Monday, September 30, 2013

My Little Library

Some places you just take for granted.  The grocery store.  The State House.  Your library.

I love my library.  I'm there once a week, usually Friday.  I get at least 3 books and a couple of movies, maybe a CD.  This month I've read Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist (I'm still not right.  Like really good writers, Brady writes about things you don't understand well enough you understand it viscerally) and now I'm working through James Rollins' The Blood Gospel (Can you accept vampires who take Jesus seriously?  I'll be thinking about that one for a while).

There's the main library and a few neighborhood centers.  But I love the main one.

I'm a sucker for opera and it's over-the-top emotionalism.  When I first heard Puccini I'd found a home.  And movies.  So I still check out The Lady Vanishes and every Cary Grant movie ever made.  The Thin Man movies left their mark as well.   And the dancers, particularly American boy Gene Kelly.  I marveled at Fred, but I loved Gene.

I can still find stuff that feeds my soul there.  I need something with a real story in it.  I need characters with good hearts capable of true love.  I like exotic locals and food I've never tasted before.  I cute my teeth on murder mysteries.  So I'm writing one now and I know that the thousand or so I've checked out will somehow shape my story.

So when Bev called me a few months ago and asked me to be a library ambassador, I was more than happy to help.  My job:  just tell people what a great place the library is and how much it matters in our community.  Easy peasy.

Last week, there was a little celebration to show off the ambassadors recognition wall.  Actually, a window.  Our names were painted on the spines of books—my favorite place.  I saw friends from my church, friends who were writers,  friends who worked in the hospital.  It is lively in a Dr. Suess sort of way.  Can you say More. Than. Pleased.  ???

My one library mishap:  One day I was having a chocolate attack.  You can have one of those just about any time.  And so I did.  I opened a little bag of M & M peanuts, poured them into a pocket and forgot they were there.   That is. . .  until I was deep in the fiction stack and leaned over to read the bottom shelf and all the little M & Ms fell out and rattled down the stacks.  They rattled the whole way across the room. A long, long ways.

So this week, Josh Groban is in town for a concert.  Yeah, that Josh Groban.  He'd captured the exclamation point at the end of  Library!, which was donated by our local pizza company.  The photo showed up on his web site today.

More. Than. Pleased.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dang Dumb Luck

I was hungry.

Call it September's Blue Plate Special.  I thought I was cleaning out the fridge.  There was half a baked potato, a white onion,  black kale, a handful of itty bitty tomatoes, basil, and some mashed up garlic.

And it turned into lunch pretty much all on it's own.

So I melted some margarine, a better thing than butter, in this instance, because it took more heat.  I  heated a cast iron skillet, which I'm sure had a lot to do with this.  Tossed in the onion and the kale (took out the spines and cut the kale into bit-sized pieces.)  Then I added some potato and the garlic.  If I'd had some sweet red pepper, I'd have used that too.  Last, I tossed in the tomatoes and pulled the leaves off the basil.  Tossed it all together to cover the veg with the fat and let it go for awhile.

Then I got distracted.

A football game was on television, and it was right at one of the good parts.  I checked the e-mail and sent a couple of photos to Lea, the kid who borrowed my camera and shot almost 200 photos in four days.  (Her photo is at the top of the page.)  I ironed part of a shirt in the bedroom and cleaned the toilet.  Then scrubbed my hands and checked on the game.  I began to smell lunch.

So, back into the kitchen. Time for the salt and pepper.  The onions had become sweet; the kale and basil had become paper-thin, stand-up-chips, the tomatoes had cooked through and browned in spots,  and the potatoes were crispy brown.  Ready.  The little tomatoes exploded with flavor—all of the veg did.   You'll  have to figure out how long it took.

It was perfect.  A French country cook could not have done it better.  Everything had carmelized, gotten crispy, had cooked itself through.  I had a glass of milk, but a cold beer or a glass of icy white wine would do as well.

You have to understand, this was totally an accident.  Nothing was planned, timed, or measured.

And yet, and yet.

Some days, you just get lucky.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Judy and her New Book

A couple decades ago I decided  (actually I was no dang good at anything else) to write.  Write what?  Didn't know.  Make a living?  Still up in the air.  Find compatriots who were along the same path.  Got that covered.

One of the people I met was a journalist, Judy Steele, who was writing a column for our local paper.  She was the beloved journalist, but she was also hungering to write something much more serious, much more visceral.  And because we belonged to the same writers' group, I heard big passages of a fiction book that Judy was writing, set on a plantation in Brazil.  She had spent her formative years as a Volunteer for the Peace Corps—in Brazil and had loved the people and the landscape.

Something that never leaves  your soul?  Probably something you should write about.  That's what Judy did.  But then she got distracted.  In the most massive way possible.  Her sister-in-law caught a big, bad cancer and it turned the whole family on its ear.  After years of treatment.  Judy's sister-in-law made it, thanks to good medicine and a good family.

The book went into the dresser drawer.  And after a cancer scare, people are just not in their right minds for awhile.  But Judy revived her heart and her mind, and moved forward.

So here we are,  two decades later, I  attended a book-signing party last night for Judy, now Judith McConnell Steele, a published novelist. and Mill Park Publishing, owned by the astute and energetic Elaine Ambrose. I am beyond pleased.  This is a serious, lyrical, sensitive, elegant book, one of great depth.  I'm sensing that the book will have a long and fabulous publishing run.

And, thanks to Elaine,  Judy is getting to do the things authors need to do: get great reviews, meet the people who love your words and your story, and sign lots and lots of books.

You can look up Mill Park Publishing and order a copy.   

Monday, September 9, 2013

One Thing That's Next

So, last week, we went to an evening workshop for cancer survivors.  It was held at the hospital where my cousin had her treatments.  Most of you know how scary that time of our lives was.  Now we're over five years out.  Still left a big mark.  Altered Julie's body.  Altered my brain cells.

One of the things I most needed when we were in treatment (the whole family is in treatment, no news to you), was to see and visit with people who had been through it, who had come through it.  No one gets through it unscathed, but they do get through it.  I needed to see that.  Even a wave from somebody who'd been through cancer was enough to reclaim my right mind for a few days.  Priceless.

So, I signed up to become a lay minister at church and asked if I could be the support person from our church  for cancer patients.  I didn't care whether people were part of our congregation or whether they were sick people in need of a person to tell their story too.  People who needed and wanted prayer could have a prayer.  I could be that person.  That living evidence of a return to life and health.

The great good news is that more and more people are getting better.  The medicines are better, the research is richer and provides more answers, the docs and nurses are wonderful, wonderful.  We love them.  Hope is very real.  In fact, I don't much believe there is such a thing as a false hope.  Hope is hope.

So, I am unafraid.  And last week, I talked to the social worker from the clinic and they welcomed me.  They said that community resources, and that includes churches, were incredibly important.  I'll get to be the person bearing presents: a prayer shawl, a healing journal, some cookies.  Visits, prayers, and daily encouraging e-mails.  We'll obey the privacy laws, too.

So we're getting started.

Wish me luck.