Thursday, February 26, 2009

Theme Thursday: Thoughts On Toys

Photo of E and a doll she's long since forgotten, 1967. Dolls were not a favourite toy.

Some of my favourite toys as a kid defied the cultural norms of the day. First, there was the barely harmonious ukulele, which a neighborhood friend "accidentally" sat on and crushed, though I wondered if this represented a comment on my playing ability. Second, a microscope, complete with slides and an instruction book for experiments. With this marvel, I examined such intricacies as the shaft of human hair gathered from my mother's brush, my own blood cells, fur from our cat, sections of bark from a tree, and the leaves of various tropical plants. I then moved on to cap and squirt guns, loving the reactions of others as they were surprised by a well-aimed "pop-pop" or stream of water.

Eventually, my mother tried, vainly, to guide me toward cooking, courtesy of the Easy Bake Oven, a sixties and earlier phenomenon that allowed little kids the joys of baking their own cookies. After mine blew up and left our small kitchen in complete disarray, she moved on to dolls and Barbie accoutrements many of which would fetch a pretty penny from collectors today, if only someone had kept them intact. These I found quite boring, although I understood that girls were supposed to enjoy playing with dolls and Barbie.

I graduated to a small guppy-laden aquarium filled with a noisy aeration pump, green spindly plastic bushes, blue and orange gravel and a fish food dispenser that rarely worked properly. This held my attention into adolescence, when my tastes turned largely to books, writing and music.

I also recall a collection of dolls and figures representing places near and far geographically, and while I never played with these, I did enjoy rearranging and displaying them. Painted wooden shoes from Holland, a child doll from Columbia, a man and woman in traditional pollera and montuno from Panama, a llama from Peru and several traditional kimono-clad dolls from an uncle stationed in Japan, a hand blown glass pitcher from colonial Williamsburg and an indigenous doll dressed in her hand-sewn mola blouse, stand out in my memory. Sadly, most were sold by my mother when she moved house. She assumed no further interest on my part without inquiring.

For images of the traditional dances and costumes of Panama, check out the website I do not know the owner of this site, but the enlargeable photos are worth viewing.

Until Next Time...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bookplates AKA Ex Libris

Bookplate graphic property of E.
February 23, 2009.

If anyone has visited Avid Reader's Blog today, several comments centered on bookplates and whether anyone still uses them.
As you can see from the small feline offering here, which I unfortunately could not enlarge, I am in the minority of those who like and use bookplates. I also gift them to bibliophiles and others who enjoy varied graphics and artistic endeavors.

After spotting an entertaining example on Avid Reader's Blog, one commenter suggested a bookplate day for interested Bloggers and as is often my wont, I wondered about the history of the bookplate and how it came about.

From the website for the American Society of Bookplate Designers and Collectors found at, I discovered that bookplates have long been a collectible art form quite apart from their practical use in identifying a book's owner.

Also known as Ex Libris, according to the information from this site, bookplates have existed since the fifteenth century, and spawned bookplate societies throughout the world, including an international federation. Further, both the creators and users of bookplates are a distinguished lot. Artists and engravers as varied as Marc Chagall and Paul Revere fashioned beautiful bookplates, while owners such as England's Queen Victoria and our own Harpo Marx, along with political figures including France's Charles DeGaulle, and novelist Jack London, had distinctive examples, which are featured on the site.

In addition to a number of interesting links and more history, notes on methods used for creating bookplates are available on this website as well. The extremely interested will also find a section on articles pertaining to bookplates and information on the Ex Libris Chronicle.

Until Next Time...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Theme Thursday: Libraries: Tampa's Last Carnegie

Photo and Text Property of E.
February 17, 2009.

Tampa's Last Carnegie Library

Located on West Union Street, near Howard and Main, in the heart of historic West Tampa, this landmark library continues to serve a thriving community. Originally founded as an independent municipality in 1895, West Tampa was home to the area's burgeoning cigar industry, which reached its zenith between 1900 and 1920. Annexed by the City of Tampa in 1925, West Tampa remains distinctive for its Latin and African American roots and history.

The library, which is a City of Tampa Historic Structure, is also part of the National Historic Register. Built in 1913 as one of eleven Carnegie funded libraries in Florida, the original building retains its Neo-Classical Revival style and was refurbished in 2004. An additional 5,000 square foot wing, completed in 2003, gives the library much-needed space as well as accessibility to persons with disabilities.

Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, a steel magnate who immigrated to the U.S. from Scotland before amassing his fortune, considered it his personal mission to bring libraries to communities nationwide. Between 1886 and 1919, Carnegie earmarked ninety percent of his money to fund educational projects and libraries, constructing 1,697 public and 108 academic libraries. This included eleven Florida libraries. Of these, seven buildings remain in use, but only two continue as libraries today.

