Springtime in Winnebago Valley

It was nine weeks before the solstice of summer,

When I noticed the glimmer of soft sunlight rise.

Creating a mirage of green shades and hues,

Not yet born to Winnebago Valley—

A place where melting glaciers had

sculpted the land –so beautifully!


Snowy patches had melted away.

The last of the juncos flew north.

Oak, Walnut, Maple, and Birch

Rushed to sport spring apparel.

But wild plum and cherry tree blossoms

Were the finest amidst bare branches.


The timbre from a hollow tree

Gave proudly to the woodpecker’s beat.

Goldfinch had turned fluorescent yellow.

Orioles raced in on the horsetail clouds.

And in those woods, I stood and listened

To the myriad of music.


Taking in a slow deep breath I held the smell of

Rain on the leaves and hidden Morels,

Tiny budding violets scattered on the hillside,

And the luscious green of fiddlehead ferns.

Little if any fragrance came from the yellow lady slippers.

But it’s rare beauty, was simply— enough!


Soon, last year’s fallen leaves will vanish.

New sights, smells, and sounds will flourish. 

—And as the sunlight began to fade

in Winnebago Valley,

I realized, “Each trip ‘round the sun,

Seems to go faster the longer I live.


Over the years I’ve noticed more tiny details with each changing season. Is there something that you recently discovered? Please leave me a note in the comments. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by,            

Ever Wonder, Who?

Where do our personal stories and blogs fit among the AI word-hamburger flooding our world? How do I know when I’m sympathizing with a real person who has a stake in the game and when it’s a bot? What message are we sending to our children? On one hand anxiety and depression are on the rise due in part to the stress of perfection. And yet, on the other hand, it seems excellence is paramount.

So much has happened since this blog site was created. Over the past five years, I have written stories, poems, posted artwork and expressed my opinions. There were times I felt I had little to say. But I’d sit down and write anyway. Those occasions, when captivating stories made it from my fingertips, through the keyboard and onto this blog site, gave rise to my struggles.

But do those painstaking hours that writers spend with pen in hand really make a difference anymore. Is it just as entertaining to read a piece that has been made from a list of words that a computer sprays out?

GPS has its place too. It helped us understand how to navigate… or has it? Most of us are lost without GPS. It certainly took me aback when the message “Use precaution…” popped up on my GPS screen. Calculators are great! We need to be able to figure out problems such as balancing a checkbook, using fractions when cutting a recipe in half, estimating the cost of interest on a loan, and creating a budget for ourselves. AI is amazing! But what is becoming of our thought processes…?

We don’t allow drug enhancement to be used in the Olympics. Should we? Where do we draw the line? Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we shouldn’t have calculators, GPS, or ChatGPT. I just want to ponder the rhetorical question, when is our true self enough?

How old do you think children should be before they have a cellphone or start using ChatGPT?  I’d like to hear your opinion. Please leave me a comment. No judgements, just interesting food for thought.

Enjoy your day and thanks for stopping by,


Grandpa’s Homemade Spaghetti

Winter’s a great time of year to bake all those wonderful meals, and desserts. Do you have a signature dish that others will remember you by?

I remember my grandfather making homemade spaghetti. And I still think of him whenever I make it.

Grandpa’s Homemade Spaghetti   

Trudging through the icy drifts,

I made my way to Grandpa’s house.

And with each step, uninvited snow

Jumped inside my little boots.

I was chilled from my nose to my toes

By the time I rounded the corner.

A trail of snow followed me in-

To Grampa’s rickety screen porch.

With half-frozen fingers, I opened his door.

To a delicious aroma that welcomed me in.

Then Grandpa shuffled to the table

With two big bowls of hot spaghetti.

I tucked the napkin and bowed my head.

Then watched that fork perform

An old folk dance from Italy. 

A leap and a turn of the fork toward the plate.

A spin and twist of the noodles.

A furrow in the dance through the deep, rich, red sauce.

A turn east, west, south, and north,

And a toss of the fork to another… 

Another fork full, another dance,

And through my lips another song.

With noodles humming humbly

The sauce entered in –to the tangy sweet song.

Chomp, chomp, chomp went the beat.

And the meaty cymbals crashed.

One last draw across the bow(l)

And that final note was held—

Forever in my memory.



Oh, how I remember, those scrumptious mouthfuls.

And I’d suffer that walk all over again,

for just one more meal with Grandpa

and his delicious homemade spaghetti.



