Monthly Archives: September 2014

How to fold a fitted sheet: a step-by-step NEVER FAIL guide

We’ve all seen those videos on social media with instructions on how to fold a fitted sheet. I don’t know why some folks have a problem with this. This is how I do it, and I end up seeing a perfectly folded sheet on my shelves EVERY SINGLE TIME:



fittedsheet step 1










fittedsheet step 2












fittedsheet step 4










fittedsheet step 5










fittedsheet step 6









STEP SIX: I don’t know about you, but I see a perfectly folded sheet on the shelf now….

fittedsheet step 7







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The Vacuum: Apologies, or not, to Dr. Seuss

I do not like you, vac-u-um.

I do not like your noisy vroom.

I do not like your massive weight

I do not like your awkward gait.


Would you like a canister?

I would not like a canister

I would like to banish ‘er

I would not like a canister

I’d send it to a planet, grr….


Would you like an upright, then?

I would not like an upright, when

It falls and rocks my cleaning zen

I would not like an upright, then.


Would you like a Dyson, Shark?

I would not like them, bub, I snark.

I would not like Hoover, Eur-EE-ka

They’re all the same and make me shrieka.


I do not like you, vac-u-um

I do not like your noisy vroom.

Men can send each other to the moon,

But can’t make a lightweight, easy-to-use, not-falling-over-and-smacking-you-on-the-legs, long-corded, quiet, powerful, flexible


What’s with that?

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Copy editor’s tip: learn about open meeting laws

Politics is usually a subject most romance writers avoid, for good reason. Their main story focus is on the hero and heroine’s relationship, and political topics can be a turnoff to the reading audience, pushing away the agreeable glow that comes with romance stories and inserting disagreement instead.FreeSpeech

Nonetheless, many stories do contain peripheral mentions of political happenings–not big campaigns on the national level or partisan references, but, rather, the ordinary goings-on of municipal life. School board meetings, town meetings, town council meetings — any public board, appointed or elected, can be included in a story, sometimes with a subplot hanging on the outcome of such meetings.

For writers including these events in their stories, here’s a tip: Don’t assume these meetings can be run like an informal get-together. Rules govern them. Some in your reading audience are sure to know them, maybe from experience. Be careful not to fall into the Gilmore Girls trap. That sweet and funny TV series regularly featured town meeting scenes (find some on YouTube), and they were often freewheeling, quirky and odd with an ad hoc nature to them. While freewheeling, quirky and odd can be used to describe many municipal meetings, some basic guidelines apply to them, and you should familiarize yourself with these rules before including public meetings in your story, especially if a plot point hinges on a public board’s decision. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Public meetings almost always, if not always, have to be “warned.” That is, there has to be a special effort made to alert citizens to the upcoming meeting, its date, time and place, and what will be on the agenda. Public board meetings can’t be called quickly, at the whim of the board’s members, and without adequate notice. Just do an internet search of “open meeting laws” for the state in which your story is set. These laws often provide the amount of time that must be given from “warning” to meeting, for example (as little as 24 hours, or as much as 72 or longer) and how this time can be shortened under special circumstances. Warnings take the form of website notices, press releases, and even paid advertisements in newspapers. So, if you have a character suddenly finding out that he missed a”special meeting” of the town board, that character’s indignation should be aimed at himself for not paying attention to the board warnings.

Open meeting laws usually specify that meetings are, well, open. That means the public board does its business in public, not in special closed sessions. Votes on budget issues and other important matters are almost always done openly so that the people know how their elected representatives are voting–even if it’s just a voice vote. There are exceptions where closed sessions can be held, but these usually involve individual personnel matters. So, if one of your characters discovers a board has voted on something important and no one was told…well, that’s most likely illegal. Or, again, the character just didn’t stay informed.

Agendas are often set in advance as part of the warning. Don’t have your character show up at a meeting, introducing a topic to be discussed, especially one that requires a vote, without some reference to procedure, no matter how slight. Open meeting laws require the public know what’s going on so those who have an interest or stake in a particular issue can be prepared to offer their opinions fairly. Your hero can’t come to a town meeting and persuade the board members to vote for money to go to a project if his idea hadn’t been included on the agenda to begin with. He can speak, sure–most public board meetings have opportunities for citizens to address the board (in the Vermont city in which I used to live, this was called “going outside the rail” because a railing separated the aldermen from the public seating). But chances are if action is required, another meeting or more will be necessary before that action is approved — to give any opponents a chance to weigh in. Oh, and on the subject of who can speak at a public meeting, don’t assume a mayor can waltz in and talk. They have to get their items on the agenda, too.

Town and city boards have different names for their members. As I mentioned above, the Vermont city board where I used to live was called the Board of Aldermen. In some towns, board members are called “commissioners.” Sometimes, they’re called “selectmen.” Sometimes “councilmen” or “council members.” If you decide to use a specific term, find out what it is for that locale.

