Ruthie Maslin

Ruthie Maslin, Director Madison County Public Library

When I searched for "rash" this week in the Madison County Public Library catalog, I actually had a couple of motives.

For one, I was looking for a "summery" topic for my column. But second, and perhaps most pressing for me personally, was my need to learn more about the poison ivy or poison oak I apparently got into over the weekend while I was clearing my fence row.

I have never been allergic to either of those before, so there I was, blithely weed-eating away, stems and leaves flying. I had on long sleeves, safety glasses, and a hat, but no gloves or face mask. A neighbor passing by warned me -- "be careful, there."

"Don't worry -- I'm not allergic!" I confidently replied. After 2 and a half hours of clipping and snipping and clean-up, I cheerfully surveyed my completed work, put up all my tools, and went inside to cool down and watch a couple episodes of my new favorite mystery series, "Murdoch Mysteries" (more about that later).

The next day, I enjoyed Father's Day festivities with the fam -- no problem.

But Sunday night, a little spot appeared on my chin. By midday Monday, it had spread down my neck. Day by day, it got worse and worse. As I sit here writing right now, one eye is almost swollen shut.

Turns out, after all these years, I am now officially allergic.

A couple of friends suggested vinegar as a home remedy, which helped. And apparently I'm not the only one suffering, because I saw a Facebook post just this morning suggesting use of the common plantain, which I had always taken as a rather pretty weed in the yard, as a tried and true home remedy to ease the itches of summer. According to the post, steeping in the bath with some of the leaves eases the discomfort of minor skin irritations.

So my search for "rash" returned first a book by Madison County author and committed library service champion, Dr. Stuart Tobin. His 2013 memoir, Rash Decisions and Growth Experiences, contains some wonderful accounts of his decades of work as a dermatologist here in Richmond. It's available in both Richmond and Berea.

That title was followed by a series of novels by an author new to me, Ron Rash. His poetry, short stories, and novels have all won major awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.

His novels Above the Waterfall and Saints at the River, both set in contemporary Appalachia, looked so compelling that I immediately added them to my summer reading list. They are available for checkout in a variety of formats with your MCPL card.

And while we're on the topic of summer reading lists, I want to encourage you to sign up for Summer Reading at the library. The program runs through the end of July, and it is easy and fun for all ages. You can even sign up online! Once you sign up, just read away. There are cards for you to track the amount of time you read, and each completed card that is turned in to the library by the end of July gets you a chance in the drawing for our awesome gift card prize drawings at the end of the program.

I'm working on my own Summer Reading card, and since I had to drive to Louisville for a training this week, I decided it would be a great time to enjoy a good audiobook. I love downloading audiobooks from one of MCPL's digital services, OverDrive (KY Libraries Unbound) and RB Digital. And since I finally figured out how to Bluetooth my phone to my car, I can listen to them in stereoscopic wonder through the speakers in my car!

For this trip, I went with a tried and true favorite author of mine, Fannie Flagg. I love Flagg's novels because at the heart of each one is just a really good story. And as you probably know by now, I am a sucker for a good story. The book I downloaded with my library card -- The Whole Town's Talking -- did not disappoint.

It's a love story that is so sweet it made my toes curl -- Swedish immigrants Lordor Nordstrom and his mail order bride Katrina raise their own family in the growing town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, around the turn of the 20th century. But in true Fannie Flagg style, there is always more to the story than meets the eye. It's available in print in Richmond and Berea, and eBook and eAudio formats through KY Libraries Unbound.

Since rain is predicted for the foreseeable future, I think I'll give weed eating a break this weekend and take in a few good books. And if you are interested in finding out more about Murdoch Mysteries, check out this week's book list. I hope to see you soon at the library!

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