Friday, August 18, 2017


Robert's sister, Jennifer, is in town!  Hanging out with her has been the dose of fun and sunshine everyone's needing.  

Yesterday we went to the zoo with one of Jennifer's childhood friends, Lauren.  The fact they let me take this picture of them says everything about the kind of day we had at the zoo.

It was a very active day at the zoo.  Most of the animals were out and about, doing silly things. This is the only polar bear we saw though. Perhaps it was the heat, or maybe even us?!?  But sadly, no polar bears.   

It was such a fun day though!  Next up, the eclipse!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

good stuff

Have I mentioned that we have two functioning potties downstairs now?  Yep, all four bathrooms officially have toilets, and soon we will have showers and tubs as well.  Eventually there will be so many bathrooms to clean I may not have time to use them.     

Robert is covering the entire garage in slatwall, which looks pretty great.  I'm excited there's going to be a spot for everything.  And my dear step ladder, which I use often, will be on a hook right by the door so I don't even have to walk into the garage to get it.    

Robert's grandma is regaining her strength in a rehabilitation center that's nearby.  So she is doing much better.  

And Rachel started school yesterday.  She reported that she likes all of her teachers and her assigned parking spot is an end spot.  

Life is good.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Robert's Surprise

Tonight, after a busy day of at the library, I came home to a big and slightly invisible surprise. Robert has been busily making our home a smarty home, and all sorts of nerdy things (talking doorbells, lights changing according to the time of day etc.) have been happening.

Today, Robert preformed his nerdy magic and my itunes music is now available throughout the house, and most importantly, my office.  All my carefully compiled lists suddenly available.  Wow.

I immediately moved my chair to the painting section of my desk, and for the first time in my office, brushed a bit paint onto a wooden canvas.

After much organizing I discovered my desk has enough room for painting, journaling, writing, and collaging stations that don't have to be packed up unless I'm done.  I can just move my chair from station to station and work on everything at the same time if I like.  I've been waiting for the right moment to paint though, and after Robert's surprise I promptly sat down, chose my playlist, and started painting.   

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Carolyne's cathedral

Robert's grandma, Carolyne, is doing well.  Though it's been a slow recovery, each day there is much progress.

Yesterday, Robert texted one of many progress reports - Grandma's cathedral has been removed!

I was retrieving a book for a patron in the children's section when the message popped up on my watch.  I guffawed so loudly a child jumped away in alarm.

Yesterday I also received a phone call telling me that our float trip pictures were ready.  Though only one picture stood out, it was exactly what everyone needed to see.

Today's progress report was fairly straightforward, and Carolyne is creeping determinedly towards recovery.  Nothing but going home is going to top the relief she must have felt to get that dreaded cathedral out.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

two books that gave me everything

I read so many books in July I'm struggling to remember them all.  Most were surprisingly good, and two swept me up and carried me so far away I'm only now just remembering what this reality stuff is.  

Like last month, I have one itty bitty review and one big one.  I only have big things to say about it. It blew me away.  

Imagine a City by Elise Hurst

I am in love with these illustrations, which are incredibly imaginative and delightfully bizarre. Once you peer into one of these pages you will get lost in ways you never imagined - as a bunny riding an elegant train with a penguin, taking flight on a flying fish and, appropriately enough, exploring a bookstore where the books come to life.

They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson

​They Left Us Everything is an emotional journey through Plum Johnson's grief and search for self after losing her parents and childhood home.   After almost twenty years spent caring for her aging parents, Alex and Virginia, Plum is both liberated and burdened by their deaths, which happen just a mere three years apart. Though Plum loses them, and the loss is enormous, she finds them again through their belongings as she clears out their house, her childhood home, and prepares to sell it.

I was deeply touched by They Left Us Everything.  Perhaps it has something to do with my childhood, which was spent observing my mom and grandma care for my grandpa, who was wheelchair-bound with complications from cerebral palsy.  When a person enters the caregiver role, their life is completely swallowed by the needs of the person or people they’re caring for.  After spending twenty years caring for my grandpa, it didn’t surprise me just how long it took my mom and grandma to figure out who they were once my grandfather passed away.  In Plum's situation, Alex lived with Alzheimer's for several years.  As his health deteriorated, the need for Plum's assistance became so overwhelming, that extra live-in help was required.  During Alex's long battle with Alzheimer's, Virginia also relied heavily on Plum for companionship, so much so, that Plum struggled with bitterness, an emotion that conflicted with her love for Virginia.  Just like my mom and grandma, I believe Plum is trying to figure out who she is after giving herself entirely to caregiving for nearly twenty years.  When Plum volunteers to pack up her parent's belongings, she not only discovers who they really were, but also what it means to be Plum.  

