The Round One Winner of Our Columnist Contest Is….


What a close round! The outpouring of votes through phone, email, and Facebook was intense – you really felt strongly about your choices. Congrats to the other four finalists of Round One. Keep writing!

The Great Communicator will advance to the Final Round. Now on to Round Two!

This week we’re printing the next five of our finalists (from the earliest date of submission). Their columns will be numbered 6—10. Voting for Round Two will be the same. It begins Wednesday, April 11, and ends Tuesday, April 17, at 10 a.m. The winner of Round Two will be announced in our Wednesday, April 18, edition, and the next batch of five columnists will be printed for Round Three. The victors of each round will then go head-to-head in our Final Round to decide the new columnist of The Tolucan Times!

There are three ways you can vote for your favorite: by email,; by phone, (818) 762-2171; and on Facebook, (be sure to “Like” us while you’re there). When voting, just notify which number (6—10) you think deserves a spot in our pages. If by email, put your choice in the subject line.

So without further ado, on to Round Two – it’s still your turn!

6: Let Yourself Go

By Jennifer Speer

Today I encourage you to go to that little path that always beckons you. Mosey a little, run your hand absently along the bark of a tree, notice the flowers peeking out from the woven forest floor from last year’s leftovers. The warmth of the sun nestles on the back of your neck like an old friend just draped an arm around you and you smile.

It’s OK, for just a little while, to take off and let everything go. It doesn’t make you irresponsible or lazy or unfocused. In fact, it makes you smart. Smart to live in the moment. Smart to not miss the beauty that’s all around you — smart to know all of the Stuff will be there waiting, just like it was when you left.

There is so much we take for granted. We forget some people never see a forest or mountains, and that it would knock their socks off to see such majesty and wilderness. We forget that we are so comfortable with the sound of the wind in the trees that we stop noticing, or paying attention, to the change in the foliage or the different birds and animals that visit. We forget that we don’t give bears a second thought, or that we speak openly with raccoons named “Fat Jack” (although that might just be me).

And tell me: Do we really pay attention to the rain often? A deep, green smell of pine trees and forest floor; and thunderheads filled with wild mountain breezes and the wings of eagles. You can almost hear the forest and the earth drinking it up, as it rolls down the hills and through the valleys, dripping from the tiers of pine needles and the faint slap of the aspens as they bat away the raindrops like Mother Nature’s pinball machine.

So let yourself go … today … tomorrow … this weekend, spontaneously Right Now, immediately after reading this so you carry the spirit of it with you as you wander. Let yourself go and let all the worries of the day go with it for a little while. Soak up the world around you and breathe it in. You’ll feel stronger, clearer, and most of all, aware of all the magic and beauty around you. Let it inspire you and carry you through your day.

Jennifer is a mother of four little people, a teacher, artist, singer, storyteller, lout obnoxious laugher, friend, muse, poet, and wild mountain chick that loves writing, pondering, camping, hiking, and life in general.

7: Tales from the Heart

By Wendy Hauptman

I had just finished a marathon of sweat dripping, fingernail curling labor, when the doctor proudly announced “It’s a girl!” Suddenly the room went hush, and I heard her. She spoke to me in the sweetest of wails, locking in my maternal homing device for life. I watched as my adoring husband unabashedly let the tears of love roll right down his cheeks.

The nurse turned her over to us, like a puppy to its rightful owner. We knew she was Ours. As if on cue, we heard a chorus of “Congratulations!” from the storks at St. Joseph’s, and a faint wish of “Good luck,” from the nurse wiping down the mess that covered the once clean and sterile floor.

Fast forward 17 years and 8 months later. I am driving with my adoring husband, and we are discussing the ever more frequent topic of dealing with a graduating teen on steroidic hormones, who will be heading off to a four year university in the fall. We are on our way to pick up our other two daughters (the ones who still like us) from middle school.

I am struck by a revelation. “You know what?” I ask (knowing full well he won’t Know What). “They never warned us!” I proclaim.

“Who never warned us, about what?” he inquires.

“The storks at St. Jo’s,” I reply. “They never warned us that she came with an Expiration Date!”

My adoring husband gives me a “you should be in the loony bin” kind of quizzical look (which after 30 years of love I recognize).

“I mean, don’t you think that newborn babies should come with a policy that clearly states that by age 18 your child’s desire to be with you will expire?” I pose.

Later that day, I watch my adoring and hopeful husband ascend the staircase that leads to our offspring’s bedrooms. He is on a mission to make more family memories with the eldest of three daughters. He pleads with the daughter that once spoke the sweetest of wails.

“Do you think we can spend some time together this weekend?”

“Dad, it’s the weekend. You know I have plans!” declares said daughter.

“Maybe you can fit us into your plans then?” he asks optimistically.

“Dad, stop asking me questions. You know I never make plans in advance!” protests said daughter.

I watch my adoring and discouraged husband descend the stairs. He is used to the circular nonsensical conversations of women.

I begin to prepare dinner. Out of nowhere I hear the sweetest of wails:

“Daddy, will you come with me to put gas in the car?” A huge smile crosses her face. “I have plans for the weekend!” she announces.

My “Tales from the Heart” column is about finding the humor in everyday life. I am the “peanut butter,” sandwiched between ailing parents and teenaged daughters. Having personally stared down cancer, I have come to appreciate a good laugh and the recognition that sharing our journeys makes us whole and human.

8: In Print

By Roy E. Tuckman

The first time I realized my unconscious ageism was about 30 years ago, at a coin show in Pasadena. While walking down one of the aisles of exhibits, I saw a couple of old duffers having a conversation. All the automatic identifiers “clicked.” Old men, wrinkled, withered, white haired or balding, clothing a bit disheveled. These men were filed into the unconscious brain data banks as not interesting and not likely to be interesting people. Then as I wandered closer to their conversation, I heard them reminding each other of all the problems they used to have keeping their B-29s running.

