List of Links August 2018

Below are links to interesting articles I found during the month of August 2018. An interesting theme appeared this month: libraries, book, and reading. There’s also a couple of spy stories and a republished cookbook that can teach you to cook like a suffragette! Enjoy.

‘Spectacular’ ancient public library discovered in Germany

While excavating in Cologne, the remains of the oldest public library in Germany were discovered in 2017. Initially unsure what had been uncovered, the realization that the niches were designed to hold scrolls led to identifying it as a library. I’ve been to Cologne twice, and always loved exploring the city…now there’s something new to see.

The Weirdest Libraries Around The World

Think you know what a library should look like? Think again!

10 Animals Who Have Broken Into the Library

For something fun! Plenty of critters have found their way into libraries.

Buddy, The Library Isn’t A 7-11

But that doesn’t stop patrons from acting like it is…

The Crack Squad of Librarians Who Track Down Half-Forgotten Books

I love a good mystery so, although I’m sure I’d get quite agitated with the minimal clues some patrons give, I’d probably enjoy the hunt to find answers to the questions these librarians are asked.

Being A Victorian Librarian Was Oh-So-Dangerous

Most of my life the majority of librarians I’ve known have been women. But in the mid- to late- 19th century, women were expected to stay home, and this article talks about the traumas that awaited women who worked in libraries.

Who Decides What’s Tacky Anyway?

The origin of the word “tacky”,  how it came to define bad taste and why that word became associated with the fashion of the 1970s. I’m old enough to remember the 1970s…anyone else?

The Draconian Dictionary Is Back

A dictionary deemed “subversive”? That’s what happened in 1961 with the release of  Websters Third New International Dictionary. Read to find out what the kerfuffle was all about.

French Bookstore Invites Its Instagram Followers To Judge Books By Their Covers

The photos they share are fascinating – take a look!

Reading A Book Takes Time – Deal With It

Would you rather have your books released as a serial, one “episode” at a time? That is a trend developing, and if it encourages people to read then I am fine with it. The author of the article, however, takes exception. I will add that some days I’m doing good to get one chapter read. Then there are the days when I have more time and get pulled into a book and read for hours. I would hate to lose the ability to do that.

“Pie For A Doubting Husband”: How To Cook Like A Suffragette

Cookbook lovers take note: A cookbook released in 1915 to raise money for the suffragette movement has been reissued.

Why More Boys Don’t Read Little Women

This is a long article, but I encourage you to take the time to read through it. It about much more than Little Women not being assigned reading anymore.

The Way We Read Now

PBS has an initiative going on, “The Great American Read”, which released an alphabetical list of the 100 favorite works of fiction. What is interesting, according to this article from the Wall Street Journal, is that few works of what is often considered the height of American literature made the list. It seems, the article suggests, that Americans are more interested in reading a good story than what is considered “great” writing. (Note to self…make sure when I write I tell a good story!)

Clothing Britain’s Spies During World War II

During WWII, spies sent to another country needed to blend in, and in a time before mass-produced clothes, each country, even each region, had their own way of making clothes. So Britain used clothing produced by refugees to meet the demand.

The Women Code Breakers Who Unmasked Soviet Spies

I enjoy puzzles, but breaking code is far above anything I can do. This is a fascinating look at the women involved in Cold War efforts to break codes and find Soviet spies. While many of the men involved have been profiled, the women have not. As the article notes, most of them never talked about the work they did.

Writers Have Always Loved Mobile Devices

I enjoy moving to different locations to write and have a bag set up with many of the tools I will need. Turns out, long before there were laptops and tablets, other writers had their own version of a mobile workspace.

Can Crime Fiction Help Combat the Opioid Crisis?

As I writer, I want to think my work can make a difference, be it educating or entertaining. The article writer hopes that focusing on the opioid crisis in her crime fiction will bring attention and solutions for the drug problem devastating her home state (and the country).

 

Royal Wedding

 

The alarm on my bedside clock began blasting its obnoxious tone at 3:15 am. Half asleep I reached over and hit the snooze button, trying to remember why I had done this to myself. As a night owl, I was more likely to stay up until 3:00 am than get up at that time. It was July 1981. I had recently graduated from high school, and with a month to go before I began college, had no plans that day. I drifted back to sleep until the alarm sounded again. Turning it off, I got up and dressed.