Unlike Plum, my family's belongings slipped away, a little at a time, over many years, and though I have a few of those treasures, I didn’t sift through an entire house of belongings to acquire them.  I was enamored with Plum's thorough and loving excavation of her parents' home.  For me, the letters exchanged between Alex and Virginia, and Virginia and her mother, were the greatest treasure found.  Hundreds of letters that transported Plum to Victoria and Alex's wild romance and eventual marriage, and their involvement in WWII.  I was also impressed by how the belongings were meted out between Plum and her three brothers, and dumbfounded by what happened when descendants of the previous owners of the house showed up.

Plum's deft insight shines through the grief and often highlights its depth, stirring up many relatable moments.  You will cringe when a retirement home is referred to as "a warehouse full of abandoned parents waiting to die," and angrily weep when Plum bathes Alex and discovers he's cognizant enough to be ashamed.  When Plum questions, "who were our parents?  They are in everything we see around us, everything we touch, but did we really know them?" you will walk through your house and wonder whether the puzzle pieces of your parents form an image and whether you are mirrored in that image.

But don’t reach for that box of tissues just yet.  Just like the belongings in Plum’s childhood home, there is much hilarity to be found in They Left Us Everything.  Though it comes to fruition through grief, Plum maintains a sense of humor throughout the memoir and finds it in even the darkest corners of life.  Plum decorates her sadness and loss with humor and constructs a shield with its force.  And not just any kind of humor.  I'm talking pee-your-pants, you-can't-breathe, tears-cascading-down-your-face humor.  Virginia, who was a kaleidoscope of emotions and beliefs, was often the source of Plum's outrageously humorous descriptions. When Virginia made an appearance at a school party she was pregnant and dressed for the winter weather - "oversized galoshes and a mammoth white Borg coat that came down to her ankles."  Naturally, to keep her two young sons from bolting, Virginia tied a yellow rope around her middle, and as Plum puts it, her "two younger brothers clung to the ends like little farmers attached to a clothesline, trying not to lose sight of their barn in the blizzard."  Plum's humor dots the memoir in just the right places and consistently prevails in her battle against grief. 

My gratitude, respect, and praise for They Left Us Everything is immeasurable.  If possible, I would place a copy of it in the hands of anyone who has ever put every fiber of their being into caring for a loved one, even at the expense of themselves.  And for anyone who has battled the stages of grief one memory, keepsake, or expired tin of stewed tomatoes at a time.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

zero slime

When this snail popped into my head, my first thought was pink?!?

Then I thought, why not flaunt that pinkness?

He is a delight and unlike most snails, leaves zero slime wherever he goes. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Thursday" is a new curse word. If screamed repeatedly to blindly played drums and guitars, it would be music!

​This past week has been very long, tough, and exhausting. However, for every dark and ominous cloud, there's been a bit of sunlight peeping through.  

The first problem really was ​a storm, one that knocked out our power for two days.  Oddly enough, a plumber came by the first day and magically pulled a functioning toilet from his hat (I'm tired, so there will be a plenitude of platitudes in this post).  Now we have a potty on the first floor, and it couldn't have magically appeared at a better time (It was dark. We could hear the plumber, but couldn't see him. So it was magic).

Just as our electricity came on, Robert's grandma, Carolyne, was admitted to the hospital after her heart tests came back showing some very blocked arteries.  She had triple bypass heart surgery on Thursday and it was successful.  She will be in the hospital for the next few days, healing and probably growing ornerier.  

Robert's mom, Audrey, was also scheduled for surgery on Thursday to mend a few tears in her shoulder.  Her surgery could not be moved, so while Robert stayed with his Grandma, I spent 7 hours watching TV with Audrey, as her surgery kept getting moved back. Eventually, she went into surgery and it was also successful.  She is currently staying with us and being doted on by Rachel, who just finished her last day of summer school Thursday.  

After both surgeries were completed and declared successful, I left the two sick ladies to Robert's care, and managed to take Rachel to the last half of the much-deserved Vans Warped Tour (which is code for angsty teen festival).  Though my brain, which was already exhausted, was nearly obliterated by four hours of screaming metal music, Rachel kicked serious butt this summer in school and has been looking forward to this music shindig for months.

