Learning to Draw

A few weeks ago I discovered two books by Danny Gregory called The Creative License and How to Draw without Talent. They have been truly inspirational as a writer. I believe I was never taught to draw properly, if at all. These books provide some fantastic guidelines and support in showing a novice how to pick up a pen and some paper and create magic. I’m taking 10 to 15 minutes, sometimes more, each day to draw something of interest. The other day I got brave and drew a river scene using a recent photograph. I believe this ability will help me picture by book characters and give me insights into why they act the way they do. I will attach some drawings I recently made. I am also awaiting a book that Danny recommends called Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. I can’t wait to show my grandchildren that Grandma is also learning with them.

I’m very proud of my red-bellied woodpecker!


The Kinglet Bird

The Kinglet Bird


I’m called a Kinglet.

Have you ever seen me?

I make funny noises.

Tsee, tsee, tsee, tsee, tsee.

I’m the tiniest bird

that perches in trees.

When winters are frigid,

I try not to freeze.

My gold crest looks flashy

and feels quite regal

although I’m not famous

like the bald eagle.

I love tasty insects

and forage non-stop.

Wait, a caterpillar!

Yum,  yum. Hop, hop, hop.

At night I tuck my head

in feathers so deep

and huddle with my friends

so I can find sleep.

Sometimes a squirrel leaves

his nest in a tree

It’s empty. I’m so cold.

Please don’t tell on me!






My Name is Rylai



They call me Rylai and I’m a chinchilla. My name rhymes with Hi-Lie! I live with the Faranda family in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.  Josie Faranda makes sure I have enough to eat. My diet consists of fruit,nuts and seeds. We are herbivores and eat mostly plants In the wild I eat grass, roots, leaves and bark.

Guess how old I am?

Forty-one million years ago my ancestors were some of the first rodents to appear in South America. You could say we chinchillas are 41 million years old!

Brrr.  It’s chilly here in Chile!

In the wild I live in the Andes Mountains of Chile, South America where the temperature can dip as low as -5 degrees Centigrade (that is 23 degrees Fahrenheit, or below freezing). That’s why I need very thick fur to keep me warm. I have on the average 65 hairs per follicle; that’s a sac or gland holding each hair in place. Humans only have between 2-3 hairs.

Yipes! Is that a Snake?

We like to stick together in herds of between 14 and 100 to warn each other about snakes, birds of prey and other predators.   Yes, we have big ears, but we rely on them to keep us safe. Our strong sense of smell also protects us from skunks.

I’m in Trouble

People love our soft fur and that’s why there are not many of us left in the wild. Only chinchillas should wear chinchilla coats! No one else. We don’t want to become extinct. Do you know any other animals that are endangered?

No Water Baths Please!

If you want me for a pet, I need special care. Chinchillas don’t take water baths. We like to take special dust baths in pumice, a kind of gray volcanic stone used to clean. You have to dry me off right away if I get wet. Otherwise, my fur can develop a fungus or an infection.

I’m a Natural Acrobat!

Chinchillas have tails that  help us balance and we can climb tall mountains and rocks in the wild. I can jump from high places, up to 6 feet! How high can you jump?

The Better to See You!

My eyes look big, but they are not well-developed. Luckily, my whiskers help me move around and feel things. They are almost half as long as my whole body.

If I Get scared

I hope you won’t scare me if you see me. We lose clumps of fur if we are stressed. You can calm us down and soothe us though and we’ll be all right. You can pet me, but I don’t like to be picked up by strangers. I like to be by myself in a cage and hide in my nesting box that’s filled with hay. I like to gnaw on the hay and eat it for roughage like you eat salad.

We love the Night Life!

We sleep a lot during the day and are active at dawn and dusk. We like safe wooden toys to play with and chew on. We need exercise like you do, so we enjoy running around in our cages.

How was your Day?

Josie sometimes asks me, “How was your day Rylai?” I can’t talk, but I love to nuzzle and bury my soft fur in people’s arms when they pick me up. We also like to nibble. That’s how we show our affection. If I nibble too hard, Josie says gently, “No, Rylai!” Then I get a raisin if I behave. I’m lucky to have the Faranda family take care of me. I’m a very happy chinchilla.



  1. Interview with Faranda Family: Josie, Brigid and Tom, November 1, 2017
  2. Other books and articles upon request






A Squirrel’s Lucky Day

Saratoga Springs Squirrel

Magic happens all around us.

Hurrah!  Finally dear readers, a poem I wrote entitled “A Squirrel’s Lucky Day” was submitted to Kids Imagination Train and accepted for publication in their online     children’s magazine.  I am most grateful to Randi Mrvos, Editor of Kids  Imagination Train who worked with me and never gave up hope that this poem would meet the requirements of their excellent children’s magazine.  Thank you, thank you Randi, for believing in me.  The poem will follow.

           A Squirrel’s Lucky Day

I live in trees

       and on the ground

I hunt for food

    and race around.

We squirrels enjoy

the great outdoors.

We have big nests

and nutty chores.

The park is full

this time of year

with lots of picnics –

Spring is here.

I hope to find

some tasty scraps

like cheesy chicken

sandwich wraps.

A baseball game

has just begun.

The kids rush off

to join the fun.

But wait! What’s that

beside the tree?

An  ice cream cone

left just for me?

Hurry! Scurry!

Down the branches.

