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.

The Sunday Salon: All A-Swelter

Like much of the country, we’ve been in the midst of a heatwave. For days now I’ve avoided opening the door or even the curtains, saying frequent prayers to the gods of electricity and freon, that they might continue to bless my house with the gift of cool air, thinking with great pity of those who are not so graciously blessed and must find other ways to keep survive.

Truthfully, I’ve not been fit for much these days except lying on the sofa bolstered by books and magazines. I lapped up Anna Quindlen’s new book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Let me tell you, reading her thoughts on middle age was akin to sitting down with an old friend I hadn’t spoken with in 30 years. From there I took on Natalie Serber’s collection of short stories, Shout Her Lovely Name, which was in some ways a disturbing dissection of the relationship between mothers and daughters, but nevertheless I was appreciative of Serber’s ability to go right to the secret heart of her characters and lay it bear.

Now I’m reading the magnificent work of art that is Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. Somehow I’ve managed to miss reading this book for all these years (it was first published in 1980!!) and came across a brand new copy hiding away in the basement bookstack. It is a heart-wrenching beauty of a book, every sentence a poetic masterpiece that traces the legacy of loss and insecurity and makes your heart cry out for comfort and protection. Not light summer reading, certainly, but the kind of book that feeds the soul.

Today I will venture out, happy that a cool breeze has blown through during the night, to meet with friends and see the musical Wicked (another cultural phenomenon I seem to have missed until now).

Happy reading, and stay cool!

Simply Reading: The Bitter Truth

Seems I’m stuck in a somewhat historical mode with my reading lately.

First The Sandcastle Girls, centered around the Armenian Genocide in the early 20th century, then The Green Shore, which looks at the lives of a Greek family affected by a military junta which occurred in the late 1960’s.

And now The Bitter Truth, the third Bess Crawford mystery, in which this intrepid WWI nursing sister finds herself embroiled in a very interesting domestic situation involving an aristocratic military man, his wife, his extended family, and a long dead child.

I find this to be my favorite of the Bess Crawford series so far. Perhaps I’m finally warming up to Bess, getting to know her quirks a little bit better. She’s a strong woman, and I love the way she stands up to priggish men like Roger Ellis, the main character in this book. Women were still very much dominated by the male species, but Bess will have none of it, and follows her own standard no matter the cost.

I admire that in any woman and frankly wish I had a bit more of that kind of moxie.

As in each of these novels, Bess spends a bit of time talking about her entry into the nursing profession, and how the need for nurses (brought about by WWI) enabled so many women to enter professional life who might not have had an opportunity to do so. Social custom made it impossible for intelligent women of a certain class to “work.” Unlike the 21st century female, who begins thinking eagerly about professions at a very early age, attends many a CollegeWeekLive college fair or college finder event, and plans her future based on what she wants to do, not what society prescribes for her. A benefit of a horrible war, but at least something good came of it.

As I race through this engaging mystery, I’m glad to know I have a copy of the newest installment, An Unmarked Grave, waiting in the wings.  (Watch for my review on July 2, 2012, as part of the TLC Book Tours.)

TLC Book Tours: And Laughter Fell From the Sky

Multicultural love stories are close to my heart. My son is married to a woman from Thailand, my father cast aside the match arranged for him in the Armenian community to marry my Scotch-Irish mother. Even though the couple in Jyotsna Sreenivasan’s novel, And Laughter Fell From the Sky, are both Indian, their lifestyles and experiences make them almost foreign to one another.

Raskia, an extremely dutiful daughter who lives at home despite her career and financial independence, has agreed to an arranged marriage to satisfy her very traditional parents. But when she bumps in to Abhay, an old family friend, sparks fly. Yet Abhay has not followed the path an Indian son should. After leaving university, he has hopped around from place to place, incessantly brooding about what he should do with his life. Because of his unsettled behavior, Abhay is not deemed suitable for Rasika. She has to come to terms with her own needs and find the courage to defy the expectations of her family and her heritage.

