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Finding Home

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What she used to call home.

Good morning from cool and sunny Vermont. You might wonder why I always give the weather report. It’s for my old grade and high school classmate Laura, who lives on the other side of the world. I know she could just google Vermont weather, but I like to think it gives her a connection to what she used to call home. Anyway, it’ll be a beautiful day here, and I’m grateful.

This morning I’ve been up with the birds. I’m doing a few loads of Serena’s laundry, and working out last minute details for our upcoming vacation trip to Maine. This year we’ll be staying on an island, the transition made easier by a sturdy bridge to the mainland. If we’ve timed it right, we’ll be able to witness the village’s great lobster boat race. We’ll be directly on the water again, but we’ll have to walk or drive to the beach. It doesn’t matter. Just getting into the car to head east is enough to drop my blood pressure by ten digits.

And speaking of cars, my lease ended on my bright yellow Honda Fit, and because I was in the right place at the right time, we bought a 2015 plug-in hybrid Ford C-Max. I love this car. I love being high up and feeling like I’m at the wheel of an RV. I’ve been averaging about 60 miles per gallon, and it’s a sweet ride, much easier on the bottom and back. I’m searching for a name to match its unusual color of beach sand, or Ovaltine in milk. Ovaltine is a clunky name, and Sandy doesn’t sound right either. More on that next week.

Tim and Serena traveled to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to meet with a new doctor, who another old classmate recommended–thanks, Pam. He’s starting from scratch with her, and the match seems to be good. She likes what she heard, which is she’ll recover. It looks like her multiple concussions are causing many of her neurological symptoms (like her inability to see), and so once we return from Maine, she’ll see a neuro-optimologist in New Hampshire for help, and return to her new doctor for a follow-up. The nice thing about buying our car versus leasing it is that we can put on all the mileage we want. But an eight hour trip is hard on a hurting head, even in my new car.

My first round of edits haven’t come. And With Regards, Stella Ramone Queen is still in its infancy. Good things come to those who wait? One last thing–a joy, really. My uncle Jean-Paul came down from Quebec to visit with my mom, his sister. I sat down with him and he told me wonderful tales about his travels to Europe, which he began in his 60s. I could have listened for another hour easy. One day I’ll travel too.

Any name suggestions for a car that looks like Ovaltine in milk? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home. Oh, and here’s one of Serena’s photos of the 4th.

Lisa

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With warm regards, Stella Ramone

Good morning from steamy Vermont. As most of you know, this is my kind of weather, but I do worry about all those people and pets in my life who struggle in high temperatures. Many don’t have air conditioning. Liquids and fans, friends, liquids and fans.

Last weekend I attended a sweet and joyful wedding, and I was too busy to blog. Congratulations once again to Ike and Kathy; they are showing us what true love looks like.

I have not received the first round of edits for Quill Point, and have only advanced a sentence or two on novel number five. I have been thinking about a title–something like With Warm Regards, Stella Ramone. Stella is a long-time letter writer after all. I’ve turned my attention to another kind of writing–lists. There’s the list of what I should pack, the grocery list for when we get there, the list of things to do to prep the house for our dog sitter. I’ve got eight lists going so far, all towards getting us out of the house by 10 AM two Saturdays from now. We’re coming, Maine.

Today the college I work for, Johnson State College, gets a new name and face–Northern Vermont University. We’ve been asked to wear our Northern Vermont tee shirts tomorrow, but we librarians never got any. I guess our cheerful smiles will have to do! I get a new boss; we face lots of change in our lovely library. It seems to be a year of change in most parts of my life. I’m rolling with it.

That’s it for today. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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In 27 days.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. It’s supposed to get quite hot and humid today–the more the better, that’s what I say! Meanwhile, I’ve a bit of news. My contract is signed, and if I’ve read it right, Quill Point should be out by February or thereabouts. I’m waiting for my editor to send me first round changes. Frankly, I’ve forgotten what I’ve written, so it will be like reading my book for the first time.

