Books for decor or reading

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In recent years I have become obsessed with books that serve as background decorations rather than for reading. This is not unusual because it has gone on for a long time. But it is fascinating–at least to me.

On President’s Day I was watching “55 Days in Peking” on Turner Classic  Movies (TCM)  when midway through there stood actor Charlton Heston  in front of an interesting book case in Peking’s government house. It was filled with books except for two areas where two white camels stood,  drawing your eyes away from the books as well as Heston’s dialogue.  Thanks to  the set director.

Today you will find many news commentaries (MSNBC, CNN, etc. ) given in front of a books background.  Have you ever noticed the arrangement of the books?  They are not all setting in up and down style  but here and there will be three or four books laying on their sides. I don’t think these arrangements are made for you to read the titles of the books, just for a pleasing  background.  At this same time Bernie Sanders announced  his candidacy for president.  What was behind him?  A panel of books but somewhat blurred. I wondered if it might be a book wallpaper which I have seen available in rolls.

During the George Busch (the son) administration I was an officer in  the Illinois Chapter of National Federation of Press Women . During our national convention I  was invited to sit at a table with the keynote speaker Peggy Noonan, who was a prominent Capitol Hill reporter at the time.  Now at  the time President Busch gave his press briefings in what appeared to be the library.  Or at least there appeared to be a wall of books behind him.  Behind his right shoulder was a standout blue book with a ratty binding.  I asked Peggy if she had ever noticed that book and what was the title.  She never did get back to me, but the briefings moved on.  I have often wondered if  the books were signed by their authors or if someone just collected books from the White House basement and popped them on the bookcase.

There was a point in time when people with bookshelves would just go to Goodwill or a book store and buy discarded books and fill their shelves.  At one time I too subscribed to Great Books because the bindings were richly matched in mauve, greens and browns.  My mother-in-law gave me a set of  five books by Pearl Buck in matching tan covers with gold  imprinted titles. Started off with The Good Earth.   

One place where you can still find beautifully matched books is a law office.  So many of these are available digitally that the books seem to be subscribed to just for decoration. In the 1950s when I began my career with a law firm in Springfield, MO.  I really did open and use those books.  They were heavy but beautiful!

A Welcome Door

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Have you ever thought of a door as a welcoming element?  Mostly I’ve thought of doors as a means of keeping other people out.  Recently, I read in “Money Magazine ” that the color of a door could add as much as $6,000 to a home.  And, that color is black!

That’s the findings of the real estate company, Zillow, that has been studying doors since 2010 and taken 135,000 photos of same. According to  a black door gives the impression of  stately, seriousness and safety.  According to Zillow’s design expert, Kerrie Kelly, it ‘s comparable to the little black dress or suit.  Thinking back, I have had at least two black  doors that I remember, both in Illinois.  The doors were painted black because we had children running in and out in muddy and rainy weather and their boots often hit the door.  Seasonal decorations also looked nice and visible hanging on a black door.

About that time I also was working for a community newspaper called  The Arlington Day, a Marshall Field paper.  One of the features we came up with was to have a picture of a famous or historical door on the cover of the real estate section.  One of the doors I remember that was rather plain was the front door of Blair House in Washington D.C. which at that time was where the Vice President lived.  Today it is a special house for guests and recently the Bush Family stayed there.

Another special historical door I went through a few years ago was the headquarters of George Washington at Valley Forge.  My grand daughters were with me and they sat down on the stoop and had their photos made, “sitting on the steps of the liberty tree.”

Another door I noted recently was the Better Homes & Gardens  blue door in an ad in  their magazine.  Looked terrific with plants all around it.  Driving around my neighborhood I noticed mostly black, but there were a few red doors with garlands, wreaths, etc. and a couple of seasonal ones where a fabric or colored paper was wrapped around the door.  Christmas is another time when some decorators like to tie a ribbon around the door like a package.   I did note that wreaths are the most popular item for hanging on doors, and  they generally express spring, winter or fall.

So, if you are planning to sell your house soon, maybe you should think about the door. It might not even be necessary to do all the other repairs and wall painting you generally think about.

















