August 31, 2014

  • END OF SUMMER AND BEGINNING OF AUTUMN

           

     

    Here we are at the end of August, 2014!   Where DID the time go?  It seems like it was just a few days ago that the snow finally melted and the grass was turning green  We waited so long for the trees to leaf out and now those very same leaves are turning color and starting to fall into the yard.

    Today would have been my husband’s 70th birthday!  What a milestone that would have been.  I can’t believe that he isn’t here to celebrate it.  I had trouble sleeping last night and woke up this morning with the song HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY in my head.    So I turned to SIMPLE  ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach to see what she had to say about this date.

    Interestingly enough, her essay is about the times when your creativeness has run dry and you don’t have enough energy to feel like you can do it again.

    “One must also accept that one has “uncreative” moments.  The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass.  One must have the courage to feel empty and discouraged.” ~ ETTY HILLESUM

    “….One morning you will wake up, put the coffee on, begin to prime the well to continue in the re-creation of your authentic life, only to discover that the well has run dry.  It might be disconcerting to end this month on a downbeat, but accepting uncreative days as part of the creative cycle is critical to your serenity.  Uncreative days are real life.”

    Sarah Ban Breathnach goes on to say …”Once in the middle of a creative drought, I sat in New York with my agent and confessed that for months I had been unable to dream.  I couldn’t fantasize, visualize or even make a wish.  Since I’m Irish*…the inability to dream is the emotional equivalent of a chemical imbalance in my soul.” 

    *The comment about being Irish really hit me.  I’m partially Irish too and although I do dream…I usually don’t remember the dreams entirely when I wake up.

    “What should I do?” Sarah asked her agent.   “You don’t do anything.” was the response. Wait it out, accept the period as graciously as you can and get ready for a quantum leap in creativity or consciousness.”

    “This does not mean that you quit.  You still have to go through the motions, keep showing up.  Prepare for the future.  But, defer from making any life-altering creative decisions until you are ready again.  Keep replenishing the well.  Resurrect any old projects that may have fallen into the sinkhole of second thoughts.”  Give them another glance and another chance.”

    .

    Most of my life, September has been my favorite month.   When I was in school, we started back to classes the day after Labor Day.  So, for me, Labor Day and September represented a new start ~ a do-over ~ a chance to do better ~ an opportunity to succeed.  In checking Simple Abundance for September, Sarah Ban Breathnach entitled September 1st as TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF.

    “Since ancient times, September has been viewed as the beginning of the new year, a time for reflection and resolution.Change in the natural world is subtle but relentless; seasons seem to give way gently to one another, even if the monthly motion is so swift we don’t realize it.  But when the leaves are finally turning colors, it’s time for turning over a personal new leaf too.  Time to restore our life.  

    In 1949, Elizabeth Fite wrote “Why do you suppose so many of us waste the autumn?  Why don’t we make the effort that would provide something new in our lives?  What do you want more or less of in your life so that you can love the life you’re leading?  It could be as simple as seeing friends more often, setting aside time for adventures with your children, rekindling romance, taking an hour every day just for yourself, or just taking more walks in the Autumn sunlight.”

    Be open to positive changes.  I can try to do that and so can you.

      Today is a good day ~ even the sunshine smells good.

     

    So, here’s what I have been doing.  I’m still following the Nutrisystem eating plan, even though I have put the next box of food on a delay until October.  I am finishing up the NS food I have and supplementing other foods too.   After being stuck at a 9 lb. loss for several weeks, I lost 3 more lbs as of Friday!  Yay!

    I am volunteering as a Smithsonian Institute Digital transcriber and have been working on various diaries from the late 1800′s and early 1900′s.

    I am still planning on writing another novel in November for the NANO Challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days.  For now, the working title is INDIGO DREAMS.

    And I am planning on reading more books.

    And speaking of books, here is what I read since the last blog.

     

    18144115

    I’ve read previous novels by Jennifer Weiner.  Usually they are light-hearted in my opinion. This one was difficult to read. A young mother who thought she was handling “everything and everyone” finally came to the realization that she was abusing prescription drugs. As the reader learned more about her; it was obvious that she was in denial. Some people, including her husband, tried to talk to her but she got so used to telling lies that she couldn’t “hear” what they were saying. Finally it got bad enough that her husband put her into rehab. Of course, at first she resisted and insisted that she didn’t belong there, she could stop on her own, this wasn’t a problem, she was in pain….all the things that people tell themselves. Although her story didn’t turn out perfectly; there was a happier ending.
    Here’s the book description…
    Allison Weiss got her happy ending: a handsome husband, an adorable daughter, a job she loves, and the big house in the suburbs. But while waiting in the pediatrician’s office, she opens a magazine to a quiz about addiction and starts to wonder: Is a Percocet at the end of the day really different from a glass of wine?  Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class, or if your husband ignores you? She tells herself that the pills help her make it through her days; but what if her increasing drug use, a habit that’s becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all?
    Hailed as “a witty, realistic criticism on the modern age” (Boston Herald), this remarkable story of a woman’s fall into addiction and struggle to find her way back up again is Jennifer Weiner’s most masterful, moving, and celebrated work yet.
    Here’s another reader’s review…
    I have read many books by Weiner so I expected a fluff, funny, beach read. It was not what I got. This novel follows Allison who is a blogger about women/mothers, wife, mother to a five year old, and daughter to a distant mother and a father who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She throws out her back and gets Percocet to help deal with the pain and discovers that it deals with emotional as well as physical pain. As time passes, she finds that she needs more and more pills to maintain her ability to cope with the pressures in her life. Her house of cards eventually comes tumbling down when those around her realize that she is just not herself anymore. Where do you go from here?Although the topic is a serious one, Weiner was able to add some touches of humor. To me, the story seemed realistic. I know that some feel that some of the characters were not well developed but I believe that she really wanted to concentrate more on Allison and her fall. I do think that the book is worthwhile and does a nice job of depicting how your average middle class person can become an addict.

    And I read

    17395590

    I’m glad I read this book about Candy Spelling. She mentioned in it that most people don’t like her or think she is cold and unfeeling. That’s what I thought too until I read the book. She came from an average family but they didn’t show their feelings to each other. She was always criticized by her mother and always felt like the outsider. When she married Aaron Spelling, he was just beginning his road to success. He wanted her by his side all the time. She embraced being a wife and mother and was known as Mrs. Aaron Spelling…not Candy Spelling. She took care of him during his last years of illness and protected his image. Once he was gone, she decided to reinvent herself. She was very good at mixing well with the Hollywood crowd and worked tirelessly for charities and other places in need. She also talks about her relationship with her daughter, Tori. She admits she made mistakes but said all the family did as well. She also dispelled the rumor that Aaron did not leave Tori much money. She said both children got advances from trust accounts over the years. Also all the grandchildren have education funds that will help them in the future.At times I felt she didn’t really understand how tough the world is if you don’t have a lot of money but I think she really works hard to do the right things.

    Here’s the book description…
    After thirty-eight happy years of marriage to influential producer Aaron Spelling, raising two children in Hollywood, and co-managing one of the largest estates in the country (finally selling Spelling Manor, as detailed on her HGTV series, for $85 million), Candy is now adjusting to life on her own—downsizing to a Century City condo. She’s ready to share the most intimate details of her life with Aaron; how his illness caused her to question her identity; and how she’s reinvented herself as an independent woman, businesswoman, and television personality. Along the way, Candy reveals all-new dishy stories including those of Hollywood friends Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Michael Jackson, Janet Leigh, Dean Martin, and Elizabeth Taylor (her lifelong rival over their jewelry).
     Engaging, heartwrenching, and hilarious, Candy at Last shares her story of how family, friends, and her husband’s inspiring advice to “follow your dreams” has made her determined to live life to the fullest.

    And another reader’s review.
    This is the second book by Candy Spelling, her first written about 5 years before. I have not read the first, which may have helped fill in some gaps with this one, but maybe not. In this book, Candy documents a bit of what her childhood was like, her time as a single woman (which was really not very long, she was married at 19 to another many years prior to marrying Aaron Spelling and married Aaron Spelling pretty quickly after that). Each chapter is short and discusses some small event or thoughts on where she is or was in her life. She does address her complicated relationship with her daughter, Tori, but does not make it a main issue addressed, unlike Tori in one of her books. The book is easy reading, like Tori’s books, they are fine for airplane reading or beach reading. Nothing too complicated or heavy.
    Candy addresses her own shyness on several occasions, but she seems anything but shy. She also pats herself on the back for accomplishments that seem less like successes than minor events that weren’t complete failures (as in the stationery store she and a friend owned that lasted for 2 years, her shows on HGTV that ranked higher in the rankings than 3 other channels, like TLC, and a TV show that ran one season on E!). However, if she wants to look on the positive side of things, than who can fault her for that. Perhaps she’s a glass half full kind of person.
    She discusses her husband’s passing and says he had Alzheimer’s, but much of what she describes sounds much more like he had a series of strokes that impaired him. Furthermore, he was never officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as he did not go through the entire battery of tests, so it seems a bit sketchy and disrespectful to people who really do have Alzheimer’s when she explains some of his behavior as attributable to that, such as paranoia,  when her daughter has accused her of having an affair with Aaron’s attorney and having him change the will just prior to his death when he wasn’t well enough to protest. Candy never addresses the alleged affair at all, though she does talk about dating after her husband’s death. Also, not all dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s, but she seems to have convinced herself that is what he had.  She really paints herself as the ever-loving, ever-vigilant martyr of a wife during his decline, while somehow still forcing herself to get out for lunches or Mah Jong games with her friends.
    I was left ambivalent as to her as a person. It is difficult to get a grasp on who she really is rather than the experiences she has had. Overall, this book is light reading- that I’m glad I purchased for 50% off- that allows Candy to applaud herself on her excellent taste, the importance of having a decorator and a gift-wrapping room and what a strong woman she feels she has become. So, best of luck to her as she continues on her path in life.
       

August 23, 2014

  • CUSTOMER SERVICE AND BOOKS….OH MY!!!!

     

    I want to give KUDOS to two companies whose customer service has been excellent for me this week.   I ordered some Christmas gifts from Current Catalog.  I’ve been a customer with them for many, many years.  I’ve never been disappointed with their service.  Anyway, a large box was delivered 3 days ago.  I was home.  The doorbell didn’t ring and I didn’t check the door that day….had no reason.   During the night we had a very heavy rainstorm.  The next morning I opened up the door and found the box….completely soaked through to the point that the cardboard was falling apart.  The two top items were soaked and ruined.  I knew it wasn’t Current Catalog’s fault but I thought I would call to tell them the delivery source they chose had caused a problem for me.  The customer representative apologized and said she would replace the two items at no cost.  They are on their way now.

    The next day I got the notice from NETFLIX that one of the DVDS I had ordered was not available so they were sending the next two DVDS  for another series I am watching.  OK…I got those.  Yesterday I got an e-mail that NETFLIX found a copy of the DVD I wanted in California and they were sending it to me also.  It arrived today!  What great service!

