Puzzle Mania!

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Happy holidays, everybody! My gift to you this week is a recommendation to read one of the best books I read in 2017: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. Historical fiction doesn’t get any better than this, and I highly recommend the audio version for added entertainment.

Seventeen year-old Henry “Monty” Montague could have any lady of his choosing. He has the looks, charm, money and family name to woo any girl in 1700’s England, but Monty has eyes only for his male best friend Percy. Monty isn’t sure if Percy feels the same way, but they’ll have the whole year on tour of Europe together to sort it out before Monty becomes his father’s apprentice and Percy heads to law school.

Their tour, of course, doesn’t go as planned. Monty’s hateful father assigns Monty, Percy and Monty’s sister Felicity a “handler” who forces them to partake in educational experiences and forbids the boys from their favorite nighttime activities: drinking, gambling and romancing. Thinking the situation can’t get worse, the group is nearly scared to death when their coach is attacked on a rural road in France, and Monty, Percy and Felicity become separated from their staff and must wander the country penniless and with only the clothes on their backs. Monty quickly realizes their attackers are after a puzzle box he stole from an enemy he made at Versailles, and the contents of the box must be very valuable indeed.

The trio’s quest to open the box and access its treasure takes them to a spooky house in Spain, on a pirate ship and to a sinking island in Italy. There is plenty of action, intrigue and humor in every chapter, and it’s impossible to predict what trouble Monty will get into next. This wild adventure tests Monty and Percy’s love for one another and the sacrifices they are willing to make to be together.

Puzzle Mania

As I read this book, I was fascinated by the concept of the Baseggio Box and its Lazarus Key which are central to the story’s action. I’d heard about puzzle boxes in the past, but I’d never come across one myself. Through a little Google searching, I located a retailer called The Puzzle Warehouse in St. Louis. It is the self-proclaimed, “Largest jigsaw puzzle store in the USA!” I grabbed my puzzle-loving pal Ali Jean, and we headed to the store, a legit warehouse FULL of every kind of puzzle you can imagine, including puzzle boxes.

Let me back up for a second because when Ali Jean and I arrived at The Puzzle Warehouse, we laughed at the signs in the parking lot which limited shoppers to two hour parking. Who could spend TWO HOURS in a puzzle store, we scoffed. You know who? Us two. We had the time of our lives in there, and we ended up with a shopping cart packed with puzzles. If you are a friend of family member of ours, there’s a pretty solid chance you got a puzzle for Christmas. You’re welcome!

Yup, we’re full fledged puzzle lovers.

Check out our cart. We may have gone a bit overboard.

Anyway, The Puzzle Warehouse has an awesome variety of wooden puzzle boxes.  I didn’t end up buying any of these, but seeing them up close gave me a better idea of what the Baseggio Box must have looked like. I’m thinking a DIY puzzle box might be fun to add to a Breakout Box game at school.

This puzzle might be smarter than me. . .

This one seems like something you’d find at Cracker Barrel. No?

Ali and I spent the rest of our time browsing the endless aisles of puzzles where we found everything from 3D puzzles to puzzles with googly eyes and 40,000+ piece puzzles! Now you know how we spent two hours there. . .

Why must I have this?

This baby has 40,320 pieces! You will spend a small fortune on it, and you’ll be old and grey when you finish.

They have everything!

As a Christmas gift, I bought my dad a 4D puzzle of Budapest since Mike and I had the amazing opportunity to travel there with him and my mom this summer. A 4D puzzle, folks! Mind blown!

That’s my dad on Christmas morning!

Serious puzzling happening here.

I can’t wait for the sequel/companion of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue to drop. Narrated by Monty’s sister, Felicity, it’s called The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. Look for it in October 2018.

Happy reading (and puzzling),

~Kelly

Balloons, Bonbons & Bacon

I love it when other people share their own #plotdrivenlife experiences, and one of my favorite fellow librarians, Shannon Grieshaber, recently shared one with me in her own recent blog post. In my opinion, the coolest part about planning a #plotdrivenlife experience is that even if two people read the same book, no two experiences are the same! This is the case with When Dimple Met Rishi, the book Shannon blogged about. My experience will be totally different than hers! Stay tuned for a future post!

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Today, I want to share the story of a #plotdrivenlife experience that didn’t go as planned.

