Saturday, August 19, 2017

Racing Destiny by L.R. Barrett-Durham

Though at one point in my life I was enamored of the likes of Rosemary Rogers, and Kathleen Woodiwiss, I rarely intentionally pick up a true romance these days. (ha! See what I did there?) I'll read books that have love stories in them, but that's about as far as I go toward Romance-- unless one is recommended to me.

A few months back, I read (or tried to read) a novel that proclaimed to be a mystery, but delved heavily into what I would call, without hesitation, bad romance. My remarks on the book expressed that, which caught the interest, and greatly amused, a friend of mine, who is both a prolific author and talented artist. She challenged me to read one of her books, and I accepted. Did I mention her name is LR Barret-Durham?

Racing Destiny is indeed a romance, but it is also a science fiction novel, set in an Atlanta of the future. The world the author has created overlays nicely on the Atlanta I know. It is also a world where Hover Craft racing has capture the hearts and imagination of the entire population (enough so that popular racers are recognized wherever they go.) Rayna Jones was born to race, like her father before her. And her arch rival, Draven Prestage, was also born to race, and born to beat Rayna. There's that old sexual tension pre-race, and a steamy bet between the two drivers.  Then Barrett-Durham mixes it up a bit, and steps beyond the usual romance frission, to add some interesting twists and turns to the plot. While I honestly kinda skimmed over the scenes involving passion, and have a pet peeve about the use of the word "sexy" (show me, don't tell me) in any book, the story kept my attention. I liked finding the similarities and differences in my Atlanta and the Atlanta of Racing Destiny. It was a science fiction world, but not so far removed that it became unfamiliar. The writing was clean, fast paced, believable. And I was entirely delighted to see Easter eggs in there from things I know are passions in the writer's own personal life and knowledge base, presented in such a fashion that they were informative without being didactic or out of place. Bottom line? I'm still not a romance fan, but I've already downloaded one of LR Barrett-Durham's fantasy novels to see how she does there. If I like it, there are lots more, because this is one prolific author.

Review from Amazon:
 Author of the International Indie Sensation, The Trust Series, L R Barrett-Durham delves into yet another genre and takes us to heights we never knew imaginable. FOUR SECONDS That’s all that stands between Rayna Jones, and her egocentric arch rival, Draven Prestage, as she competes in the Thirty-Second Annual HoverCup Championship, to defend her title as victor, and to secure her second HoverCup in the most dangerous sport on the planet. Convinced that Rayna’s rookie year victory was only beginner’s luck, Draven is determined to show his saucy little minx of an adversary exactly who is boss. As they're about to hover back out onto the racetrack, they make a private wager. If Rayna wins, Draven takes a season off. If Draven wins, he'll have Rayna at his mercy for an entire week. Rayna has no intention of letting Draven outdistance her, or use her for his plaything. She may only have a four second head start, but for her... it's a lifetime. “L.R. Barrett-Durham switches gears from fantasy to sci-fi adventure with deceptive ease. Her romantic heroes continue to ring true, yet still take us by surprise. Racing Destiny is a stellar achievement.” -- Martin Powell, author of The Halloween Legion™

Monday, August 14, 2017

We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

You know that satisfied feeling you have after reading a book that just pulled you right in? That was me when I finished readingWe are the Ants. There were so many moments where the situation, or the author's way with words just pulled me in and held me close. I'm not a teenage boy, being raised by a single mom. My boyfriend didn't commit suicide. I'm not having a rough time at school. My brother and his girlfriend aren't expecting a baby. My grandmother isn't losing her memories. I'm not periodically being abducted by aliens. It's not up to me to save the world. But dammit-- I was right there with Henry, every step of the way.

And lest you think I'm kidding about the way I got sucked into the words on the page, try this one on for size:
 "Dreams are hopeful because they exist as pure possibility. Unlike memories, which are fossils, long dead and buried deep."

I'm definitely going to look for more by this author.

From the publisher:
There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

West of the Moon by Margi Preus (2014)

I really enjoyed this book. It's one I found on a book exchange shelf, and consider myself lucky to have done so. It's a wonderful blend of story, myth, and folk-lore, weaving the three elements together pretty seamlessly. It's written for the younger set, but be forewarned that the bogeyman is real, and there could be some scary, which also has plusses for many. But the best part? At the end of the book, is an author's note, explaining that the idea from the story, and various bits and bobs within, came from a diary kept by her great-great-grandmother. How cool is that? Preus includes more notes from the diary, a photo of her great-great-grands, as well as some sketches. There's also a section with some further information on elements in the story, a glossary, and bibliography. My bookish heart is happy.

From the publisher:
Astri is a young Norwegian girl desperate to join her father in America. After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.

Brief thoughts on Into The Water, by Paula Hawkins

Well, Paula Hawkins can write. This is the second of her books I've read and while in didn't grab me by the throat and not let go the way her first did, it was still engaging. (The first was The Girl on the Train; I didn't see the movie.) The story was told from multiple points of view, which, for me, was a bit cumbersome, because I find it less easy to flip back to review who is who on an e-book than in a book-book. Still, it told its tale well enough, even if perhaps a tad transparent at times.

From the publisher:
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Saga of Medical IDs and Fitness Trackers

I have an allergy to natural rubber/latex.* While this comes as no surprise to many, it just might come as a surprise should I be somewhere, with a medical need, and unable to speak. For years, I wore an ID bracelet associated with one of the larger alert systems. It briefly told my medical condition, and then gave a phone number to be called to get more extensive information. The bracelet was clunky and stark, a big red Staff of Asclepius, and though it wasn't as obvious to others as to me, I always felt that it was some sort of a brand, labeling me as a health failure. I remember the joy I had when my husband, for a birthday gift, got me a smaller, rather pretty bracelet that fit my wrist better. While it was still from the medical alert company, it worked well with jewelry, when I wished to add something else to my wrist. But someone still had to call a number to get the health information needed, should I not be able to supply it. Plus, I was charged a yearly fee for the privilege of having my private information stored with the company. We eventually found another medical alert bracelet that was again non-clunky, made of silver (a metal I wear a lot in jewelry) and had the back engraved the back with my allergies. I've worn it many years. The engraving is wearing down a bit, now.

