Glogg and Sparkling Cranberries

Santa happiness
Santa happiness

Around this time of the year, I feel I should search for tradition. Many people have customary ways to celebrate a holiday or the new year itself. I have none. I may put up a light or two one year, crochet and display a tree the next, but my celebration changes from one year to the next.

Thanks to blogging friends Martha and Tiny, who each shared a tradition, I enjoyed sparkling cranberries and glogg this year. Partaking in their holiday cheer made my mine better.

When we had young ones in the house, we tried the Stanley-and-Marsha-do-American-Christmas. It was fun. But American Christmas is exhausting, and it was one of the first things we gave up when we could. Celebrating peace, brotherhood and love is a good thing, and I continue that tradition in spirit. While I enjoy other people’s celebrations – the decor, the Christmas tree, endless Santa – for me, most the other hoopla is gone.

Being a good American, though, I struggle with the guilt of it. Shouldn’t I play endless Christmas music? Shouldn’t I shop until I drop? Shouldn’t I race around until every gift is perfect and no one is forgotten? And what about the annual Christmas brag letter?

Today I received a simple, exquisite, heart felt note of seasonal happiness. Tamila sent us a greeting from Ukraine. I know things are better for her today than last year, and am very happy that, even while her country reels, Tamila’s life is settling a bit. But she said nothing of herself in this note. Her message was clear and unselfish. All she did was send a wish for goodness in our lives.

Maybe I’ve found my tradition, one that will stay throughout the rest of my life. No list of good (or bad) events during this past year, no lengthy update of jobs and people and vacations, no heavy hand at decorating,  just a simple wish for good things to happen to good people.

May there be happiness in the new year for us all.




We meet-up here in the blogosphere in an exchange of wonder. It still amazes me when I Skype with a friend in Ukraine, or realize that the BungalowBlogger is online in Italy the same time as I in California. Computers, to me, are still such a miracle that I invent cartoony explanations in my mind for how they work at all. Face-to-face meetings, though, I understand and value above all the others. When blogging companions meet-up, there’s a unique thrill. It’s as if we all walk out of a science fiction world and prove we are also real.


Once upon a time at the bungalow, we brought together three blogging buddies, handshakes instead of posted comments. While we all have interesting lives with lots happening, the moment that me, Marsha met-up with Barney and The Hermit has a very special meaning.


great place for a meet-up
great place for a meet-up

Thanks to Beth and Joe, it has happened again. In the tiny town of Los Osos, five traveling souls met-up, and what a time we had! If you think these people entertain by writing through their blogs – and all three, Barney, the Hermit, and Beth and Joe certainly do – you should hear their voices in story. I will treasure my second meet-up, and hope for many more in the future.

Love-Love-Love (sung to the tune of the Beatles’ song, of course)



Why I ‘like’ You

Say you’re reading a nicely written and very sad blog post. How do you feel when it comes time to push the ‘like’ button? How can you like a sad story? It feels as if you are being happy at someone else’s misfortune – or worse, laughing at their pain. On the other hand, say you have just read a poorly written blog post that you didn’t enjoy at all. But you spent some time on that blogger’s patch of cyberspace. Maybe you didn’t like or even appreciate what was written, but how do you say ‘thanks for inviting me over, for allowing me in’?

short fences, open gates
short fences, open gates

It’s as if you are looking over your neighbor’s fence. Around my neighborhood, where fences are very short, it’s an easy solution. You see someone, you wave, greet, acknowledge each other. You have to: you are face-to-face. But online, you have a chance to be a bit of a peeping blogger. No one will know you have spent time in someone else’s cyber yard. You can look around, make your assessments and still leave anonymous.

That’s why I have decided that ‘liking’ every post I read is my way of saying “thanks for opening your cyber neighborhood to me.” It tells the fellow blogger that I stopped in, helped myself to their goodies, and appreciate their effort.

Otherwise, I feel a bit of a sneak. And we just can’t have that.

What Brian Williams Needs

Brian Williams needs a little Marsha in his life. When Marsha came to live inside my head, I, Susan, had a much easier time in many ways. I needed her to write, think and do what I could not. Need to see things in a more simple way? Marsha does that for me. Need to have an opinion that steps across that line-that-cannot-be-crossed? Marsha is my gal. Need to be somewhere I am not supposed to be? (Take special notice of this one, Brian.) Marsha can be anywhere my imagination takes me.

Magical World of Marsha
Magical World of Marsha

Having a fictional doppelganger gives me, Susan, disclaimer rights. Who said people shouldn’t go to Venice? That was clearly Marsha. Who had a hard time living in the former Soviet Union? Marsha, again. Who goes on cruises with the utmost glee? Since Susan does not travel like that, that has to be Marsha.

Everyone needs a bit of elbow room with the truth. Most of us get away with it, because – unlike Brian Williams – we don’t live in front of millions of people. Perhaps he forgot that the world is his fishbowl. I can misspeak, and so can Marsha. But Brian’s misrememberings will be broadcast and re-broadcast, and because he doesn’t have a Marsha, there’s just no explaining it.

There’s a sliding scale between news and ‘news‘. It’s been forming over the last 20 30  40 years. On the one side, there is Jon Stewart. He does ‘news’ and we love the entertainment of it all. On the other side is Scott Pelley, whose focus is so single-mindedly on the news that I had to look up him on Google. We may admire Scott Pelley, but we don’t remember his name. We remember Brian Williams’ name, who, according to me, is about 2/3 the way toward Jon Stewart. That would make him much more than half entertainment, and just a bit of real news. He’s mostly a ‘news‘ guy. And so he needs a Marsha, to wiggle away from always having to pretend truth.

Not Marsha, actually. But he could have a Stanley. Stanley could fly along on secret missions anywhere and have wild opinions about what went on. If anyone wanted to talk to Brian Williams about it, he’d just have to say, “That Stanley is a character, alright.”

Newest Book: My Ukraine, One Year of Memories

Walking Chernigov
Walking Chernigov

Finally, memoir. After writing fiction for so many years, I am in love with writing about life. Here, in e-book form is my experience of living in Ukraine before crisis took control. I hope you will read these entries from a calmer time in that beautiful country’s history.

Kindly follow the link to


My Ukraine: One Year of Memories  



Six-Word Saturday

fun reading
fun reading

Years ago, I had fun teaching students to write six-word memoirs. The idea came from a book, “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs From Writers Famous and Obscure.” When I started following a wonderful blog by Restless Jo she reacquainted me with this quick write.

Maybe quick write isn’t the best description, because it can be an art form that requires time and attention.

I will not aspire to art.          But I can put six together.