After reading Stacey Lee’s historical fiction novel, Outrun the Moon, which features diverse characters and foods, I was pumped to visit the St. Louis Festival of Nations for a chance to sample food from all over the world. I had the experience all planned out with notes from the book to remind me which country’s foods I needed to taste. Unfortunately, the weekend of the festival, we weren’t nearly as far along in our moving process as we needed to be, so we had to pack boxes instead of stuff our bellies! I sat on the book for several weeks before I came up with another #plotdrivenlife idea, and wallah!

But first, you need to meet this book!

Mercy Wong plans to own her own business guided by Mrs. Lowry’s, The Book for Business-Minded Women. Mercy’s goal is a sizable one as her circumstances do not favor her success. As a fifteen year-old Chinese-American who lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood in 1906, Mercy deals with poverty and prejudice. Determined to make a better life for herself and her family, Mercy talks her way into the most prestigious girls’ school in San Francisco called St. Clare’s. Under the ruse that she is a wealthy Chinese heir, Mercy attempts to fit in with her wealthy socialite peers and absorb as much knowledge as possible. Mercy is regularly bullied by her roommate, Elodie, who knows her secret and threatens to expose her, and the school’s headmistress is suspicious of Mercy from the start.

Just as Mercy’s homesickness begins to subside, a devastating earthquake hits San Francisco, destroying St. Clare’s and causing fire to rip through her childhood neighborhood. Mercy must dig deep to channel her idol, Mrs. Lowry, in the face of terrible personal tragedy.

I love a strong, stubborn, determined female character like Mercy, and I especially loved her because of her selflessness. The author, Stacey Lee, obviously extensively researched 1906 San Francisco and used excellent detailed description to transport readers back in time. A fine book!

Balloons, Bonbons and Bacon

Outrun the Moon starts with a harrowing hot air balloon ride. In the opening chapter, readers meet Tom, Mercy’s love interest and a young man fascinated with flight and eager for the opportunity to pursue his passion and break free from family obligation. Mercy manages to accidentally fly off in Tom’s balloon, introducing readers to her unluckiness.

As I thought about alternate #plotdrivenlife experiences for this book, I decided to look for the opportunity to get up close and personal with a hot air balloon, something I have never done before. I was so lucky to find an upcoming “balloon glow” in small town New Haven, MO, about an hour’s drive from our house. On Friday night, Mike and I packed up Rudy and some lawn chairs, drove down plenty of stomach-churning country roads, and settled in to watch 11 grounded hot air balloons inflated next to each other light up the night. It was actually pretty magical. I loved the unexpectedness of not knowing when a balloon was going to light up, marked by a the loud and brilliant spray of fire being pumped into its belly. We sat close enough to feel the heat of the balloons being inflated, and it’s toasty!

While the balloon glow was a highlight, I was determined to explore some of the food Lee mentions in her book. I decided I would try three foods, each representative of a character’s culture. Mercy’s nemesis Elodie du Lac is the daughter of a French chocolatier, known for his expensive and decedent treats. Needing to do “important research,” I picked up a box of “Luxurious European Chocolate Truffles” from Aldi. I never purchase this kind of thing for myself because I have no willpower in the face of chocolate, so this was a true indulgence. I should read books about chocolate more often.

They tasted as good as they look!

Next, I cooked spaghetti alla gricia, Italian character Francesca’s signature dish. I had never heard of this recipe before, but it involved making pasta with bacon. How could I resist? In fact, the original recipe called for “pig jowl,” but I happily substituted it, and the result was delightful. Full disclosure: I am not a cook and completely burned the bacon during my first attempt to fry it. I could blame it on my new stove, but I know better.

Get in my belly!

Finally, I ordered from Amazon a Chinese treat Mercy and Tom share called “mui”– salted plums. I absolutely love plums, and I was so excited to try this treat, but it was so weird! I gave some samples to some students today, and their faces as they ate them were hilarious! Mui still have pits, so I think you’re supposed to suck on them like candy, but their flavor gets stranger and saltier over time, and there isn’t much meat to them. Maybe they’re an acquired taste?

Salted plums = food fail.

Because Mercy’s grand plan to attend St. Clare’s is upended by the earthquake, I guess it fits that my original #plotdrivenlife plan for this book didn’t work out either. My revised plan let me eat bacon AND chocolate, and the balloon glow was an added bonus.

Thanks for reading,

~Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bloody Good Read

When the worlds of Jack the Ripper and the Elephant Man collide, there’s no shortage of gore, ghosts and . . . good deeds?

