Julie Pippert



The second day of the new school year and I am enjoying a quiet breakfast while catching up on my blog reading and commenting. BabyD is at school. Rob is at work. And as soon as the harsh rays of morning light pass, MidKid will emerge and finish packing for her move back to the city.

BabyD did not get her preferred teacher for grade one but assures me that as long as Mr.S doesn’t raise his voice to her specifically, she is fine with the outcome. It’s funny but, in a way, she is living her own life now that she is in school all day. Hundreds of things will happen in her life now on a daily basis that I will never know anything about. Amazing how quickly we become individual entities.

After I dropped her at school yesterday, I did a quick workout and then raced back home to spend some snuggle time with Rob. He stayed home yesterday morning with a bad headache but was sufficiently well enough for snuggling. Later I told him he will have to take the first morning of school off every year. A nice rite of passage for us to look forward to as we commence countdown to the day BabyD heads off to university.

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday between first day of school duties, snuggling and a hair appointment in the afternoon. A much needed appointment. My previous hairdresser was not to my personal liking. There was just no rapport. But between traveling and camp and mothering and reno work, I haven’t had the time this summer to search out a new salon.

The young lady who did my hair yesterday convinced me to go with brown lowlights and I think the results turned out quite well.



Not the best photo but good enough for illustration purposes.

Not the best photo but good enough for illustration purposes.


Yes, the curl is natural. I am actually a red-head but went blond at 18 and stayed that way for the most part since.

However, I am too old to do the bleach-blonde look now. When you first get grays, going lighter is a good way to hide them. Eventually you just start to look haggard and Madonna cartoonish and something has to be  done.

On a writing note, I read my Kumari story at writing group last night and they loved it. I received the best compliment on my writing I have ever received too when someone (Nate I think) said,

“I never have to work at suspending my disbelief with your stories.”

That sentiment was echoed and I was giddy. I just love reading my work and hearing the reaction.

I was invited to tag along to a writers’ conference in Surrey at the end of October. Though it sounds like fun and could be a great opportunity for meet/greet with agents/publisher’s, I don’t have anything really ready for that yet and the drive is nightmarish. And would be with people I only know through the group. 16ish hours in a car with people I only see once or twice a month? Plus sharing a hotel room?

Yeah, I am a bit too faint of heart for that despite the people in question being very good and dedicated writers.

My plan is to do writing conferences in the coming year and spend the rest of this one finishing up projects and preparing a portfolio of work and querying a few agents via email or letter.

Today, I have lunch in town with Rob after stopping by school to pay fees and hitting the post office – need to get some subscriptions sent off for work related journals. Then a nice workout and home to finish Kumari. I think I might submit it to Apex, but I am not sure if it is dark enough for them. They like their sci-fi/fantasy dark. Says so in their guidelines. But maybe I will let them be the judge of that, eh?

My t-shirt Friday post is still generating a lot of traffic. Perhaps tee’s should be a Friday theme? I don’t want to steal Nurse Myra’s idea out from under though she only does it on the last Friday of the month. I will await reader feedback (and Myra’s thoughts) before deciding.

No hump day hmmm. Julie was busy at the convention in Denver. Perhaps next week.

Last week it was 1976 with side trips to 1992 and 1974. My political awakening, understanding and jading. Politics, though it touches our lives in ways most of us barely acknowledge if we realize it at all, are not what brings music to our soul or dance to our toes.

The summer of ’93 brought me back to writing via a pocket sized notebook I took along to New York City. I was staying with a friend, Lisa J, who was in one of what turned out to be three different internships. I think it was surgery that time because she was doing a lot of needlepoint. I remember being a tad disappointed when she didn’t settle on pathology because I thought it would be cool to have a medical examiner for a friend.

Her apartment was one of those renovated old buildings/warehouses in Brooklyn with a doorman. It was within walking distance of the subway station. She instructed me in its use during a day trip to Manhattan. We went to the Battery and took the ferry out to Ellis and Liberty Islands. Someday I would love to go back to Ellis and just sit and write. There is the start of a story waiting there for me, I think. I have no interest in Liberty. That surf pounding last scene in Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston curses the American goddess has turned the statue into something I will forever identify as creepy and apocalyptic.

I wrote and wrote and then went home and taught writing to 8th graders, who were frankly not much of an outlet. I have never truly enjoyed teaching writing to children when it went beyond the building blocks. Most of them – like most adults – suck when pushed to be creative. Competency can be taught but flair and the ability to tell a story? Not so much.

It was the next year that I wrote my first novella. The same one that I am slowly transforming into a novel right now. The inspiration came from a week long seminar my SisFriend and I took at Grinnell over the summer. I can’t remember the instructor’s name anymore. Morris Something or perhaps that was reversed. He was very – different.

I had taken the seminar before through my school districts AEA. It was a quick way to rack up credits towards re-certification. The first year had been a Thomas Jefferson scholar named Clay Jenkinson. He gave lectures while in character. That was a bit freaky.

He was cute though – that rumpled, long haired professor thing – and all the middle-aged women at the seminar damn near broke each others bones to sit with him at supper in the dining hall every evening.

I was invited to eat with him once after I mentioned that I didn’t care for the characterization of Ophelia in Hamlet. I have always found her “mad” scene after the death of her father to be over the top. I may have also admitted to thinking that Hamlet is one of the most selfish characters I have ever read. An opinion I still hold.

Getting back to Morris then, he had us write a short story based on an illustration taken from the Chris Van Allsburgh book, The Mystery of Harris Burdick. Interestingly I used that same book as story starters for my students.