It’s hard to think of only one recipe that I’d be remembered by. But I imagine it might be for my chewy chocolate chip cookies, my “ten-pound” carrot cake, my spicy Kafka, my tender, savory barbecued ribs, or maybe my cheesy Thai pizza. I’m not Lebanese, nor am I Thai, but I’m also not Italian. I just really enjoy different ethnic foods.

What recipes will others remember you by?

Please leave me a comment. I always enjoy hearing from you!

Holidays are good times to snuggle up with loved ones and read together. The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! children’s picture book is a Great Gift!

Just go to  website and click on the book of your choice. If you’d like to add a unique personalized message and author’s signature to your book, see the box labeled [Add a note to the seller].   –FREE SHIPPING within the contiguous United States.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Happy Holidays!

Grab a Pencil – Have a Ball!

The name of this still life painting is Autumn Harvest. It’s a fun study of color that I creating in 1981. You might even say it’s a color doodle. It uses opposite colors like red next to green, orange with blue, and purple beside yellow juxtaposed with monochromatic colors. This study is an interesting play on the beautiful colors we see throughout the year in contrast with the lackluster shade of winter.

Here’s another kind of doodle…

Do you ever doodle when you’re on the phone or in a meeting? It may sound a little crazy, but doodling is known to improve your creative juices and can reduce stress. Here’s a fun project. The next time you’re stressed or you’re trying to come up with a new strategy, try doodling. You could start with something as simple as drawing a circle. Shade everything outside the circle as dark as you can. Take your finger and rub in a circular motion over the outer edge of your drawing. Slowly make your finger motions smaller and smaller towards the middle of your circle, leaving the middle untouched. Your finger will pick up the lead and drag it into your circle. Voila! The shading creates an illusion that your circle has become a three-dimensional ball. From there, you can create different shaped doodles and shade them in too.

Go ahead! Grab a pencil and “have a ball”!

How do you relax after you’ve had a difficult day or after reading news of all the turmoil in the world today? Please leave me a comment. I’d like to hear from you. And if you like this blog share it with others.

Thanks for stopping by,

Poker Game of Life

Wishing he could be as invisible as dry leaves beneath a blanket of snow, Noah sat avoiding eye contact with his teacher. It was the last day of school before winter break. And as much as Noah had hoped it to be so, Ms. Ames wasn’t going to let the class start vacation early. She had just posed a math problem to the class and was looking for the answer.

Zachery could hardly keep seated as he waved his hand. Noah was relieved when he heard Ms. Ames say, “Zachery. Do you have the answer?”

Zachery answered confidently, “It’s sixty-two!” And tossed out one of his metaphorical chips in this Poker Game of Life.

“Well, you’re close.” Ms. Ames admitted. “Does anyone else think they have the correct answer?”

Zachery had lost one of his poker chips with that wrong answer. But he didn’t seem to mind.

Noah thought, just maybe, the answer was sixty-four. But he wasn’t sure. And so, his gaze stayed fixed on his desk. His breathing slow and shallow.

After a long pause Ms. Ames revealed the answer, “Eight times eight is sixty-four.”

Now, you may be wondering, “Why Noah didn’t try…?” Well, let’s look at how each of these boys started their day.

It was a day like any other. Before the sun had begun to shine, a loud BANG, BANG, BANG! awakened Noah. His father’s fist rapped on the stairway wall that led to his bedroom. “Whatcha gonna do, sleep all day?” his father shouted and headed off to work.

There was a cold, empty feeling to the house as Noah stumbled to the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator door, he searched through condiments and beer cans only to discover one egg in a dilapidated egg carton. Remembering the last time he cooked a raw egg in the microwave oven and how his father chastised him for that mess, he decided that he’d pass on having an egg for breakfast. Just then there was a knock on the door. Noah heard the neighbor boy yelling outside the kitchen door, “Hurry, Noah! The bus is coming.”

That same morning, Zachery woke to the smell of toast and eggs cooking. It was a simple breakfast with little conversation except for an occasional question from his father “Would you like a PBJ for lunch or a ham and cheese sandwich?” and “Did you remember to put your homework, that we worked on last night, into your backpack?” And then his father said, “Have a good day. I love you!”

Well, Zachary received one chip for eating a good breakfast. Another chip for getting lunch. A chip for getting his lunch choice. One more chip because someone cared to help him with homework. Yet another chip for having someone to help him learn how to be organized. And ten chips because he knew his parents loved him. Zachery left the house that morning with another fifteen poker chips in his pocket.

