Columns

Silver linings in cloudy COVID-19 world

My doorknobs and light switches have never been cleaner.

The banister absolutely gleams.

Four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m working hard at counting my blessings, and having much-touched areas of our home that rarely got a wipe-down, sparkling is one of them.

With no end in sight to restrictions and shutdowns, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by daily helpings of bad news.

I still haven’t been able to visit my mother. If I’d known when I saw her in February how many months would pass before I could see her again, I would have moved her spring and summer clothes to the front of her closet, so she could easily find them.

“Getting dressed every day is hard when I can’t go anywhere,” she said. “But I’m not staying in my bathrobe.”

And I’d looked forward to a quick break out of town when Derek had to go to the Tri-Cities on business. Last summer, I lounged by the pool when he worked, and we visited wineries and enjoyed a river cruise when he was done.

When I called the hotel to make the reservation, I was told the hotel pool and all its restaurants were closed.

I stayed home while Derek traveled to COVID Central and back.

Such small complaints when compared to those who’ve been sick, or lost jobs, or loved ones because of the virus.

So, I’m committed to counting my blessings, even though a recent grocery store visit vexed me.

How the heck do you open those darn plastic produce bags without licking your finger first? I spent most of my shopping trip trying to open them. I even rubbed them between my hands, but all I got was wrinkly bags.

When I posted my lament on social media, a friend suggested swiping my finger across damp lettuce or celery.

I tried it on my next shopping trip. Success! It worked like a charm, but I’m sure the produce clerks wondered why I was fondling the lettuces without buying any. Also, this is why you should always, always, wash your produce at home.

On the same outing my irreverent sense of humor caused me some embarrassment when a woman across the aisle from me sneezed. At home, I’ve taken to saying “Corona” instead of “Bless you,” when someone sneezes. Luckily, my mask muffled my response, and hopefully her mask muffled her sneeze.

Also, I learned the hard way that folks can get somewhat panicky when you say you’re not going somewhere because you feel a bit “corona-y.”

One of the biggest complaints about COVID-19 restrictions is folks feeling stuck or trapped at home. This is where introverts like me have it made. I love being at home – especially when I have it all to myself. Our son has been back at work for the past month, and Derek’s business is essential, so now at least a couple of days a week I have stretches of solitude.

When I’m done with work, I take my daily walk, and then relax in our backyard gazebo. Then I harvest zucchini, radishes, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries from our garden. Soon there’ll be tomatoes, green beans, beets and carrots.

Our garden goodies fill our plates every Sunday when our three sons join us for supper – and since corona we’ve revived our family game night tradition.

Another coronavirus blessing is library curbside pick up.

I’ve always selected my books online and then picked them up at the library, but now I don’t even have to leave my car! It’s like a literary drive-thru.

While I am doing more in-person interviews for work, I still do a lot more phone interviews than before. The time saved on driving is a boon.

In fact, I actually picked up a new hobby – the daily crossword. My mom always did the newspaper puzzles and had books of crosswords, but I never felt like I had the time.

Now, I take the puzzle page with me out to the gazebo every afternoon. No New York Times in ink for me – just the Daily Commuter. It’s easy enough to finish quickly, which makes me feel accomplished and smart.

The daily puzzle reawakened my love for pencils. I hadn’t used a pencil since I was in college, and it’s such a delight to rediscover the joy of good old No. 2’s. Even better, the Chic and Shab shop on North Monroe has a whole line of pencils with edgy sayings etched on them.

The beautiful thing about pencils is that anything can be erased – mistakes, misspelled words, incorrect answers.

It’s really too bad 2020 wasn’t written in pencil.

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War Bonds

Happy 2nd birthday War Bonds!

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Two years ago today, I was humbled and amazed by the turnout for the launch of my first book.

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In the five years it took to write and publish War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation, I lost so many of the couples featured. It broke my heart that some weren’t there to see their stories in print.

In the two years since publication, I’ve lost several more. Each death leaves an ache in my heart.

Yet at the front row of the book launch party many of my War Bonds couples were present as well as widows and widowers. They were in awe of the size of the crowd and watched with joy as every single copy of War Bonds sold out at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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I’ve learned a lot about publishing, publicity, book tours and public speaking over the last two years– knowledge I know will serve me well when my next book  comes out.

Today I’m still somewhat disbelieving that War Bonds is on bookshelves, in libraries and for sale in bookstores all over the world.

I’m so thankful for those who stood with me during the long journey from idea to pub party.

Thankful for readers who bought the book, read the book, reviewed the book and recommended it to others.

Thankful for bookstore owners, civic groups and organizations who invited me to share the message that true love can survive anything– even a world war.

But more than anything I’m thankful for my War Bonds family. They opened their hearts, homes and lives to me and allowed me to poke around. Then they trusted me to share their stories with the world.

What a journey.

What a blessing.

What a privilege.

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War Bonds

Library Friends are the Best!

I don’t know any authors who are not passionate about public libraries– and I know a lot of authors!

I’ve had a library card since I was six years old. No, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was.

When the opportunity came to serve on the newly formed Friends of the Spokane County Library District board, I jumped at the chance. For two years I’ve worked alongside some wonderful community volunteers, library lovers and fabulous library admin staff.

We drafted a mission statement: Inspiring passionate lifelong learners to invest in their community libraries, hosted two After Hours at the Library events and raised lots of $$ to supplement library programming. Here’s a few of last year’s highlights.

