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A Cornucopia of Thanks for November, 2019


A Cornucopia of Thanks for November, 2019:


A Month of Gratitude


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Keeping the WORDWALK tradition of sharing essays of gratitude on each of the four Wednesdays of November, I am eager to share with you some bundles of thanks that I have stuffed into my Thanksgiving cornucopia.  You are always welcome at my WORDWALK door to share your cornucopia of thanks.  While I certainly have not begun my Christmas shopping list, I have begun my 2019 Thanksgiving list.


How thankful I am for books and my book clubs!  For my book club which met on November 4, I read the immensely popular novel WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, by Delia Owens (copyright 2018); my fellow book club members and I enjoyed an especially fine discussion of this book set in the marsh land of North Carolina.  The main character “Kya” (Catherine Danielle Clark), who only attended school one day in her life, did not learn to read until the age of fourteen.  After finally learning to read, she, who had lived alone on the marsh since age ten, got out the family Bible and was able to read there the full names of her siblings and parents–all of whom had already left Kya–and their birth dates–even her own birthday, which the young girl did not recall.


Reading this touching passage of the novel, I thought of how my mother put so many names, addresses, birth dates, wedding dates, and other important family happenings–not in our big white and gold Bible–but in an address book which my sister still has.  The brown book with gold lettering and a gold border has become a wonderful reference book about our family for my sister and me.  I could not begin to count the number of times I have called my sister in Colorado and asked her to check something in Mother’s address book.  While I knew my mother frequently used this address book, I never realized how much she put in the book would become the trunk and leaves of our family-tree information.  During this month of gratitude and coincidentally the month of my mother’s birth (November 25, 1914), I do thank my mother for all that she recorded in her address book.


For the Massa Family Reunion in 1995, at my sister’s home in Colorado, my Uncle Jules prepared a booklet of our family tree and distributed his work to the entire family.  Later, Volunteer Services for the Visually Handicapped–now Audio and Braille Literacy Enhancement, ABLE of Milwaukee–put this Massa family tree booklet into a lovely and cherished braille volume for me.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have pulled this spiral-bound volume from a very special spot on one of my book shelves to check a birth or wedding date. Born on June 18, 1926–my Uncle Jules put many hours of work into delving into and preserving our family history.  Each time I open this wonderful braille book, I think of and thank my Uncle Jules.


Besides these books, I also have some treasured cassette tapes onto which relatives have recorded their voices and stories about our family.  Listening to these remarkable recordings always brings a few tears to my eyes, but warms my heart and preserves our family history.  While I thank all who are no longer around our table, I also thank my Aunt Kathy with whom I texted a few times this morning and late this afternoon.  Her recorded recollections of growing up on the Massa farm, as well as our long telephone conversations, are precious to me.


Yes, I am so grateful for the family history which my family has; but I wish we had saved even much more.


What are you doing this Thanksgiving besides eating turkey?  Get those recorders rolling and preserve some family history after you eat a piece of pumpkin pie.  Take time to capture the moment and preserve the past of your family.  With photos, videos, recordings, and writings–you and your family are special–savor the moments for now, tomorrow,  and for future generations.  If I hear from you that you have done so this Thanksgiving, I will be very thankful.


November blessings,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


November 6, 2019, Wednesday



A Palette of Patience (An Angel Poem)


NOTE:  To mark the celebration of my Leader Dog Willow’s sixth birthday on October 19, 2019, I wrote the following “angel poem”–which I, with great gratitude, dedicate to Willow.


A Palette of Patience


a poem in two parts by Alice Jane-Marie Massa




One day,

when my Leader Dog and I were walking east toward the lake,

A lady stopped me and had to tell me:

“I have been watching you and your guide dog.

Four butterflies have been flying around her.

I think one even landed on her,

but she kept concentrating on her work.”


I just smiled and thanked the pedestrian.

Then, upon that Wordwalk,

I began creating in my mind

an angel story for the reason

my British Black Labrador–

Leader Dog Willow–

is so especially blessed

with a Heavenly patience.




With an autumn leaf as a palette

and a paintbrush crafted of

purple chrysanthemums and lavender,

the angel-in-waiting,

using a technique of pointillism,

paints dots of patience

onto the wings of each butterfly.


When a group of angels-in-waiting

are ready to celebrate their graduation,

they release a flutter of butterflies

to migrate to Earth.