A happy Father’s Day to all those dads reading my blog. I hope you have an excellent day getting lots of grateful hugs and lovely phone calls.

Stella Ramone continues to develop. I have to decide quickly if I’ll be writing “She claimed the odd shaped room on the first floor as her office, because it was the only free space left in the building, and it had a sweet view of the little courtyard next to the cafe. Sometimes she saw birds and chipmunks.” Or, “I claimed the odd shaped room…”

Do I write in first person or in third? Do I really want to slip into a character with some hard knocks under her belt? Or is some distance required so that I don’t get too emotionally involved? Each perspective has its merits. No decisions yet; I guess I’ll just keep writing and see what happens.

With that, I wish you all a good week. I leave you with a photo of where I’ll be in 27 days. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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The Yes You May Cafe

Good morning from sunny, chilly Vermont. It’s got me now, this new story that has taken up residence in my brain’s corner of Writers Town. I started typing it yesterday. Meet Stella Ramone Queen, my latest protagonist. Two year’s ago, she moved from Tucson, Arizona to the main street of Hardwick, Vermont. She owns a building right near Rick’s Clip Joint, rents out the bottom to the Chamber of Commerce and the Yes You May Cafe, and calls the entire upstairs her home. Her parents are both still alive; they live a few towns over in Danville, and she’s got a brother in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. What kind of life did she have in Tucson? Why did she move to Hardwick? Me, I have a general idea, but you readers won’t know for quite a while.

Last night I reviewed my contract for the publishing of Quill Point, and I signed it this morning. I’ll scan it and email it back tomorrow, and that will start the clock ticking regarding edits. I’m excited, because I really love this book. I’m rereading Vinehart Farm to immerse myself in my characters. Before Quill Point comes out, you might want to do the same.

I woke up grateful this morning, for the good night’s sleep I got, for another sunny day, for chores done yesterday, and for our porch chairs, one of which is waiting for me and my cup of tea when I finish blogging. I leave you with another of Serena’s garden photos.

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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The woman who helps people write letters.

Good morning from sunny, gorgeous Vermont. I’m on the porch with Scout and my cup of tea. After a busy day yesterday, I’m ready to lay low today and get some summer into my pockets.

Some updates. No contract yet, so I’ve decided to heed the voice inside me that’s been saying, “Start writing another book!” I’m mulling over possibilities. I like the idea of the woman who helps people write letters, but it needs more depth, and I think I have just the way to add it. No deaths–I promise. And I’ve a few blog topics to write about–an update on Serena’s illness, for one. I’ll need a pad of paper and a sharp pencil with a good eraser to tackle that one. There’s so much to say, and each word carries its own pain.

Liv has her finals this week, and then she’ll be a junior. She’s had her own challenges this past year, and she’s rocked me with her fortitude and courage. We’ve raised some amazing daughters.

I end this short blog with a photo from Serena’s recent garden series. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Someone–redirect me!

Good morning from rainy Vermont. I was wrong. Zero waste means you don’t have anything to recycle either. Man, is this going to be a challenge. Then there’s this entirely different lifestyle I want to embrace–the raw food vegetarian diet. Help! Someone redirect me!

I thought today I’d do something different and give you a part of Quill Point. It’s taking ages to get my contract, and I don’t want to lose my audience. So here’s a scene:

“Eva never got caught up on a live electric fence, just the old, rusted kind that popped up now and then in the middle of the woods. There was an art to the bend, swoop, and rise needed to clear the current. Somehow, she learned without her parents’ modeling. As far back as she recalled, her mom and dad were always tall enough to step over the fences if they stood on their toes.

She kicked a stone down the road with her sneakers. Now, with her renovated house and sheltered school life, she felt removed from the fears she once wore in her back pocket. The danger of cows kicking her face as she attached their milking machines. The danger of tipping the tractor over as she led a wagon stacked eight hay bales high down a crooked slope. Or the risk of flipping that same tractor as she navigated the slippery, muddy, and rutted paths of the sugar woods.

