October 31, 2014

  • HAPPY HALLOWEEN….

    Here we are at the end of this month and almost the end of autumn~

    I decided to refer to SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach again to see what she had to say about this date.

    The essay is entitled MAKE ROOM FOR MYSTERY, AWAKEN TO THE MAGIC….

    It’s All Hollow’s Eve.  Some of us will be accompanying our little goblins on their Trick or Treat rounds tonight to provide love, care and concern for their protection.  Some of us will be greeting those little goblins at our own front doors with candy or other treats.

    “Halloween comes down to us from the pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhaim, held on October 31st.  The last autumn night before the cold and bleakness of winter.  On this night ~ considered the Celtic New Year ~ the Druids believed that the supernatural world drew closer to the physical world, so human beings were more susceptible to the power and influence of the unseen.  Magic spells could be cast more easily, predicting fortunes were more revealing, and dreams held special significance.”

     Ms. Breathnach goes on to say .…”Being human, I believe Halloween is the perfect reminder that magic flows through us, mystery infuses every encounter of every day.  We conjure up missing objects…we transform leftovers into a feast, banish fear, heal hurts, make money stretch till the end of the month.  We carry, cradle, nurture and sustain life.  We do all of this and much more.  Most women are not aware of their tremendous power for good.  We’ve not consciously awakened to the realization that we are descendants of an ancient, sacred lineage..!”

    “Isn’t Magic what you’re performing when you create an authentic lifestyle for yourself and those you love?  Aren’t you shaping unseen forces with your creativity and crafts? …..How much more could you accomplish if you were fully aware of your powers?’

    “Oh Daughter of the SHE, much power has been gifted to you.  It is the power of Love,  Tonight by candlelight or the light of the moon in your backyard, commit to use your power wisely for the Highest Good of all.  YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF THE COUNTLESS LIVES YOU TOUCH IN THE COURSE OF YOUR LIFETIME.    Go directly to the Source.  Acknowledge your lineage and your authentic gifts with a grateful heart.  ”I am sure there is Magic in everything, ” Frances Hodgson Burnett observed, “only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us.”

     

     

     

    So, for me, I am going to acknowledge my gifts.   Tomorrow starts NANO November Novel Writing Month and I am already entered for the challenge.  I have a tiny bit of any idea and I don’t know where it is going to lead me, but I am up for the job.  I have a working title of INDIGO MEMORIES.  I can’t wait to see where the characters take me this time.

    Since my last blog, my friend who recently lost her husband has decided to move in with her daughter who currently lives in California.  She will be leaving soon.  She doesn’t want to live alone and in particular doesn’t want to go through a winter alone.  I will miss her and hope she enjoys her new home.

    I’m still following most of the Nutrisystem eating plan.  I”ve lost 18 lbs to date.  I’m hopeful to lose 20 lbs. by next weekend.   It’s really not very hard to follow the plan.  I miss the carbs but have realized when I do eat them that the craving comes back instantly.  I don’t  really miss sweets including candy too much.  When I do want something sweet, I usually just take a spoonful and I am satisfied.  Thank goodness.

    Since my last blog, I did finally read some books.  I have been thinking that I may get off Facebook for the winter and spend more time reading…..I want to get back into the habit of enjoying books again.

    18295838     4 of 5 stars

    This novel was based on some true facts. Much of Jackie Kennedy’s wardrobe during her time in the White House ( or the MAISON BLANCHE as it was referred) was made by the American seamstresses who copied the latest Paris fashions for the First Lady. When Jackie Kennedy was criticized for using French designers instead of American designers; this was the answer. The owners of Chez Ninon traveled to all the showings in Paris each year and then copied the fashions that they knew the First Lady would wear. They even had a stand-in model who had the same measurements as the First Lady who came to all the fittings where photographs were taken to be approved by Jackie Kennedy or her designer friends.
    This story is loosely based on some real facts and some real situations. There is a mystery on where that famous pink suit went after the assassination of the President. The National Archives in Washington D.C. has stored the entire contents of Parkland Hospital’s trauma room #1 where the President was pronounced dead. The location is unknown to most people. The pink suit was not stored at that time. It suddenly arrived many years later in the original box from the Chez Ninon with no return address and a single digit postal code in place of the five-digit zip codes adopted on July 1, 1963. Inside the box was the suit, the blouse, the handbag, the shoes and the stockings Jackie had worn on that terrible day, along with an unsigned piece of her mother’s letterhead stationary with the words….”Worn Nov. 22, 1963″.There is also a side story of the young woman who sewed so many of the designs and the pink suit by hand and was one of the “back-room girls” who was never given credit for her unique talents.

