A Good Home

An Undignified Woman

I buy a box of these treats before Christmas, divide up the contents and slip some into each gift bag for loved ones.

Blog Photo - Ferrero Rocher chocolates

Two years ago, I discovered the real beauty of this box of sweets: once emptied and washed, the container makes a perfect jewellry box. Far more practical than the expensive wood-and-glass ones I’d had for years, the box makes a perfect earring holder.

Perfect. One pair in every slot, and my earrings never have to fraternize with each other and get mixed up or lost. (I am easily confused; this box provides order.)

Blog Photo - Jewellry Box empty

Turns out I had been given a lot of earrings over the decades, but in recent years, I couldn’t find them.  As a result, I always wore the same pair, everywhere.

I proudly showed the filled box to my husband. He admired it.

“It’s a bit small, though,” I said.  “I had no idea I had so many earrings.”

Blog Photo - Jewellry Box - half shown

Of course, pride cometh before a fall. I made the mistake of divulging the box’s origins.

My dear husband had obviously never heard the phrase “Blessed are the cheap, for they shall protect the earth from landfills.”

My good man is embarrassed when I wear my relatives’ old clothes or display other such cheapo behaviours. At my age, he thinks, I should show some dignity.  And using a plastic food container as a jewellry box is definitely undignified behaviour.

“Please don’t post this on your blog,” he begged.

So I won’t breathe a word. You didn’t hear it from me!

A Good Home

Things, Interrupted

The things you couldn’t find

Long after

And wondered

If they ever were

A favourite sweater

Made by Irish hands

From the Aran Islands

Cut glass earrings

Sparkling bits like emerald

Set in fake gold

~~

The things you had bought

Just before

And wisely never wore

Long black leather gloves

With leather laces

A cross between a biker chick’s

And a long-ago lady’s

~~

The things you forgot

And bought again

And sometimes yet again

Perfume

Hand lotion

Spools of cotton thread

White, grey, brown

White, grey, black

Colours of suffering

A wardrobe for pain

~~

The things you came across

Long after

And greeted like old friends

Scarves with geometric patterns

Stylish back then

Bikinis, tops and shorts

For vacations planned

Not taken

And perfume

Not worn

~~

The things I now sort

These will stay

These ones will go

Prodigal bits of memory

Of times and things

In boxes and drawers

Detritus of

An interrupted life.

The above is a pourem I wrote one night a year ago. A pourem is an un-poem, an unedited stream of thought.

A Good Home

In the Garden

I hoist my grandbaby onto my left hip, cane grasped with my right hand, and stroll through the garden.  I stop and show her each plant, sometimes calling them by name. She reaches out to grab a flower, and inspects it up-close.

Meandering is a lovely word. Better than strimping, that word my mischievous husband made up to describe my fervent attempts to stride while limping. One of these days, he will probably settle on “mimp” to describe my meandering style, but until then, I’ll meander.

July is the time of plenty, my garden’s multicolour month. Flowers bloom abundantly — in several shades and colours.  Clematis vines flower in pink or purple.  Daylilies bloom in pink, peach, orange, red and creamy yellow. 

Blog Photo - September 2018 Lovely Backyard tree to woods

So many flowers to show her on our July meander, that I sometimes settle for calling them “leaf” and “flower”.

July’s colourful phlox are mostly faded now, their flower-heads exhausted. Vibrant pink and salmon blooms are turning brown in August.  Once-upright flower stems bend over from the weight and heat.  

August is usually a serious month.  Garden chores ignored in the sunny days of July demand attention — the deadheading, the dividing, the transplanting, the watering. August signals both the fading of the colours and the end of play.

Each year, I treasure spring flowers especially because they are new. Now I treasure my late summer ones largely because they are few. 

Last week, I noticed that the red bee balm still bloomed in one part of the back garden, near the birdfeeder.  The birds above are more numerous now, but the bee balm flower-heads below have fewer petals, their colour less brilliant.  Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies still visit though. The leaves are still green.

The August garden is greener, softer, the colours more muted during the day, the shapes of leaves more pronounced.

Blog Photo - Garden August - White Phlox and Garden Bench

Flower stems now removed (‘deadheaded’), hosta’s leaves are no longer overshadowed. Gone are the lavender blooms which caught the eye the moment we entered the garden.

