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Finding Home

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A personalized story to each bag.

Good morning from nippy Vermont. I’ve missed a few weeks blogging. I was out of town and didn’t have access to my laptop. But here I am, this second Sunday of Advent, ready to sit down with you for a good chinwag. First, great news! Many of you know I’ve been struggling for a few years with short-term memory loss. Friday morning, my doctor gave me a three page memory test, and though I was slow to answer each question, I aced it. She concluded that my brain was working well, but I was suffering the effects of a high level of stress. I was so excited–I mean, stress can be reduced right?

And there’s another piece of good news. Friday afternoon Serena had an X-ray of her neck. (Her neuro eye doc thought she might have damage there due to her vision problems.) And she does. Her top vertebrae is twisted one way, and the next in line is twisted another way, which explains her headaches and migraines and loss of vision and  feeling in her extremities. The chiropractor who took the scan will start adjusting her on the 20th (a three-hour appointment). Finally we get an answer–one of her concussions is the culprit! It’s funny how things work. My high school classmate Pam sent us to a doctor in Portsmouth who sent Serena to the neuro eye doc, who sent her to this special chiropractor back in Vermont. Perhaps Serena will actually end this year feeling better–what a concept!

I sold 17 books in all from the Bishop Marshall Craft Fair. My goal was five. I also sold half of Serena’s tees, most of her stationary, and a few of her tote bags. As I unloaded the car, balancing two large boxes in my arms, I lost my grip on my tea mug, and some spilled on the bags. I couldn’t sell them, so I bought them, and I’ve had such fun giving them away. And the tea stains add a personalized story to each bag.

What else? I’m on my third draft of a Christmas letter. Perhaps if I end up sending it out, I’ll post it to you next week. Every word and nuance has to be right though. I’ll take another stab at it this morning before work. Today the Kent elves continue to work on homemade Christmas and Hanukkah presents. So far, everything looks lovely.

Are you making holiday gifts this year? Check back next week for another round of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Humidity.

Good morning from rainy Vermont. That cold rain is washing the outside of Mrs. Potts, and since she dislikes mud, she’s happy to get a bath. Unfortunately, driving to and from work today might be dicey. The pros and cons of rain…My editor says I have the bad habit of listing things. She calls me a lister. So instead of telling you all the things I did or did not accomplish over break, I’ll practice a better way.

I changed my dad’s guitar strings on his Taylor. After watching a few YouTube videos on how to change strings, I realized I had been doing this for years and there wasn’t any new method out there for me to adopt. It took me about 15 minutes, and I didn’t break the E string. His guitar is tuned and ready to play. Unfortunately, those few videos I watched said I shouldn’t leave my guitar out on its stand because it might dry out in winter’s low humidity. I love having it on a stand. I reach for it easily, and it’s beautiful to look at. If Serena can tolerate it, I’ll try using a humidifier downstairs. That leaves my Martin. I hope I can change its strings this week. And it’s funny–before I learned about how you’re supposed to keep your guitar in its case, I purchased another stand so the girls and I could reach for the guitars and play together. I know my Martin doesn’t have an expanding bridge, so I’ll definitely have to get some humidity in the living room. This guitar also is beautiful to look at, and its original case is falling apart. Humidity. We’ll give it a try.

Black Friday entered into our home. I did much of my Christmas shopping online, and of course I experienced a moral dilemma doing so. I wanted to buy local, but the few things that were on the girls’ lists weren’t available here. At least the packages will arrive in cardboard, something I can break down and add to our recycling. It’s really hard to do it all right. If I had started earlier in the year, like June, I could have figured out how to Christmas shop with my ethics intact. At least we are making all our presents for family and friends, with two weekend days in December dedicated for production, assembly, and shipping. And all four of us have a role, so that balances out the Black Friday debacle, doesn’t it?

I’ve been listening to Christmas music at every opportunity. On the very old Bing Crosby album, he talks about everybody joining in with him for Away in the Manger, for some “gang singing.” Because I’m me, I get an instant visual of the drug cartels running through the streets of Philadelphia singing Deck the Halls with Bells of Holly. Or think West Side Story: “When you’re an elf your an elf all the way.” I just read this paragraph to Tim and Serena and they didn’t get it. Serena said, “Maybe it will work for the older crowd.” Oh well.

