notes in the margins

PhotoScan (3)I like to buy (and read) books.  I pick them up at rummage sales, thrift shops, garage sales, half price book stores. if i can score a book for a buck, i am a happy shopper.  sometimes I’m looking for a particular author, sometimes the cover catches my eye.  i have to say the latter method has been very successful for me.  i have rarely picked a loser just by judging a book by its cover.

one of the problems with my method of shopping for books is that I tend to be a couple of years behind.  I don’t care,  i just plow through that stack of books on my bedroom floor and re-stack them to be taken to the half price book store.  the other problem is that you never really know if this book has been taken into a bathroom.

I am currently reading “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez.  it is a fiction treatment of the murder of three sisters in Dominican Republic on Nov. 25, 1960.  I started it a day ago and already am 1/4 through it.  it is really a good read and i highly recommend it.  but there is a third problem not mentioned above.  this book has many, many notes in the margins.  clearly written by a teenage or young adult female reader. i say clearly unequivocally. based on the script and the tenor of the comments this is very much the voice of a young lady.

many pages are peppered with these comments and I couldn’t decide if I found this annoying, interesting, compelling or just plain distracting. it certainly is tiring. i approach each page turn resolving not to be distracted.  i force myself to read what the author has to say, ignoring this 19 yr old critic, but i can’t help myself.  i just have to check the margins.  things are underlined, circled, commented upon, questioned, argued with, agreed with or wondered at. this kid is engaged!  and now so am i, with her energy.  I’m arguing, instructing her, agreeing, laughing and damn it i want to know who this kid is.

I vacillate between anger at her and anticipation to turn the page and see what she says next.  i have to say, there were two full pages with no comments at all.  i had a moment of panic and disappointment, thinking she gave up.  i was relieved to turn another page and there she was again.  weird, huh?  as i write this, i realize that i look forward to her comments.  it’s like a book club for one.

unfortunately, my tendency to be indiscriminate with my book gathering has rendered this young woman completely anonymous.  so I have endowed her with my daughter’s personality.  as I read the comments she has made, i imagine they have been written by kim.  truly, the handwriting is very similar to kim’s and the point of view could be hers as well.

this book has been on my stack since I don’t know when or even how, maybe I did get it from kim. wouldn’t that be weird?  i don’t think i will ask her.  that would make this book a mystery as well.

May 10, 2016 at 11:52 pm 2 comments

my little town

sorry, newtown square shopping areas, but you are looking a bit worn out.  i say this because i am so very nostalgic for my home town and i asked my daughter if she liked where she grew up.  she said she did and we talked comparison-wise about glenview versus newtown square.  my home town has two hundred years on glenview, so some things are gonna be less fresh there.  but when i was home recently, i wondered that i never thought of myself as a country bumpkin.  i thought/think of myself as pretty sophisticated, not at all a small town girl.  but, while newtown square spreads out over a lot of square miles, it is a small town.  i’m pretty sure when i lived there the population was about 16,000.

we had all the small town stuff, a pharmacy with a good old fashioned soda fountain where i got my first job.  a 5 & 10 where i spent the money from my first job, if i didn’t spend it on make up at the pharmacy.  we had two deli’s, good ones, too.  and when we got a car dealership it was a mighty big deal.  i was long gone before we got a mac donalds.  we had a bakery that was our first stop on the way home from church on a sunday, mom-mom’s treat.  frequently we would stop at the green hill diner to watch the short order cook do his thing.  but we didn’t have a drive up custard stand, still don’t.

we had our share of characters in newtown square.  rich one’s to boot.  i mean really rich “old money” rich.  one of whom is infamous.

October 5, 2015 at 5:01 pm 2 comments

put on your big girl panties

PhotoScan (22)I hate getting up at 0dark30 every morning for work.  I have been working odd shifts for 35 years now and it isn’t getting any easier.  I don’t mind rising at that hour to go on vacation, who does? But I struggle to get my ablutions done and get to work on time.  My start time can be shifted by +/-15 min every day, so at bed time I reverse-project the coming day in order to set my alarm.  It has happened that I set it for 430pm by accident (or maybe subconsciously).  My inner alarm always wakes me, though, and usually just in time to strategically wash, brush, dress and hit the road.  Those are the days I don’t get to leisurely drip-brew my coffee and pack breakfast and lunch.

My transit has to be carefully timed in order to get all 15 green lights from here to work.  It has happened, and when it does, it’s sweet.  Just, please don’t let there be any team precision drivers ahead of me, all tucked in their two or even three lanes, doing just below the speed limit.  Neck and neck ( and neck) they cruise like noooooobody else is around. Really?  Peel off, one of you, and let a girl or two through.  aaaaarrrrrrgh.  This is when I have to just pray and let it go.  The business I’m in, I could never be a courier.  I’m happy I answer phones and fetch packages.