Blog Photo - Late Summer Garden Hosta and J Maple

Now, as we meander, I point at large leaves, small leaves, pointy leaves. Glossy dark green, green edged with white.  My granddaughter looks at each intently and, as always, I wonder what she is thinking.

What do green leaves mean to a  nine month old baby?

Blog Photo - Garden August - Yellow Canna Lilies

In the back garden, yellow and coral canna lilies still thrive in their pots. Soon they will be the main sources of colour there.

The frontyard relies on various shades of green and white for ‘colour’.

Blog Photo - Garden August - Front garden

The light, sweet scent of white trumpet-shaped flowers greets us as we enter. 

Blog Photo - White Hosta Group

These are the most aromatic of all our hosta flowers. To walk by them in a slight breeze is to bathe in fragrance.

Blog Photo - Late summer garden hosta white fragrant CU2

At one side of this garden, the caryopteris shrub has tiny blossoms. Across the driveway, in another bed,  the sedum plants already have buds. 

My granddaughter and I will meander through the garden on good-weather days till cold weather settles in. I will point to the sedum blossoms that will by then become sturdy pink flowers, to  caryopteris’ wispy flowers forming a mist of blue.

Blog Photo - Late Summer garden blue flowers of caryopteris

Together, we will watch butterflies and bees taking a late-summer sip of nectar from both.  I will then feel – Deo volente — as I do now, triply blessed. To be alive, to have a loving family and to be able to walk with my grandchild in the garden.

~~

A Good Home

Did You Go to Book-Review School?

 

No?

I didn’t either.

Nor did being a journalist equip me to write book reviews.

So while I buy and read other authors’ books, until I published my own first book, I didn’t take the next step and review them.  I feared I wouldn’t sound wise enough, that my analysis would be inept. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been timid to ask readers to review my own books.

 

And therein lies the issue. Authors need reviews. But if we ourselves are too timid to review books and too timid to ask it of others, we have a problem.

Myrtle - Cover latest at 2MB

My readers have no problems writing me letters — even very long letters — stating why they enjoyed my books. But writing a review can be a fearsome thing, one that seems to require expert writing and story analysis skills that many readers believe they don’t have.

And why should they? They didn’t go to Book-Review School either. They are readers, not professional book reviewers. They’ve bought or borrowed a book, read it, enjoyed it a little, or a lot, or not at all.  And then they went on to the next book. Or perhaps to do the dishes.

If we’d like readers to review our books, there are a few simple things authors can do to help:

First: Demystify the act of reviewing books.

For starters, could we replace that word “review” with “comments”?  

Check almost any online store and you’ll find dozens, hundreds, even thousands of reviews of the products they sell.  Shoppers seem to have no trouble posting online comments about the things they buy online – despite the fact that those comments appear under the heading “Reviews”.   But mention the term “book review” and many people get flustered, even anxious.

What if we change that word to comment?

Book Cover on Amazon - Myrtles Game

Second: Tell readers how to do it.

I’ve had readers tell me they wanted to review one of my books but had never done a book review before and didn’t know how.

I explain that “a single sentence saying why you liked or didn’t like the book is perfectly fine.”

“If you wish”, I usually go on to say, “you can also explain why you would recommend/not recommend that book to others. But you don’t have to. A short comment is fine.”  I can almost hear the relief in their responses.

And here’s a surprising outcome: while some of my readers do just the above and no more, at least as many go on to write longer and more substantial reviews.

Third: Tell the reader where to post online reviews

A book-lover wanted to review a book she had just read. She knew what she wanted to say, but had no idea where to post her remarks. She had never heard of Goodreads and wasn’t in a hurry to find out, but she had bought the book online from Amazon and was happy to leave her review there.

Once I showed her where to post her remarks (Look down the left side of the Amazon book page and you’ll see “Review this Product” just below  “Customer Reviews”), she was off and writing. 

(Below is what it looks like on my Myrtle the Purple Turtle page)

Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
40 customer ratings
5 star 
 82%
4 star 
 14%
3 star 
 5%
2 star 0% (0%)  0%
1 star 0% (0%)  0%

Review this product

Share your thoughts with other customers

 

Fourth: Show your appreciation

I’ve not done this in my own books yet, but I am now considering including a short note of thanks (in the back of the book) to everyone who, having read one of my books, would like to leave a review.

Perhaps I will give the reader a few tips about how to do so as well.

After all, if there is a Book-Review School, no reader I know has been there.

What do you think, Reader? Please leave a comment. A single sentence is fine!

~~