Day #17: Games

Growing up an only child, I was happiest when friends or family would gather to play games. Each Christmas I received a game I could play on my own, which I appreciated, but it wasn’t as satisfying as playing with others. I am grateful to friends and family who love to play cards, board games, and home-designed games. I cherish the warmth, challenge, and camaraderie of those times we’ve spent together. And I look forward to encountering new friends for whom games are a vital ingredient of life.

Day #16: Patrick Ball

A modern-day bard, Patrick Ball is something of a legend in our family. We listened to his music even before we were married. It has seen us through some of the roughest parts of our lives, soothing, providing a touchstone, connecting us to time outside of time. Then, by happenstance, we met him. Now we are honored to work with Patrick. I am grateful for the stories and music he brings into my world. Listen to his music. Enchanting.  Learn more about Patrick Ball.

Patrick Ball Celtic Harp

Day #15: Ngaio Marsh

Among the top 10 on my list of influential writers is Ngaio Marsh (ny-e-o), who wrote 32 mystery novels set in England and New Zealand, featuring Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn, with plots that involved the theater, the art world, and the two countries she knew well. She was an artist and a theater actress and director, all the while writing a novel nearly every year from 1935 to 1982. I am particularly inspired by her memoir, Black Beech and Honeydew. She was a woman engaged in a life that brought her joy and I am grateful for the legacy she left her readers. (By the way, the audio book of Death in a White Tie is read by Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, it is.)

Ngaio Marsh

Day #14: The Gloaming

My favorite time of day, the ephemeral minutes after sunset and before the night turns dark, when the light is sometimes misty, sometimes glowing, but always causes wonder. We do our best to take note, looking up from what we’re doing to savor the changing gift each day’s gloaming brings.

Freeman Farm: Winter, Maxfield Parrish, 1935, in the collection at the Currier Museum of Art

Day #13: Spelling

I am grateful to my sixth grade teacher, Gordon Rausch, who put an emphasis on spelling in a challenging and visual way that made it important for me. It was an honor to have your name on Snoopy’s doghouse for your spelling achievements. This image was large on the classroom wall, unavoidable, a quiet reminder of the goal. By the way, one of these words knocked me out of the regional spelling bee. Yup, I still remember that word (and how to spell it) to this day.

Snoopy's doghouse
Charles Schulz, copyright Peanuts Worldwide

Day #12: Visual Connections

For more than two years, it has been all too easy to get caught up in drama and despair. I am grateful to David Cooper, at Lost Lake Photography, for sharing his daily photographs of nature and cityscapes on Facebook. These connections to reality remind me that life is good and nature is worth conserving. They lift my spirits. I am grateful for David’s skills with a camera and for his compassion. 

photograph copyright David Cooper, Lost Lake Photography

Day #11: Brushing My Teeth

With that title this can only be an everyday gratitude statement. When we made the decision to eliminate as much plastic as we could from our lives, it began to bug us that we were throwing toothbrushes into the landfill so frequently. Plastic handles and bristles—surely there had to be a better way? After some research, I discovered bamboo toothbrushes with nylon bristles, delivered in a paper box. I’ve ordered Weinisite toothbrushes from for a reasonable price. Now there are many more options available. Bamboo toothbrushes last for a long time with careful rinsing, they’re comfortable, and they get the job done. One billion toothbrushes go into American landfills each year. If we all switch to toothbrushes from a natural, renewable source, then we’ve removed one more non-degradable item from our waste stream.

Day #10: Jessie Wilcox Smith

The illustrations of Jessie Wilcox Smith have graced our home for more than 40 years. I have marveled at her ability to capture childhood since I was a grad student. When we walk through the rooms where her art is featured, my eyes are always drawn to them. I admire her choice of colors, her ability to focus on each child, but her choice of subjects is always intriguing. She studied with Thomas Eakins and Howard Pyle, she was one of the Red Rose Girls with Violet Oakley and Elizabeth Shippen Green, and she made a very good living by painting covers for Good Housekeeping, advertising art, and portrait commissions. Jessie Wilcox Smith was an extraordinary woman and I am grateful for her continued presence in our lives.

Young Tennis Player, Jessie Wilcox Smith
Jessie Wilcox Smith, Young Tennis Player, September 29, 1929 Good Housekeeping cover

Day #9: At Random

At Random: The Reminiscences of Bennett Cerf

I don’t have the luxury of reading books I’ve already read—there are too many new books to be read for clients and reviews. There are, however, several books that I carve out time to re-read. One of them is At Random: The Reminiscences of Bennett Cerf. I purchased it in 1977 when it was first published, when I began studying the history of children’s book publishing. His memoir is not primarily about children’s books but rather the beginnings of a large publisher, Random House. I’m grateful for the history and understanding At Random opened up to me. 

Read this excerpt and you’ll want to order your own used copy.

“Meeting Horace Liveright, a publisher! I’d never met one in my life. So the very next day I went uptown for lunch with Dick and Liveright—and never went back to Wall Street [where he’d been working and making a good living, but it wasn’t about books].

“We went to the Algonquin, and Liveright pointed out the famous Round Table—the table where a group of bright young literary people met for lunch—and for the first time I cast my eyes on a lot of people who were going to be closely associated with my life: Dorothy Parker, Robert Sherwood,  Marc Connelly, Franklin P. Adams, Robert Benchley. I was delighted! …

“Liveright looked like Barrymore and was quite vain, but he had a flair, and when he wanted to be, he was a very charming man. He sure charmed the hell out of me.” [Liveright asks Bennett to invest $25,000 in his company. And he needs it quickly.]

“This was very interesting to me, so I said, ‘Let me give it some thought.’

“He said, ‘No, I’ve got to know pretty quickly. I have to get back to the office now, because I promised to take Theodore Dreiser to the baseball game this afternoon. I’m bored to death by baseball, Bennett. If you want to get in good with me quick, how about taking Dreiser up to the ball game?’

“I’d never met an important author, and at this time Theodore Dreiser was a giant. He hadn’t written An American Tragedy yet, but he had long ago published Sister Carrie and Jennie Gerhardt.

“Well, that’s when I went to the telephone and called downtown and said, “I won’t be back this afternoon. As a matter of fact, I might not be back at all. I’m thinking of going into the publishing business. Goodbye, everybody.” [pages 27-28]

And don’t miss the photo with the caption, “Outgo J. Schmierkase Award” to Theodor Seuss Geisel “for twenty-five years of dazzling accomplishment,” October 1962. [page 155]

Day #8: Hometown

I will always be thankful for my roots in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. I was born there, I lived there until I was seven, and I spent every summer and holiday there until I was 16. It was my home, the place I still visit in my dreams. I breathe more thoroughly there. Growing up in a small town provided me with opportunities I didn’t have as a latch-key kid in the Twin Cities. This is a photo of Rice Lake with its 1926 Christmas decorations (before my time) that captures the spirit of this lovely gem in Wisconsin.

Rice Lake, WIsconsin, Christmas, 1926