It’s getting close to retirement and I cannot wait fast enough.  Maybe I’ll get a little job for fun, brew coffee, sell housewares, you know the places.  No one ever gets mad when they are buying a wedding gift or a caramel coffee thing.  My husband teases me about my aspirations.  “Aim low” he says.  Maybe.  But it would be a pleasure to do something where everyone you meet is in a happy place.  A girl can dream.

I have to reflect on my parents’ example, when I look back on my career.  My father got up in the wee hours to deliver milk.   He would be so spent at the end of the day, that he would come home and collapse.  After dinner, from Jan. to Apr, he did taxes. My mother did upholstery and drapery and some accessory projects for a neighbor who was an interior decorator.  They did all that they could to keep us fed, clothed, safe and educated.

Daddy changed jobs when I was 11 to work for a welding firm near King of Prussia, about 12 miles northeast of our home.  We didn’t always have a reliable car, so sometimes he would walk or hitch a ride. Those were the days he would get up just as early as when he was delivering milk, and get home just in time for dinner.  And he would get up and do it again.  This must have been what he really wanted to do when he grew up, because this is the job from which he retired after 25 years.  It was hard labor, not office work like mine is.  Never once did I hear my parents complain. Thank God for them.

I, on the other hand, have always had a reliable car and fairly short commute, and the first ten years of my work life was in California, so how bad could that be?  I make a good buck at what I do, have excellent healthcare benefits and have built a decent retirement.  I get to sit down most of the day, do a good bit of walking and lifting heavy dirty things as part of my job, but I’m fairly clean when I get home.  My husband and I have managed to raise two wonderful children, to provide for their education and creature comforts without our getting callouses or even breaking a serious sweat.

I need to stop whining.

September 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm Leave a comment

Me and Lucille Two

th (1) I get vertigo.  apparently this happens as we age.  I did some reading recently because I’ve been suffering with this since a sinus infection in march.  I discovered that we have “crystals” distributed throughout our ear canals that help us to keep our equilibrium.  sometimes, these “crystals” go astray and get concentrated in one canal more than the others.  this results in throwing us off-balance and causing vertigo.  this can be treated successfully with physical therapy and some exercises.  I also found out that these crystals are known in the biz as “ear rocks”  really?  don’t we have enough indignities to bear as we age.  I hereby dub these “nano-gyros”.  you’re welcome, fellow boomers.

anyhow, my vertigo is most often only mildly annoying, disconcerting, but not debilitating.  if i am honest, it can be kinda comical.  Maybe not Lucille Two funny, but amusing none the less.  if you have seen Arrested Development, you will be familiar with Lucille Two.  if you have not, you should watch it.  Lucille Two, played spectacularly by Liza Minnelli, is plagued with very bad vertigo.  with a “whoop” and a swoon, down she will go in a heap and each time I laugh out loud.  it’s my guilty pleasure.  plus, I can relate.

My vertigo episodes usually have me feeling a little “off”, kinda staggery and distracted, so I take it easy, maybe take a nap when i can, or sit down (right now!) for a bit. within a few hours I am myself again.  but I did have one powerful episode that made me go to the emergency room.

that morning vertigo hit me ala Lucille Two as I got out of bed.  I actually swooned and laid back down quick.  I lay there for a while, hoping the room would stop moving, but it did not.  Since my husband was at work 3 hrs away, I called a neighbor for a ride to the emergency room.

I showered and dressed while holding on to anything I knew logically was stable and not likely to move for reals, like the walls, the floor.  I then took the stairs on my bottom, like a 3 yr old.  I must have looked a picture, like foster brooks or otis campbell, bouncing from pillar to post and staggering around like a drunk.

in the er, every single person who did anything for me asked me the same weird questions.  what day/year is it?  what is your date of birth?  who is the president?  I’m no dummy, I knew they were screening me for stroke.  that frightened me more than being dizzy.  eventually the world stood still and I was sent home with some anti-vert medicine (which i have seldom needed).

a few weeks later, i was relating the incident to my daughter, she who turned me on to Arrested Development.  she listened sympathetically, like she does, nodding and ohing and being supportive.  then she said to me “so, kinda like Lucille Two.”

yeah.  kinda like.


July 10, 2015 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

getting the most from a children’s book

best word book everJune 5th is Richard Scarry’s birthday.  We loved his wonderful children’s books, with the clever illustrations and images of everyday situations.  Best Word Book Ever and Busy Busy Town entertained my children for several years.  They learned their vocabulary by being read to and discussing the situations and places depicted by his dear drawings.

we took road trip vacations every year, either to Pennsylvania or Iowa, so the Best Word Book Ever helped us to relive our adventures.  as we turned the pages, we imagined being in the little towns and what we would be doing there, maybe shopping, or having lunch or going to work.  we would consider how we would get around, would we take a bus or the subway?  if a traffic cop was depicted, would he stop traffic for us so we could cross the street?  down which street would we find the Garrett’s Popcorn store?  we would further personalize these imaginary trips by adding the family and friends we visited.  oh we would have wonderful imaginary adventures just before a nap or bedtime, just turning the pages of these lovely books.