Waiting in line, …

Waiting for a bus, …

Waiting for a cab, …

Waiting for an arrival, …

Waiting for paint to dry, …

Waiting at a doctor’s office, …

Waiting for the dough to rise, …

Waiting for a job offer, …

Waiting for the light to turn green, …

Waiting for the rain to stop, …

Waiting for a call, …

Waiting for the repair person, …

Waiting for spring, …


Did you plant some butterfly bushes?

When the butterfly took a flight path

around you,

did you not catch a little patience

as it floated off the delicate wings

of the Heavenly butterfly?

No catcher’s mitt,

no butterfly net required:

just open your hands,

and the patience will absorb into

a waiting heart.


* * *


Wishing you and all around you some Heavenly patience,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

P.S.  Happy Halloween, too!


October 30, 2019, Wednesday


Haunted Acrostic Castle


Haunted Acrostic Castle


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


Mysterious fog drifts around the haunted Acrostic Castle.

Alabaster ghosts take their places in the gray, tricky turrets.

Spirits of poets, past, run in reverse through the castle’s corridors.

Queen of the Acrostic Realm warmly welcomes all guests and ghosts.

Uniquely costumed humans bow and curtsey to the Queen,

eagerly parade over the drawbridge, enter the open gate.

Radiantly, but royally, Queen Acrostic commands:

Alas!  Alas!  Hear my poetic proclamation!

Dare ye enter my bountiful, BOOful banquet hall:

Eat, drink, and be merry–only if you give my jester a scary acrostic poem!”


* * *


NOTE:  By reading the first letter of each line of this acrostic poem, you will find a Halloween word hiding near the recesses of the left margin.


Enjoy this spook-tacular season of Halloween!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


October 23, 2019, Wednesday


Celebrating National Dictionary Day


Celebrating National Dictionary Day on WORDWALK


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On this morning of October 16, 2019, my smart-speaker Alexa reminded me that today is National Dictionary Day.  Upon hearing her announcement, my thoughts went to what I believe is the oldest book on my bookcases.  I went upstairs to the smallest of my bookcases–one that my dad and I crafted and varnished about fifty-five years ago.  Being able to easily identify the book by its texture and size–3.75 inches by 5.5 inches by three-quarters of an inch–I quickly found my mother’s dictionary.  The Webster’s dictionary  was copyrighted in 1924 by J. H. Sears and Company, Inc.  The light red hardcover book was “set up, printed, and bound by the Kingsport Press of Kingsport, Tennessee.”  The weight of the paper is significantly heavier than in most print dictionaries today; also, the paper is of a rougher quality.


My mother, who was born in 1914 and was graduated from Clinton High School (Indiana) in 1933, did use this little dictionary.  On occasion in the 1950s and early 1960s, my sister and I also used this old dictionary.  I am delighted to still have this 1924 dictionary that belonged to my mother.


One of the interesting finds inside this sturdy, small dictionary was the word “folder,” which was listed with only one definition:  “an instrument to fold paper.”


The half wall between my dining room and living room is topped with a long line of books, one of which is one of the Italian-English/English/Italian dictionaries of my paternal grandmother.  I am also pleased to have this dictionary because I recall so often seeing my “Grandma Farm” (Elizabeth Massa) sitting at a small desk, using this dictionary, and writing weekly letters to one of her sons in California and to her daughter in New Jersey.


During high school, I remember frequently referring to a very thick, hardbound, blue dictionary.  Throughout our years at ISU, my sister and I stepped up to using a maroon collegiate dictionary; however, at the university library, we more often checked a word’s definition in the Oxford English Dictionary which was kept open on a book holder on a swivel stand.


When I was studying at Indiana State University, I had a professor (Dr. Karavellas) who once had his class guess what was his favorite book.  After many guesses were offered in Spanish and English, the professor revealed that his favorite book to read was–a dictionary.


One of the gifts which most warms my heart was a very large-print dictionary (in eight hardcover volumes).  Although I have given away at least three large-print English dictionaries, the Spanish-English/English-Spanish dictionary still stands on a shelf of the bookcase which was once my Aunt Zita’s.  This surprise gift of the eight-volume dictionary was from my parents, and I am still not ready to part with such a meaningful gift.


Probably in the early 1990s, I purchased a “Franklin Language Master,” which is an audio dictionary.  I type in the word, press the enter key, and then listen to the definitions.  Although I now access dictionary information via my desktop computer and Alexa, I still so frequently rely on the Franklin Language Master that I keep it in a small drawer to the left of my computer.  The handy machine measures only six-by-six inches and is about one inch at its greatest depth.


