Thursday, March 31, 2005

Dear Miss Manners,

What is the proper "etiquette" when one's ex- husband is ill? Phone rang last night at 2am. It was daughter #2, weeping hysterically. Her stepmother had just called her to say her father was in the hospital in ICU with what has turned out to be pneumonia.

We were divorced 15 years ago. Relationship cordial for the sake of the kids. But they are seniors in college and we've not spoken for a couple of years. I figured once the girls graduated from high school they could create their own relationship without any assistance from me. He's been remarried for 15 years and he has his life and I have mine. We've little in common, other than our girls.

So what do I do now? I phoned his wife to ask there was anything I could do, told her I'd fly daughter #2 in and pick her up from the airport etc. Daughter #1 who lives closer is driving. Daughters are staying with us, which they always do when they are in town. I'll give daughter #2 free rein with my car so she can go to the hospital at will.

It's odd when someone who is very important to 2 people you love dearly is ill but you have no prescribed role. When I called the nurse in ICU asked "are you a relative?". "No" I said, but "I'm the mother of his children."

So, in this day of blended families what's the proper thing to do?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

5 Questions for 5 other Bloggers

Actually, this is going to be 4 questions rather than 5. That's the problem with chain letters - or MeMes, someone always falls down on their part of the bargain. I'm tired of having this post in draft mode so I'm releasing it. I'm a bad blogger, deal with with it. :-)

For Melinda
Guinea Pigs - most folks opt for cats or dogs or fish if they want something low maintance. Why Guinea Pigs (though they are awfully cute!)?

You did a post on your father being raised Amish till he left the church. Did you ever go and visit grandparents and such or did leaving mean excommuication?

Since we are both librarians; I just have to ask - what pushed (dragged?) you into the profession?

I guessing you live in Boston, or close to it. What's the best part of living there? What's the

What prompted you to take up blogging?

For Mac (Thanks for stopping by)
You've got 3 blogs - which came first and how do you mange to keep up with all three of them?

Excellent photography - is that your profession or your passion or both?

How did you meet your partner (I love how we meet stories) ?

When you say you love the original Lion in Winter, I assume you meant the Katherine Hepburn version? Which of her other films do you like? If you were to cast her in The Women which character would she be?

I read your post about getting married. Can you put into words what it felt like? Unless we move it's not something I'm going to get to experience in my lifetime.

Library Lady
I always read your recipes avidly - what's your idea of comfort food?

Do your daughters (well the older one) ever read your blog? What do they think of it? Mine think it's "weird".

How do you cope with library patrons hogging the computers? Whenever I go to the public library the librarians seem to spend a great deal of time being "the computer police".

And since I know you like them too...Why do you like the Betsy Tacy books so much?

How did you meet your husband? What's the secret to your longevity?

The most obvious question - how did you come up with the name for blog?

You seem to cram more living into 24 hours than anyone I know - what's your secret?

Your kids are definite old enough to read your blog? What's their reaction when you blog about them?

Music- what's your favorite song of all time? Ok, no way can you pick a favorite, how about a couple of favorites?

You've been blogging for quite some time. What's your best blog experience? Your worst?

I'm done now...And I'm off to pack books. Amazon and E-bay have been busy this weekend.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Five questions

Bloggers are forming their own communities, complete with morares and customs. I hope some sociologists are taking note. Among the latest fads zipping around the internet are memes and Five questions. Five questions are fun because you have really read someone's blog to compose the questions. Unlike memes; these are a one of kind article. Julie of Bookworm wrote these:

Your motorcycle ride through Europe sounded awesome; what's the worst trip you ever took?