I was a little surprised that one of my favorite bands, American Authors, was playing, so a mushy brain was a small price to pay for Rachel's happiness and hearing a few live American Authors songs. I even had the delightful surprise of watching Rachel sing along with American Authors.  She says that she listens to music that isn't screaming metal, but I have heard little evidence of it.  You know how everyone has a noise they can't stand? Rose and Ella despise the sound of  bubble wrap being popped. I can stand the sound of a tile saw. Robert loathes the blender so much he leaves the house when I make smoothies. Well, if someone doesn't throw a tantrum and start screaming during a song Rachel is outta there. Occasionally I'll hear her playing something melodic, and intrigued, I move in a bit closer (damn my hopeful heart). When she notices me listening to her music, she smiles.  But this moment is almost always ruined when the singer suddenly and murderously starts screaming and throwing a tantrum.  So maybe she was caught up in the moment, or maybe she happens to like American Authors. I may never know.  Maybe Rachel wonders whether I'll embrace screaming metal someday.  And maybe there's a compromise - like whispering metal or something that starts out brooding and ends up banjo silly.  No matter what, I think she may have a hopeful heart too.  

So yes, it's been crazy here, but I think things are looking up. Carolyne is healing.  Rachel is done with school for a couple weeks. We have a newfound appreciation for electricity.  Rose and Ella have a temporary house guest they can smother with affection. And who knows, maybe by tomorrow I will be able to hear Audrey ask for help.  Or will I?  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

tennis balls

Just like last summer, Rachel excitedly signed up for summer classes at a nearby community college. This summer she's taking a public speaking course and beginning Spanish.  In January she learned that she couldn't get into the International Baccalaureate program unless she tested into Spanish II as a junior.  So she's been seeing a tutor weekly since early spring, and to beef up her chances, she also decided to take college Spanish this summer.

And she's doing so well in both classes!  She's been acing her Spanish tests and really investing her energy and time into the speeches she's been assigned.  While we were away on our float trip, we brainstormed the topic for her last speech, which is a tribute speech.  When she threw out the idea of tennis balls I wasn't really sure what she meant, but decided to hear her out. Well then we floated and who talks about homework during a float trip?  

While I was in my office today I heard a lot of chaos going on downstairs, which didn't really sound like speech writing.  But when I went downstairs and saw this I immediately scolded myself for doubting her.

Rachel is writing about Ella's kind of tennis balls, and one aspect is what kind of ball is most appealing.  The tennis balls are lined up according to desirability, and lead to a very tired (and possibly confused) golden retriever.

Monday, July 17, 2017

waterlogged with happiness

Rachel, Robert, the dogs, and I just returned from a fabulous mini trip that included floating down the Niangua river and visiting with my Dad and his girlfriend, Lisa. 

Naturally we did a little thrift shopping, where I found treasure - a stamp set with both the words of animals and the animals themselves. It's missing a few pieces, but is so perfect for journaling.

Rose and Ella were sorta accepted by two of Dad and Lisa's four cats:

Everyone got their cat fix (and then some). It's pretty obvious Jake (cat) only has eyes for Lisa.

There was so much peace to be found on the river, and we're just plum waterlogged with happiness:

On the way home Rachel conked out, but Ella was happy to provide a soft place to land:

Because we used a disposable water camera, the bulk of our pictures still need to be developed.  So here's to good-ol'-fashioned waiting for pictures.  If there are any keepers I will share them with you as soon they're developed!

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Undoing Project

At first I cursed all the sticky tabs I would need to carefully remove from this book.  And then a coworker pointed out the cover.

And the irony was just so beautiful I couldn't help but love each terrible sticky tab.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

ready to teach my bike a lesson

Robert has been building shelves in the garage (nothing has fallen yet!) and also fancy bike hangy things.  

And Rose and Ella and I have been... Well, we've been taking it easy.  

With my hip problem on one side and a bum knee on the other, I took several days off, but am hoping that I can outwalk a couple geriatric golden retrievers here in a few days. And maybe try to stay on my bike this time.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

when the library opens after a holiday and the lights are flipped on...

Walking into work after a holiday always gives me some anxiety.  Especially during the seconds prior to flipping on the lights as I wonder just how big the pile of returned materials is. 

