Bats in the Belfry . . . and the Bedroom

Yesterday I published a link to an NPR article about bats ( I also wrote I had not realized the trouble we really were in when we lived in a log cabin in the woods in New Hampshire.

The Bat House

Here are two related excerpts from the chapter “Pollyanna-ville” in my memoir, A Movable Marriage.

“Another swoop, another scream, and I was in the bedroom with the door closed. The problem with the bedroom, however, was the door would not latch. How could I rest thinking the bat might come in there, too? In a flash I envisioned a dreadful scene. I would be sleeping—fitfully, no doubt—and a bat would become tangled in my hair.”


“When (the Bat Man) did arrive, the first exciting news was, he estimated we had as many as eighty of the critters hanging around above us in the center rafter.”

Now here’s an excerpt from the NPR piece:

“Public health officials say that another human rabies death back in 2011 involved similar missed opportunities. In that case, a South Carolina woman woke up to a bat in her bedroom and shook it out of curtains through an open window. She believed she’d had no direct contact with the bat, and did not seek medical attention.”

Yet she later died. Talk about counting our blessings!

We have bats here in Portugal, too. When Keith and I took an intensive course in Portuguese at the University of Coimbra, we learned about those inhabiting the Joanine Library.

The article reports that bats are also in the library of the Palacio Nacional in Mafra, less than ten minutes from where we currently live. We’re not in the rare book business, though, so I feel fairly safe.

Mafra 2

Of course, it’s not over ‘til the bat lady sings.


I Married Adventure

Years ago my sister-in-law gave me a book called I Married Adventure. Tell me something I don’t know, I thought, when I saw the title. I suppose I was going through a bit of a bump in the relationship road with her brother, which, since we normally have an excellent marriage, would mean we were (he was) contemplating another relocation.

I Married Adventure

At the time, I assumed she gave me the book to cast a humorous light on a situation I did not consider humorous in the least. I thanked her and put the book in a stack along with others to read. Soon it was packed in a box, and there it remained. For years.

We finally stopped spinning around the United States, and then moved to Portugal where we continued to move about (three houses in a year and a half). Eventually we had our personal possessions shipped to us from storage in Indiana. One of the biggest challenges was to weed through our books. I sorted them into his, hers, and give away, lined our shelves, and promptly began reading on my Kindle. (Currently there are 77 queued up.)

Just prior to the recent publication of my memoir, A Movable Marriage, I caught the title I Married Adventure on the top shelf in my office. I took the book down and read it from start to finish. I wish I had done so years ago.

The author, Luci Swindoll, spent thirty years in the corporate world as an executive at Mobil Oil Corporation, five years as Executive Vice President at her brother Chuck’s ministry, Insight for Living, and is now a popular author and keynote speaker for Women of Faith.

There are differences between our lives. Ms. Swindoll has never married, while I have; she was raised a Christian, and I came late to that party, as recorded in my first memoir, Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way. One of the items on her bucket list, according to her memoir, is to enter the Iditarod. Count me out. The closest I’m getting to sled dogs and moose at this juncture is this.

Carson and Jackson 2

But there are striking similarities. Our faith, of course. Add to that our innate love of school, music, art, theater, literature, photography, and travel. (Notice I said “travel,” not “relocation.”) As I continued to read, often I felt she was expressing my very thoughts, feelings, desires and concerns.

Her wanderlust is unquenchable, as is my husband’s. Yet her ideal day is mine: up at seven, coffee on the patio, chatting with friends and working on her computer. Baked chicken, broccoli, salad and dessert for lunch while watching Law and Order. (I eat mine watching Rizzoli and Isles or Castle.) Creative activity in the afternoon, more e-mailing, maybe letter writing, before an outing in the neighborhood followed by a light dinner, popcorn and a movie, or a great book. A warm bubble bath and into bed at eleven. Perfect.

I Married Adventure has a subtitle: Looking at Life Through the Lens of Possibility.  I wish I had read her book long ago because I believe it would have shaded my perspective about my husband’s nomadic tendencies. I think I would have been more enthused about everything out there in the world to experience that my tireless husband must see. I finally got there, but it would have happened sooner. And interestingly, over time his appreciation of the pleasures of home has deepened.

To Ms. Swindoll, I say thank you. I will add you can learn a new language, ma’am, at any age. Finally, living in Europe is every bit as marvelous as you think it is. I hope you get to check that one off your list.


I’m happy to report I haven’t moved again since my last post.

There was way too much to do right here at our current home, including launching my memoir, A Movable Marriage, with an event at RG Livreiros Bookstore, and celebrating my husband’s birthday (on the same day).

RG LivreirosGuests at RG Livreiros

To those of you who have already bought AMM, I say thank you. If you haven’t but would like to know more, here’s the direct Amazon link:

On to matters of the moment: this being Monday, it’s bridge lesson day. I break out into a cold sweat at about 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, because I know in exactly one hour I will have to know what my partner is telling me when she bids 1 Spade or 1 Club, which convention or transfer to use, and how to finesse. I freeze and draw a blank, just as I did during final exams in college.

