A Friend in “Read” Is a Friend Indeed

When I was a freshman in a Chicago high school, back when raptors ran and pterodactyls flew, a typical Saturday routine for me was this:
• Walk two blocks to catch the 119th Street bus (avoiding raptors of course).
• Take that bus to 103rd Street and walk a block to my BFF Christine’s house.
• Catch another bus (these were the days of bus passes, tokens, and supertransfers, when students rode the buses cheaply) to 95th Street to one of our favorite hangouts (besides the mall).

What was that hangout? The Beverly Paper-Back Exchange. (Grammarians, please don’t come at me because of their decision to use punctuation in paperback.) We would spend hours combing through the shelves and would each leave with a paper shopping bag full of books. Note the price in the photo at the right below. All of their books were stamped with the store’s name.


Because this was an exchange, you could bring books for them to sell, which would net you a slight discount. Invariably, we’d bring back many of the ones we bought. (Half-Price Bookstore existed, but had not yet spread to the Midwest.)

Christine and I read a ton of Harlequin Romance novels, mostly acquired there, because our goal was to write romance books with a suspense element (ala authors like Victoria Holt). So, we also read mysteries, hence the Perry Mason books.


It was great having a friend who loved reading and writing romance stories. We analyzed the Harlequin formula: how the hero and heroine would meet cute, when the first kiss would happen, when the misunderstanding would come, how they would get back together. And since our imaginations ran wild, how many times the heroine would nearly be murdered. (This was back in the day, as I mentioned.) Also, how silly the hero’s name could be, and still, in our minds, sound cool and masculine. Steve Sacks O’Mony. Tyler Tall Endark. We had lofty plans to submit our novels to Harlequin for a ton of money. As I write this, I can’t help laughing because we were so sure we would hit it big as romance novelists.

Though Christine and I lost touch after high school, I managed to hold onto these two books, and the memories I made acquiring them.

Victoria Holt cover from Goodreads. Bus tokens from WBEZ. Supertransfer from the Illinois Railway Museum website. Other photos by L. Marie.


Some neighbors are friendly, dropping over to gossip, borrow a cup of sugar, or bring you cookies at Christmas (after borrowing that sugar). Others are less civil, cutting death glances at people, blasting their music too loudly while ignoring any complaints, or stealing your lawnmower and then trying to sell it back to you. And yes, those descriptions probably seemed oddly specific, because when I was a kid, we had neighbors who did all of the above. (I currently have neighbors who are working on some of the above behaviors.)

And then there are neighbors who move in without a lease agreement. Here are some of mine.


I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since they are house sparrows after all. They made a nest on the wall somewhere between the joists of the balcony above mine. A while ago, I watched them land on the balcony with nest items—sticks and bits of fluff—as if needing to rest before the final push to the nest.

I didn’t put out a bird feeder, because the rental office stuck signs up everywhere, warning people to avoid feeding the birds and to clear away feeders. But I thought a bowl of water wouldn’t hurt, right?

It’s already had repeat visitors. So far, I haven’t been able to snap a photo, because they seem to visit the water bowl only when I am not carrying my phone.

Every morning, I hear their cheerful chirps regardless of the weather. One or two perch on the balcony rail several times a day as if stopping by to chat. In the evenings before they tuck themselves in for the night, they stop by. Many times during the week, they frolic on the balcony before flitting off.

Two days ago, one dropped a piece of fluff on the balcony. And today, one dropped what looked like an old tissue, while still another dropped tiny feathers on the balcony. I guess it’s time for the offspring to move out and build nests of their own (or take them from others as some online accounts state).

Well, time to segue over to the other purpose of this post: Charles, do me a favor and look on Amazon to see which Shashibo you want, because you’ll be getting one! (Click here if you are totally confused by that sentence.) Comment below to confirm and to let me know which one you would like.

Photos by L. Marie

Check This Out: My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir

I’m always pleased to welcome the marvelous Marian Beaman on the blog. She’s here to talk about her latest memoir, My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir, which released on April 5.

Note from Marian about the cover: The cupid on the cover is a cutout from an actual Valentine card Cliff sent me long ago. The quilt border is an image from an actual quilt I still have on a closet shelf. I’m not sure whether it came from my mother’s or my father’s side of the family. My best guess is that it’s made by Grandma Fannie Longenecker.