  • Sponsored NaNoWriMo Readiness Conference
  • Provided funds for Mica Peak High School Great Stories Book Club
  • Provided funds for small business owners/employer workshop series
  • Provided funds for Thinking Money Exhibit and related programming
  • Provided funds for Spokane Is Reading

But after two years on the board it’s time for me to move on to a new volunteer project I’m equally passionate about (more on that in another blog).

Perhaps it’s time for one of you to step up and serve? Check out the website. Become a friend. And contact Spokane County Library District at 509.893.8233 to see if serving on the board would be a fit for you.

I may be off the board for now, but I remain passionately committed to supporting our public libraries and the programming they provide.

Here are some photos of our most recent After Hours event. Long live our libraries!

 

War Bonds

Sharing space with C.S. Lewis

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A friend posted this picture on Facebook the other day. His home had been badly damaged in a fire and the remodel is almost complete.

He just got his new bookshelves in his library and is happily placing his collection on the shelves.

So. There’s War Bonds nestled between The Screwtape Letters and The Inspirational Writings of C. S. Lewis.

As far as bookshelf real estate goes, nothing could make me happier.

A spot on the New York Times Bestseller List might be nice. A Pulitzer Prize? Well, that would be swell. But for now, sharing space with one of my all-time favorite authors feels mighty fine!

How do you arrange your bookshelves? By author? Subject? Color? Favorites? Genre?

War Bonds

Favorite Moments

I just finished a series of author events for the Spokane County Library District.

“Bonds of Love and Remembrance” paired stories from War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation with music of the era from Hot Club of Spokane.

We had such a great time at each of the four libraries we visited.

At every event a reader will tell me about their parents or grandparents, or about a family member who served in WWll. The stories are heartwarming and it’s a wonderful thing to trigger happy memories.

My two favorite moments from these events also came from attendees.

A lady at Moran Prairie came up to have her book signed and ask how Milo and Thor are doing. Those aren’t my kids– those are my cats! She said she enjoys reading about their adventures in my column in the Spokesman Review.

And a toddler tapped my knee at Spokane Valley Library, and said, “Thank you for WEEDING (reading)!”

Is it any wonder why I love libraries so much?

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War Bonds

Two down, two to go

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Hot Club of Spokane

We’ve had two great “Bonds of Love and Remembrance” events this week, one in Cheney, WA., sponsored by the Friends of the Cheney Library and one in Deer Park, WA., sponsored by the Friends of the Deer Park Library.

These events combine the music of the Greatest Generation with stories from War Bonds.

Hot Club of Spokane sets the tone with sweet songs like “The Nearness of You” and “Stars Fell on Alabama,” then I share a few excerpts from War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.

Spokane County Library District specifically wanted these events during the first week of December to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day and honor the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our county.

You still have to time to catch us. We’ll be at Moran Prairie Library Tuesday, December 8 and at Spokane Valley Library Wednesday, December 9. Both events are at 7 PM and admittance is free.

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War Bonds

Recapping Night at the Library

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Auntie’s Bookstore was on hand with copies of the author’s books.

What a great event! Night at the Library featured readings by six authors. PEN/​Robert W. Bingham Award winner Shawn Vestal read from his soon-to-be-published novel Daredevils. Sharma Shields read from The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac.  Bruce Holbert read from his as yet unpublished 3rd novel. I shared from War Bonds and poets Maya Jewell Zeller and Laura Read, shared some of their work.

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Best of all, new friends were added to the Friends of the Spokane County Library, so we can schedule more fantastic programs like this!

Thanks so much to all who attended and for all who support their local libraries!

War Bonds

Lifelong Love of Libraries

When I was a child my dad was in the Air Force, so we moved a lot. Finding the library in each new town made the transitions easier– walking through the doors felt like coming home, no matter where those doors were.

That’s why it’s such a thrill to find copies of War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation on library shelves.

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And tomorrow I’ll be one of six featured authors at a special event called Night at the Library.

Night at the Library invite

Emceed by KXLY’s Kris Crocker, the event will showcase The Friends of the Library and provide information on how you too, can be a member! It’s free! Snacks are provided, a no-host wine bar will be available and Auntie’s Bookstore will be on hand so you can purchase signed copies of your favorite authors latest books!

I love libraries and I hope you do too!

War Bonds

Night at the Library

Night at the Library

Really excited about this upcoming FREE event! Enjoy short readings by six local authors, including myselfSharma Shields, Bruce Holbert and Shawn Vestal. Mingle among the stacks, have some tasty treats,grab some wine at the no-host bar and purchase selected books from Aunties Bookstore.

Hope to see you September 17, 7 PM at Spokane County Library, Argonne Branch, 4322 N Argonne Rd Spokane, WA

War Bonds

Special guests at War Bonds reading

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Dean and Betty Ratzman, June 23, 1946

So delighted that Dean and Betty Ratzman will join me at Wednesday’s War Bonds event at the North Spokane Library!

The Ratzmans have been married for 69 years. Their story is featured in chapter 18, “Letters From Home.”

Here’s a chance to meet a couple from the Greatest Generation and have them sign your copy of War Bonds. Auntie’s Bookstore will be handling sales and 10% of all copies purchased will go to the Friends of Spokane Country Library!