     

    ****

    I also got a notice on Facebook that the Smithsonian Institute was looking for volunteers to type out old diaries and papers.  Their archives are so full that they want to get the information into the computers.  They are asking for people to read the papers and transcribe them online.  Apparently they use 3 or 4 people to transcribe each document and then have other  people to review.  I’ve done it for 2 days and I love it.  It is so interesting.  Currently I am helping with a diary from 1910 in New York City written by a man who is working on patents for some companies.  I haven’t been able to go in sequence since there are other people doing this work too.  But I know I will continue to enjoy it.

    ******

    Smithsonian Looking for Volunteers to Transcribe Historical Documents Digitally

    Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 9.32.13 AMIf you’re a history buff and looking to contribute to the world of education and history, then the Smithsonian is looking for your help. They are looking for digital volunteers to help transcribe their repository of historical documents – journals, letters, and more. Visit theSmithsonian’s Transcription Center and sign up as a volunteer. You can contribute to a larger work (transcribing a volume or a book) or work on smaller assignments, such as a letter or a note.

    This a great opportunity to contribute to preserving our heritage electronically and helping to provide broader access of this content to the public.

     

     

     

    AND IN OTHER NEWS…..

         Well ~ actually it is nearly the  END OF AUGUST!   Hard to believe but summer is nearly over.  Unless we get a very long Indian (Indiana) summer that lasts through September.  About now, everyone is getting tired of gardening.  The weeds are starting to take over the plants.  I have a few plants/bulbs coming next month to plant for next year.  Then I think I am done because I am running out of space ~ plus the critters in my yard are eating a lot of the flowers again!*

     

        During these past 10 months of being a widow ~ I have had several “firsts” to get through….the holidays, my birthday, anniversary and so on.  Next week is my husband’s 70′s birthday and then in October is the first anniversary of his death.   I didn’t go on any trips this year and probably will hesitate to do that because of my two cats.  I don’t want them to be completely alone for a long period of time yet.

    It is still hard to believe my husband is really gone.  I still think I hear him in the house at times ~ or think I need to rush home to fix dinner or do something with him.  I was telling some friends last night that I don’t really mind being alone.  In fact, there are times that I really enjoy it.  But there are also times I wish he was here to fix something that would be so simple for him or get something high down for me.  I will have to drag a ladder upstairs to get my bedroom curtains down for example and they are so dirty!

    ++++

    I’m still on my new eating plan.  I have postponed the next Nutrisystem delivery for 2 months….and substituting some other foods just for a change.  Haven’t gained back any weight but haven’t lost any either.

    ****

    I did read a couple of books ….

    18404251

    This is the story of a group of friends ~ mostly a Mommies Group ~ who have met each other because of their children. The spouses have met each other as well. There are 4 mommies and one stay-at-home daddy who regularly spend time together with their children. Each one has an issue and one summer weekend the entire group meets at a family member’s summer cottage. As a lot of drinking and carrying on occurs, some of the secrets are revealed. It’s all about the friendship, love, sex and raising of small children. The parents sometimes act worse than their young children but usually manage to make up and continue on ~ just like most little children do.
    Here’s the book description..
    One of the most anticipated debut novels of 2014, Cutting Teeth takes place one late-summer weekend as a group of thirty-something couples gather at a shabby beach house on Long Island, their young children in tow.They include Nicole, the neurotic hostess terrified by internet rumors that something big and bad is going to happen in New York City that week; stay-at-home dad Rip, grappling with the reality that his career wife will likely deny him a second child, forcing him to disrupt the life he loves; Allie, one half of a two-mom family, and an ambitious artist, facing her ambivalence toward family life; Tiffany, comfortable with her amazing body but not so comfortable in the upper-middle class world the other characters were born into; and Leigh, a blue blood secretly facing financial ruin and dependent on Tenzin, the magical Tibetan nanny everyone else covets. These tensions build, burn, and collide over the course of the weekend, culminating in a scene in which the ultimate rule of the group is broken.

    Cutting Teeth captures the complex dilemmas of early mid-life—the vicissitudes of friendship, of romantic and familial love, and of sex. It confronts class tension, status hunger, and the unease of being in possession of life’s greatest bounty while still wondering, is this as good as it gets? And, perhaps most of all, Julia Fierro’s thought-provoking debut explores the all-consuming love we feel for those we need most, and the sacrifice and self-compromise that underpins that love.

    All this is packed into a page-turning, character-driven novel that crackles with life and unexpected twists and turns that will keep readers glued as they cringe and laugh with compassion, in-credulousness, and, most of all, self-recognition. Cutting Teeth is a warm, whip-smart and unpretentious literary novel.
    And here’s another reader’s review…
    This is a book that was right up my alley. Mothers with young children? Check! Mommy group? Check. Unfortunately, what seemed like a perfect fit ended up being just the opposite.Fierro has a great writing style. It’s quite readable and her dialogue is spot on. My technical issue with this book is that the various narratives (I think there 6 or 7 narrators) never really comes together for me. I think that Fierro tried to bring everything together at the end, but it just didn’t work for me.

    Now, here is my personal issue with this book. I think that Fierro writes for a reader who has a sense of humor that differs from mine. My guess is that someone who leans toward sarcastic or cynical humor would probably enjoy this book more than I did. Frankly, I found this a very hard book to stand. The characters, in my view, were just stereotypes of issues that a parent might face. It is all fine and good to take an issue and build a character out of it, but Fierro seemed to be taking characters and building issues out of them. With the exception of Tenzin, the Tibetan nanny, I found every single adult (and many of the children) to be absolutely loathesome and, really, could care less about any of them.

    A different reader may have a different take on this, but this reader says to skip this one.

    18090157   I   have been a fan of Toni Braxton for many years. I also saw a life coaching program that took place in Chicago on which her sister Tawanda was featured. And of course, I have been watching the Braxton Family Values reality show too. This book did reveal that in spite of Toni Braxton’s success ~ her financial gain was not as much as you would expect. She was taken advantage of several times…resulting in filing for bankruptcy twice. One of her sons had/has autism and she works very hard to help him become a highly functioning person. And then there are her health problems. But the biggest issue she has had is the feeling of guilt because her sisters didn’t achieve success as quickly as she did. Being the oldest child meant that she was expected to help her sisters in every way and was often the recipient of anger when things didn’t work out for them the way they wanted. All in all, this was an interesting book.
    Here’s the book description….
    The bestselling solo R&B artist finally opens up about her rocky past and her path to redemptionWhile Toni Braxton may appear to be living a charmed life, hers is in fact a tumultuous story: a tale of personal triumph after a public unraveling. In her heartfelt memoir, the six-time Grammy Award-winning singer and star of WE tv’s hit reality series Braxton Family Values is unapologetically honest in revealing the intimate details of her journey.

    Toni and the entire Braxton clan have become America’s favorite musical family, but what fans may not know is the intense guilt Toni once felt when she accepted a recording deal that excluded her sisters. That decision would haunt Toni for years to come, tainting the enormous fame she experienced as a popular female vocalist at the top of the charts. Despite her early accomplishments, Toni’s world crumbled when she was forced to file for bankruptcy twice and was left all alone to pick up the pieces.

    Always the consummate professional, Toni rebuilt her life but then found herself in the midst of more heartache. The mother of an autistic child, Toni had long feared that her son’s condition might be karmic retribution for some of the life choices that left her filled with remorse. Later, when heart ailments began plaguing her at the age of forty-one and she was diagnosed with lupus, Toni knew she had to move beyond the self-recrimination and take charge of her own healing—physically and spiritually.

    And another reader’s review…
    This was a quick read, less than 300 pages. While I’m not a fan of Toni’s music, I am a huge fan of her family’s reality show, Braxton Family Values that’s on We TV. Toni opens up about her two bankruptcies, lupus, Autism, cosmetic surgeries, and other personal matters.She grew up in Severn, MD (my home state) with deeply religious parents, her mother more so than the father, it seems. She’s grown up to feel guilty about things she shouldn’t and seems to harbor a small amount of animosity because of it.

    What I’ve learned about Toni is that she’s terrible with money but wants us to believe that’s not the case. She’s terrible at using birth control too. She’s been generous with her family financially and I wonder how much. She didn’t get into that much but I’m curious. She never talked about how angry she is/was toward her cheating father or if she ever was. Odd not to mention it.

    I’ve never been a fan of her mother, Evelyn (especially since she threatened to ‘slap the piss’ out of Tamar), and after learning that her mother always reminded Toni to not ‘forget about your sisters’ since Toni got a record deal at 23 and her sister’s didn’t, I like her even less. And she had the nerve to seem angry when Toni got the deal. I’ve always had the feeling, and I don’t know why, that Toni has financially supported her mother after her separation, then divorce, from her husband. I’m intrigued by the fact that Evelyn’s ‘guarded’ about her own childhood. At a young age, she moved from the south to live with an aunt in Maryland.

    I wish Toni had opened up a bit more about some things but overall this was a good, mostly honest book about her entire life.

    *****

     

       ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER….

     

August 10, 2014

  • THE DOG….UM…I MEAN CAT DAYS OF SUMMER!

     

     

    So, Kids, here we are almost 2 weeks into August.  Sales for school supplies and school clothes are all over the news.  Schools are getting ready to open and the kids, hopefully, are eager to return to school to see their friends and find out which teacher they have for each class!  This time of year used to be my favorite ~ well, Actually September was my favorite because I always felt like I had a fresh start to another year.  I still get upbeat and eager to do something around this time of the year.

    Time just seems to fly by for me and yet, when I try to think of what kept me so busy, I can’t come up with much.  I clean the house and do laundry and vacuum every week.  I go to the grocery store once a week.  Occasionally, I have lunch with friends.  I feed the birds and my cats, clean the litter pan every morning, take out the garbage and recycle.  Lots of little chores with not much to show for it.  I guess if I didn’t do it ~ it would be noticeable!

    I did succeed in getting my new white wood blinds installed in my living room ~ kitchen area.  I have 5 big windows across the South side of my little house.  What a huge difference they make and best of all….so far my cats are leaving them alone!

    I was trying an experiment and eating some different food mixed in with my Nutrisystem choices.  I put Nutrisystem delivery on 60 days backup because I was tired of the same foods.  I’m trying to eat up what I still have.  I haven’t lost any weight but I haven’t gained any either so I consider that a win-win.  Besides it was nice to eat something different.  I guess I should contact a counselor because I haven’t lost any weight for about 4 weeks.  I think they will tell me to eat more!  I average between 1150 and 1300 calories a day.  I don’t know if I COULD eat any more every day.  So I expect my metabolism isn’t working as well as it should.  I guess I need to admit that I need to join a gym and start exercising again ~ especially before the cold weather comes back to Indiana.

    Once more I have opened up my SIMPLE ABUNDANCE book by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  The essay is entitled SECOND THOUGHTS.

    “Today…realize how blessed you are.  In quiet moments you overflow with excitement at the golden possibilities that stretch endlessly before you.  Because happiness is the most difficult emotion to bear alone, you may confide your dream to your partner, best friend, lover, sister, lover or children.”

    “Their lack of enthusiasm may hit you at point-blank range.  The “for your own good” litany pours forth:  you’re too old, too overextended to try something new, too broke, too inexperienced.  You don’t have the resources, the talent, the contacts, or 1 chance in a million to bring this dream to fruition.  OH REALLY?  Consider the track record of each naysayer.  How many dreams have THEY successfully brought into the world?”  

    THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT…..