El Space: Why a marriage memoir as a follow-up to your first book?
Marian: I never intended to write a marriage memoir. Who in their right mind would do that—revealing our secrets, admitting struggles?

Writing this memoir has been a process which began more than a year ago and has evolved in three stages. In January 2022, I remembered that I had five of my Aunt Ruthie’s diaries, which I found in a painted chest when we cleared out her house before she died in 2017. Why not find out what she was thinking as a teenager and then as a young teacher? However, I discovered that the diaries, written in pencil, were hard to read. Deciphering the lines required me to make a transcription line by line, a tedious process. I spent three months in early 2022 with this project. Then I lost interest.

Next, I thought that it would be a good idea to explore stories in my ten years of blog posting. What if the pixels on WordPress disintegrate, and I lose all of my carefully wrought stories? I began blogging ten years ago and reasoned that I could organize many of the posts by themes—maybe collect pieces about my early life as a Mennonite girl in Pennsylvania, or posts that relate to our travels, or ones about the writing process. My faithful blog followers totally nixed the idea.

“That would be boring,” they said.
“I wouldn’t want to read stuff I’ve read before.”
“Why not write about your marriage? I’d read a book about your husband Cliff and you.”

Finally, I was convinced to go with the marriage memoir concept because of blog friends’ enthusiasm. What author doesn’t want a book that will sell?

El Space: What was the most challenging aspect of writing a marriage memoir? How did Cliff react when you told him you were writing it?
Marian: Readers will soon find that Cliff, as an artist and storyteller himself, doesn’t mind revealing the truth about our lives together, even if it results in showing vulnerability. Early on, though, he was worried that I wouldn’t include enough about his life before we met. Even though he knew his art work would figure large in the content, he wasn’t sure that he would be equally represented in the book.

As it turned out, he wrote a few pieces for the “Heritage” section in the book and added detail to other chapters, sometimes with his own journal entries. He also volunteered to take on the arduous task of organizing text, photos, and artwork with InDesign, a highly sophisticated software program.

Thus, from October 2022 through March 2023, we worked toward the common goal of birthing our book baby, My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir, a sequel to my first book. This mission has obviously been accomplished but not without some meltdowns and marital spats over creative differences. In fact, while writing the book, we seemed to re-enact some of the clashes we survived early in our marriage: provincial Mennonite girl from the East clashing with risk-taking pioneer-type from the West coast.

Cliff and Marian

El Space: In a blog post about writing a marriage memoir, memoir coach and author, Marion Roach Smith, stated: “There are two questions a husband should never ask his wife. Both begin with the words, ‘how many?’” One of the questions was, “How many pairs of shoes are in [your closet]?” Would you agree that there are questions that should not be asked of a spouse? Why or why not?
Marian: I come from a German-Swiss culture that has practiced thrift and frugality. My husband never has to worry about my busting our budget. My buying too many shoes is the least of his worries! We’d phrase your question differently though. When I showed Cliff this question, he responded with a query to me: “How is it that when you put dirty dishes in the dishwasher you never seem to get the plates and saucers lined up right? Your haphazard stacking makes it harder for me to fit other items into the racks.”

My counter to his question: “How is it that you can’t keep your vanity sink in the bathroom as clean as mine?”
Do I see an addendum to our story—a chapter about another flare-up?

El Space: What books about marriage, if any, helped inspire you to start writing your memoir or complete the writing? What other books (or people) inspired you?
Marian: Quilts and quilting serve as a metaphor for my storytelling. I found Whitney Otto’s book, How to Make an American Quilt, very helpful. Other sources included Ada Calhoun’s Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, and Mary Pipher’s Women Rowing North, along with excerpts from poets Mary Oliver and Carl Sandburg.


This memoir contains a bibliography simply because I like to glean wisdom from other authors—and I relish the research process. My English teacher background pops out in my writing. I simply can’t help it!

El Space: What advice would you offer someone writing a memoir like this?
Marian: Memoir writing always taps into one’s physical and emotional reserves. I felt like a ragdoll when I finished the whole project, but I remember feeling the same way when I wrote Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl.