The den was on the opposite side of the house from my parents and younger sister, so I could turn on the TV without waking them. I settled in on the red, green, and gold plaid sofa to watch every minute of the royal wedding of the Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, the Prince of Wales.

 

Cinderella was always my favorite fairy tale, the story of a lonely girl turned into a princess with some fairy-tale magic and the love of a prince. I felt much like her, overlooked by the boys I went to school with, and dreaming of catching the attention, and love, of my own “prince.” Reading romance novels fueled that desire, as did the news coverage leading up to the wedding, presenting it as a fairy tale come to life.

I loved the history and traditions of the British royal family, its titles, uniforms, and pomp and circumstance, captivating me. The news coverage in the weeks leading up to the ceremony talked of the romance and pageantry while showing scenes of London, a city I dreamed of visiting. Getting up at 3:30 in the morning seemed a small price to pay to experience this moment of history.

 

The newscasts filled the two hours preceding the ceremony with talk about Charles and Diana’s engagement, especially her sapphire and diamond ring, mention of the royalty, dignitaries and celebrities who would be attending, speculation about what Diana’s dress would look like, and a look back to when Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, using her post-WWII rationing coupons to pay for her wedding dress.

Tens of thousands of people lined the route from Buckingham Palace to the Cathedral, many of them having camped out for days to get a prime location. The day was a national holiday and the weather cooperated providing the perfect opportunity for many to see the procession in person.

The guests arrived and entered St. Paul’s Cathedral as the Royal Family departed the Palace in their horse-drawn coaches. Finally, Diana and her father left Clarence House in the enclosed Glass Coach for the 20-minute journey to the Cathedral. She appeared shy and demure behind her veil, waving to the crowd and chatting with her father as they neared their destination. The coach pulled up to the Cathedral steps, and Diana emerged. Her wedding gown of ivory silk taffeta and antique lace featured a large ruffle framing the V-neckline, puffy elbow-length sleeves and a full skirt. Her 25-foot train was wrinkled after the ride in the coach, and she carried a massive bouquet that cascaded to her ankles. She looked every bit the fairy tale princess we thought her to be.

 

My mom and dad got up, surprised to see me awake so early on a summer morning. They ate breakfast then my dad left to begin his rural mail route. My mom watched from the kitchen window as she washed the dishes before joining me for the exchange of vows. Most memorable were when Diana and Charles each mixed up part of their vows, and when Diana did not promise to obey her husband, giving us a glimpse into a more modern woman behind her shy exterior.

The Prince and Princess of Wales left the church to ringing bells and more cheers from the crowd. Returning to Buckingham Palace in an open coach, they soon appeared on the balcony with the rest of the royal family to wave to the crowd. In the midst of it all, they surprised everyone with a kiss, beginning a new royal wedding tradition.

 

Little did I know that in a month I would meet the man I would marry two years later. Our wedding wasn’t anything like the royal wedding, yet I felt like a princess in my dress with a train trailing behind me. Instead of a crown, my long veil was attached to a wreath of flowers that encircled my head. It was a perfect day and I thought we were beginning a wonderful life together.

Five years after our wedding, we flew into Heathrow airport to begin a year of living in England. We spent much of our first day in London groggily wandering the streets, trying to find our way from one tourist site to another, seeing in person the places I had dreamed of seeing for years. As we walked down the Mall from Buckingham Palace, passing Clarence House, I was struck by how grand the royal residences were, and how large the city was. Later, I rode the Underground to Sloane Square, walking the places that the Princess had before the world knew who she was.

 

 

Sadly, their marriage ended in divorce as did mine. Happily ever after, it turns out, doesn’t happen because you are in love and have a fancy wedding. It takes a lot of hard work, patience, open communication and commitment to see it through. And even then, it may not be enough. People change, priorities shift and sometimes it may be best to end the misery and go separate ways.

Thirty-seven years later, I’m not the naive teenager I was on that July morning. I no longer read romance novels or dream of a “prince” to give me a better life. I have been lucky enough to know couples who had good and strong marriages, who married for love and kept it alive through the years. They give me hope that even if it doesn’t look like the fairy tales I read as a child, there may indeed be happily ever after.