Are you wondering when the first dictionary was published?  In October of 1806, Noah Webster published A COMPENDIUM OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.


Happy National Dictionary Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow (who would like to recommend a “DOGtionary”)


October 16, 2019, Wednesday



A Special Day for a Dog Memory and a Seasonal Craft Idea


October 9–A Special Day for a Dog Memory and a Seasonal Craft Idea


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


With the ninth of October falling on a Wednesday, my topic for this week’s WORDWALK post was quickly determined because my pet dog Prince was born on this day in 1962.  As you will read below, the puppy did not come into my life until eleven weeks later.  For seventeen-and-a-half years, this ten-pound Toy Manchester/Chihuahua was such an important part of our family that in 2012, I used his photo and story inside my Christmas card, the text of which I will share below.


Besides remembering Prince on October 9, this day is also a good time to begin a seasonal craft project–designing and/or making your own holiday cards for mailing to family and friends in December.  In recent years, I have turned to my sister and VistaPrint for the printing of my Christmas card with a photo of my current Leader Dog Willow and with the greeting written by me.  Creating your own holiday card makes keeping in touch with family and friends across the miles so much more enjoyable and personal.


Now, please read below my WORDWALK post from December of 2013, which includes a very memorable part of Prince’s story.


* * *


Making a Christmas Card:  Keeping a Christmas Memory of the Best Gift



By making my own Christmas card for 2012, I was able to keep a Christmas memory of the best gift which I ever received.  I highly recommend sharing such a memory fashioned into a Christmas card because I received more positive, nice comments about this Christmas card than any other card I have ever sent.  The comments from family members and friends across the miles gave me holiday smiles that lasted into the new year of 2013.


When my cousin Carole came from Florida for a visit from late November to early December of2012, we went to a local mall and arranged for my Leader Dog, Zoe, to have her photo taken with the nicest Santa.  Thus, I wanted this festive photo on the front of my holiday card and a photo of Prince, the pet dog about whom you will read shortly, on the inside of the card.  After I wrote the greetings and copy for the card, my cousin Carole was in charge of paste-up onto a master, as well as the photocopying.  “Jolly Holidays!” and “HO!  HO!  Ho!” were the greetings that were sprinkled around the photo of Zoe and Santa Claus.  The inside photo was one that I had taken in 1967.  For the photograph, I had placed a white throw rug over a round foot stool, which measured about 24 inches in diameter.  Wearing a red coat which I had made, Prince sat perfectly posed for this snapshot when he was five years old.  With this old photograph appeared the following text inside my 2012 Christmas card:


* * *


Fifty years ago this Christmas Eve, I received the best Christmas gift ever.  The gift endured for seventeen and a half years, and the sweet memory of this gift continues to sparkle.


By 1962, my paternal grandparents were no longer residing on the farm in Klondyke, Indiana: they had moved to the more modern house which was a short distance from our home in Blanford, Indiana.  On that Christmas Eve, while everyone—my grandparents, Uncle Charlie, my mother, my sister, and I—gathered in the living room of my grandparents’ home, my dad went into the basement.  A few minutes later, midst all the chatter, he returned with a small cardboard box.  At the perfect moment, a tiny puppy popped his head up from the box and displayed a wide, red, satin ribbon tied around his neck in a partial bow.  Surprise!  My puppy for Christmas!  The Toy Manchester/Chihuahua was black with a white stripe on his chest and a little white on three paws.


Having lost Little Prince, my beagle/terrier mix, that October, I had been unhappily dogless for almost three months and was really needing a dog.  Unbeknownst to me, my dad had selected the Toy Manchester/Chihuahua puppy for me two weeks earlier.  My grandparents had kept the puppy until Christmas Eve.  (Years later, I learned that they were somewhat sad to relinquish the puppy.)


On that first cold night when we left my grandparents’ house, I tucked my Christmas puppy into my rust-colored coat so that only his tiny face peaked out.  In his new home that first night, my new puppy whimpered—despite the ticking clock covered with a blanket that we placed in his bedding.  So, eventually, I decided I should sleep on the floor with the wonderful puppy.  Within a couple of days, I named the pup Little Prince II; but we called him “Prince.”


As I look back fifty years to this most treasured gift from my cherished father, I look ahead to next July 11 (2013), which will mark the 100th anniversary of my dad’s birth.


Since June 6, 2009, I have been blessed with another dog who is black—my third Leader Dog, Zoe, who continues to be an amazing guide and dear companion.



