Friday, October 13, 2017

interesting solution to an everyday problem

Yesterday, a patron approached the desk and asked if I could look up her library card number.  After looking it up and writing it down for her, she shrugged her shoulders dejectedly and said she may never find her library card again.  I told her I'd be happy to make her a new card and it was free, and she politely said no thanks and asked if she could use one of our permanent markers.  I fanned out a selection of markers for her (she chose black), and I went back to discharging books at a different computer.

A few minutes later I noticed the patron was still standing at the help desk.  I began walking towards the desk to ask her if she needed anything else, and that's when I noticed what she was doing.  She was very carefully writing her library card number on every single card in her wallet - credit card, insurance card, punch cards, everything.  She was very intent on the task at hand and didn't notice me approaching or backing away from the desk.

After several minutes, she put the cap back on the permanent marker, flipped through her stack of cards, and satisfied that her library card number was on each card, put them back into her wallet.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


A friend/coworker of mine used her thinker and googled the mysterious statue and her animal friends.

Turns out the statue's name is Hebe, and it looks like she's been demoted from Goddess to Geocache.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

orange flower

I have been in the mood for neutrals!  I've actually stepped back from journaling because a couple pages pretty much look like camouflage.  There's nothing wrong with camouflage of course.  I just don't want the last few months looking the same!  

Hopefully embroidering this flower fulfilled my current zest for neutrals.  It was a very peaceful project.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Autumn in my city

Though oak mites are gnashing their terrible chompers right now, weather in my neck of the woods has been perfect and worth every miserable oak mite bite.  

We've been gallivanting around the city, enjoying the weather and soaking up the beginnings of a beautiful autumn.

I cannot resist picking up hedge apples, even at the risk of my fingers going straight through a soft spot right into the rotten gunk inside.  So I applaud this unique way of displaying hedge apples and may even try something like it next year.

We've spent quite a bit of time in the creek when it's not raining.  I love how this ground cover is slowly sneaking its way down.  

And I have no idea what this is.  A shrine?  Is this a Saint? I'm enamored with it but only have speculations.  All of the figurines are animals and birds, and there are quite a few doves.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Last weekend Robert, Rachel, and I went to Sedona to hang out with... 

You guessed it!  More brothers!

Sedona is magical.  It's my new favorite place.

These are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip:

While we waited for the rest of the family to arrive, Robert, Rachel, and I did a little hiking in Sedona.  

While off-roading, we stumbled upon the Palatki pictographs. Naturally, like most unexpected moments of trips, this tiny hike along the cliffs was my favorite part of our Sedona trip.  I love this picture because it best describes the feeling of being tucked inside the cliffs.  From left: Rusty Heather, Scott, and Harper.

We went for another tiny hike on what is now my new favorite trail - the West Fork Creek Trail.  A few steps away from the car I found myself completely transported into a fairytale forest.  I cannot wait to go back and give it my full attention. This is Scott and Harper coming out of the fairytale forest.

We spent half a day at the grand canyon, which is a much more spectacular sight when I'm not squinting through a snow storm to see it.  Though it doesn't look it, I'm somewhere in the middle of this huddle.  Turns out Rachel is taller than me.  

Harper stole the show in most of our pictures because she's the cutest and she knows it.  

The more I looked at this mural in flagstaff, the more it drew me in.  I'm so glad I took a picture of it! 

On our last day, Scott and I explored the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  This is an exceptional garden well worth the steep price of $25 per person.  I loved every second we spent exploring the plants, artwork, and bugs.  Both of these pictures were taken by Scott, who had the patience to photograph the dragonfly while I simply stood dumbfounded by its presence.  We both agreed we've never seen a dragonfly stay still for so long - several minutes!

It was a relaxing, cathartic, and silly visit.  I feel very fortunate to have had so much brother time and family time these past couple weeks.  I will be joyfully scrapbooking my favorite moments for pretty much the rest of the year.   

Sunday, October 1, 2017

pretty much an A to Z month of reading

September was a great month for reading!