The electric fence acted as a thorn in her parents’ relationship. Her mother, Emma, hated for their Jerseys and Holsteins to be harmed in any way. For the most part, their herd was gentle. But her father, Randy, hated when the cows trampled his cornfield. Without current, nothing deterred a cow from fresh corn. Eva, forever a Gemini, saw both sides. Even with electric fences, her mom had woken her up in the middle of the night to gather the cows back into their pasture. She remembered the results of the cows’ late night forays, rows of corn stalks torn down, stepped on, and irredeemable.”

Do you remember Eva? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Duck Duck Go.

Good morning from cool and rainy Vermont. After watching several documentaries together, like The Plastic Gyre and Toxicity, Tim and I are slowly heading toward minimal plastic use and zero waste. Those little kids looking through a dump site for something edible and/or metals to sell? Those teenagers snorkeling in and round plastic water bottles and other trash? They could be our grandchildren. So we’ve decided to slowly, slowly change what we can here at Soft Landing.

We’ve made some cool discoveries. You can buy 48 rolls of comfortable toilet paper that are wrapped in festive recyclable paper for only 65 cents a roll. They arrive in a simple cardboard box, and shipping is free. Toothpaste made of coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oils comes in glass containers. You can also make your own, but I’m not there yet. And toothbrushes made of bamboo are compostable. (The bristles are not–the company is still working on that.) We’ve found a compost bucket for the freezer. I’m reusing all the various-sized plastic bags we have left by soaking them in dish soap, vinegar, and water and then airing them dry. And we are using Serena’s empty containers of ghee to store our food so we don’t have to buy any more small plastic bags.

Our next step is to figure out what we can use to house the garbage we do have at the end of the week. You can make them by using old newspapers and folding them just right, but neither of us has the time or the newspapers (and we don’t want them), and frankly, I’m not spatially oriented so what I’d come up with would look more like a giraffe than a garbage container.

I’m still looking for another zero waste blog to follow for more ideas. There’s this one https://wildminimalist.com/blogs/news and this one https://www.goingzerowaste.com Perhaps these are enough for now. We are down to one medium-sized trash bag a week, and I’ll keep you up-to-date on this new journey of ours.

Another development–sorry, still no news about my book, although Tim’s boss told me his wife loved my first two books. She’s saving Vinehart Farm to read together with Quill Point, when it comes out next year. Where was I? Oh, right–Algorithms of Oppression. I read this book to help me prepare new library instruction for my summer classes, and it changed my world. Turns out that the humans behind the algorithms at Google are very biased against women and women of color, and ultimately you have no privacy with this database and its search engine. So I’ve switched my email to Protonmail, and am using Duck Duck Go as my search engine of choice, as it appears to be the least biased and most ethical. I’m weeding through my Gmail so I can close it down.

Small steps, I know. But they mean a lot to me as I try to add goodness to this planet instead of taking it away. Especially as I get older. Any ideas on zero waste? Check in next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

Compost Garbage Biological Waste Recipes W

 

 

Math-based formula and a measuring tape.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. Weather-wise, we anticipate a good Mother’s Day here. Last night some areas of the state got a dose of frost. Just another reminder to not get those pansy flats out before Memorial Day.

Do you know what I’m looking forward to? Tomorrow, our little family will gather on the stoop for a lunch of cold shrimp on a bed of greens and blueberry shortcake (gluten free, of course). We haven’t really been together since Christmas.  I look forward to hearing the girls laughing and showing each other their thrift finds (found online for Serena and at Second Chance for Liv). I look forward to sitting outside and writing, or maybe even doing nothing but tip my face to the sun. I like doing nothing.

