As we prepare to put our old house on the market, I’ve been busy eradicating all the signs from doors and walls.

Yes, you read that right.

My old house has signs pasted in various places all over.

When my son was small he adored traffic signs, and we made regular trips to educational stores where they were sold in boxes of various sizes. He would have jumped onto this custom signs website in a hot minute, and had the time of his life.  As he got older and more artistically inclined, he made up his own signs, and stuck them to doors jambs, table legs, cupboards – all the lower-down places that were close to his line of vision and in the roadways for his (also homemade) cars.

Even though my son has been grown and gone for almost 15 years, I never had the heart to take down all of his signs. They were such a neat reminder of the way he was as a little boy – creative and compulsive all at the same time.

I guess we all have signs that point to the things we’re most interested in, things in our homes that scream out our interests and obsessions. It doesn’t take visitors to my house very long to notice that I’m a book nerd – the signs are everywhere, not only in stacks of books piled on tables, but in paintings of women reading that adorn the walls and the ceiling high shelves that line every corner.

Signs like these are so indicative of who we are, so evocative of memories of times gone by.

So even though the actual signs may soon be gone from the doors and walls, I won’t soon forget what they stood for.

Really Into Real Estate

Never in a million years would  I have imagined that within the space of 10 months I would be embroiled in selling two houses and buying another.


Aren’t I the girl that just longs to lie around in the backyard with her nose buried in books?

Does it even matter to me where that backyard is as long as it’s quiet and no one bothers me while I’m reading?

Isn’t reading the thing that interests me most? Not selling and buying houses?

Yet, here I am, fresh from selling a home in Florida, purchasing a home in Michigan, and about to attempt selling yet another home in Michigan.

I have learned a lot of thing in all this home buying-selling experience, and one of them is that the realtor you engage to help you in the process is key to whether it’s successful or not.

Working with a realtor is like anything else. Whether you’re looking for Naples realtors, Northville Realtors, or Calgary Realtors, you have to find someone you are comfortable talking to, comfortable sharing information with, and someone you trust.

Because I work a lot with people on the internet, I was comfortable choosing a realtor based on their website. The realtor I chose to sell my home in Naples has a beautiful website -upscale, interactive, fast loading.  If you’re looking for Calgary real estate this is the kind of website you’d want to visit.

Just remember, no matter what your real estate situation, whether you’re looking for a California Realtor or a Calgary Realtor, the person you choose to help you is one of the most important decisions you will make in the entire process.

Much like the process of choosing a good book, you have to be a good fit in all the important categories.

So choose wisely, and the experience will be satisfactory for all.






TLC Book Tours: The Baker’s Daughter

In 1945, Elsie Schmidt was a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she was for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.

Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiancé, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines can often be blurred.

Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.

I’ve affectionately dubbed 2012 as my Summer of Reading Historically. At least 80% of my summer reading turned out be historical novels. It’s not surprising – I love history, I love literature, and when the two come together in a well-crafted and interesting story, I’m there.

The Baker’s Daughter certainly fit all my criteria. I loved the way Sarah McCoy wove the Elsie and Reba’s stories together in the present day, while periodically whisking the reader back to Nazi Germany to fill us in on Elsie’s past.

And most of all, I loved the way she brought all the elements of the story together and created satisfying endings all around.

I finished the book about a month ago, and have since loaned it to several nearby friends, while recommending it to many more online.

If you’re thinking of making Autumn 2012 your Season of Reading Historically, you won’t find a better place to start.

Thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel.


TLC Book Tours: Miss Me When I’m Gone

A book within a book within a book…

A reporter asking questions about a reporter asking questions…

Sounds like one of those Russian nesting dolls, doesn’t it? At the very least, it sounds like confusing reading.

But Emily Arsenault, author of Miss Me When I’m Gone, makes it work. The book is an engaging, fast paced mystery about Gretchen Waters, a writer who dies “accidentally” while on a book tour, her very pregnant friend, Jamie, who becomes both literary executor and detective, and the series of strange parallels that seem to haunt both of them. It’s also about country music. Gretchen’s book Tammyland is a memoir based on Gretchen’s divorce as seen through the eyes of her favorite country music. And she dies while working on her second book, which has turned out to be an investigative book about her own mother’s mysterious death, 20 years before.

