Stress relief with the digital word: Part 1


I will admit this out loud: I did not understand the depth and length of stress in October 2019 with my post, “Read away your stress for only $24.04.”. THIS IS IT. This COVID19. This America. This summer. All are extraordinarily stressful. One layered upon the other.

NOW. I am reading more widely and a variety of titles simultaneously in order to de-stress, yet still within a budget. I admit to holding the line thanks to these authors, which I am sharing here. Some I have read; others, not yet. The books are all piled high on a bedside table with the e-Reader alongside and its multitudinous titles.

I am a sucker for a good mystery, romance-mystery, chick-lit mystery, especially when the first in a series is free or less than $10. Thanks to Barnes&Noble, I downloaded these titles in order to escape the here and now before I drifted off into another surreal world of dreams.  Listed here in no particular order:

(many are free both for Nook & Kindle)

Some of these titles are short in length, really novellas; others, full length novels. Check on Goodreads for your preference.

Recommended by my sister, these are not the type of books I read (honestly, I am such a snob!), but I so enjoyed them. You were right, sista!

I started reading each one twice before I put down the books. I am wedded to reading these through to the end even if it is to figure out why I am having to struggle. Sometimes, I wonder if it is the cover art that grabs me. Hmmm….

Stay tuned for Stress relief with the print word: Part 2 coming soon.

Mahogany Books: a place where Black books matter.

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BIASED: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

Book: Commentary

During the past two weeks in the aftermath of the murder of Mr. George Floyd (warning: graphic description) protests here in the D.C. area, the U.S. and across the world have taken center stage. Turning to Twitter, where I follow artists and authors almost exclusively, I came across a plethora of recommended reading under the hashtag BlackLivesMatter. One such list included this book which drew my attention with its focus on implicit bias. Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt, a 2014 MacArthur “genius” awardee among outstanding other accomplishments, writes beautifully and clearly on this dense and broad topic.

book cover

I value Eberhardt’s openness is discussing her own personal history and her interactions – whether on the UVA or Harvard campuses, working in San Quentin with prisoners, with police departments, and most importantly, with her son. It is this shared intimacy along with her training as a professional social psychologist that conveys the messages – intellectually and emotionally. With these private revelations she grabs you; next, the science exposes the cultural bias.

“…I was busy preparing the turkey…while he [Ebbie, her 6 year old son] sat at the kitchen table. Out of the blue he asked, ‘Mommy, do you think people see black people as different from white people?’ Her honest discussion with her son, is then capped off with research focusing on pre-schoolers and the power of adults to shape profoundly the children’s perceptions.

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As a former teacher-librarian, her chapter, “Hard Lessons” carries a special weight; it retells the struggle for education of Judge Bernice Donald on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, who, as a child, picked cotton in “the fields of Tennessee.” Dr. Eberhardt weaves together seamlessly the scientific history and studies behind implicit bias against the backdrop of personal experiences from Black, Latino(a), and whites with the issue of bias at its core. Following the “Conclusion” is included “Questions For Discussions,” and an outstanding bibliography. Whether you read this alone or with a group, there is some way to see yourself reflected. Change is always possible.

Eberhardt, Jennifer L., Ph.D. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do. Penguin Books, 2019. Print.

What drives the art?

Patience and creativity

Returning to life as an artist is a challenge after twenty years immersed in a left-brain career as a librarian – organizing, cataloging and instructional designing.  Nothing demonstrates this more than the past two months working on a seemingly simple artist’s book.

Prior to my life as a librarian, I was a working artist for twenty years with roots in calligraphy. This form is the foundation for everything I learned about art subsequently. Knowing the quality of work of which I am capable by looking back through the boxes and folders of my art projects, and then, looking at my current work, left me sorely demoralized. This is true, even with calligraphy, my first love.

So, I turn to writing prose and bookmaking, additional loves in the artistic life. My intention (please note this noun!) to create an artist’s book with my prose at the central point is a turning point. Designing the format and attempting to carry out the all the skills needed, demonstrates how far I have meandered my previous life. Nothing was meeting my standards. This went on for more than a month. Over and over, re-thinking, re-designing, re-hashing imagery…until, one morning, I collected all the debris and threw it into an envelope to shelve.

What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t this working? I was on my third attempt with this “simple book.”

May I suggest that you read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott


Cover art

Finally, after re-reading one chapter of the above title, it hit me. I was working with the left-brain. Intention. In my process to create, it was all linear – get from Point A to my Point B .

