Plague Diaries #12

It isn’t really a tale of the plague, this entry. This story goes back much farther than that. A year, in fact.

In March of 2019 we moved from a 1400 square foot duplex into a 900 square foot condo. We did A LOT of downsizing. We had to practically get all new furniture. I spent weeks assembling flat pack tables, dressers, night stands and bookcases. (A weird side note: I adore assembling furniture. It’s like a really neat puzzle that you put together and then you end up with something useful. My husband thinks I’m bonkers.)

Before we moved I had a lot of space of my own. I had my own office with all my own books in my own cases and odds and ends littered about. In the garage I had my mosaic studio where I would spend Saturdays piecing together glass treasures. I had candles, and pictures, and figurines, lots and lots of rocks (been collecting them since I was a kid) and for over a  year now, they have sat packed away in boxes. Because there was no place to put them out. My mosaic tools are trapped in our outdoor storage space. My knitting supplies are crammed in under-bed boxes.

We have two bedrooms in our tiny new place. One of them is obviously the bedroom. The other is the library where most of my husband’s books and things are. (Greek helmets, a bust of Brahms and one of Homer, Greek vases and all of his fountain pens.) He has his computer on the desk in there, and the blue recliner where he reads and does crossword puzzles.

Since he’s retired and I have the car all day it seems only fitting that he should have the space as his own. He spends more time in the condo than anyone else. Over the past year, when I’ve wanted to relax, I’ve mostly spent the time in bed watching stuff on my iPad or reading.

These past two weeks off have been a breakthrough. One of the things I did as a therapeutic act for myself was dig out my knitting. I hadn’t really done any knitting since my Mom died, since that was ALL I did in the hospital. I got rid of a lot of my yarn stash when I moved, but still have all my grandmother’s knitting needles and quite a bit of yarn. I told my dear friend who is treating me with acupuncture that I would knit her a pair of socks and she was delighted. And then I came up with a brilliant idea: Frankensocks.

In all my years knitting (and it’s been over fifteen) I’ve knitted dozens of pairs of socks. It is a truth universally known that Floridians don’t need scarves, hats or mittens, but there are a few months out of the year when a pair of hand-knit socks are a most supreme pleasure. With every pair I’ve knit I’ve had leftover yarn which I have put in its own separate Ziplock (to keep them from mating like Christmas lights) and shoved in a canvas bag that I keep in my closet.

As I was considering what color socks to knit my friend, I came across that canvas bag of remnants and the idea hit me: what if I knit ALL THE COLORS? What if I knit an inch or two off each little ball I had remaining, switching them up and sort of patch them together? And the Frankensocks were born.


I had real joy in knitting them. Each stripe represents a pair previously made socks and I remember each pair and who they were for. You might think that a little bonkers but knitting a pair of socks is an investment of time and they don’t just fall off the needles in a couple of hours. You get intimate with the yarn and think a lot about the person you are knitting them for as you are creating them.

As I was knitting these socks I was also looking around our apartment. The walls are still bare because we haven’t hung any pictures. Most of them are sitting in the bathtub in the second bathroom. And I decided that it was damn time we did something about it. So we hung pictures, we hung a clock, we hung mosaics I had made. We’re not done yet, but every day we do something more around here that makes the condo seem more like home.

As these two things sort of came together I started to realize something. All of my things (my candles and pictures and figurines and rocks) were still packed away in boxes and I was staggered all at once with how much I missed them. A wise friend said that when you are home and don’t see yourself reflected in it, it isn’t really home. There are things my husband and I have together, but my things, MY THINGS, were missing.

So I made a plan. We have an empty corner of our bedroom and I am getting (Lord, help me) one more IKEA bookcase (which will make seven). It will house the books I use for writing and research, and it will hold my bowl of rocks, my statue of Kuan Yin, picture frames and candles. It will be my space reflected back at me. I will truly be home.

And I wonder if this whole meltdown I had didn’t have something to do with these things. I am sure they were a part of it.  Yes, the pandemic has scared the bejesus out of me, but I have to go one with life. I will take all the precautions I can and let it be. But I will no longer be a stranger in my own house. I am going to set up my mosaic station on our lanai. I am going to arrange my precious items and see them when I walk in the room.

Maybe, as I begin to carve out the creative life I used to have (piecing glass together in mosaics and knitting and journalling), things will shift back to where they used to be. I’m already on the way.

This wasn’t something I did in a punitive manner. I did not go about to make myself miserable by packing away my life and leaving it in a closet. But getting it back is like getting out of jail. The air is a little sweeter, the sun a little brighter.

And as I move forward I know that writing mojo is going to return. I just have to find a new space to do that. Before, I was going to a coffee shop in the evenings and writing. But now, maybe now with my stuff back out I will feel more comfortable writing at home.