I know – another nesting doll.

Suddenly, the circumstances surrounding Gretchen’s death become sinister, Jamie finds herself in peril, and before you know it, the nesting dolls have been upended and are rolling all around the room.

Miss Me When I’m Gone is a fun, entertaining read, and Arsenault deftly juggles all these story lines right until the very end. I enjoyed the way she wove classic country music songs and performers into the story via Tammyland excerpts (the book within a book part I mentioned). Jamie’s ambivalence about her pregnancy was a little hard to stomach at times, and her growing obsession with Gretchen’s death (when the pair hadn’t been terribly close for some time) was a bit of a stretch.

All in all, Miss Me When I’m Gone is the kind of book that’s perfect to take on that last weekend at the beach or to settle in with while you’re waiting to pick the kids up from their first days of school. You’ll get caught up in the story right away, and time will fly.

Thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to read this book.

Getting Re-Acquainted with an “Old Friend”

Back in the mid 1980’s when I was deep in the throes of motherhood, I looked forward to reading Anna Quindlen’s wonderful column “Life in the Thirties.” It was syndicated in our Detroit Free Press, back in the day when my morning newspaper was just as much life’s blood as my morning coffee. Anna seemed to get me in ways that none of my real friends did – she knew about that tug to create, that urge to lose yourself in books and words, and how it was sometimes difficult to maintain the balance between caring for the ones you loved and caring for yourself.

This summer I’m happy to have gotten re-acquainted with the Anna I once knew via her new book Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. I’m over at All Things Girl talking about it.

Grab a cup of coffee and join in the conversation – Anna and I would love to have you.

The Sunday Salon: Children on My Mind

In the confluence of events that is the reading life, the fate and experience of children is much on my mind this morning, and the thoughts are enhanced by feeling a particularly deep longing to stroke my grandson’s silky cheek and hear my son’s laughter.

Today I’m reading The Baker’s Daughter, by Sarah McCoy, another in a long list of summer books (The Sandcastle Girls, The Chaperone, The Shoemaker’s Wife) that astound me with their perfectly expressed sense of time, place, and truth. Traveling between present day and Nazi Germany, McCoy invites us to reflect on the cost of what happens when good people do nothing, and when the cost to the individual finally becomes too high to bear.

One of the young women in this novel is involved in the Lebensborn Program, established by Himmler in 1935 for widowed or unmarried women who had become pregnant through their association with SS officers. Seen as a way to expand the best attributes of the Aryan race, there were strict provisions for the mothers involved. As the  Nazi eugenic program expanded, so did Lebensborn, until there were numerous “homes” throughout Germany, Norway, and Sweden. It is believed that the program evolved into a “breeding ground” for young women who were impregnated by SS officers and their children adopted out in an effort to ensure the future of the Aryan race.

Somehow, in all the reading I’ve done over the past 50 years, I’d never heard of this “program” before.

Or if I had, I had blocked it from my mind because the thought was so horrible to contemplate.

In McCoy’s novel, one of the infant children (a boy) is deemed “not quality,” and is taken away and ostensibly adopted out of the country. However, his mother later hears rumors that such “rejects” are actually poisoned and their bodies burned to eradicate any trace of an “imperfect” specimen.

I am still astonished at the cruelties human beings can perpetuate on one another in the name of misguided principle.

So I read this after spending some time talking this weekend with friends who are parents and teacher, people who are all concerned about the fate of children in 21st century American where the pressures to excel and achieve seem to outweigh the need for personal responsibility or the desire to live a decent life of simple happiness and ordinary human goodness.

And today I read this post (thanks to Beth Kephart, who always points me toward enlightenment of one sort or another) about a book (Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success, by Madeline Levine) that addresses this very subject, and a reviewer who has this to say:

“…the inconvenient truth remains that not every child can be shaped and accelerated into Harvard material. But all kids can have their spirits broken, depression induced and anxiety stoked by too much stress, too little downtime and too much attention given to external factors that make them look good to an audience of appraising eyes but leave them feeling rotten inside.”

