Tag Archives: Writing

Empty Mansions

A couple of years ago, while visiting a small book store in Newport Rhode Island, I came across an interesting book titled, Empty Mansions. I didn’t buy it then but strangely enough, my brother gave it to me as a gift several months later. I always meant to read it but for some reason it sat on my reading shelf for over a year.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago and one of the blogs I really enjoy following is Book Club Mom. If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend giving her a look. Barbara does a terrific job reviewing all kinds of books and opening up interest where none existed before.
Coincidently, she reviewed Empty Mansions just as I was beginning to think it might be a good time to read it.

I have included the link to Barbara’s review of the book below since I could never do it as well as she did. In short, it is a story of Huguette Clark, an incredibly wealthy woman, who owned and maintained palatial homes in California, New York and Connecticut, though some remained empty and not visited for over fifty years. It’s the story of a woman who, in spite of her wealth, lived the last twenty years of her life in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health. She was 104 when she died, choosing to live in the strangest form of seclusion.

But there is much more which you will find here….


One of the things which touched me the most and, in some ways, helped me to understand Huguette, was an old French fable titled, The Cricket.  Sometimes it is called, True Happiness and is included at the end of the book. It was written in the late 1700’s by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian.

The Cricket

A poor little cricket
Hidden in the flowery grass,
Observes a butterfly
Fluttering in the meadow.
The winged insect shines with the liveliest colors;
Azure, purple and gold glitter on his wings;
Young , handsome, foppish, he hastens from flower to flower,
Taking from the best ones.
Ah! says the cricket, how his lot and mine
Are dissimilar! Lady Nature
For him did everything, and for me nothing.
I have no talent, even less beauty;
No one takes notice of me, they know me not here below;
Might as well not exist.
As he was speaking, in the meadow
arrives a troop of children,
Immediately they are running
after this butterfly, for which they all have a longing.
Hats, handkerchiefs, caps serve to catch him.
The insect in vain tries to escape.
He becomes soon their conquest.
One seizes him by the wing, another by the body;
A third arrives and takes him by the head.
It should not be so much effort
To tear to pieces the poor creature.
Oh! Oh! says he cricket, I am no more sorry;
It costs too dear to shine in this world.
How much I am going to love my deep retreat!
To live happily, live hidden.

The fable, which was a favorite of Huguette, has a powerful lesson.

The book is both fascinating, and sad.

A Princess And Her Prince

A few weeks ago we were blessed to welcome our sixth grandchild, Taylor, into our family. She recently turned a month old and, like her sister at the same age, enjoyed a little photo shoot with her favorite pillow rest, Bailey.

Her birth reminded me of one of my favorite poems by the French poet, Yves Bonnefoy. I thought I’d share part of it with you…

The All, The Nothing

Its the last snow of the season,
The spring snow-the most skilled
At mending the rips in the dead wood
Before it’s brought inside and burnt.

It’s the first snow of your life,
Since yesterday there were only dots
Of color, brief pleasures, fears, chagrins-
Without substance for lack of words.

And I can see joy overtaking the fear
In your eyes which amazement opened
In one great, bright leap; this cry, this laughter
That I love, and that I ponder….

May the big snow be for you, the all, the nothing,
Child trying out your first uncertain steps in the grass,
Your eyes still full of the origin,
Hands grabbing at nothing but the light.

May the gleaming branches be the words
You’ll have to listen to, not understanding
The meaning of their silhouette against the sky-
Otherwise you’d only name them at the price of losing.

May these two values, one sparkling, be enough for you,
Of the hill glimpsed through the opening between the trees,
Bee of life, when in your dreams of the world,
The world itself grows quiet.

And may the water that wells up in the shadow
Show you that joy can survive in dream,
Even when a breeze from who knows where
Is already scattering almond blossoms-and yet the other snow.

Enjoy a blessed life, Taylor


Meet The Beatles

“We were driving through Colorado, we had the radio on and eight of the top ten songs were Beatles songs.,, I Want To Hold Your Hand, all the early ones. They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. I knew they were pointing in the direction of where music had to go.”
Bob Dylan

For most people, there is no middle ground with these four guys. Either you like their music or you don’t. Not many people are indifferent. Regardless of what you feel about them or their music, it’s impossible to ignore the impact they had on the music industry, and in many ways, the world.


February 7, 2017 will  mark the 53rd anniversary of their first visit to America, where they broke all kinds of television records when they appeared on Ed Sullivan. But before we get to that appearance, here are some facts about them that many people outside the music industry probably don’t know.

They were the first band to have a record sell a million copies before it’s release. (Can’t Buy Me Love, 1964)

They were the first band to play in a stadium.

The first group to have its drummer sit higher than the band.

The first rock band to designate one of its members as lead guitarist. (George, 1962)

The first band to combine rock with classical music. (Yesterday, 1965)

The first band to create a song that faded out and then in again. (Strawberry Fields Forever, 1967)

The first band to create an album of all original songs. (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)

The first band to create an album of more than ten songs. (Please Please Me, 1962)

The first band to print the song lyrics inside the album. (Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)

The first rock group to use a harmonica in a song. (Love Me Do, 1962)

The first rock group to use a sitar. (Norwegian Wood, 1965)

The first popular band to use electric keyboards and synthesizers in some of its songs.

The first recording artists to use sound effects in their songs.

The first band to combine an early form of reggae called ska with rock and roll. (I Saw her Standing There, 1962)

The first band to create an album in which one song runs into another.