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby

In 1888 London, Evelyn Fallow has seen her fair share of hardship. Orphaned and badly facially disfigured from her work in a match factory with poisonous phosphorus, the seventeen year-old approaches the matron at London Hospital for a job as a nurse. While the matron refuses her request, she offers Evelyn the job of maid for the hospital’s most unusual patient, Joseph Merrick, a man who is terribly deformed and commonly known as the “Elephant Man.” Desperate to get off of London’s tough and unforgiving streets, Evelyn accepts and gradually begins to befriend her benevolent charge.

Drawing of woman with “phossy jaw,” a condition common to women working with white phosphorus in a match factory in the 19th century.

Joseph Merrick, also known as the “Elephant Man.”

It is because of Mr. Merrick’s kindness that Evelyn believes ghosts begin to appear to him at night, desperate to take advantage of his tender heart. These aren’t just any ghosts, however. They are the ghosts of the victims of “Leather Apron,” also known as “Jack the Ripper.” These five spirits, Whitechapel prostitutes in life, are deeply haunted by unfinished business, and appear in Mr. Merrick’s room each night at precisely the time their lives were taken. The stress of the repeated and horrifying visits take a toll on the Elephant Man’s life, and Evelyn forces herself to return to London’s dangerous streets to help put the ghosts’ souls to rest.

Part historical fiction, part paranormal thriller, A Taste for Monsters is dark, suspenseful, and divine! Evelyn is a daring and tortured main character, and Mr. Merrick is especially memorable for his charity regardless of his limitations. Matthew J. Kirby has an interesting take on the identity of Jack the Ripper, too. This book is so worth the read and a great choice for anyone who enjoyed the 2017-18 Gateway Nominee, A Madness So Discreet.

Budding Ripperologists

I was only a few chapters into this book when I knew I wanted to host a Jack the Ripper documentary movie marathon as a #plotdrivenlife experience. I posted a “Who wants to join me?” message on Facebook, and I couldn’t believe how many of my friends were interested in Jack the Ripper!

So, this past Saturday, seven of us “Ripper Enthusiasts” met at my house to enjoy some treats and watch three documentaries with very different theories on Jack the Ripper’s identity. The first, a National Geographic production borrowed from the public library called Finding Jack the Ripper suggests the killer was a German sailor who was caught after a murder in New York City. While none of us bought this theory, this film includes digital autopsies of the Ripper’s victims to help viewers understand the magnitude of the victims’ injuries as well as how the killer’s violence escalated.

What is a Jack the Ripper party without a creepy mannequin, cupcakes with bloody bone sprinkles and blood-spattered decorations?

The second film, available through Netflix, was entitled, Jack the Ripper: Prime Suspect. It tries to prove that Frederick Bailey Deeming who murdered two of his wives and four of his children was also responsible for the Ripper murders. Deeming was in London during the time of the murders, had motive to kill prostitutes and shared killing rituals with the Ripper. It’s difficult to believe Deeming is Jack the Ripper because he lacked the skills that seem necessary to remove organs swiftly and precisely. Still, he is a strong suspect.

Wearing our top hats for the occasion. Clockwise: Mike and me, Shannon and me, Missy, Mernie and Brooke, and Shawn.

Finally, we watched Unmasking Jack the Ripper on YouTube, and I think we all liked this one best. The film provides detailed information about the living conditions in Whitechapel during the late 1800s, explaining why so many women were driven into prostitution. While the film doesn’t strive to convince viewers of the killer’s identity, it does make a strong case that Aaron Kosminski, a Polish barber, was Jack the Ripper. The film suggests a witness identified Kosminski and that two of the lead murder investigators believed him to be guilty of the heinous crimes. I’m not ruling him out!

There are other documentaries on my list to watch as there seems to be plenty of theories about Jack the Ripper’s identity. I’m especially interested in a series called American Ripper which suggests H.H. Holmes, the notorious killer featured in Erik Larson’s nonfiction book, The Devil in the White City, is Jack the Ripper. Thanks for the series recommendation, Shawn and Shannon!

By watching these documentaries which often include graphic images, I was able to better imagine the ghosts of the murdered women Matthew J. Kirby animates in A Taste for Monsters. These spirits haunt Evelyn and Joseph with their grisly wounds on full display, and I now fully understand why the ghosts’ presence was so agonizing for Joseph and alarming for Evelyn. This #plotdrivenlife experience enhanced my reading of Kirby’s book and made for an entertaining evening with friends!

