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Grand Expectations of the Holiday Season


Grand Expectations of the Holiday Season


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



How can the date possibly be the sixth of December?  Perhaps, Santa can explain this phenomenon:  for young children who await Santa’s delivery via sleigh and reindeer, the December days move much too slowly while for those of us who have already enjoyed more than six decades of holiday seasons, these December days move as fast as those famous eight or nine reindeer.  What grand expectations did you have as a child in contrast to your expectations for the current holiday season?


When my sister and I were much younger, the choice of a “live” evergreen or an artificial Christmas tree was nonexistent.  The only question was the tree’s  being purchased from a store selling Christmas trees, a special lot selling such festive trees, or a tree farm.  For a few years, my parents, my older sister, and I were part of a caravan of vehicles that took the rural roads off US Highway 41 from our own Vermillion County of Indiana to the hills of Parke County.  Our fellow caravan riders were three families of Mariettas because a relative of theirs owned a Christmas tree farm outside of the Rosedale area.  During a couple of these delightful expeditions, snow was flying in the air to add even more holiday spirit as we hiked up and down the hills to find the “perfect” evergreens for our homes.


I recall one particular year when a few inches of snow covered the rough terrain and the wind was blowing enough to make us want to find a grand tree rather quickly.  Perhaps, that was the year of the somewhat problematic tree.  When the tree we tagged was delivered to our house later in the week, the presumed “grand” tree was more of the “Charlie-Brown” type of Christmas tree.  Naturally, my dad and I thought the tree would be perfectly fine once we adorned it with all the lights (pre-fairy lights), garland, ornaments, and icicles; of course, my sister was not at all happy with this less-than-stellar pine.  There may have even been a few tears and unkind words about this poor, little–well, smaller than usual–tree.


By that holiday season, we were placing our Christmas tree in the southwest corner of our family room (a new addition to our Blanford home in 1957) so that the windows on the south and west sides of the room could show off the lights of our tree.  From my grandmother and uncle’s grocery store, my dad secured two wooden crates; then, Dad situated the tree and tree stand atop the crates so that the tree was magically just as tall as our previous trees had been.  He turned the tree so that the more barren sides were toward the room’s corner which would not be seen by us nor guests.  Then, my father carefully placed one or possibly two tree blankets so that the wooden crates were well hidden.  After Dad’s creative and diplomatic work was done, my sister, my mother, and I decorated the podium pine.  Where the branches were sparse, we filled in with larger decorations.  Periodically through this tree coronation, Dad repeated his encouraging words, “When you have it all decorated, it will look just fine.”  I believed him.  As usual, my dad was right:  once decorated, our Christmas tree, fresh cut from the Hoosier Hills of Parke County, was a joy to behold during that holiday season; and the memories of this didactic Christmas tree still warm my heart during this holiday season of 2017.


Turning to another topic of “grand expectations,” I think that whenever we initiate a small project or long-term project, we do have certain expectations.  On the other hand, one of the expectations I never imagined when I was working on my first book project was that a book club would select my little holiday book for the book club’s reading and discussion.  However, two book clubs have done so–one in Pennsylvania and one in Utah.  Lillian, a writer friend of mine who lives in the Philadelphia area recommended my book, THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON, to her book club last summer for this December’s selection.  Then, my writer friend Abbie Johnson Taylor, with whom I have become acquainted for over five years through Behind Our Eyes (an international organization of writers with disabilities), suggested my book to the book club of the Utah Library for the Blind.  Thus, on December 5, I was delighted to give a presentation about my book and then participate in a question-and-answer session.  My “little book that keeps on giving” gave me a little more–a little more of a most unexpected dream-come-true.


Not only do I thank Abbie for arranging this opportunity for my book and me, but I thank her very much for being the first person to review my book last December.  So, my November “Month of Thanks” is extending into December–another special season for expressing gratitude.


You may read Abbie’s blog posts and also read about her published books at her two sites:


MY BOOKNOTE:  If you are a new reader or follower of my WORDWALK blog, please also visit my author’s web page which contains photos, extra articles, and ordering information for THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON which is available in four formats–print, e-book, audio, and braille.

Patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind may download the audio version of my book from BARD:  my holiday book is number DBC 08305 in the BARD system.

I have been especially pleased to hear that some people are giving print copies of my book as little gifts or door prizes for holiday parties.  Thanks to all who have shared in my book dream-come-true!

If your book club is or soon will be taking suggestions for your club’s reading during the new year, please consider my book for November or December of 2018.  Thank you!


Happy tree trimming!

Happy holiday reading!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


December 6, 2017, Wednesday



Best Gift Ever


Twenty Years Later:


Remembering My Dad and Sharing a Radio Broadcast


of the Best Gift Ever


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Twenty years ago on December 1, my most wonderful and cherished father, James F. Massa, passed away at age 84.  I–and all who knew him well and loved him–have missed him in so many ways over these two decades.


How blessed my sister and I were to have such a truly remarkable Dad!  Having him as a father has been and will always be the best gift of my life.  To honor and remember my dad on this December 1, I am sharing with you a piece from my book, THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON, to show you an example of my dad’s giving and loving heart.  Then, after the memoir, I am sharing with you the link to a radio broadcast during which I discuss my best gifts ever and my dad.


* * *


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, amidst 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, and excerpted from page 41-44 of THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON)


* * *




The “Best Gift Ever” was the topic of a portion of “The Morning Show” on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network, on November 23, 2017, Thanksgiving.  During the 47-minute segment, radio host Kate Archer Kent welcomed me to the program twenty-seven minutes after the start of this archived recording.  When you have time during this busy season of the year, please click on the following link to listen to the Best Gift Ever” of a number of callers and guest Connie Kilmark, as well as my comments about my best gifts, my book, and my extraordinary dad:


Happy listening and gift-giving during this sparkling season of the year!

Alice and Willow, my fourth Leader Dog (a Black Labrador Retriever)


December 1, 2017, Friday (second post during this special week)



Thankful for …


A Month–Not Just a Day–of Thanks


First Post of Week 5.  Thankful for

Holiday Musicals, Thanksgiving Company, Blog Tour, and WORDWALK Readers


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



How many times can you visit MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET?  Well, at least one more time–if you are in the area of Fort Atkinson’s Fireside Theatre (the only Actor’s Equity dinner theatre in Wisconsin).  During the Thanksgiving season this year, I was blessed with more company than in recent Thanksgivings.  One event my company and I thoroughly enjoyed was the musical version of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, which certainly filled us with the Christmas spirit.


Since I have seen a couple of versions of the movie a number of times and listen to the broadcast of the old radio drama each year, I was uncertain if I would appreciate the musical version as much as other holiday productions in past years by the acting company of The Fireside (Dinner) Theatre.  Through some music numbers which were new to me and some delightfully familiar songs, the production grabbed and cheerfully held not only my attention, but also the attention of my guide dog, Willow, who did not sleep a wink during the lively performance.  (Yes, Leader Dog Willow, my Black Labrador Retriever, gave the musical production a four-paw rating.)


The few changes in the original script are woven into the story neatly and creatively.  A female actor’s portraying the role of the prosecuting attorney gives the play a more modern touch.  While devotees of the original versions will notice the few changes, these are not stumbling blocks, but add interest to the theatrical experience.  As usual, the professional actors of The Fireside Theatre display very well a myriad of talents–singing, acting, and dancing–in an array of festive costumes.  Also, as is customary for this theatre, the creative use of the stage and surrounding areas is remarkable.


At times, we laughed out loud at the humorous lines. Then, the  final scene’s being more quiet, tender, sweet, and touching than I expected brought a few happy tears to my eyes, as well as to the eyes of at least one person who was sitting beside me in the audience.


After applause and standing ovation at the end of the musical, the matinee audience was treated to the entire company’s beautiful rendition of a well-known Christmas carol.  I was hoping for such a finale by which to remember this wonderful performance.  Filled with Christmas cheer, many audience members caroled along–on 34th STREET.


Before show time, my Thanksgiving company, Willow, and I explored the holiday shops and bakery (all in the same building as the theatre and restaurant).  Beginning our Christmas shopping in these small stores that are filled with unique holiday items was fun.