I’m back on my Sunday morning posting schedule. This Saturday I’m selling my books and Serena’s newly designed tees and totes. Come visit me at the Bishop Marshall craft fair in Morrisville. It runs all day.

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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I reach for her hand.

Good morning from cloudy Vermont. A clerk I talked to earlier said we are in for a cold snap. That’s just what it is, too. A snap of electric lines. A snap when houses shift. A snap of breath when it’s taken away. Here, inside, it’s warm and peaceful. I have the day off from college, and only the dog is awake beside me. Time I treasure…

Some of you might recall that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It helps us Americans all focus on what is working and good and plentiful in our lives. I’ve got a list going, and it’s so long it would take three blogs just to get the words down. Just so you know, I’m grateful for you.

We celebrate the holiday with my husband’s brother, sister, and their families. For so many years we gave my mother-in-law a ride down to Hanover, and I sat in the back between my two girls, singing every Christmas carol I remembered. They’d lay their heads against each side of me, and I enjoyed the scent of freshly washed hair.  Every now and again, my husband would reach back and squeeze my hand. Now, I’m in the front passenger seat, and sometimes there’s only Liv in the back. I reach for her hand…

A word on my book. In the last two weeks, I finished my edits in Quill Point and now it’s off into the production queue. My mom read my manuscript and loved it. Now one of my sisters is reading it. I gave my siblings the chance to opt in early. It’s a gift to them. They’ve given so much to me.

I turn now to the business of marketing my four books. I’ll make lists and charts and use all my color pencils, and then ultimately, I’ll slog through it. But that’s later. Right now, it’s about Thanksgiving, and wishing you a day of thankfulness, a lovely meal, and sweet memories. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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How many ways can you say hug?

Good morning from raw and cloudy Vermont. My latest news? I’m all done my last round of edits as of five minutes ago. My plan is to drop off my hard copy manuscript to my mom this morning before work so she doesn’t have to wait until next year to read the book, and sometime this week I’ll make the time to read the book online one more time before I send it off to the editor for production.

If you notice any typos, please don’t tell me about it. The editor and I have proofed Quill Point until at least I can’t stand it anymore. The time for enough already is now, except, of course, for that one last read…

How many ways can you say hug? Not enough, according to my editor. And does the word “So” have a comma after it or not? It doesn’t, though Word’s spell check says it does.  I’m tired and bleary eyed, and I have a cold. Thank goodness we got to turn the clock back an hour.

You know, for the past two years, I haven’t mentioned our current strained democracy once. Nor have I written about the enormous disasters that are occurring. I just wanted you to know that even though I don’t blog about such things, it doesn’t mean I’m blind to them. When I started this blog, I knew early on what I’d have words for. So I centered my  themes around raising daughters and learning and writing and home. Occasionally, even those themes challenge me–as you all know.  I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.

I leave you with a photo Serena took while I was at the table making corrections. It takes some balance to type with a dog in your lap. He’s worth the effort. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Then zip! It’s off to production.

Good morning from dreary Vermont. Since we now have snow in the air and even some on the ground, I’ve started to listen to Christmas music at work and in my car. Instrumental, classics, new versions, the whole nine yards. If it adds a spring in my step, why not?

I didn’t blog last week because I used the time to work on my second round edits. As of this morning, I’m half way through. I’ve got two weeks left to make my deadline–then zip! It’s off to production.

This evening at the library, I host a one-time reader’s group discussion on this year’s Vermont Read’s selection–Bread and Roses, Too. The Vermont Humanities Council selects one book a year for the entire community to read and talk about, in small towns and big cities all over the state. This particular book is about the labor strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, seen through the eyes of two older children. I have a few videos for my small group to watch, and there are pizza, cider, and cookies. Perhaps next year I’ll draw a larger crowd.

Friday, when I was out and about, a reader fan asked where in town she could buy my new book. I didn’t know, as my friend Orah Moore no longer has her store in the village. The woman reminded me that some people didn’t use Amazon. That’s a good point. I’ll have to think on it.