    Be careful about confiding your sacred dreams, especially when you are first working on the process. Never seek someone’s advice if you “know” what they are probably going to say.  Second thoughts have stopped more dreams than most of the difficult circumstances.   It’s self-abuse to allow others to make  you doubt yourself.  Few of us are immune to the opinions of others.  If the offered information is insightful and something you haven’t considered, retain it.   If it’s discouraging, let it go.”

    With that being said, I am currently just “thinking” about another book.  I’m working on a title and haven’t quite found the right one yet.  The working title for now is COBALT CRYSTAL.   It doesn’t feel quite right so I am hoping for an inspiration to change it.  I have an idea for the beginning and the ending which is usually the way I write.   As I write, I have hopes that the characters will tell me how to get from Point A to Point B.    I’m planning on writing in November during the annual Novel Writing Challenge (NANO).

    And, speaking of books ~~~~ I read a few this week.

     

    13096933

    This was another intriguing story. A young woman marries a man she met after just a few days. She moves way from home and feels that her connection and bond with her mother has suffered. As she begins her new life in a small town as a mid-wife, things become very mysterious. Her husband hasn’t told her everything about his previous life. And, as she begins to learn some of the secrets ~ she feels very connected in some strange way to the entire town. Nightmares that she had as a child come back and she is often at a loss to explain how she feels. During the story, the reader learns what the connections are and it finally seems to resolve. I thought it was a bit confusing at some points because the switching back and forth between characters and even many years of  generations was often used.

    However, the story was original and the mystery kept my attention. It isn’t until near the ending of the book that it all seems to come together and fit.

    Here’s the book jacket description…

    For Ava Whalen, a new marriage and a move to St. Simons Island means a new beginning. But what she doesn’t realize is that her marriage will take her on an unexpected journey into the deep recesses of her past that will transform her forever… For as long as she can remember, Ava Whalen has struggled with a sense of not belonging, and now, at thirty-four, she still feels stymied by her family. Then she meets child psychologist Matthew Frazier, and thinks her days of loneliness are behind her. After a whirlwind romance, they impulsively elope, and Ava moves to Matthew’s ancestral home on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia. But after the initial excitement, Ava is surprised to discover that true happiness continues to elude her. There is much she doesn’t know about Matthew, including the mysterious circumstances surrounding his previous life. And her new home seems to hold as many mysteries and secrets as her new husband. Feeling adrift, Ava throws herself into uncovering Matthew’s family history and that of the island, not realizing that she has a connection of her own to this place—or that her obsession with the past could very well destroy her future.

    And another reader’s review…

    Ava Whalen marries Matthew Frazier. This does not make Ava’s mother happy. Especially as Ava and Matthew will be starting their new life on St. Simon’s Island. For someone who has a fear of the ocean, Ava is either brave or really in love. 

    Ava can not explain it but she feels a connection to St. Simon’s Island. It is here that she learns about who Matthew really is. Rumor has it that Matthew killed someone. Could Ava be living with a murderer?

    I am a fan of Mrs. White. Her latest book, Sea Change, is one not to be missed. This book was party mystery, part intrigue, and part romance. I was more intrigued by the mystery part of the story then the present. It was not until about the second time that Ava had a flash back to the past that I figured out the mystery. Then I really got into this story even more. I like the concept of the mystery surrounding Ava and the past. If it was not for the mystery then Ava would be boring. Ava is the type of person that is more suited for being a wallflower then a leader. Although, she did blossom as the story progressed. The rest of the characters were kind of secondary. They did not add too much to the story. Again, the mystery was the best part of this book. I do plan to check out Mrs. White’s next book.

     

    18693763

    This was a sad story. A Chinese American family made up of a mixed marriage of a white mother and a Chinese father have 3 children. The middle child inherited her white mother’s blue eyes and her Chinese father’s black hair. She is the favorite child and her parents are sure she is going to succeed as she follows the path they have set for her. When she disappears, the entire family starts to fall apart. Each one of them ~ her parents, her older brother and her younger sister have secrets. They all know things about the others and never have told. Each of them has a longing for something better but doesn’t confide in one another. Each struggles to find a way to happiness. The reader will have to decide if they are successful.
    Here’s the book jacket description….
    A haunting debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s  Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation.

    Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

    When Lydia’s body is found , the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

    A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

    And another reader’s review…
    From the opening sentence, I could tell this was going to be a somewhat difficult read. In the fifties, mixed marriages were frowned on, not just black and white, but in this case Chinese and white. Marilyn had long wanted to be a doctor at a time when woman were expected to marry, keep house, have children and not much else. Then she meets James, A Chinese professor and finds out she is having his child, her plans change and they marry.

    A story about expectations, about fitting in or not, being different from your classmates, a look at racial and gender prejudice, and a sensitive look at a family in crisis. As James and Marilyn foster their hopes and dreams on their daughter Lydia, they are blind to what is really happening in their family. After her death, they search for answers and quietly truths and secrets are revealed. The reader hears the thoughts and feelings of each member of the family and what they find is emotionally shattering. They must now, as a family, pick up the pieces and start again. 

    In the face of tragedy it is natural to dwell on what is lost, instead of looking forward to what is left. This is the decision this family must make, and the author did a fantastic job of showing us that what led them here and how they can move forward. A well written, poignant and stirring novel by a debut author. A quiet story told with grace and wisdom.

    18693929

    bookshelves: familymothers-and-daughters

    This was a “coming~of~age” book which takes place in the summer of 1964. Liberty aka Ibby is dropped off at her paternal grandmother’s house in New Orleans. Her father has died in an accident and her mother doesn’t seem to want her. She is greeted by Dollbaby and Queenie who work for Miss Fannie (her grandmother.) She is taken under their wing and soon meets many more of Miss Fannie’s friends. Dollbaby and Queenie teach Ibby about the Southern customs. She soon makes her own friends and a few enemies and fits right in. Of course, there are some secrets that are slowly revealed. This is a very good story line and I enjoyed it.
    The book jacket description…
    A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans—a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets

    When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.
     
    For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.
     
    For fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The Help,  Dollbaby brings to life the charm and unrest of 1960s New Orleans through the eyes of a young girl learning to understand race for the first time.
     
    By turns uplifting and funny, poignant and full of verve, Dollbaby is a novel readers will take to their hearts

    And another reader’s review…
    I started this on Sunday and finished it on Monday. It was just one of those books that is filled with secrets of the past that you just have to know about and characters that you love as soon as you meet them and then you love them more as the author lets you see who they are.

    Almost twelve years old and still reeling from the death of her father, Ibby is abandoned by her mother and left on the doorstep of a grandmother who she just barely found out she had. Fannie, her grandmother is a seemingly eccentric, smoking, and gambling, woman is really a mentally unstable, sad woman who has many secrets. The loving relationship that develops between them will move you.

    The story is set in New Orleans just as the Civil Rights Act is passed in 1964. Queenie, the endearing maid who “came with the house “has endured losses of her own. She is wise but set in old ways and doesn’t think anything will change with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Dollbaby, her daughter, of the newer generation wants change not just for herself but her own daughter. These women become as big a part of Ibby’s life as they are of Fannie’s.

    The secrets, one after another begin to unfold about Fannie’s life. Ibby learns about Fannie’s hard life as a child and how she came to New Orleans. I loved the descriptions of the French Quarter, both when Fannie first came there and in the time when Ibby arrives. But it isn’t until the end that the whole story is divulged.

    The story though is about more than just the time and place. It is about loss, about friendship, family, race and prejudice, but mostly about the beautiful relationships between these characters. There are things that happened in the past that Ibby doesn’t learn until the end , but the most important things she learns is that she is not alone. It’s a beautiful story, beautifully written and full of heart and love.

    ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR WEEKEND!!!

     

August 1, 2014

  • WHERE WERE YOU ON AUGUST 16-17, 1987?

    Yes, kids, it’s been almost 3 weeks since I last confessed ~ I mean posted.   The time just seems to go faster and faster this summer!   Here we are on August 1st and in just 5 weeks it will be Labor Day!  Schools will be back in session and Autumn won’t be far behind.

    So ~ while I have a small amount of things to blog about ~ nothing is really THAT exciting.  I turned to my book of SIMPLE PLEASURES by Sarah Ban Breathnach again for some inspiration.

    Did you read the title of this blog ~ “Do you remember where  you were on those dates?  

    I don’t.

    If you  do, perhaps you were among the more than 144,000 people who journeyed to “power points” around the world, such as Egypt’s Great Pyramids; Peru’s Manchu Picchu; Japan’s Mount Fuji; the Temples of Delphi in Greece; Mount Shasta, California; Sedona, Arizona; the Black Hills of South Dakota; and New York’s Central Park to hold hands, hum, and resonate in harmony in the New Age global event known as the Harmonic Convergence.”

    I wasn’t there either!

    Sarah Ban Breathnach explains…”this weekend was so significant because it was a rare astronomical occurrence known as “a grand trine” (when all nine planets were in their astrological fire signs and positioned exactly one hundred twenty-three degrees apart from each other.)  It had been 23,3412 years since the last time.  Now add an interpretation of ancient Mayan and Aztec calendars and a Hopi legend about fathering of enlightened teachers meant to awaken humanity and it’s not surprising that thousands of New Agers decided that circumstances were as perfect as they’d ever be to direct the earth, through mediation, toward a peaceful spiritual awakening instead of a cataclysmic one in the next millennium. ”

    It doesn’t appear to have worked, looking at our world these days,  does it?

    Sarah Ban Breathnach goes on to say “there are so many voices offering clues, glimmers, and insights on how to achieve harmony through the Divine grand trine of mind, body, and Spirit.  How do you discern your own truth?   American Buddist master Jack Kornfield says “We must make certain that our path is connected to our heart….”  When we ask  ”Am I following the path of my heart?”….we discover that no one can define for us exactly what our path should be.  We must allow the mystery and beauty of this question to resonate within our being.  Somewhere within us is an answer coming our way and understanding will arise too.

    During this month of August  ~ try to be still and listen deeply, even for a moment.  Rediscover and celebrate your creativity, to access your authentic self.  It’s never too late to reclaim your individual gifts, revisit a dream, and create an authentic life.”

    Celebrate your originality!

    *******

    I’ve been very busy with visits and lunches and dinners with friends.  Some from Indianapolis, Florida and Michigan.  I put together a small reunion of former co-workers last Sunday.  We had 14 counting  the spouses and it was lovely to see everyone again.

    I only read one book and I didn’t care for it.  I had it for 6 weeks counting a renewal and still couldn’t get through it.

    2728527        I tried to get through this book for over 6 weeks even renewing it at the library. I usually love books with letters written between the characters to tell the story. But this one just didn’t do it for me. It takes place right after WWII when a writer receives a letter from a man on a British island of Guernsey. By chance, he had seen her name on the flyleaf of a book that he enjoyed and reaches out to her to find out more about the author of the book.

    From there are a series of letters being exchanged which tell the story of how the war affected the island of Guernsey. I don’t know why I couldn’t get into this story but I tried. I read about half of the book before I gave up.

    Here’s the book jacket description….