So I wrote a novella. I had people read it for the purpose of feedback. I revised it many times and it was one of the pieces I submitted to the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa.

And I got rejected. The end.

I just didn’t have the self-confidence to write and put it out there. This despite the fact that I took creative writing courses over the summers before and after that where I received quite a bit of praise and admonishments to try and publish.

Jump ahead with me to 2006 and masters seminar. I tossed out my written presentation on a whim as I listened to the presenter ahead of me and, riffing off her, totally winged it. The guy who gave his thesis presentation after me was toast. Poor guy. But one thing came out of that presentation that I should have seen coming and yet it caught me a bit off guard when I heard myself close with “…I had thought that obtaining a masters would renew my interest in education and instead it has shown me that what I am meant to be is a writer.”

Epiphanies. They aren’t angels’ bells on a Capra-esque pine, but they jingle just as sweetly.

I was twelve and in the 7th grade. The spring before one of the fifth/sixth grade teachers at my Catholic school had decided to run a mock election to educate us about the democratic process and our effed-up vetting system as it was a Presidential election year. It was one of those hands on interdisciplinary units that has been going in and out of educational vogue since the early 70’s.

We were all assigned party affiliation and a job. Some of us were tapped to represent the actual candidates and make speeches. My friend Lisa J. was Mo Udall, I think*. I don’t remember what state I represented as a delegate. Someplace small and insignificant and ironically good practice for all the years I voted Democratic during the endless Republican regimes.

The thing I remember most was that the whole thing was a lot of fun. Infinitely more fun than the Colonial experience we were subjected to as 7th graders when some of us got to be privileged Tories and the rest of us Yanks**.

So much fun was had and so jazzed we were about Jimmy Carter that a bunch of us went and volunteered at the Democratic headquarters in our little town. The staffers there didn’t really know what to do with us. I think they might have thought they were getting high schoolers and didn’t quite know how to utilize pre-teens. We ended up stuffing envelopes. It was very exciting. Really, it was. 

I went out and bought a Jimmy Carter t-shirt*** and quizzed my parents and other adults I knew about who they were going to vote for, making sure to re-educate them when they foolishly admitted their Ford leaning ways.

Fast forward to 1984. Orwell couldn’t have written a more horrifying story. Four more years of Ronald Reagan.

Seriously, that Reagan still garners so much praise and admiration puzzles me to no end. The man let his unelected advisors run our country. Trillions of dollars evaporated on his watch. Social systems were dismantled. Education suffered huge setbacks from which it still hasn’t recovered. And we opened the doors to theocratic governing that has taken incalcuable chunks out of our personal freedoms. What a guy.

And on top of it, the guy was suffering from dementia to varying degrees for most of that term and this was kept from us.****

Jump ahead with me, if you will, to 1992. I am second in line at my polling station to cast my vote for Bill Clinton. I practically bounce with glee at the prospect of finally electing the POTUS. I Snoopy-dance all day, much to the annoyance of the few Republicans I teach with. If I did nothing else that day by way of teaching, I taught my students the joy of participation in our political system – for the winner anyway.

You might wonder if I believed that Clinton was a morally upright guy who hadn’t cheated on his wife or engaged in nefarious dealings as the govenor of Arkansas.

I course I didn’t.

Years of family valued, moral right-wing evangelical rule had only reinforced the lesson I learned the summer I was ten*****, politicians are power seekers by nature and put their own ambitions and needs first and do their job second. What I cared most about was that the first didn’t negate the second. In other words, whatever they did out of sight in the confines of their personal lives didn’t matter so long as they did as an elected official what they said they were going to do. 

Clinton is as morally relative as they come, but I never doubted – still don’t – his love for his country and his passion about governing. The man loves the job and what’s more – he did it as much as he was able given the checks and balance system we live under.

My participatory joy has tempered quite a bit since the summer of ’76. Thirty plus years and a too intimate encounter with several government agencies during my late husband’s illness have jaded me even more than Nixon did in 1974. 

The United States is my homeland, but it is just a place – not a democratic Nirvana and Buddha reincarnates the Dali Lama, not the POTUS.

Okay, so Julie’s Hump Day instructions:

Next week…several people asked that the topic be related to my last post, about 1984. It doesn’t have to be political, it doesn’t have to be 1984 (keeping in mind that not everyone was born or much aware at that point). But choose a time that was an awakening for you, select a year or an event that year, that you invested in, although you might now have been quite old enough to understand it fully, and that affected you down the line. Or write about 1984, the election or your life then.

The following week…build on the idea in this post, and the concept of awakening. What shift in thinking have you experienced that caused you to view others differently, and created a new way of thinking in yourself?


*Lisa J, correct me if I am wrong.

**Tories could use the restroom at will while we Yanks only got potty breaks at lunch and before gym in the afternoon. Catholic school teachers could give lessons to the non-torturers at GITMO.

***I still have that shirt in a cedar chest in my parents’ basement in Iowa.

****This is why McCain frightens me. Senility descends by fractions until it reaches a certain point and the dam bursts. 

*****Like the TV baby and geek I was, I watched the hearings proceeding Nixon’s resignation every day. It was fascinating. Partly because it was grown-ups punishing other grown-ups for behavior that most of them regularly engaged in – as far as I could see – which was lying and then lying about lying. If I learned anything growing up in my working class neighborhood and going to Catholic school is that moral relativism rules and that getting caught is what makes something wrong. Once found out, you stood up and took your punishment for being stupid – not for being bad.