Here are my favorites:

Hand Lettering A to Z by Abbey Sy

I loved this book the very first moment I laid eyes on it. There's more than enough inspiration from the cover alone. I liked this book so much more than other lettering books because the letters are likable, no-fuss, and easy-to-read. There's also gobs of instruction, which seems to be lacking in other lettering books. I cannot wait to get started and will probably use a combination of styles in my first project simply because it's impossible to choose just one.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. Vs. Inequality byJonah Winter and Stacy Innerst 

This is the second book I've read about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The first, "I dissent," is pretty good. This one is excellent. I really loved this glimpse into her life. The moments about her mom were incredibly bittersweet. The nod to her childhood library made my heart glow. And then there's the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a very inspirational, hardworking, stellar lady who has positively impacted the lives of millions, possibly billions, of people.

P.S. The illustrations are marvelous, particularly the endpapers.

Love Is by Diane Adams and Claire Keane

The story was a little too sugary and perfect for my tastes. But I do have a fondness for happy endings, even when they make my eyes roll. And there's no way that illustrations of a girl and her duck can ever be too sweet, right? I loved the attention to detail and how the muted colors really spotlighted the little girl and her duck. My favorite moment is the giant hug shared between the little girl and her duck towards the end.

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of A Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann

The illustrations are flawless, imaginative, and profoundly absorbing. And the story is superb as well, with such a clever ending and fascinating blurbs about human astronauts at the end. Every piece the mouse used to construct his space shuttle was ingenious and appropriately-sized for a mouse. This is one of those rare books that consumed me the moment I opened it. It also gave me that same special feeling that my favorite hidey places gave me as a child. It's quite possible I shrunk to the same size as the mouse in this story and scurried everywhere he did, collecting parts, Once I begrudgingly closed the book, I became the size of a human once again. 

Lindbergh: The Tale of A Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann

I have nothing but praise for Torben Kuhlmann. I love Lindbergh as much as Armstrong, and for most of the same reasons. The illustrations are sublime and so incredibly absorbing. The story scoops the reader up and doesn't let go, not even at the very end, because it's so indelible. In this story owls and cats are after the mouse, and I was so delightfully spooked by the illustrations of the owls.

Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio

This is another wordless book that completely slurped me up. There are so many beautiful details - for instance on the subway when the crocodile has to stand with his head up so that he can squeeze in and the fact that he gets dressed for his job (which I'll keep mum). This is definitely one of those books that can be read over and over again in dozens of different ways. I also really love how the crocodile's morning routine is depicted - he dresses with care, moseys to work rather leisurely, buys a baked treat and flowers for a special lady, and even has a personalized locker at his 'office.'  It's very much how my six-year-old self imagined my adult self would get ready and commute to work.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hell was less than 2 steps away from my bathtub

I'm not sure if you have a classical music playlist, but I do, and I love it.

Any time I import classical music, or anything that's strictly instrumental, I dump it into my classical music playlist.  Occasionally there's a rude surprise - usually someone making intelligible sounds - and I remove it immediately.  The playlist's purpose is primarily for writing.  I almost always listen to terrible rap music while writing, lovely songs like "Big Pimpin'" and "Gunwalk."  I gobble up all silly and appalling rap music and my brains spits it back out in poetry.  Once I reach the final stages of editing, though, I like music that's entirely devoid of language.  None of that, "I got ninety nine problems but a bitch ain't one" stuff. I'm talking Beats Antique, A.R. Rahman, and pretty much all trailer music.  Silence occasionally works, but music is as necessary as my heartbeat. Sometimes I even confuse the two sounds.

I love my classical music playlist and occasionally listen to it while enjoying long bubble baths. During a recent bubble bath I played my classical music playlist on shuffle.  As I lazily flipped through the latest Oprah magazine, my music calmly progressed through Max Richter, Chopin, and George Winston.

All of a sudden this song came on and I nearly flooded the bathroom and injured myself when I leapt several feet into the air.

(Two Steps From Hell - All the King's Horses)

After I calmed myself down, wrung out my magazine, and mopped up the bathroom I realized that maybe I need to have another classical music playlist.  One that plays only calm classical music.  

