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.





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.


elmore photo fall.jpg



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.


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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.






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.


Purse, White Flower, Red

What the heck?

Good morning from chilly, foggy Vermont. Note that I didn’t use an exclamation point after Vermont, because I just received my first round edits back this past week, and it turns out I have over 400 exclamation points in Quill Point, and my first task is to whittle them down to 15. So I’m practicing.

About those edits. I’m stuck on page five, where the editor states:

“There seems to be a plethora of detail.  It gets to be wearing for a reader.  It also, in the case of naming characters, can raise expectations that the character will have more than a walk on role.

Also, it seems like there might be too many items being described like the desk.  When describing and modifying, it helps to have a reason in mind.  For me, I can’t picture the setting.  At the beginning of each scene establish time and place so the reader can imagine it.”

What the heck? My last editor told me I had to describe more. Now, this editor is telling me I have to describe less! (Oh gosh, that exclamation point slipped out.) Are my descriptions wearing on you, reader?

This morning I planned to work through fifty pages, piece of cake. But now I’m stuck on page five. Do I take the editor’s advice and restructure my book? Or do I just cut out a few descriptive terms and move on? Darn. I don’t know what to do. There is good news. So far she hasn’t used the word “stupid.”

The way I see it, there’s nothing else to do but put my big girl pants on and get ‘er done. Thanks for your comments about your relationship with darkness. So many of us are moving from wrestling with the dark to accepting it.

Back to my book! (Whoops.) Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.


Home Office, Workstation, Office



I had to be very brave.

Good morning from warm and cloudy Vermont. It rained last night, but I got the rain sounds mixed up with the fan noise, so I didn’t realize it until I took the dog out and saw the puddles. I’ve just finished a book about finding blessings and new knowledge in the dark. The author, a former Episcopalien priest, took a year off to discover the dark and then write about what she learned. She spent a lot of time outside, away from the reach of electric lights, and also went through simulations on blindness. She explored her fear of the dark, and noticed the many times darkness was treated reverently in Bible passages.

Last night at work I watched part of a documentary about the 500 asian lions living in the most western province of India. The filmers used a thermal camera to capture and view what the lions were doing at night. So many of them were directly by the road side as vehicles went by. I got spooked. When I drove home, I kept looking for lions and leopards and jackals. It’s good that I live on the outskirts of a small village in Vermont. I’m not so good with lions, and apparently not so good with the dark. Thermal cameras freak me out. I mentioned this to Serena last night and she told me not to watch the Blair Witch Project. That spooked me even more, and I had to be very brave to climb the stairs and go to bed.

When the kids were little, Tim used to bring them out for night walks. He pointed out constellations, satellites, shooting stars. They camped and got familiar with the dark in the same way that I did, with late night kick the can games, catching fireflies, and star gazing. I also fetched the cows and brought them back to the barn before the sun rose. But once I stopped physically interacting with the dark, my imagination introduced ways to fear it. And that’s currently where I am, except that I now am conscious of what I’m missing out on.

Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor, is a good guide book to reacquainting yourself with the dark, if you need that sort of prompt. Which I did. Tonight, step out of your porch light and find the darkest spot you see. Mark the spot with an X and feel how your feet meet the earth. As Taylor says, that is your beginning.

What’s your relationship with the dark? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.


Sky Stars Constellations Astronomy Galaxy





“For sharing.”

Good morning from tentatively sunny Vermont. I’ve so strong an urge to comment about all things political occurring this past week. But that’s not my focus or mission with this blog, so instead I’ll tell you what will happen this week.

Today I start my fall term hours, Sunday through Thursday, noon to eight PM. When I go to work today, there will be students in the library activating their computers and asking where the bathrooms are. I’ll put my “On Call for Research” sign up at the Information Desk, and finish two lesson plans in my office for the literacy classes I’ll teach once classes begin tomorrow.

I’m nervous. Remember that dip in the stomach that you used to get at the start of a new school year? That happens to me every fall. I read somewhere recently that this particular feeling is the feeling of possibility, and I agree. Everything is possible at the start of a new school year. Still, those nagging questions remain. What if they don’t like me? What if I screw up and scar them for life when I talk about information bias? What if my new boss tells me I’m doing everything wrong? What if I have to move my office into the broom closet? What if I lose my job??

When I was young, my way of coping was to imagine the worst possible scenario and match it with a tolerable ending. Okay, I still do this. So even if the worst happens, I’ll be okay. Some new possibility will rise up and I’ll catch a ride, and it will turn out to be the best thing ever for me and my family.

But back to today, here’s a bright spot. I’m bringing a new carton of half and half for all my cups of tea this week, and I’ll write on it with a black permanent marker, “For Sharing!”

I leave you with my new photo for our college directory. It’s big, and that’s because I didn’t know how to make it smaller. I plan on using it for the back cover of Quill Point. Doesn’t it make me look bookish?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.


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A chunk of change.

Good afternoon from warm and sunny Vermont. I just returned from Stowe, where I and my husband went out to lunch in celebration of our 23rd anniversary. Twenty-three years is a chunk of change. Every year, I ask myself, knowing how challenging our marriage has been, if I’d make the same vows. And every August 19th, I say yes. I remember in particular this homeade vow: “I promise to use the magic within me to warm and strengthen our relationship.” I recited this vow with such sincerity, such conviction. Of course, I had no clue what lay ahead for us. But that’s the thing about marriage. You go into it not knowing. And you learn along the way to fill in, survive, fail, or rejoice in the blank spots.

We don’t have a typical marriage, or typical kids, or a typical life. I know this not because I figured it out, but because enough objective people have told me so. Still, our dreams are typical. Tim and I want to learn and play golf together when we’re older. We want to meander across the country with a camper in tow. We want to fly overseas and soak in EuropIMG_0071ean atmospheres. I think the main theme here is time. We want to spend time together. And that’s what we did today. Perhaps this new year of marriage will bring us more of that, whether it’s sitting on the sofa and watching the Red Sox, or walking the Rail Trail with the dog. In any case, it’s been a good day.

One loose end to tie up. A reader posted the question, “Where is the Yes You May Cafe?” It’s a cafe that sits in a building Stella Ramone Queen owns in Hardwick, Vermont–a real town but a fictional character and building. It’s part of my next book, which I hope to finish by the time Quill Point comes out in July of next year.

Stella does dream work with dream interpreter Rose Lewis. There are things she needs to work out about her past, and since Rose lives just around the corner and discounts if you pay in cash, Stella feels Rose is as good a person as any to help her get the kinks out. Are you starting to get a feel for her?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.




The clock, my friends, is ticking.

Good morning from partly sunny Vermont. My assigned editor for Quill Point is a woman named Sharon. She has exactly one month to make corrections and suggestions and return them to me. Then I have exactly one month to implement them and return them to her. The clock, my friends, is ticking.

Today is a delicious Sunday, because I don’t have to do a million things. In fact, I’m spending this precious day reading, knitting, writing, and visiting my dad’s grave and my mom’s kitchen table. Add a Red Sox game (if they are playing) and a few loads of laundry and two main meals, and maybe a walk on the rail trail with Scout, and that’s what I call a Sabbath.

Here is one thing I told you I would do and didn’t: running barefoot. Here is one thing I said I would do and am doing: heading toward zero-waste. Somehow, it’s important for me to keep track. Do you keep a balance sheet? Check in next week for another segment of Finding Home.


P.S.: The Yes-You-May Cafe uses local eggs, meat, cheese, bread, and fruit and veggies when in season. The rest comes in bulk from Costco. The owner keeps to a tough budget.

Blueberries Summer Fruit Healthy Fresh Swe




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