Let’s Celebrate

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Every day offers an opportunity to celebrate, but we generally ignore it. Instead we’re waiting for a special opportunity– that type of opportunity that offers a  big bang climax, maybe even sparklers and fireworks lighting up the sky.   We forget that there are both big celebratory events and mini- moments. Think of them! Can you give it a try—like celebrating when you find  a quarter laying on the pavement, or a  chocolate cake reduced to $5.95.

The word “celebrate,” I think, is really a synonym for other words such as  “commemorate” or “appreciate.”  In fact, “celebrate” in its simplest form  may mean being “thankful” for something whether it’s large or small.

Yes, most of the time we use “celebrate” only for special events, when actually we should be celebrating every moment—good or bad.  Celebrating a good thing always seems to be easy and greeted with anticipation.  But to celebrate a bad moment or event is very hard to do and generally seldom heard of.  Bad luck , we call it.

Even recognizing that we might  learn a lesson from an unfortunate moment  shuts down our ability and willingness  to feel and care and think objectively.  Why should we celebrate the bad or sad times?  Because it lets us become something of a forensic expert who examines all the features and facts of a problem.  To remember, perhaps, to look back and ask ourselves: Could we have done better?  Was there something I could have done that I didn’t do or say?

Can you remember one good thing that came out of a bad event?  In the case of world affairs, often there is a treaty or

policy that brings forth peace or greater understandings.  On a smaller scale a neighbor may shake a neighbor’s hand after an angry encounter,

Dating back to the beginning of time, there are traditional events that have become the fabric of our culture.   There are religious  holidays such as Christmas that we celebrate with reverence  and historical campaigns such as the  Fourth of July  or Memorial Day that are greeted with parades and red, white and blue banners.  Families frequently gather in personal ways for  birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and reunions that are observed in a celebratory manner.

If you are looking to  start your own celebration,  challenge yourself.  Or, there also  is a book that can help  jump start  and find special days and months that you might want to observe.  It’s called  “Chase’s Calendar.”  It lists all types of events that will bring a smile to an otherwise dull day such as National Hot Dog Month that has been celebrated for over thirty years each July, or  National Donut Day, National Pickle Week or Avocado Day that was started last week  (July, 2018).

But something  much easier to do is  to look up into the sky at night or in the day —or out across your garden where you might see a flower or a tall green weed, and think in a positive  way.

In fact, shout it out.  “Celebrate.”   It’s a good exercise and it lets every inch and breath  of your body celebrate every day of  your life.  Do it now. Then whisper softly,  “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Now that’s  a good way–, no a great  way  to celebrate!



































Art of Spoken Word

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How much do you like poetry?  I’m a so-so reader, meaning no respect to the many people I know who write poetry.  But recently I  become aware of a new word–“spoken word” which is poetry being recited aloud.

A triple dozen years ago when I was in junior high level, I recited a poem in the region’s consolidated school communications contest.  It was something about a crooked man, etc.  Anyway I stood straight and tall in front of a microphone (for the first time) and recited my poem. My tone changed here and there as I spoke, and the whole presentation was called a “dramatic reading.”  I didn’t win but I remember the experience of hearing other contestants really becoming dramatic.

Today, many people are reciting their poetry in the spoken word’s dramatic style, not in the low “Robert Frost” fashion of old.  They are dramatic, spontaneous and use many changes to their tone of voice.  Recently  Ken Brown, a Baltimore poet, talked to the Baltimore Chapter of Maryland Writers.  He read several of his poems in the spoken word style.  “It’s not hip hop or rap” he explained, “There’s really no definition of spoken word, its the reading of it that  makes the quantitative deference..”

When delivered  or recited as Mr. Brown did, it became a rhythmic presentation, a recital of words  unaccompanied by music as hip hop is.  You might say that delivery  is the most up front difference.  A good deal of body movement is also added and the speaker may move around the stage using arm movements, etc. It really becomes a “dramatic reading” more than the one I delivered.  Poet Brown also explained that many  spoken word poets  write of wars and civil unrest, which are good themes for dramatic verbiage.