You can listen to the audio version here.

Daffodils

“Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”
W
illiam Wordsworth (1770-1850)

The dirt road rises and the dense woods open to reveal the cleared land where our house and yard sit. Row upon row of bright yellow daffodils blanket the hill beside the road and driveway, a guide to the entrance. Even though there is still a chill in the air, I excitedly think “it is spring!”

A second large patch of daffodils decorates our backyard. When in bloom, they cover almost half the grassy area where I practice cartwheels and round offs. Daffodils also circle a large oak tree and are scattered in clusters around the yard.

Daffodil is the common name for any of the varieties that fall within the Narcissus genus, a member of the Amaryllis family. Thought to have originated in the woods and meadows of southern Europe, particularly the Iberian Penninsula, and North Africa, they spread out from there reaching Asia by the 10th century. Their popularity grew in Europe after the 16th century and they were the subject of poems by William Shakespeare and Willliam Wordsworth. Settlers brought them to the American colonies, and today they can be found throughout the United States.

“Daffodils,
That come before the swallow does, and take
The winds of March with beauty.” 
William Shakespear (1564-1616)

When I was about seven Aunt Kate had me help her plant a small row of daffodil bulbs in an empty space between two outbuildings we used for storage. I helped her dig out a trough and watched as she planted the first bulb, showing me how to correctly place it. She had me plant the remaining 8 or 9 bulbs, then fill in with the dirt we had dug out. Handing me the metal watering can, she told me to give them a good soak to help pack down the dirt and set the bulbs. (Tips for planting and growing your own daffodils.)

The next spring, like magic, the leaves and buds appeared, opening their trumpet-shaped blooms a few days later. I was excited to have planted something that actually bloomed, not realizing that daffodils are some of the easiest flowers to grow. Seeing the daffodils return each spring always brought a smile to my face.

 

Daffodils have a long history of breeding and by 1739 Dutch nursery catalogs listed 50 different varieties available. Today there are between 40-200 different daffodil species and 25,000 hybrids registered in a 13 part classification system.  I had no idea daffodils came in so many varieties even though Aunt Kate once tried to teach me the different ones that grew in our yard. I only remember her pointing out jonquils, buttercups (which actually are not daffodils), and my favorite name, the double daffodil “Scrambled Eggs”, whose center does indeed resemble scrambled eggs.

I often walked among the rows of daffodils, picking a few and catching a whiff of the scent in the spring breeze. Bending down to sniff individual blooms, I noticed some were stronger than others. When I was 16, I picked handfuls of daffodils, stuffed them into a wide-mouth vase and placed them on the nightstand beside my bed, a cheery sight when I entered my room. Laying in bed that night, I noticed the scent was rather strong with so many blooms crammed together, and I woke the next morning almost overpowered from the scent filling my nose and tickling my throat. Still, I loved it and kept them there as long as possible, removing dead ones, and dusting up the yellow pollen that coated the table each day.

The daffodils would bloom for a few weeks unless a late freeze or frost killed them. As the blooms died, we would deadhead them, pulling off the dried, shriveled, brown heads. The leaves stayed green for a few weeks, but once they began to yellow Daddy would mow them down, allowing the bulbs to begin creating the flowers for the next year.

After Momma and Daddy sold the house and moved to town, Momma planted daffodils around their new yard. Not only was she carrying on the family tradition, she was also celebrating the annual Daffodil Festival in my hometown of Camden, Arkansas. Long associated with spring festivals, daffodils are celebrated annually in other parts of Arkansas and throughout the United States.

I don’t know if the daffodils, especially the small row I planted, continue to bloom around the old house. If they do, I hope the new owners enjoy them. I miss seeing them each spring, yet spending most of my adult years renting or moving didn’t make it feasible to plant my own. Maybe now is the time to change that. Daffodils grow in zones 3-10, and while there is mixed information on how well they do in Florida, I am in zone 9a so it is worth a try. Time to take a look at what is available, order a dozen or so bulbs, plant them around the yard and renew the tradition of welcoming spring with daffodils.