    “ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

    As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

    Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

    Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

    Here’s another reader’s review…

    This book is boring, predictable, and pointless. Maybe the kind of thing that charms the sentimental. It’s a series of letters in post WWII England between an author facing writers block and an island community who formed a book club during the German occupation. Eventually we meet the characters (who, oddly, have the same voice as the author in their letters) who come to describe one saintly, cliche, full of b.s. woman who held them all together during the occupation, while she manages to slap an overly-religious type, find the one good, true human Nazi and have his child (yep) and then die tragically simply by being her holier-than-this-earth self.

    Two stars for one of two well thought-out paragraphs buried among the 200 something pages.

    ****

    I do hope by the next time I blog, I will have read a few more books.  I may have to put myself in “time-out” from Facebook to achieve that goal!

    I was talking to friends about the abundance of chipmunks in everyone’s yard and how they were eating our flowers and plants.  I noticed, however, that what we had been calling a chipmunk was actually a 13-line in-ground squirrel.  So I asked the farm owner where I get my birdseed about them.  They can be driven out or killed by putting pellets into their underground holes.

    This is a chipmunk —-

    \

    And this is a 13-line in-ground squirrel…

     

    and this is a cat…..LOL

July 17, 2014

  • SUMMER TIME ~ IS IT HALF OVER OR IS THERE HALF LEFT TO ENJOY?

    It’s the middle of July, 2014 already!   Have you enjoyed the summer so far?  Have you done anything unusual or special or out of the ordinary?  Are you thinking of Autumn yet?  I’m hopeful that you are thinking of the weeks of summer still left to enjoy.

    According to SIMPLE ABUNDANCE BY SARAH BAN BREATHNACH…..”How often in our lives, do we still not “get it”?  The “IT” could be a power struggle going on in an important relationship, an inability to control our credit card spending, a career problem undermining our self-esteem, the beginnings of an addictive behavior in ourselves or our loved ones; or an unconscious form of self-sabotage that has us bouncing from one self-inflicted crisis to another.  The “IT” doesn’t matter.  Some of these scenarios are occurring in most of our lives and will continue again and again and again until the moment we begin to see the pattern.  Perhaps we should start paying attention.  

     

    The language of the heart is longing; the language of the mind is rationalizing, the language of emotions is feeling.  Your spirit speaks all of them.  Today I hope all of us get it at last; not to focus on what we don’t have, but to be grateful for what we do.  For us to accept, give thanks, bless and share.  For us not to hoard or hold back for fear that there won’t be enough.  …..You probably have all that you need.”

    In another essay, Sarah Ban Breathnach talks about carving out time for personal pursuits that bring contentment.
    While we are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in our lives between domestic chores and obligations ~” writer Toni Morrison has observed. “I’m not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that.”

    But the house work calls to us, our children need us, We have obligations.  But when, then, does our creative need call to us?   Probably every day.  But we’re too busy listening to everybody else instead of our authentic selves.  Maybe we…have convinced ourselves that we don’t have time for personal pursuits that bring us contentment if they last longer than 15 minutes.  Maybe we don’t listen for the whispers of authentic longing because we don’t want to hear.  Because then we would have to acknowledge it.   Instead……we tell ourselves we have to wait until there’s more time, when the children are back in school, when our parents are feeling better, when things let up at work.”

    How about this?  How about “my authentic passions will have to wait until I acknowledge that they are essential for my happiness.”  How about “I haven’t learned to put myself on the list of priorities!”

    Space and time to nurture our creativity may be one of our authentic hungers.  Perhaps we think only food, drink, work, shopping or pills can reduce that gnawing to a dull throb.  But maybe if we took an hour a day to paint, to read, to create ~ we wouldn’t be in such pain ~ physical or psychic.

    JUST MAYBE…..

    For me, the summer is flying by.  Every day I seem to find something that I need to do and I never seem to get it all done.  On the other hand, I spend plenty of time on Facebook every day…reading what people are doing or playing some of the games.  My cats come up in my computer room and sleep in a chair by me or get a few minutes of attention by jumping on my lap.

    I’m still fighting the bird seed feeder vs the squirrels.  I tried using flaked red pepper in the seed.  It works until enough of the bird seed is eaten and then the pepper flakes are covered up when new bird seed falls down.  I have squirrels, piney squirrels and chipmunks along with doves, sparrows of various types, a pair of blue jays, a pair of cardinals and yesterday a gold finch showed up.  In fact, today there were two goldfinch that came to the feeder and thistle seed sock 3 times in the morning.

    I’m still doing the Nutrisystem eating plan.  I still don’t drink enough water or exercise enough but in under 6 weeks, I have lost 9 lbs.    I really don’t have much craving for anything.  I am putting veggies into my lunch and dinner entrees.  I’m drinking at least one protein powder shake a day and trying to get in some fruit and other good protein/carbs.  It really hasn’t been difficult but it does seems very repetitive.

    I vowed not to buy any new clothes for 6 months as an incentive to keep on working on this new eating plan.  By then, I may not need new clothes because some of my old clothes will fit again.  LOL

    I really need to weed my garden area.  I think I need to just pull up everything and almost start over. And..I just ordered more plants for next year so I have to make some room!  I’ve discovered what doesn’t work well in some spots  and  I will have to be moving some of the plants.

    *****

    I also managed to read a couple of books…

    I love Diane Chamberlain’s books. I often read a few and then forget about her. I recently found 3 of her stories that I haven’t read. This is one of them. Two very close female friends have gone through everything together, including Joelle finding the perfect man for Mara.   Joelle just happens to work with the man who does marry Mara. All of them spend a lot of time together. When Mara becomes pregnant, something unsuspected but devastating occurs. Mara can not take care of her child so her husband does his best. With the help of Joelle, the two of them spend their time with Mara and with the baby and in their stressful jobs.

    There is a back story (which always makes the book interesting) The reader finds out about Joelle’s birth and childhood. At some point, what happened to Joelle many years ago comes up and is used to help Mara.

    The ending isn’t what the reader may expect but it all works out well.

    The book description…..

    Joelle D’Angelo’s best friend, Mara, is left with brain damage after she suffers an aneurysm giving birth to her son. Alone and grieving, Joelle turns to the only other person who understands her pain: her colleague—and Mara’s husband—Liam. What starts out as comfort between friends gradually becomes something more…something undeniable.

    Torn by guilt and the impossibility of her feelings for Liam,  Joelle sets out determined to find help for Mara, no matter how unconventional the source. Her search leads her to a mansion in Monterey, California, and into the life of a woman shrouded in mystery. Carlynn Kling Shire is a healer and, according to Joelle’s parents, saved Joelle’s life when she was an infant. As Joelle is guided down an unfamiliar path by a woman keeping her own shocking secrets, she discovers that while some love is doomed, some love is destined to survive anything.

    And another reader’s review….

    I am reading more and more books by this author, many of which I had already owned and have been scattered in different places in my house. While I didn`t enjoy this one as much as `Midwife`s confession`that I had just previously read, I did still enjoy it.
    Diane Chamberlain`s books are packed with emotion and bring the reader into that. There`s often deception, secrets, and stories behind the original storyline. I found myself liking the main characters and while I am not always fond of the jumping back and forth from present to past and back, it was easy to follow and I liked it in this case where going to the past answered questions and clarified why things were the way they were. Anyone who hasn`t read books by this author should give her a try. So far I have not been disappointed.

    8724520

    I usually love books by Elizabeth Berg. This one was…..different. I found it fairly depressing. At first, I even thought I had read it before because some of what happened sounded so familiar. But as I continued to read, I finally knew it was the first time I had read the story. I didn’t like some of the characters and I thought they just seemed so…..bland. It’s good enough to read for an afternoon but it’s isn’t the most interesting or even thought-provoking book I ever read.

    Here’s the book description…

    From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of Home Safe and  The Last Time I Saw You comes a beautiful and moving novel about a man and woman, long divorced, who rediscover the power of love and family in the midst of an unthinkable crisis.  

    Even on their wedding day, John and Irene sensed that they were about to make a mistake. Years later, divorced, dating other people, and living in different parts of the country, they seem to have nothing in common—nothing except the most important person in each of their lives: Sadie, their spirited eighteen-year-old  daughter.

    Feeling smothered by Irene and distanced from John, Sadie is growing more and more attached to her new boyfriend, Ron.  When tragedy strikes, Irene and John come together to support the daughter they love so dearly. What takes longer is to remember how they really feel about each other. 

    Elizabeth Berg has once again created characters who embody the many shades of the human spirit. Reading Berg’s fiction allows us to reflect on our deepest emotions, and her gifts as a writer make Once Upon a Time, There Was You a wonderful novel about the power of love, the unshakeable bonds of family, and the beauty of second chances.

    And another reader’s review….

    Here’s something that doesn’t happen often, an Elizabeth Berg novel that I didn’t particularly enjoy.

    The good: It is refreshing to occasionally read a story about some inconceivably bad event happening to a character, and the character actually getting past it. So many books I’ve read have had a terrible thing happen, and it rips apart the lives of anybody even loosely connected to that character. In this case, the repercussions of “the event” are widespread, but on a realistic level.

    The bad: When Sadie, the daughter of the main characters, undergoes her traumatic event, it is practically just another blip in the saga of John and Irene’s failed marriage, and the ensuing years of failed communication. It is almost as though every chapter is just a discourse on why these two particular middle-aged adults are so dysfunctional, and their handling of their daughter’s  trauma and the fallout just provides evidence to support that. Sure, maybe in real life not all similar events explode into a People magazine headline, but nor are there books written about all of them. I could better envision “Once Upon a Time, There Was You” as a short story that would be engrossing for all of its twenty pages.

     

    *****

    So as the rest of the summer goes on,  I’m going to try to stay on my new eating plan, hope to increase my exercise and water consumption, look forward to having some new wood blinds put up in my living room/kitchen because my cats have shredded my fabric blinds and read some good books.  How about your plans?

July 4, 2014

  • BOOM BOOM!!!!

     

       HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!!!!!!!

     

     

     

    I’m spending the holiday alone.   My son is working.   I have been listening to ENYA and enjoying the cooler weather these past few days.  We had a very bad storm a couple of nights ago.  Thankfully I didn’t have any damage at my place ~ just a few twigs blown down.

    I have been trying to feed the birds but the squirrels have now figured out if they climb my window screens, they can launch themselves above the baffle and get to the feeder.  I am just about ready to give up except I have a 1/3 of a metal trash can still filled with the seed my husband bought last year.  So, I guess it really doesn’t matter who eats it even though I would prefer it to be the birds.

    This has been a lazy week for me.  I decided to just not to do anything more than I had to do.  I read some books and some magazines, watched from recorded television shows and did just……N.O.T.H.I.N.G.    I can’t say that I minded either.  Just didn’t have the desire to do anything.

    Of course, I did go to the grocery store for more frozen veggies for my eating plan.  I only spent $35 this week which included some cleaning supplies.  That helps off-set the cost of the Nutrisystem plan.  My second box should arrive any day now.  I will decide after this if I want to continue to buy the food from Nutrisystem.

    I also am a member of a sock sister exchange club and had to shop for my “sock sister”.  This month is flip-flop month ~ just for something different before the club takes a summer break.  I was fortunately that my sock sister understood that I don’t really wear flip flops any more so she got me socks ~ 3 pair!   I have her flip flops ready to be mailed and will take them to the Post Office tomorrow.  I also have to go to the library again to return some books but this time, I read most of them!

    And speaking of books….