About 6 summers ago we trailed the bike to Miami, left the kids with parents and took off to Key West.
Mecca for the GLBT community.
Posted by Hello
Weather Channel showed a tropical depression bearing down on the keys, so we planned to get up early and head back to Miami. A oyster seeking revenge had other ideas for me and death looked like a real viable alternative. We called my folks, who drove down to get me, but by that time said tropical depression had arrived. With a vengeance. My Beloved stuck it out for a a couple of hours but cried uncle in Marathon. She left the bike and climbed in the car and we headed onward. Once we got to Miami we had to attach the trailer to our car, drive back to Marathon and load up the bike. It's a two person operation so I, who could barely stand had to load up a 800 lb Harley in the rain. That was the last time I ever ate an oyster.

How did you decide to become a school librarian -- I mean, school media specialist?
Always been a librarian, as a kid I put cards and pockets in my own books. Bluffed my way into my present job - my girls were attending the school and the librarian quit the day before school started. Talk about "Fools Rush In". I had to go back and get my education credits since in Texas you have to be a certified teacher to be a school librarian. By the time I finished 30 hours of education courses with the bow-heads and the displaced housewives I was both certified and certifiable.

Why do you love the Betsy Tacy books so much?
Posted by Hello

Found them at the Miami Dade Public library as a child - I loved Lois Lenski and was attracted by the covers, since she illustrated the first 4 books in the series. They have stood the test of time - the writing is excellent and characters are oh so real. My favorite, Emily of Deep Valley
Posted by Hello isn't technically a Besty- Tacy book, though Betsy does make a cameo appearance. All the books are based on Maud Hart Lovelace's growing up experiences in Mankato, Minn at the beginning of the 20th century. Though the books I discovered the Betsy Tacy Society and the listserv. And via the listserv I meet my local book sale/E-bay cohort and started selling used books.
I used to think "I was the only one" and once I found all the others who thought similarly it literately changed my life.

And speaking of books, what are the next few titles on your must-read list?
The Bookman series by John Dunning - recommended by some of the booksellers on Also a large stack of 2005 picture books I need to review for work.
Posted by Hello

If you could go backwards in time, what year would you visit?
Posted by Hello Edwardian/ Victorian England - but only if I could be of "the upper classes". I would so love to meet Sarah Crewe and help Mary plant snowdrops in the Secret Garden. I've read enough English History to know that life was not pleasant for the poor and working class people during that time. Hey, it's my fantasy I get to specify time, place and social class!

Posted by Hello

Done! The first 5 people to leave me a comment will soon be the proud recipent of 5 questions of their own.

Friday, March 25, 2005


I think Easter is my favorite holiday. Why? Because it requires nothing of me. It produces no maternal guilt, nor insist that I prod my always reluctant Martha Stewart side to away from the computer and decorate, damm it.

When the girls were little we decorated eggs, I made Easter baskets, we had egg hunts, went out for Easter brunch, they wore cute pink dresses. Well, the latter only happened for a couple of years. My two are not the frilly, fluffy type. Aren't now, and weren't when they were two. Fru-Fru bit the dust once they learned the word "no". They talked early.

My poor mother was so disappointed. Here she had blond, blue eyed identical twin granddaughters - talk about a perfect 10 on the grandmother bragging scale and the only thing they would wear was jeans and t-shirts.

Now the girls are in college and Easter weekend is a time to party and travel. And by travel they mean anywhere but home. We have 2 very independent daughters, which is how it should be, given my family tradition and history.

We don't practice any organized religion so no church service is in order. For My Beloved Easter Weekend means an extra day to play golf. For me, it's a day off work and more time to shuffle the books from the pool table into my auction management program.

Best of all, when I get back to work we're in the Home Stretch - only 8 more weeks till summer break!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Harvesting Comments

Seems if I post about gardening or home schooling I get comments! I like comments - they mean not only are folks reading but that I'm connecting. Did a lesson on connecting with your reader today - used Miss Malarkey Won't Be In Today, a delightful book to which every student and teacher can relate. I must admit the gardening comments aren't nearly as opinionated as the home schooling ones!