At some point, I learned about a company called Road ID. They make a product that is geared toward runners and bikers, should they become incapacitated out on the road. It is a superb medical alert tool. My Road ID had my name, my allergies, and my emergency contacts-- no need to call some company. The band could be changed to different colors, and though it was not recommended necessarily by the company, I often slipped the tag onto my watch for an alternative to a silicone. Wearing it gave me confidence to walk more on my own, knowing that should something "not good" happen, my needs and next of kin could be found. Even better, I could wear it swimming, an activity I love and was eager to resume.

From top: Road ID (wrist slim) , Buddha's head, Spire, Generic Medical Alert

About the same time I found Road ID, I began delving into the world of fitness tracker. My first was a simple Fitbit Zip, which I loved, because it told me my steps, and was much easier than the pedometers I'd tried. Eventually, my guys got me a Spire, which is good for someone who has a respiratory condition. Spire has served me well. Mine was one of the original devices when the company started, and they recently upgraded me to a newer model. It's a really cool instrument for monitoring activity, breathing, tension, focus, calm, etc. I am very happy with mine for those reasons.

Things change, or maybe they progress, or expand. While my spire and Road ID worked in combo, I also needed to monitor my heart rate. (At last check, Spire was working on this, but it had not yet been added to the devices bag of tricks). I decided to try the FitBit Alta HR. It tracks heart rate, steps, can give visual feedback for those things to me from my wrist, phone, or computer. (Yay!) It comes in a bunch of pretty colors as well as metal bands for a dressier look, all easily interchangeable. (Another yay!) It doesn't contain latex. (This one gets an Alleluia!) And, Road ID makes an ID that fits it specifically. (They have a whole link to IDs for wearable devices on their webpage.)


Fitbit Alta HR with Road ID in place

My Road ID for my Alta HR arrived today. And yes, I am a happy gal.






* other stuff too, but the latex allergy is why I started wearing an ID bracelet

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The New York Times: Footsteps: From Ferrante's Naples to Hammett's San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World by New York Times

What a stupendous collection of columns from the New York Times Travel section! It's a literary tour around the world. The first thing I did was to peruse the table of contents to see which of the books I had read. Some of my favorites are there, so it was an added delight to enrich my impressions with more details of location, author, and story. Some of the columns I'd read in the Times, other were new to me. Additional bonus? I was able to add a couple of books to my "want to read" list.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books, the publisher, and the travel writers and editors of the New York Times for providing me with such marvelous armchair traveling.

From the Publisher:
Before Nick Carraway was drawn into Daisy and Gatsby s sparkling, champagne-fueled world in The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald vacationed in the French Riviera, where a small green lighthouse winked at ships on the horizon. Before the nameless lovers began their illicit affair in The Lover, Marguerite Duras embarked upon her own scandalous relationship amidst the urban streets of Saigon. And before readers were terrified by a tentacled dragon-man called Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft was enthralled by the Industrial Trust tower-- the 26-story skyscraper that makes up the skyline of Providence, Rhode Island. 
Based on the popular New York Times travel column, Footsteps is an anthology of literary pilgrimages, exploring the geographic muses behind some of history's greatest writers. From the "dangerous, dirty and seductive" streets of Naples, the setting for Elena Ferrante's famous Neapolitan novels, to the "stone arches, creaky oaken doors, and riverside paths" of Oxford, the backdrop for Alice's adventures in Wonderland, Footsteps takes a fresh approach to literary tourism, appealing to readers and travel enthusiasts alike."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Small Admissions by Amy Poppel

Took me a little longer than usual to get into the story of this book, but I'm glad I stuck it out. Some moments of amusement and also insight, such as the picture below from about 3/4 through the book:

"At every meal in Deutschland they ask if you want your water flat or "mit gas."  You, my dear, are flat. Kate has gas. We need both kinds. We need loan analysts as well as carbonated people who jazz around. the bubbles may look out of control, but ultimately they know in which direction they're going."

I like to believe  I'm the latter type.

From the publisher:
One admission can change your life...forever.

When ambitious grad student Kate Pearson’s handsome French “almost fiancĂ©” ditches her, she definitely does not roll with the punches, despite the best efforts of family and friends. It seems that nothing will get Kate out of pajamas and back into the world.

Miraculously, one cringe-worthy job interview leads to a position in the admissions department at the revered Hudson Day School. Kate’s instantly thrown into a highly competitive and occasionally absurd culture, where she interviews all types of children: suitable, wildly unsuitable, charming, loathsome, ingratiating, or spoiled beyond all measure. And then there are the Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

As Kate begins to learn there’s no room for self-pity or nonsense during the height of admissions season or life itself, her sister and friends find themselves keeping secrets, dropping bombshells, and arguing with each other about how to keep Kate on her feet. Meanwhile, Kate seems to be doing very nicely, thank you, and is even beginning to find out that her broken heart is very much on the mend. Welcome to the world of Small Admissions.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel by Hannah Tinti

I'm remiss in writing my thoughts on this book. Let me say, though, that it is a remarkable tale, one that kept me reading well past the time I like to go to sleep. Samuel Hawley's past is told through the 12 bullets he's taken over the course of his life. He's a man who has done some things perhaps he shouldn't have. He's also a father, dedicated to keeping his daughter Loo, who he has raised by him for as long as she can remember. Told in alternating segments until past and present collide, and the reader is on pins and needles, waiting for that last bullet.

