Things Found in Library Books Part 7

Moma at Xmas 79

Moma at Xmas 79

There are so many amazing things about this picture that anyone born in this century probably wouldn’t understand. For instance, why does the lamp in the background look like a giant exotic nut? And what the heck is that blue glass bowl on the table? Wait, that’s an ashtray? People used to smoke indoors? And what is up with that hideous wrapping paper? And the upholstery? Surely no one thought that was attractive? What the hell were people smoking in 1979?

And I would answer, “Oh child, many, many things.”


Dear Marika,

Dear Marika,

In my husband’s family, there is this mythical housekeeper named Marika. Whenever Kosta used to leave a mess somewhere his mother would ask, “Who do you think is going to clean this up? Marika?”

I am just in awe that Marika does, in fact, exist! We need to find her. I don’t know who this “Book Sneaker” is but we need to track him down as well. Books you can wear on your feet sound like a marketable idea. I just saved the publishing industry!


Guest Check from St. George and the Dragon

Guest Check from St. George and the Dragon

St. George and the Dragon was one of those old-timey supper clubs that folks used to get dressed up to visit on a Saturday night. Dad would wear a jacket and tie, Mom would wear her pearls and heels, and they would both smoke like chimneys while eating their prime rib and listening to the crooners like Perry Como and Bing Crosby and staring at the flocked wallpaper. Little Jimmy and Sally were told good little children were seen and not heard. And for Lord’s sake, Jimmy get your finger out of your nose, are you digging for gold? And Dad will have a fifth bourbon and Mother will put her lipstick on crooked when she powders her nose, and he’ll hit the neighbor’s dog Spot on the way home and Mother will cry and say that she can’t have anything nice.

Ah, the good old days.


Vacation Countdown…

countdownThe plane tickets were purchased on Friday. We leave in 96 days.

I’ve been making a rough outline of where we will be going and what we will be doing in the three weeks we will be abroad. Here is the rundown so far:

  • Leave from Miami on Saturday, July 2.
  • Arrive in Paris in Sunday, July 3. Take the train to Nantes or La Roche sur Yon and meet up with one of my besties, Danielle and her family.
  • Hang out on the west coast of France for five days, visit Puy du Fou, a French theme park, and definitely take an overnight trip to Mont St. Michel, which I have been dying to see for years.
  • Take the train (or a cheap flight) to Frankfurt where we will pick up a rental car and drive south into Bavaria
  • rothenburg-ob-der-tauberSpend four days driving through the picturesque towns and drinking lots of beer, see Rothenburg ab der Tauber, Neuschwanstein, Hohenwerfen, and lots of other amazing medieval sites.
  • Arrive in Salzburg. Spend two days seeing the sights. Do my Maria von Trapp impression on the mountain top.
  • Drive across Austria for a few days, taking in the splendor of the Alps.
  • viennaArrive in Vienna, drop off rental car, and spend the last few days of vacation tramping about the city, seeing the legacies of so many famous composers, drink lots of coffee and eat lots of pastries.
  • Fly back to Miami on July 22. Arrive home on July 23.
  • Still have a good week to recover before going back to work.

For some of that time in Bavaria, we are hoping that our French friends will join us on our travels. We have spent time together before and get along very well. It would be our second time traveling with another couple and we’re looking forward to it.
I took two years of German in college and even though that was nearly (gasp!) twenty years ago, I still have some retention. Even so, I am working on brushing up on my language skills in a few ways. The first is using Mango Languages. mango-languages-stickyWe have this online program through my library that I can use for free. It has two units of conversational German that I can go through. I also have a book, Learn German the fast and easy way that I will be slogging through. It’s all still in my brain somewhere, I just have to find it and reignite that fire in my brain.

2 languages 1 brainI have been toying with the idea of alternating German days with French days. Although in France I will have my personal interpreter, it never hurts to know a bit of the language where you are going. I’ve taken some French too and have three levels of Pimsleur French on CD that I can go through. But can my brain live at that speed? German and French are very different, and yet I wonder how badly they will jumble in my head if I try to do both. Well, I guess there is only one way to find out.

Be Kind. Always.

be kindSomething happened at the Reference Desk yesterday that won’t get out of my head. Shortly after opening at 9 am a man approached the desk and asked if he could use the phone. It’s our policy to say no, but he said he had lost his debit card and needed to report it, so I allowed him. I should have been mad when he made a second call, but when I heard the desperation in his voice I bit my tongue.