Today wasn't too scary.  Sure, the library was missed on a rainy 4th of July, but the book drop didn't reflect that so much as today did.

We were completely slammed.

Piles and piles of books kept the book drops constantly full. Lots of assistance was needed. Tutoring resumed. And everyone needed books right now.

At one point we ran out of carts so I decided to shelve a cart of children's books.  I thought, what could be more fun than losing my hearing, skirt, and sanity?

I know what you're thinking.  Any one of those things sounds entirely like too much fun.

Imagine tootling around on a little stool with wheels, shelving books.  Now pretend like you are doing this in a gumball machine.  Except the gumballs are tiny toddling humans with grabby little fingers and shrieking mouths.  Now attempt to stand up, drag your stool with wheels through the melee to get to another section, and a few of the grabby hands clutch your skirt.  Repeat repeat repeat.  When I finally finished and made it to the elevator a child asked for books on animals just as sweet as can be.  Who can refuse that?  So off we go to look for animals. Just as I'm attempting another elevator escape a tutor pushes a bouquet of unsharpened colored pencils into my hands to be sharpened (pencil sharpener is in the office out of reach of grabby hands).

After sharpening the colored pencils I am finally in the elevator with my cart, breathing a sigh of relief, and here comes a lady with twin toddlers and a stroller with twin babies.  Out of the elevator I go, and after another ten minutes of questions I officially climb my way out of the gumball machine.

The real question is, will I shelve another cart of children's books tomorrow if we're still backed up? Oh heck, why not.  

Saturday, July 1, 2017

June Favorites

June was a pretty good month for reading. Nothing really let me down or made me roll my eyes.  I do, however, have an interesting conundrum regarding my June favorites.  One of the books simply doesn't exist yet so to speak.  A favorite coworker of mine came back from one her meetings clutching a book and looking absolutely tickled about something.  She was giddy because she had nabbed an advance reading copy of Caroline by Sarah Miller. And not only that, she informed me I could read it first since she was in the middle of a series.  Why so much giddiness about this book? Well this coworker and I happen to be mega Little House on the Prairie fans.  If it has anything to do with LHOTP or Laura Ingalls Wilder, you name it, we've read it.

Caroline, which comes out in September, is a beautifully written, fictionalized account of Caroline, Laura's Ma, during their Kansas journey. I thoroughly enjoyed Caroline and couldn't put it down.  I even took walks with it in the hopes of finding a bench perfect for reading.  And I had so much success that I ended up doing a lot of bench-hopping instead of walking.  I am currently writing the review but will wait until the book becomes available to post it. Until then, I leave you with its beautiful cover and one of my favorite lines, which happens while Caroline tries to comfort Laura and Mary during a thunderstorm. "She had not arms enough to shelter them both at once.  Laura was still so little, but Mary was plainly smothering in her own fear.  It did not seem fair that each could have only half of her, nor that her heart should favor one side of her chest."

Five-Stars Trails - The Ozarks : 43 Spectacular Hikes in Arkansas and Missouri

I love this book so much I'm buying it. The trails are rated by accessibility, difficulty and also solitude, which is truly a wonderful idea.  I've hiked a few of these trails and think the information in this book is spot on. I cannot wait to try out the rest of the trails in this book!

And because I have it ready (and the book exists), here's the full review for my final June favorite.

Stir by Jessica Fechtor

​I'll admit I wasn't sure about a memoir that alternated between recipes and recovery from an aneurysm​, but Stir must have won me over because I not only felt the unique disappointment that only happens when finishing a good book, I also can't stop talking about it. Jessica Fechtor's recovery from a brain aneurysm while running on a treadmill is memoir-worthy without the wonderful observations, recipes, and memories. That's why Stir is a multi-layer cake of a memoir, a cake so fluffy with life and beauty, not even an aneurysm can sour it.

Each chapter is comprised of both an intimate essay portraying Jessica's life before, during, and after her aneurysm and a recipe correlating with that part of her life. Prior to her aneurysm, Jessica was ambitious - teaching, cooking, working towards her doctorate in Jewish Literature, and running every day. Stir is a little bit of that old life, mixed with both a long recovery and her new life, which is equal parts grasping for her old life while giving cooking more attention than she had prior to her illness. The recipes range from cholent with kugel to a simple tomato soup, and celebrate her family and roots while revitalizing classics with intriguing modifications. Jessica utilizes leftovers in a lot of her recipes, which really jives with my own style. I cannot wait to have leftover greens and rice so I can try her crispy rice and eggs recipe. Another recipe, a kale and pomegranate salad, calls for pomegranate molasses, which is something I have never heard of. As a huge molasses fan, I immediately set out to find a bottle of it before I even finished Stir.  

