Monthly Archives: July 2011










The Perfect Summer Read; The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating


The other day I took my son to the library. After I’d conducted my own biblio-business, I sat down in one of the comfy chairs near the desk to wait for him to finish his craft project…he made an African Rain Stick that day. The gluing and crafting was taking a little longer than I expected, so my eyes wandered to the “New Books” display where I spotted The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. This ought to kill some time, I thought, as I expected to flip through an adult picture book full of beautiful wild snails–eating, I supposed. What I found was so much better!

By the time my son brought his rain stick out of the craft room to show me, I was completely engrossed in this tiny volume of prose, science, memoir, and enchantment! If you’ve ever felt trapped in your life, by illness as the author is, or really just wishing with all your heart to be someplace else, but compelled to stay put, you’ll relate on some level to Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s tale of her relationship with an ordinary woodland snail that hitched a ride on a visitor’s gift of potted flowers. 

Bailey adeptly draws her reader into her world…a world that most of us would rather not consider at all. She writes: “It was all I could do to get through each moment, and each moment felt like an endless hour, yet days slipped silently past. Time unused and only endured still vanishes…” Though bedridden, Elisabeth Tova Bailey nonetheless finds a reason to hold on, and a reason to remain interested in her monotonous, mind numbing surroundings. The little creature captures her imagination, and she begins to study its nocturnal wanderings, its habits, and the hard biological and ecological science behind the lot of it. And then, much to the delight of anyone willing to give this little book a chance, she writes about it all…and she makes it magical!

I don’t think I’ll ever think of a snail as ordinary again….

To purchase the book, or Kindle version on, click here: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating    

To visit this gifted author’s website, click here: Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Making A Positive Difference In Wartime; Miep Gies vs. Jane Fonda


One of the goals of my blog here is to write about people who are making a positive difference, and hopefully, if I’m really lucky, make one myself. This week, actress Jane Fonda is getting a lot of press for her claims that she was canned by the home shopping network, QVC, for her status as a controversial person during the Vietnam War. You can read about that here: Jane Fonda — QVC Axed Me Over Possible Protests 

Whether or not you side with Jane Fonda or QVC in this matter, photographs tend to speak for themselves….

Jane Fonda wrote a rebuttal to her critics and QVC via her blog, and you can read that in its entirety here, along with the comments she has chosen to publish. I will state for the record that she has not yet posted my own comment, in which I ask her to make a donation of a portion of her millions to a Facebook Cause I founded, Thank a Vietnam Veteran, in order to prove the sincerity of her regret at supposedly being somehow tricked into sitting on that anti-aircraft gun: Jane Fonda’s Blog Post, “The Truth About My Trip To Hanoi”

Quite frankly, I was less than impressed with the argument set forth in the blog by Ms. Fonda. It seemed to be all about her, all about how she was framed and coerced by this that and the other person, and more than a little whiney. I’m sure that there have been some things said about her that aren’t true. This is the case with almost every celebrity, with every high profile news event, etc. But, Janey….Girlfriend…that’s so not the point. The point is, when you are confronted with a war that you don’t agree with, or a political leader that you don’t like and wish to protest, this is not how you make a positive difference. But, you’re a big girl now and you know that, don’t you?

For tips and pointers on how to make a difference in war time, no matter how Jane Fonda is trying to spin her actions now, 40 years later, when what she herself did and said is hitting her wallet, look not to Jane, but to a real wartime hero–Miep Gies.

Who???? Who, you say, well let me tell you a little bit about Miep Gies. Hopefully, afterward, you’ll want read and learn more about her for yourself. Miep shares one similarity with Jane–they both went against their own government during wartime. But that is where the similarities end. Miep Gies was one of the Dutch citizens who actively, at the very real risk of her own life, helped hide Anne Frank and her family in that annex  for two years during World War II. She is mentioned in The Diary of Anne Frank, and later penned her own account of that time in history in her volume, Anne Frank Remembered. I picked up a copy of it at the library today and, after reading just the prologue, cannot wait to delve into her account of those same events covered by Anne in her infamous diary. 

Consider these words from Miep Gies, as opposed to Fonda’s self aggrandizing, self pitying words in her recent blog:

“I am not a hero. I stand at the end of a long long line of good Dutch people who did what I did or more–much more–during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the hearts of those who bear witness. Never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened to them…There is nothing special about me. I have never wanted special attention. I was only willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at the time”. 

Wow. I guess the point to my blog today, and I do have one, is that each of us has a choice, including me, of course. We make choices every day regarding our own actions. My feelings about Jane Fonda’s actions back during the Vietnam War are probably not a secret. However, I didn’t write this blog to bash Ms. Fonda. I think her actions, and her own words of spin in the guise of truth telling in her own blog probably speak for themselves and are up to your own interpretation. What I ask you (and myself really) to consider, is the contrast between Jane Fonda and Miep Gies. Both women claim to have had only the best of intentions during wartime.