Favorite quote? "The past is like a shadow, always trying to catch up."Hawley to Loo, p 340

Friday, July 21, 2017

Passing Strange

I admit it. The cover of this book is what drew me in. Little did I know it would play a pivotal role in the story. It is absolutely haunting, beautiful, and alluring. Kudos to Gregory Manchess for the art and Christine Foltzer for the design. I didn't realize, when I snapped it off the shelf that the book would take place in a city I love, nor that it was written by an author I've read, or published by one of my favorite houses. These surprises, plus learning that Klages has written before of a magic-infused San Francisco, and will seek out more on this.

But to the book: the story is primarily set in the 1940's, and is a beautiful love story. In today's world, San Francisco is a stronghold for the LGBTQ community. In that time, though, queer life was forced even more underground. (I'd never heard of the 3 piece rule, for instance, though the internet tells me it was still being used, even in this century.) The story, which involves everything from art, to cross dressed torch singers, to Chinatown, held my attention. That there was magic thrown in, also helped, but to be honest, the magic was more of a bookend plot device than a true element of the story. The real magic was the love these friends had for each other, lasting decades, and the love between an artist and a singer in a long ago San Francisco.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Woman in the Photo

When I was a kid, my dad was offered a position in Johnstown, but turned it down, despite a good salary, because, to him, Johnstown meant "flood". This was in the 1960's. The flood was May 1889, and though it was associated with heavy rains, the cause was completely man-made. Still, Daddy couldn't move past the cultural memory and turned the job down. 

I read this book simply to learn more about the flood. The story (or rather both stories, because there's a past and a present one) was incidental. I like the historical photographs that were included as well as refreshing myself on Clara Barton. What a fascinating image to think of the Johnstowners looking up into the mountain sky, and seeing sailboats there from the killer lake that rested behind the South Fork Dam on the Little Conemaugh River.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Mission Walker: I was given three months to live by Edie Littlefield Sundby

It's a funny thing about courage-- it has a malleable nature, and can be applied equally to the mother who lifts a car off of her child or the soldier who who risks his life to save the rest of his unit from enemy fire. Courage is the woman who helped get 2500 Jewish children safe from Nazi-held Poland in WWII, or the 17 year old girl, lone survivor of a plane crash in the wilds of Peru, who followed creeks and rivers, past the piranhas and crocodiles, to get back to civilization. Courage is countless moments in human survival and endurance, against great odds, and incredible hardship. Courage is the fight against disease, and a terminal diagnosis to hold onto your life.  Courage is Edie Littlefield Sundby.

Imagine yourself a strong, vibrant, intelligent woman, physically fit, an avid walker, and practitioner of yoga. You are 55, and have just returned from volunteer work in India with one of your daughters. The abdominal difficulties you experienced while there could easily be attributed to the change in diet, but they persist at home. It is then you discover you have stage 4 cancer of the gall bladder. The prognosis is grim. But, you are Edie Littlefield Sundby, and you are determined to fight, determined to live.

The Mission Walker is Edie's story, told in her own focused voice. Edie guides the reader through the early days of her diagnosis, into the maze of medical treatment, in which, in her determination not to let cancer claim her quickly, she blazed new trails. She blazed past the predicted three month survival. She kept seeking new options, holding fast to her faith and to her family; through multiple chemotherapy rounds, surgeries, through fighting tumors in different parts of her body, and fighting the side effects of the treatments to save her. And then, in remission and in gratitude, she decided to try to walk the California Mission Trail, grateful, thankful to be alive, hoping to light a candle at each of the 21 missions along the way, and thanking God with every step. Edie recounts the amazing journey of following the bells, not knowing how far she would go, leaving that to God, but determined to try.

Yet there's more to The Mission Walker. Edie was determined to walk the portion of El Camino Real that stretched into Mexico, starting from its beginning in Loreto. The mission trail there was not maintained like the one in California; the journey would be very different and very difficult. As she made her plans for this trek, two years after the start of her first walk, her cancer came back. In a three month window between a repeat scan after radiation and  surgery, armed with all the information she could find, a well-crafted trail kit, determination, and faith, Edie began the walk that would complete her trek of the mission trail. It's an incredible story, an eye opening journey, also faith filled, but additionally a story of strength of every sort. It is just one more example of Edie's courage.

I have to add a disclaimer here: I know Edie. We met in 2012, and though we only spent one day together, it was a joyful one, celebrating the milestones of our children with our families. Edie and I didn't speak much that day. I knew a little of her story, but now realize where in that incredible fight she was. I was preoccupied, fighting my own medical diagnosis, focused more on the precautions I need to take daily to keep safe than on another's needs (which is a little embarrassing to admit, as I am a nurse, so my career has been focused on helping others with their health.) In the intervening years since we met, I followed her following the bells, but still didn't have a real grasp of the scope of her journey. It took this remarkable memoir to bring the journey, the strength of faith and character needed, into focus. Walk on, Edie. You walk strong. You walk with God. Thank you for letting us walk with you.
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The meeting (redux)

I posted a picture of my mom and dad, the weekend they met 80 years ago next week, on this, the 8th remembrance of her passing. The picture seemed to have struck a cord with a lot of folks, so I am reposting (from my old blog) this account (approved by my mom when she read it) which was originally posted July 6 2005.

It was 1937.  July 4th weekend, Mount Freedom (New Jersey, I think). A resort of sorts. She was 16.  He was 18.

She was there with her brother and his friends as a thank-you for helping out in his office while his assistant was on vacation.

He was there with his buddies, Harold and Phil, part of an irrepressible boyhood trio that stayed friends to the end of their days.

She was watching some boys play ping-pong.  Her brother asked if she wanted to go along to watch some tennis.  "No", she said.  "I'm going to stay here and beat this boy at ping pong."