    18079776       I just finished this book last night. I have read many books about the slaves and their “owners” in the past. This book reminded me, once again, how strong and courageous some of those black women were. They were often abused, used as animals, treated unkindly, separated from their loved ones and yet, somehow, they found a way to go on towards a better life. This story is about a young white girl who is “gifted” with her own slave on her 11th birthday. She is horrified at the thought and tries to free Hetty Handful Grimke. When that proves impossible, Sarah teaches Hetty to read and write ~ which was against the law. Sarah tried to help Hetty whenever she could. Hetty, in turn, learned how to sew from her own mother, Charlotte, and became a prized possession of the Grimke family.

    What is most interesting is that there really was a Sarah Grimke. She and her sister, Angelina, were among the first women to work for racial equality, emancipation and other causes. They were not very popular in some circles but traveled around the country giving lectures and working to make changes. They had to leave their family, their church, their friends in order to do what they felt was right.
    Here’s the jacket description….
    Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

    As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

    This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

    And another reader’s review…
    Where to start in trying to explain all the amazing things this novel contained. It is powerful, intense, profound and amazing in every way. The real life Gremke sisters, born into a family of wealth, on a plantation that of course had slaves, in Charleston in the middle of the 19th century, but before the Civil War. This is their story and the story of others who also fought for the abolishment of slavery. It is also the story of Handful, a slave and her mother, Charlotte, on the Gremke plantation.Some was hard to read, the whippings and other mistreatment of the slaves, their longing to be free and the many times they had to swallow what they really thought when in their owner’s presence. The conversations, the characters, well rounded and exactly right. Sarah Mapps, a black woman who opened the first school for blacks in Philadelphia, a free black and a woman trying to influence others in her own way. So many characters that actually existed in history.

    Loved that the author took time to explain her research and her fascination with this subject. She also explains who and what were real and what was not. Always appreciated in a historical novel.

    Read yesterday that this has been picked up by Oprah’s bookclub and I would not be at all surprised to find that this will be made into a movie someday. Not because it is melodramatic, because it is not, but because the lives of the Gremke sisters need to be acknowledged and more widely known.
    18104697      I just finished another Danielle Steel novel. Yes, they are usually the same format…beautiful people, usually very successful, some type of drama and then a good ending most of the time. This particular story was about the difference between women CEOs and men CEOs. It was a concept I have read about before. The story indicates that men use their power to cheat and lie, often have hidden mistresses or even second families. And how that tears up so many lives. Women CEOs are usually working very hard to maintain their difficult jobs and also trying to be a good wife and mother. If the women are successful; they are usually labeled as cold, bitchy, and having slept their way to the top. And the men….well…they are usually promoted and given all sorts of “perks” and treated like gods.

    Anyway, it was a good story line and I enjoyed it. I keep in mind that usually it is over the top with fabulous clothes, interesting travels and all kinds of fantastic people.
    Here’s the jacket description….
    Fiona Carson has proven herself as CEO of a multibillion-dollar high-tech company – a successful woman in a man’s world. Devoted single mother, world-class strategist, and tough negotiator, Fiona has to keep a delicate balance every day.Meanwhile, Marshall Weston basks in the fruits of his achievements. At his side is his wife Liz who has gladly sacrificed her own career to raise their three children. Smooth, shrewd and irreproachable, Marshall’s power only enhances his charisma – but he harbors secrets that could destroy his life at any moment.

    Both must face their own demons, and the lives they lead come at a high price. But just how high a price are they willing to pay?

    And another reader’s review…
    Along with Stephen King, Danielle Steel was my first ‘grown up’ author. So even though my tastes have matured and become more refined since I was 12, I still check in with her on occasion to see what she’s up to.My last several encounters have been on the weaker side of her oeuvre, it seems like she’s really phoning it in , but at this point I can’t really fault her for it.

    This book though seemed a lot sharper and more on point than anything she had written in a while & I enjoyed it. Yes , it follows her formula, but the characters were interesting and I was definitely engaged in Marshall’s storyline. Fiona’s seemed like more of a sideline/storytelling device, but it still held my interest.

    I don’t read Steel for gritty realism, so I won’t quibble about plot, but in escapist literature, I do like to see the bad guy get his just desserts, so the ending was a bit of a letdown on that point.

    18079815        This would make an excellent beach read because there is a love story involved. However, there is also a great mystery too. I found myself reading faster and faster as I tried to figure out who was the one causing all the problems. The 336 pages were filled with twists and turns and just as the reader thought they had figured it out ~ it changed. When the villain was finally revealed, I thought “Well, of course, why didn’t I see that coming?”

    Jayne Ann Krentz always writes a good romance mystery. She has written over 50 books. And she also writes under the name of Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick.
    Here’s the jacket description…
    It’s been thirteen years since Lucy Sheridan was in Summer River. The last time she visited her aunt Sara there, as a teenager, she’d been sent home suddenly after being dragged out of a wild party—by the guy she had a crush on, just to make it more embarrassing. Obviously Mason Fletcher—only a few years older but somehow a lot more of a grown-up—was the overprotective type who thought he had to come to her rescue.Now, returning after her aunt’s fatal car accident, Lucy is learning there was more to the story than she realized at the time. Mason had saved her from a very nasty crime that night—and soon afterward, Tristan, the cold-blooded rich kid who’d targeted her, disappeared mysteriously, his body never found.

    A lot has changed in thirteen years. Lucy now works for a private investigation firm as a forensic genealogist, while Mason has quit the police force to run a successful security firm with his brother—though he still knows his way around a wrench when he fills in at his uncle’s local hardware store. Even Summer River has changed, from a sleepy farm town into a trendy upscale spot in California’s wine country. But Mason is still a protector at heart, a serious (and seriously attractive) man. And when he and Lucy make a shocking discovery inside Sara’s house, and some of Tristan’s old friends start acting suspicious, Mason’s quietly fierce instincts kick into gear. He saved Lucy once, and he’ll save her again. But this time, she insists on playing a role in her own rescue . . .

    And another reader’s review…
    I am a long time fan of Jayne Ann Krentz, and this book is a good example of why she is a must read author for me. This book had just the right balance of romance and suspense. It kept me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what would happen next, and I fell in love with the main characters, Lucy and Mason, right away. Lucy has returned to Summer River, where she often visited as a teenager, to settle her aunt’s estate. She is unaware of sinister events that occurred as a result of her last visit thirteen years ago, and is soon caught up in a completely unexpected web of danger. Security expert Mason Fletcher has always been protective of Lucy, and as his feelings for her intensify, he is determined to keep her safe. I loved seeing the relationship between Lucy and Mason develop, and the storyline was both entertaining and suspenseful.
    So that was my week…….not too long….not too boring….and I have things planned to do tomorrow and probably next week.

     

June 28, 2014

  • TIME PASSES AND LIFE HAPPENS….

     

    Or to put it more nicely…

    Time passes.
    Life happens.
    Distance separates.
    Children grow up.
    Jobs come and go.
    Love waxes and wanes.
    Men don’t call when they say they will.
    Hearts break.
    Parents die.
    Colleagues forget favours.
    Careers end.
    BUT…………
    Girlfriends are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you.
    A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.
    When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, your girlfriends will be on the valley’s rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley’s end.
    Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you.
    Or come in and carry you out.
    Girlfriends, daughters, daughter-in-laws, sisters, sisters-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, aunties, nieces, cousins, and extended family, bless our life!
    The world wouldn’t be the same without them, and neither would I.
    When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead.
    Nor did we know how much we would need each other.
    Every day, we need each other still.
    I was thinking the other day that I spend most of my time alone…almost in silence.  I play a lot of CDs, talk to the cats and listen to television along with reading.  But when I go to the library, I do self-checkout, at the store, I often use self-checkout if I only have a few items, I don’t have to get gas often so any conversation is  usually just how much money I want to put on a particular pump to gas up.  I don’t get a lot of phone calls either.  I have lunch out once a month with friends, an occasional lunch with one friend or another ~ maybe every 2 months or so and a dinner out with high school girl friends at the end of each month too.   My son worked a lot of hours so I don’t often see or hear from him either.

    That being said, I know that I am alone but I am not often lonely!  I find things to do around the house, I have chores to do, errands to run, bills to pay and the hours seem to fly by in one way or another.

    I’m working on losing weight.  I’m just starting my 4th week.  I had lost about 6 lbs.  I was trying to add in a bit more protein and I think I got too many carbs in there too.  I didn’t lose anything again.  I am still tired of veggies but I try to eat at last 3 or 4 cups every day with my lunch and dinner.  I am using Nutrisystem and the second box should come next week.  I’m hoping the meal choices are different as I am already tired of what I had this month.  I may cancel after the next box.  I know what I need to do and I think it would be easier to make my own variety of foods instead of being governed by so many similar choices and tastes.

    I also ate out 2x this week.  And that didn’t make it any easier to stay on the plan.  I really need to join a gym and get to work on this.  I have no excuses and plenty of time.

    The weather has been extremely humid here this week.  I turned on the Central Air for 3 or 4 days and then turned it off for 2 days and now it is back on because it is very hot and humid this weekend.  Just opening up the door to go outside hits you in the face with the heavy, wet air.

    There isn’t much going on around my place. The flowers are slowly getting ready to bloom and I can’t wait.  The squirrels have figured out how to get past the baffle on the bird feeder and have been climbing my screens and then launching themselves to the feeder.  I may have to give up.  I wanted to use up the bird seed that my husband bought last year but I may not be able to do that if the squirrels keep running amuck or flying into the feeder every day.  I’ve seen a pair of cardinals, a  pair of bluejays and of course, some wrens and sparrows.  There have not been any goldfinches over here.  At the big house,we had goldfinches and grosbeaks and nut-hatches too.   I didn’t even put up a hummingbird feeder as no one around here has been able to attract them.  We had them at the old house though.

    So, I did read some books….

    11367726         This book was a suggestion to me. I did enjoy the story. An assistant DA is on a murder case and as he gets deeper, he starts to worry that a family member could be involved. Throughout the story, the reader is never sure who really did the murder. As it continues to look bad for the DA’s son, the DA and his family are being shunned by everyone who used to be part of their lives. The DA is on administrative leave, the mother can’t teach school, the son stays home because the school doesn’t want him there. It looked worse and worse and yet there doesn’t seem to be any other person of interest. Just when it seems like everything is coming together, the reader learns that the outcome is never what you think it will be. There is a twist in the ending, although I did figure it out right before it was revealed. This is a fast-paced story and one that should keep your interest.

    Here’s the jacket description…

    Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

    Every parental instinct Andy has – rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

    Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

    And another reader’s review…

    I liked that this book kept me guessing right up to the end. I loved that when it seemed to be wrapping up, there was one more sharp swerve to the left tokeep me trying to put my finger on what makes Defending Jacob such a compulsive read. Landay clearly has a killer storytelling instinct. The pacing of this novel is near perfect. He drops just enough clues, teases with just enough foreshadowing to keep the reader completely engrossed at all times. I started listening to this as an audiobook and finished it in print, not being able to turn the pages fast enough. 

    Defending Jacob is not a unique plot by any stretch. In fact, when I first heard about this book I couldn’t help but think of the movie Before and After starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson, where their teen son Jacob (yep, he’s Jacob too) is accused of murdering his girlfriend and it tears the family apart. 