Then, we relished a delicious buffet.  The meal begins with a wild berry smoothie; however, this appetizer is more like a small, tasty milk shake.  A variety of homemade, pretty pastries preceded the buffet’s main course.  Besides scrumptious red velvet cake (which we took home for a later treat), the dessert was an absolutely superbly flavorful ginger ice cream (which I would like to duplicate at home).


Having good company (from Florida and Colorado) and good weather (for November in Wisconsin) added to the special quality of this holiday event.




Since I am so thankful for all of my WORDWALK readers and followers, I want to share with you a little more about my blog tour, which began on November 20 and continues each weekday through December 8.  By visiting one or more of the stops (websites) on my blog tour, you can sign up to have a chance of winning a twenty-dollar Panera gift card.  Additionally, you can see how each of the fifteen bloggers displays the banner and other information about my book, THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON.  Today’s hosting site is at:

Thanks to Jo Jones, a retired pilot, for her help in promoting my book to the many visitors of her attractive website and to her 347 followers of this one of her two blogs!


On November 27, I was especially pleased that a very high-traffic blog hosted my Blurb Blitz Tour.  By 12:30 p.m. (Central Time), “Mello & June” already had 5,567 hits just on that Monday, when the blog highlighted my holiday book.  You may still check out this hosting blog at:

Thanks to author and blogger Kimberly Ranee Hicks for choosing to host THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON on her extensive blog!


During this season of gratitude, I am grateful that my book–thanks to the Blurb Blitz Tour–is being noticed and read by more people.




If you have THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON on your gift-giving list, you may order the print book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, as well as other online sources.  For additional ordering information for the print, electronic, braille, and audio versions of my book, Please visit my author’s web page:

Special thanks to each of you who has already read my book in one of its four formats and to each reader who has added my book to your gift-giving list!(The $7.50 print book does make a festive little gift for someone who enjoys holiday reading.)


POST-SCRIPT:  I plan to post more than one piece on WORDWALK this week, so please stay tuned to my blog.


As always, many thanks for reading my WORDWALK blog!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


November 29, 2017, Wednesday


Grateful for Cherished Thanksgiving Memories


A Month–Not Just a Day–of Thanks


Second Post of Week 4.  Grateful for Cherished Thanksgiving Memories


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On this Thanksgiving Eve of 2017, I am sharing with my WORDWALK readers the first piece in my holiday book, which spans from Thanksgiving through January.  The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season includes three Thanksgiving pieces, nine Christmas pieces, two post-Christmas pieces, one New Year’s Eve short story, and three January pieces.  Comprised of short stories, memoirs, poems and essays–my collection offers a variety of holiday reading.


After you read the following memoir, you are welcome to post a comment about a special Thanksgiving memory of yours.  If you are a reader of WORDWALK and prefer not to comment, please consider just giving this blog post a “like.”  Thank you!



Thanksgiving Vignettes:


A Cornucopia of Thanks for Family and Friends around the Thanksgiving Table



My earliest recollection of Thanksgiving was most likely the celebration in 1955 when I was five years old.  A large family gathering squeezed around the expansive table of my maternal grandmother.  The very high-ceiling room was a combination of kitchen, dining room, and sitting room behind the grocery store and to the south side of the Italian bakery with its brick oven–which, after the death of my grandfather, was no longer in use.  In my mind’s eye, I see the room in a blur of blue, brown, and beige.  I remember nothing of the abundance of food, but I do remember an abundance of chatter.  As a very young child, I waited for a lull in the conversation; however, in my Italian-American family, the chance for a lull in the conversation was as likely as my holding on to the right end of the wishbone.  How distinctly I recall being overwhelmed by everyone’s talking!  My clearest recollection is thinking that I would never get a word in edgewise.


Of course, I do have family members who are masters of the fine art of conversation and who do love to talk.  Thus, having grown up in such an extended family, I find myself more comfortable around people who like to talk.  Yes, I am thankful for talkative family members and friends.