Though I love the recipes and applaud Jessica's bravery during her long recovery, I enjoyed her observations the most. The last bit of mustard in a grey poupon jar helps "emulsify the oil and vinegar into a uniform dressing," and gives "a jar at the end of its life . . . one more job to do."  And ". . . when you put freshly baked bread and a lump of softened butter on the table, you are taking good care of your people, no matter the rest of the meal." Jessica struggles through a handful of surgeries that cause a variety of issues. One surgery leaves her with a chunk of skull missing and Doctor's orders to wear a helmet until the chunk can be replaced. She also loses sight in one of her eyes and has a temporary loss of smell. Her ability to embrace each of these hurdles while simultaneously searching for ways overcome them is a lesson in both mind over matter and resilience. At one point Jessica realizes that, prior to her aneurysm, she thought she was being considerate by helping out while visiting friends for dinner. By doing so, however, she prevented others the pleasure of hosting. During her recovery she "allows herself to be hosted." She also questions that if silence describes the opposite of noise, what is the opposite of scent? Observations like these make Stir a page-turner.

I enjoyed Jessica's outlook on life, her plentiful and unique descriptions, and applaud her determination through her long recovery. With each new setback Jessica patiently and determinedly familiarizes herself with the new changes in her body and mind. She not only adjusts to the changes, she refuses to let them get in her way for very long, especially not in the kitchen.  

Friday, June 23, 2017


At the library today a patron asked if she could extend her checkout dates for a stack of audiobooks.  I gave her what we call a vacation checkout, which basically means you get to pick your checkout date as long as no one is waiting for the items.  While I was checking her out she told me how much she enjoys listening to audiobooks while driving to see her children, who are scattered throughout the country.  She mentioned that the child she was visiting this time around lived in Colorado and that, "there's nothing like listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving through western Kansas, but for the rest of the trip audiobooks are a must." 

I smiled at this, thinking about all of the intriguing, soothing, and familiar rituals every person has, and what a wonderful book this could be.  Rituals of Ordinary Folk is what I would title it, and I would begin with the ritual of listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving through western Kansas. Now, who wants to write it?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

rescuing kittens from the Feds

Robert received an Apple watch for his birthday courtesy of his grandma.  We've been drooling over them since the first one came out but couldn't justify the expense of two.  We really loved our Jawbones, but they eventually wore out.  Fitness is the biggest reason we've been so excited about Apple watches.  They encourage healthiness and monitor your heart rate.

After Robert got a watch for his birthday we decided to do something crazy and buy one for me so that we can compete encourage each other. After watching him have so much fun with his for a few days I was ecstatic when mine arrived. Naturally the first day I wore mine was after 10+ days of major exercise - mostly tennis, bicycling and walking.  But also physical therapy for some bursitis and nerve issues in my right hip area. I needed a rest day, which I usually give myself every couple weeks.  Well there is no rest day with an Apple watch.  Or with PT for that matter.  So I did my PT and a long walk with Robert and was very pleased with the watch and ready to try it out at tennis.  

The very next day I crashed my bike.  Or rather, my bike threw me off and crashed me.  It was a very complicated scenario, and I honestly have no regrets.  Sometimes you've just got to be thankful that it was pavement instead of a car.  I came out of it fine, but tore up my left knee and got some road burn on my left arm.  I also hurt like heck everywhere, which shouldn't surprise me because I'm not 7 anymore.  

So sadly I haven't been able to close my rings on the Apple watch. Each day you've got three rings to close:

1. standing for five minutes per hour for 12 hours (this one is a piece of cake, apparently even when you're injured)
2. getting your heart rate up to a healthy high for 30 min
3. overall movement (this one is tough as heck. Steps don't seem to matter much, as I've gotten over 10,000 steps a day and met only 50% of my movement goal)

It couldn't have been a worse time to receive an Apple watch (yes, you can tell what a great life I have by my complaints), and quite frankly I've been a little glum. It certainly doesn't help that Robert has turned into Richard Simmons and is closing his rings like it's the easiest thing in the world (way to go Robert).  But it's smart to wait for the goose egg on my knee to disappear and pretty much everything to scab over.  I wanted a rest day, right? How about four of them?  