    This book is much better than that movie though. Defending Jacob does a great job at looking at issues of guilt, innocence and culpability. It dissects the shortcomings of the legal system and the theatrics of courtroom proceedings without getting all preachy and legal mumbo-jumbo about it. It cuts to the heart of family dynamics and the parent-child relationship, poking at the difficult questions — how far would you go to protect your child if they were innocent? guilty? 

    And there’s the rub — fourteen year old Jacob is standing trial for murder and we don’t know if he’s been falsely accused or not. There are things that point to his innocence, but also actions that point to his guilt. Even though it is a much denser read and told using a very different narrative voice, We Need to Talk About Kevin explores some of the same terrain of mental pathology and the genetic and external factors that combine to result in antisocial behaviors. For anyone who isn’t sick of arguing the nature/nurture debate, Defending Jacob raises some interesting questions concerning the existence of a “murder gene” and whether violence can be passed down through the generations like eye color. 

     

    14759321        I  enjoyed this story. Something a bit different. Two women living on opposite sides of the US have a husband they love very much. Everything seems ideal until one woman’s daughter meets the other woman’s daughter at a summer camp and goes to visit her at home.. Then everything falls apart and two families are overcome with emotion, disgust, financial problems, worries, scandal and all other sorts of issues. It took nearly the entire book to figure out what was going to happen in the end but it was well worth the wait.

    Here’s the jacket description….
    New York Times bestseller Jane Green delivers a riveting novel about two women whose lives intersect when a shocking secret is revealed.From the author of Another Piece of My Heart comes the gripping story of two women who live on opposite coasts but whose lives are connected in ways they never could have imagined. Both women are wives and mothers to children who are about to leave the nest for school. They’re both in their forties and have husbands who travel more than either of them would like. They are both feeling an emptiness neither had expected. But when a shocking secret is exposed, their lives are blown apart. As dark truths from the past reveal themselves, will these two women be able to learn to forgive, for the sake of their children, if not for themselves?

    And another reader’s review….
    I was torn between giving this book 3 stars and 4 stars. On the one hand, it’s fairly predictable, the characters are not terribly compelling, it hinges on an enormous and very unlikely coincidence and the ending is saccarine sweet. On the other hand, it’s immensely readable – I devoured it in one sitting – and despite its flaws, it has a genuine charm. The story is about two women living on opposite sides of the US (Sylvie and Maggie) who lead quite different lives but will get to know one another over the course of the book. The connection between them is pretty easy to guess from the outset, although it is meant to come as a surprise. Sylvie is the more likeable character initially although she’s a little…sweet. Maggie is highly status conscious and pretty shallow, although she develops depth as the novel proceeds. They both have teenage daughters who have struggles of their own and husbands who travel a lot for work and may or may not be unfaithful to them. The theme of the book is really about picking yourself up after your world falls apart and finding yourself in the second act of your life. 

    Look, it’s not a great book, but as I say it’s very readable and I liked it more than I would have expected. The sub-plot which deals with a teenager’s eating disorder is well done and I liked the way that both women developed friendships to sustain them. If you’re after something light and easy to read, you could do far worse.

    18246276       This was quite a different kind of story. A “normal” American family of a father,mother, and teen daughter and a young son who has a form ofmutism (he won’t or can’t speak to anyone outside of his family) are going through the most common life issues of bickering, an angry daughter, an over protective mother, a husband who has been out of work for over a year, not to mention the struggles with their young son.   Suddenly their home is invaded by two unknown men who shut them up in their basement. During the course of the story, the reader is not sure what is behind this. Did the husband set it up for insurance purposes? Did the daughter make someone mad who called in a gang? Did the mother do anything to make someone want to hurt her family? Why is this happening? As the invasion turns violent, the reader wonders what is really going on. I thought the book was very good until near the end when the author tied it all up in a fairly neat package. This is definitely not your regular summertime read ~ but it is read-worthy.

    Here’s the jacket description…
    Bestselling author Sophie Littlefield delivers a riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines story about a family put to the ultimate test when two men take them hostage inside their home. Jen Glass has worked hard to achieve the ideal life: a successful career, a beautiful home in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, a seemingly perfect family. But inside the Glass house, everything is spinning out of Jen’s control. Her marriage to her husband, Ted, is on the brink of collapse; her fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant each day; and her five-year-old son barely speaks a word. Jen is on the verge of breaking, but nothing could have prepared her for what is to come. On an evening that was supposed to be like any other, two men force their way into the Glasses’ home, but what begins as a common robbery takes an even more terrifying turn. Held hostage in the basement for more than forty-eight hours, Jen and Ted must put aside their differences if they have any hope of survival. They will stop at nothing to keep their family safe;even if it means risking their own lives. A taut and emotional tale of a family brought together by extraordinary forces, House of Glass is a harrowing exploration of the lengths a mother will go to protect her children, and the power of tragedy to teach us what truly matters. Sophie Littlefield shows considerable skills for delving into the depths of her characters and complex plotting.
    And another reader’s review….
    A fast paced, gripping novel, House of Glass is the story of a family taken hostage in their own home. Locked in the basement by two gun wielding thugs, Jen Glass, her husband, Ted, teenage daughter, Livvy, and young son, Teddy, can only hope the men will take the money they want and leave.  But when things begin to go wrong for the hostage takers, the terrifying situation begins to spiral out of control. Despite outward appearances the Glass family is already a fractured reflection of perfection. Ted is unemployed and Jen suspects him of indulging in an affair, Livvy has become a surly teenager and five year old Teddy is a selective mute, refusing to speak to anyone outside of the immediate family. These stressors, added to the recent death of her estranged father, has Jen feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment when ‘Dan’ and ‘Ryan’ storm into their home. She can’t help but wonder exactly why, and how, these strange men came to target her family and are privy to personal details. Though determined to keep her family safe, she feels powerless as the crisis worsens and she has to consider they may not survive.

    The pace is compelling and the tension is high from the first moment the men appear in the doorway of Jen and Ted’s bedroom. It continues to increase as things begin to go wrong and the Glass family grows ever more desperate to escape the clutches of their hostage-takers. While I admired the intensity of the story I didn’t feel that the characters were developed as they could have been. The family dynamics were a little superficial and in particular I felt I didn’t know Jen well enough to understand her thoughts and actions, aside from her base motivation to protect her family.

    House of Glass is a story of betrayal, of desperation and ultimately of survival. Inspired by a reported home invasion that took place in Connecticut in 2007, Littlefield dramatizes a horrifying event that every family fears, creating a page turning thriller.

    17287028         It’s difficult to give this a high rating because I didn’t want to say that I loved it when it is all true.

    We have all heard of Elizabeth Smart who was kidnapped and held as a slave for about 9 months in Utah. After she was rescued, she never seemed to have much trouble adapting back into her original life. In this book, Elizabeth tells the reader about what she endured. She was raped every day at least once.  Other sexual abuse acts were also forced on her. She lived in a tent and had to hike up and down a mountain on a regular basis. She was starved, she was terrorized, she was forced to drink alcohol, she was constantly told that her family would be killed, that her little sister would be kidnapped, that one of her cousins would be kidnapped too. She decided early on that she would rely on her strong faith to get her through. And she did. She even talks about two “miracles” that happened just when she thought she was going to die.This is a difficult story to read, especially when the reader realizes that it is true. This young lady was very strong in her love of God, her family and her belief that she was here to do something good.

    Here’s the jacket description…
    For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime.  
    On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.Now for the first time, in her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving.  Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

    In the nine years after her rescue, Smart transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker. In  2012, she married Matthew Gilmour, whom she met doing mission work in Paris for her church, in a fairy tale wedding that made the cover of People magazine.

    And another reader’s review….
    Definitely worth reading/listening to. Here are the problems — the writing isn’t amazing, which I can overlook, but the toughest thing was that it’s read by Elizabeth Smart herself, who often reads it as though she is reading a children’s book or a young adult to someone, as in “My Life as a Zany Teenager” or something. I would be thinking, “Whoa this is not like wearing a bad outfit to school,” but that’s how it sounds. Obviously she didn’t feel that way about it, but she sometimes reads it that way, which trivializes how horrible it was.On why-you-should-read-this: You just can’t believe this happened to her and she survived. I was grateful that she avoided being graphic. But definitely you knew the terrible things she endured. Even though I knew the ending, my heart was pounding! And when she was reunited with her family, I couldn’t stop crying.

     It was interesting to me that she hardly mentions her Dad, but loved her Mom sooooo much, and mentions her repeatedly. I also REALLY enjoyed listening to how she has coped post-kidnapping.

    So, as I began this post with TIME PASSES AND LIFE HAPPENS…..Let me end it with this.
        

June 18, 2014

  • I’M INSPIRED ~ I THINK…..

    I was feeling a bit lethargic these past couple of days.   I’m not certain of the cause.  It could be a combination of a few things.  On Father’s Day, my son and daughter-in-law and I took some of Dean’s ashes to the Police Memorial and put them by the eternal blue light.  It was more emotional than I was expecting.  Well, I was expecting to feel some sadness but it still came over me rather quickly.  We spent some time there.  It was so peaceful and quiet and lovely.  We looked at some of the big memorial displays put there by the South Bend Police, Mishawaka Police, St. Joseph County police, and the Indiana State Police and read the Policeman’s Prayer.

     

    Then we went to a very small cemetery near where some relatives used to live.  We put more ashes at the gravesite of Dean’s brother and sister who have passed away.

    After that we went to get something to eat and then went to 3 small units in my community where there were some open houses.  We saw one very tiny one bedroom unit that was very cute.  Honestly, I think it would be too small for just me but it was very nice.  The other two we visited were 3 bedroom units with a basement and upstairs.  The stairways are very narrow and the current owners have been there for a long time.  One has lived there for 18 years and the other one has lived there for 52 years!  (There would be a lot of updating necessary to get those two units comfortable for a new owner, I think.) The community will be having Open Houses every 3rd Sunday through September so, hopefully, we can visit some others…just to see how they are decorated.

    The weather has turned very hot and very humid this week.  I finally had to turn on the Central Air because I couldn’t get cool.   It has made it easier to sleep for both me and my cats!  I will probably have to keep the Central Air on until next week when it is supposed to be less humid.  My plants are growing slowly but they are still alive.  I dug up the multi-colored rose bush and sent it back to the plant company.  It never did grow.  I’m hoping for either a replacement or a credit towards next year’s selection.

    I had also ordered something for a gift but when it arrived, it was very small ~ not like the description.  I wrote to the company to return it.  They responded quickly and offered to  me to choose another item up to $5 more than my original purchase.  I have selected something and hope it turns out to be what I wanted.

    I had very good news yesterday when my son informed me that he finally got the promotion he has been working towards for almost a year.  He is now an official Dispatch Supervisor!  I’m so happy for him.  The money isn’t much over what he currently makes but he deserves the title since he has been doing the job for a very long time.  Also, this may cut down on his recall (overtime) so he will have a little more time for himself and his wife.

    I still don’t have the other remodeling work scheduled.  The company is so busy that they haven’t been able to take a day or so to do my work. I guess it doesn’t really matter except I would like to have it done.

    So since I was feeling less than enthused about doing anything constructive, I turned to SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach once again.  Today’s essay is entitled CHOOSING TO BLOSSOM.

