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Today is my birthday. There it’s out in the open. Another year older but not necessarily wiser. And when my family asked me what I wanted to do today my mind conjured up a picture of me lying in a hammock beneath a shady tree—reading.  Although I’m a writer, or maybe because of it, I find that with life such as it is now (mine anyway) there is rarely any left-over time to read—just for fun. Just for entertainment. Just to escape.

But I can’t complain. My wonderful clan treated me to  lunch, (my son gave my old Land Rover a badly overdue oil change) and my 11 year old daughter patiently tried to teach me how
to play a Sherlock Holmes versus Jack-The-Ripper game on Xbox. Even Gus-the Newfoundland gave me a present by letting me sleep in, rather than hike to the beach at the crack of dawn.

So, did I get to read?…sort of. At one point in my busy birthday I grabbed a book that has been sitting patiently on the dusty shelf for some time and disappeared into a room of the house little frequented by my family—the laundry room. Now don’t sneer, it’s a great place to find real peace and quiet (if you ignore the hamper.) So maybe it’s not exactly a hammock in a leafy glen, but at least it’s quiet.

And what did I read?  Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life by Sandra Beasley.  And a great read it was too!  Ifyou suffer from any type of food allergy this book gives you a generous dose of hope—and makes you laugh while you’re receiving it. Beasley takes a pragmatic approach to the topic by sharing her experiences in living
with numerous, potentially deadly allergies.  Both moving and downright hilarious at times, the author touches all the bases. I recommend reading it if you, or someone you love has food allergies—or if you’re like me and simply allergic to birthdays.

“Till next time….remember, before you criticize a man—walk a mile in his shoes, then when you criticize him you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have his shoes..!         Fantastically yours,  LC

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This week’s “peek” into the world of NOVEMBER IN SALEM is a look at old Salem Village.  Although it’s now called Danvers, the original site of the Salem Witch Trials has not been forgotten by many in this coastal Massachusetts city.  Modern day Danvers is a bustling place, and the old Danvers State Hospital (the basis for the asylum in my novel) has been partially demolished and remodeled into a luxury condominium complex

But it was not always so scenic. The original hospital once sat on over 500 acres. It was built in the late 19th century as a place for those with “mental afflictions” to spend their days in a beautiful and peaceful setting. But as sometimes happens, over the years the asylum became a repository for the poor and indigent. Family members who no longer could care for, or who wanted nothing more to do with that member of the family who was “odd,” placed them into the state-run facility to be forgotten. In fact, there were so many “forgotten” that the patient population ceased to exit. They lost their identity and became simply an assigned number. It is easier to dismiss a number. No need to show mercy to a statistic on a spreadsheet. And the population of Danvers Hospital remained thus even after death. Behind the great buildings, far back into the wooded grounds there lay oddly shaped markers with numbers on them. Hundreds of them. They are the only reminder of those whose lives held so little meaning they were buried in graves behind the hospital like so much refuse.  The asylum  closed in 1992 and for more than two decades the moody old buildings sat grinding their bones as vandals and urban explorers crawled through their veins and underground labyrinths.  It was to this that I was drawn. The grim old buildings, the spacious grounds, once so carefully tended–now overgrown with weeds. And the lonely graves sitting on the windswept hill. The Hill of Hathorne. The hill that once witnessed the hanging of more than 17 people accused of witchcraft in 1692.  The ghosts of all of those who linger –  watching and waiting.

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