We must learn to value our children, not simply as conduits to fulfill our personal dreams, commodities to ensure our future, or examples of a pure nationality, but as human beings with the universal and lifelong need to be loved and cherished and whose well being depends not on how much money they make but on how much satisfaction they attain from their work, their relationships, their self image, and their place in the world.

Now I wish I could go and hug my children, large and small.


Simply Reading: The Shoemaker’s Wife

Adriana Trigiani writes the kinds of stories I really enjoy – books about family and relationships. Her pride in her Italian heritage and her deep sense of family values and integrity shines through in all her novels.

But never more so that in The Shoemaker’s Wife, her latest novel  which is based on the true love story of her grandparents.

Enza Ravinelli and Ciro Lazarotti grow up in an idyllic mountain village in northern Italy in the early days of the 20th century, where they meet when Ciro is hired to dig the grave for Enza’s beloved baby sister. There is an instant bond between them, but fate seems determined to keep them apart. The two young people immigrate to American (separately), and although their paths continue to cross something always keeps them from getting together.

I am so enjoying getting to know these two people, and getting this glimpse of life in American in those days pre and post WWI. It was an amazing time for many people who care here from different countries and suddenly had so many opportunities available for them. Though Enza and Ciro had both hoped to stay in American just long enough to earn enough money to build a better life in Italy, American soon became more home to them than even the village they had loved so much.

This is a great story on many levels, and even though I’m pretty sure they’ll get together in the end, I’m eagerly reading to see what happens in between.



The Sunday Salon: Pondering Periodicals

When I was little, it was the glossy pages that appealed to me.

And the smell -perhaps I should call it the aroma, because that sounds so much sweeter – and the aroma of fresh ink on smooth glossy paper is sweet indeed.

So I sort of understand the mystique Travis Kurkowski is writing about in his essay (Dreaming about the Past: Is Online Publishing Permanent Enough?, Creative Nonfiction, Spring 2012), which discusses whether online publishing (i.e., blogging) is as satisfying as print publication (i.e., magazines/journals).

“A blog is not a magazine,” Kurkowski writes. “The online world is not the print world. The online world is loose, informal and constantly revisable; print is hard, largely formal and inherently static.”

I’ve been pondering the differences between the two, knowing for sure there are differences. Not that one is bad and the other is good – no such thing at all.

They are just different.

Reading blogs for me is like shopping at art fairs. I  meander all around first and then maybe I’ll go back to some of the more interesting booths and poke around in the jewelry or photography or hand-painted tiles with cute sayings on them. I never spend more than a few minutes, because most everything I need to see is right there within the tiny square footage of the artist’s tent. Perhaps the artist is hovering around, and we exchange a few words (a “comment”).

“So interesting!” I might say. “Very creative.” “Lovely.”

But magazines – at least the ones I regularly read – require more lengthy perusal. I fold my Newsweek in half and tuck it into my oversized purse to read while I linger over coffee at Panera, or to pass the time between classes when I’m accompanying at the middle school. During the summer, I keep a basket for magazines under my comfy chair on the back porch, and sometimes spend a hour with a glass of iced tea and an essay or short story from The Sun. I save up the More and Oprah magazines for plane rides, because they occupy me for the whole of those times when electronic devices are not permitted and provide just enough distraction from the noisy, cramped quarters.

Occasionally I might underline a particularly interesting sentence or passage. Save one to pass along to a friend. Tear out a page I want to keep in my idea file.

These are things you can do with magazines.

I think what Kurkowski is trying to remind us of is that print has a sense of permanence while digital is transient. Once those words are placed on the magazine page, they aren’t going anywhere. But online content can be eradicated from existence with the ease of an administrator’s key stroke.

Online publishing is certainly here to stay, and I’m glad about it. I enjoy my daily forays through the art fairs of the digital world.

But I still like the feel of those glossy pages under my fingers, the stunning photos in living color, and the sweet aroma of printer’s ink.

How about you? Do you think there’s an important difference between online periodicals and print?