I keep coming back to this song though.  I prepare myself for it - wear a helmet, make sure I'm nowhere near the bathtub, hold my hand over my heart to keep it from flying out - you know the drill.

And then I crank up the volume and let it rip.  I can't get enough of it.   

Monday, September 25, 2017


My brother, Jason, was here for a few days.  Like our previous visits in 2010 and 2016, it was such a fun visit!  We ate a lot of good food, spent plenty of time yakking our way through neighborhood walks, and even had a movie night while anxiously waiting for Rachel to come home from the homecoming dance.  

This is Rachel just before homecoming!  

We couldn't help it.  We ate a lot of toast.  

We made this picture happen by using Jason's tripod, Robert's Apple watch, and our trash bin, which was conveniently at the curb today - the classic nerdy selfie.  

We miss you already, Jason!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Caroline is officially available!

Have you read every book Laura Ingalls Wilder has ever written? Did you watch every season of Little House on the Prairie over and over again and can hear Melissa Gilbert cry “Pa!” just as clear as can be?  Did you even read Roger Lea MacBride's spinoff series about Laura’s daughter, Rose? Perhaps you’ve visited all the museums and still have documentation stating you belong to a LHOTP fan club you joined as a child. If you're nodding your head yes to everything I've said you should pull out your calico bonnet and curl up in your distressed rocking chair with Caroline. Caroline is a fictionalized portrayal of Caroline Ingalls during the Ingalls’ Kansas journey. Besides being a must-read for any LHOTP fan, it is beautifully written, well-researched, and celebrates the back-breaking life of the exceptional woman who gave us Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ingalls’ Kansas journey, it was a grueling and dangerous move from Wisconsin to Indian Territory in Kansas.  Shortly after arriving in Kansas, Charles built a little house with the help of a neighbor (Mr. Edwards!), Caroline Ingalls gave birth to their third child, Carrie, and the family settled into prairie life.  The prairie life portrayed in Wilder’s LHOTP books is a lot different when read through the eyes of Caroline Ingalls, who was quite the protective ma.  Wolves, sickness, Native Americans, and fire no longer sound like the deliciously scary stuff I read as a kid inhaling one Laura book after another.  They’re truly terrifying from Caroline Ingalls' perspective, a perspective that became mine as this book consumed me.  As you anxiously flip through the pages you will feel the jarring of the wagon and your rocking chair will disappear.  Caroline Ingalls' tears, as she struggles to overcome fear, bitterness, and self-pity will fall from your face.   

But Caroline is so much more than the back-breaking and tireless work of two pioneers staking a claim in Indian Territory.  Balancing the fear and exhaustion is a wealth of love, resourcefulness, and gratitude.  Caroline Ingalls is portrayed as strong-willed, passionate, deliberate, and patient.  Behind her composure, however, is a flurry of wild, unrestrained thoughts.  And though these thoughts may have never existed, Sarah Miller makes them seem perfectly plausible.  I was so caught up in Caroline I felt just as fiercely protective of her family as Caroline Ingalls herself. When Caroline Ingalls paused before scolding Laura and Mary because she “did not want to soil the air further with the sound of her own scolding,” I breathed that same air.  Though I’ve never made food over an open fire, I felt the frustration that she kept just out of reach of her family so they wouldn’t taste it. The exceptional writing and beautiful portrayal of a phenomenal woman balance the extreme circumstances perfectly and make this a riveting read. 

If you’re a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan like me, you will want to get a copy of this as soon as possible. Even if you’ve never read any of the LHOTP books or watched a single episode of the television series, Caroline is an excellent choice for anyone who loves historical fiction, engaging writing, or a fierce, motherly protagonist. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

porridge is one of my favorite words

It's been awhile since I tackled anything in the kitchen.  I can easily survive on salads, canned fish and peanut butter smeared on pretty much anything.  It also helps that there's a chipotle 10 minutes away that's easy to walk to and Robert makes dinner a few nights a week when he's around.  We're busy people, and most days I'll happily pick family time, writing, librarying, and tennis over cooking or tinkering around in the kitchen. 

