Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Shrinking Family Tree

My cousin from Cincinnati emailed me last night that my mom's brother Jim died on Sunday. Kathy and I will travel there for the funeral, lamenting again the fact that it seems to take a funeral to get the whole family together. Mom was one of nine children, including a brother who lived less than one day. Jim and his twin brother Mick were the babies in the family. At a recent family reunion this summer, I photographed the remaining siblings - Margie, Betty, Jim and Mick. How happy I am that Kathy and I made the extremely quick trip to Cincinnati for that reunion! And happier still that we took the photographs! While I have lost both of my parents, I have yet to experience the death of a sibling. I can't imagine the grief my aunts are going through, let alone how it must feel to lose a twin. Uncle Jim went through a lot in his life. He and his wife Ruth had six children, the youngest of whom was born with severe disabilities. Ruth died of cancer in 1993, and Jim was later able to reconnect with a woman he knew in school. They married, and she also died of cancer. Then he himself was diagnosed with cancer. Through it all he never seemed to lose his love of life or his sense of humor. This branch of the family tree will be sorely missed. Godspeed, Uncle Jim!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just a Walk in the Park

It is a beautiful fall day here in St. Louis. After we finished some mundane weekend chores, Jim and I decided to take Kirby to Forest Park for a walk. Upon arrival I commented to Jim that I don't think we have ever just walked in that park. We have biked, roller bladed, golfed, attended picnics and the Muny Theater, paddled a boat on the lake and eaten at the boathouse, but we have never in our 30 years here just walked in the park. Strange... There were a lot of other people who also recognized the beautiful day, and kites were flying, boats were boating, dogs and babies were being walked, bikers and roller bladers abounded, kids played frisbee and other assorted games, and couples enjoyed each others' company on the sunny slopes of Art Hill, surrounded by the blaze of the red maples. This definitely was a day the Lord had made, and people were rejoicing. I'm going to tuck this memory away to pull out on a bleak, cold day this winter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Taking My Boobs Out to be Pressed

This morning I took my boobs out to be pressed, which I think pretty well summarizes what having a mammogram feels like. I remember my dad saying that mom told him it was like having your boob in one room and the rest of you in another. Men should all have to get manograms (ball pressing) once just to see how it feels. Anyway, it is nice to have that annual event off my laundry list of things to do. On the way home, I stopped in at the genealogical department of the St. Louis County Public Library. With my book in hand, I explained to the librarian that I had referenced the library in my book, and I want to make sure that I was correct in my information. Specifically, I want to ensure that the materials I have said could be found there really are there, and that I didn't omit any other reference materials they might have available. The woman was very excited about my book as they get numerous requests from people researching house history. In the meantime, Ruth Ann came out of the back room of the department. She taught the first genealogy class that I took 10 or more years ago, and she now works at the library. She, too, felt there is a need for the book, and also let me know about a new web site she reviewed that will have area maps posted which cover time periods not currently available. She asked that I email her, and she will try and find out when this web site will go live so I can include it in the book. One of the pieces of advice in my book is to tell everyone what you are doing as you research. You never know what they might be able to add. This is a perfect example of why that is so important. Further, this trip to the library helped to confirm that my book is needed and will be helpful. I'm going to get this done, Virginia Publishing or no Virginia Publishing!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The City Museum, a Wedding and Converse Tennies