When they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show soon after their arrival, this country was in a state of hysteria. Incredibly, seventy-three million people watched television that evening, which was the largest TV audience for an entertainment program, ever. The show was watched in more than twenty-three million homes. Remember, this was 1964.
While the program was being aired, much of the nation came to a standstill. It was near impossible to get a bus or taxi anywhere. Even more interesting was that between 8:00-9:00 pm that Sunday night, crime rates in many American cities fell to an all time low.

In 1965 when the Beatles once again toured America, they appeared at Shea Stadium in New York. Until then, the largest crowd to attend a rock concert had been twenty thousand people. More than fifty-five thousand showed up at Shea that night.

It was a different time, one that, for many reasons, may never be repeated. But on February, 1964, these four boys arrived.

imagesWhat happened next, was history.

A New Kind Of Romance

There is a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Jimmy Buffet, Fruitcakes

This is one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett lines and I was reminded of it today during school. I have been working in the school library the last few weeks and almost everyday, these two ten-year old girls come in to read or look for books they can read together. They’re inseparable.
They’re both chatty and like to engage in conversation, which is okay with me as long as they whisper. No easy task for ten-year old girls.

So today they were talking with me about the books they’re reading and after a few minutes the conversation went like this..

Ten year old: My mom is strict with the books that I read, she only reads Christian books and wants me to do the same.

Me: Well, I’m sure there are a lot of good books in here that she wouldn’t have a problem with you reading.

Ten year old: I know but she only really likes Christian books and romance stuff like Fifty Shades of Grey.

Me: (after what seemed like a five-minute pause which allowed me to digest what I just heard) So she reads Christian books and romance novels like Fifty Shades of Grey?

Ten year old: (as she’s thumbing through her book) Yeah, that’s all she really seems interested in reading.

Me: Well, whatever makes her happy.

Ten year old: (nodding) Yeah, that’s what I say.

I guess I can elaborate a bit here and discuss the obvious but I think the obvious pretty much speaks for itself. So for all you folks out there who read the romance novel, Fifty Shades, those Christian books are just a little further down on the shelf, when you’re done. Then you can put on Jimmy Buffett and Fruitcakes. Somehow it will all come together.


A Man Called Ove

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”
Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove

I’m not a book reviewer and I rarely suggest one because everyone has different tastes when it comes to what they enjoy reading. But I’ll make an exception for A Man Called Ove.

This is a word of mouth book written by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman that has become an international best seller. It is a story of loss and love, how first impressions are not always reliable and why people should first be understood before we pass judgment.   It will make you laugh out loud and bring tears to your eyes in a matter of pages.


A brief synopsis from the back cover…

At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet, a curmudgeon with staunch principles, strict routines and a short fuse. People think him bitter and he thinks himself surrounded by idiots.
Ove’s well-ordered solitary world gets a shakeup one November morning with the appearance of new neighbors, a chatty young couple and their two boisterous daughters, who announce their arrival by accidentally flattening Ove’s mailbox with their U-haul. What follows is a heartwarming tale of unkept cats, unlikely friendships and a community’s unexpected reassessment of the one person they thought they had all figured out.

If you’re looking for a gift this holiday season or just want an easy read to curl up with during the holidays, I have a feeling Ove will reward the time you spend with him.

One last passage from the book…

“To love someone is like moving into a house,” Sonja used to say. “At first you fall in love with everything new, you wonder every morning that this is one’s own, as if they are afraid that someone will suddenly come tumbling through the door and say that there has been a serious mistake and that it simply was not meant that you would live so fine. But as the years go by, the facade worn, the wood cracks here and there, you start to love this house not so much for all the ways it is perfect but for all the ways it is not. You become familiar with all its nooks and crannies. How to avoid that the key gets stuck in the lock if it is cold outside. Which floorboards have some give when you step on them, and exactly how to open the doors for them not to creak. That’s it, all the little secrets that make it your home. “
– Fredrik Backman , A Man Called Ove”


Perhaps Love

Thirty-five years ago John Denver wrote a song dedicated to his wife Annie. They were separated at the time and headed for divorce.
As he prepared to record the song, someone decided it would be a good idea to pair a country singer with a Spanish tenor. So John Denver and Placido Domingo got together in a studio and recorded what I believe is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written.
Though it only had modest commercial success, rising to 59 on the billboard 100 and 22 on the on adult chart, it has sold over four million copies.

On this Sunday morning, following another difficult week in our world, I think we can all find time for a moment of love. What better way than through music.

If Mom And Dad Only Knew

The vocabulary word for they second grade class I had today was Putrid. 

We talked about the word as an adjective, how it sounds and the meaning. On the board I wrote, if something is putrid it is rotten and smells awful. 

When we were done I asked them to write the word in their journal along with the definition and then use the word putrid in a sentence.

Michael is one of those little boys who’s as cute as can be but can turn you into an alcoholic in a matter of hours. He wrote the following in his journal…

When my mother wakes up in the morning she smells putrid.

I stared at the sentence, then at him, then at the sentence again before asking him why he feels that way. He said, because it’s true, she smells putrid in the morning when she wakes up and looks like an old lady with glasses.

Part of me wanted to explain that it wasn’t a very nice thing to say and part of me wanted to walk away and avoid any additional information about his mom. I chose option B. I walked away. Call me a coward if you like but you weren’t there. You didn’t see the look in his eyes. You don’t know.

Of course when I was done with Michael I walked over to Holden who wrote, my father’s farts smell putrid. I nodded my head and kept on walking but Holden kept following me around saying, you don’t understand, they really do. 

It was only 9:15. The day was still young.