Do you have a different Jack the Ripper theory? Please share in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

~Kelly

 

 

Finding Joy

Hamilton Frenzy

Have you succumbed to the Alexander Hamilton frenzy? Do you belt out the show tunes in the shower, and are you willing to give a left arm for a ticket to the Broadway show?

I’d like to keep my left arm, but this week’s book crush may have me calling in all kinds of favors in an attempt to get tickets to Alexander Hamilton when it comes to The Fox theater in St. Louis next year. The book I’m crushing on is Melissa de la Cruz’s Alex and Eliza, the fictionalized love story of Alexander Hamilton and his sweetheart, Elizabeth Schuyler. The author was inspired to write the novel after seeing the musical with her daughter.

Penniless “Alex” is George Washington’s aide-de-camp when he first meets middle Schuyler daughter “Eliza” at a ball hosted by the Schuyler family in 1777. A prank threatens their romance from the start, but when the two meet up two years later in Morristown, New Jersey, their romance slowly blossoms. Complicating matters, Alex was forced to prosecute Eliza’s father for a war crime, and the Schuyler family is facing financial ruin, meaning poor Alex isn’t a sensible match.

This book is humorous, suspenseful and just plain delightful. Eliza is no delicate flower; she’s opinionated and feisty, and I admired her progressive attitude and desire to support the revolutionary soldiers in any way possible. Because Alex is such a formidable soldier, his love-sick behavior is particularly hilarious. If this isn’t the true love story of Alex and Eliza, I can’t think of a better one.

Giddy Up

I have to admit that I struggled to come up with a plot driven experience for this book. Most of the books I’ve read so far have easily impressed upon me an idea for an experience. For this book, I had to do some serious storming of the brain. In fairness, much has changed since 1777, and I didn’t feel like donning petticoats for the day or getting a smallpox vaccination. Instead, I focused on the idea that Alex and Eliza had to rely on horses for long-distance transportation– whether by riding them or using them to draw carriages. Never having ridden a horse outside of a barn, I invited my friend Mernie to join me for a guided horseback trail ride in Bourbon, Missouri.

Mernie and I picked the hottest day of the year so far for this plot driven experience. Temperatures in Bourbon were predicted to hit 101 degrees Fahrenheit by the afternoon, so we were more than happy to make the hour and half drive to Bourbon to start our trail ride at 8:00am. We met our guide and ranch owner, Carol, who introduced us to our trusty steeds for the day: Mernie rode Dove, a Tennessee Walker, and I rode Joy, a Missouri Fox Trotter. Carol rode Strider and wasted no time in getting us on the trail, a path of her choosing through acres of picturesque property her family has owned since 1811. We walked along the banks of the Meramec River, navigated some rocky terrain through brush, and trotted along a shaded gravel road with two of Carol’s dogs following us the entire way. Mernie and I both repeatedly talked about how peaceful and scenic the experience was, and we had a lovely conversation with Carol about the beauty of making your own path and intentionally enjoying nature.

Our guide Carol helping Mernie mount Dove.

Dove was a true character, and boy was she gassy! I rode behind them for most of the trip. BIG mistake.

I learned I am not a natural horseback rider. I’m sure my mom is cringing as she’s reading this because she once owned her own horse and loves to ride. As Carol rightly pointed out, I likely spent more time un-training Joy than training her to my commands. And I was nervous. I had never ridden western style before, and there is a lot to remember when you first get on that horse! And Carol might have scared the pants off of me, too. . . Nevertheless, I’d like to ride again with Carol to overcome my fear and become more comfortable at riding. I hope Joy will forgive me for being so terrible the first time!

Can you see my forced smile? I was thinking, “Joy, please don’t kill me.”

If you’re ever near Bourbon and want to ride, please go see Carol Springer at Meramec Farm.

It took only three hours to get this staged shot!

This was a way-out-of-my-comfort-zone experience. It was scary but fun, too! Mernie is always positive and happy, and I’ll never forget her laughter when Dove interrupted the silence with her musical farts. Maybe she’s an Alexander Hamilton fan, too? It was a memorable day!

Thanks for reading,

~Kelly

 

 

The Sweet Smell of. . . Fish?