They played.  The ball bounced from side to side.  Quips and laughter also bounced between them.  The game ended.  I never learned who won.

She joined her brother for lunch.

He found his buddies.  Years later Harold told her that he pointed her out to his friends at lunch.  "Which one?", asked Harold.

"That one", he replied and pointed to her as she walked away with her brother.

"Ah," said Harold.  "The girl with the resonant buttocks."

It must have been quite a walk she had when she was young.

Later that day, she went swimming.  Suddenly, he popped up in front of her in the pool.  He'd done a stealth approach, swimming up underwater, to surprise her.  They spent the afternoon together, but he didn't show up at the dance that was held that night.  There is a picture of him with another girl he knew from that weekend.  Nearly 70 years later, she recalls that he never told her where he was that night and why he didn't come to the dance, but she suspects it had to do with the other girl.

The next morning she packed up to go home to Brighton Beach.  While her brother was checking out, she stood alone.  He came and joined her and asked if he could call her.  She gave him her phone number.  She was 16.  He was 18.  When he died, 44 years later, that scrap of paper with her phone number was still in his wallet.  "I still have it somewhere", she muses.

He did call.  And took the train forever and  a day from The Bronx to Brighton Beach.  They walked with friends along the boardwalk.  As they strolled, they met her father and uncle, coming back from their morning walk.  It was the only time he met her father.

He wrote her letters.  Beautiful letters.  A love poem that was a parody of The Raven.  She saved it for years, but then got mad at him one time and threw all his letters out.

"Are you sure you want to do that?", her younger brother asked.

"Yes!", she replied vehemently.

"You may marry him some day." her brother said.

"Never!" was her response.

Her brother retrieved the love letters from the trash and copied them in his own hand.  Sent them to the girl he would marry--who once confided to her that Her younger brother was such a good writer and a poet.  Did She know that  Her brother written a love poem based on The Raven?

She was furious.  "It was good stuff." her brother told Her.  "And you didn't want it.  Why should it go to waste?"

Their second date, they met at Cousin Ethel's house rather than him having to make the long train trip out.  And their third date, too.  After that, she knew him well enough to meet him in the city.  They dated on and off.  She went to College--Brooklyn College.  He took time off between college and starting Medical school to go to Albany.  He asked her to meet him at the train to see him off.  His whole family was there.  It was the only time she met his father.  "If I'd have known his family was going to be there, I wouldn't have gone!", she now confesses.

She was 16, he was 18.  They dated on and off, and she would get mad at him and tell him to go away.  He was too fresh.  But he always came back.  One night her aunt complained to her mother that she was sitting out on the stoop too late in the night with that boy.

"Mama," she said.  "Do you know what we were talking about?  We were discussing the dorsal dissection of a cat."

She'd send him packing.  He'd come back.  Other boys wooed her.  They didn't win her.  For, suddenly, one day, she realized she loved him dearly.  And couldn't live her life without him.  When he'd hear her tell the story, he'd smile.  He knew, you see.  He knew from that first day.  When she was 16 and he was 18.

Pictures from the Mt Freedom Weekend. She made the sundress she was wearing. He probably threw the game to talk to her some more













Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan

Exquisitely written, but for me, exquisitely unsettling. Goodnight Boy is the story of JC, who was separated from his family at a young age, separated from life as he knew it when the earthquake shook his world in Haiti. He comes to the US as the adoptive (sort of) child of an American couple, whose own world was shook, and destroyed, not by an earthquake, but by the happenstances of life.

Told in flashbacks, and current musings, by JC to his Dog (named Boy) as they are locked together in a kennel by JC's adoptive father, the story unfolds in stops and starts, the writing varied on the pages.  It is haunting, it is heartbreaking, and in it's own way, it is beautiful.

Thank you to the publisher and to librarything for sending me this copy.

From the publisher:
A tale of two very different worlds, both shattered by the loss of loved ones. Tragic, comic and full of hope, thanks to a dog called Boy.
The kennel has been JC’s home ever since his new adoptive father locked him inside. For hours on end, JC sits and tells his dog Boy how he came to this country: his family, the orphanage and the Haitian earthquake that swept everything away.
When his adoptive mother Melanie rescues him, life starts to feel normal again. Until JC does something bad, something that upset his new father so much that he and Boy are banished to the kennel. But as his new father gets sicker, JC realizes they have to find a way out. And so begins a stunning story of a boy, a dog and their journey to freedom.

Just Kids from the Bronx: Telling It the Way It Was: An Oral History by Arlene Alda

My dad grew up in the Bronx, initially on Hoe Ave then later in Grand Ave. He was a child star on vaudeville, and later in the silent movies. Played stickball on the street, and broke his leg one day when he slipped because he was wearing new leather shoes. Went to Townsend, and graduated City College at the ripe old age of 14. In 1932, when he went for his interview for Medical School, he looked so young that the dean at Long Island School of Medicine told him to "come back when you're wearing long pants." He did. He also fell in love with a girl from another country, one called "Brooklyn".  He was afraid to tell his folks he was dating a girl from so far away, and when he got home late from seeing her safely home, would to tell them he'd fallen asleep on the subway, and missed is stop. Most of my memories from childhood visits to New York center on the more boisterous Brooklyn clan. My father's family was wounded, and we spent much less time there. I've been going through old papers of my dad's and wanted to find out more about his world, so picked up this book.

It's a good collection of oral histories, progressing from people born in my father's era to the 1990's. I was more drawn to the earlier ones, and wished my dad, who died in 1981, could have been around to contribute. I'd probably read anything that included excerpts from Carl Reiner, Mary Higgins Clark, Jules Feiffer, andNeil degrasse Tyson, though.