During the remainder of the 1950s and the 1960s, my extended family celebrated Thanksgiving at my Aunt Zita’s Italian restaurant.  Since the restaurant was closed on Thanksgiving Day, we ate in the largest room of the restaurant–the bar room.  Parallel with the oak bar, we pushed together at least three long tables so that about thirty or so of us could dine together.  Either my Aunt Zita and/or my dad would roast a big turkey.  While Aunt Zita always made the Italian-style, fried green beans and mashed potatoes, other family members carried in a variety of beautiful dishes for our Thanksgiving buffet.  Fran, the aunt of my cousin Carole, always brought oyster dressing, which I would never even think of tasting.  My mother, who would have marked her 100th birthday on November 25, 2014, would always bring my favorite–polenta dolce, an Italian cream of wheat dessert, breaded and fried.  Since she was known for her delicious and picture-perfect pies, she frequently brought to the gathering pumpkin , lemon meringue, or my sister and cousin Donald’s favorite chocolate pie.  In addition to carrying in the homemade pasta (noodles) and fresh cranberries, my mother always made her favorite from the 50s–a lemon Jell-O with shredded carrots, chopped celery, and crushed pineapple; she topped this double-recipe with walnut halves.  Not until I was much older did I develop a taste for this gelatin salad.


The bounty of roasting pans, baking dishes, and desserts were arranged on three large round tables in front of the south windows of the restaurant.  What a spread of photogenic delights!    When everyone had passed through the buffet line and sat down at the one very long table, we knew our entire family was truly blessed.  Most often, someone urged my older sister to say the grace-before-meals.  “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Bless us, oh Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”  Those of us who were Catholic crossed ourselves again; then, we all ate the remarkably delicious food.  Sometimes, we waited a while to have dessert.


On one of these Thanksgivings, a rare November snow began to fall on our small Hoosier town.  By midafternoon, the view outside the restaurant’s large front windows was, amazingly, a Christmas-card snapshot of a winter wonderland of these Hoosier hills with the snow-covered Blanford Park in the background.  How I remember that picturesque snowflake splendor of a Thanksgiving Day when our extended family still lived within a short radius of each other!


May your Thanksgiving be blessed with good conversation, delicious food,

touching memories, and the love of family and friends!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


On November 26, 2014 (Wednesday), I first posted this memoir on WORDWALK.


BOOKNOTE:  Today is the third day of my virtual book tour.  On this November 22, you may visit the following host blog site to see my book’s banner and to read two other excerpts of my holiday book:

Thanks to librarian Judith and also blogger Stacey  for being two of the fifteen hosts of my book’s Blurb Blitz Tour!


November 22, 2017, Wednesday


Invitation to Visit My Holiday Blog Tour


A Month–Not Just a Day–of Thanks


First Post of Week 4:  Thankful for My Book’s Blog Tour


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



During this very busy Thanksgiving week, I am sending you another invitation–an invitation to visit another website of a blogger who is one of fifteen hosts for my holiday book’s blog tour.  Although the Blurb Blitz Tour for my book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, began yesterday and will continue each weekday (except Thanksgiving) through December 8, you may visit the host website for today (November 21, 2017) to see the attractive banner for my book, two excerpts, and other information about my book at:

Also, you are welcome to leave a comment on the above blog site, as well as sign up for possibly winning a twenty-dollar Panera gift card.


Once again this holiday season, I am so thankful for, as I like to call it, “my little book that keeps on giving.”


During this fourth week of my “gratitude” series on WORDWALK, I am very grateful to Judy and Marianne of

through whom I arranged my blog tour.


Finally, I send a cornucopia of thanks to Mary, my sister, and Carole, my cousin, for their computer assistance with my navigating the blog tour.


Enjoy Thanksgiving Week!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


BOOKNOTE:  For ordering information and other information about my holiday book, please visit my author’s web page at:

My holiday book begins with three Thanksgiving pieces and includes a total of eighteen pieces in the collection of short stories, memoirs, essays, and poems.  I hope you will add my 101-page book to your gift-giving list–to your Amazon shopping list.  Thanks!