May the gifts of Christmas


bring you


sweet memories,


a happy present,


and a healthy new year!



With our warmest holiday wishes,


Alice and Zoe


(First posted on my Wordwalk blog on December 11, 2013)


BOOKNOTE:  The preceding article is one of the pieces in my 101-page book entitled THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON, which is still available on Amazon, as well as DBC 08305 on BARD of the National Library Service (for blind and visually impaired readers).  The settings of the pieces are from Thanksgiving through Christmas and into January.  From online sellers, the print book is $7.50.  For additional information about my book and for photos, you may also visit my author’s page:


With our best wishes to all WORDWALK readers,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


October 9, 2019, Wednesday


A Guide Dog’s Prayer to Saint Francis


NOTE:  Since today (Friday, October 4, 2019) is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, I am sharing with you in this WORDWALK post a poem to Saint Francis (with two new stanzas).  Originally written in October of 2015, this poem carries the byline of my third Leader Dog Zoe who will be forever in my heart and memory.  When I first penned this piece with Zoe, she and I were working together through the preparatory construction work for the Milwaukee streetcar.  Confronting all of this construction, I wanted to write this poem from a guide dog’s perspective.  After my beloved Zoe unexpectedly passed away on March 16, 2016, and Leader Dog Willow came into my life on June 7 of that year, my young guide dog and I continued to work through the construction of the trolley until November of 2018.  Thus, there were many days with prayers to Saint Francis.


Unfortunately for my guide dogs and me, construction-free eras in Milwaukee are quite short in duration.  During these past summer months and continuing this autumn, I am still a magnet for construction.  Construction work for the 5G persists in our neighborhood, along with one emergency project.  Each day when Willow and I set forth, we are always ready to change our plans for our walks–depending on the location and noise levels of the day’s construction efforts.  Therefore, once again, I turn to the following prayer.


With warm and loving memories of Zoe, Heather, and Keller, as well as blessings and gratitude for Willow, I pray the following for my young guide dog who has had to contend with so many construction obstacles and challenges during the majority of our days together.  I am forever grateful to all four of my Leader Dogs for their bravery, expertise, and devotion.  Each of my four Leader Dogs has not only ben a gift from Leader Dog School, their trainers, and their puppy-raisers–but a gift from Heaven.


A Guide Dog’s Prayer to Saint Francis of Assisi


(Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment)



by Leader Dog Zoe and Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Dear Saint Francis of Assisi,

bless me,

a guide dog in Milwaukee;

and please bless

all my fellow guide dogs around the world.


Bless my eyes

so that I can see what my handler cannot see.


where there is a driver who is texting,

instead of watching the road,

show me the safe path to guide my handler.


Bless my ears

so that I may hear those too quiet electric vehicles

at an intersection or at an alley.


Bless me with grace

as I maneuver

my beloved friend and myself

through crowded sidewalks,

hallways, stores, classrooms,

theatres, restaurants, elevators,

hospitals, churches, and cathedrals.


When ear-piercing sirens zoom by,

when construction work vibrates in my ears,

when leaf-blowers rage a wall of noise–

bless me with courage.


When snow deeply lines my path,

ice makes our way slippery,

sleet stings my face,

wind challenges my strength–

bless me with your warmth.


When I walk on hot sidewalks and streets,

when my fur becomes warm on a sunny day–

bless me with your cooling touch.


When my handler takes so long to get ready to leave,

to prepare my bowl of food,

or to wash my paws–

thank you for blessing me with patience.


When I get a whiff of

all those wonderful smells,

indoors or outdoors,

bless me with reminders

of when I will receive

my treats and meals.


When a little dog yaps and yaps at me,

when a big dog  barks my way,

thank you for continuing to bless me

with concentration on my very important work

so that I never bark back.


When a squirrel, bunny,

duck, bird, or

any other animal

tries to distract me–

thank you for continuing to bless me

so that I think only of my handler.


When I need routine or special

veterinary care,

please bless my veterinarian and me.


Dear Saint Francis,

on your feast day Of October 4,

and throughout the years,

please continue to bless me

with good health

so that I may work

for a very long time

as a guide dog.

Someone needs me,

and I need your daily blessing.


Please bless

all the paws

that take

this happy, noble,

and peaceful journey of guiding

on Earth.


Finally, Saint Francis,

bless the person

whose hand holds my harness handle

with reciprocal trust, joy, and love.