Sources:
American Daffodil Society, https://daffodilusa.org/
Southern Living, https://www.southernliving.com/garden/flowers/daffodil-flower-facts
Todayshomeowner.com, https://www.todayshomeowner.com/whats-the-difference-between-daffodils-jonquils-and-buttercups/
Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_(plant)

Click here to listen to the audio version of this story.

Subscribe to the monthly newsletter “Writings For Curious Minds” to get the latest stories, links to interesting articles and tips for writers here – http://eepurl.com/c7zsvX

 

Full Moon Magic

Today is a full moon. For centuries the full moon has been blamed for madness, werewolf transformations and an increase of strange behavior (based on stories from First Responders and Emergency Room workers). While there isn’t scientific evidence to support these beliefs, the stories continue.

For me, however, the full moon has always been magical. Waking up as a child to the light of the full moon streaming in through my bedroom windows, I would look around the room, amazed at how much light there was in the dark room. It seemed as bright as the sun – it is sunlight reflected off the moon’s surface after all – but the light is different, subtler, softer. When I got older, I realized that under a full moon I could walk around outside without the need for a flashlight. I have a friend who makes it a point to take a walk under the light of the full moon each month, soaking in its magic. I like this idea, and if I can’t walk, I will stand outside and look up, the light of the full moon shining on my face.

—————————————————————————————————————–

My favorite memories, however, are from when I lived aboard my sailboat. Here’s that story:

I crawl into the berth at the back of the boat and settle in for the night. Looking up, I can see out the open hatch. While the lights from the marina block out most stars, I can see the backstay running from the top of the mast to the stern of the boat just behind my bed.

A breeze moves the boat, gently rocking me to sleep. A few hours later, I wake up and realize my cabin is filled with light. Looking up through the hatch, I see the full moon, perfectly positioned to shine on my face. It is only a few days each month that the moon is in the right position for this to happen. Mentioning this to a friend, she asks why I don’t close the hatch, and maybe even cover it, to prevent the light from waking me. Because I like the moonlight on my face, I reply. It is only a few days each month, and I enjoy lying there, in the quiet of the night, watching the moon.

The return of the full moon reflects the rhythms of nature, marking the passage of time. I reflect on what has happened in the past month, when the moon last visited during the night, and wonder what is to come in the next.

Those thoughts float through my head as the moon slowly moves away from my face. Sleep returns until the light of the sun begins filling the cabin. Another reminder of the rhythms of nature, the passage of time. A new day begins. And before I know it, enough days will pass, and the full moon will return.

Click here to listen to the audio version of the story.

Click here to sign up for Updates for Curious Minds, my monthly newsletter.

Book or Movie – Which Do You Prefer?

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission.

A River Runs Through It was on TV recently. I have always enjoyed this movie, for its gorgeous images of fly fishing in Montana rivers, and for the story of a father and his sons connecting while fishing those rivers. As I listened to Robert Redford narrate the closing line – “I am haunted by waters” – I remembered I had not yet read the book. The next day I logged into the local library and downloaded the book.*

What a wonderful read! Norman Maclean is a gifted storyteller, and the written version surprised me with the humor he used to describe people and events, a talent I hope to develop. This is one instance I enjoyed both the book and the movie, which is not what I usually experience.

A couple of years ago, I came across Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity ebook on sale. I enjoy the Bourne movies and wondered what details the book could supply to fill out the story. While I did get more information, I also found the book moved slower than the movie, with much of it involving Bourne and Marie talking through things, trying to help Bourne regain his memory. I have to wonder how I would have felt about the book if I had read it prior to seeing the movie. Would my opinion of both been different?

I read each book in the Harry Potter series before seeing the movie version of each. I loved the world created by J.K. Rowling in the books, and while I enjoyed seeing that world come to life in the movies, I also knew how much had been left out, how scenes had been shortened so the movies were kept to a reasonable length. I always left the movies wondering if people who had not read the books fully understood what was going on.

So why bother watching the movie version? Because I am a visual person, and I love physically seeing the world created by an author. While it isn’t always what I had imagined in my mind, it still appeals to me to see how a story is portrayed in a film. If I read the book after I see the movie, I visualize the scenes based on what I saw in the movie. Yet, I will also continue to read the book that movies I enjoy were based on, to fill out the story, get details left out and understand the characters better.