It’s taken a year, and it shouldn’t have. But what are we as human beings if not constantly learning lessons?

Excuse me, I have to go knit something.

Where to go on vacation…?

My husband Kosta and I love to travel. The highlight of each year is where we get to go on vacation. Since we don’t have kids we do our best to sock money away so we can go to Europe and explore for several weeks in the summer or early fall.

Since we’ve been together we’ve seen a lot. Our first real vacation together was a road trip to the Southwest United States in August of 2007. We spent time in Southern Colorado, New Mexico, and a brief hop into Arizona.

Wild poppies growing in Red River, New Mexico.

Wild poppies growing in Red River, New Mexico.

Anasazi cliff dwelings at Mesa Verde National Park.

Anasazi cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.

The two of us at White Sands National Monument

The two of us at White Sands National Monument

In 2008 we journeyed to my home state of Minnesota. I showed my new fiance the wonders of the North Shore of Lake Superior, the beautiful city of Minneapolis, and the lovely woodsy area of Lake Minnetonka.

A cairn we built on the pebble beach in Little Marais, MN.

A cairn we built on the pebble beach in Little Marais, MN.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts--a scuplture of medusa before she became a hideous gorgon.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts–a sculpture of medusa before she became a hideous gorgon.

The view of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Commons.

The view of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Commons.

In 2009 we got married. For our honeymoon we spent a week at Disney, a week on Sanibel Island, and a week at home. It was lovely, but we really wanted to go to Greece for our honeymoon. But that would have to wait another two years. 2010 was a bust as far as vacation was concerned. But then in 2011 we went to Greece! I had never been before and Kosta hadn’t been in 40 years. We LOVED it.

The famous theater at Epidaurus (Epidavros).

The famous theater at Epidaurus (Epidavros).

The view from the upper town in Monemvasia.

The view from the upper town in Monemvasia.

Preserved ioni column at Delphi.

Preserved ionic column at Delphi.


Once we got a taste of Europe, we didn’t want to stop. In the menu bar at the top you can see some of our photos from our trip to England in 2012, France in 2013, and Greece again in 2014. In early 2015 I had to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder and that pretty much shot our vacation budget. But as it happened, we spent 10 days in a cabin in Franklin, NC, editing my book for my agent. Then we went to New York for a few days to actually meet the agent. (Hi Alex!)

So that brings me to this year. We have enough frequent flier miles for tickets, we have money saved. But where shall we go? The other day on Facebook I saw this photo:

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

The funny thing is, I remember my mother having an etching or a watercolor of this exact spot.  Then my friend Tammy sent me her picture of being there, and that cemented it: After we visit our dear friends in France we are heading to Bavaria and Austria! And because I work at a library I already have a bag full of travel guides and videos to get started with trip planning.

So look out Die Schwarz Wald, the Karras’ are coming in July! And let me know if you have an favorite out-of-the-way, must-see places in that area.

Things Found in Library Books

Most of you who know me and love me know that I keep a little collection of the things found in library books. These are usually pictures, letters, bookmarks, etc. Money happens once in a blue moon. If the items are returned in a book in our library system, we can usually find the person and get it back to them. But when someone leaves a pile of donation books on the back dock? Sorry, that is now officially property of the library.

I think once a week I’m going to share a few with you, and if I made a note of it, the book in which the item was found.

So let’s start with the most dramatic, shall we?

book with gunJust before Christmas, my husband Kosta, who handles the donations to our library found a book–A Passion for Excellence: The Leadership Difference. He he thought it sounded like quite a snore. Until he picked it up.

And it clunked.

So curiousityhad him flip the pages and he was quite surprised to find the book had a not-so-chewy center:

gun in bookYup, that’s a .38 special. We’ve seen hollowed out books before, but they have always been empty. We couldn’t quite believe someone would just forget it was there and donate it to the library.

It wasn’t loaded, thank goodness, and we did call the police. The officer himself was quite blown away (oh, pun intended)  and they ran the serial number and came up with nothing.

My personal theory is that some old coot kicked the bucket (because Naples is where folks come to die), and the kids came to clean out the house and just packed up the books, not knowing it was there.

That’s about as exciting as it gets. But I wanted to start things off with a bang. (Groan.)

This next one is a personal favorite of mine. I don’t have the title of the book in which it was found, but this was an early find before I really started keeping track.

wb pay stubIt’s a pay stub from Warner Bros. Pictures with a date of August 6, 1938. The unnamed employee worked 12 hours and received a net sum of $18.94.

How cool is that?



And finally, we do find a lot of people use pictures as bookmarks. (Don’t tell me you haven’t.) And while the pictures are usually quite unremarkable, the book in which they were found can sometimes make for a bit of dark humor:

1st to dieThis one was found in James Patterson’s 1st to Die.

Sorry, kid.