Favorite quote: This is my life. Art chooses you. You don't choose art. You become possessed. This is my commitment and I've never deviated from that. Milton Glaser in "Just Kids from the Bronx: Telling It the Way it Was, An Oral History: By Arlene Alda

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1) by Rachel Caine

Oh joy! A new series that, if it continues in the vein of the first book, may be fun to read.  Set in an alternative history of our world, Ink and Bone depicts a world where there is a central library (with satellite sister libraries all over the world.) It is there where all the books are housed. Forget your home libraries, the joy of browsing a musty bookshop, or running your hands along the spines of a collection of your favorite tomes. Possession of a book outside the library is illegal. However, the Great Library, through harnessed magic, has been able to create codexes (think e-readers with the ability to connect to any book, anywhere, which is what folks use for reading. Personal journals are allowed, but at the death of the writer, they are swallowed into the collection of the library. There are those that oppose the Library's power, and those that believe books can and should be shared with the people. Both, the Great Library views as heretical and must be stopped at all costs.

Our hero, Jess, is the son of a book smuggler. It's been his family's trade for generations. He loves books, but not the stealing, hiding, illegal aspects of the family business. Jess is able to win a coveted spot to become a candidate for a spot in the library's service. Though his family views this as a unique opportunity to have a spy and book thief within the system, Jess finds he is pulled many ways, both by his family and by the friends he makes. My writeup sounds boring, but the book has many tangled loyalties and situations, moving things along.

I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series, as I digest the reverse debate of our own world-- where books could destroy a system of the equivalent of ebooks rather than debating if  ebooks destroying books.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books, and to the publisher, for sending along a copy to me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Courage, Caring, Laughter, Love

Eight years ago today, an essay I wrote was published in the Charleston newspaper. It's not that I remembered that specifically, but thanks to the wonders of social media, I received a reminder this morning and a link to the essay. Only, when I followed the link, the article was gone. Apparently, the Charleston Post Courier thought it too hard, in this digital age, to maintain all those digital files, so retired some, including this particular article, about my mother. Luckily, I still have a copy of it, and dug it up to re-read. Their title was Memories of a Life Still Lived.

Courage, Caring, Laughter, Love: A Remarkable Journey
Amy Nadel Romanczuk

I am a stowaway on a remarkable journey. The main traveller is my mother, Ruthe Nadel, born 87 years ago on New York's East Side. In her four score and seven years, she has done both remarkable and ordinary things. But she did them all with true joy and immersed in love for the world. Whether it was being teaching assistant to Abraham Maslow (yep, the fellow of the Hierarchy of Needs theory in Psych 101) or discussing Jane Austen, she has a style all her own. She’s loved one man, raised 3 children (10 dogs, 5 birds, a few dozen guinea pigs and a assorted other critters), adored her grandchildren and great-grands. She has won hearts around the world with her spirit, courage and humor. She did all this while almost completely deaf from young adulthood, and while living with Multiple Sclerosis for nearly 50 years. For the past year, breast cancer has also been in the health mix.

Our "Bumma" (the nickname given to her by our son) sailed through initial treatment and surgery under the wonderful care of MUSC’s Breast Cancer team. In March, Bumma had a sudden, vicious recurrence. Because of the extensive scope of the disease, she opted for palliative treatment. She told me she'd had a good life, but that she had only one regret: “When the inevitable comes, I am sorry I will not be around to read the letters people send you about me.”

I looked at this tiny woman with the enormous heart, and thought “I can do that for you. And you don't have to be gone for me to do it. It can happen now.” With the help of my brothers, we have reached out to people she has known over her lifetime, inviting them to send a thought, wish, memory or whatever, to her now, before she's gone from us. What started out as a whim has turned into a life affirming, joyful celebration for and of our mother.

Emails started coming in immediately, followed by cards and letters. Friends worldwide sent care packages, stuffed animals, handmade gifts, photographs, drawings, poems, musical recordings. She received a beautiful comfort afghan from the nonprofit HeartMade Blessings. There is even a site online where a candle can be lit for her. As people shared their hearts with her, she shared their responses with us.

Our childhood friends recalled coming to our house just to look at her, because she was both beautiful and she talked to them, never down to them. Or how she demonstrated making a french twist, then shook her hair down like the proverbial librarian throwing off her bun and glasses and letting her inner tigress loose.

She showed one child to do wheelies in his wheelchair by demonstrating in hers. A busy executive remembered she helped him learn to take time from his urgent work priorities to cherish the here and now. Jazz greats at the Stanford Jazz Workshop would tumble like puppies in their eagerness to be in her company. The image of her zipping around on her mobile scooter, orange flag waving on the back, is a memory for many.

She has a huge following of people online, especially at www.bookcrossing.com, a book-lover's website she joined at the young age of 82. Her candor and unique style are adored around the world. She is a sweetheart: strong willed, outspoken, loving and generous. A true “oner”.

Our family is a family of storytellers. We thought we knew our history pretty well, but have been astonished to find so many acts of kindness attributed to Bumma. This experience has opened avenues to explore and learn, new stories for the grandchildren to pass on to their children, someday, about a remarkable woman. Our days are extra poignant as we learn more about this woman we love through the lives she's touched. And it has meant an enormous amount to her, to see that she has indeed helped lives and made a difference in this world. She and I made a pact in March: we would face this with Courage, Caring, Laughter and Love. She's kept her part of the bargain. I’m trying but am sometimes blinded by bittersweet tears.

