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MOTHER TONGUE by Karen Stephen
New cover 10.20 Finalin the Kindle (English) version
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The RELEASE DATE is December 6, 2014
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loaded with romantic and thriller elements!



Amazed by NY Times 1882 story

llewellyn J MorseI was browsing for information about my greatgrandfather, Capt. Samuel Veazie, and his ship, the Llewellyn J. Morse, and came across a true story of murder and suicide that concerned the prior Capt. of that historic ship (which starred in the role of Old Ironsides in the silent film of 1926). So amazing to see details about both Capt. Ames and his wife (the ship being named after her father, a member of the Maine legislature). I have posted the verbatim account from the NY Times of May 10, 1882 as a page on my author website.

I absolutely loved the level of detail in the article, the ship’s cargo of sugar and hemp, the description of Mrs. Ames as “one of the loveliest women in Maine”, the location of the pistol-shots, the “north” and “south” positions of the bodies in the bed. As a psychologist, I was fascinated with a possible cause for Capt. Ames “insane” behavior. The article mentions a liver disorder and sudden alarming symptoms of mental aberration. Could it have been end stage alcoholism with delirium tremons that drove him to his last desperate act? Journalism at this personal, detailed level, so common in Victorian days, no longer exists.

DSC02326Regardless, from what I’ve learned about my family history, my greatgrandfather probably become Captain of the Llewellyn J. Morse immediately after Capt. Ames’ untimely demise. I wonder if the crew, having been abandoned by their former Captain in the Philippine Islands, were fearful that yet another quite mad Down Easterner had taken the helm? This is a photo of him next to one of his wife Zilpha plus a photo of the ship and their marriage license. All on the wall of the home he built on the island of Islesboro in the middle of Penobscot Bay in Maine. Memorabilia from his many sea journey’s fill the home, now owned by one of my cousins.

My love affair with begonias

My love affair with double begonias (probably not their official name but then again I can’t claim even a pale green thumb) began as a child, admiring my mother’s array of these colorful, effusive blooms on our back patio in Southern California. Her magenta fuchias suspended like a troupe of dancing ballerinas ran a close second. Both flourished in the fog drenched atmosphere of La Jolla in the 1950s.

2014-07-03 15.50.532014-07-03 15.48.54







So I’ve tempted the fates, risking that my plant-killing 2014-07-03 15.48.44tendencies could bring them all to a sudden and ignominious end and planted three of the tender blossoms on my balcony. I even laid one recently deceased bloom to rest in an abalone shell2014-07-03 15.49.42



Fortunately there are two marvelous gardens that I have visited where begonias and all other flora thrive. The first is the Mae E. Lauer Display House at the Mendocino Coast Botantical Gardens.DSC00871 I could take up residence there in a heartbeat, a potter’s bench my bed.

Karen Coast GardensMy photos from a 2008 visit highlight not only the begonias but the haunting beauty of the rest of the gardens which meander down to a spectacular view of the pounding surf of the Pacific that marks theOcean Northern California coast.










DSC00872The other begonia paradise is, of course, the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada.DSC00873DSC00871DSC00910 So if you’re in the neighborhood when I take my last breath, ask my family to surround my casket with mounds of begonia blooms. I like the orange ones the best!

Sam’s Anchor Cafe ~ Tiburon ~ 1963 and 51 years later

Sams 1963

Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon in 1963

2014-03-07 14.05.12A typical Sunday morning at Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon, CA in 1963 was marked by hard drinking by rowdy college and twenty-something crowd.

In 2014 on a Sunday, you find families filling the deck and enjoying the great view across San Francisco Bay to the City.


Mary Lou 1963

1963. My best friend from childhood. A flock of empty Ramos Fizz glasses (hey…don’t the raw eggs in them count as breakfast!)

Karen 1963

This photo was taken in La Jolla but that’s me in 1963.

We were best friends from the 4th grade on and in 1963 roommates in an off-campus apartment at UC Berkeley. Every Sunday morning we headed off to Sam’s with a couple of friends in the back seat of my Morris Minor and downed more Ramos fizzes than was prudent.

Amazing that we survived. Must have had more than one guardian angel looking over us. No one gave a thought to driving under the influence. Figured no harm could come our way if we were back on the road by one p.m. What can I say? We were both nineteen and stupid. All our friends drank with the help of the ubiquitous fake ID’s available on campus.

2014-03-07 14.04.23So here we are in March of 2014. Alive, well, and still best friends. I went on to a Ph.D., a 40-year career as a therapist, a union leader, the mother of two, grandmother of four, and, of course an author. My BBF went on to a fabulous career in catering, head of special events at the San Diego Convention center, a leadership position in the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), and also a mother of two and grandmother of two. We turned into church-going, upstanding members of the community. This is a reverse cautionary tale for mothers who are worried what their college-aged children are up to, that they’ll never amount to anything! Of course, we both came to terms later in life with the risks we took around alcohol and we both have experienced the devastating effects of addiction within our own families. So certainly nothing to be flip about! Thank God for the gift of recovery.


Memories of Honfleur


This gallery contains 18 photos.

A dear friend was browsing through my posts and noticed I hadn’t posted on Honfleur, one of his favorite haunts in France. Mine too. Not only because I had a charming visit there in 2009 but because my great-grandfather Captain … Continue reading

Books My Great-Grandfather Read

DSC02326Captain Samuel Veazie (1844-1923) was my paternal great-grandfather, pictured here with his wife Zilpha underneath their marriage certificate on the front entrance wall of the family home he built on Islesboro in the middle of Maine’s Penobscot Bay. The traditional Maine-style home with its attached barn still stands and is being tenderly maintained by one of my cousins.DSC02358

Samuel was the first Captain of the Llewellyn J Morse and sailed it around the seven seas. Later it became part of the Star Fleet of the Alaska Packing Association, bringing canned salmon from Alaska to their dock in the Oakland Estuary.

llewellyn J MorseThis archival photo shows the Llewellyn J. Morse just after it had broken through the ice of the Bering Sea in 1923 (coincidentally the same year Samuel died). In its third incarnation, the ship became a famous film star, playing the “role” of the USS Constitution in the acclaimed 1926 silent film Old Ironsides. A clip of the battle scene from the film is available on YouTube.

DSC02317But the most treasured family artifact, in my view, is the actual book cabinet Capt. Samuel took on each of his many voyages, holding his original collection of classics, history, and the novels of his day.

DSC02318From a Common School Grammar to the works of Racine, from The Scarlett Letter to Lorna Doone, from the Aneid of Virgil to the Man in the Iron Mask, from Don Quixote to the Household Physician.

DSC02319I feel I have come honestly by my love for the sea and my love of books and am so grateful that his legacy has been preserved down through the generations. I hope to have a many successful incarnations as the Llewellyn J Morse!