Miss Malarkey Posted by Hello

We have a lot line house, the lots in my part of town are in high demand and have become pricey. Folks who live in the Houston Heights don't expect suburban yards, in fact it's one of the attractions.

We have a small pocket garden out back - we've a table & chairs there, with a side bed and vines all around to hide the fence. The primroses in side bed are about gone, but the ferns are thriving in all the rain we've had.

Sappo, Belitus & Butch Posted by Hello

We've no grass, only ground cover. The Australian Violets stay green all year and reward me with purple flowers during our spring.

Australian violets Posted by Hello

The daffodils are a memory, now I've herbs and geraiums in the front bed.

Herbs & Flowers Posted by Hello

Front Bed Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Best Bib & Tucker

Houston is ready for the Easter Parade. Our March has been exceptional - enough rainy days to keep everything green and blooming interspersed with sunshine, blue skies, perfect temperatures and no humidty. The kind of day you wish you could bottle so you can splash a little of it on your wrists and neck come August when the temperature soars to 98.

I've been gardening, sitting out on the front porch and reading and walking. It seems so wrong to pound the treadmill at the gym when nature is giving me an outdoor gym of my own. So, I've been walking around the neighborhood, admiring the new houses going in and returning abandoned shopping carts to the local grocery store. As I noted in a previous post we are a neighborhood in transition. Some folks have BMWs and others ride bicycles by necessity, not by choice. The latter "borrow" a shopping cart to transport their groceries home and then leave them in a ditch. Good Virgo that I am, I like walking with a purpose so I gather them up and return them to Kroger.

I don't know what the Kroger folks think of this, but it keeps the streets tidier.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Wham, Bamm, Thank you ma'am

....are the kind of book sales that make my heart go pitter patter. Thursday was one of THOSE days - 581 kids and adults (out of a population of 660) tramped through the library. "If you didn't come to the library today , please raise your hand". The noise and activity level left our heads spinning. Taught my gifted & talented class after school and then managed to misplace my keys. The kids may be bright but sometimes their teacher isn't.

Some thrift therapy was in order. Sand Dollar yielded a Hello Kitty clock for my daughter the pop culture fan and a 2002 textbook and Value Village produced another textbook.

Listed them on Amazon and one sold within the hour, the other sold today. If all sales were that easy I could quit my day job. Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Houston...We Have a Problem.

....we seem to eat our young these days.

Over the weekend, a 4 year old boy pulls a loaded gun from his mother's purse and shoots his 2 year old brother in the head. The reason : the baby threw a toy at him. The mother claims she always has the gun in a safe place...but if that's the case how did boy know it was in her purse? And just what kind of behavior has this child been exposed to anyway? Children aren't born knowing how to shoot - that's a learned skill.

Same weekend, 3 small children, ages 6, 5 & 2 are left home alone while Mom and her live in boyfriend go shopping. The electricity has been turned off and Mom leaves a lit candle in the master bedroom. Fire breaks out, all 3 children are dead of smoke inhalation. Neighbors try to put out fire but of course had no idea that there were children home alone.

And which store did Mom honor with her presence - why the 24 hour Wal-Mart of course. No wonder so many people who shop there look like they are missing an essential gene or two.

No sure how this city has become the poster child for dysfunctional families. It's not a claim to fame I relish.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Flotsam & Jotsum of People's Lives

Bookscouts have some of oddest haunts in their itineraries. Besides the more obvious thrift stores and library sales we'll go most anywhere we can guarantee a cache of books, including estate sales and public auction surplus stores.

There are numerous professionals in Houston who, for a percentage of the take will organize an estate sale. There is a morbid fascination to these - you are given permission to snoop through someone's cabinets and closets, but you still feel slightly guilty about it since your mother told you it was rude to pry. An estate sale has an air of sadness about it. Someone's home is opened up to anyone with a checkbook and their trash and their treasures are exposed and look oh so vulnerable. Sometimes the heirs are determined to squeeze the ultimate penny out of the estate and authorize the sale of everything, including family pictures, half used tubes of toothpaste and used underwear. Some things really belong in the trash and it's sad to think that nobody would want the wedding or the baby pictures.