My husband and I attended a wedding at the City Museum last night, which was a Sunday night. The bride has worked for my husband for quite a few years, so we know her well. Mindy is Jewish, and her new husband is Chinese, so to say this wedding was a joining of two different cultures is an understatement. Mindy and Eric met while attending Washington University's school of graphic design, eight years ago. The choice of the City Museum to hold the wedding did not come as a surprise to anyone who knows Mindy, as she is definitely one of a kind. The wedding invitation stated that the attire for the wedding was to be black, white or gray, with a splash of color on the shirt, tie or accessories deemed appropriate. Further, Converse tennis shoes were encouraged as the footwear. Being in our 50's, neither my husband nor I own Cons. On my shopping expedition, I immediately dismissed the idea of buying white or black shoes for myself. If I was going to shell out $50 for a pair of tennis shoes, I was going to have some fun with mine. I ended up with a pair that were white, pink and black with some subtle hearts in the design. Perfect for a wedding - this one at least. (And can I just say that for $50, Cons are not the most comfortable shoes I have worn, especially for being tennis shoes.) Jim stuck with black high tops as he wants to be able to wear his again as well. When we first arrived, I was a little concerned that we were the only people who took Mindy serious about the shoes. Once in the room, however, it appeared that perhaps slightly less than half of the guests fired up for the occasion. It was fun seeing all the colors and varieties, and I have to say that dancing was a lot easier than if I had worn my black heels. Mindy did surprise me, however, by wearing a green dress with orange heels (which she changed to orange Cons once the pictures were taken.) And I thought about the request for black, white or gray attire - thus assuring her that no other woman would show up in a green dress. Brilliant! It was a wonderful wedding, and a perfect setting for a couple with the fun and imagination of Mindy and Eric.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Borders, Book Signings and Brain Pickings

Yesterday a friend, Cindy, and I went to a book signing at Borders. The author is a friend of Cindy's, so we went to support Edna and her new book. It was a great experience for me as Edna's first book was similar to the one that I am writing, and I have wanted to meet her. She self-published her first book, and had a publisher produce the next two. When I mentioned the book I am writing, she was very excited and immediately suggested that we get together for coffee at a later date. Great! I will be able to learn a lot from her! Cindy has also published a book, so we sat in the coffee shop at Borders after getting our books autographed and I discussed my book with her. As Cindy has done a lot of house research both here and in Mississippi, she has experience in what my book is about. She reviewed my book for content, making sure that I hadn't left any critical step out. She also made some suggestions for illustrations to enhance the subject matter as well. Cindy knows a local archivist that she thought I might want to meet with for input, too, from a different perspective. As my book's goal is to make the research process as helpful and complete as possible, I welcome the opportunity to receive additional information. I am finding in this whole book writing, book publishing process that the more people you get to know, the better off you will be. There is so much to learn about how it all works, and being exposed to those who have been through it helps me make sense of all the new lingo.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sign Saga Continued

As mentioned in my last blog, the sign identifying our house and street disappeared from our front yard several years ago. We were pretty ticked about it as it was an expensive sign, and matched the numbers posted on the house. The MIA sign turned up on our front porch a couple of days ago. Yesterday the neighbor across the street was out watering his lawn. I remembered that he had been working on his shrubs the day before, so I though perhaps he had found the sign while doing his yard work. I crossed over to ask him about it. He replied that it had not been him but another neighbor down the block who had placed the sign on the steps. Curious... I happen to know the family because their son is in Katie's grade at the high school. So I plan to as them about it next time I see them. Where has the sign been for five years? I definitely want to thank them for returning it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Sign of the Times?

We live on a street where the houses sit pretty far back from the road. Add to that the fact that the numbering system is odd due to the size of the lots (for example we are number 213 but my next door neighbor is number 221), and it makes for a challenge for delivery people and whatnot. My bigger concern is that emergency vehicles could find us if need be. That is why my husband and I invested in some historic, cast iron house numbers. We placed the numbers on the house, and a matching sign with the full address on it nearer to the street. Originally it was placed in concrete so as not to be stolen. However, when a 100 plus year old oak tree came down in a storm, it took out the sign as well as the small flowering trees in its path. Salvaging the sign, we replaced it in a planting bed near the street. One night several years ago it disappeared. As the sign is only useful to us since it has the full address on it, I assume some kids thought it would be fun to swipe it. We kept hoping it would turn up in someone's yard in the area and get returned to us. As anyone who has purchased these knows, the signs are quite expensive and have to be special ordered. We never got around to replacing it. When I came back from the grocery store this morning, there was the sign, laying on the front steps. I am assuming that someone was cleaning out planting beds and found it, and then took the extra steps to return it to us. Whoever the sign angel is, I give a hearty and grateful thanks. This time, it is going back in concrete!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Pitch