I encourage others to do this same project with your own loved one, should the opportunity arise. Help show the wonder of how they have made a difference on this planet. One need not be famous to be extraordinary. I have learned that, and so much more, from one little woman I am honored to have as my mother.
Ruthe Nadel,on the way back from first Radiation Therapy 2009


Amy Romanczuk is a retired pediatric nurse, active BookCrosser , blogger and pysanky artist here in Charleston, SC. She, her husband and son, have shared a home with their beloved Bumma for the past 20 years.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

An Artist's View

The following post was prepared at the request of the JordanCon Blog before this year's Art Show. It will be shared at some point to the JordanCon family via the blog, but I thought maybe it should be shared more generally as well, particularly after several recent discussions on art, folk art, and inspirations.

Art and music, color and sound, have been a huge part in my life since childhood. I have a bit of synesthesia, where one sense triggers a response in another. For me, colors and patterns trigger music and vice versa. A print of Van Gogh's Starry Night hung in my childhood bedroom, and I used to stare at it, transfixed by the sounds that the colors and brush strokes created in my head. It wasn't until years later, singing in a choir, that I realized, to me, Starry Night looks the way Mozart's Ave Verum sounds. Patterns and repetition, colors and sound all work through me when I create. I have found inspiration in the patterns around me, both in nature and in human creations. For as long as I can remember, I've had a physical need to find a way to express the designs that filter through my brain, and have done so using a multitude of mediums over the years.


The means of creative expression I may be most known for comes from the folk art of pysanky, the intricately decorated eggs often displayed at Easter-time. Pysanky (a word derived from the Ukrainian word “to write”) are created using a wax-and-dye resist process similar to batik, though on eggshell instead of cloth. Though my family comes from Ukraine, writing pysanky was not part of my cultural heritage, although it was for my husband Alan's family. I had long loved the patterns and intricacy of the designs but figured I was incapable of creating such beauty. With encouragement from a Master pysanky artist, I picked up the kistka (the tool used to apply the wax) in my 40's, and have yet to stop. Writing pysanky is a form of meditation for me, the meanings behind the symbols and the music in my head becoming a sort of prayer as I work on each egg. Writing pysanky was a way for me to relieve stress after working long days with disabled children and their families as a clinical nurse specialist. And when I became ill myself, it was a huge part of my healing and acceptance of the changes one takes on with chronic illness. I only began to feel comfortable with the title “artist” after I had several of my pysanky accepted into the collection of the Kolomyia Museum in Ukraine. To this day, I am more likely to describe myself as a folk-artist.


Taking the pysanky art from eggshell to paper and ultimately to interactive art such as Patterns of the Wheel, a coloring book based on The Wheel of Time (Tor, 2016), is entirely due to the JordanCon family. Without the encouragement, enthusiasm, and a bit of nagging, I'd still be only working with eggshells. My art, in all its forms, reflects the wabi-sabi concept of Japanese art (before I became a nurse, I received a degree in history, anthropology, and Asian studies, and embraced some of the cultural ideas I encountered, particularly from the Far East). These ideas reinforce the folk vs formal aspect of my art. I also incorporate aspects from some of my favorite artists: the Impressionists, whose paintings color my memories from childhood visits to museums; Utagawa Hiroshige's marvelous prints and drawings; Warli, Kalamkari, Mehndi, miniatures, and even the painted trucks of India; indigenous creations from all over the world; street art, local works, and artistic friends. Lately, the art of Nigerian-born Victor Ekpuk, both for his designs, and for his exploration of nsibidi (a traditional pictorial writing of his homeland) has been calling me.  The similarities between two arts using pictorial language and a transient format (chalk/eggshell) is a thrilling find, as are his artistic talents.


Wheel of Time-inspired art ranges from elegant, elaborate fantasy creations to simple stick figures. Individual taste and perspective guide the way artists approach their craft and the way in which viewers assess the result. One can glory in the art of Michelangelo, whose realistic depictions of the human form captured every nuance precisely, yet also delight in Marc Chagall, whose folk-art style featured casually drawn people and cows seen floating in colorful skies. One artist was a genius whose technical skills were flawless; the other recreated the art of commoners for a totally different purpose and effect. Luckily for me, there is room among the extremely talented Official Wheel of Time artists for a folk artist to explore the world Robert Jordan created. One of my most treasured memories is talking about pysanky with Jim Rigney, and his fascination with the symbols and language of pysanky. His interest in both the history and the art-form, and Harriet's encouragement, is what led to my becoming one of the licensed Wheel of Time artists. I am still astonished and grateful that my folk-art is in the company of such amazing art and artists.
Pysanky and Pysanky-inspired designs artist Amy Romanczuk, with a guitar she hand-decorated.




Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner--And Make-Ahead Lunches, Too by Editors of Food52

Who needs a book about salads? I do!
Salads have come a long way from that hunk of iceberg lettuce with mayonnaise (or, shudder, Miracle Whip Salad Dressing) of my childhood. And this is the perfect season to get some salad inspirations-- which is what this book is for me: inspiration. I look at the recipes and the ingredients, and it helps me regroup my mind to plan a meal. I can't say that I've followed a recipe exactly, but I've used them as launching points, substituting when I don't have something or someone is allergic to an item, skipping things neither of us enjoy, adding in some other favorites. This is a lovely collection of ideas for using leafy greens, fruits, veggies, proteins, grains, and more. These are salads with biceps (I'd say guts, but that implies heaviness and extras you don't want to carry) strength to carry a meal but also the ability to take a minor role in a different menu.