And war, I might add, isn’t really the issue here either. Show me a person who “loves” war, and I’ll show you a troubled individual. As my WWII Veteran grandfather once told me, “Shell, nobody loves war. And nobody hates war more than a soldier.” However, my grandfather was a veteran himself, and saw two sons go off to Vietnam not knowing whether or not they’d come home to him whole, or in one of those infamous body bags. He was and still is, however, a lifelong Republican, and an educated man as well. He may not have supported every war the U.S. fought in his heart, but he always supported his country, and its soldiers. And he would also be the first to tell you that support is NEVER spelled by going into enemy territory during wartime and sitting on weaponry with the enemy for a destructive, hurtful, self promoting photo opportunity. That’s just not supportive, and I suspect even Jane Fonda knows that. Miep Gies actually went against her occupied country’s leadership at the time, in a bigger, way more gutsy manner than Jane Fonda could have dreamed of doing. But, and here’s the critical difference, she did it in a way that saved lives, that positively impacted the victims of war–she fought the good fight. Jane? Not so much, because I really fail to see how her stunt in North Vietnam positively impacted even one victim of war–either the Vietnamese people, or Vietnam Soldiers, now Veterans, POWs, or Casualties. 

So, in the end, I think we all have to decide….when it comes to doing what’s right, to helping the victims of a war, to expressing ourselves in a positive and constructive manner, and showing the world what we’re really made of….Will we be Jane Fonda or Miep Gies? I know who I choose! 

As always, thanks for reading….

A Day At The Museum


My grandmother Kay taught me three things…Take an avid interest in your surroundings, never miss an opportunity to visit historic sites (that goes double if they’re free), and never, under any circumstances, allow anyone to photograph you without your lipstick. That last one has come in handy over the years, and the first two were highly useful today when I found myself with two long hours to kill in a small town…

I was in Bartow, Florida, which also happens to be the county seat of Polk County, in Central Florida. There on Main Street, which is the main drag through Bartow, is the Polk County Historic Museum (also the old courthouse). My grandmother would have been proud of me…I walked all around, looked at all the exhibits, and not once did I whine and complain that it was borrrrr-ING. She sure heard that a lot when I was young and was a frequent travel guest of her and my grandfather. I saw a lot that interested me actually–I’ve evolved, I guess. And, I wish she had been there with me today because I saw a lot of of items that would have caught her eye too.

So, from Kay and me, here are just a few of the fascinating things Polk County Historic Museum has to offer…

A Very Vintage Hair Dryer & “Permanent Wave” Machine

An Exhibit About The First Theater In Polk County

America’s Oldest Man, Charlie Smith

And His Letter From President and Mrs. Ford

A BIG Catch…

An Old Fashioned Curling Iron, and a Rather Creepy Hair Braid…

Old Traffic Lights (With No Little Gotcha Cameras Like the Ones Nowadays In Polk County)

Scary, Prehistoric Monster Heads…And One Modern One…

Vintage Law Man Accessories

Women’s History…

And Some Fascinating Florida Trivia…Thanks, Ponce…I Love Those Oranges!

Museum Information & Fees


The museum is located in downtown Bartow at:

100 East Main Street (corner of Main & Broadway)
Bartow, Florida 33830


Tuesday – Friday 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Saturday 9:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
Closed Sundays & Mondays

In 2011 the museum will also be CLOSED on the additional days listed below:

  • Friday, November 11 – Veteran’s Day Observance
  • Thursday & Friday, November 24 & 25 – Thanksgiving
  • Friday & Saturday, December 23 & 24 – Christmas Holidays


Admission to the museum is FREE to the public.

For Information On Polk County’s Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary) This Year, Click The Photo Below…

Excuse Me Hot Bag Boy, Did You Just Call Me Ma’am?


“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”. ~ Mark Twain


I’m coming up fast on my 46th birthday. Cognitively, I know that that I’m aging…but inside I feel just the same as the day I walked across the stage to take my high school diploma. Realistically, I know that was a long time ago…a very long time ago now. And would I go back? Oh no way! I had no idea who I was that day in June of 1983, let alone my worth or what I could accomplish when I set my mind to it. I like myself today, I truly do. I didn’t back then, I truly didn’t. Now, if I could go back knowing what I know now, as who I am now, would I? Now that is the real question. Maybe, I think. There are advantages to youth…most of them directly related to an 18 year old body and a lifetime ahead of 18 year old possibilities. And that does make me a tiny bit sad, truly it does. 