Most boards meet on a regular schedule, but New England “town meetings” are annual events in March. The free-for-all atmosphere of the Gilmores’ Stars Hollow meetings probably most aptly applies to the annual March town meetings in states like Vermont where local citizens gather to discuss and vote on important issues. Even so, meeting rules still apply, which leads me to my final tip:

Robert’s Rules of Order is a good source. If you must include details of any public meeting in your story because of important plot points, take a peek at Robert’s Rules of Order for how public meetings are usually conducted. If, say, your hero does manage to get his item on the agenda for a vote, a board member–alderman, selectman, commissioner, etc.–will probably have to make a motion to introduce it, that motion will have to be seconded, and then discussion ensues until the vote is called (usually by another motion).

This might seem like a lot of research for, perhaps, a scant reference to a public meeting in your novel. But, take heart: learning about these issues will mean you’re a better-informed citizen, a worthy goal for writer and nonwriter alike!

Libby Sternberg is a novelist and freelance copy editor.

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BOOK Review: THE NUN’S STORY by Kathryn Hulme

Whenever the movie version of The Nun’s Story comes on TCM, I end up transfixed, watching until the end, regardless what else I’d planned on doing during those hours. The film, starring Audrey Hepburn as Sister Luke, is beautifully shot and a magnificent piece of storytelling.

So is the book upon which it was based, which I reread recently. Published in 1956, the novel reads like autobiography, the tale of Gabrielle van der Mal, a Belgian nurse, daughter of an esteemed doctor, who enters the convent in 1927, desirous to serve God as a missionary sister in the Congo. The tale follows her early life as a postulant and novice and her continual struggle with obedience, a battle which she cannot win, ultimately choosing to leave the sisterhood at the end of World War II, when seething hatred for the Germans, who killed her father, provides the impetus for self-examination that leads her to the lonely door to the world again.

The Nun’s Story fascinates on many levels, one of which is the rich detail of convent life, the descriptions of the many silent humblings sisters embrace–everything from learning to lift the back of their habits when descending stairs, so as not to wear out the hems, to how to close doors silently and keep one’s keys from jangling. All of these actions focus on obedience to the will of God through the Rule of the convent. Simple actions, to be sure, but fraught with difficulty for a smart and eager intellect. Sister Luke’s focus from the outset is on the care of her patients, and she chafes at and even forgets rules that prevent her from ministering to their needs as fulsomely as she desires. Intellectually and medically gifted, she excels in her studies, but instead of being rewarded for her achievements, she is asked to humble herself by deliberately failing an important exam, so a less confident sister could surpass her. Mightily wrestling with this request, she cannot honor it in good conscience. She passes, but doesn’t earn the trip to the Congo she’d craved. Instead, she’s sent to nurse at an asylum.

After her asylum assignment, however, she finally wins the right to serve as a missionary sister. For many years, she nurses in the Congo, and it is during this time, under a loving Superior and a cantankerous surgeon, she feels closest to God and most in sync with her sisterhood. Nonetheless, she constantly must say “mea culpas” in front of her convent for her sins against the Rule, as nursing needs push even the thought of them from her head during exigent cases. She agonizes over these lapses, and the reader feels acutely her inner fight:

How many times in the name of obedience and for its sake alone had she asked the little permissions which she dared not even hint at to the doctor each time she slipped away, because she knew how completely meaningless, possibly slavelike, they would seem in the eyes of the world? How many times? So often that now it no longer irked what was left of her pride to ask….May I break my sleep tonight, ma Mere, and visit Monsier Diderot, who is going to die? May I skip a meal in penance for my sins of omission? Besides, I mean, doing the penance you gave me in the culpa?

She listened to her interior monologue as if she were in the world and reading a nun’s mind. It was pitiful and astonishing to note the things a nun could agonize over. You’d think their Creator had said to them, This is a way of being that must not perish from this earth and you and your sisters are the keepers of it pro tem, each one of one small part of it according to her lights and strengths.

While her obedience lags, her communion with her sisters soars. They each act individually yet in the same way, coming to the same conclusions about natives wearing fetishes, for example, after a sister is killed (they all urge the natives to keep wearing them, to show them their lack of value–a conclusion they reach individually, yet as one).

When she eventually must transport a case back to Belgium, war prevents a return to her beloved Congo, and the struggle with obedience consumes her spirit. She decides to leave.

The Nun’s Story, in both movie and book form, is great storytelling, but not just because it allows readers to peek inside an old convent, surreptitiously viewing the lives of nuns. Sister Luke’s inner conflict is universal. It is, simply, the struggle to be good, to ascertain what God wants of us, what the universe is saying to us, where we are most needed and how to use our talents to maximum effect even in the smallest of ways. How to be thoughtful and loving every second of a day.

A little research revealed that Kathryn Hulme, the author, was not a nun herself, but met a former sister, Marie Louise Habets, after World War II when they were both doing work with refugees. They stayed together the rest of their lives. When Hulme died, she left her literary estate to Habets, and upon her death, she gave the rights to several sisters and family members. Because of the confusion of who really owns the rights, The Nun’s Story has not been reprinted. This is a tremendous shame as it is a story for all ages.


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