Bottom line, for me is this is good inspiration for when I can't think of what to do with what's on hand. Thank you Blogging for Books and the wonderful Food52 for sharing this with me. Happy table; happy tummies.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Because You're Mine by Colleen Coble

Oh please. Not only was this transparent from the get-go, but ridiculous in many aspects of premise. I read it only because it was supposedly set in Charleston and a nearby plantation. I'll give the author credit for getting Hibernian Hall as a conceivable location for an Irish performance, though it's not a theater, and she didn't have John Corless mentioned.  She also got that there can be blackwater within 20 miles of Charleston, but not much else realistic about the setting of the "decaying mansion" where Alanna and her new husband reside. My eyeballing was so evident as I was reading the book, that my husband, sitting across the room from me, thought I might be having seizures. I think I actually slammed the book shut when she had a characterstuff his face full of "bennes" (meaning benne cookies, or benne wafers) and come from the kitchen holding two more. The problem is "bennes" are sesame seeds and distinctly different from benne wafers. And let's not even get into some of the medical stuff that happens... full body burns healed completely, enough for final facial reconstruction with no scarring within 6 months? Knife wounds and other miraculous healings? Even a willing suspension of disbelief and a deep faith in powers beyond human couldn't sustain me.

I recognize that the author has many, many books to her credit, but now realize there's a decided difference between a USA Today best selling author and a New York Times bestselling author. 

PS Don't feed alligators marshmallows.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Beartown by Fredrick Backman

I've heard people say that this is a departure from Fredrik Backman's norm, but I disagree, somewhat. Sure it doesn't have the quirky humor of A Man Called Ove,  the magical realism of My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry, the hope of Britt Marie was Here, but it has the depth, compassion, and the compelling story found in all his books. This, more than all his other novels (and the novella), pushes the setting into a character, for Beartown interacts with all the other characters in unique and memorable ways. If you're looking for Ove, this isn't the place, but if you want a really fine read, pick this up-- and remember, your actions, both good and wicked, created repercussions not just in your life but in the world.

From the Publisher:
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Daddy Sandwich

My father was many things: brilliant scientist, gifted actor, always ready with a quip or pun, loving father, trusted husband. He was not, however, much of a cook. I remember he barbecued for a bit, on a grill that he imbedded in a cement wall (to keep his young children from running into the hot grill)... until the wall fell down one day, because apparently my father was not that gifted with cement. However, he would, upon occasion, make for us something he called Daddy Sandwich. It was a treat at the time, mostly because it was prepared by him, but also because it was tasty. He toasted whatever bread we had in the house at the time (white, pumpernickel, or rye were the most likely candidates) and then added a layer of cream cheese. On top of this, went a layer of canned salmon, carefully mashed. (Fresh was not easily available. For the first 10 years of my life I thought salmon came from a can, or from the deli as lox.) He trimmed the crusts off the open faced sandwich, then cut it on the diagonals to yield 4 triangles of deliciousness.

This morning, I made a Daddy sandwich. No matter that the bread was gluten free, since I've developed a wheat allergy, or that, thanks to my Ashkenazi heritage, I prefer to use lactose free cream cheese, and that the salmon, was leftover wild CoHo salmon I broiled last night, or that I left the crusts on, because, why not? It was a Daddy Sandwich, and I was so happy to share my breakfast with his memory.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

I've yet to read anything by this author which I have not been swept up into the story. I was not disappointed. In fact, this book grabbed my heart and didn't let go. I mean, the main character is a graphic novel artist/writer and hits the cons!

But Joshilyn Jackson has a way of writing about the South, and the many layers of life here that delve beyond sweet tea, manners, and magnolias. She gets that duality of two types of south that has troubled me for so long-- there's the south I love, with the beauty of the land, the traditions, and the close knit community, and then there's that dark underbelly that launched abominations into our world which still rear their ugly heads in ways such as the slayings at Mother Emanuel AME, racism, bigotry, and other ways of stamping out human hearts and lives.

Plus, there was real compassion in the way Jackson wrote of Birchie's decline and illness, and the love between Birchie and Wattie. I also was moved by the way Jackson explored Leia's path of understanding and willingness to share her pregnancy. (But Batman as baby-daddy? How cool is that???)

Joshilyn Jackson, thank you. You hit it out of the park, again. And thanks to LibraryThing early reviewers and the publisher for sending me this copy.

tags: 2017-reada-favorite-authoradvanced-reader-copyearly-review-librarythinggreat-titlemade-me-thinkplaces-i-have-beenreadset-in-the-southtaught-me-something

From the publisher:
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy--an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules by A.J. Mendez Brooks

The WWE world is not my usual habitat, but recently, a friend mentioned he used to work for WWE in Atlanta, and was amazed that no one in the group of friends gathered followed wrestling. This coincided with some good reviews of AJ Mendez Brooks' new release, so I decided to check it out myself. Glad I did. I found insight, humor, understanding, honesty, told by a very bright, and apparently vary talented/determined young woman. Fascinating read.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for sending along this copy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Firebrand (Alternative Detective #2) by A.J. Hartley

Dear Mr Hartley,
Please accept my humble apology. I am unable at this time to write a review of Firebrand, for reasons which are far too mundane to go into here (i.e. life gets complicated sometimes). I really wanted to have written a stellar one, since, in all likelihood, I'll be meeting you at JordanCon next week. (In theory I'd be the one wearing the sign that says "Sorry I didn't get to review your book before meeting you" --  though more likely I'll just be wearing a sheepish grin on my face.)

However, thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow out my nails, as I seemed to have bitten them down. In Ang, you have created a great character, and keep unfolding a world that fascinates me. My unease with some of the  political situations were because they rang a little truer than they might have when you were penning the story, but please don't mistake unease for complacency. Ang isn't the only female who can do some shit-kicking. Some of us have to do it land based or behind a computer, rather than from a rooftop or crane. And I know a cos-player or two who could use Madam Nahreem's guidance to help pull off a role realistically.

As to the question raised at the end of the book, unless Willinghouse really steps up his game, I hope it's Daria over her stuffed-shirt brother. I suspect life would be a lot more colorful, exciting, and passionate with that choice.