November 21, 2017, Tuesday


Thanks to Those Who Offer Visual Description


A Month–Not Just a Day–of Thanks:


Week 3.  Very Thankful to Those Who Offer Visual Descriptions



During this third week of my traditional series for the month of November on this Wordwalk blog, my gratitude for those who offer visual description is at the top of the “Thank-you List.”  Having photographs, videos, scenery and costumes of theatrical productions, nature, decor, my guide dogs, etc.,  described to me with word pictures enriches my life.  Having construction areas and other work areas on sidewalks, in crosswalks, at intersections, and in public buildings aptly described to me increases the confidence and safety for my guide dog and me as we strive to maintain a high degree of independent mobility.  With these descriptions in mind, I am abundantly grateful to my sister (whom I call the “Describer-in-Chief”), other family members, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers who have offered to me their visual descriptions.  Of course, when I was younger and my parents were still living, they gave me their best efforts with visual description.  While I appreciate the services of professional describers for Descriptive Video Services (DVS) and other such entities, my gratitude today happily goes to all of the “volunteer describers” who have touched and enhanced my life.  Through their descriptive words, my world becomes filled with colorful images again.


In conjunction with this “altitude of gratitude,” I share, below, a lengthy article of description which David Dvorkin, of DLD Books, posted on my author’s web page last week.  Do you think the description is too much or just right?  Does the following description assist you with being able to describe a photo to an individual who is blind or visually impaired?  (Please leave a comment on this post or e-mail me.)



Detailed Descriptions of Photos


for Blind and Visually Impaired Readers


of The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season



If you are a blind or visually impaired reader who may be wondering about the photographs used in my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, this article includes verbal descriptions of the cover photo, the two photos inside the book, and the photo on the back cover.  While all four photos are in full color in the e-book, only the cover and back cover photos are in full color in the print book.  Thus, in the print version, although the two inside photos are in gray tones, I will give full-color descriptions.




The festive cover of my holiday book (six inches by nine inches) has a white border that frames the cover photo.  In the top portion of the border, the title, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, is in burgundy print that has a very thin black outline for each letter.  Centered below the cover photo, in the white border, is my name, Alice Jane-Marie Massa, in forest green print.  On either side of the cover photo is three-fourths inch of the white border.


Framed with a thin burgundy line, the cover photo is a snowy scene on a street in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  In the foreground is a horse-drawn carriage.  Amazingly, the black horse has a star blaze–just like the horse in the title short story.  The carriage is winter white with a burgundy seat for the driver who is wearing a burgundy coat with a hood, as well as winter white scarf and gloves.  In the background are two bare trees, two green lampposts, and four stories of a red-brick  building. Behind the carriage is a tall Christmas tree with a dusting of snow on its boughs; the large tree is decorated with red poinsettias, red balls, and lights.    Due to the snowy weather conditions, the carriage is topped with a canopy.  On the right side of the photo, an inch or two of snow accumulation is visible while the upper left of the photo shows the typical Milwaukee gray sky.


Professional photographer Cindy Lesky took the cover photo.  (Read more about Ms. Lesky on this author’s page and via the link to her website.  Also, please read the article about how this perfect photograph for my book cover was found.)


Inside Photo #1:  Dedication Photo


On the page opposite the Dedication Page is a photograph of my third Leader Dog, Zoe.  The caption is “Leader Dog Zoe, at home on Christmas, 2014.”    Beautiful Zoe, a Black Labrador/Golden Retriever Mix, is lying on the beige carpeting of the living room of our townhouse.  One of her many favorite toys, a plush reindeer, is lying beside her.  Behind Zoe–who is black, except for her brown eyes–is an end table covered with a red tablecloth.  Atop the tablecloth is a festive Christmas clock, ceramic music box  of Santa kneeling at the crib of the Baby Jesus, and a small gift-wrapped box.  To the right of the end table, a little of Zoe’s living-room bed and a part of another bookcase are in the background.  While one of her front paws reaches toward the bed, my guide dog’s other front paw is tucked under a portion of her leg with the reindeer toy nestled nearby.  To the left of the end table is the edge of a wooden bookcase.  Zoe’s head is up and looking to her right.  Since Zoe is relaxing at home, she is wearing only her collar with tags–not her working harness and leash.


My sister, Mary E. Massa Fanyo, took this photo of Zoe.