Memoir writing is not for the fainthearted. Yet, if you have a story to tell, by all means write it. Even if you don’t intend to publish it, it serves as a way to preserve the facts and articulate your true feelings. Writing evolves—you never know quite what will happen—you may become your family’s historian, preserving a legacy as you progress.

Marian with Bobby Oliver, her ideal reader. Click here for why.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Marian: I have sworn off ever writing another book. Friends remind me that I said that after writing my first memoir. However, I may be open to coauthoring a book with another established author, especially if the topic sounds appealing.

Thank you, Marian, for being my guest.
Looking for Marian? Look for her on her website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook
Looking for My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir? Look for it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Target

One of you will be given a copy of My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir simply because you commented below. Please feel free to comment on memoirs or other nonfiction that inspired you. Winner to be announced sometime next week.

Author photo by Cliff Beaman. Cover design and graphics by Cliff Beaman. Photos of the author and Cliff and the author with Bobby Oliver by Joel Beaman. Wedding rings from Marriage Wallpaper website.

Popsicle® or Ice Pop?

When I was a kid, my mother would give me a Popsicle® whenever I had a fever. It’s not that I only ate one at a time of sickness. Because I was given a Popsicle® whenever I was sick, I often associate them with a fever. 😊) But isn’t it cool (pun not intended, though it should have been 😊) that a Popsicle was invented “by an 11-year-old named Frank Epperson” (according to the Popsicle® website)?

Popsicle®. Kleenex®. ChapStick®. Post-it® notes. All of these are registered trademarks. But I admit to routinely using these names as generic forms. “Can I get a Kleenex®?” rather than “a tissue.” “Thanks for the ChapStick,®” I said to someone, though the product was really Burt’s Bees®—yet another trademarked brand—or lip balm.

Ever say, “Toss me that flying disc?” Or is your go-to (like mine), “Toss me that Frisbee®?”

I used Popsicle® above, but the generic term is ice pop. Since my mother happened to buy the brand, I could use the name. But here is a quote from the company website:

Popsicle®, Creamsicle®, Fudgsicle® and Yosicle® are registered trademarks of the Unilever Group of Companies and can only be used to identify the frozen confection products of Unilever. . . . Misuse of these trademarks may violate Unilever’s very valuable rights.

Back when I was a full-time in-house editor, routinely emails were sent as a reminder to avoid using brand names as if they were the generic forms. But I still slip up and use Post-it® notes instead of sticky notes.

This is not a slap-on-the-wrist post telling you to use generic names. But I am curious if you do or don’t. Please feel free to comment below.

Popsicle® image from the Popsicle® website. Other photo by L. Marie.

D-Oh! The Siren Call of Doughnuts

Many times, when my younger brother and I shopped for groceries at Mariano’s, a grocery store in the area, we stopped at the doughnut section. We perused the offerings, wondering what was inside some of the doughnuts without holes. Vanilla cream? Chocolate? Strawberry? Jelly? What was in the one with nuts on top? The latter was the one my brother usually chose, while I had to have a cinnamon roll (technically not a doughnut, but rather, a pastry) or a chocolate doughnut with sprinkles.

Even if I’m not hungry, I will make space for a doughnut. But I am picky about doughnuts. I never eat jelly doughnuts. Vanilla cream-filled doughnuts like Boston cream doughnuts also are very low on my list. So, what’s high on my doughnut list?
• Chocolate cake. A doughnut with some heft to it.
• Apple cider. Love these in the fall.
• Old-fashioned (below). This doughnut looks lived in. While it may not be the most attractive doughnut on the list, it’s usually big on taste.

• Beignet. I usually get these whenever I am in New Orleans.
• Frosted. Also a cake doughnut. Chocolate frosted is the preferred.

As I contemplate this list of doughnuts, I can’t help thinking of the assortment of characters found in stories. Some are crusty and old-fashioned. They’re the ones who take the temperature of the times and are quick to spout advice to the other characters, whether that advice is wanted or not. Some are fancy and high maintenance. They add texture to the setting through their high standards and demands. Others are peppy, popular, and colorful. They may be the life of the party, yet they have more depth than you notice at first. Others add a complicated mix of flavors through life spent in other countries and environments. They add a richness to the cultural landscape.