Carnegie's donations funded buildings. It was up to each community to secure the land, collect library materials and raise ten percent of the land grant annually for staff and upkeep. The land upon which West Tampa's library was built was donated by cigar factory owner, Angel Cuesta. His partner, Pellegrino Rey, also served as the mayor of West Tampa.

Those of us fortunate enough to have Carnegie buildings in our communities share in a legacy of devotion to education, literacy, community betterment, access to information and service that remain the hallmarks of libraries and the library profession.

While it often seems that these values are fast disappearing from our society and the communities we inhabit, each of us carries the obligation to do as we are able--whether reading to a child, donating our used books for sales by our public or academic libraries, paying nominal dues to support the projects undertaken by Friends of the Library or at the very least, understanding the resources our libraries represent and funding them. Thanking our librarians is a good start in that direction.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In Answer To Mouse...

Photo and Text property of E, except where noted, February 17, 2009.
Jacob says there are no rats around here because he and the Divas patrol the environs extensively...
Jacob and the Divas and E have a zero tolerance policy for rodents, except of course for their Blogger friends, Squirrel, from Nyack, and Mouse, from Cleveland.
Jacob would not mind traveling to Nyack or Cleveland as long as there are no rats there. He thinks Edward and Dennis should come along, too...
In answer to E's Blogger friend Mouse, aka Kimy,
E and another hard-working librarian located the following from Cassell's Dictionary of Slang.
"To give a rat's ass...
A twentieth century pejorative implying something insignificant."
For more information on this reference source, including product description, customer reviews and reviews from publications including Library Journal, click the link to provided below:
While E and the other librarian were disappointed in the brevity of this information, they hope Mouse is happy. E feels librarians are an undervalued community resource. Jacob knows this is true because he loves E, puts up with the Divas, and wants E to get a position so she can use her considerable brain and quirky humor.
Jacob also knows that when anyone asks a strange, inconsequential or vitally important question, they can always get answers from a librarian. Librarians help in all kinds of situations, even disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. Librarians rock almost as much as cats do!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Day In The 'Hood

These trees have stood for more than fifty years. It is unusual to find so many in one area; that is one of the few attractions in this landscape. If you look carefully, you'll notice a change in the sky from pale blue to the milky gray that often signals a coming storm.
Photos and Text Feb. 15, 2009;
Property of E.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More On Reading...

Photo and Text Property of E.

The New York Times recently reported on a study of American reading habits. Done by the National Endowment for the Arts, the study cast a quasi-revealing eye on the fact that more adults since 1982 are reading, and more of us, it seems, have an appetite for novels and works of literature than for plays or drama. To link to the article from the New York Times, visit

There is much speculation as to why more of us are reading, although the figures remain lower than they were in 1982. Academics posit that anything from changes in healthcare to escapist reading in tough times, may underlie the change. They even suggest that those involved in the study might not include reading online or via kindle, or reading done for work or school as reading.

While there is also a nod to greater use of the library as the economy continues to sour, nowhere does the piece how long people have been reading for recreation, and whether they identify themselves as lifelong readers.

For now, I'm instigating an informal poll amongst Bloggers and their loved ones:

What do you read and how often do you read?

When was the last time you tackled a literary work, play, novel, non-fiction piece, short story, or even the editorial pages of your local papers?

I expect that since the Blogging community is language-driven, we are all highly interested in reading, and would like to have views on this topic. For the curious, I'm currently reading a mystery by Carol Nelson Douglas, a book on theology by Abraham Joshua Heschel and a book by Augusten Burroughs. I am also launching a list of Recommended Blogger Reads.

Until Next Time...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Life's Reading Revisited

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.
----Charles W. Eliot

This posting was inspired by a number of other Bloggers, notably Red Dirt Mule, Reya, Megan, Steve and Avid Reader. All recalled their childhood books with ease, resulting in a cascade of memories for yours truly.

First, let me confess to never having read The Secret Garden adored by so many. My earliest memories involve trips to the library on Saturdays. We lived three thousand miles beyond the U.S. and packages were always a treat. Mine, which came regularly, were selections from a Children's Book of the Month Club, and a magazine, still available today, Highlights for Children. I also sometimes received books as gifts. The Little Prince, Charlotte's Web, and E. B. White's Stuart Little, among them.

My grandmother, who lived relatively close by, saved her children's well-read books, hence I was also privy to the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew series, as well as Brr Rabbit, The Jungle Book, Ba bar and a host of others. They were kept in a large hall closet. I discovered many of them on my own just by being a bit nosey!