He was making calls to find a drug rehab facility that would take him that day.

It wasn’t busy, so I stepped away for a little bit to give him his privacy, since he was having to answer extremely personal questions. But when I came back fifteen minutes later he was still at it, searching for a place that would be able to accept him. When he finally found a place in Ft. Myers I felt relief wash over me. Not because he would be getting off the phone, but because he was tugging at my heart. He was trying so hard to be brave and find help that I realized I had been silently praying for him. When he was done I offered him a bottle of water and he nearly burst into tears.

Like I said, his story has been sticking with me since it happened. He left shortly thereafter, and I hope he found his way to the clinic. We’ve all had desperate times and I am so glad I didn’t refuse him the phone. It reminds me that we all need to remember to be kind to others, because you never quite know the struggles others are facing. Even a stupid bottle of water or letting someone use the phone is enough to make a difference in a desperate situation.


Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn by Jo Baker

We’ve been binge-watching the final season of Downton Abbey at home this past weekend. I truly adore that show not just for its historical accuracy and its depiction of the lives of both servant and master, but also because of the amazing costumes and the delicious wit. I will be sad to see the farewell, but I like how they have been setting up things for the finale thus far.

Downton Abbey draws a lot of parallels to the book Longbourn by Jo Baker. It would be easy to say it is the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen told from the point of view of the servants of the Bennet household. But it is so much more than that. Because the lives of the Bennet sisters hardly signify at all in this narrative, and that is a rather poignant remark on class society.

I read several interviews with Jo Baker on her writing of Longbourn. In one with Hazel Gaynor she says, “But it was on one re-reading of P&P that I just got stuck on a phrase, and couldn’t get past it. It’s the week before the Netherfield ball, it’s been raining for days, the footpaths are awash, the roads are deep in mud, there’s no way the Bennet girls are going to venture forth, and so, ‘The very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy.’ I just thought, ‘who’s proxy?’ and everything else followed on from that.”

Indeed! We know the housekeeper’s name is Mrs. Hill, but none of the other servants are named, even though they did a great deal of work behind the scenes. Jo Baker did a marvelous job creating lives and characters out of the unnamed housemaids and footman. In fact, she did an ingenious job of incorporating the two novels so they flow together, with the servants’ stories on top, with a little-noticed undercurrent of the perils and trials of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters.

I also loved that Baker gives us different perspectives of the characters created fully by Austen. Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins are, in Baker’s eyes, more than just the comic relief. There are reasons their personalities developed they way they did. I found I had new-found sympathy for some characters and less for others I originally liked.

But beyond that is the story itself. Mostly it is told from the point of view of Sarah, the teenage housemaid. An orphan, she has a very comfortable situation for someone who might otherwise have grown up in the poor house. True, her work is exhausting and grueling, but she has food in her belly and a warm bed in which to sleep. For her station in life, she isn’t doing too badly.

What her employers don’t understand, however, is that she has a brain and a heart and desires and wishes for herself. So when a footman from the Bingley household starts paying her attentions, her world is rocked. Not just because she finds him attractive as well, but who on earth has ever paid her a speck of attention before? And just what are the intentions of Ptolemy Bingley, the footman? Is he a Wickham or a Darcy?

I’m a sucker for good historical fiction, and I sucked this one right up. I also learned that the best way to clean hardwood floors is to drop damp tea leaves around and sweep them up. They catch all the dust and hair that are shed without blowing them around. I may have to drink more tea and give that a whirl someday.


April A to Z Challenge

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2

I am taking the A to Z Blog Challenge in April. Every day I will take a letter of the alphabet and find a corresponding subject on which to write.

I have chosen a theme: A Place in the World. Each day I will describe a place or an object I have visited in my travels. So every day for the month of April, except for Sundays, tune in to see where I head next. I hope you enjoy hopping around the world with me. Next to writing, travel is the thing I love to do best. The best memories I have from my life have been seeing new places in far off lands where I don’t speak the language and the history is so tremendously vast.

So come back April 1, 2016 for A. Will it be Athens?  Assisi? Aix-en-Provence? Avignon? Or somewhere else? Stay tuned to find out.

Burial Bucket List

I love cemeteries. There is something so peaceful and lovely about them. And then there is the reading of headstones. As a writer, I wonder about the stories of the individuals that lie below the earth. Each human has a different story to tell, some were extraordinary, others quiet and mundane. But each one is a story and the possibilities send me into storyland.