But I do love to cook.  It just happens to be at the bottom of the very long list of things I love.  

Today I carved out a little time to try out a new porridge.  I am a hot cereal fanatic.  Oatmeal, farina, quinoa, grits... You name it, I love it.  When I read about amaranth porridge in Lucid Foods I was instantly intrigued and knew I had to try it.  It has a lot of protein and fiber and is easy to cook. After three different grocery stores, I finally found it at Whole Foods.  

I soaked a cup of amaranth in two cups of water overnight.  Though I googled it and discovered many people thought the soaking was unnecessary, I went ahead and followed the recipe from Lucid Foods.

This morning I brought the amaranth to a boil in the water I soaked it in.  From there I let it simmer for 12 minutes, and it was ready to go.  

Because I like different toppings on each of my hot cereals (brown sugar and milk with oatmeal, chocolate chips and milk with farina, cashews, honey, chocolate chips, banana with quinoa) I knew that I needed to try the amaranth many different ways.  So I set up a taste test and experimented for awhile (I had way too much fun doing this).

I tried it with chocolate chips, banana, peanut butter, brown sugar, vanilla and butter in a myriad of combinations.  I quickly discovered that the banana, chocolate chips, peanut butter combination was the best.  Though I liked none of the brown sugar combinations, I did notice that the vanilla really popped.  So I added a dash of vanilla to the banana, chocolate chips, and peanut butter and it was delicious.  I'll definitely make this again, and am feeling pretty confident that the remaining servings from today can be warmed up and will taste just fine.  

While making the amaranth porridge I also made a green mojito smoothie recipe from an unknown source.  It was delicious and I highly recommend it.

For the green mojito smoothie:

1 cup water
handful of spinach or mixed greens (I used frozen)
1 cup pineapple
1 lime (recipe calls for half, but I'm definitely tossing the whole lime in next time)
1/4 cup mint (Robert's mom, Audrey, has a mess of it in her garden right now, so thanks Audrey!)
handful of ice (I like to pour my smoothie over ice rather than blending it, but that's up to you)

It was such an awesome breakfast!

Monday, September 4, 2017

a lost bookmark finds its human

Saturday, while checking in a stack of books at the library, I noticed a bookmark poking out of a mystery.  The bookmark was a made of metal and looked like a stained glass window.  Because the bookmark looked special and I knew what book it came from, I was able to look up the patron.

Just as I was picking up the phone to call him, a patron dinged the bell.  It was a quick interaction. The patron handed me a hold he didn't want anymore and moseyed on over to the self checkout to check out the rest of his books.  As I walked away, I read the hold slip, which only has the first four letters of the patron's last name, first initial of their first name, and last four digits of the card number.

I read it again.  Could it be?

I called out his name hopefully.  He looked up from checking out his books and gave me a strange look. I handed him the bookmark and told him I was just about to call him.  His strange look instantly changed to gratitude and shock.  "My wife gave me this a long time ago!"  His hands were shaking as he slipped the bookmark into one of the books he had just checked out.  With a look of genuine sincerity, he thanked me and left.  

Friday, September 1, 2017

gobs of imagination

Last month I read a few good books.  I've been slowly making my way through Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals, and though I haven't loved them, there have been beautiful moments scattered throughout the books, enough beauty for me to keep reading them, but quite frustrating because the series has taken up a lot of time.

I still have one more to read, and currently I wouldn't recommend them to others to read. Harsh, I know!  At the moment my recommendation is to find a list of quotes by Madeleine L'Engle and skip the books.  But for whatever reason, I feel like I need to finish them, if only to bask in one more amazing and insightful line.  And silly me, I'm hopeful that the last book is going to be brilliant.

What's funny is the one I just finished, Two-Part Invention (I'm reading them out of order due to availability issues), had a few of those beautiful moments, which I saved in my phone with only page numbers.  After reading it, I tossed the book in the donation bin at the library, where it was promptly boxed and shipped to our sorting facility.  Now I have to request a copy through interlibrary loan to retrieve those lines.  For a couple days this wasn't funny at all, but now I'm laughing heartily at my idiocy.

