Voltaire Was Here


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I read Candide by Voltaire in my Western Civ class as a freshman in college.  I was dazzled by the satire of this man who lived in the 1700s– how his humor and wisdom held up for so long.  Candide remains one of my favorite reads of all time.  So, unexpectedly coming across this place where he once walked as I walked along the Seine was particularly exciting to me.

voltaire home

The more I travel, the more value I find in visiting the places I have studied in history class, read about it books, or heard about in our common culture.  Seeing places first hand makes them more real. It solidifies in the mind why an author thought a certain way–how his or her surroundings influenced their thinking.  Experiencing a place for ourselves deepens our understanding.

I have reached a point in my life where things mean far less to me than they once did.  I don’t need jewels or gifts wrapping in ribbons and bows.  Send me somewhere new and let me explore on my own.  This is the gift I desire.


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Augustine of Hippo

National Book Month


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I’ve finally discovered the upside of menopause.  The lack of sleep provides lots more time for reading.

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When the  kids grew up and moved away to chase adventure, I rediscovered my love of reading.  Oh, we had read lots while they were at home.  When they were very small I read to them; as they learned, they read to me.  Through it all we read as a family.  For years we had a family book going and would gather in someone’s bedroom and lounge on the bed while either their dad or I read.  But I had not read myself for pleasure much during those years.

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The past few years I have challenged myself each New Year’s to read a certain number of books that year.  I track my progress at Goodreads increasing my goal each year.  So far this year I have logged 115 completed books, almost every page read in the wee small hours while the sane world slumbers.  They say every cloud has a silver lining.  Instead of tossing and turning through sleepless nights, my silver lining is found in the pages of books.

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A baker’s dozen of the best books I have read this year…

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu

Please Don’t Tell by Elizabeth Adler

Missing Child by Patricia MacDonald

The Far Cry by Frederic Brown

The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright

A Good American by Alex George


Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker

Thy Brother’s Wife by Andrew Greeley

Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry

 

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Observing National Book Month with Mama Kat.

If You Give a Mom a Baby


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Too fun to resist.  One of the Writer’s Workshop’s prompts this week was– take the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and change it to give a mom something of your choice.  This was a favorite book of my kids when they were small, and one of my favorites to read out loud.  So, I offer the following in tribute to the original’s author, Laura Joffe Numeroff.

 

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If You Give a Mom a Baby

(Subtitle: The Story of How I Have Three Offspring Instead of One)

 

If you give a mom a baby, she’s going to begin to sway.

When you give her the baby, the baby doesn’t have to be distraught for her to sway.


When she’s finished swaying, she’ll ask the baby a question.

Then she’ll talk in words that end in long E sounds to make sure the baby understands her lingo.

When she says words like horsie and doggy, she’ll notice the baby begin to grin.

So, she’ll probably use a voice three octaves higher.

When she’s finished babbling incoherently, she’ll want to inhale a big breath of baby smell.

She’ll press her nose to the baby’s scalp and start reeling.

She might get carried away and become light headed.

She may even unsnap the onesie and blow on the baby’s tummy as well!

When she’s done, the baby will probably want to take a nap.

She’ll have to fix up a little spot for him with a blanket and a pillow.

He’ll snuggle in, make himself comfortable and suck on an imaginary nipple in his dreams.

She’ll probably have one hundred other things to do.

Still,  she’ll stand on the same spot doing nothing more than watching him sleep, and occasionally she will sigh.

When she looks at the sleeping baby, she’ll get so  sentimental that she’ll want one of her own.

She’ll recall how quickly her own babies grew up.

She’ll see a picture.

In the picture, she’ll see only the best things about life with a baby.

Then she’ll want to see this picture come to life.

Which means she’ll need just one more.

She’ll paint her picture for her unsuspecting husband.

Looking at his wife will remind him of the last time they had this talk.

So… he’ll ask for a little time to think about it.

And chances are if he entertains the possibility long enough to think about it, pretty soon he’s going to find himself swaying with a brand new baby in his arms.

Filling an Empty Nest

workshop-button-1Prompt: If you could have given yourself a snapshot five years ago of what your life is like now, what would the picture be of and how do you think you would have felt about it?

 

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Five years ago, I had adjusted well to my oldest child being a college student three states away.  My other two kids were in high school though the end was in sight.  I so enjoy having the three of them around that I was not looking forward to the emptying of my nest.book store

My wise friend June was in the same stage of life.  She told me that we had to figure out what made us personally happy and pursue it.  What she understood was that our nests wouldn’t feel so empty if they were filled with what we loved other than our children.

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And so I rekindled love:  the love and friendship that my husband and I shared as newlyweds;  my love of creating art or something like it;  and my love of reading.  While all my rekindled loves bring me joy, it is my reading that has surprised me with its voraciousness.  Each night as I lay in bed it is not the stillness that has replaced footfalls on the stairs that I hear, but the adventures re-experienced with characters I’ve known forever or new escapades with those I have just discovered.  I feel no loneliness in the wee hours as my husband sleeps peacefully by my side because I am kept company by historical figures and fictional friends page after page.paris bookstore

The greatest accomplishment of my life is motherhood.  The times that my children are nestled under my roof are still my favorite times of all.  But the other times–the quiet times of solitude and contented partnership have a magic of their own.  Like all great stories, as life unfolds I am surprised and entranced by the plot twists, especially those which I could have not predicted such as an empty nest where a sense of emptiness is completely foreign to me.

 

Snapshots taken at an English bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris, France.

Used Books

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vintage book

Used books are an inexpensive way to bring color and interest to a room at little to no cost.  When my sister’s small town library purged their collection, she gathered a box of visually interesting children’s books for me.  The library was giving discarded books away to anyone willing to take them.  Our own library does a bag sale each fall; fill an entire grocery bag for $5.00.

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I love mid-century children’s books for their graphics.  Their antiquated points-of-view are eye-opening.  Multicultural perspectives were not the stuff of these examples of historical non-fiction.

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I wanted to use this book opened, because the long ago broken spine had been repaired by a sticky, black library tape some decades back.  I didn’t find the tape particularly attractive especially in comparison to the quaint illustrations and rich yellowed pages.

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I rolled the first half-dozen pages in half and tucked them in towards the middle of the book.  This made the cover stay opened at a 45 degree angle.  I then tucked a few family photographs between the pages and set the book on a shelf in my daughter’s china cabinet as a photo display.  Since I had the book on hand, it took about five minutes to add a splash of personality to a bare shelf without spending a dime.

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