Getting back to doughnuts, as Homer Simpson can attest, a doughnut (and, I might add, a great character in a well-written story) is a day brightener. And I hope the announcement that you’ve getting the $25 Amazon card (from the Gray Day Giveaway) is a day brightener for you, Charles Yallowitz. 😊

Thank you for all who commented. And please don’t hate me that you are probably now craving a doughnut. 😊😊😊

Got a favorite doughnut? Do tell.

P.S. I bought this the other day. A chocolate croissant also is not a doughnut, but rather, a pastry. Still, I needed something.

Sprinkle doughnut from ClipartLibrary. Old-fashioned doughnut from the Preppy Kitchen. Mariano’s in Wheaton photo from somewhere on the internet. Chocolate croissant photo by L. Marie.

Ten Years! Who Would Have Thought???😄😊

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 10 years ago.
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.

You read that right! A decade ago, February 19, 2013 (which means I’m officially late), I started this blog as a result of nagging a suggestion from my younger brother and a guy at church I hardly knew, but since I’d worked with his mother for years, that made us acquaintances. I didn’t know what I was doing. But now, here I am, ten years later.

I still don’t know what I’m doing.

Many people who are planners list their goals ten years out. They plan to be in a certain place or at a certain number (money, subscribers, whatever) that shows progress. I didn’t have a goal when I started the blog. Frankly, I didn’t think I’d last ten days blogging. I never fathomed ten years would pass and I would still be at it.

But here I am.

Consistency. Sometimes, that’s the goal.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

My first post: https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/no-dont-speak-2/

A TV? No Thanks

I’m used to the disbelieving, how-do-you-exist look that results whenever anyone asks me, “Did you see Such-and-Such program on TV?” and I respond, “I don’t have a TV.” One response to that response has been, “Oh. Well, you can have my old TV” or “I’ll get you a TV.” Eight times out of ten, either has been the response to my response. (Yes, I know some generous people.)

Having been the recipient of the old televisions of friends and family back in the days when televisions were heavy, blocky things, I appreciate the newer, sleekier, but still heavy wall-mounted versions. I especially appreciate the generosity of family and friends who readily offer to fill my TV-less gap. But my response ten times out of ten has been, “No thank you.”

I’ll pause here to give you time to fill in your theory about the why before I tell you. Maybe I’ll repolish my nails while you theorize.

Color of Choice

You’re back? Good. Okay, now I’ll tell you why. The reason is two-fold:
1. When I went to grad school back in 2010, I slipped out of the habit of watching TV, because I worked and attended school. After graduate school (2012), I returned to watching TV, which leads me to my second reason.
2. My television (an old TV given to me by friends) broke and I never replaced it.

Did that fit your theory? Did I surprise you? Disappoint you (if you thought I had some elitest idea of TV as the opiate of the masses and therefore to be avoided)? See, the thing is, when I was a kid, I watched two to four hours of TV, seven days a week. My undergraduate years interrupted that average, because I was too busy hanging out with friends studying to watch TV (although I confess that my friends and I commandeered the one TV in the dorm—I am dating myself—to watch The Godfather I and II, refusing all requests to turn the channel). During that time, I discovered that I could actually live without TV.

After grad school, I turned to Netflix, which I watch on my computer. So, I am not entirely without the means for watching some shows. After all, I saw the first three seasons of Stranger Things and two of Downton Abbey. But since there are few shows nowadays that I want to invest the time watching, I generally watch documentaries on Netflix. (But I have watched old TV shows like Columbo on Amazon Freevee.)

Several people (maybe about ten as opposed to the twenty people who told me I had to watch Downton Abbey back when I was in grad school and had no time whatsoever to watch until after I graduated) in recent months have told me I need to get Disney +. Maybe I will eventually. For now, I’m content to be that weird person who refuses to buy a TV.

You know what I enjoy in the evenings? Reading a good book. Watching movies. Listening to music. Hanging out with friends. Crocheting various projects. (Though many evenings lately, I’ve spent freelance editing.) While this means I can’t participate in any water cooler discussions, life still feels full and enjoyable.

Old TV from Amazon. Samsung TV from Walmart.com. Other photo by L. Marie.