* * *


May Saint Francis bless all guide dogs and all of your pets,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


October 4, 2019, Friday



Blue Ribbons for Willow


Blue Ribbons for Leader Dog Willow


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



I have delayed in telling this “Willow Tale” because I had hoped for a conclusion–solution to the mystery.  Still waiting after nearly one month, I decided to relate this “Willow Walk” before the end of September.


On August 30, 2019–the Friday of the Labor Day Weekend, a beautiful and sunny morning in Milwaukee–my fourth Leader Dog Willow and I were in the midst of a walk.  Of course, each day, for longer than I would care to recall, our route depends on where at least three different companies are working to install the famous 5G.  Since substantial work had just been initiated at the intersection located at the northeast corner of the block where Willow and I reside, we headed west for our long walk.


When we walked back toward the east along a double-block stretch of sidewalk which we know very well, my British Black Labrador stopped at a point where she typically does to let me know that a grate is in the sidewalk.  Very fortunately, she did stop; thankfully, I did what I was taught to do.  I reached out to examine the area with my right foot/shoe.  Surprisingly, I felt no grate, but a hole.  With a little more inspection, I could not feel the bottom of the hole.  Then, I reached out with my right arm as my left hand continued to hold Willow’s leash and handle of her guide-dog harness.  I felt the metal grate–left inappropriately in an upright position (on the far side of the hole from where I was standing) with no barricade around the exposed hole.  Can you imagine how much I praised my wonderful Willow?


Since I knew that another construction site had been in progress recently across the street from our location, I waited to see if someone would return to our location.  The construction work being done nearer my home block was about three blocks away.  After encouraging Willow to guide me around the hole and waiting a few minutes, a young man walked toward us.  At first, he was reluctant to stop; but, as usual, I persisted.  I wanted a sighted person to affirm what I had encountered.  He did, and he added that the situation was “not good.”  As I thanked him, he went on his way; but Willow and I waited a few more minutes.


When no one else came by, I decided that we should return home and call to report the problem with the grate.  Walking only a short distance, my Leader Dog and I met a young woman who identified herself as a professor at the nearby college.  She was immediately willing to give her description of the area in question and commented on the danger of the situation.  The professor even said that she was sorry that my guide dog and I encountered such a situation.  Additionally, she and I discussed how dangerous this hole could be for a sighted student who might be looking at a phone screen instead of watching the path ahead.  Before she went on to her destination, I thanked her for her time and help.


Instead of extending our walk, Willow and I went directly home to call the office of the city engineer to report the issue with the grate.  During the three-year construction era for the trolley, I became acquainted with a number of city employees.  Luckily, someone with whom I had become acquainted answered my call and immediately dispatched a city worker to investigate.  Later, I received a phone call to repeat my directions for the location of the grate.  When the situation was found, a city inspector was called.  Unbeknownst to me until Tuesday after Labor Day, this inspector did replace the grate over the hole.


Since that Friday of August 30, I have talked with quite a number of people from not only the city, but from other companies involved also.  While vandals are not suspected, no one has come forth to admit the error of not replacing the grate.  This former reader of Nancy Drew mysteries has not yet given up trying to solve this mystery.


During one of my many phone conversations and some e-mail exchanges in regard to this issue, I did find out that the hole was one foot in depth and that at the bottom of the hole, a locked door leads to an underground passageway for dealing with utility lines and other cables.


If I were to tell these events to a guide dog/mobility instructor (GDMI), I imagine that the guide dog trainer would simply say that Willow did what she was trained to do–but the professional trainer might inwardly be proud and grateful.  Certainly, my gratitude is overflowing for all the training which my four Leader Dogs received at Leader Dog School (Rochester, Michigan).


Over the past twenty-nine-and-a-half years of working with Leader Dogs, I have always been especially grateful for their safely leading me through my life with amazing care and caution, wisdom and grace, joy and love.  While each day and each walk has been special with one of my Leader Dogs, several walks through these nearly three decades stand out and will forever remain memorable in my book of thanks to Leader Dogs Keller, Heather, Zoe, and Willow.  Like her predecessors–Keller, Heather, and Zoe–my current Leader Dog Willow earned abundant praise and another blue ribbon this past Labor Day weekend for her impeccable labor.


I am most grateful that the grate incident ended as well as it did for all concerned.  Finally, I also do thank Dan and other workers who have given their time and assistance in one manner or another as Willow and I continue to try to walk four miles a day–independently, safely,  and happily.


Wishing you smooth and safe autumnal trails,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


September 25, 2019, Wednesday