Yesterday, along with 24 other hopeful authors, I pitched my book to a New York Literary agent at The Big Read. I was 22nd out of 25, so I had a lot of time to get nervous. There were a lot of heavy hitters in the lineup! It was a fascinating experience, and I am so glad that I did it. Some of the pitchers were funny, some melodramatic, and a couple were downright scary! But all carried a great passion for their book, which was inspiring in and of itself. The agent and her husband/co-author were encouraging and constructively critical when need be. Following my pitch, I was told that I had done a very good job - there was nothing that they would change. I had explained what my book was about, who my audience is and why I am the right person to write the book, all in less than the minute I was allowed. All good news. Then came the bad news. They were so glad that I had come to pitch my particular book (a how to book on researching the history of a St. Louis County home), because it was a perfect example of the type of book a national publisher would not be interested in. (There went my chance at the winning prize - an opportunity to meet with them to help get your book published.) Instead my book should be pitched to a local publisher. Good thing I am one step ahead of them and already have a query in to Virginia Publishing in St. Louis. And on that note, Virginia Publishing had a booth at The Big Read, and I was able to meet the President, Jeff, face to face. I had a copy of the book with me, so he was able to see what I have in mind. I think he is a little concerned about the lack of potential audience, but I explained that I think genealogists would appreciate the book as well. He seemed to like the fact that I have a background in marketing, so I can definitely help sell my book. I might have swayed him to a more favorable opinion of the book. Whatever happens, I think I will now at least get an answer out of him so I can move on to option B if they decide not to publish my book.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Big Read

Today is The Big Read, a nationwide celebration encouraging people to read. It also offers opportunities to learn about book writing and publishing and to listen to published authors. In St. Louis, one of the segments is called PITCH-A-PALOOZA, in which a would-be author has one minute to pitch his or her book idea to a literary agent. The winner gets a free consultation with the agent. I signed up to pitch my book "Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed(room)? Researching the History of Your St. Louis County Home." While I'm not convinced that a New York literary agent will be at all interested in a book of such local interest, I figured this would be a good learning experience for me. And you never know who might be in the audience. Maybe the elusive President of local Virginia Publishing Company, to whom I have submitted a query letter regarding my book.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back from the Big Apple

Katie and I are back from our 4 day trip to New York. We had a fantastic time! While our hotel was on the upper west side, it was right next to Broadway, so we were only two blocks from a subway station, four blocks from Central Park and steps away from some great places to eat and shop. We had the tour of NYU on Friday, and I came away from that with a sense of awe (they will get 37,000 applications for 5000 openings!), and a sense of relief as the neighborhood the campus is located in felt very safe to me. It actually had more of a campus feel than I was expecting. Following the tour we went to Times Square so Katie could experience that, and I was interviewed by CNBC on my reaction to the $700 billion bailout that had just been passed. It was pretty exciting, though I have no idea if it aired or not. That night we saw "Wicked", which was absolutely amazing and definitely a trip highlight for me. Saturday we walked Central Park and then met up with some friends in the afternoon to tour Soho, Chinatown and Little Italy. It was an action packed trip, and one that I think made some great memories for Katie and me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Tomorrow is our epic trip to New York. I always stress out about what time we should leave the house to allow for parking, baggage check and security. Inevitably we have over an hour to spare, but I prefer that to the alternative. Now I am wondering what effect the Vice Presidential debate tomorrow night will have on security during the day tomorrow. Hopefully we are getting out of town before things start to pick up at the airport. Today I purchased tickets for us to see "Wicked" Friday night. My daughter doesn't know about them, and I want to surprise her. I already advised her to pack a nice pair of slacks in case we go out to eat someplace dressy, so we'll have that covered. The tickets are in the 2nd row of the center orchestra section, so hopefully they are not too close. I love to be able to see the actors faces up close, but without straining my neck. I want this trip to be memorable for the two of us, and seeing this production on Broadway should ensure that. I know in the near future there won't be too many opportunities for us to do things like this, so I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Hopefully she will feel the same. It's hard to tell how the mind of a 17 year old will react, though. Maybe I'll just sic one of the witches on her!