Canterbury Bells

Canterbury Bells
Canterbury Bells represent Gratitude in the Language of Flowers

Friday, April 17, 2020

Books and Bras

In my last Blog post I talked about how lucky I was to live on a walking path and watch the world go by me during this time that I feel I am under house arrest.  As the quarantine continues and I am longing for human  face-to-face interaction vs. virtual and zoom (but thank goodness for those outlets), I decided to go one step further and not just wave and say Hello but engage in a conversation with anyone who was willing to stop for a few minutes.
Most people were also willing.

So, it goes something like this.  

“Hi, do you have time to talk for a few minutes?” They laugh and say something like, “I have nothing but time these days.” 

 I usually don’t ask anyone who has ear plugs and many do, or if they are walking in pairs and engaged in their own conversation. 

I am sitting in a lawn chair about 20 feet from the path with my notebook on my lap and pencil poised. 

I explain that I am a writer and should be using this time to start a new book, but my focus and attention span seems challenged these days so I am writing short pieces like my blog. Kinda like a marathon runner  going out for a short daily jog just to stay in shape.

I ask how long they have lived in Sun Lakes and where they lived before they came here or where they grew up.  Oh my, that opened Pandora’s box and a series of amazing co-incidences
that proves once again how “It’s a  Small World”  after All. Ooops…sorry for putting that song in your head.

The first day I met Nancy who grew up less than 5 miles from my childhood home in Gary, Indiana.  Really!  The only reason we did not go to the same high school was because she lived on one side of the tracks and I lived on the other side. The tracks were the dividing school boundary.  (Just for the record, I was on the wrongside—mainly blue collar workers from US Steel.  Nancy lived in the part of town where most of the doctors and lawyers lived.) 

But the more we talked , we realized we frequented the same haunts.  Like the Tivoli Tap pizza Parlor on 5thAvenue in her neighborhood. My girlfriends and I went there  because  we knew the guys from Horace Mann High School were cuter than the guys at our own high school. It was truly a Happy Days place with a juke box blaring out Rock Around the Clock and Elvis. 

Nancy came to my side of the tracks (Tolleston) for the best ice-cream in town at the Dairy Maid, packed on a summer night. We attended the  same big band summer dances at the Pavillion on the shores of Lake Michigan, shopped for prom dresses at the same stores on Broadway.  Oh my, we talked a very long time.  

Another question I often ask is “What kept you busy before your were house bound or what do you do to stay busy now, besides walking.”

I met Vicki who is a flutist and plays with the Tempe Woodwind Orchestra.  Spring concert is cancelled but I’ll be going to her next concert which is hopefully this fall. Found out that Vicki is from Cleveland and while we were talking another lady walked by and heard Vicki mention something about Ohio and she stopped and they discovered they were both from the same area of Cleveland. They talked for quite a while about their old neighborhood haunts. 

Then it gets even crazier.  Met a man from Clairton , Pennsyvlania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, which just happens to be where I spent many summers visiting my father’s relatives who owned the Clairton Bakery. He knew it well. 

A side-note: My father’s  Aunt Victoria in Clairton was the one who arranged the marriage between my father and mother in 1933.  The story goes that they were put in a room for ten minutes to get acquainted and both agreed.  I call it the first instance of speed-dating but I’ll save that story for another blog. 

And while we were talking about Clairton, another lady walked by and heard us—she stopped in her tracks to say she was from the same area.  I am not making this up—truth is indeed stranger than fiction.  

And so many interesting occupations either currently or in their past lives.  Met Lisa from Battle Creek, Michigan whose husband is a still a referee for Big 10 football.  Cloe, an artisit, who spends her time doing art projects; an archeologist from Wisconsin  whose name I forgot to jot down. He spends summers there and still works; Rose who was Dean of Nursing at Grand Canyon University; Bobbie from Baltimore who happens to be the Program Chair for the Adventures in Learning Program here in Sun Lakes, a program I had intended to find out more about. They are always looking for speakers so I volunteered to do one on how I got my first book published.

And there’s Janet who has a business of measuring bra-fittings for women.  I said I’d like to be fitted when this isolation is all over. She said I would not have to wait…we can do it virtually  (really???) and we have an appointment set for tomorrow.   I’ll get back to you on that one.