Inside Photo #2:  Bio Photo


After the conclusion of my bio is a photo of me with my current Leader Dog, Willow.  At a park in Rochester, Michigan, Willow and I are standing in front of a wooden bridge with deciduous trees filling the background of this photo, taken in June of 2016, when Willow and I were training together at Leader Dog School.  While I am holding onto Willow’s harness handle and leash, she, a Black Labrador Retriever, is tilting her head slightly and looking directly at the photographer–Christie Bane, GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor).    Wearing a turquoise blazer with matching slacks, I have my dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail.  Also in the background , green grass and the path are a small part of the picture.  On this warm June day, Willow and I had a wonderful “nature walk.”  This photo’s caption reads:  “Alice and her fourth Leader Dog, Willow, are at the bridge to a new season of life together.”


Back Cover


On the back cover, below a three-fourths-inch, white border is the photograph of my third Leader Dog, Zoe.  Below the photo is the caption:  “Leader Dog Zoe, Christmas, 2015”; below the caption is the blurb for my book.  My statuesque Black Labrador/Golden Retriever is sitting in front of an end table covered by a white and light blue tablecloth with a design of dancing snowmen.  Atop the tablecloth are a plush and smiling snowman (height of fourteen inches), a ceramic sleigh, and a “Joy” photo frame.  To the left of the end table, a wooden bookcase displays a red Christmas stocking, on the white cuff of which is printed “Zoe Zita.”  To the right of the end table is another wooden bookcase with a holiday ornament and a snowman stocking.  In front of this bookcase, the photo shows part of Zoe’s living-room bed.  In this Christmas photo, Zoe (who is not wearing her harness and leash) tilts her head a little as she looks directly at the camera.  Near Zoe’s paws is one of her favorite toys.


My sister, Mary E. Massa Fanyo, also took this photo of my precious, practically perfect, and beloved Zoe.


Please Share Your Comments!


If you liked reading these descriptions of the photos, please send me an e-mail at:

I would greatly appreciate your feedback concerning the amount of detail you prefer in photo descriptions.




Many thanks to my sister who provided me with her very detailed descriptions of these photos so that I could write this article for some of my readers.  Mary, you are the “Describer-in-Chief!”


Best Wishes from Wisconsin!

Alice Massa and Leader Dog Willow


November 7, 2017, Tuesday

posted on WORDWALK on November 15, 2017, Wednesday


Thanks to Our Veterans!


A Month–Not Just a Day–of Thanks


Week 2.  Thanks to Our Veterans



As we approach Veterans’ Day of 2017, I hope that all veterans and their families experience the sincere gratitude of a very grateful nation.  In a small way, to give veterans respect, honor, and thanks that they so richly deserve, I am sharing a “V–MAIL” which my dad wrote to my mother during World War II.  My father, James F. Massa, was a sergeant in the 638th Tank Destroyer Battalion when he sent the following note to his wife, Mary.  Each V–MAIL measured four by five inches and was placed into an envelope on which was printed “V–MAIL Service.”  In a way, my dad is the guest blogger for this post for Veterans’ Day–almost twenty years after his passing on December 1, 1997.


* * *


November 26, 1944


Dearest Wife,


Received two of your letters today and was so glad to hear from you.  I can’t think of anything to write.  I am still over here in Germany, and it looks like we will be here for some time.  I received a letter from Charlie [my dad’s older brother] today.  I sure hated to hear about Johnny [next younger brother of my dad] coming over here.  I also got a letter from Dom [cousin who was in the 101st Airborne Division] , and he said he is doing okay.


Well, Honey, I will always love you.  Whatever happens, don’t worry about me, for I will be okay.


With love,

your husband, Jimmy


* * *


After four-and-a-half years in the military, Dad kept his promise:  he was “okay”–actually, he was much more than “okay.”  I am forever grateful that my dad came home safe and well from World War II. Additionally, I am always proud of him for his service to our country, as well as for all that he was and for all that he still is in my heart and memories.


God bless my Uncle Jules and all other veterans on November 11 and always!

With sincere and special gratitude,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


POST-SCRIPT:  To read another V–MAIL written by my father, please refer to my blog post of July 11, 2017 (the 104th anniversary of my dad’s birth).


November 8, 2017, Wednesday