Since I started this blog a couple of months ago, I’ve been so much more attuned to similar themes or topics in the books I read, and fishing was a thread I connected in two of the books I recently thoroughly enjoyed.

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

This book gets my vote for the most intriguing title I’ve heard in a long time. The title immediately caused me to recall the smells of certain memorable houses from my childhood like my grandma and grandpa’s home in Haney, British Columbia, Canada where my grandma once baked fresh bread every morning. Doesn’t it also make you wonder what your own house smells like to other people?

The Smell of Other People’s Houses tells the emotional and somewhat tragic stories of four teens whose lives intersect in 1970s Alaska. Ruth must bear her grandmother’s constant displeasure at having to raise two young girls, a displeasure that hits a breaking point when Ruth finds herself pregnant. Dora’s parents are drunks, and she’s afraid to hope too much to be loved by her foster family. Alyce wants to dance, but her father depends on her to help him earn a living in his fishing boat over the summer. Hank and his brothers Sam and Jack stow away on a ferry to escape their mother’s dangerous new boyfriend, but Sam disappears mid sail. Eventually, all four characters meet, but readers have to patiently wait for their stories to connect.

Hitchcock masterfully describes her native Alaska and draws her characters so realistically that I could clearly imagine Alyce gutting a fish on the deck of her father’s boat and Ruth waddling outside the abbey to pull dry laundry off of the lines. This story is a treasure, and I specifically recommend it to reluctant readers because its a manageable size at less than 230 pages.

Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan

I chose to read this book based on its insanely high average rating on Goodreads, and it proved to be as poetic as the reviewers claimed. In Between Two Skies, readers meet Evangeline Riley and her family who have deep roots in Bayou Perdu, a small fishing community that is virtually wiped off the map by Hurricane Katrina. Evangeline, her parents, her sister Mandy as well as her grandmother, Mamere, survive the storm, but struggle to find their footing in its aftermath as they make a new life for themselves in Atlanta. Evangeline finds comfort in a fellow “Katrina refugee” named Tru, but she longs to be back on the water, and aches to be home. Atlanta feels foreign to her, she misses living with her grandmother and she worries that her sister is so lost and her parents keep fighting. When a FEMA trailer becomes available near Bayou Perdu, Evangeline must decide what “home” means to her.

This book opened my eyes to the long-term hardships experienced by people who were displaced by Katrina. Sure, I saw pictures on the news of houses destroyed and read about horrific events that took place in the Dome, but before this book, I never considered the full and lasting emotional devastation of the storm on surviving families. O’Sullivan artfully describes one family’s pain and suffering in this story, and it’s impossible not to want to hug the characters as you read about their struggles to regain a sense of normalcy.

But I Won’t Do That

Fishing is of key importance in both of the books I’m celebrating this week, so I reached out to my friends Dan and Kris Dotson who are recreational fisher-people and also have access to Lake St. Louis, a local private lake.

Kris was so kind to select “Canadian Nightcrawler” bait for our fishing expedition since I was born and raised in Canada. In fact, this plot driven experience was really special to me because fishing was a favorite pastime of my late grandpa’s. Many years ago, my grandma and grandpa spent some of their summers with friends at Bates Beach where the fishing was pretty great, I’m told. My mom and aunt enjoyed fishing, too.

My mom (left) and my Aunt Janet with more fish than they need!

My grandpa and my mom (pregnant with me!) with impressive coho salmon.

Even though fishing is important in my family history, I had only fished once prior to this plot driven experience, so I really needed Dan’s tutoring! I learned that Lake St. Louis has bluegill and bass, and that I would be using a closed, spincast reel and live, squirming worms as bait. I was willing to try threading the worms on the hook, but I just couldn’t make myself tear the worms into smaller chunks. Dan was very kind to do this for me.

Nope, I won’t do that, Dan.

Once I had thoroughly speared a little worm chunk, I learned how to cast my reel. Slow and steady back, and release at the shoulder.

Trying really hard not to hook anyone, including myself.

Almost immediately, the little fishies started biting. Apparently, bluegill will eat just about anything, and there is an abundance of them in Lake St. Louis.

Isn’t he cute? I will call him Arnold.

I think this is my favorite picture of the day, however, because it looks like Dan is summoning the fish for me. He’s a pretty nice guy!

“Come to me, fishes!” ~Dan Dotson

This plot driven experience taught me that I enjoy fishing. It’s relaxing and peaceful, and exciting, too, when you feel a bite on the end of your line. I’d love to do it again. And I hope my grandpa is looking down at me with two big thumbs up for trying an activity he so enjoyed.