And books. Of course ,I have to talk books. I ask if they like to read and what are they reading, and when I tell them I’m doing this blog because I can’t seem to get going on my next book, they ask what do I write and can they get my books on Amazon…and I say, actually you can get them right now from me…have many in my garage….cheaper than Amazon, no shipping and with an autograph.  I say, the book is free, the autograph is $10.00.  J

In two days, I sold six books which was not my intention at all but such a fun bonus of my “man (woman)  on the street” interviews.  They have no money with them, but I trust they will return and they do. The other day I opened the notebook I had left out on my chair and an envelope with a thank you note and $10 was enclosed.  So who needs brick and mortar to sell books? Not Amazon and I guess not me either.

So I’m selling books and I’m buying bras…and I’m making a lot of new friends. When this plague is  over, I’m having a “real” patio party and inviting all of my new walker friends.  We can see each other up close and share our stories of how we survived, supported one another and came out stronger.  And isn’t that what community is all about? 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Watching  the World Walk By

I’m so lucky that my new house has  a back yard that is pleasant to sit in—bushes, trees, flowers, birdsong and an occasional bunny.

But the best part is that It  is just a few steps to the  walking path…a 3.5 mile loop.

It is busier than usual these days as all other activities in Sun Lakes have come to a virtual halt. 
Perhaps it’s the only exercise left…fitness center and swimming pools closed.  

I’ve even pulled a chair closer to the path so I can often hear snippets of their conversation.  Writers are always encouraged to eavesdrop so we can make our dialogue more realistic. (I do that a lot in restaurants too, but obviously not these days). 

Two women seem to be talking more than a man and woman walking together. No surprise there.  My favorites are the dog walkers…every breed imaginable. Oops, misplaced modifier my English teacher would say. Dog breeds, not human breeds, although walkers themselves come in all shapes and sizes and have interesting gaits. Power walker, arms moving as well as their feet, the ambler, long strides,  and those plugged into their headphones. Are they listening to music, a book?   It’s also a fashion shows of sorts as I’ve discovered the variety of  hats and head gear for sun protection.   Most of the people say “Hello” or wave as they go by and some even consented to a photo for my blog.  

A variety of head gear and sun protection. A fashion show of sorts.
Pace varies…those walking alone usually have headphones…are they listening to music, an audible book or just plugged in, in  case that important call from a grandchild comes thru? We can only hope it’s from the grandchild and not your stockbroker.  At any rate, it’s a time when we need to stay connected any way we can.

I think today I’ll put Alexa out there and play music for the walkers. Since the average age here is probably mid-70’s, they might like a sound track from the 60’s-70’s. I’m thinking a little Cat Stevens or the Beatles.  A song I’ve been playing a lot these days, as I look at the beautiful blue skies of Arizona and the great outdoors we can still enjoy is “How Great Thou Art.”  Truly, HE is.

So these challenging and often lonely days, If I can’t go out into the world, I can in a small way bring it in to me.  One walker at a time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Clive Cussler, author of over 85 books with sales of 100 million copies, passed away in Scottsdale, AZ at age 88.   I had the pleasure of meeting him in 1994 when he did a book signing at my bookstore, Pages, in Ahwatukee.  He certainly made that event a fun time for many.  

First of all, I should say that when I learned that such a successful author lived nearby in Scottsdale, I called his publisher to see if he would book a signing. I did not have much success with that effort. Perhaps we were too small a fish in the big book pond.  

About a month after that I attended some type of author luncheon where he was the guest speaker. After the meeting we were both standing outside the restaurant waiting for a valet to bring our cars and I asked him if he would come sign at my store. He replied, “Yes of course” so quickly and graciously, I immediately liked this man for the person he was. I was already in awe of his success (me an aspiring writing) and his visit further proved his kindness. 

During the signing (there was a long line waiting for him) he did not appear rushed. He spoke for several minutes with each person and wrote things like, “We’ll always have Paris” in some of the ladies’ books.  J

I had arranged with him ahead of time that I would like to offer a “ win a lunch with Mr. Cussler”.  Anyone who bought any of his hard cover books (versus the many small paperbacks he already had in print) would be put into a drawing for lunch with him.  
We had a wonderful  Chinese restaurant next door to the book store and his wife joined us.  It was during this lunch that he told us the story of how he got his first book published through a hoax.  