Okay, time to get ready for work, and pack my basket with goodies for the afternoon and evening. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

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Freddy and Frank.

Good morning from chilly, partly sunny Vermont. When I was growing up, we always had a box of Nestle’s Quik in our cupboard. I’d have a large glass of chocolate milk for breakfast, along with a scrambled egg and toast. While I ate, I’d read the box; sometimes you could send in proof of purchase labels for prizes.

One morning I saw that you could send in labels in exchange for two red, wooden pirates, with light blue felt pirate hats, black mustaches, and eyes. I asked my mom to get them for me, and after several weeks of waiting, they arrived. Somehow, by a bit of magic I’m sure, I transferred my love and attachment to those pirates, and I carried them everywhere. To bed (tucked under my pillow), to school (they were in my third-grade class photo), to breakfast. At night, during prayer time, I’d say, “And please bless Freddy and Frank, and all the people I know and don’t know.” That, to me, covered just about everything.

Over the years, their hats, eyes, and mustaches fell off, and most of their red paint eroded. Still, I needed those solid pieces of wood in each hand to maneuver through what I felt was a complicated life. I think I was in sixth grade when the magic disappeared, and suddenly I saw them for what they were, two oddly shaped pieces of wood. I lost track of them in the house, and then in my life. Still, I prayed for them for years after, as my words had become habit by then.

I don’t remember any of us having stuffed animals at home. My dad sent me a bear from the Vermont Teddy Bear Company when I got my first promotion at work–I think I was twenty-three. I named him Cookie and I still have him. And my husband, my boyfriend back then, got me a beautiful Gund bunny one Christmas. He’d heard my Freddy and Frank story from several family members by then. That bunny’s real now. He has marvelous expressions, and continues to give me comfort.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m a storyteller. Because I want you readers to know that I can attribute feelings to and create entire support systems from two pieces of hard wood. If I can do that, I do believe that there is no limit to my imagination. What were your favorite comforts growing up?

I leave you with Serena’s photo of our back yard. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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With regards, Stella Ramone

Hello everyone–while I’m waiting for my second and last round of edits, I’ve been working at writing my fifth book, With Regards, Stella Ramone. Here’s the start of it:

“Before we get to Stella, let’s linger over this small village called Hardwick. Do you see it’s sloping Main Street, lined on the right with old, tall buildings? Notice that some have been renovated, and welcome you with their pleasing, modern fronts. Others are worn; still, they beckon with their colorful signs and window dressings. That brick one, in the middle, Stella owns it, all three floors. She has a clear view of the parking lot across the street; it abuts the river. That river gets wild and crazy with the spring runoff from the mountains. As far as she knows, her building has stayed dry, though other parts of the village have flooded.

Step away from Main Street. Do you see the bank? It’s closed on Saturdays, an inconvenience for this hard-working town. And notice the red and blue balloons flying from all the models lined up outside at the Ford dealer. Stella bought her Ford Escape there. Her’s is navy blue, going on its second year.

Overlooking the river is a small diner—very small, a tiny house version of a restaurant. Still, most days, that’s the busiest place in town. Right next door is the local garage. Stella’s high school classmate runs it. He also does odd jobs on the side, and Stella hires him for building repairs. His name is Ben, Ben Cloud. He’s pure Hardwick—no Native American, despite his last name. He’s told Stella before that he wishes he was Abenaki. He loves hunting and fishing, and spends much of his free time out in the woods. He’s a wood worker, makes bowls and such. He sells them at the Yes You May Café.

Now that’s a mouthful. The café makes up the first floor of Stella’s building. She thinks the name is silly, and hopes one day to change it to something more civil and generic, like the Hardwick Café. But change comes slowly in Hardwick; she’ll wait for a while.

Here’s Stella getting out of her Ford Escape. She’s parked behind her building, in her designated spot nearest the entrance. Before she bought her property, the prior owner added an elevator. It drove the sale price up, but Stella’s apartment is on the third floor, and that elevator sure saves on steps. It’s the only elevator for miles around.”

There you go, readers. You get a glimpse of the birth of a book. Do you sometimes get the urge to write your own stories? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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That inkling of possible joy.