Dear Madeleine L'Engle, why did you have to write such moderately intriguing journals when you lead such an interesting life?

I did read two fantastic children's books this month.  Well, one book didn't have any words, but no matter.  Here are my August favorites:

The White Book by Silvia Borando, Elisabetta Pica, and Lorenzo Clerici (apparently it takes A LOT of authors to write a wordless book)

This wordless book is filled with more meaning and imagination than many books that actually have words. I think it shines a light on the wondrous world of play, a world that only children know the exact whereabouts of.  

Philomena's New Glasses by Brenna Maloney

Before I read this, I had no idea how much I needed to read a silly book about three guinea pig sisters. Personally, I do not like the weird noises or smells that guinea pigs make, so they've never made my favorite creatures list. After reading this, however, I've discovered that I can't get enough of guinea pigs who do adorable things with handbags and glasses and outfits. I laughed and squealed the entire time I read it (and probably sounded a little like a guinea pig).

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

you just never know when you're gonna run into some hungry cats

At the library today I helped a charming patron find a few books. Once she was ready to check out I asked for her library card.  After placing her car keys on the check out table she paused, and with a huge grunt and a loud slam, hefted her bag onto the table. Several cans of cat food rolled out. I couldn't help myself and peeked into her bag.  It was completely packed to the top with cans of cat food. The only books she had were sitting next to her keys on the check out table.  After digging around in her bag for a moment she found her library card, and with a huge grin on her face, loudly proclaimed, "gotta have my cat food and library card; they're the most important things to have with you."  

I was utterly baffled.  For a hopeful moment I wondered if maybe we had some kitties in the library I didn't know about.  I mean this lady had car keys so why didn't she leave that big bag of cat food in the car?  Is it possible she thinks she'll need to have the cat food at a moment's notice?  And that much cat food?!?

Even after I found out she was two quarts shy of a gallon, the patron was just as delightful and charming.  We had a pleasant conversation, and she left carrying her books under one arm, and her giant bag of cat food weighing down her other arm.

I think this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Sometimes dead, moldy things express the most life.

Monday, August 28, 2017

the gifts we unknowingly give

Saturday at the library wasn't going too great. After battling three super long digital content questions that I wasn't able to fully resolve, I felt like a failure.  After awhile, whenever a patron asked me a question, I was secretly thinking, boy have you picked the wrong person to ask for help.  

But I gave each patron everything I had and even made some awkward phone calls in the hopes of finding solutions.  Surprisingly, all three patrons were still appreciative and thanked me for going above and beyond.

I think "above and beyond" translates to dropping them off on a strange planet and shouting, "Good luck! See you later!" as I rocketed away to help someone else.

After a long day of not being very helpful, I was flustered, drained, and silently berating myself.  I was ready to find my own faraway planet and have a lonely pity party.  

Just as we were closing the library though, something happened that made me feel alright with the world again.  A giant of a man, no doubt a firefighter, wrestling champion, and construction worker all rolled into one, had something very special tucked under one of his enormous arms.   

It was this:

Inside the book was one of my staff picks bookmarks.

Whether he was checking it out for himself or one of his kids, seeing him with the book erased all doubts and frustrations.  He will never know it, but he gave me back that sense of belonging I have whenever I'm at the library.  

Tomorrow is a brand new day, and I think I'm ready for it.

Friday, August 25, 2017


So you're probably wondering whether we saw the eclipse on Monday.

Yes we did, and it was awesome!

Robert, Rachel, and I journeyed to Mokane, MO to hang out with Robert's family and watch the eclipse in its totality.

We had such a rad time, enjoyed the company immensely, and are already making plans to see the next eclipse in 2024.  Though there were concerns about it being cloudy, we were incredibly fortunate to have perfect weather and a whopping 2 minutes and 30 seconds of eerie, magical totality.  As a bonus we also saw the contrails of the NASA planes that were tracking it.  It was a phenomenal experience.  

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.