Friday, January 31, 2014


     My astigmatism hasn't improved, and I wonder if I might be listing toward being cross-eyed. My husband doesn't think my eyes are crossed, but then I reminded him of the actress, Anne Bancroft, who dazzled Mel Brooks with her circus-performing eyes.
     "She didn't look like she was x-eyed," I said.
     "No. But she was trained by the method acting school," he retorted.
     "What?!" I sputtered.

     I possess more than one creative streak. Therefore I daydream. Tossed into the mix is that I am a writer.  Here too, I daydream a lot––a heck of a lot. When I was found daydreaming as a youngster, I would be snapped out of it by one of two admonitions: 1) you're going to grow up to be lazy; or, 2) you're going to ruin your eyes and become cross-eyed. What's a  young, creative, believe-in-everything-adults-say-daydreamer to do?
     Here's what I did: I set out to test the boundaries of those threats for the rest of my life. I was not going to let saber-rattling trap or restrict my creative pulses. I daydreamed with wide-open, unblinking, dry eyes. I explored associations in my mind. I invented possibilities on the fly. I witnessed fictitious scenes, characters, and dialogue––and all while daydreaming with wide-open eyes. Gore Vidal said, "Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head." I'm sure Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford could add their own take on the matter. Humans are a daydreaming species. Humans should not waste their daydreaming time.
     Eventually, I take my daydreams to paper giving them guidance and hoping to stitch the varied "takes" together into a whole as they ought to be.

Today, my glasses are thick, the astigmatism isn't good, but I trust my husband when he tells me I'm not (yet) cross-eyed. It can't get any better than that.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hotels for Bibliophiles

     My husband and I are beginning to think vacation in this January month. For years, we have enjoyed the personal quality that B&Bs have to offer, especially if we just need to recharge our batteries. This year we're thinking of booking time in one of the growing number of hotels and Bed & Breakfasts that value the reader and the writer among travelers. New and older hotels recognize that some people like to escape with books. Some like to escape through books. Now some hotels are providing the books. And I'm referring to books with old-fashioned pages that you turn.
     Wading my way through Google, I found a number of places worldwide that allow time to relax with books nearby, and food and drinks an elevator away. These hotels, I'm discovering, provide eclectic book collections, author events, poetry readings, and author-inspired decor. Some provide #2 pencils with small journals in the rooms, others have Mac Computers, a few provide dictionaries, and several display works of local artists and artisans.

     In Oregon is Sylvia Beach, located outside Newport.
Its website states:
This is truly a hotel for book lovers. There are no tv's, radios, or telephones in the rooms and no wi-fi.  It is a quiet place on most days.  Except for the glorious storms. Then the wind howls, the building shakes, and the rain pounds down. Some days it's warm and sunny and the sky is bright blue. Some days there's morning fog. Some days the wind makes you stay inside and read! Some days are rainbow days, the weather just can't decide. The ocean is always present. (The hotel is on a 45 foot bluff right above the surf.) You move into the rhythm of the sea. Perhaps that's why time seems to slow way down, almost to a standstill.
     Register for rooms named for authors such as Virginia Woolf, Colette, Tolkien, Emily Dickinson––to name a few. The owners assert, however, that you'll not spend much time in those lovely rooms because you're going to want to be in the third floor Reading Room filled with overstuffed chairs, a fireplace, many books, puzzles, board games, and wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean. It's a room where coffee and tea are always available and at 10:00 at night you'll be served hot spiced wine.

     "Come down in time to a place that celebrates books and authors," announces Alexander House, a B&B located in the historic district of Princess Anne on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Portraits of famous authors like Pablo Neruda and Isabel Allende hang on hallway walls, and other literary details can be found throughout the inn. Their Booklovers' Shop has items to buy that will later remind you of your rewarding and literary stay with them.
     Their website offers the following:
Each room offers a creative interpretation of a famous author’s own room in his or her time. Immerse yourself in the jazzy Harlem Renaissance of the Langston Hughes Room; or a 19th-century high seas adventure in the Robert Louis Stevenson Room. Relax with a book from our eclectic library in the Mark Twain Library and Parlor. Partake of a gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea or evening liqueur in the charmingly French Cafe Colette.

In a warmer part of the country is The Betsy Hotel located in Florida, specifically South Beach. Two years ago, The Betsy started a writers-in-residence program that offers guest rooms to writers for stays of up to seven days. In exchange, the writer conducts lectures or gives readings that are open to the public. The Betsy prides itself on an active Arts & Culture Events Calendar, which can be viewed and subscribed to on its website. And when you need a break from reading, writing, or listening you must visit its expansive rooftop that gives a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean.

     New York City is home to the Library Hotel––a luxury boutique hotel located in Manhattan that boasts a collection of over 6,000 books. Each of the ten guest room floors honors one of the ten categories of the Dewey Decimal System. Further, each room contains books and art based on one of those categories. Their website adds this fabulous nugget:
The Hotel's Fourteenth floor rooftop features the Writer's Den and Poetry Garden and terrace which by day serves as a relaxing oasis with views of iconic New York architecture. Get cozy by the fireplace or read a book in the greenhouse. By night the floor becomes Bookmarks Lounge, a trendy local hot spot serving literary inspired cocktails.