So, I cleared everything off my desk. Created a big open space. And played. Ran my hands over the handmade papers until I found those that felt right. Moved around the pieces of photographs like a jigsaw puzzle until they fell into place visually.

Continuing along this path for the next two weeks, the book I had never imagined began to form. Yes, there were times I was afraid to “be intentional” not wanting to subvert a new beginning. Each decision, intuitive or deliberate, was met with patience. I put the work aside and came back to it another day; played with it for an hour and then, went for a walk.

To continue to encourage my ability to create step-by-step, piece-by-piece with respect and composure is my task for this season – this month as we enter into the time of hunkering down for winter. If I can allow myself this time, spring will be a joy.

AS I AGE: free verse

As I age, I would like to sit across from my mother at the kitchen table, the one with the red and white enamel top the table where she rolled out her dough for Christmas baking, year after year; where she set our hot meals before us every day – except Sunday.

I would like to talk with her, mother to daughter, about our families, our marriages, and her grandsons. I would like to know my enigmatic father, her spouse, through her eyes and with her heart. To hear tales of my sisters as toddler, her girls. These sisters I love and who were born years before me.

There is so much I ache to know, but mostly it is this: to have my mother close by me again with her smile and scowl in equal measures, the sound of her voice surrounding me. Simply to be in her presence; to share our lives as women do.



Reading during All Hallow’s Eve

One book leads to another

crow illustrationOf course, it just occurred to me that I am reading a timely mystery title (series) for the upcoming Halloween weekend. This behooves me to share. Now.

Karen Lee Street’s series (see, reviews ) offers us the iconic American author of dark and ominous short stories, Edgar Allan Poe as half of a duo who solve mysteries. More than this, she grounds this poet/writer within the daily confines of life as a husband, son-in-law and father while struggling with his craft.

Moreover, living within driving distance of Poe’s Baltimore home (as I home some of you are, too, dear readers), this is a double treat. For those who do reside nearby, the virtual tour is offered through the The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum.

Virtual Tour: Edgar Allan Poe House National Historic Landmark, Baltimore, MD from Poe Baltimore, Inc. on Vimeo.

For readers with young children, I offer a short Edgar Allan Poe reading list, so the family is able to immerse themselves in all-things Poe this week. Enjoy!

Suggested reading list
Avi, The Man Who Was Poe. HarperCollins Publishers, 1997. Print  (ages 8-12)
Bagert, Brod (Editor), Carolynn Cobleigh (Illustrator).  Poetry For Young People: Edgar Allan Poe.  Sterling, 2008. Print.
Hinds, Gareth. Poe: stories and poems : a graphic novel adaptation. Candlewick Press, 2017. Print. (Young adult & adult)
McKissack, Patricia C., and Brian Pinkney (Illustrator). The Dark Thirty: Tales of the Supernatural. Random House Children’s Books, 2001. Print.
Poe, Edgar Allan, and Gris Grimly (Illustrator). Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Death and Dementia. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009. Print
Poe, Edgar Allan, and Gris Grimly (Illustrator). Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004. Print


This post is re-published from 2018.

Read away your stress for only $24.04

More mysteries

So much is happening in the simple life of this retired librarian – weddings, travel, and dinner with friends – that I am utterly useless in the studio. At home, horizontally prone across a quilted bed, it is all I can do to raise my hand, the one holding my e-reader, knowing that it will give great pleasure. And, it does.

Within the past month I have managed to read away my stress with the following titles. All e-books. All mysteries. Be forewarned, these are only for the pleasure of knowing I can follow the story, and that all will end well. Not complicated. Not violent. Solid writing. Lovely imagery. Straightforward story lines. In my retirement, I do not ask for a lot.

Yet, for $24.04 I got a lot!

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  • Murder in the Smithsonian  (Capital Crimes Series #4) by Margaret Truman – For one living in Washington, D.C. metro area, this is a must. ($1.99)
  • Lady Helena Investigates (Book One of The Scott-de Quincy Mystery series) by Jane Steen – You go girl!! ($2.99)
  • 3 Sleuths, 2 Dogs, 1 Murder (Book 2 of The Sleuth Sisters) by Maggie Pill – A scene that actually made me laugh out loud! ($2.99)

Waiting to read:

  • A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks ($7.09)
  • River of Darkness (John Madden Series) by Rennie Airth ($5.99)
  • The Anatomist’s Wife (Lady Darby Mystery) by Anna Lee Huber ($2.99)

My hope is that you find some enjoyment with one or more of these titles regardless of medium or vendor. If you do, let me know. I promise to be vertical and respond accordingly!