I think we all go through this. It’s what is known as a Midlife Crisis. Some of us handle it better than others…I’m handling it okay. I mean, I’m not about to go around lying about my age, or trying to prove in some overt way that I still got it. I’ve seen people, particularly women, doing that…up close and personal, and trust me folks, it ain’t pretty! Besides, I’d much rather state my true age and have people say, and actually think, “Wow, you look great for 46!” Instead of saying, “Wow, you look great!” But really thinking, “Geez Louise! Have you been recovering from some godawful disease? Because you look like crap for 36!”  Granted, I look good for my age, but the physical changes are there too…the mirror tells me so. That’s why, when I saw the group get together on Facebook, looking into the initial phases of planning our 30th reunion (for 2 years from now), I began to wonder…where did that girl go? “She’s still here!”, I shout, as the bag boy asks if I “Would like some help out with that, Ma’am?” “Er, not just no Hot Bag Boy, but hell no! I’m fine thank you!” As I push my cart out of the store, I can’t help but check myself out in the big round security fun mirror and think to myself, “Oh, you bet I’m fine! Damn fine!” And then about halfway out to my Jeep I really wish I’d accepted that offer of help, because my middle aged back really, really hurts….:-( 

The lines are blurred for all of us these days–especially women. We live in the age of Cougars and MILFs, and Ashton & Demi, where a woman who spends every waking hour of her life on trying not to look or act her age, can still get a hot young guy to notice her–even marry her, in Demi’s case. And good for her (I guess). And we also live in the age of all sorts of anti-aging creams and fixes, plastic surgeries and “procedures”, to help us look younger than we actually are. And that’s fine too, I guess, but I have to ask…to what end? Aren’t we still 46 (or whatever age we are) when the day is done? Why put that much effort into trying to fool other people, and ourselves, that we are anything other than what–and who–we really are. 

I guess I’m here to state, for the record, that there’s nothing wrong with being 46. For me that’ll happen in about a month. And I feel good about it, really I do. It’s just those shifting paradigms that I need to fully adjust to. I’m not 25 anymore. And that bag boy is perfectly right to call me Ma’am. That’s how he sees me, realistically, and I’ve earned that respect–in spades! 🙂 

In order to help me fully adjust, I pulled a dusty book off my shelf today. It’s a volume I bought myself in anticipation of turning 40. Truth be told, I didn’t really need it then–but I am probably beginning to need it now. It’s entitled Not Your Mother’s Midlife; A Ten Step Guide To Fearless Aging by Nancy Alspaugh and Marilyn Kentz. The authors offer these 10 steps to so called “fearless aging”:

1) Accept it.

2) Take a good look at what to expect. 

3) Let go of what’s not working. 

4) Shore up spirituality. 

5) Get a new perspective. 

6) Find a new passion. 

7) Don’t just vent–reinvent. 

8) Make new goals. 

9) Get a coach. 

10) Awaken to the muse. 

These are great general suggestions. As I read through the chapters, if I find anything specific that is blog worthy, I’ll be sure to write about it. 

I’ve already started on a few of these (all on my own), so I guess I’m doing good already. And I’m probably more okay with the aging process than a lot of women out there, truth be told. But, also in truth, my life is quite literally half over. If I’m lucky, that is, and it’s not actually more than half over. And, although I am still that girl in the white satin cap and gown…I am her and she is me…I have to make some adjustments in my perceptions and sense of self to make sure that young girl can get the very most out of this phase of her life.

And she deserves it…you all really have no idea just how much she deserves it! 

Have You Heard of Victoria Woodhull?


Because I never had. It’s entirely possible that my history education is sorely lacking, but I had no idea that the first woman to run for President of the United States did so way back in 1872!

Victoria Woodhull, who obviously didn’t win, opposed incumbent Ulysses S. Grant. Born in 1838 in Homer, Ohio, this eccentric, free thinking suffragette ran as the representative of the Equal Rights Party. She campaigned throughout her life for such intriguing causes as free love, labor laws, and legalized prostitution. Oh, and she made a killing on Wall Street too as the first female stock broker. She then took her spoils of capitalism and founded a newspaper in which she proceeded to publish the first English language version of The Communist Manifesto. Talk about diverse interests! And Woodhull was ahead of her time in other ways too…she publicized a sex scandal between popular and well known minister Henry Ward Beecher and one of his parishioners, and maintained high profile celebrity feuds herself with none other than Harriet Beecher Stowe and Susan B. Anthony. Who knew?

Controversial or not, kooky or not, this is one intriguing historical figure I’d say! If you’d like to learn more about Victoria Woodhull, here are some good sources:

Who Is Victoria Woodhull?

Victoria Claflin Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull On Wikipedia

Victoria Woodhull On The History Channel

All Things Victoria Woodhull

And here are some quite insightful (and gutsy for her time) quotes attributed to Victoria Woodhull:

“I am a free lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please”.