At the other end of the spectrum are the surplus stores. The proprietors buy up the goods of storage places that are seized for non payment of rent. They maintain a store in a low rent portion of town and spread goods out thrift store fashion. And there, for all to see are the leftovers of a family's life. The goods include shelves of dollar store quality figurines - the end results of someone's failed business. There are pots and pans, wedding dresses, videos (mostly shoot up bang bangs), clothes, stuffed animals, toys, furniture, bric a brac and small appliances. And of course books. Today I found yearbooks, covered with loves autographs and a baby's book, partly filled out. The last was especially poignant.

I unearthed The Book of Words about Duran Duran with a gift inscription that may have been written by one of the band members. My beloved is a Duran Duran fan so she was very pleased with that particular acquisition. I also came home with a a couple of cookbooks and a book entitled: Beyond Candlesticks : New Japanese Charting Techniques Revealed. It's some sort of financial scheme. It must not have worked for the original owner, but it sold within an hour of listing it on Amazon. Hope springs eternal.

Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Goodnight Dan

Dan Rather just stepped down.

Posted by Hello In my lifetime I can only recall 2 anchors on CBS news - Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. They have always been there, holding my hand and guiding me through life changing events. The assassination and funeral of President Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the Chicago Democratic Convention, WaterGate, the Challenger Disaster, many hurricanes and 91/1 - I can't think of any of those occurrences without Walter and Dan - they are intertwined.

Posted by Hello

Dan Rather said 9/11 had a greater impact on him and on us as a nation than any other event he reported. I would debate that the JFK assassination had an equal impact at the time, though it didn't change the way we live and travel as 9/11 has. It change the way we viewed the world and stripped us of our innocence.
Dan Rather made some bad choices and dabbled in some questionable journalism ethics but he faced his critics and hung in there. I wish him well.

Good night Dan Rather, Good Night Walter, the news won't be the same. I wonder who is going to keep me abreast of my world for the next quarter of my life?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Now for Something completely Different...

It's Spring Break, 9 blessed days of NOT having to get up at 5 and having leisure to putter and try some new projects (and of course surf blogs). While waiting for the doors of the Salvation Army to open on Saturday mornings I've made the acquaintance of some of the other book dealers and of course we chat about business.

BubalaBear told me about the Salvation Army weekday morning auctions and since we specialize in different books she asked if I wanted to go in with her on a pallet load of books.

So we meet up this morning at the Salvation Army Warehouse. Interesting people watching. Now I know where the perpetual garage sale & flea market folks get their stock (or more accurately their crap). Vast army of appliances, which were snapped up a group of men who I suspected were landlords. Bundles of clothes were of interest to Hispanic buyers - BubalaBear said they will haul the stuff to Mexico and resell it.

Today's lot included 3 pallets of books, each stacked high with 10 -15 boxes of books. I wasn't to impressed with what I could see of the contents. A great deal of current fiction which isn't worth hauling home, much less listing and children's books of the Wal-Mart variety. Bubalabear was interested in a couple of boxes of paperbacks so we decided to bid, but bid conservatively.

Another bidder decided that we knew something she didn't and out bid us. Actually we did, which is why we let both pallets go. I hope she enjoys her wares.

As for us, we retired to The Pig Stand for breakfast and book talk. A very satisfying morning.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Kitchen Meme

I found this on The Library Lady Rants - one of the blogs I read regularly. I've noticed some blogs are nothing but Memes, in fact there appears to be a group of blogs that all respond to the same Meme on the same day. Talk about the lemming instinct. Oh creativity, where art thou?
However, an occasional Meme is fun and gives you a different view of a blogger and their little world.

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?
Toss up between my Kitchen Aide mixer (a housewarming gift to myself) and my food processor. But my Senseo coffee maker is giving the other two a run for the money.