    “…and the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin

    How much time, creative energy, and emotion do we expend resisting change because we assume growth must always be painful?  Much personal growth is uncomfortable, especially learning to set boundaries in relationships.  When we commit to nurturing our authentic selves, people close to us are going to start noticing that changes are taking place.  This is the season when growth in the garden, which had been gradual, now accelerates.  It’s that season for us as well, now that we are six months into the (year) journey towards Wholeness.”

    “For it can be difficult to express your authentic needs by saying “Sorry, I can’t” when everybody assumes you can.  But it’s worse to thwart the ascent of your authenticity.  The day comes–maybe it is today–when “remaining tight in the bud” is more painful than blossoming!  ”"Gardening is creative work, just as much as painting or writing a poem.”" the Victorian writer Hanna Rion tells us.  ”"It is a personal expression of self, an individual conception of beauty.” Gardening is also a wonderful way to gently explore some of the personal growth issues raised by authenticity.”

    “Can you find one perfect rosebud, either in your garden or at a store?  Place it on your desk or night table.  The Talmut tells us that “each blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers. “Grow, Grow, Grow!”

    So I was thinking about that and realized that I have been working on my authentic self since my husband passed away.  I’ve made myself go out to be with other people.  I’ve tried to accept every invitation I have received.  I’ve been working on making my home more comfortable for ME….I chosen things that I want around me for several months now.  And, most recently, I have decided it is time to lose some weight.  I haven’t gone into it in a huge way but I have ordered a food program and have been following it for almost 2 weeks now.   I’ve lost about 4 lbs to date.  There are a lot of veggies in the picture and I am getting tired of them but I have lost my cravings for sweets and cut way back on carbs too.  I’m hopeful I can continue on this new way of eating and continue to lose some weight.  I do need to exercise more and I expect I need to join a gym again just to make myself do the work.

      

    In other areas, I am still watching Game of Thrones.  I’m on the Second Season and loving it.  I ordered the 5 books in the series and have them sitting on an end table just waiting for me to sit down and read them.

    Speaking of reading, I haven’t done too much again this week.  But  I did read ~

    18246273

    bookshelves: familyfriendsmarriage

    Read on June 05, 2014

    I can say that I liked this book. It was enjoyable. It followed a common pattern of several women friends having some problems in their lives and rallying around each other to help. This book was a little tiny bit over-the-top for me. Each of the 4 women have a serious situation nearly at the same time. Every possible problem including infidelity, trauma in the marriage or relationship,mental breakdowns, children who get into trouble, serious illnesses and all the other problems most of us face at one time or another happen to these four women and their families. I felt there was also a tiny feeling of “preaching” to the reader on why these things happen and how to “fix them”. But if you want a quick read for a summer afternoon, this book will fit that need.

    Here’s the book description…

    Gerri can’t decide what’s more devastating: learning her rock-solid marriage has big cracks, or the anger she feels as she tries to repair the damage. Always the anchor for friends and her three angst-ridden teenagers, it’s time to look carefully at herself. The journey for Gerri and her family is more than revealing—it’s transforming.

    Andy doesn’t have a great track record with men, and she’s come to believe that for her a lasting love is out of reach. When she finds herself attracted to her down-to-earth, ordinary contractor—a man without any of the qualities that usually appeal to her—she questions everything she thought she wanted in life.

    Sonja’s lifelong pursuit of balance is shattered when her husband declares he’s through with her New Age nonsense and walks out. There’s no herbal tonic or cleansing ritual that can restore her serenity—or her sanity. 

    Miraculously, it’s BJ, the reserved newcomer to Mill Valley, who steps into their circle and changes everything. The woman with dark secrets opens up to her neighbors, and together they get each other back on track, stronger as individuals and unfaltering as friends.

    And another reader’s review…

    What it’s all about…
    Why…it’s about four friends and the lives they lead. These four just happen to live in the same neighborhood.

    My thoughts after reading this book… 
    When we first meet these women they are up at 6 A.M. ish and power walking. However…soon everyone’s lives begin to change and even crumble. Andy finds out her husband is cheating, Gerri finds out her husband has cheated, Sonja falls apart because her husband doesn’t want to eat nut meatloaf any more and BJ enters the picture with a deep dark secret of her own. 
    Husbands are tossed out, someone gets committed, teen children get in trouble, secrets are revealed and some people fall in love…again…and this is all within the first few pages! Just teasing but there is a lot going on in this book! And you can sort of predict how this book will roll…dysfunction, angst, revealed secrets and a happy ending…sort of!

    What I loved best and what I didn’t love best…
    The characters are interesting and I loved their issues! It made the book fun and speedy to read! One of my fave characters is Bob…the Builder/Carpenter and Beau…his dog. Gerri…has been married the longest and is the most visible character in this book. Her complaints about sex and menopause were kind of annoying…she needed her gynecologist to tell her women had sex after fifty? Sheesh! 

    My ending thoughts for potential readers…
    A fun light hearted book with both real and quirky over the top characters. Lots of issues are addressed…drugs, marital abuse, teen sex, homosexuality, fidelity and vegetarianism. Yes…I said vegetarianism!

    Again…probably a great beach read…I think that this is the first book I have ever read by this author. I did enjoy it!

     

    18090110

    bookshelves: familyfriendsmarriagemothers-and-daughterssisters

    Read on June 16, 2014

    This is an easy beach read ~ perfect for the warm weather with a cool glass of something while you sit outside. Violet Turner has always wanted to open up a vintage boutique store. She has been saving clothing and other pieces of art and/or accessories for years. She finally finds a good location and then begins to meet an assortment of friends who walk through the shop door. As always, there are some minor problems in the way and each character has something they want to make better. In the end, it all comes together in a good way. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the clothing Violet treasured and the stories of how they came her way.

    Here’s the book description….

    A sparkling debut novel in the vein of The Friday Night Knitting Club, centered around a Midwestern vintage clothing shop and a group of women who eventually transform the store and each others’ lives.

    At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.

    Yellow Samsonite suitcase with ivory, quilted lining, 1950s…
    Violet Turner had always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. Though she knows the personal history behind each precious item she sells, Violet refuses to acknowledge her own past. When she is faced with the possibility of losing the store, she realizes that, as much as she wants to, she cannot save it alone.

    Taffeta tea length wedding gown with scooped neckline and cap sleeves, 1952…
    Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect 1950s wedding dress, she discovers unexpected possibilities and friends who won’t let her give up on her dreams.

    Orange sari made from silk dupioni with gold paisley design, 1968…
    Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her old clothes, remnants of her past life. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears she has nothing more ahead for her.

    An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of women’s friendship and love, Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal and hope when we least expect it.

    And another reader’s review….

    My ” in a nutshell” summary…
    A vintage store and some ladies with issues…that’s the makeup of this book!

    Violet loves old things…she finds them, collects them and sells them in her vintage shop.
    Violet seems to also collect people…some good…some bad…she has a horrible ex husband, a lovely dog and a mismatched collection of friends. Basically she is happy in spite of being forced out of her lease, wanting a baby, and dealing with other issues in her life. There are other characters…April and Nimitri…each dealing with their own issues. 

    I loved that this book was so sweetly written. It’s a story of the lives of these women as they went through some major issues in their lives…infidelity, unwanted pregnancy, death, yearning for a baby, career issues and even more.

    Perhaps this book was a just a little predictable…but that really didn’t bother me at all.

    I found this to be a sweet, calming, delightful book to read. I loved getting to know these women and their issues. I loved learning about vintage clothes. I loved seeing how they dealt with their life changing issues!

          

June 11, 2014

  • A NOOK OF YOUR OWN AND I DON’T MEAN AN E-READER.

                         

    I’m turning once again to Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach for inspiration.  An essay entitled A NOOK OF YOUR OWN caught my eye today.

    In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us.”  ~ Virginia Woolf.

    “In October, 1928, the British novelist and literary critic, Virginia Woolf gave 2 lectures on women and fiction at Cambridge University in England.  In her talks she publicly voiced for the first time what women had been sharing among themselves for centuries:  in order for women to create, they needed privacy, peace, and personal incomes.  The following year, Ms. Woolf published those lectures as her book ~ A ROOM OF YOUR OWN.”

    “Tillie Olsen has exquisitely explored the creative voice when it is muffled, muzzled and mute ~ “the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot…” in her book SILENCES.  Ms. Olsen was silenced herself for 20 years while she raised and supported four children through menial jobs that left her no energy to write; she was nearly fifty when she published her first novel, TELL ME A RIDDLE.”

    “Many of us today experience creative silence…the creative silence brought about by circumstances we feel are beyond our control, lack of time, and/or lack of space or a place to create.  Perhaps we also suffer ….a failure to realize how necessary it is to nurture our creativity daily.”

    “To begin with, many of us, unless we live alone, don’t have a room entirely our own.  That does not mean we cannot carve out a small space~ even a nook ~to call our own.  No room for a desk and a chair?  Then start with a bookcase all your own.  The important thing is that the bookcase is YOURS!  A space that offers passionate reminders to attend to  your own private, artistic impulses, a place to encourage you to reclaim your creativity.”

     

     

    I had a busy few days.  I had my May dinner out with my high school friends.  It was my turn to host the after dinner dessert.  Everyone came and admired my redone family room and kitchen floor.  On Tuesday, I had an impromptu lunch with another girl friend from high school.  We hadn’t seen each other for about 2 years so it was great to catch up.   On Thursday, I had lunch with another good friend who was also a former co-worker.  We had a lot to talk about as well.  This past Monday was my dentist appointment and it all went well.  In-between that, I did grocery shopping, looked for more plants, cleaned up some of the yard space and put up a bird feeder.  It seems like the time went by very quickly and I did accomplishment several small things.

    I am still waiting for my contractor to come back out and give me an estimate on wainscoting the little upstairs hallway and to see if he can improve on my big closet…which is falling apart.  I had been putting off moving my clothes out and sorting them.  In my former home, I had a walk-in closet with double rods.  I would put the current season on the top rod and the out of season clothes on the bottom rod.  Then I would just switch out every 6 months.   With my current closet, I have the current season behind the door that opens the most easily.  The out of season clothes are behind the harder to open door.  I finally decided this week that I might as well move the clothing around so that I can get to the seasonal clothes more easily.  I am also giving myself 6 months to lose some weight and then I will be seriously purging the too small, too tight, too out of date, too unattractive pieces out.  And I promised myself that I would not buy any new clothes until the 6 months is up…unless it is a perfect piece that I absolutely cannot live another second without having it in my closet whether it fits or not….

    I’m still playing Criminal Cases and Candy Crush on Facebook.  I finally broke through a level on Candy Crush that I was stuck on for weeks!  I love when that happens…..

    Most of the plants that I ordered are coming up.  My Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors rose bush didn’t make it.  I’m going to return it and hope to get a replacement.  I’ve been looking for this rose bush for a couple of years.  My blue geraniums are leafing out ~ I hope they bloom this season.  One of the two clematis is starting to entwine itself around the chain link fence.  The second one is growing more slowly.  The two lilacs are growing as well.  I bought a few Impatiens for color in the front of my unit this week too.

    I’m watching Game of Thrones.  I just started the second Season.  I ordered the 5 books from Amazon and have them sitting on an end table just waiting for me to start reading.  I really have so many books to read.