These prices are those reflected from Barnes & NOble for Their Nook

Cats & books & cats

One of the joys of loving to read is that one is assured of birthday gifts in the form of books. The Travelling Cat Chronicles was such a gift this past December. I was told by the gift-giver that it is one to savor for a bedtime activity as I decompress from the day’s errand running, hither and yon.

So, I did.

There is a plethora of online reviews from quite reputable and well-written sources. Thus, I will limit my opinion here to my initial reaction.

This is not a title that I would have chosen for myself; I am not terribly enamored of anthropomorphic stories, except perhaps children’s. This title straddles both adults’ and children’s worlds fortunately, with the winding narrative style.  Whether I liked or disliked the story was dependent upon my mood for the reading hour. Beware! I am a fickle and flighty reader.

Yet, here is the beauty of the gift: it is a glimpse into how others see you; your likes, your aura…

My gift-giver was ever-so-close to the mark, and invited me into this “other” space I may have never visited otherwise.

This is a “thank you” to all who gift me with books! You widen my world.

Among other “cat” books given to me throughout the years:

The Priceless Cats and Other Italian Folk Stories by M.A. Jagendorf, illus. by Gioia Fiamenghi (New York: H. Wolff, 1956) from my parents-in-law who supported my Italian education in every way possible!

The King of the Cats and Other Feline Fairy Tales (London: Faber & Faber, 1994) edited by John Richards Stephens, and
The Siamese Cat (New York: Brentano’s Inc., 1928) by Leon Underwood, both from a librarian colleague who was downsizing and thoughtfully gave new homes to those books she cherished.

Boris (New York: Harcout Books, 2005) by Cynthia Rylant from a teacher-colleague and friend who knew my heart so well during our years together.

Arikawa, Hiro, and Philip Gabriel, trans. The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Berkeley, 2015. Print.

The narcissistic father in memoir: a commentary

Implosion: A Memoir of An Architect’s Daughter

Having read through this disturbing account of Elizabeth Garber’s upbringing, many threads of thought come to the surface. Bear with me.

A brief account (for a detailed summary and critique, please read the Kirkus starred review) follows the Garber family during the late 1950s through the 1960s in Ohio, an upscale, white family. Through the eyes of his “beloved” daughter, readers are witness to the impact of this highly talented architect-father; it is the crux of this memoir. His undiagnosed mental illness combined with his own repressive Victorian upbringing and his impotence at fulfilling his personal artistic vision, permeates every facet of their lives.

It is his wife who I find most remarkable. Her story is significant in that it encapsulates the burgeoning  Second Rise of the Woman’s Movement through her elevation of consciousness and the enormous struggle to save herself and her three children from relentless abuse behind closed doors. “Jo” slowly evolves into this proper noun by the author (her daughter) rather than the generic “mommy”or “mother” thus symbolizing her role in their lives.

In 1982 Linda Schierse Leonard published The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father Daughter Relationship. As Jungian therapist, she recounts the stories of those living with abusive fathers who they loved.  Garber’s memoir fits into these stages of a daughter’s growth and pain as she tries to reconcile herself to the abuse and control by a narcissistic father to the same father she loves unconditionally.  Every step of the way, it is harrowing.

I am put in mind of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, after having read the fictional account, Loving Frank: a Novel. Based closely upon historical research, Wright, too, presents as a narcissist whose behavior is granted permission due to his genius. History is ripe with such similar stories of musicians, artists, dancers, and architects and remains ever present.

The question that arises for me: How does this continue to happen?

And, as we know, it not limited to the “arts.” Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne from the University of Massachusetts and co-author of a hefty psychology textbook, offers thoughts for the lay person in her Psychology Today article. Some are valuable; others, I would take excpetion. For instance, my feeling is that the narcissitic personality will be the last one to recognize this disorder in himself or herself and/or seek psychotherapy. 

As we go forward, will our culture continue to acquiese to those individuals who act abusively and destructuvely, rather than recognize, confront, and require health care? Is this the price we think we must pay for “genius”?

Garber, Elizabeth W. Implosion: A Memoir of An Architect’s Daughter. She Writes Press, 2018. Print.
Horan, Nancy. Loving Frank: a Novel. Ballentine Press, 2007. Print.
Leonard, Linda Schierse. The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship. SHAMBHALA PRESS,1983. Print.