Thankfully everyone at work has been really sweet and not asking a lot of questions about my mummy appearance.  Today a few patrons asked me what happened and I thought long and hard about coming up with a grand story involving an alien invasion thwarted by a gal and her bike, but I simply said I had a bike wipeout and smiled through the demeaning "well God bless your soul" that was thrown around a couple times.  The best interaction happened at the end of the day when an elderly lady came in and made a beeline to where I was standing.  

"Can I help you?" I asked.  
"Whatever happened to you?" 
And before I could answer: 
"Did you fall down?"  
I hesitated. This was it, my last chance to do this right.  
"Well you know the FBI, right?" 
She stared at me blankly.  
"Well I was trying to rescue a kitten while being chased by the..."  
"And you fell down," she pantomimed falling down as she interrupted my tall tale.  

Any hope of ever becoming a storyteller was dashed in that moment.  I stumbled away trailing gauze and a plume of whatever hope looks like when it pops.

Thankfully I still had my humor intact because I went to the break room, made myself a cup of the hard stuff (green tea) and laughed about all these problems I'm so lucky to have.    

Tomorrow I will close all my rings.  Robert's going to wish he never messed with someone who rescues kittens while being chased by the FBI.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

fountain flopping

You know the humidity has officially set in when Rose and Ella's idea of a walk is to find a fountain to flop in.   

Monday, June 12, 2017

the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bibliophiles

Every year a very special library in my neck of the woods has an EPIC book sale.  I start training for it days in advance.  I work out my elbows so that they're extra pointy and can politely yet firmly push others away from books that could potentially change my life.

Weeks prior to the sale whenever I carry books at the library I add an extra dozen or so to my stack so I can build up my strength to lug every book my heart desires, and then some.

Hours before the sale I only eat foods that give me titanic amounts of energy.  And I usually take the day off so I can clear my mind of everything and have the zen focus necessary to spot only exemplary titles.

It's the Wimbledon of book sales and I always treat it as such.  

This year my weeks of grueling training paid off.  I found a lot of memoirs, mostly women kicking heiny and people saying f&#$ it and heading out to the country.  

As I started pawing through the children's books I was a little disappointed.  I saw only one box of paperbacks (which are cheap and perfect for my little free library).  Only one box?!?  I was devastated.  I had high hopes to stock up on several months worth of children's books for my little free library.

I made my way through the table and moved on to the next.  And that's when I saw it.  Just ahead was an entire table devoted to paperbacks.  Boxes and boxes to flip through.  I checked my elbows - pointy and ready. Check.  I unloaded my latest haul on Robert, who was standing patiently by.  Empty hands check.

I dove into those boxes with the the ferocity of a thousand bibliophiles (I was pretty much the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bibliophiles).

As I happily sorted through the boxes two volunteers took interest in my search and asked if they could help.  I told them I had three criteria - popularity, perfection, and stickers.  They nodded knowingly and pulled out more boxes from beneath the table.

After awhile they began asking questions about my criteria, and that's when I explained that I had a little free library that couldn't keep up with the demand of its young demographic.  I also explained that I wanted kids to have books that felt new, and if they wanted to put their name on a book it would be the first name the book saw.  The volunteers nodded knowingly again, and after an hour of digging we were like old friends.  I walked away with my best haul of children's books to date, enough to fill my little free library for months.  And so many stickers.  

Today, I barely made it home from tennis before I sat down and carefully went through every book again, relishing stories that have lifted my heart for years and new stories that the volunteers urged me to read.

Whether your buddy is Clifford, Fancy Nancy, Skippyjon Jones or Thomas, there's always a place to find them, a place where you can come and go as you please.  A place you can share with others. A place to call your own. 

And if you're like me, and you have many pals, you can jump between these worlds and take whoever you like with you.  What would Fancy Nancy say if she saw the boa constrictor eating the wash?  Can the Giving Tree be visited by The Magic School Bus? Would Eeyore have a change of attitude if he tagged along with Skippyjon Jones for a few adventures?

I think about these different worlds as I organize my constantly-changing collection of books and sprinkle the little free libraries in my neighborhood with stories.

And I know that all my grueling  training is worth it whenever I see someone tearing down the street with a little-free-library book in their hands. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

toilets soon!