     I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this piece of discovered news: lending libraries flourish in more than 500 Country Inns & Suites. The chain offers a Read It and Return It Library at each location, allowing guests to borrow one of seventy-five to 100 titles and, if they are not finished, take it at checkout to be returned at their next stay. 
     Read this 2013 Press Release excerpt about their latest development:
Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM, a leader in the upper midscale hotel category, today announced a partnership with Random House, Inc. to enhance one of the hotel's most popular signature programs, the Read It & Return Lending LibrarySM.
Random House will supply 30,000 books to Country Inns & Suites hotels twice a year in the U. S. and Canada through the partnership. The Read It & Return Lending Library is located in the lobby of each hotel, and includes children's, fiction, mystery/suspense, non-fiction and teen titles.
     If you want to discover a few more hotels for booklovers, visit my Pinterest board, "Book" a Stay for the growing list of places to lay your head, or bury it in a book. What a grand idea. Whether you're a reader or a writer, you'll be happy. What a nice thought. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

If You Give...

      At the beginning of the recently passed Christmas season, I managed to mail roughly three dozen cards––down from last year when I had a tad more time to splurge. The criterion of who received this year's cards with a brief note was that the recipient had to live out-of-state.
    Yesterday, the Post Office set in my mailbox one of those cards stamped "Address Unknown." I verified the address in my address book: Hmmm. Same address I'd been using for several years.
     I called Vicky long distance, and after an exchange of pleasantries and catch-up, I told her about the returned card. "Nothing had changed," she said, "the address was good." Near the end of swapping ideas back and forth on the matter, Vicky cleared her throat and ventured: "Did you use printed mailing labels or did you write the addresses in cursive?"
     I think, dear readers, you can guess what we surmised: someone, somewhere in the labyrinths of the postal service could not decipher my penmanship. Will future generations not be able to recognize cursive longhand in the future? Could a future rubber stamp be in the works to label longhand-addressed envelopes with "Addressee/Address Illegible?"
     This brought to mind two notes sent to us in early Fall. Both notes thanked us for recent wedding gifts. Both notes were printed. Fine. Both notes were tucked into envelopes that were––how to word this––oh well, sloppily, and improperly addressed. Incompetence on behalf of two college-educated people. And one envelope was addressed to our first names only! Who is to blame for this?  Or is this a skill––addressing an envelope complete with correct placement of return address, stamp, first name/last name preceded by a title if only a Mr. or Mrs. or Ms.––young people believe they don't need?
     I'm reminded of Laura Numeroff 's best-selling children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. The book is written in a rhythmic, circular pattern with the idea that one thing leads to another, which leads to another and another and back again. A delightful book, if you haven't already read it. But here's my take on it (and I confess, it's not nearly as playful as Ms. Numeroff's):

  If you give a child Velcro closures,
     A child will not know buttons, zippers or shoelaces.
  If you give a child a hand-held calculator
     A child will not be able to do mental arithmetic.
  If you give a child only letters to print
     A child will not recognize cursive writing.
  If you give a child a laptop, smartphone, or tablet
     A child will not know how to address an envelope!

But there are ways around not knowing: either pick up a book, or easier, GOOGLE. For me, Google graciously shared a mind-boggling 6,410,000 results in 0.47 seconds. Even a step-by-step YouTube was in the mix. The coup de grace, though, was finding apps for how to address an envelope, to wit: Howcast app for iPhones or iPads, and I'm sure there are others.

There you have it, dear readers. Thank you for your forbearance on a matter that will one day find a resolution.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Rainy Morning

     Christmas is behind me, and it was a lovely one filled with days of food, cheer, friends coming, and friends going. Ushering in a new year provided more of the same, and for most of the days, a soft rain fell. A gentle, soaking rain that knew when to enter our world and when to let up, only to return later.
     Rains in South Florida aren't always of the gentle sort, as anyone who has felt and heard our summer storms can attest. So when the atmospheric deities gifted us with gentle rains in this gentle season, I reveled in it. Charcoal-gray clouds transported and released the steady stream of droplets. Palm fronds and leaf tips dipped and danced under the weight of wet crystalline pendants. Grass blades, pine needles, and large-leaved Elephant Ears sparkled.
      My energy level reflected the rhythmic fall against the windows, roof, and patio floor. The steady sound invited peace and contentment for several days. Moreso, when holiday music hummed in the background.
     The gentle spilling rain also awakened a gratitude for belonging to a place––my place. My home felt like a cocoon: the kitchen––an olfactory heaven of herbs and spices, blended, stirred, and sampled before being served; cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon simmering on a back burner; and the voices of friends and neighbors stopping by with good wishes.
     Simultaneously, I felt blessed to have a square of green both front and back of the house. Space that I watch, and have come to know intimately over the years. Space, that in gentle, soaking rains, flourish. This year, our back square of green sports two honeybee hives, and in between spilling clouds I sat and observed "the girls," as we refer to them. I chatted with them, their buzz being their chat back to me. One particular day, I told them how the grand ending of one year leading into another had suspended my creative flow. They commiserated telling how they had been hampered with gray and rainy skies, not having been able to forage for nectar and pollen, and how they had to huddle inside their hives. I enumerated to them my resolutions for the new year. They buzzed they would hold me to it. A buzzing push, yes, that's what I needed to hear.
     So here it is, ten days into the year 2014. I should be flexing my creative muscles for a productive twelve months after a three-week hiatus. Instead, I indulge one of my addictions: watching the rain on another rainy morning.
     It's been a wild and woolly last few weeks covering a large swath of the country. With unending snow and low temperatures, I hope you were able to hunker down safely and warmly, and indulge yourself with a writing project or reading a book.