What kind of cookware do you have?
Mixed, I don't do matched sets. I can't get my clothes to match, never mind my pots and pans. I have 2 cast iron skillets that are 30 years old and get better with time and some assorted pots I've picked up in thrift shops. I love Pampered Chef stoneware - it's not cheap but oh, does it turn out a good product.

Name one kitchen appliance or gadget that you wish you had.
A deep fat fryer - though I need one like I need a hole in my head. The calories!

Describe your dream kitchen.
I about have it. When we built our home 5 years ago I told My Beloved that I wanted a gas stove and a walk in pantry. And I got both. We only have 2 rooms in our downstairs - the game room and big room that is combination kitchen, living and dining room.

I could do with a bit more storage space (who can't) but it's a great kitchen for cooking and entertaining.

Fru-Fru free zone Posted by Hello
The house is in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright so it's very sleek and un-cluttered.

The budget dictated laminate on the counters rather stone or faux stone and paintable wood cabinets. My Beloved wanted to kitchen to fade into the walls and she suceeded. However I think it's a bit to monochrome and I would love granite (be it real or fake) counters as to add some color.
Posted by Hello She was in her Harley mode at the time so all the appliances are black and chrome.

It's all black & chrome Posted by Hello

I Love a Good War...

... a bidding war that is! Betsy Tacy Pal and I attended a hideously disorganized school rummage sale. The PTA spread tarps down on the playground and just tossed the goods out. Made it very hard to browse - I am to old to crawl all over the ground, but the prices were certainly right. All books were a quarter.

Picked up a #1-9 of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series in paperback. I don't like fantasy but I don't let that deter me since many people do and they are often willing to pay top dollar to fuel their passion.

His Fans are Fanatical! Posted by Hello

I listed them on E-bay with an opening bid of $9.99. The books sat till yesterday afternoon and then the price started to climb. With 5 min left in the auction they were at $20 and then wham, 2 people started a bidding war. They topped out at $31. Not to shabby for a $2.25 investment. Best of all, I paid one listing fee, need only pack up one package and winning buyer has already paid me. Wish all E-bay sales were that simple!

Selling on E-Bay is fun, but contrary to all those "I make $100,000 a year selling on E-bay" articles one reads, it's hard work. One has to troll the thrift shops and the library sales for inventory, research it, list it, pack and ship it. Sometimes I get lucky and a $1 investment produces a $100 sale but those are far and few between. Those are the prize in the Cracker Jack box and make up for all the peanut sales that are the day to day existence of a E-bay seller.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Oxymoron of Home Schooling

The library book sale season has begun. With wagons in tow; my Betsy-Tacy pal & I ventured forth to Boerne, Texas to pluck the wheat from the chaff and turn said wheat into bread. Or, to be more accurate into money via E-Bay and Amazon.

Book Sales are attended by several distinct groups. There are the dealers - easily spotted by their wagons, rolling carts and tubs for transporting books. These days dealers fall into two categories - those who carry their knowledge in their heads & love books and those who know nothing but can operate a scanner. The former each have their own niche and buy what they know. Bookselling is so diverse that 6 dealers can cherry pick a lot and each come away with totally different books.

The scanner folks grab up anything that looks remotely new and retire to a corner to key in the numbers and check them against Amazon. They are a pain since they have no manners, no common courtsey and no respect for books. They are greedy and they want to make money. Period.

I like making money too, but I love the thrill of the hunt and I enjoy matching people with long lost literary friends.

Group two are the voracious readers, who buy to read. Many are retired and snap up armloads of their favorite authors. They are friendly and fun to chat with.

And in the third group you have the homeschoolingl mothers and their broods. They are easily spotted by their strollers, which are the size of a Mini Coooper and their children, which are numerous and often wailing and howling at the top of their lungs.