The remodel is still happening.  Slowly but surely.

Tile is mostly done everywhere.  Other important bathroom things should be happening to our two downstairs bathrooms soon.  Like toilets.

Drying racks were installed in my office.  Now I just need to remind myself not to clunk my head on them when I do yoga.  Although it looks like our common area upstairs is going to be our workout area, which will be nice to have that separated from my work space.  Robert found a squishy interlocking mat for the workout area and covered the whole room in it.  The room officially has a rowing machine (not exciting enough for pictures), and more will be added later.  Like maybe my yoga stuff once I clunk my head on the awesome drying racks. 

Picture rails were also added to my workspace.  My current plan is to cover the entire house in these so I can rotate out our ever-growing art collection, and maybe display some of my stuff too.  

We finally have a bannister, which hopefully means no more falling down the stairs when we fumble our way up and down the stairs to potty in the middle of the night.  And hopefully soon we will have at least one toilet on the first floor.

If someone told me I would spend almost a year without a bathroom on the first floor my spoiled ears wouldn't have believed them.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


While happily working at the library the other day I saw a lady walk in with an umbrella in one hand, which made sense because it was pouring outside.

But then I did a double take and nearly fumbled an interaction with the patron I was helping.

In the lady's other hand was a coconut she was clutching tightly to her bosom.  Yep, a real-as-can-be coconut, complete with straw.  Once she sat down at a computer I walked by just to be sure.

So if you're looking to create that island feel on a rainy day at the library, you just can't go wrong with a coconut.  And, as you close your umbrella, you can pretend that the water that flies from it is really just the gentle mist from the ocean surf.

On another note, I created a new Staff Picks bookmark, which is incredibly exciting. Surprisingly, people are noticing our wacky bookmarks and letting us know what they think of them.  One of my favorite patrons collects my bookmarks, and because she disliked my Ms. Frizzle bookmark so much, she started replacing them with older bookmarks she had at home. Every time she saw me at the library she let me know that she didn't like the new bookmark.

I can't make this stuff up.  

Here is the short evolution of Hannah Jane bookmarks:

Old bookmark (only one person liked this one)

This next bookmark is wonderful for anyone who wants to explain The Magic School Bus to confused, elderly patrons at least once a day. Naturally, the book I always tried to explain was the one where Ms. Frizzle takes the kids to explore the human body. It was a lot of "That bus goes where?" or "I drove a bus once (for the circus) (in the jungle) (while running for Mayor)."  Seriously.  

And (are you ready for this?) here's the new one!

I am ready for anyone who walks up to me wearing a confused expression while waving this new bookmark.  They will want to talk about their dogs (hopefully), the fact that I look nothing like Fancy Nancy (whatever) and that their favorite place to read books is at the circus/in the jungle/while running for Mayor/any place that has a refreshing hairy coconut to sip while they read.  

Personally, I think the bookmark is sublime.

Friday, June 2, 2017

poetry, gardens, ghosts, & slinkys

After two months of reading lots of so-so children's books, I was beginning to wonder if they lost their magic for me.

The children's books I read last month erased all my doubts. Interestingly enough, everything else I read turned to eye-rolling crap after at least 50 pages.

So thanks to these books I still have faith in words, and definitely the marriage of words and pictures.  

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub and illustrated by Amy Huntington

With lines like "not one sloppy heap of beets, no single misplaced pea. Each veggie castle he constructs has perfect symmetry." and illustrations packed with lush food and exuberant doggies (that I'm pretty sure aren't allowed at farmer markets), this book is so much fun. I loved most of the poems, but the one that stands out the most is Necessary Mess, which is an ode to dirt and how important its role is in growing produce. Yay dirt! This book has so much going for it. You can ogle the illustrations, enjoy saying the fun rhymes aloud or make your own illustrations and/or rhymes next time you go to the farmer's market! 

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

I love the idea of a small garden blooming on a raised railway above a lifeless city, and with a little encouragement from a curious boy, the garden engulfing the entire city. The best line is, "The garden was especially curious about old forgotten things," and my favorite illustration is the garden consuming a stop sign.

The Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Lisa Brown

The journey of Goldfish Ghost, who's always floating perfectly upside down, is sweet, funny, a little morbid and oh so inspirational. Goldfish Ghost may go right over the heads of some youngins, but adults will feel a wide range of emotions as they journey along with Goldfish Ghost to find a friend. The ending will sweep over you like a beacon of light from a lighthouse and leave goosebumps everywhere, even in your heart, as you wonder if the afterlife is really this magnificent. 