“There and Back Again”

Hello and Happy Valentine’s Day ❤️❤️❤️! Having recently returned from a blissful four-day retreat at the Highlights Foundation campus in Honesdale, PA, I can categorically state that I didn’t disappear off the face of the earth as you might have suspected. I was going to state that this post is proof of that, but it might have been written by AI for all you know. 😊😊 Just take my word for it that I have returned. (Yes, the post title was borrowed from Bilbo Baggins’s book title in The Fellowship of the Ring. 😊)


A group of friends (my critique group) and I retreated to the woods to write, laugh, and eat scrumptious food. We met many interesting writers who were there for the same reason. Imagine that!

This was the first time in probably four years that I’d traveled by air. So, walking past the drug sniffing dog two by two at O’Hare Airport was new to me. At least that cut the time in the security line down to ten minutes!


Not so at the airport in Newark, where my time in the security line was about nine times that! I’m grateful I didn’t miss my flight. unlike some poor souls who cut through the line because they only had ten minutes to board the plane before it left without them. Some people jumped at the chance of purchasing a Clear membership to avoid the line. If you’re wondering about the difference between Clear and TSA Precheck, click here.

Other than that, a good time was had by all.


The rocks are in the garden of rocks. Many people left messages using the words on the rocks. I like the word cattywampus, so that is why this photo is here. 😊

Photos by L. Marie

Would You Rather . . . ?

This is not a post about the party game, Would You Rather. . . ?  which involves giving two horrible choices and having to choose between the two. I used the first part of the question in the title to save space. The question I was thinking about came as a result of watching on Amazon Prime episodes of Columbo, a show developed by William Link and Richard Levinson.

If you’re wondering what that is, it is a crime drama starring Peter Falk as a homicide detective in Los Angeles. It aired on NBC in 1971—1978 and then sporadically on ABC in 1989—2003. Many critics deem it to be one of the best shows ever produced, thanks to stellar acting (Peter Falk won four Emmy awards) and clever scripts by Richard Levinson, William Link, Peter S. Fischer, and soon-to-be showrunners Steven Bochco and Stephen J. Cannell (and others), and directed by soon-to-be Oscar-winning directors like Steven Spielberg.

If you’ve watched Columbo, you know the titular character is a bumbling, self-effacing police lieutenant faced with solving murders committed by erudite, bold, and usually arrogant people who treat Columbo as if he is a bothersome fly they can squash anytime. They’re condescending and rude, and generally wind up talking too much, because they feel secure and overconfident. Since they severely undestimate Columbo, they often offer to help him in his investigation. He dogs their steps, in all politeness of course, asking pointed questions that eventually make short work of their fake alibis and causes them to confess. Watching him take them down is very satisfying.

Which brings me to my question: Would you rather be underestimated or overestimated? I would rather be underestimated. People let down their guard more when they underestimate you. Of course, like Lieutenant. Columbo, you have to at times put up with condescension and unwanted explanations. Like when someone explains a term he or she assumes you don’t know, based on a snap judgment that person has made about you. This has happened to me several times.

“What I mean is . . .” the person begins, which is the vocal equivalent of patting me on the head, before launching into the definition.

I like to play dumb when it happens. “Really? Oh, okay. Thank you.” I try not to sound sarcastic.

On the other hand, being overestimated is an ego stroke at first. After all, expectations for what you can do are at a high. But when the letdown comes, as overestimation implies, are you any better off than being underestimated?

So, what is your preference? To be underestimated? Overestimated?

Peter Falk as Columbo photo found somewhere on Pinterest. Adele quote from quotefancy.

Happy 2023! It’s Up from Here!

So, this happened a couple days before the end of 2022.

Yeah. 😷

I’m feeling better. Finally stopped coughing. I’m grateful for the continued lack of a fever. And yes, I have had five vaccine shots.

Just one of those things, I guess. But while quarantining, I’m getting a lot of reading done (see below), including a manuscript where I’m fixing a chronology issue (not pictured 😄).


I’ve also watched some old murder mysteries like Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun, and Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot mysteries written by Agatha Christie and adapted for the screen by various writers) on YouTube and Amazon Prime (free with ads) and episodes of a really quirky show on Netflix (Wednesday).

So don’t cry for me, Argentina. (Click here if you’re wondering, “What does that mean?”) I’m getting some rest. Probably not as much as I should. But some.

Hope you’re doing well.

Photos by L. Marie.