short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010


In spite of being raised on a farm, far away from the rest of the wide world -- or maybe because of it -- I developed a great interest in pen pals as a child. At one count, I had a pen pal in every state of the country. They sent postcards of their towns and descriptions of their activities. I was fascinated by how different life could be. Then I found an organization that would put me in touch with pen pals throughout the world. How fascinating! These were places I never dreamed I would be able to see.

The fact that these pen pals spoke a language other than English quickly became apparent. One, in particular, had some difficulty communicating with me because of limited English; yet, her letters were full of fascinating information. She was from Mexico City and told me a lot about her city and its history. From time to time, she would send me some handcraft from there. I decided that it might be easier for me to write to her in Spanish, and so I asked for a Spanish language course on records for my birthday. I had noticed one such set when we had gone into town on a shopping trip.

The records were not expensive, but for a farmer with eight children and a non-working spouse, they were a little out of reach. So, I was promised the records -- when the money became available. My birthday came and went, and the money was not yet available. Christmas came and went, and the money was still not available. I did not ask again because I knew that if and when the money became available, I would get the records. That was not unlike many other hopes and desires in my early life -- expectations often had to be shelved for a long time. (However, when I was asked to choose a more realistic gift, I said that I would rather wait until the money could be saved a little at a time even if it took several birthdays and Christmases to acquire the records.)

Meanwhile, Alejandra and I continued to write in English, and her English improved. Still, I wanted very much to write to her in Spanish. Then, my birthday came again, and, surprise, there were the records!

I had waited so long for the records that they had taken on special significance. I whizzed through those Spanish lessons as if I were inhaling fresh air after a long day in a musty cellar. Within a week, I was able to write my first letter to Alejandra in Spanish. Was she surprised! After that, all our correspondence was in Spanish.

Was the wait worth it? Well, you judge. Not only did the wait inspire me to put greater effort into learning Spanish as quickly as possible to make up for lost time. Then, encouraged by that success, I took French, German, and Latin in high school and found pen pals in France and Germany to whom I could write in their languages. They were very patient with me, and knowing that I was a student of their language, they seemed to find enjoyment in sending my letters back to me with errors corrected. Then, in college, I took Russian, Czech, Yiddish, Hebrew, Japanese, and Italian, in addition to continuing to study French, German, and Spanish. Later, I learned even other languages from being in various countries. Over a period of time, I studied 18 different languages, and today those languages serve me in good stead as I provide, or have provided, consultation in multiple languages to educational institutions in more than two dozen countries. Those languages have allowed me to interpret for international events, sent me to the USSR as a liaison to the Soviet government for a group of US Senators' wives, and even got me a job early in my career supervising a language training program for diplomats and later in my career for astronauts and cosmonauts.

Ironically, I never met Alejandra, and today I no longer even have her address. However, I have visited Mexico on several occasions, and some of my publications have been translated into Spanish and sold in Latin America. For ten years not that long ago, I lived in the Hispanic part of our California town (for that matter, San Ignatio, where I now live, is mostly Hispanic and Spanish-speaking) and needed to use Spanish on a a near-daily basis. My early correspondence with Alejandra opened a door to a world that could only have been in the dreams -- not in the real-life planning -- of a farm girl. To get started, all it took was patience.


  1. Wow! Yes, the wait was definitely worth it!

  2. With a passion for languages you certainly crossed many 'bridges' in your life that could not have been accomplished without that passion!

  3. Mary and Val, you are both right! :)

  4. Elizabeth,
    Your language skills are amazing!!!! wow... what a beautiful story.
    Also, thanks for visiting my blog, and for your interesting comment. Looking forward to read more of your posts... y seguir en contacto contigo :-)


  5. Thanks, Doris. My language gifts have always been with me, so I guess helping people in other countries is something that God has wanted me to do. Please do "remain in contact with me."


About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.