as a devoted naturalist. The naturalist part was the result of escaping into the hills near the tract housing where we lived. I went to pout and kick the dirt, but through my tears I discovered a new world, one that spoke an elemental language and still does. Like many of us, I found an injured bird and put it in a shoebox. Its leg was broken, so I made a splint with a toothpick, my response was more engineering than caregiving. I never thought of myself as caring. I was too self-absorbed. Escaping whenever possible to those East Jan Jose hills (below Alum Rock Park) gave me time to be alone, write in my diary, sketch and follow animal tracks to underground burrows. A third-generation native Californian, I have never lived anywhere but here.
After earning a Bachelor’s in English at a state university, my teaching credential, and Master’s Degree, I planned to use my innate spirit of inquiry and curiosity to work with children. Teaching allowed me to share my days with some of my favorite people, children and others who love teaching. I moved to Santa Cruz, CA during a time when communities were flooded with new teachers. I took job at Lucy and Doug’s nursery school, Creative Preschool, housed in a little room out back of their house. After a brief affair with early childhood education, I accepted a job as a Day Tripper with kindergarteners at a local elementary school, driving the school van and taking children out on nature trips around the area. Then I took a position teaching first grade. For my final and most productive years, I taught at our local community college, getting back to my roots in early childhood education, training teachers to work with children and families. After retirement I briefly worked as a consultant with the department of education.
I expect I’ll spend the rest of my life in Santa Cruz in the forest, in these mountains, above the breathtaking coastline next to my sons and grandchildren. Maintaining this place, this home for our four sons and all six grandchildren to always consider home. Today it’s the four of us, two grandchildren, their grandpa (my husband), me and our dog. We hike and explore close to home, checking the level of the creek, the old asphalt road. Sometimes we wander across state lines to dig for dinosaurs or to drop a fishing line into a snow melt river with budding young fishermen. We have a good life, a privileged one that we celebrate every single day.
I write to transform what I feel and wonder about, to remember and re-invent. A story is a journey, sometimes through a mirror, reflecting light in darkness, other times by opening a door. I like to take the long way around. I hope to reveal, deepen and better understand life’s experiences, and hope that my stories are generously woven with insight and hope. I’ve forgiven those who took me off course; embraced them and myself for all of us are fully human.
My recent writing is middle grade magical realism, fiction, not memoir. My stories are populated with children, some I still see everyday, others reside inside me. The world is complicated, sometimes scary and as my main character will tell you, full of pits and mountains on fire. Eleven-year old Jess explores them all. Her story worlds are based upon the places I love, the things I often think about with a little magic sprinkled on top. I hope my stories enliven children from 8 to young teens, entertain with Jess’ charm and love of nature. I hope the adults fall in love with Jess, her family and her world. I invent people for her to struggle with, big feelings for her to manage, confusion and passion. I hope to examine, explore and discover new worlds with Jess, as I feed my own spirit of adventure.