Sreenivasan says the inspiration for this novel came from Edith Wharton’s A House of Mirth (which happens to be a favorite of mine). “I have always been fascintaed and frustrated by the character of Lily Bart in Wharton’s novel,” Sreenivasan says. “Her situation – the need she felt to fit into society by marrying the right kind of person – seemed so similar to the situation faced by many Indian Americans, who feel pressure to enter into an arranged marriage. So, I wanted to explore a Lily-type character who is a modern Indian-American woman.”

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Rasika along this journey of discovery into her true heart and spirit. And Laughter Fell from the Sky is an enlightening and entertaining novel, and perfect for summer reading.

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

The Sunday Salon- An Uncommon Education

It’s like this, Naomi…it can be dangerous to look forward too much, to think always of what should be instead of accepting what is.

from An Uncommon Education, by Elizabeth Percer

My mother has been ill recently, necessitating a couple of trips to the hospital emergency room. On the second occasion, the wait was extremely long and hospital personnel were not overly helpful. Their attitude, fueled by my own anxiety and sense of powerlessness in the wake of my mother’s pain, led me to speak rudely – something I very rarely do.

As I thought about it, I realized my frustration and ultimate loss of manners was a projection of what I call my inner child spoiled brat. I’ve led something of a charmed life, really, a treasured only child whose parents and grandparents moved heaven and earth to make her happy. Although I’m long past childhood, there is undoubtedly a small part of me that expects the world to offer me the same service.

In An Uncommon Education young Naomi Feinstein (also a treasured only child) is learning a somewhat different lesson from her father, who instructs her through his love of history and mythology and culture. One of his big lessons (as evidenced by the quote above) is to accept what IS and not anguish over unfulfilled expectations.

A good lesson to learn from a new book on this rainy Sunday morning.

Something else I’d like to learn more about is creating websites. Having a web designer/graphic artist in the family has spoiled me in terms of doing my own design or setting up my own hosting. It’s always been so easy to turn it over to my son. But now that he has a new baby in the house, I’m reluctant to add any more items to his to-do list. So I’m hoping to find some other alternatives. I’m sure books will come in handy in this process of self-education as well.

Now tell me, what is your reading teaching you on this Sunday?

Rising from Ashes

“So in Easter — and Passover too — something that happens is that we stop. This is the ‘dark night of the soul’ stuff that John the Divine writes about; that in that stopping we may fall into an abyss that we have been trying to outrun since we were little children … and the American way, I think, is to trick out the abyss so it’s a little bit nicer. Maybe go to Ikea and get a more festive throw rug. But in Lent, if you are a person of committed spiritual growth, you do stop.” ~Ann Lamott

Funny that our minister today would invoke Ann Lamott in his Easter sermon, and then I would come home and find this link to her interview on NPR last April.

I figure there’s a sign in there somewhere, that Ms. Lamott has something for me to hear

So when I read the words above, from her essay “Ashes,” what strikes me first is her injunction to “stop” – look at where I am, what I’m doing. Are the things I’m filling my life with  contributing to spiritual growth – mine or anyone else’s?

Asking yourself that question is like looking over the edge of the abyss. I admit it – I’m afraid of the answer.  Because I do attempt to make my life appear better, not always by prettying it up but more often by putting on blinders. Like placing a throw rug over the stained spot on the carpet, or a painting over the hole in the wall, I try to cover up the empty and soiled places that hurt too much to confront.

There are times when I get pretty caught up with what’s going in my head. Times when I think I could benefit from Jungian analysis or Jungian psychotherapy. But rather than head off to the phone book to search for a renowned Jungian psychoanalyst I often choose to pick up a book by one of my favorite authors instead.

Reading can be a way for me to escape that confrontation. I can so easily lose myself in worlds that others create, shove my own concerns off to the side while I hide behind the cover of a book.

But reading can also be the catalyst for change, the way new ideas get into my head and take hold.

Like Ann Lamott today saying, Stop! Don’t let yourself fall too far into patterns of destruction! Rethink where you’re going and what you plan to do with your one wild and crazy life.

That is, after all, the message of Easter.

Rebirth is possible.

We can rise from the ashes and soar into new life.

Wishing you the opportunity to rise and soar, today and everyday.

Happy Easter.