Do you prefer to read the book or watch the movie? If you do both, do you prefer to do one before the other?

*The book is titled A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, which consists of 2 novellas and a short story.

Subscribe to the monthly newsletter “Writings For Curious Minds” to get the latest stories, links to interesting articles and tips for writers here.

Cardinals

Seeing cardinals throughout my life.

Seeing cardinals throughout my life.Sometimes, when I bend down and look under the awning over the bathroom window I can see him. A male cardinal sitting near the top of the neighbor’s tree. A bright shock of red that stands out against blue sky and green leaves, that also provides much-needed color on gray days.

The tree is often a bother, dropping small leaves that land among the small lava rocks that border the patio. It seems I am constantly picking them up. Yet, that tree gives the cardinal a place to land so that I can see him, a sight that always makes me happy.

My great aunt began every day feeding the squirrels and birds that filled our yard. First, she would throw birdseed on the ground and placed it in feeders. As the birds began to arrive to eat, she’d crack open the pecans to feed the squirrels that would take them from her hand. Of the numerous birds that arrived, the red feathers of the male cardinal were the easiest to recognize, and the first bird I could identify.

Many years later, I moved to Memphis and discovered that a bush outside the garage was home to a male and female cardinal. After watching them flying in and out of the bush, I carefully pulled back the branches and discovered the nest they were building. A careful look a few weeks later revealed three pale, speckled eggs. Then one day I walked by the bush and was surprised as a flash of red flew out of the bush, just missing me. The male cardinal was warning me to keep my distance from the featherless babies that now inhabited the nest.

I moved a mile or so away a couple of years later. Sitting on my back patio, I enjoyed the variety of birds that flew by: mockingbirds, robins, blue jays, and cardinals. I often wondered if those cardinals were related to the ones who built the nest in the bush by the garage of my former home.

I don’t see as many cardinals in Florida. They don’t stop at the birdbath outside the living room window, perhaps because it is often filled with mockingbirds, doves, finches, small blackbirds, and the occasional woodpecker. So anytime I do see them, whether on the utility lines behind the house or perched atop the neighbor’s tree, it is a happy sight.

Click here to listen to the audio version.

Subscribe to the monthly newsletter “Writings For Curious Minds” to get the latest stories, links to interesting articles and tips for writers here.

Gray Days

It has been cloudy and cold this entire month. I moved to Florida to get AWAY from this weather, but it occasionally finds me. Looking out at the gray clouds see in the picture reminded me of a time from my past, a week of gray, cold weather when I was a teenager. This was before I had ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which I believe is part of what was going on with me. It is a short story that you may be able to relate to. 

It was late January my freshman year in high school. As I sat in the front passenger seat of the car in the school parking lot, I looked out at the gray sky and shivered.

Heavy, dark gray clouds hung below the lighter grey sky. It was hard to tell where they ended and the gray concrete blocks of the building began. Even the trees, bare of their leaves, were a grayish black. How many shades of gray were there?

It had been this way for about a week, and I wondered when it would end, even if it would end. I could handle cold if there was at least some sunlight to warm my soul, if not the air.

The cold gray outside reflected how I felt inside – dull and lifeless. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed, pull up the covers, and not emerge until it was sunny and warm, there was color to be seen, and my soul brightened up.

Listen to the audio version here.

Subscribe to the monthly newsletter “Writings For Curious Minds” to get the latest stories, links to interesting articles and tips for writers here.

Morning Fog

We always reserve the same campsite, our home away from home. There is comfort in knowing what to expect, where the fire pit and hook-ups are located, and how we need to back in. It may not be adventurous, but since we only go for two days, the familiarity helps us relax and enjoy the time.

As the seasons change, the campsite also changes. How the sun hits the camper at high noon, which shades need to be closed to keep the sun out, how green the trees and shrubs are to block our view of neighboring campsites. And this morning, there is something new. Stepping out of the camper, I don’t notice it, but turning to walk down the hill to the bathhouse, a light layer of fog is visible, beginning about 15 feet above the ground. It doesn’t block out things out, just gives a misty haze to the trees and the rays of sunlight streaming through. 