Not content with the many sheets of notes distributed by our instructor, I’ve created a fistful of my own cards. Together they are a daunting package.

Bridge Aids

Confessing my concern to my husband about humiliating myself this afternoon, he, of course, had a solution. “Build a memory palace,” he said.

So I Googled the phrase and came up with this video, featuring Ronnie White:

I’ve decided to give it a try. Right after I read my notes one more time.



Last week we looked at a house to buy. Any thought of purchase here in Portugal is pretty much just that–a thought. The economy is not exactly booming and banks are not excited about extending credit, especially to ex-pats. But you never know. It’s possible to find the right property, an anxious seller, and a lender having a good day. So off we went.

We have seen some unusual places over the years. This one ranked right up there. I had hoped to find a classic Portuguese home, painted white or yellow, with a terracotta roof and window boxes filled with bright red geraniums. Nope.

It was large. At 4,000 square feet, the unfinished structure exceeded the average-sized residence here by a great deal. It sat on a hilltop. It had a view of the ocean. It had a problem.

It looked like a library.

My favorite library is the Athenaeum in Providence, Rhode Island. Stone and pillars outside, hardwood floors and leather armchairs inside, I went there whenever I visited my daughter while she attended Brown University. I love that kind of library.

This was different. Flat, tan, bricks covered any portions of the outside that were not windows or sliding glass doors. I peeked inside expecting to see a security station and metal detector.

There were other problems: the teeny-sized guest bedrooms and baths, an odd floor plan, legal complications about road access. Despite all of this, my husband said he wanted to mull it over.

Mull it over?

Over the years I’ve learned a few things in our movable marriage. I kept quiet, adopting a wait-and-see attitude. The following day my spouse decided not to pursue a purchase.

I haven’t always been so lucky. Here’s an example, in an excerpt from my new book.

“I fought tears when I saw the log cabin on Quebec Road again. The quintessential haunted house, two sinister jack-o’-lantern-shaped eyes squinted eerily at the top. On the next level down, two square “cheeks” of windows on the far sides framed a howling rectangular mouth formed by French doors opening onto what should have been a deck, but which had never been built. Note to self: keep living room patio doors locked at all costs.

On the ground level the main door was a cheap, wooden, windowless affair that opened into the basement. We walked inside and crossed the cement floor, reaching an open-slatted staircase leading upstairs. The main level featured subflooring throughout and a rusted toilet and stained tub in the bathroom. Moving on from House on Haunted Hill to Vertigo, a wobbly wrought-iron spiral staircase led to a tiny landing with no pony wall which opened into a low-ceilinged attic. Additional note to self: do not proceed past main floor.”

In case you think I exaggerate, check out the photo of what came to be known–for good reason–as the Bat House.

The Bat House

We’re staying in our rental, not adding to the tally of our moves. For now.

A Movable Marriage advertisement-01

A Moveable Feast of a Marriage

CNN reports today bookstores are selling out of Ernest Hemingway’s iconic novel about Paris, A Moveable Feast. Buyers are showing support for the city, celebrating its joie de vivre.

The work made an impression on me years ago. Not only do I love the City of Light, but also the very title gave me the name for my book (and this blog). Excerpted from the “Pollyannaville” chapter of A Movable Marriage:

I tightened my woolen robe around me and rubbed my hands together while water heated in the kettle in the compact kitchenette. My eyes strayed to our makeshift shelving. It bore an alarming resemblance to that of my first apartment: plywood boards and cinder block supports. I wandered over to search the books I had kept out from storage. 

Ernest Hemingway caught my eye. He was perfect for my mood, the blunt simplicity of his prose in tune with my stark surroundings. When my coffee was ready, I brought my mug to the table, sat down, and opened A Moveable Feast. That was the defining moment when I gave a name to my past, present, and, I feared, my future: a movable marriage.  

Here’s wishing you a fabulous feast of your own this week. May our Thanksgiving–and every day–be filled with love and gratitude.

Make It a Double…and Hold the Milk

Excerpted from the “L. A. on Skis” chapter of A Movable Marriage:

“The Bad Ass Coffee Company had a back room filled with books to borrow and a comfortable, saggy, couch and arm chairs. Each morning Sara sat at the counter eating a toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese, doing The New York Times crossword puzzle in ink, no errors. Dave, outside on the porch overlooking Park Avenue, discussed venture capital with Keith. Me? I sipped black coffee and scanned stacks of skinny tank tops and T-shirts for marked-down items.”

Uh oh. Black coffee? Could I be a psychopath?

If you read the article, you know it’s more about bitter taste than coffee per se. Whew.

I’m in good company, anyway. Chef Graham Elliott is quoted as saying, “I’m a traditionalist, so for me, black coffee is cool.”

Bring on the Starbucks.

Starbucks Collection