Richard Scarry’s books are entertaining to adults as well, but maybe for a separate reason besides the delight one derives from reading to a child.  I know that I particularly enjoyed reviewing our semi-annual trips to Pennsylvania.  our children are old enough that their only option was to look out the window at the scenery. (or throw up, which happened occasionally till I got some clever carsickness bands at AAA)  So the landscape along I76 through southern Pennsylvania was quite familiar and easy for them to recall while paging through the word book.  I would point out on a page, for instance, Three Rivers Stadium, a tunnel, a mountain in the distance, a farm or a motel (with a pool?) and might we encounter an Amish buggy?  perhaps.  it was, after all, our imaginary trip. with my weird sense of humor, I couldn’t resist to point out Three Mile Island waaay off in the distance.  it took a while, but the kids finally asked what that was.  after a few times of imagining this road trip, the kids would call out the sights I pointed out and I can still hear them exclaiming “Three Mile Island!”.  I got a kick each and every time.

DISCLAIMER.  My sister, Fran, says the only actual victim of the Three Mile Island accident was her, because it changed and directed her life to a career with PECO in Nuclear Energy.

im not sure what was the greater benefit derived from reading Richard Scarry’s books;  was it learning word recognition and ultimately learning to read?  could it have been the bonding time between us?  could it have been the cognitive exercise of imagining?  could it have been the development of a life long love for reading?  or could the benefit be building memories that my children will want to relive with their own children?  minus the Three Mile Island reference.

ultimately it doesn’t matter.  this is a clear win for everyone.  Thank you so much Richard Scarry.  Happy birthday to you.

June 4, 2015 at 9:57 pm Leave a comment

standing under trees

i read a book recently called the handsome man’s de luxe cafe by alexander mccall smith.  it is the latest installment in the #1 ladies detective agency series.  something right in the middle struck me and i wanted to share it with you all, but i have to set the scene.

the protagonist, Precious Romatswe, is driving to visit a friend who lives out in the bush.  she drives a “little white van” which she loves, out of the city and into the bush territory and passes fields of cattle grazing.  since she grew up in Botswana the daughter of a cattle rancher, she is particularly fond of the cattle and they remind her of her father – who is “late”.  on the way she stops for a while to gaze at a cow standing under a tree chewing its cud, with her calf at her side.  this causes her to remember her father’s wisdom about cows during the dry season. as she is thinking and hearing his voice, many other “late” people begin to speak to her and it becomes very noisy in that little white van. but she still feels the reminders of those many late people who are in the other Botswana she can’t see.  after a bit she moves on with her trip, thinking that the cows would still be in the same place on her way back.  “there was no reason for them to move, just as there was often no reason for any of us to move, if we only thought about it.  We could stand under trees, too, and look about us, and think about things.  not only could we do that, she thought, but we should.”

the author goes on with this train of thought but the nugget of the paragraph is right there in quotes.  this gave me mighty pause.  of course we should stand under trees, or lie in the grass and gaze at clouds, or bugs.  or mountains and sunsets.  it is good for the soul and the psyche.  stand under a tree today.  metaphorically or not.

February 5, 2015 at 6:46 pm Leave a comment


despite the riff on Seinfeld regarding how a day feels, I think Saturday, today, feels just like a Saturday should feel.  that is, it should definitely feel like you have an infinite amount of time to do what you want.  take a bus down to 69th street and catch a movie at the Tower theater.  or it feels like a matinee with your girlfriends at the Lawrence Park theatre.  I can smell the popcorn now.

I don’t often have Saturdays off, since my weekend is Sunday/Monday.  Saturday is my extra long day at work, I leave the house at 630 am and arrive home about 12 hrs later.  I hate it. those don’t feel like Saturday to me at all.  then Sunday is half spent at church, I don’t mind that, I enjoy it and I believe I owe at least that much to God.  but Sunday is the day of rest, which I do almost anything but, at least not without a bit of double-edged guilt. guilty if i don’t rest on Sunday, guilty if i do.  can’t win.

today I have the day off.  this is the second Saturday this month I had the day off and it’s been swell.  for me, as an adult, this is the day to clean.  the last Saturday I had the day off, I fired up the self-cleaning oven.  whoo hoo.  after 5 yrs of being afraid of it.  6 hrs later my oven looked like new.  during that time, I moved like a dervish through the house dusting, cleaning, vacuuming, washing clothes.  at the end of it I threw down my rag and thought “nailed that Saturday”.  this is what Saturdays are for, doing the stuff you should refrain from doing on God’s day.

so today I cleaned stuff and vacuumed and all that jazz and by about 2pm I was zhausted.  so I laid down with my current goodread “the time traveler’s wife” and reveled in the Saturday-ness of it all.  the house had that old Saturday quiet about it, the ambient noises from outside were equally as Saturday sounding and I was comfy and warm.  only thing that would have made it better would have been to have my favorite guy right beside me.

January 24, 2015 at 7:26 pm 1 comment

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