Creatures don’t get

too many chances.

Grab it! Take it

up the tree.

Hurrah!  I made it.

Yeah! Yippee!

This treat is heaven,

so cold and sweet.

Even acorns

cannot compete.

Why do people

stare at me?

Can’t a squirrel

have privacy?

So Mother Nature

will you please

make ice cream cones

that grow on trees.


Read to Me

sad dog

Read to Me

by Regina Montana

An article about a new program sponsored by the ASPCA recently appeared in the newspaper.  It described how volunteers are reading to abused dogs in preparing them for adoption.   I was very moved and wrote the following poem.

Read to Me

People hurt me.

I never knew why.

I want to forget.

I have to try.

I’m in a shelter now.

It’s different here.

They bring lots of books.

I have less fear.

If you read to me,

you’ll see my heart.

Your voice will heal.

I’ll find a new start.

I’m just a dog.

Don’t throw me away.

Please read to me.

I’ll be whole one day.




Black Racer arrives

On July 2, 2016 an uninvited guest showed up in our front yard.  I was aghast as my husband called out to come quickly to the top of our driveway.  He had been weeding alongside a small evergreen tree when his gloved hand came within an inch of a four-foot long black snake that then slithered away from us as we looked on in amazement.  But not before it stopped and coiled up, ready to strike in case we dared come any closer.

I grabbed my iPhone and began to videotape the snake as he made his way toward cover, narrating for my grandson the arrival of this most unwelcomed visitor.  Attempting to mask the fear in my voice, I told him the snake was just being a snake and trying to get away from us.   We watched as the nearly 48-inch-long, maybe even 60 inch-long, black creature disappeared into some low-lying brush.

My cousin, a Master Gardner, later said it might be a Black Racer and if it were, it would be beneficial for our yard since this species will eat small rodents, frogs and voles.  I have to admit it’s a very cool name for an animal that does not summon a lot of positive feeling when seen in the wild, or in one’s backyard.  I like to think of my surroundings as a haven for robins, cardinals, chipmunks and squirrels, not crawling reptiles.

I prefer to see them in a controlled environment – behind glass in a zoo.  I have no problem with an occasional garter snake;  they are fairly cute.  Last year one made his home in a narrow opening between a sliding door and cement step leading out to a patio.  I could peer out at him every so often and see him in the crack where he apparently enjoyed some welcomed shade.   I made up stories about him for my grandson and named him Sherman.  When we no longer could find him, I explained he had most likely returned to his family in the woods.

This year may be different.  I’ll have to come up with an endearing story, this time about the four-footer.  It won’t be easy, but calling him a Black Racer (even if he is not that species) will light up the eyes of this five-year-old, hopefully making him less fearful and allowing his imagination to run wild, conjuring up all kinds of possibilities as to the snake’s whereabouts and activities.  I, on the other hand, will be very happy never to see him again.  The reality is, however, that he is very likely somewhere in the yard, as afraid of meeting me as I am of him.

Black Racer makes it into our local newspaper, The Gazette

Black Racer.JPG



turtle inspiration

I try to keep small inspiring messages all around me.  Here is the inspiration for my

story  “Have  You Seen Harold?”


My mother-in-law Marie


Marie Montana

On December 16, 2015 we lost our beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, mother-in-law and friend, Marie Montana. She will be missed forever by many people and looked up to as a role model by just about anyone who had the privilege of knowing her.   I loved her as if she were my own mother and will remember her gentle style, loving care, concern, modesty and kindness.  She had it all and then some.   I have no memory of a negative or critical comment toward me, her daughter-in-law.   Sandy, Jerry and I all called her “Mom” since there was never a question in our minds that she was like a mother to each of us.  She would always say, “Isn’t that beautiful” if you related the most ordinary event to her.  Of course looking back some of the ordinary events in life are the most beautiful.  Thank you, dear mother Marie, for all you gave and all you were to us.  We will never forget you and we look forward to being with you again in heaven.


Refugee Children Project

pinkSometimes you are called to act.  As I was passing by my daughter’s bedroom a few  years ago, I was focused on her doll cabinet, filled with dolls that hadn’t been played with in years.  I thought how sad it was that they sat there month after month, year after year with no one touching them or enjoying their beauty.  It was then that I remembered the hundreds of refugees pouring into Germany and an idea was born.   All these children arriving in the middle of the night, after treacherous journeys must be filled with lots of emotions and traumas after leaving their homelands.  What joy it would be for them to have a small doll or stuffed animal greet them in this foreign country, now their new home – at least for a while. And so on December 6, 2015 at 9:00 in the morning, a church project began as parishioners brought boxes of toys to our hall to be sent to Passau, Germany.  The city of Passau lies in southern Germany and migrants were arriving and crossing the border.  I know that these donations of toys from my parish of Holy Name of Mary will brighten the faces of children who had to flee the violence of their homes and serve as a small welcome gift as they arrive in this new country.

Dec. 22, 2015 – Today we received word that our boxes have arrived and Frau Beate Heindl sent some photos of children with the stuffed animals. We are so thrilled to share the following photo.

July 13, 2020- So now it is five years later and a story called  A TEA PARTY FAR AWAY has been born. This picture book will tell the story of the dolls and stuffed animals who are donated to the refugees and how they find a new home. It has been edited and is now in the second stage of rewriting..

DSC_1549 (1)