On the contrary, Noah left the house with only one chip. And before he took a seat on the school bus someone spit on him, another called him dumb, and that one chip Noah had was gone.

Well, most of us know you can’t win at poker if you don’t have a chip on the table. When Ms. Ames asked what eight times eight equaled, Zachary was able to take that chance of winning another chip. He really didn’t mind losing one of his fifteen chips with a wrong answer.

A few minutes later Ms. Ames asked, ‘Would anyone like to try and solve the math problem on the board. Zachery raised his hand. Walking to the front of the class, he picked up the marker and finished the equation. Another proverbial chip went into his pocket as Ms. Ames praised “Very good, Zachery!” On his way back to his desk more chips poured in from his classmates.

You see, Noah didn’t have any chips to join the Poker Game of Life. He didn’t have the confidence nor the support to join Jujitsu or any other sport that welcomed motivational speakers to teach young people about things like the power of a positive attitude. Noah never had a mentor that created opportunities for him to earn his own chips. No one told him, “Every day of your life, you’ve got to show up.” Nor did he have someone that knew children who lose again and again throughout their lives, often aren’t able to hold down a job later in life. Not because they’re not smart. But because they’ve been programed to think, “Why try? I’ll only lose the chip…” There was never a mentor, that later in life, kept him from getting mixed up with drugs, incarcerated, and needing long term therapy.

Now, there are two endings to this story. The fairy tale ending is Noah and Zachary grow to be friends and Zachary’s parents become the mentor Noah needed. The second scenario is that we all pay the price for ignoring the prejudices and neglect of others in our school, place of worship, work environment, and throughout our community.

Have you given someone a chip lately?

Please leave me a comment if this blog brought you food for thought. And if you liked this blog share it with others.

Thanks for stopping by.

Things We Can Keep in Jars

Feelings can’t be stored in a jar –or can they? Take for example: the spotted horses created in the stone-age cave paintings over 30,000 years ago, or Picasso’s Guernica painted in 1947. Granted, those works of art are certainly too large to roll up and stuff in a jar. However, emotions and feelings in them have been preserved for decades and even centuries. The minute you set eyes on them; that metaphorical jar is opened and feelings instantly come to life! It’s amazing! Isn’t it?

Just grab a piece of paper and a pencil and “capture your own feelings in a jar”. If it’s hard to get those creative juices going on that blank page, use this line drawing from The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! children’s story.  The middle of the original illustrations has been omitted to leave room for your pictures or words.  Create your own twist to the story …and keep it in a jar.

This page has already been colored. To download your FREE coloring picture, go to www.leannembenson.com click on The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.

Go on…color it, change it, make it your own.

Please feel free to share this blog and this coloring book page with others.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mondegreens and Miscommunications

Why is the little girl in this picture having so many bad days? I wondered that many times while painting this illustration for the children’s book The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! that I’d just written. Maybe one of those days was ruined, after signal miscommunications on whether to stay on second base or run to third base had lost the game? Looking for reasons as to why people have bad days, I tumbled into a rabbit hole and soon discovered a word that I hadn’t heard before. The word is mondegreen. It means a word or phrase that has been misheard.

You’ve used mondegreens if you ever sang the children’s song that goes like this, “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey a kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?” Or if you ever played the game Telephone, where you gathered with others in a circle and tried to successfully send the same message through everyone, one at a time. If someone didn’t hear what was whispered, they had to continue with what they think they heard. All too often, when that last person announced to the entire group what they just heard, it was only a shadow of the original message.

Miscommunication also happens when we use speech recognition and spellcheck. And typos have been around since the invention of the printing press. Not too many years ago. I was planning a family vacation with three sisters and my mom. Emails were flying back and forth while we worked out schedules. I had listed vacation spots and sent them off to everyone. Moments later, came a reply. My sister said, “Buce job!” Well, after investigating to find the meaning of buce, I suddenly had to laugh! For I’d realized on that first word, my sister’s right hand had simply shifted one key to the left!

Life is full of miscommunications and mondegreens. Unfortunately, not all are as easy to fix as a simple typo or speech recognition error on your phone. Nor are they as funny as singing the wrong words to a popular song. Sometimes they wreak havoc for days, months, or longer. The way I look at it, these debacles teach me something or at least they give me a good laugh! And if I’m lucky, I get both! Don’t you just wish all life’s debacles could be innocent, harmless, and funny?

