Monday, July 9, 2012


Friendly Toast

When I was a kid, I had a passion for ice skating.
During our earliest years in Brooklyn, my sister Susie and I would soap up the empty bathtub with Ivory and skate until we'd fall and clunk our heads. This happened so many times that the management took away our soap and closed our rink permanently.
I solved this issue by rising early one Sunday morning and cracking a dozen eggs on the kitchen floor.
Susie and I were having a grand time skating until crash landings summoned a sleepy father.  He started yelling about our breakfast, which was now broken yolk and eggshells on the floor.
My son was two when developed a passion for hockey. Wearing his duck bicycle helmet strapped about his chin, Nick would skate in socks across the kitchen linoleum and smack the orange plastic puck into the oven. His slap shot was so good that my husband would yell, “Put the biscuit in the basket!” from the dining room. Whenever we would set foot on the black-and-white linoleum, Nick would squeak, “Get off the ice!!”
The vacuum cleaner was the zamboni. This went on for years.
When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I had a dream.
In the dream, I was visiting a young friend who had made his home in a junkyard. There were all sorts of cars rusted and piled, one on top of another, in a huge field. I was lamenting that "my friend" could not see the treasure that was under this pile of rubbish. The junkyard was built on top of an ice skating rink. “You love skating!” I exclaimed. "Can’t you see it? It is right beneath your feet! All you have to do is clear out all these cars!” What I was saying to my dream self was:  You must clear out the detritus of your life -- the debris, the clutter, the rusted hunks of junk -- and uncover what is already here waiting for you; your dreams lie just beneath your feet.
There are many times in a person’s life when, at a tender age, they have the opportunity to share who they are with the world. That courage can sometimes lead to broken dreams smashed on the kitchen floor.
"I want to be a writer," I told my Dad, when I was 12. "Writers are weird," he replied. (I was discouraged; now, I consider myself well the weird department!)
“I want to be a Buddhist monk,” my husband told the nuns at his school. Future horse trainer is what they put under his yearbook photo.
My son declared that he wanted to be a t-shirt designer when he grew up. “You can do better than that,” he was told. Crush. (Hey, Ralph Lauren started out designing ties.)
In our house, we now have a phrase. When someone criticizes someone else's ideas without listening to them, we yell, "Stop squashing my dreams!"
Growing up, I never told anyone my deep, dark secret: I wanted to be an entertainer -- a 1930s showgirl, in black and white, on Broadway. So what if couldn't sing on key and I was born in the wrong decade? Putting on a show – helping people through hard times using art, music, beauty, dance, and teamwork --  still speaks to me. The Show now equals books. The 1930s/Depression = preadolescence.

While clearing out what not longer serves us, we must identify and toss the mental chatter and old, out-dated messages about who we are and what is meaningful and valuable.


Junk the rusted Mustang, sell the Sunfish, donate your old shoes. Dump the broken records of other peoples’ expectations. Then, the ice will be clear for happy.


-- Amy C. Spaulding, Publisher,
Purpose may point you in the right direction but it’s passion that propels you.”
– Travis McAshan, Entrepreneur and Web Strategist

If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”
– Benjamin Franklin, American Statesman

Monday, April 30, 2012

Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right

5 baby birds were born in the little nest on my porch. They are growing by leaps and bounds and are now crowding the nest. Soon they will take their first flight. Who will be first? The next generation of songbirds is about to take wing.

Here is a new blog post by author Maureen Wartski called "Wings" -- in celebration of the season:

Ms. Wartski's middle grade novel Yuri's Brush with Magic (ages 9-12) is available from The Regulator Bookstore and on

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Palace Within

I was driving to pick up dog food at Costco, when I starting thinking about this blog post. My thoughts drifted to the parquet floors of Peterhoff, the summer home of the tsars.

I had been on a study abroad program to Leningrad. We had visited the Bolshoi Ballet; the Hermitage; the place where Pushkin had studied. We had inspected Mon Plaisir, where royals would lunch while enjoying spectacular views of the Gulf of Finland. (Good for the digestion.) After each course, the royal table would disappear into floor below, where servants would remove dishes and plate the next course. Then, whoosh, the table would rise again to waiting guests with forks poised.

It was all lovely. Really. Palaces, gardens, fountains, grand halls, amber brooches, malachite urns. Yes, there were diamond-encrusted clocks, delicate jeweled birds in golden cages, flattering oils, voluptuous silks, overstuffed beds. And there was I, traipsing through the Summer Palace in clumsy, felt strap-on sandals, when a funny thought entered my head. "Where is MY palace?"

Just days before, we students had visited the Leningrad Blockade Museum. Affixed to a piece of board was the recipe and proportions the bakers of Leningrad had used to make bread while the Germans were busy blockading their city for nearly 3 years. The wartime bread was made, in large part, of sawdust, shoe leather, and other detritus that could be consumed. Until that day, I did not know you could eat shoe leather.

And just miles away -- *snap* -- we found ourselves in this palatial estate, Peterhof -- (it is magnificent, you should really go there: -- where we had to remove our shoes (but thankfully, not eat them), so that we wouldn't scuff the parquet floors.

The timing of this served to tick me off. Why does one girl get to be a princess and one a pauper? Why does one get to walk in slippers in royal gardens and one is born into circumstances where life is spent barefoot -- not in Eden, but in poverty.

I wondered why, why, why. "And where is MY palace?" I asked the museum gods, wagging my finger at the fat little cherubs on the frescoed ceilings.

Granted, I have lived a life of luxury relative to the world's population. I have always had enough to eat. I was educated. I own a home and drive a car. I can afford pets.

But WHY don't I have a palace? I wondered, as I channeled my inner Eloise, the storybook heroine of the Plaza Hotel. I wondered this as I slid the length of the parquet ballroom floor in my government-issued slippers, turning the royal hall of masterpieces into an existential slip and slide. The museum guard chided me in Russian for my lack of decorum.

But before I heard his words, I heard my own. And the voice said: "Build your palace within."

Hmmm. I thought, "Build your palace within. What the heck does that mean?" I was still a teenager who liked pretty things.

As I was walking into Costco today, I passed the pyramid of Whey Protein Powder Shakes, the Jack LaLane Juicers (only $89 dollars!) and past cases with diamond bracelets and Lladro figurines. It was starting to feel just a little too much like a museum... and a slip-and-slide.

The photograph above was taken on the night of Dec. 4, 2010. (The launch of Sleepy Hollow Books and the debut of Maureen Wartski's novel, Yuri's Brush with Magic.) Here is my winter palace: the Regulator Bookstore in Durham, North Carolina. Although it may not be stately or ornate -- you might even call it modest -- it holds a jewel greater than the Tiffany Yellow Diamond. This simple building holds a heart and soul, the vortex of community, within its walls. It is run by a fellow named Tom Campbell and another gentleman named John Valentine; they feed the soul and warm the heart.

Happy Valentine's Day to one and all. May your palace within glow brightly this year.
xoxo Amy

(Photo credit: Caperton Morton Andersson)