Later, teachers offered books as prizes for well-learnt spelling words, successfully completed projects and rises in reading levels. Some of these enticements included Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Hans Christian Andersen, Bullfinch's' Mythology and Call of the Wild. The brother's Grimm and their fairy tales stood beside my very first dictionary, later supplanted by Roget's Thesaurus and a book of Alice Walker poems.

My first attempt at serious adult reading occurred at fifteen when I tackled the '70's classic, The Greening of America, by Robert Reich, for a school report. I also read books on the history of Panama, collections of Latin American authors, and Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, for good measure.

I regularly read before bed, and have developed eclectic interests and tastes, largely due to early habits and accessibility to books and magazines. Red Dirt Mule's contention that books are magical and can bound the world for curious children was true for me as well. I have scores of teachers, librarians and friends and relatives to thank for my life time of reading, a gift people often take for granted.

One of the darkest books I've read recently involves a woman who is illiterate until she is sent to a German prison, largely for making horrible choices in an effort to hide both her illiteracy and the shame she feels surrounding it.

My fondest dream is that everyone learn to read and love reading. Without that love, we all will assuredly be lost, our world and perspectives barren of ideas, creativity or the pleasure of learning.

Until Next Time...

Theme Thursday: Fish And More...

Dad with a Red Snapper, circa 1967.
Photos and Text Property of E,
February 11, 2009.

Fish Mola from Panama

Swim in schools
No doubt wondering
What we're thinking...
Invading their space
With everything from
Strange feet and toes to
Tempting morsels on poles.
Sometimes on boats, perhaps on floats, often only for contest or sport,
We bring them, beautiful and shimmering, from the depths,
to our waiting plates and paletes,
No compunction

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hey, Who's This?

Photo property of E, owner of this Blog, January 28, 2009.
The answer to that question is-- Phoebe, who is about to take a header off of E's printer! She saw a stray wad of paper under the desk, and was determined to bat and shred until E should produce the vacuum to clean up confetti!
Phoebe is disappointed in the quick shoot and click E did for this photo and promises to pose for a better picture in the future.
In the meantime, Blogger Barbara at also interviewed yours truly. Her questions and my answers follow.
1. If you had one hundred thousand dollars, what would you do with it and why?
This is a tough question in these economic times, but I would likely set it aside as seed money for a charity or foundation with the mission of supplying kids in Third World nations the supplies, uniforms, books or other costs needed to get to school. I would also collaborate with businesses, NGO's and viable non-profits as well as other entities to continue the flow of monies toward this enterprise. Some of the initial one hundred thousand would also be set aside so that I could continue physical therapy and keep myself in a position to keep fundraising.
2. How did your time in Panama impact your life?
That was the first nineteen years of my life, and it laid the foundation for my perspective on the world, my interest in other cultures and countries, my desire to travel and my sense of "home." During that period, my parents and I traveled extensively through Central America, visited parts of Europe and the U.S. and I've also had extended stays in Colombia and Mexico as a younger woman. As a result, I am very attuned to diversity, with eclectic interests as well as being an avid reader with active interest in the rest of the planet. I also tend to look at the U.S. a bit more critically, especially with regard to foreign policy and its impact on the world stage.
3. What living famous person would you like to have dinner with and what would you serve?
There are so many potential answers to this question...Rachel Maddow comes to mind here, as does Amy Goodman, or perhaps a writer such as Maya Angelou, whose books I began reading at thirteen and continue with today...As for the menu, I'd probably get the meal catered since I eat mostly vegetarian food.
4. What one thing would I change about my life?
Probably the pain and fatigue stemming from the osteoarthritis that has developed due to wear and tear and the gait and biomechanical issues associated with lifelong Cerebral Palsy. My right knee is especially damaged. I would fix it, if I could.
5. What qualities do I value in a friend?
Humor, intelligence and sensitivity.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Interview of E By Red Dirt Mule

Me at 15 and below as a newborn; I'm glad some things improve with age!

Almost a month has gone by since I began Life In Progress and allowed Blogger Red Dirt Mule to interview me, the newbie Blogger. Below are five questions RDM posed, and my answers...

1. Life In Progress is a new Blog. Why did you start Blogging?

Because, at heart, I'm a creative soul and wanted to get back into something I once did for money--writing--for fun. I have several friends who Blog, and one kept after me to try my hand. So far, I'm enjoying the experience.

2. You are a Global Nomad, a writer and a librarian. Which describes you best and why?

I think all three capture important parts of me as a twenty-first century person. The Global Nomad is someone who lives in and loves other cultures, as I did growing up in Central America. Being a writer and an observer is an outgrowth of that. I became a librarian because I wanted to do something that brought together my love of words and facility with language and the ability to connect people with information. I also love learning, reading, teaching and using technology, so the evolving world of librarianship seems a good fit. It also doesn't hurt that most librarians I know are diversity-friendly and welcome persons with disabilities into the field. Now, if only I could find a job...