Clive grew up in Alhambra, Calif., a poor student but an avid reader of adventure stories.
“I detested school,” he told Publishers Weekly in 1994. “I was always the kid who was staring out the window. While the teacher was lecturing on algebra, I was on the deck of a pirate ship or in an airplane shooting down the Red Baron.”
He attended Pasadena City College briefly, but left to join the Air Force when the Korean War began in 1950. He became a mechanic, flew supply missions in the Pacific but never saw combat. While stationed in Hawaii, he learned scuba diving and explored underwater wrecks. 
He began writing fiction at home in the late 60s, but his first two books, “Pacific Vortex” and “The Mediterranean Caper,” were repeatedly rejected. Unable even to get an agent, he staged a hoax. Using the letterhead of a fictitious writers’ agency, he wrote to the agent Peter Lampack, posing as an old colleague about to retire and overloaded with work. He enclosed copies of his manuscripts, citing their potential.
It worked. “Where can I sign Clive Cussler?” Mr. Lampack wrote back. In 1973, “The Mediterranean Caper” was published.  
Despite an improbable plot and negative reviews, “Raise the Titanic!” sold 150,000 copies, was a Times best seller for six months and became a 1980 film starring Richard Jordan and Jason Robards Jr.

Mr. Cussler, who named his franchise hero after his son Dirk, acknowledged that Dirk Pitt’s character was his own alter ego. His later novels, many co-written by his son or others, often included himself as a character who saves the day. His son, a daughter and friends were also used as characters in his books.

“I’ve been doing Dirk Pitt for 30 years,” Mr. Cussler told The Times in 2000. “Maybe I can find another writer down the line to take him over. It’s not the money; it’s the fans.
“I’d like to retire,” he continued. “I’m toying with the idea of Pitt having a son who shows up. He’s getting a little long in the tooth. When we started out, we were both 36 years old. Now he’s a little over 40, and I’m pushing 70.”

His “hoax” story should be an inspiration to any author  to be creative and believe in yourself.  (In fact, why haven’t I tried that?” )

RIP Mr. Cussler and thank you for your stories and mostly for your kindness.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

We Are All Connected.

Years ago my daughter Berta traveled to China occasionally for her work. On one trip she brought home a few souvenirs for me.  A beautiful miniature Mahjongg set since I was just learning the game, and a set of these coasters pictured here in a variety of beautiful colors.  

These coasters are probably 13 years old and yet their colors are as vivid as the day I received them. I like them so much that I take them back and forth with me each summer when I go to Munds Park for three months. They lay perfectly flat and can also serve as a cover to a coffee cup to keep it warm, especially useful in Munds Park where the morning chill can often be in the high 30’s for the entire month of June.

This morning I was doing just that…. using one of the coasters as a lid to my coffee cup. I examined the beautiful stitching more closely and marveled at how intricate it was.  With the Corona virus raging in China now I thought of the hands that made this coaster and wonder if that person is still there.  Is she (I’m assuming it’s a she—and probably bent over a sewing machine rather than hand-stitching) or one of her family members affected by the virus?
Her hands touched this coaster at one point and now here am I, thousands of miles away, touching it also. In fact, I was drinking my coffee in bed while I did my morning readings. How much more intimate could it get?

It made me realize how connected we all are in this big wide world.   Of course that leads me to Disneyland and It’s a Small World After All. Okay, I apologize for putting that song in your head.  I hope it doesn’t twirl around there all day as it will in mine now,  but I do hope I also don’t forget how people we don’t even know often touch our lives.  We are all going about our daily lives so earnestly on this planet that is at once so large, yet so small in the vast universe.  Time to read Ecclesiastes again.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

                                        LOCKSMITHS COME IN ALL SIZES

Yesterday I witnessed something special that I wish I had photographed.

It would have been the picture of 11-year old Logan wearing a tool-belt, standing beside his father when I opened my front door. 