If you’ve ever had a humorous mondegreen or misunderstanding, please send a short description in the comments. I’d enjoy hearing from you. The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! is for sale online at www.leannembenson.com

Thanks for stopping by,

Shoelace ’round the door-nail

High quality is impressive! Handmade is intriguing! Do it yourself is rewarding!

I’ve always enjoyed creating things like this poetic blog. As a child I built forts. I often give homemade cards and gifts. I remember when my children were growing up, the fun we had making costumes for Halloween. I had married a man that rather than replace a broken item, he seems to enjoy the challenge of troubleshooting the problem and fixing it. He and I have tackled many projects over the years. We’ve built our own home, rebuilt an old boat. And well, now we can also add to that list of wacky challenging adventures, that we revised my website.

One of the problems we faced working on this website was how time consuming it became, sitting and waiting for changes to upload. You see, we live in a very rural area where our computers struggle to run on an almost “Amish” internet. I call it Amish because they both seem to use little to no technology. Yup, I’m convinced when our internet comes to a crawl, it’s because the hamster on the treadmill at the end of our driveway hasn’t been fed. Now, I don’t need to have the latest, greatest, fastest, or best item on the market. But there have been times when large files have taken seventeen days and nights to upload. If we wanted to use the internet for anything else during that time, we’ve had to pause the upload. Well, I’m thrilled that after several months of crews working to install high-speed fiber to our area, come fall, these internet problems will be a thing of the past! I guess, we can let the “hamster” go! And this link to my website is no longer secured with a shoelace around a door-nail. It now proudly wears SSL.  Check it out! This website is like no other!  https://leannembenson.com/

Thanks for stopping by,

A Splendid Summertime Treat

It’s June 21st! the longest day of the year for the Northern hemisphere. Four summer solstices have come and gone since I first began spilling paint, writing, erasing, and rewriting words for a children’s story. A lot had happened in those few short years. How we learned and how we worked had changed drastically. The pressure that we were under had burst. The world had turned upside down. And this seemingly silly children’s story emerged with its own subtle little message.

Today, I’m holding a hardcover copy of The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! and I can see, it was truly worth the wait!

You just may want more than one book. They make wonderful gifts. To learn more about this book go to                                              www.leannembenson.com and click on The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day!

Thanks for stopping by.                 

A Dreamers Quest

It’s rewarding to see something you made bring joy to others. It may be a dinner you cooked, a wood bowl you carved, a beaded necklace you strung, or a book you wrote. Oddly enough, for me it was a book. It’s odd because I’ve never thought of myself as a writer.

Many of you know I published my first children’s book a few years ago and have been working on a second book.  But did you know, the crooked path that led me to publishing?

Becoming a children’s author/illustrator didn’t start out as a dream. It was more like a journey whose time had come. The stories I had created remained private. The drawers in my art studio were overflowing with my paintings that would never be seen. I began looking for ways to share my creative stream. After years of holding back, my quest has begun. And like a hero in a fairy tale; my eye is on the outcome. I’m seeing my published books bringing joy as I spend time reading aloud to small groups of people at libraries, schools, assisted living homes and more. But everything it takes to get published is not part of this fairy tale chapter.

The magic of each story happens in my heart when I’m all alone. After years of the characters from the stories, The Lion of Tupungato and The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! living in my head and taking them on walks, I got to know them. My first test was to climb a mountain named Enthusiasm and create a pathway of entertainment for both the adult and child. After all, the adult’s enthusiasm enlightens the child’s experience and love of reading. I also think the best children’s stories are the ones that capture the imagination, allowing readers to go beyond the ends of the earth, do absolutely everything, and make the seemingly impossible – possible! A fast-moving plot balanced with depth and meaning is another challenge. But I’ll have reached the mountain’s peak when I create an experience that raises awareness and empowers my reader in the real world.

Writing is anything but easy. And soon I discovered the next step, publishing and promoting was even more difficult. Detours and bumps in the road increased the length and challenge of my climb. But detours and bumps prepared me for what lay ahead. Tossing aside my fuzzy slippers, I laced up my magic running shoes and began jumping over publishing hurdles. I slowed only long enough to consider new ideas along my path. Overcoming fears of the unknown and the uncertainties that come with taking the lead, I became my own hero and made this fairy tale book a reality. Turning the corner of this epic journey, I received my award, this children’s book. I’ve also learned to trust myself, the importance of patience, and to NEVER give up.

I wish you all the best as you navigate your own hero’s journey! Please feel free to share this blog with others. If you would like The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! book, send me a personal message or email me at:  leannebenson@goacentek.net