3. Name your favorite childhood book (age 12 or younger) and explain its impact on your life.

This is an interesting question because there is more than one book. The Little Prince springs immediately to mind, as do the books from the Wrinkle In Time series by writer and librarian Madeleine L' Engle. I also had a book of poetry for young people called Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle, which I believe is still available today. Additionally, I read A Tale of Two Cities in elementary school as well as books on the history of the country in which I was raised. All of these impacted my desire to read and learn and fueled my imagination. The one thing I regret was that there were no books around for kids with disabilities, so I often felt invisible. I'm happy to see that such books exist today.

4. What do you value most in a friendship?

Sharing and a sense of humor.

5. What is the most courageous step you have taken in your life?

There are many since my birth and survival, which themselves were difficult, according to my mother. I speak up a lot for things that can make others uncomfortable--disability rights, GLBT rights, women's rights--and when people ask how I am so well adjusted given my circumstances, I say "therapy." I understand what it feels like to be treated differently and would like to see that change. I am all about inclusivity. Now, I'm wondering if I am brave enough to share this posting...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Theme Thursday: Chinese Terracotta Warrior

Post Card of Chinese Terracotta Warrior produced by
The British Museum. Property of E, May, 2008.
This post card is a souvenir of a wonderful exhibition of Chinese Terracotta Warriors that was shown at the Bowers Museum in Orange County, California from May through October, 2008.
The traveling exhibit, on loan from China, features excavations of warriors, horses, various implements, elements of construction and pictures of the excavations as they took place.
The Terracotta Warriors date from China's First Emperor and the Qin dynasty between 221-206 BC.
The fellow at right is an infantryman and was excavated in 1976.
For more information on the Bowers Museum and this exhibition, visit
Most of the pieces I saw were life-size and very intricate. The warriors, horses, musicians and other elements of the exhibit were created under the auspices of China's First Emperor, a boy king, to protect him in the afterlife. The warriors and additional parts now on exhibit were discovered accidentally by farmers. Excavations began in the 1970's.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Word Game: "C"

Some Bloggers are playing a word game I heard about from Val. Participants ask to play and are each assigned a letter. In my case, the letter is "C" and I was asked to come up with ten words beginning with this letter that are important to me. My list follows and please note that the words are in no particular order of significance.
CATS--I have three, the most geriatric of which is shown in the photo at left. Her name is Angel and she is a handful!
COURTESY--We all know what the world is like without it, and nearly everyone I know wishes there was more of it today.
CLARITY--Clear-headedness and direction may inspire bold action or quiet forethought. Both have been instrumental in my life and I would not be the person I have become without either.
COMPASSION--A quality and state-of-being more of us need to show ourselves and share with others.
CONTEMPLATION--The fruits of this practice are many; nobody will call you rash if you think before speaking, and you may come to understand another's perspective or even your own. You may also discover the path to apology and healing if you hurt someone.
CONNECTION--Humankind thrives on positive connection to each other, our animal friends and nature. Some of us also seek a spirtual connection. In this fast-paced world, we often forget that connection is the root of my next word.
COMMUNITY--This means different things to each of us. For me, it means learning to appreciate friends and colleagues and value the larger world by finding ways to make it better.
CUTTING UP--There is nothing like humor, whether one is hanging out with friends or dealing with life's many curve balls, to remind us that we can enjoy living in the moment. Laughter also offers the important benefit of priming the body's endorphins so that we are calmer and have a sense of well being, even in adverse circumstances.
COMFORT--This concept is almost always associated with material things, favorite foods or perhaps where and how we live our daily lives. For me, it means a day, an hour or a minute I have no pain and can devote my energy to other things. It can also be as simple as playing with my cats, a hug, a friendly voice on the phone or sharing a piece of chocolate.
COMMUNICATION--Whether telling someone how I feel, engaging in a group activity, or listening as someone shares a poem, problem, desire or good news, communication is essential for most of our relationships. None of us would be Bloggers if we didn't have something to say or a desire to hear from and experience the world(s) and words of others!
I wish everyone a fabulous day!
If you wish to play, leave a comment and I will send you a letter. If you do not wish to play, but have something to say, that is welcomed too!

Theme Thursday: Statues: Laughing Buddha

Photo and Text Property of E, February 4, 2009.

This table top statue of Buddha was given to me by my mother as a remembrance of a trip she took to Thailand twenty years ago. I have no idea what prompted this gift since I am not a Buddhist. I am sorry that the shot appears a bit fuzzy, but Buddha is actually laughing, something almost everyone I know would benefit from doing more of in these times...

Perhaps I should publish a Blog of laughable photographs, judging from this effort!