My husband has a bucket list of graves he would like to visit. Some of them have already been achieved. For instance, when we were in England in 2012 we sought out the birthplace and final resting place of Edward Elgar, the famous English composer.

Famous composer Edward Elgar.

Famous composer Edward Elgar.

Last summer on our way to Franklin, NC, we made a side trip to Gotha, Florida where another hero of my husband’s was laid to rest: Bob Ross.

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Bob Ross is buried under a happy little tree.

We’ve seen other graves too: there was a man named John Pendelbury who was instrumental in organizing the Greek resistance during WWII. He had a glass eye and used to leave it on his work table as a clue he was going to talk to the rebels in the hills. He was in a lovely military cemetery on Crete that we visited in 2014. Poor man was captured and shot by the Germans when he was just in his 30’s.

Then of course, we have new graves to look at this summer. Vienna will be chock-a-block with famous composers: Beethoven, Haydn, and my husband’s all-time favorite Brahms.

The funny thing is, I can’t think of a burial bucket list myself. It makes me wonder why I don’t have heroes to whom I would pay homage. I guess I’d like to see Audrey Hepburn’s grave in Switzerland, and perhaps Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. My husband’s passion for music is so huge that seeing these graves is a big thing.

I’ve seen the graves of Michelangelo, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. That was really neat. But to me, there is something much more fascinating in the unknown rabble of people buried beneath the stones of church floors and in crypts.  Their stories, while not known to me, have endless possibilities of stories.

Perhaps the grave I would like to visit most would be that of my grandmother, buried on a hill overlooking the town of Carver, Minnesota. I haven’t been back since she passed in 2010. She’s the hero of my life, and I can’t think of any other famous person who measures up to her.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

It is a weird week. Not a bad one, just different, schedule-wise. Kosta and I have taken tomorrow off to add to our already three-day weekend, so today is my Friday. But our usual Wednesday night person is on vacation so I am working the late shift to fill in for her. That’s why I got to go here this morning:

2016-03-16 08.15.30


The beach in the morning is one of my favorite places in the world. It brings me back to myself when I’ve been living in my head too much. And I have lately, and here’s why:

My novel, Cloak and Dagger, isn’t selling. I’ve had lots of favorable feedback from different editors but no one has ultimately taken the bite. The thing I have heard most frequently is “I really love this book, but I couldn’t get it past my sales team because it is historical fiction.” Apparently while historical fiction is a huge thing in the adult market, it is a very tough sell in the YA world.

What I’ve been doing since December is taking out the first novel I wrote, The First Muse, and rewriting the beginning and editing the rest. I knew the first third had flaws and a tough time getting going, but I believe I fixed those issues. I am almost ready to send it off to my agent and see what he thinks about it. Trust me, I am terrified he won’t love it, but that’s just a little part of me. I know this book is good and the series has amazing potential.

It’s just hard, you know? Getting the agent was an incredibly grueling endeavor, but this part is no easier. The funny thing is, when you are searching for an agent, you get rejections. But when you ascend to the next level and your agent is sending your manuscript to editors, you get passes. Sounds a lot less awful, but really, it’s just as painful. Especially when the months drag by and you’re still waiting.

But I don’t give up. I will keep plugging away until I get a win. My agent loves my writing and at least one editor asked to see anything else I wrote. That is encouraging. If my contemporary fantasy about a kick ass group of girl goddesses doesn’t sell, I will dust myself off and write another book.

I expect to finish my final polish of The First Muse by Friday and then I’ll be sending it up to New York and crossing my fingers. I’m looking forward to some rest now that it will be with Alex. I’ve been working two full-time jobs really, and I’m exhausted. Even so, I know the work won’t be done, as I am sure he will have suggestions to make the story tighter. After all, I’m a talented writer, but not a flawless one.

Then it will go out into the world to be loved or rejected, and I won’t be able to do one thing about that.

Tom Petty said it best: The Waiting is the Hardest Part.


Make ‘Em Laugh

I'm a dish, ain't I?

I’m a dish, ain’t I?

I have this marvelous little app on my phone called Old Booth. It takes old-timey portraits and lets you impose another face on them with your camera.

Sometimes I’ll just lie in bed and make silly faces to make myself laugh. I was raised in a family with a pronounced sense of humor. We can laugh even at the most difficult times.

Case in point: my Dad had an emergency appendectomy ten years ago, and unfortunately he landed back in the hospital a week later because of an abscess. My parents were living in Orlando at the time and I drove the four hours to be with them in the emergency room. The second I got there and walked in, I looked at my Dad lying in the hospital bed, obviously in pain, and I said, “So, I hear you’re full of pus?”