It is quiet this morning. The only sounds are cars and trucks on nearby roads, planes flying overhead, and birds chirping up in the trees. The fog adds to the stillness.

It is chilly out, so I sit by the dying campfire. Plenty of heat still radiates off the wood, so my front is warm while my back is cool. I move my chair closer, and lean in, feeling the sting of the intense heat on my face.

A wiff of food cooking reaches my nose, and I realize I am hungry. A man and dog walk by, and I hear camper doors open and close. The sun is rising higher in the sky, burning off the fog as it does. It is time to gather what I need to prepare breakfast. It is time to begin the day.

You can listen to an audio of this story here.

Subscribe to the monthly newsletter “Writings For Curious Minds” to get the latest stories, links to interesting articles and tips for writers here.

Reading Banned and Challenged Books

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission with NO extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my writing.

My senior year in high school, we were assigned to read The Canterbury Tales in English class. Mrs. Hendrix, our teacher, handed out our copies and a list of Tales we could choose to read from. Among these were The Knight’s Tale, The Wife of Bath’s Tale, and The Monk’s Tale; in other words, the tales that were more virtuous, the tales that would teach us values. Then she told us we were absolutely, positively NOT to read those that were not on the list. You know, the vulgar ones like The Miller’s Tale.

It was a brilliant move. Being typical teenagers, we immediately began reading those that were “banned”. We may have thought we were getting away with something; who would know if we read the ones we were not supposed to? As a result, we read at least twice as much as we were assigned. And of course, that was why she so vocally told us not to.

Eighteen years later I am living in England. Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses is published, followed by the Muslim outrage over its content. It was when the Ayatollah issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie that I really took notice. There were protests outside British bookstores, book burnings were held, and even bombings of bookstores. I wanted to read the book, to see what all the fuss was about for myself. And to be a bit rebellious.

The act of challenging or banning books removes them from access, often before many people become aware of them. This is why shining a light on titles that have been banned or challenged is so important. Get the word out so people are aware of books that are published, but which they don’t have easy access to. Let them know that someone, somewhere thought the books were inappropriate and therefore made sure that NO ONE would be able to read them.

We need to make some noise about the books that are challenged and banned, and not just during one week in September. We need to be more vocal all the time. Remind people that there is still a danger that they cannot read what they want because books continue to be challenged and banned. Remind them of all the books that are on the list of banned books, maybe even ones they thought they’d like to read. Remind them to get a copy and read and decide for themselves what they think of it. Remind them to act like rebellious teenagers.

In that spirit, I am going to do what I did not do in 1988. I am going to finally read The Satanic Verses. I hope you will join me. What banned book have you been meaning to read, but not gotten around to? Why not read it now?

The Night After – Reflections on Hurricane Irma

I lay in bed and relax. The window air conditioner hums away its white noise while a movie plays on the TV. These are the usual before bed sounds, but tonight, they seem very quiet.

The night before, the worst of Hurricane Irma was arriving. I went to bed to try and get some sleep, exhausted after days of preparing and worrying and watching the projected path and waiting. Lying in bed I could hear the howl of the wind above the drone of the air conditioner. The branches of the potted palm secured just outside our east bedroom window scraped and scratched against the air conditioner.

I took a few deep breaths, slowly inhaling and exhaling, to occupy my mind and relax my body. Just as I’d get comfortable, the wind would gust louder than before, and I’m reminded of what is going on outside.

I did sleep, but lightly, waking often. Sometime during the night I noticed a change. The avocado tree outside our south bedroom window was brushing across the bars and boards that protected the old, not hurricane-proof, glass. This meant the wind was shifting from the east to the south-east and the south. Irma was passing, but there were still hours of wind to go. I got up, knowing that I could sleep later.

And now it is the night after. The air conditioner and TV are on, as usual, but tonight the bedroom is calm and quiet. I lay in bed and smile. I am happy. Not the jump-for-joy kind of happy, but the quiet, relieved happy of having come through the storm relatively unscathed. Eveything is good in my world. Tonight I sleep a deep sleep of rest and comfort.