Good morning from cool and sunny Vermont. The big news is that I’ve returned my first round edits. I have one more round to go. The small news is that now I’ve got to finish my “author page,” the one where I have to write different-sized blurbs about my book and tell the reader about myself. This page is tricky, because it’s online and long, so you have to finish all of it in one shot or else you have to start over. My eyes were zoinking with the blurb sizes–first 100 words, then 200 words, then 300 words. If I did it right, my work is waiting for me as a saved Word document. At least I can copy and paste.

With the cooler weather arriving, I’ve been thinking about Christmas. I know–it’s way early, but it’s that feeling that comes unbidden, that inkling of possible joy, before the to-do lists and anxiety about leaving anybody out. And I’m actually enjoying fall. Of course, I always enjoy the reds and yellows against a bright blue sky, but this is a different kind of fall for me, one of acceptance. I’m standing with the change of seasons instead of bracing myself against it. That’s good, isn’t it?

I’m closing early today so I can respond to comments and submit my author page. Check back next week for another hopefully longer segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Milking his injury.

Good morning from foggy, chilly Vermont. Yesterday I switched to fall clothes, and today when I go to work, I’ll wear an extra sweater. Heat won’t return to the library until mid-to late October. After I blog and tidy up the kitchen, I’ll switch our bed to flannel sheets and store the fan. I wish I had a small pumpkin to place on the stoop. Maybe next week.

I finished up some editing this morning, and am now on page 193. Just under forty pages left for my first round. Then I go over each page once more before I submit them back to Sharon the Editor. I hope she’ll be pleased. This book? I would love it even if I hadn’t written it. I’m getting better, readers.

Thursday night we had quite an adventure. I took Scout out to do his business around 8 PM, and on our walk back to the house, he started whimpering and picking up his paw. Once in the house, I tried to see if had picked up a tick or a thorn of some sort, but his paw got red and swollen and he wouldn’t let me touch it. So I brought him to the vet. She sedated him, at which point he projectile vomited all over my brand new on sale, white Keds. We cleaned up, and then the vet pulled a long stinger from his paw.

He was having quite a reaction to the sting, so she injected him with Benadryl, gave us some pain meds for him, and we went home. I stayed up with him that whole night, as he was groggy and in pain, and needed a careful eye and extra love. Somewhere to the side of the stoop or maybe in the back, we have a wasp’s nest. He’s now afraid to go on the grass. And, now that he’s feeling better, he is milking his injury, lifting his paw (sometimes the wrong one) to tell us we have to carry him everywhere. I love this little guy.

Serena will be producing two sets of tees for me to sell at the Bishop Marshall craft fair, and I’ll sell whatever I have left of my other books. I’m looking forward to fall, a first ever in years. I think it’s because I’m in Soft Landing, have Mrs. Potts, and an entire new to me wardrobe for cold weather. I’m not ready to say, “bring it on.” But I am ready to say, “I’ll try it one more time.”

How are you all feeling about it? Check back next week for another segment of finding home.

Lisa

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Because there’s always a book.

Good morning from warm, cloudy Vermont. I just finished a stretch of editing, and I’m on page 103 out of 228 pages. At this pace, I think I’ll make my deadline, which falls in two weeks. Did I tell you I really like this story? I want to jump into Eva and live her life for a while. She’s got such a way with gardens. And she always takes time to chew her food.

This past Friday I found a treasure–a red leather hand bag. Remember the red corduroys I was enamored of? It’s exactly that color, and it will go well this winter with my red felted mittens. Some spots of the leather are worn to shiny, and one of its straps is pulling away. That’s why I got it for free. Inside, it’s just big enough to hold everything I need, with additional room for a book. Because there’s always a book.

My daughter Liv, who knows about such things, asked me what brand it was. I didn’t know, so I said, “Elizabeth Ardell.” She laughed and replied, “That’s a fake lash company.” The truth is, I don’t mind what brand it is. It’s red, and it’s pretty, and I get to use it.

Now I’ll close so I can turn my attention to prepping for work. I might even pull my dad’s Taylor from its stand and practice chord changes and picking. It’s right there waiting for me. It’s always waiting for me.

What calls you? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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