His father is a locksmith and I was having my doors re-keyed…a benefit that came with the home warranty. The re-keying was done not so much as a security measure as my home had only one owner for 22 years and the seller’s daughter did not indicate that keys had been distributed to housekeepers, handymen, etc. 

I did it because there were so many locks on the door with different keys for each lock. I thought it would be nice to have one key for all.  (No comments here on how often I lose things or confuse keys). Just sayin….an effort to simplify my life.)

So back to Logan with the tool belt that actually held tools. Real tools, not playschool wooden ones.  I said, “Well, hello, and I see you bought your little helper today.”

The father smiled and said “Yes.”  

I thought maybe this was one of those “bring your child to work days” so I said, 
“Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”

Shy smile from Logan. “Yes, but it’s my birthday.”

“How old are you today?”


“I have a granddaughter who will  be 11 in a few months. Are you in 5th grade?”


Then Logan and his father proceeded to examine the locks in the storm door, front door, and door leading from garage to laundry room.  They discussed the locks between themselves and and Logan had quite a bit to say in the discussion, identifying which type of lock was required. They determined that I couldn’t have one key because the storm and garage door were one kind and the front door with 2 locks was another kind.  But they were able to eliminate a few keys so I only had 2 instead of 4.

While the father worked on the storm door, Logan worked on the laundry room door.  
He removed the thing a ma chig that the key goes into and went to the truck where evidently they had the equipment to change it and make new keys.

While they both worked, I could hear bits of their conversation which sounded like two co-workers of equal rank rather than a man and a child.

When they were done with both doors, they showed me which keys went where and Logan once again was quite verbal and involved.  He took my old keys to recycle.   It was obvious he had done this many times with his Dad.

I found out that Logan was one of six children, in the middle of the pack. The fact that on his birthday he was probably made to feel like an only child…a very special only child…made me smile.  

It seems many kids today are overly absorbed with technology, their heads often bent over an I-Pad in pursuit of a villain in a video game or their thumbs rapidly texting.  How refreshing to see  a child learning a hands-on trade.

It speaks volumes that Logan wanted to spend his birthday working with his Dad and spoke volumes for a Dad who had taught his young son valuable skills. An apprentice of sorts.

I wish I had taken his photo so you too could see the real-life tool belt around his waist.
Logan re-keyed my door, but he also opened my heart a bit.  

Friday, February 14, 2020

Chasing Fed-Ex 

Sometimes I read symbolism into daily circumstances in my search for the meaning of events in my life. Yes, kinda weird, I know.

We’ve all heard about people who always find a parking spot close to the entrance in a crowded mall lot simply because they think they will.  Those who favor this theory say that their belief doesn’t create the spot, but it does heighten their awareness of looking for the clues—for example, red taillights indicating someone backing out.

This leads me to my Chasing the Fed Ex truck.

I had to return some documents that required my signature to my financial planner in Colorado.
He provided a self-addressed and postage paid Fed-ex envelope for me to use. I told him I would send them Friday and he could expect them on Monday. Come Friday, I discovered that finding a Fed-ex drop off was not as easy as it had been when I lived in Ahwatukee and merely zipped down Ray Road to the Fed Ex center.

When I googled the nearest drop box to my new home in Sun Lakes, I found it was about 10 miles away.  Not a big deal but I had to work that jaunt around other activities I had already planned for the day.  I had a Bible Study at 1 pm and decided to make the drop afterwards as the home where we had the study was at least one mile closer to the drop.

Then I kept thinking about how constantly I see the FedEx truck in this retirement community of 5000 homes making deliveries. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if I ran across one this day and could hand him my package? I even said a little prayer or sorts.

As I was waiting for a red light to turn green at a busy intersection, sure enough, I saw a small Fed-Ex van up ahead across the street headed south—not the direction I was going. So instead of making a left turn to go East, I went straight when the light turned green.  I could still see the van. However, it went past the entrance to  the country club and golf course and I had to slow down in case golf carts were crossing (hundreds of those in Sun Lakes-they frown on us hitting one).  I lost sight of the van and soon came to a T in the road. Had the van made a left or right turn? I turned right and drove for about a mile. No van and lots of little side streets it could have turned into.