Psst when you read it again, as I’m sure you will, be on the lookout for extra ghosts and intriguing happenings.

The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring by Gilbert Ford 

The illustrations are dynamite, outrageously original and an inspiration to anyone who's an artist, especially mixed media artists. The story is fascinating as well, especially the extra details like how the slinky got its name and where the inventor and his wife kept their slinky profits. Just like the slinky, this book is simply marvelous.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Most of the fam damnily

Rachel, Robert and I just got back from Tucson, where we had one of the best family vacations ever. Both my brothers, Scott and Rusty (AKA James) live there with their families.  And this trip was extra special because we talked my dad and his girlfriend, Lisa, who live at Lake of the Ozarks, into flying down as well.  Altogether we totaled 11 people and were the biggest, loudest, and happiest group of people in all of Tucson and Oro Valley.  It took three vehicles to get all of us around and you could hear us coming for miles.

I felt like a small piece of something so awesomely giant, so wonderfully reassuring and beautiful my heart could barely contain the feeling. Each day I woke up, threw myself into the crowd of family, and off we went, to storm through the city and its mountains with our laughter.  

It's that sense of belonging right there that glues me to life.  

Before I share pictures I will explain who everyone is.  Robert and Rachel are mine.  Kristin is Scott's girlfriend, and she has a daughter, Autumn, who is almost 4.   This was my first time meeting Kristin and Autumn and they are the bees knees and very lovable gals.  Heather is Rusty's wife and they have a daughter, Harper, who just turned 4. Like I said, lots of people.  Lots of awesome people.

When we arrived, a huge cookout was underway at Scott's, and it was instant chaos.  We spent the next few days hiking, eating amazing food, driving up Mount Lemmon, touring Tucson on bikes, shopping at 4th Ave, and visiting Rusty's work at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where the A-10 he works on has his name on it.

I have so many pictures from this trip and I really struggled to narrow down my favorites.  

We were having such a good time the first evening that we forgot to take pictures of my dad and his brother, Wayne, who along with his wife, Kate, dropped in for the cookout. Dad and Wayne hadn't seen each other in ten years and Scott, Rusty, and I were so young we only barely remembered them. It was a blast catching up with them. 

Rusty did manage to snap a picture, and though it's missing some people I still love it.

From left: Dad, Wayne, Kate, Kristin's dad and mom, Heather, Robert (behind me), me, Scott, and Rachel.  Floating around in this soup of people somewhere are two dogs and two kiddos but who knows where. 

If you like weird burgers, Lindy's should be on your radar. From left to right: Rachel, Scott, Dad, Lisa, Heather, Harper, Rusty, Robert, and me.  

Rachel, Robert, Scott, Rusty, and I hopped on bikes and went for an evening tour of Tucson. We saw many historical parts of Tucson like the nation's oldest Mexican restaurant and the El Tiradito Wishing Shrine.  We also ate a Sonoran hot dog which had lots of unknown toppings but was really tasty.

Part of the tour was through the famous rattlesnake bridge, which is where the tour guide snapped this picture.

We took a sunny hike at Honeybee Park

And climbed around an old dam

Robert snapped this excellent shot of Autumn, Kristin, and Scott

And towards the end Autumn caught a couple free rides

We had so much good food - my list of favorites include the orange cardamom pastry and cherry rose sencha tea at Prep & Pastry, PB bacon burger at Lindy's, scrambled eggs with bacon and chiles and a cochata (which is 1/2 cold brew coffee, 1/2 horchata) at Seis, picnicking at the top of Mount Lemmon and breakfasts at Scott and Kristin's house.

One morning there was even a Pac-Man tomato egg burrito.

The Pima Air and Space Museum was fascinating. Rusty talked about planes, how all the pieces came together, and how to fix them. Dad, who is a retired junker, talked about scrapping the planes. 

These legs belong to (from left) Robert, Scott, and Rusty

We spent hours exploring Mount Lemmon - hiking, sightseeing, picnicking, and even going up the slow and peaceful ski lift.

It was Memorial Day, and though Rachel and Harper didn't plan on dressing alike, it just magically happened.

This is a little more dangerous than it looks (for Rusty that is, because Heather wasn't pleased). 

And finally, a picture with Scott, Dad, and Rusty