“I endeavor to make the most of everything”.

“I come before you to declare that my sex are entitled to the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

“I shall not change my course because those who assume to be better than I desire it”.

“I now announce myself as candidate for the Presidency. I anticipate criticism; but however unfavorable I trust that my sincerity will not be called into question”.

Here’s to history…Unsanitized, quirky, and fascinating!






5 Great Children’s Book Series


To foster a love of reading in children, there is nothing more effective than getting them hooked on a series. In fact, even as an adult, this is how I prefer to structure my own reading experience. I have especially enjoyed the adventures of private eye Kinsey Milhone in Sue Grafton’s “Alphabet Series” over the years. There’s something very comforting about revisiting favorite characters as the story continues on over the course of several separate volumes. The “can’t wait to see what happens next” series also helps in the reading motivation department for both kids and adults. Let’s face it, sometimes the lure of television and internet is great, especially when these activities are so much more passive and effortless than investing oneself in the activity of reading BYOI (Bring Your Own Imagination).

As a parent, I’ve always tried to encourage my boys to read, for all the same reasons I limit their treats and insist that they eat vegetables and fruit with every meal–because I know it’s good for them. My own efforts were an uphill battle until I discovered the magic of the series. Once each of them found a series they were interested in, with a main character or characters they could relate to, my work was done. Except for the energy expended driving them back and forth to the library, I could just sit back and watch them go…noses in books, vocabularies expanding, brains developing, right before my very eyes!

Parents today understand the value of reading, and this is reinforced by school systems and local libraries nowadays as well, with accelerated reading programs. My boys have been enrolled in our local library’s Excellence in Reading program for a couple of years now. They read books from a group selected by the children’s librarian, at their grade level, and take quizzes on the material in order to earn points and prizes along the way. This has provided great incentive as well for my kids to get into reading as a hobby and personal interest. These programs are fantastic! It is likely that your library has something similar, but if not, you should talk to them about starting one. You can also structure your own program at home, using internet programs such as the one available here: Book Adventure

But, when all is said and done, a great series will help children develop a healthy addiction to reading. Here are five of my kids’ favorite series, from very young to middle school age…If you have other recommendations (including some for high school aged readers), please add them below in the comment area. I need some ideas for future series myself! 

Biscuit, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

This series is recommended for ages 2+, and is all about the adventures of a little puppy named, you guessed it, Biscuit! You’ll read them to children at first, and the series also has several “I Can Read!” versions of Biscuit stories for older than 2, young beginning readers.

The Magic Tree House Series, by Mary Pope Osborne

I can’t say enough good things about this ongoing series, because it’s my absolute favorite for kids. This one has it all, folks…adventure, educational value courtesy of the stories themselves, and the accompanying study guides for practically each adventure with all sorts of factual information! Your kids, and frankly you too, will be delighted by brother and sister team Jack and Annie, who are whisked away to a different time and place in each book, courtesy of the magic treehouse in their own backyard. This one is rated ages 4-8 on As for reading level, it all depends on where your child is, skills wise, but my son got into it around the end of 2nd grade.

The Little House Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, of course

I read these as a child in elementary school. Of course, everyone has heard of this one because not only is it a classic book series, but it was a wildly popular television series as well. My youngest is reading his way through the life story of Laura Ingalls Wilder now, so that is proof positive that it can appeal to boys and girls. My older son didn’t care for it much, but my younger one is more interested in history and the “old fashioned”. He’s riveted, and if your elementary schooler loves pioneer days tales, he or she will be too! The Little House books are rated at a reading level of 9-12 years old.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis

These volumes were written by C.S. Lewis as Christian allegories. If you prefer more secular reading materials for your child, please don’t let that stop you from giving this series a whirl! Just like the movie series inspired by these magical tales of adventures in Narnia, fully accessible from the magic wardrobe, these fantasy stories have a high level of appeal to children and adults of all faiths. The stories are what you make of them! The Chronicles of Narnia are suitable for kids ages 9-199. 🙂

Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordian

This is the only series I’ve mentioned here that I don’t know a whole lot about. My 12 year old found it on his own on the Excellence In Reading shelf at the library and can’t put it down. That’s good enough for me! It’s an adventure series, and the main character has ADHD, which might have been the initial attraction for my son, who struggles with that disorder himself. The best plug I can give you for the Percy Jackson Series is that it is the only book or book series that has ever caused him to ask if he can keep reading past his designated, Mom imposed, reading time. Wow!

I hope you and your family are having a great summer…. But, if you’re hearing that classic line, “I’m BORED” just a little too often…you might want to try a new book series. Sometimes, it’s the perfect solution!