Just after meeting Ken Brown I learned it was National Poetry Month and read that Thomas C.Foster had published the book “How to Read Poetry Like a Professor” Harper perennial  ISBN 9780062113788.  A review of his book quotes him as saying he is a big advocate of reading poetry aloud  and encourages us to set aside any self conscious apprehensions we may have about doing so.” In speaking it and hearing it we learn to feel poetry,”he writes/  He also writes that  poems are “occasions to explore the divinity of experience and the miracle of imagination.”

According to Brown, poets begin writing as poets and then they begin changing as many large umbrella become available to them.  Change is good, they say.





Nursery Rhyme Themes

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A thought for the day and more….

I’m sorry to say that I don’t read poetry often.  However, recently I read  a poetry book written by an acquaintance.  Each poem was a take-off about a nursery rhyme or fairy tale character.  Did you ever wonder what might have happened to any of your favorite characters when they grew up?   I never did.

For example, what did Miss Muffitt do after she had eaten her curds and why.  Did she go off to school or shopping?  Another poem talked about Cinderella’s shoes.  Could you imagine that she started a shoe store .  Then there were a couple of other characters such as Pinocchio and Tom Tom the piper’s son who grew up to become politicians.   That actually didn’t surprise me.  I think I caught Pinocchio appearing once in a Geico commercial.

Something else that I learned was that poems don’t necessarily rhyme anymore.  21st Century poetry sometimes is long running prose that does say something, but may not have rhyming words in it.

That was the day too that I read that  people are more and more writing memoirs that contain fiction to help dress up their memory.  Is that legal?  Probably so unless someone can correct the writer.

After learning all of these interesting writing facts, I decided  I may be going crazy.  Or, maybe that is why my own writing has not been selling like hotcakes!    I can always find an excuse.

News by Opinion

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Do you watch news programs?  There are many today, and they are all beginning to look and sound the same.  A long time ago a news program would have one featured anchor (shall we say) and they would interview a person or two for several minutes.  Today we seem to get our news in 30 or 60 second bites. No one is usually permitted to go further into the topic or bring up history or background.

Our news also is given to us by “panels” of people giving their opinion –generally based on their political situation or past position or the author of a new book or a topic they have talked or written about in the past.  Then there are past government officials with past administrations.  Everyone has an opinion!

For example, a question could be “should the President have fired a missile?”   Then we bring in three, five, seven people to give their viewpoint.  Maybe one of those will be a Congressperson, or a former Congressperson or upon occasion, a man from the street\ will be brought in and permitted to  give his opinion.  Appearing on a news program seems to me to be how a someone such as a writer  or the manager of an institute or a college professor can become a Somebody.

I recall when I was working as a public relations person I had a list of employees or teachers that were experts (or knowledgeable) in certain topics.  When an event occurred I would whip out an email telling the local news folks that Mr. Someone  or Dr. Somebody  taught that topic or had a working background in that specific topic and was available for an interview. Economists were always a good fit.  It also helped that that particular person gained visibility with his/her peers.  You still see that form of interview on local news programs.  But for the most part, the national news has moved to the panel program format.

Joining me today is how it begins. If there are four persons, sometimes there is never enough time to get but one nod of the head or a sentence from all the folks. Thank you for joining us today.


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Reviews always make a writer/author feel good.  Ir’s a compliment you like to hear.  Recently an acquaintance of mine from the Perry Hall Book Club read my book “Escape to Freedom” and added a five star review to my Amazon listing. In fact, here it it.

Top Customer Reviews from Amazon

on April 7, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
A book that both adults and young people will enjoy. The adventure begins with a very determined fifteen-year old named Adrian Morgan. Adrian becomes an indentured servant in order to reach a new life n America. A hurricane interferes with her plans, but she eventually reaches shore in this new country. Fearing for her life, she realizes that she needs a partner to balances the skills needed for success. She find a that in Daniel Dunn another young indentured servant. Together they make their way west despite the many obstacles thrown in their path.
The author, Frances Altman, does a superb job of combining historical facts with many suspenseful adventures. This was a delightful read.
Thank you Mrs. White.  Again, follow down to February on the Archive and you may read an excerpt.