I turned around and went  the other way past the T  for several miles through a residential area, also with many side streets. No van. Now I needed to abandon this project or I would be late for Bible Study which is small group around a table --can’t slip into a back row unnoticed. 

I wasn’t sure how to get back to the main road without backtracking but saw a man in one of those little golf carts who kindly pointed me in the right direction. North and East.  I got back on track, knowing I would be a few minutes late and feeling foolish for pursuing the van. I mean so what if I had to drive 10 miles down the road? Not a big deal.

Just as I was pulling into the gated entrance to the neighborhood where Bible study was, when what to my wondering eyes should appear? Just  ahead of me was a Fed Ex Van!  We both had to slow down and stop in line to get past the gate house which raised the gate for entry. I had to get to the driver before he went thru the gate or I would surely lose him as I had lost the other one.

So as he was slowing to get in line, I pulled up beside him, almost cutting him off as if I rudely wanted to get ahead of him.  I got so close to his side of the van he couldn’t help but notice me. I lowered my window and waved my package, asking if he would wait for me after he went thru the gate. He did and when I pulled up behind, he even jumped out and took the package from me.

I thought, Wow, God does answer prayers. Even beyond my expectations.  I didn’t even have to get out of my car. 

Of course, I was a little late to the study but when I explained why and tied it to my belief that sometimes God answers even our simplest prayers if only we ask, they were sympathetic. 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 
  Matthew 7: 7 

I know this prayer request may seem petty when people are praying for healing from cancers and important life issues, but still it was an evidence of God in my life. And here comes the symbolism.

I have been chasing many things in my 78 years. Sometimes like the first fed-ex van, I’ve seen something I really wanted to capture, only to lose sight of it or get lost in the pursuit by going down the wrong road.  Yes, many detours and wrong roads.

Just recently I  began my  earnest search for God, wanting so much to have a stronger faith and trusting him to show me the way.  One of the first verses I memorized and say to myself often.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Proverbs. 3: 5 - 6

And a little more  symbolism? The van appeared at the gate to the Bible Study. It was clearly a message that I am on the right road as I seek God’s wisdom and direction through the study of his word.

One ironic note. As if God wanted to put an exclamation point on my prayer, the very next day a Fed-Ex truck made a delivery to my door.  J  Twice blessed or Is there a scripture about patience?  

Saturday, February 1, 2020


Blog Feb 1, 2020

It’s been a year since I posted to my blog!  Well, 357 days to be exact.  Excuses? Oh, I have plenty.  I finished two books, traveled to Italy with the Duffy family, did the beach week with the family in San Diego, did a Grandmother-Grandaughter trip with Marielle to Kansas (Space camp) and then the unplanned spontaneous biggee-- moved from 30 years in Ahwatukee to Sun Lakes.  Photo above was the sunrise my first morning here. God’s way of telling me it was the right move.

So lots of changes in my life.  But the biggest change is that the Lord is now very present.  I am grateful for so many blessings and mainly that he has opened my heart to daily joy after several years of grieving.  My new favorite song is “Why Me Lord” sung by Roy Clark but written by Kris Kristofferson. (a little trvia from Ken Burns’ Country Music special, which by the way is excellent.)  But I digress.

The words in the song that speak to me are “What have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known?”  This move has made me aware, once again, of how kind people are. I had so much help moving—both emotionally and physically!  People loading the trunks of their cars, their trucks, hanging pictures, packing and unpacking, and expressing their good wishes for my new home. 

I’ve  also gained a new confidence (sort of) in doing things I never did before. Simple things that most people already knew or did, but let’s face it, I have been spoiled by having strong men in my life who insisted on doing the “man” thing. Lifting, pounding ,installing, driving, and in general taking really good care of me. 

At age 78, I’m learning to be more self-sufficient. I even hung some pictures the other day without slamming my thumb. My tool box consists of 3 hammers, (one regular and two gold girly ones), a few screwdrivers, and a pair of pliers. Anything that requires more than those tools will be hired out.  I discovered Task Rabbit…more about that after they finish their first job for me next Tuesday. Or should I say first “task”?

It feels good to be blogging again—my goal is to not wait another year to continue.

I close with Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”