Many thanks to friends at Tor Books for sending me this ARC. My only complaint is that now I have to wait extra long for the next Alternative Detective book to make it into my hands.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Put a good face (or 3) with a Good Deed

Yesterday, I wrote a little story about Peter & Sons, a family business that as long as I have known them (which would be in 1981 when I came in to have the heel repaired my shoe that had broken while I was dancing at a friend's wedding. I had been a bridesmaid-- hated the dress, but loved the shoes I had gotten to wear with them. I flung the shoes into a corner to continue dancing, but the next morning, took them to a Peter & Sons, which had opened in the brief interim when I had left Charleston to pursue life in the frozen north.) The act of kindness bestowed has touched a lot of hearts. I printed off the blog post and took a copy to the shop this morning. I wanted to tell them in person how far their story had gone.

Once again, when I walked in,  the store delighted me. I could see the top of Igor's head above the partition that delineates the line between customer space and workshop. I could hear the cadences of speech that reminded me of my mother's family, who also were Ukrainian Jews. The sons of Peter joshed with me as I told them I needed to talk to them, "Not me", said Igor as he pointed to his older brother. "He did it."
"I hear someone calling me in back", said Josif, pretending to walk away from me.
But the story got told, and I gave them the post.
And then I asked if I could take their picture. Daniel (Josif's son) joined us (and already knew the story of the guitar) and after a little discussion of where to take the photo, it was done.
Josif, Daniel, and Igor Tsveer

So why did the sons and grandson of Peter decide to take the picture in this spot? Over their shoulder is the one who made it all possible, the man who taught these men by example to be the men they are: Mr Peter. Yup, photobombed by the patriarch. It's a good thing.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Do a Mitzvah

Something nice happened.

A few months back, I realized I was not playing my guitar, a purchase that I saved nickels and pennies, and occasional dollars for in my college years. I'd spent high school diligently learning to play, mostly borrowing friends guitars, but longed for one of my own, one that I earned, one that chose me as I chose it. And in the early 1970's my guitar and I found each other. I had exactly enough coin to cover the cost, and once I passed it over, the Goya  dreadnought pattern guitar came home with me.

That guitar travelled with me: summers in the mountains of West Virginia where I played the folk tunes I'd learned, winters initially in Charleston, but later in the Finger Lakes region of New York, when I  went off to University, and then to St Louis, where I finished my undergraduate work. It came back to Charleston with me, where my roommate and I would sit on our porch, in the soft southern air, singing songs of the 60's. It travelled with me when I fell in love and married, though I rarely took it out of the case with all the added happenings of being one of two, and then of motherhood. When I did play, it was a solitary song, because by then, I'd forgotten many of the chords, and my transitions were no longer as smooth as I might hope.

In the continuing effort to downsize, and lighten the burden of sorting through decades of accumulations that my children will face when I pop off, I made the decision to sell my guitar. Since it had been a steady companion for over 40 years, I felt funny just putting it up on Craigslist, so instead, I inquired among my friends if anyone was interested. There were several nibbles, but before I could commit, another friend suggested that I might want to consider putting it up in an auction  which benefited charity we both were supported-- and maybe, if I were to try my hand at decorating it, it might raise even more. Somehow, that sounded really right. Really, really right.

So, I began planning. I made a template of the guitar face and worked on my design, while also talking to others who had decorated instruments, Tate Nation, a wonderful artist and friend here in Charleston and Maggie Stiefvater, an author and artist I know through her YA books, and her very entertaining twitter feed (and who I briefly met when we both were guests at YallFest 2016) being two of the most helpful. 

It was a pleasure to try such a different venue for my folk art pysanky-inspired style of drawing. With a constant cheering section from the folks in a JordanCon Group*, the design grew, til all it needed were new strings (which are being donated by Ross Newberry) and initials of the final buyer to be put into the design by yours truly.

JordanCon is next week. It was time to give the case a cleaning and make sure all was ready for it to travel to the auction. As I took the case out of storage, the handle came away in my hand. This has been an exceptionally odd year for me with art accidents, so somehow, I wasn't surprised. But, I knew I had to get it fixed, and somewhat speedily, too.

Peter and Sons in South Windermere has helped my family out many a time: from the snapped strap on a shoulder bag, to the torn zipper on a suitcase (Peter has long since retired, but his sons, and grandsons continue to run the business.) My favorite visit to the shop was when I brought my son's size 14 Italian red leather shoes (made by the same craftsman who made Pope Benedict XVI's red shoes) to get stains and creases out of them after some travel abuse, so he could wear them for a wedding. "They look a little big for you," quipped the son behind the counter, "but I'll see what I can do." He worked magic. They looked great.

Hugging the guitar case in my arms, I entered the shop. I love the mix inside: luggage and cases, jumbled together with various styles shoes, hand written signs, bumper stickers from long ago campaigns, and various other items, all surrounded by the essence of leather and shoe polish. Add the two brothers, the sons of Peter, with their warm humor, quick wit, and the accents of their Ukrainian heritage, and it's a heady mix. Today, it was the brother who has lost 50 pounds (he'll tell you the story, and show you the original hole on his belt which was his "before" weight) who helped me. I figured I'd drop the case off today, and come back in a day or two, so told him I just needed it back so I could to get it to the auction on time. "No, no, no", he said. "Just have a seat." he told me as he wandered into the back.

When he returned, the handle was fixed.  The rivet may not match exactly, but it's sturdy. When I asked how much I owed, the cost was nothing. "You give; I give. That makes me feel rich here", he said, pointing to his heart. "Better than money."

And that, my friends, is the mensch who did a mitzvah.

*JordanCon  is a yearly gathering of fans of Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series, as well as fans of fantasy in general. James Rigney, best known to his fans around the world as "Robert Jordan," succumbed to  cardiac amyloidosis in 2007. since it's inception in 2008, JordanCon has raised more than  $9,000 for Amyloidosis research fund at the Mayo Clinic through its charity events at the annual gathering.
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