Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Old World Murder

Kathleen Ernst’s Old World Murder (Midnight Ink) is a splendid read with all the elements of a good, meaty mystery. An award winning author of children’s books, Ernst has made a successful debut in adult mystery with Old World Murder.

When Chloe Ellefson starts a new job as a collections curator at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum, she finds herself embroiled in a missing artifact, an unexplained death, uncooperative co-workers, and a past she’d like to forget. To confuse the issue, she keeps running into this cop who insists she needs protecting.

Officer Roelke McKenna, all business and efficiency, is drawn to Chloe and, even though he can’t officially be involved in the case, finds himself immersed in the mysterious events which seem to get more complex each day.

Ernst, herself a former professional in the realm of outdoor living history museums, writes with knowledge of the complexities of a curator’s life. Suspense is maintained throughout the book, keeping the reader engrossed in the various story elements.

Old World Murder is the first of a series. It will be fun to follow Chloe Ellefson in The Heirloom Murders as she pursues a career discovering old-world history while working through her own past heartaches.

Old World Murder may be ordered through your favorite bookstore, or For more information about Kathleen Ernst or for an autographed copy of Old World Murder visit

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have a Bright and Safe Christmas

During the holidays, our homes are filled with family and friends, good food and festive decorations. Candles are among our favorite Christmas decorations, and therein lurks danger. Nationally, more than 15,000 residential fires are caused each year by careless or inappropriate use of candles. In fact, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the top four days for fires due to candles.

A few years ago, we attended a lovely holiday dinner party. As we helped ourselves to beautifully prepared food, served buffet style, something caught my eye–a paper decoration had slipped onto a lighted tea candle. I gasped, then hollered “The decorations are on fire!” The situation was quickly under control, but had we all passed through the line and gone to the table to eat, that fire could have been disastrous.

This year, let’s observe candle safety by following these rules:

– Place candles on sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders.

– Ensure that candles are not placed near flammable materials, such as Christmas greens or paper decorations.

– Use lighted candles only in a room with a responsible adult present and awake. Falling asleep is a factor in 12 percent of home fires caused by candles and 26 percent of associated deaths.

– Never use candles in a bedroom. Almost 40 percent of home candle fires begin in the bedroom.

– Keep candles out of reach of young children. Young children and older adults have the highest death rate from candles.

– Never leave burning candles unattended.

Hopefully, everyone knows better than to place lighted candles on a Christmas tree. But be aware that many Christmas fires begin at the tree. Be sure that your Christmas tree lights don’t have worn, broken or frayed cords or loose bulb connections. Always unplug your Christmas tree lights when you leave home or go to bed, and keep your tree moist by watering regularly.

Safe, Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Farewell to American Red Cross DRO’s

As of November, 2010 I have retired from serving as a volunteer on national American Red Cross (ARC) jobs. I’ll no longer be going on those two- to three-week disaster responses several times a year. But I’ll have memories to last a lifetime

Since 1995 I have responded to 41 Disaster Response Operations (DRO) in nineteen states and two American territories (St. Croix and Puerto Rico). Most of the jobs involved helping disaster victims’ initial recovery from floods, hurricanes, earthquake, tornadoes, tropical storms, fires, and the 9/11 acts of terrorism in both Washington, D.C. and New York. A few of the jobs involved working with staffing–helping out in our Nevada regional office with the huge job of staffing these big operations.

When a large disaster occurs, the local American Red Cross chapter responds. It is quickly determined whether they will need help managing the event. Many times, the local volunteers themselves are affected by the disaster and have their hands full working through their own disaster-related problems. In that case, the neighboring chapters respond, then, if needed, nearby states, and from there help comes from volunteers from all over the country, making it a “national” DRO.

Sixteen years ago, my first ARC job was in New Orleans, LA in response to a hurricane that left massive flooding in its wake. At first I worked at a Service Center, interviewing clients to determine their needs. Later, I called on individual clients in the field, in what we call Home Visits, often tramping through mud to get to their homes. Most assistance was in the form of vouchers for food, clothing, and cleaning supplies to help clients get their lives back to normal. In some cases, we helped with housing issues. I served with Client Services for several years, gradually rising in experience and responsibilities.

Later, my first job as Service Center Manager was in 2001 in Houston, TX where I managed about 150 people who responded to Tropical Storm Allison, which caused horrendous flood damage.

My administrative duties working at the headquarters of a Disaster Response Operation began with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. For years I’d never wanted to work at headquarters–I wanted to be where the action was. But much to my surprise, I loved working at headquarters. For one thing, it was such a pleasure working with people who were true professionals in their field–whether it be the logistics of getting huge trucks with supplies to where they needed to go, or with mass care, the people responsible for feeding and lodging hundreds, perhaps thousands of disaster victims.

At DRO headquarters, I continued to work with Client Services, but now my job consisted of working with managers of Client Casework, Mental Health, Health Services and Safe & Well, those folks who help reunite families scattered after a disaster.

Vivid memories include people expressing their tearful gratitude that someone cared enough about their problems to travel across the country to help. My time in New York for 9/11 is indelibly etched in my mind–the devastation itself, the brave firemen, police and other service organizations who gave so much. And Hurricane Katrina–I’ve seen a lot of mass destruction, but nothing to compare with Katrina’s unending miles of destroyed homes, businesses and dreams. The hardships endured are hard to fathom and heartbreaking to witness. In 2007 I saw the entire town of Greenville, Kansas after it had been ripped away by a tornado. The list goes on and on–I’m so thankful I could be a part of the recovery process and that I could make a difference.

My husband Bruce and I continue to be active with the local Red Cross. It’s a wonderful organization with whom we are proud to serve. I have an American Red Cross tee-shirt with a message I love: Help Can’t Wait. I’m grateful to be a part of the spirit and dedication of this fine humanitarian organization

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review: An Absence So Great by Jane Kirkpatrick

Eighteen year-old Jessie Gaebele is making her way in a world obsessed with rigid propriety. Even at her young age, she’s made mistakes, has committed acts for which she must atone. Although she longs for her family, she remains miles away, working in her life’s vocation, photography.

The story weaves the lives of Jessie Gaebele and the married Fred Bauer, a former employer and the person responsible for her self-imposed exile. Jessie strives to overcome the obstacles of a woman achieving a business of her own in a man’s profession, all the while fighting the demon of forbidden love and an all-consuming longing for what can never be.

Jane Kirkpatrick breathes life into her characters, guiding the reader into another world, another time. In An Absence So Great and its prequel, A Flickering Light, Kirkpatrick draws on her own ancestry, skillfully blending actual details with creative situations resulting in a unique perspective of time and place.

Throughout the book, Kirkpatrick features actual historical photographs with vivid descriptions of the subjects and minute details of the photography process. These actual images bring even more awareness of early 19th century America.

I very much enjoyed yet another Jane Kirkpatrick novel. Her writing embodies the human spirit, its weaknesses, its power to overcome and its conquering faith. She is a superb storyteller.

For more information about the author and to sign up for her newsletter Story Sparks, visit