And there in lies the oxymoron. From what I've read parents opt to homeschool because they love their children and only want the best for them. They feel that the parent and only the parent can provide the care and education their children need. Yet these women (and it's always women) seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to allow a baby to cry non stop for an hour or a toddler to throw a temper tantrun while they look for books. It's very painful for the other book buyers and it's got to be hard on the children too.

One mother had 2 toddlers in a double stroller who cried so loud and so long they were beet red and choking. She seemed oblivous to raised eyebrows and evil teacher looks (something I'm an expert at delivering) sent her way by the rest of customers. Yet another carried a baby under one arm like it was a sack of potatoes and never seemed to notice the squaling and crying going on under right her nose (or armpit).

Overheard at today's sale:

Child ( whiney tired voice)"Can we go home, we have lots of books at home, I want to go hooommmmmeeee".

Mother "No, we're homeschoolers and we're not going home till I've looked at every book".

Child (very LOUD and whiney voice) "I want to go home NOW!". Child gave an academy award winning performace of "the terrible twos" which mother ignored but which gave everyone else a headache. Child set a new record for non stop screaming without stopping to breath.

How can mothers who claim to love their children be so deaf to their cries and uncaring of their needs? Not mention the sanity of everyone else in the vicinity?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Neighborhood, It is a' Changing....

We live in the Houston Heights, a neighborhood that's been in transition for a number of years. There was one round of revival about 25 years ago - that one involved buying and rehabbing the old homes. Most of the old homes worth fixing up are taken, so the second revival involves tear downs. The Heights is an old neighborhood (for Houston) with a mix of grand Victorian homes, Craftsmen cottages and shot gun shacks. The bulldozers are busy grinding up the latter.

Round the corner from us was a collection of 5 old shot gun shacks, in varying degrees of collapse. Most of the residents spent a good deal of time on the their front porches- I think because there were more people living in them then could comfortably fit inside. The fairly large common space of yard which was pre-emptied by the domino players.

There were about 6 of them, 5 elderly African American men and a young white woman who looked liked life had been none to gentle with her. They had some cast off chairs and a couple of old auto seat cushions and were pretty much out there from sun up to sun down. I think that the amount of beer they drank was far greater than the amount of domino tiles they turned, but they never bothered anyone. Couple of times we gave them beer we had left over from parties which made them very happy. Occasionally the woman would show up on our doorstep with a black eye and ask for money. We'd give her $5, knowing full well it would go for more beer, not medicine.

Sevearl months ago the houses were boarded up and the residents and the domino players vanished. 2 weeks ago the houses vanished too.
Now we've got mud and a realtors sign -DistinctiveLivingHouston. From the looks of the website the homes are going to be very high end, equipped with granite counters, hot tubs and game rooms.

The new houses will no doubt raise the value of the neighborhood, and our own house. But they won't come with domino players. I miss them.
Yet another bit of local color is gone, leaving homogeneity in it's void. I hope they found a new place to play.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! Posted by Hello

33.4 Minutes of Silence - Thank you Dr. Seuss

Today was Dr. Seuss's 101st birthday. I honored him by organizing a school wide "Read for 2005 Seconds". 101 minutes was to long, 101 seconds to short, 2005 seconds was just right.
We had dead silence for 33.4 blessed minutes. The cafeteria monitors loved it - they want to make it a daily event (told them the novelty would wear off). My Principal walked through the cafeteria reading "Green Eggs and Ham". My hang out in the library lunch gave up the computers and opened their books ( I suspect the bribe of a big basket of chips to eat while reading didn't hurt!).

I plowed through a neglected stack of professional journals - I really must read Library Sparks at the beginning of the month rather than the end! It's got such great ideas, but it doesn't do me much good to garner GroundHog day ideas in March.

The kids were chained to their benchmark tests yesterday and today it dripped, poured, showered and just plain rained. A combination guaranteed to result in wild and wooly kids. The readathon was a much needed oasis in a sea of churning children.