A million thanks to Kris and Dan for making this plot driven experience a reality. It’s my favorite one so far!

Thanks for reading,
~Kelly

 

 

A Blue Coat and a Typewriter

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

I’ve read a lot of buzz in recent months on social media about Monica Hesse’s novel, Girl in the Blue Coat, set in Amsterdam in World War II. I downloaded the MP3 audio-book version to my phone from our public library’s free Overdrive collection (Are you doing this? Why are you not doing this?), and I plowed right through it. I highly recommend the audiobook format so you can hear proper Dutch pronunciation, and, as a bonus, there is an interview with the author only available at the end of the audio version. This book certainly fits into the “historical fiction” genre, but it’s also a fantastic read for mystery fans. If you enjoyed any of Ruta Sepetys’ novels, specifically Between Shades of Gray or Salt to the Sea, Hesse’s, Girl in the Blue Coat is for you.

 

Isn’t the cover a beaut?

 

Hesse’s main character, Hanneke, isn’t Jewish, but the war has left her a ghost of her former playful self anyway. She mourns the death of her first love, Bas, who was killed in battle, as she delivers black market items, like coffee and cigarettes, to people in Amsterdam who can still afford these luxuries. While going through her usual daily motions, Hanneke stops at the home of the elderly Mrs. Janssen. The old woman makes an usual request of Hanneke: to help locate a young Jewish girl named Mirjam who mysteriously vanished from a secret hiding place in Mrs. Janssen’s house. Hanneke reluctantly begins to search for Mirjam, knowing the risk to her own life if she questions the wrong people. Almost immediately, Hanneke is thrown into the underground Resistance Movement led by Bas’ brother, and she realizes her mission to save one girl pales in comparison to their efforts to save thousands.

Twists and turns abound in this book, and you’ll ask yourself again and again, “Why would Mirjam do that?” You’ll sympathize with Hanneke, too, who is hesitant to help because of the loss she has already suffered. Her search for Mirjam forces her to address her true character and whether she has the bravery she so admired in Bas.

Typewriters and Imperfection

I thoroughly enjoyed the author interview at the end of the audiobook. In it, Monica Hesse speaks about her desire to write about relationships– specifically friendships– during the war. One such relationship central to the novel is the friendship between Mirjam and her best friend Amalia. The two girls write notes to one another and fold them into stars in order to prevent prying eyes from reading their secrets. I immediately latched onto this idea for my plot driven experience. This book is so overwhelmingly sad, and in response to reading it, I wanted to share happiness and appreciation with some of my own friends.

The first thing I did was pull out my old Remington Portable typewriter from storage. I was inspired to buy this relic on eBay after viewing an episode of CBS Sunday Morning a few years ago which I highly recommend you watch here. In the episode, a high school English teacher speaks about using typewriters with his students. He says that his students use “more craft” when composing with a typewriter. And one of the students says she feels more like a “real writer” when she uses a typewriter. I identify with both of these statements. I feel like I am my truest self when I write with a typewriter because I can’t go back and second guess what I have written. My friends definitely deserved to read letters written from my unedited heart.

 

Thanks, eBay!

The other reason I chose to write my letters with a typewriter is because I knew I would make mistakes. You read that correctly. I knew I wasn’t going to write a flawless letter to any of my friends, and I promised myself I wouldn’t use whiteout to correct any of my errors. I explained in my letters that I, like the letters I wrote, am far from perfect. I expressed gratitude that my friends love me despite my flaws; therefore, a typewriter is the perfect tool to use to honor a friend who accepts you, “warts” and all.

Next, I scoured the web for instructions on how to fold paper into a star pattern. I messed up pretty royally on my first attempts, but I continued to tell myself that this whole experience was a lesson in accepting my imperfections. It was hard, folks. I strive for precision most of the time, and I really had to force myself not to redo everything I botched.

Perfectly imperfect.

I’m preparing to mail my letters tomorrow, and I have a happy heart knowing some of my favorite people will receive notes I carefully crafted on a typewriter. As Monica Hesse reminds us in Girl in the Blue Coat, we can choose to do good or evil in this world. I choose good.

Next week, I’ll write about Goodbye Days by Jeff Zenter, the heart-breaking book that inspired this blog.

Thanks for reading,
~Kelly