B-29s? These were the great new bombers of the last days of World War II. They were hailed as America’s technological checkmate against the enemy Japanese who had bombed us in a dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor. I was too young to remember Dec. 1941, but old enough to remember 1945 and these old guys were great airborne heroes of the age!

And now, at this coin show in Pasadena, I experienced the cognitive dissonance in the identity of these withered old men who were the heroes of my childhood. I experienced a sudden flood of deep respect and admiration for these people I had just put in the “ignore file” a few minutes ago. I “saw” them.

Would they care? Probably not particularly. Now that I have entered the years of seniority, I realized at one point that it was my turn to be “old.” To be old means you will occasionally be patronized and sometimes ignored because you could not be interesting in any way.

And it really doesn’t matter. Because ageism works two ways, and people in their 20s and 30s and 40s are, as you now know, still wet behind the ears though they think they’re grownups.

There is no lesson here except, maybe, to state that seniority is a positive state. Many people I know in their 60s and more feel, truly, that they are living the happiest years of their lives. And it really doesn’t matter what the young believe about the old. They don’t know, but if they are lucky, they will. Because all of us, in our way, flew our own B-29s in our day.

This column is a view of the world and its life from the meeting place of philosophy, spirituality, physics, humor, and psychology. The “meaning” of the column would be to impart clarity, inspiration, and insight to the reader.

The meaning of “On Paper” refers to the fact that I am “on the air” at KPFK and have been for 35 years.

I have no pretense of being a spiritual teacher or bearer of great wisdom. I am selling no particular point of view. But I’ve been told for many years that I should write, so here’s a great chance.

9: Sweet Nothings

By Juliana Schiavo

Wives, I’ve finally cracked the code. It took ten years of wedded bliss to finally figure it out, but after endless trials and tribulations, I can now reveal my newfound wisdom to you. Here it is: I’ve finally figured out how to get my husband to buy the right thing at the store.

First, set him up for success. Under no circumstances are you to send him to Costco un-chaperoned. If you refuse to heed my advice, then God help you, because he will return with twenty pounds of baloney and an oversized spice rack featuring some kind of elaborate pulley system.

If you think you can salvage the baloney for five years of sandwiches, you are sorely mistaken. Why? Because this isn’t just your regular baloney. No. He has somehow managed to buy the one type that has black peppercorns in it. The kind sleepy truckers eat. If you think you can just pick the peppercorns out, you are again wrong, because the black peppercorns have infused the baloney and no amount of neurotic paper towel wiping can erase it. I know. I’ve tried.

Have you ever been at Costco and thought, “Who would buy that?” The answer is my husband. He said he bought the Jolly Green Giant-sized spice rack to “help me out,” but I suspect the real reason he bought it was so he could happily work the pulleys and watch jars of shy California Tarragon leapfrog in front of canisters of angry hot Cayenne.

No, it’s best to stick with stores that have limited inventory. Fewer choices make him feel safe.

Secondly, be specific! Never send him out with a generality like “something sweet” because sure as sixty cents is a dollar, he will return with black licorice. My husband is the one human being in the 818 who can go to Porto’s and return with something I didn’t even know was on the menu. “Heads up football-shaped sugar cookie, you sweet lonely orphan treat: Your lucky day has come because today my husband is adopting you!”

So you must be more than specific. You must be procific. Here is a snippet from one of my successful shopping lists as an example. Consider it the Rosetta Stone of Albertsons: “Kleenex for the bathroom. Preferably in a blue hued seascape motif.” This prevented a bright red Lothario, a NASCAR-themed tissue box, from sullying my virginal white bathroom sink.

All of this begs one very important question of course, and that question is: “Why is my husband still married to me?”

If selected, my column would be devoted to humorous observations about life.

10: Food for Thought

By Nancy J Caldwell

I am a catalyst. I seem to be able to see people, places, situations, or objects in a way that others don’t ordinarily consider or do but may not admit.

These observations have inspired others to have the courage, motivation, or inspiration to do what they have only thought about, to see someone in a more accepting way, or to bring to light the value in something that was right in front of their eyes.

The reason I know that I have influenced others is that they have contacted me to say “thank you” and tell their story. I am always surprised and filled with gratitude to find that my words have positive consequences. It is my desire to be more aware of the words I choose to use and to possibly make a difference with them in some small way.

Visiting France again, especially Paris, was a dream for fourteen years. The desire grew so strong that I finally found the courage to make it a reality. Upon my return, I shared that experience with a small business owner acquaintance. Within a few months, she made the decision to sell her business so she could have the freedom to travel again.

I once facilitated a poetry workshop, a random opportunity. A few years later, one of the participants called to thank me and tell me that the workshop inspired her to write a book of poetry that she was now publishing. She said the way I taught the class helped her find her voice.

There was a documentary film series I rented many years ago based on an off-handed suggestion of someone (they influenced me). It opened my eyes to historical information I was not aware of and felt to be of great importance. I often thought about this series over the years and after much research, I found and contacted the producers to tell them how valuable their documentary is and hoped that they would re-issue it on DVD. It is now available through Amazon and PBS. I shared my enthusiasm for finding such a treasure and, now, one of my friends set up screenings to view this series locally. Talk about paying it forward.

I think we all influence each other with every encounter we have no matter how fleeting. What I find surprising is how often I am blessed with some of these people thanking me for something I said or did.

The column I am proposing would be an observation about a person, place, object, or situation from possibly a different perspective in a way that the reader can connect with or consider. A pause in your busy day-to-day events to reflect. Food for Thought.

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