Hey, you could dry dishes behind those ears.

Hey, you could dry dishes behind those ears.

We all burst out laughing but the nurse who was in the room looked at us like we were nuts. And so we were. But that’s the point, isn’t it? If we lose our sense of humor life becomes a huge chore. But if we can laugh every day we beat the system and have an easier time remaining positive.

And so I make it a point to laugh every day. It certainly helps that I married a man who fits right in with our goofy family aesthetic. And the cats (little shits that they are) are often doing something ridiculous that make us laugh too. There are too many people out there who are miserable because they were either born without a humor gene, or let the harshness of life get the best of them.  I talk to hundreds of people every week at the Reference Desk every week and I can tell you within a few seconds who laughs every day and who doesn’t.

My darling husband as the scariest bellhop you'll ever meet.

My darling husband as the scariest bellhop you’ll ever meet.

My husband befriended an old man many years ago. Henry has since passed on, but for the last ten years of his life my husband was his only friend. He was intelligent, artistic, and had plenty of money to keep him comfortable. But he was bitter, lonely, and cheap and lived a life where he used to shout at the television and rail against everything with which he found fault. Smiles from Henry were few and far between, and laughter even more rare. Kosta, bless his soul, went to dinner with him every Wednesday night for ten years and even though it was hard for him to sit and listen to the same tirade every week. But he stayed with Henry to the end because that’s what you do for people who don’t have anyone.

No sense of humor will leave you like this...

No sense of humor will leave you like this…

Sad story, right? That’s why that will never be me. I have learned over the years to amuse myself, find humor in almost everything, and never take myself too seriously. Once a person starts down that path, it becomes a slippery slope into bitterness. We all have the power within us to make our own happiness, to comfort ourselves, and to stay positive, no matter what life slings at us. If something  bad happens, I just dig out my phone and sling it right back.


My Cryptic Message from the Universe…

Remember last week when I showed you that amazing book donation we received?

The riveting 1974 page-turner Weeds of Canada.

The riveting 1974 page-turner Weeds of Canada.


Well the Universe is trying to tell us something because this was donated today:

That's right. Now we have two.

That’s right. Now we have two.

Have you ever heard of anything so weird? I’m wondering if any of my Canuck friends (Mary, Caitlin or Mary Ann) are having possible weed issues? Probably not in March, but remember this summer, I’m your go-to person.

I feel like the Oracle at Delphi just gave me a cryptic message that one day I will curse in anger: “Zounds! If only I had kept that Weeds of Canada book and taken in seriously! For here I am lost in the wilds of Saskatchewan and don’t know if this leafy spurge is edible! Whatever shall I do now?”



I am a rabid knitter. I learned from a fellow librarian when I lived in New Hamsphire over eleven years ago. I started with a scarf (as does pretty much everyone), and tried making many things: a couple of baby sweaters, hats, scarves, even a sweater for myself, but then I knit a pair of socks and I caught the sickness. The sock sickness. The sockness.

I now live in Florida where hand knitted goods are not highly sought-after goods. We wear flip-flops all year here. I usually wear shorts and a T-shirt on Christmas. We do get some cooler weather in the months of January and February, and that is when we (meaning my husband, parents and I) break out our beautiful, hand-knit socks and wear them every chance we get.

There are many reasons why I must knit all the socks.


Reason #1:

2016-03-07 11.14.49My knitting bag says it all for you.

Knitting keeps me sane. It is meditative and soothing. Mostly.


Reason #2:

As a project, they are totally portable, small enough to fit in a purse. I knit a lot in the car, especially on long road trips where I can see lots of progress. I even knit on airplanes. It’s quite wonderful to plug into an audiobook, get the knitting out, and ignore the fact that I have four square inches of alloted space next to a mouthbreather.last-project-completed-in-2010_5316405819_o


Reason #3

The colors! Oh there are so many beautiful colors of sock yarn from which to choose. 2016-01-05 16.40.25

Reason #4:

Comfort. You have never felt anything so wonderful as the first time you pull on a pair of hand knit socks. And they keep your tootsies

Reason #5: Everyone needs socks

While I live in Florida, most people in the word don’t (although every tourist season that becomes harder and harder to believe). Everyone wears socks pretty much every day, and what is a better, more thoughtful gift than a pair of hand-knit socks? Totallly usable, usually bright and beautiful, and massively comfortable.

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