I’ve started knitting again. One of my sisters is hoeing out her house and found her book on knitting sweaters in the round. You make the sweaters any size, any color, and any weight by using this math-based formula and a measuring tape. Before starting on a sweater, the author has you knit a sampler of every type of knitting pattern you might need. I just got through my third type of ribbing. Yesterday, while the Red Sox were trying to outscore Toronto, I knitted quite contentedly, humming inside. That’s what a good knitting project makes me do, hum.

Now it’s time to honor and thank the mothers in my life. To my mother, who every day models what goodness means. To my oldest sister, who takes care of all of us. To my next oldest sister, who mothered 1,500 kindergarteners during her teaching career, and still has the energy left to make me gluten-free cupcakes when I’m feeling down. To sister number three, who took Liv in once a week during her freshman year so she could get a break from commuting. She packed the best lunches. To sister number four, who once a week for years has traveled to a home for young moms and read to their children, and she makes quilts for all the cribs too. To my sister-in-law, who raises with love anyone who falls into her path, and has saved me from multiple disasters.

And here’s the thing, there is one more. My dad and his younger brother married my mom and her younger sister. All us eleven kids share most of the same genetic material (or maybe all? What’s the science here?). To my fifth sister (who– hurray–is younger than I) who is the first one to step up when a young child in her Houston community is in need. She’s like the mom in the movie The Blind Side. I love her!

You are all wonderful in my eyes, and I’m lucky, so lucky, to be living and sharing this life with you. And to all those other mothers out there, my hat’s off to you. It’s a heck of a trip.

Check in next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

Rope, Clothes Line, Clothes Peg, Map, Postcard

 

 

 

 

 

Having to keep the flies out.

Good morning from sunny, blustery Vermont. As I wait for the kettle to boil, I’m enjoying rolling nature scenes from our three large one-pane windows. I’ve turned the heat on–temperatures dropped after our crazy thunderstorm last night. I’m once again in a short window of being. I tell you, it feels pretty good. But that’s not what I’m blogging about. This blog is about screen doors, as in, we are getting one this month.

Reach back to your youth–do you remember one or both of your parents shouting out, “Don’t slam the door!” And how you started right then to perfect the art of holding one foot back to take the door’s weight as you juggled a book and lemonade, escaping from their voices into the back yard, finally free from door rules and having to keep the flies out. Reach back again. Do you remember shouting to your children, “Don’t slam the door!” as they tore out of the house, one behind the other, to the kick and slam, kick and slam of a different but similar screen door?

And right now, perhaps, during these early days of spring, you get out of the car after a day of work and head to the porch, seeing your little dog’s nose through the screen and his joyful tail going zigzag zigzag–and maybe letting a few barks escape–as he waits for you to get inside? And this dog, he never slams the door, and there are no flies in the city.

It’s warming up outside. Today will be a good day for a walk on the rail trail. A good day for making this year’s first batch of sun tea. An even better day for sitting on my red bench outside and reading the late Anita Shreve’s The Stars are on Fire. (The story takes place in Maine.) Are you using your screen door?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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I just want it to be.

Good morning from sunny but doubtful Vermont. I just checked my email to see if my contract for Quill Point came in, and nothing yet. I’m getting to the point where I’m wondering, “Did I really write another book?” I haven’t looked at the manuscript for so long that by the time I get my first round from my editor, it will seem like a new story that someone else wrote.

With this book and the more difficult proposition of marketing a sequel, I hope to really crack how to successfully push a book into the world. I’ve received so many good ideas, from both professionals and amateurs, but it seems like I’ve never had the time to give to it. You ask, “How is this book going to be any different?” Don’t know. I just want it to be.

I found a nice blog format I’d like to borrow to revamp this one. It’s here: http://redpincushion.us/blog What do you all think? I like how the photos and text are placed on the page. And I like the font this librarian blogger uses. Anybody recognize it?

I leave you with a photo of sunny San Antonio. I frequented this outdoor restaurant twice while I was there, first for lunch and then for happy hour. I sure do miss that hot sun. That’s it for me this week. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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