     

         

    So…speaking of books….

    I haven’t read any recently.  I’ve read some magazines that were stacked up.  I returned a lot of books to the library.  I did little chores around the house but I didn’t read any books.  Guess I need to do that very soon.

     

               

     

        

     

June 1, 2014

  • HAPPY JUNE AND WELCOME HESTIA

     

    According to Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach…..

    “Three thousand years ago in ancient Greece, Hestia was the goddess of the hearth, guardian of family life and the temple.  Women turned to Hestia for protection and inspiration so that they might transform their dwelling into homes of beauty and comfort.  Hestia was one of the twelve Olympians in classical Greece mythology.  She is the least known of all of them and there are no legends about her, even though Zeus bestowed on her the privilege of sitting in the center of their celestial home so that she might receive the best offerings from the mortals.  While the other gods and goddesses were personified in sculpture and paintings, Hestia was not rendered in human form.  Her spiritual presence was honored as an eternal flame.  Her sacred fire provided illumination, warmth and the heat necessary for food.”

    “Today, as in ancient times, Hestia focuses attention inward to the spiritual center of a woman’s personality enabling us to tap into an inner harmony as we go about our daily lives.  She is not frazzled, hanging on by a thread.  Hestia is grounded in the midst of outer chaos, disorder or ordinary, everyday business.  Everything that gets done in the home is accomplished with ease and grace.”

    By now, I am sure many of you are saying   “YEAH, RIGHT…!”   “So, just how do we do this?  You could ask Hestia for help as you work around the home.  Thinking of Hestia can help you tend to the household details as a centering activity equivalent to meditation.”  If you feel you have no time to sit down and mediate, or you have a valid excuse for not seeking guidance because you are too busy, that’s alright too.

    Or hire a cleaning service….. 

                

    So, what have I accomplished this week myself?  Glad you asked!  I cleaned my little house because I was having company on Friday.  A small group of girl friends from high school meet once a month for dinner and then go to someone’s house for dessert.  It was my turn this month and the first time I have hosted since I rejoined the group.  So, I did a little extra cleaning and tried to make my house look the way I envision it most of the time.  All the 5 girl friends liked my little place and said it was so cute and very cozy.  They also loved my two cats who decided the gathering must be for them so they were in the same room and just going from one to another of the women to get praises and petting.

    I made a new dessert that went over very well.   Here’s the recipe if you want to try it out for yourself.  After all, I am featuring Hestia as my theme.

    OOEY GOOEY CHOCOLATE INDULGENCE

    Cookie dough:   (this is basically a chocolate chip cookie dough)  You could probably just buy pre-made cookie dough.

    1/2 Cup softened butter

    1/4 Cup brown sugar

    3/4  Cup of granulated sugar

    1 egg

    1-1/4 tsp. vanilla

    1-1/4 Cup flour

    1/2 tsp salt

    1/2 tsp baking soda

    1/2 tsp baking powder

    1 Cup chocolate chips.

    Press cookie dough into a foil lined bottom of a  9×11 pan.  Make it as level as possible.

    Add one package of Oreo cookies side by side into the pan (all the cookies will not fit so you will have to eat the rest of them…LOL)

    Drizzle caramel sauce over the top….as much as you want

    Prepare an 18 oz. package of brownie mix according to the box instructions.

    Pour the brownie mix over the top of the pan and make it as level as possible.

    Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Sometimes it takes a little longer because of the brownie mix.

    After the pan cools, drizzle caramel sauce over the top and sprinkle with sea salt.

    I also did the laundry, mopped the floors, vacuumed too, grocery shopped and did all those things that need to be done regularly.  I paid some bills and got a royalty check for my books on sale at Amazon.com.   Thanks for buying them!

    And I read some books.

    18074324

    Muriel Sullivan is the third child in a family. She never felt wanted, needed, appreciated or loved. She adored her big sister but couldn’t seem to connect with her. Her brother left home right after he graduated from high school. She wanted her mother to love her and for a short amount of time, she felt they had a connection.  Then one Saturday afternoon,  she saw something that changed her mind. As an adult, Muriel made her own way and continued to try to have a relationship with her mother and her big sister. It didn’t seem to work out until the day her sister came to tell Muriel a big secret. Another big secret she was to promise not to tell anyone.Muriel finally saw where she fit into the family and how the secrets had kept them all apart. She got the courage to do something about it and then her life changed.

    Here’s the book description….
    Mary Hogan’s powerful and poignant debut novel about two sisters—opposites in every way—plus their mother and the secrets and lies that define them all.One family, two sisters, a lifetime of secrets . . .

    The third child in a family that wanted only two, Muriel Sullivan has always been an outsider. Short, dark-haired and round, she worships her beautiful blonde sister, Pia, and envies the close bond Pia shares with their mother, Lidia. Growing up in their shadow, Muriel believes that if she keeps all their secrets—and she knows plenty, outsiders always do—they will love her, too.

    But that was a long time ago. Now an adult, Muriel has accepted the disappointments in her life. With her fourth-floor walk-up apartment and entry-level New York City job, she never will measure up to Pia and her wealthy husband, their daughter, and their suburban Connecticut dream home. Muriel would like nothing better than to avoid her judgmental family altogether. One thing she does quite well.

    Until the day Pia shows up to visit and share devastating news that Muriel knows she cannot tell—a secret that will force her to come to terms with the past and help her see her life and her family in unexpected new ways.

    And another reader’s review….

    The story of the two sisters is like a grapefruit; fragrant, special and often bitter but good for your guts and spa inclined mind. It’s a beautiful and bittersweet, suck-you-in type of a book that made me feel as if my fingers were glued to the pages, I read most of it in bed on a Sunday shedding a tear or two towards the end, weeks later as I’m writing this review , it still haunts me. This book is based on something real that the author has experienced and that echo of that intensity rings true though the work.

    Muriel is an adult but as a child she wasn’t considered the pearl of the family, she’s nowhere near Pia’s statuesque tanned, gold haired blonde beauty often dismissed by her perfectionist mother Lidia and her absent minded father, she grows up to have her own isolated life after a childhood of secrets and betrayals but her past comes back to haunt her when her perfect sister comes for a sudden unexpected visit, old scabs and wounds reopen whether she’s ready or not with shocking new revelations that will forever change the entire family.

    This was some great stuff, I loved the story and felt its pains and tribulations, now that’s always appreciated, a tale that makes me feel what I felt here means a lot to me.This is part mystery as in what’s going on/ juicy family secrets, realism and escapism, just good reading with a heart jerking message.

     

    17978193

    bookshelves: familyfriendsmarriage

    This book wasn’t what I was hoping for. It does tell the history of Los Alamos when scientists and other skilled and educated people were asked to go to Los Alamos to work on a secret project. They took their wives and families along. The wives and families had no idea what they were doing there. The scientists could be gone for days at a time but never told their families what they were working on. Often when the family arrived, there was no house for them to live in and they had to sleep in sleeping bags in the main Lodge for weeks. There were only a few bath tubs and the rest of the homes had a small shower. The water was discolored or thick as mud if there was any water at all. Any produce or dairy or meat was usually old and past it’s date to be consumed in spite of a fresh market not too far away. Most of the families were there for about 3 years before they finally learned what the big secret project had been.The author wrote without much detail. She wrote saying “we did this or we did that”, offering up different scenarios. “We had a child or we lost a baby or we didn’t want children or we had many children.” “We drank too much or we never drank. We flirted or we didn’t. We did this or we did that.”

    Just my opinion.

    Here’s the book description….

    Their average age was twenty-five. They came from Berkeley, Cambridge, Paris, London, Chicago—and arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret, including what their husbands were doing at the lab. They lived in barely finished houses with a P.O. box for an address in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of a project that didn’t exist as far as the public knew. Though they were strangers, they joined together—adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery. 

    And while the men were working on something, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up, and Los Alamos gradually transformed from an abandoned school on a hill into a real community: one that was strained by the words they couldn’t say out loud, the letters they couldn’t send home, the freedom they didn’t have. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges to the people of Los Alamos, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind.

    The Wives of Los Alamos is a novel that sheds light onto one of the strangest and most monumental research projects in modern history, and a testament to a remarkable group of women who carved out a life for themselves, in spite of the chaos of the war and the shroud of intense secrecy.

    And another reader’s review…

    Let’s get one thing out in the open first. This book is written in the first person plural. This is unusual and it might drive some readers crazy. At first I kept thinking, oh, soon the real book is going to start and it will be more conventional. But no, it’s “we did this” though the whole book. But once I adjusted to it, and realized it’s not exactly a novel, I did enjoy the book. The book is the story of the families who went to Los Alamos, NM in the 1940s while their husbands (and a few women) worked on building the first atomic bomb. Since it’s a story of a community, rather than a single person, there’s no dramatic event or plot, other than the obvious lead-up to the detonation of the bomb. But over the course of the book you really get a sense of what it’s like to live in a community shrouded in secrecy, to be uprooted and not be able to share any of your experiences with outsiders. There are fascinating details about how the scientists’ families interact with local Native Americans, and the end of the book deals with how everyone came to terms with the impact of their work. I definitely recommend the book to those willing to try something a little different.

     

    \18248415

    bookshelves: dramafamilymarriage

    The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars was that I felt the ending was rushed. This book captured me from Page 1 and it was a wild ride trying to figure out who did what and why and would they tell or get caught or keep quiet. This book is 427 pages that I almost read in one day because it was so good. It’s a story about secrets….serious secrets….and what can happen when you don’t tell. And if you do tell….sometimes bad things still happen.
    Here’s the book description….
    A riveting, poignant family drama perfect for readers of Defending Jacob and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, which explores the power of the secrets people keep-the darker, hidden facets of our lives, and what happens when they come to light.Diagnosed with XP, a rare medical condition which makes him lethally sensitive to light, Tyler is a thirteen-year-old who desperately wants just one thing: to be normal. His mother Eve also wants just one thing: to protect her son. As Tyler begins roaming their cul-de-sac at night, cloaked in the safety of the darkness, he peers into the lives of the other families on the street-looking in on the things they most want hidden. Then, the young daughter of a neighbor suddenly vanishes, and Tyler may be the only one who can make sense of her disappearance…but what will happen when everyone’s secrets are exposed to the light?

    And another reader’s review….
    I gave this five stars because it has that one quality that I think defines a good book–I couldn’t put it down. I started it one night before bed and didn’t stop reading until the afternoon of the next day! I had to keep reading to see how everything resolved itself. I mistakenly thought this book would be an insular family drama dealing with the harsh realities of having a child with XP. People with XP cannot stand UV light–it burns and blisters their skin and then causes mutations at a level that almost insures cancer growth. This book ,though, is about so much more than XP. It’s not just a family drama–it is a crime drama, a neighborhood drama, personal dramas. Buckley does a fantastic job of reeling the reader in with well-constructed, colorful, emotional characters. Each character has their petty dramas, personal conflicts, and moral failings. Without giving any spoilers, this book goes from seemingly ho-hum to thrilling in no time at all. 

    So, now you know how my week went.  I hope you think about Hestia and find pleasure in making your house your home.  And if not, I’m sure any local  Cleaning Service can send out a crew!
    Embarrass Cat  Shames you into doing house cleaning properly          
    Happy June!