    Here’s the book description…
     “Beautifully written and engrossing, The Pink Suit gives us an extraordinary alternative reality, transforming JFK and Jackie’s romance into the unforgettable love story of a seamstress and a butcher. Kate and Patrick are wonderful creations, and the evocation of the early 1960s is moving and convincing. Kelby spins a compelling tale of one of the most iconic garments ever sewn, and makes it entirely her own.”–Claire Kendal, author of The Book of YouOn November 22, 1963, the First Lady accompanied her husband to Dallas, Texas dressed in a pink Chanel-style suit that was his favorite. Much of her wardrobe, including the pink suit, came from the New York boutique Chez Ninon where a young seamstress, an Irish immigrant named Kate, worked behind the scenes to meticulously craft the memorable outfits.

    While the two never met, Kate knew every tuck and pleat needed to create the illusion of the First Lady’s perfection. When the pink suit became emblematic, Kate’s already fragile world–divided between the excess and artistry of Chez Ninon and the traditional values of her insular neighborhood–threatened to rip apart.

    Moving from the back rooms of Chez Ninon to the steps of Air Force One,The Pink Suit is an enchanting, unforgettable novel about hope and heartbreak, and what became of the American Dream.

    Here’s a review by another reader…
    A very unusual take on the Kennedy assassination and the icon that was Jackie Kennedy. This book very much focuses on the time, money and effort that went into creating and maintaining ‘the Wife’ as the nation’s sweetheart. The story barely involves the Wife at all, choosing instead to focus almost entirely on the design and creation of the iconic pink suit that was worn on that fateful visit to Dallas. The novel is based on the actual Irish seamstress who was integral in crafting the suit in question as well on the fashion house Chez Ninon. The author makes it clear that although Kate and the fashion house were real people the image of them presented her is her own fictionalized take on their lives and attitudes.  However,  for the most part she does an incredible job of breathing life into these characters. As with her previous work, White Truffles in Winter this is a gorgeously sensual novel. The textures, scents and weave of each fabric becomes integral to the plot and characterization here. The subplot surrounding Kate’s own love affair with her homely butcher allows Kelby to draw in more of the wonderful descriptions of food that made White Truffles such a delight.There were some lovely little cameos from Coco Chanel and Martin Luther King so be sure to look out for these along the way.

    This novel could easily have descended into a mere fluff piece but some beautiful writing and a well thought out set of convincing characters ensure that there is no risk of this;  all while providing a glimpse into what it takes to build a modern icon.

     

    18812405      4 of 5 stars

    This novel has been compared to GONE GIRL. There some similarities such as the chapters being told by different people in the book. There is a mysterious disappearance of a young girl. The reader soon finds out that the background stories of each character certainly help the reader form an opinion of the main characters. Some of the story is told in “flashbacks” because the young girl has lost her memory. It’s a very evenly paced story and the reader will get caught up in the mystery. Why was she taken? What will happen to her? Why do some members of her family seem more irritated then frightened? Who is really behind it all? What will happen in the end?
    I read this book in 2 days. It was much more pleasing to me than Gone Girl.
    Here’s the book description…
    “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.

    Colin’s job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.

    An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems….

    Here’s another reader’s review…
    This book is not at all what it seems. I was expecting a book like Gone Girl and what I got was a relative of it. If you liked Gone Girl, you will like The Good Girl. It had me racing through the pages until the very end, WHICH BLEW…MY…MIND!It didn’t really hit me what was going on until the last few pages. I had to reread a couple of pages to get it, but it was enjoyable, not annoying where I just didn’t get it. I had an idea of what was going on, but I had to be sure. This book really kept me guessing and each time, I was just very wrong.

    I really did like the multiple POV’s of the novel, however. To some it may be confusing, but to me it was great! Refreshing, even. I haven’t read a novel with multiple POV’s that I have enjoyed in a long time. The author did a good job with hooking the reader in and having them crave for the end of every chapter, just so they could see what was going on in the next one. The characters were realistic to people I know and I was drawn into their lives and this again, was great.

    This is a fantastic book if you’re craving a dark mystery. If you read this, you won’t be disappointed because I was not and I am now looking forward to more books by Mary Kubica. She can write a hell of a story.

    20821084      4 of 5 stars

    What an interesting book!  There are two main characters who have five days left before their lives change drastically. One of them is a mother who believes she must take her own life due to a terminal illness. She wrestles with leaving her husband and her child, her friends and her parents and makes “deals” with herself about if and when she should do it. There is a man who teaches in the lower income part of Detroit who is married. He and his wife have taken in a “foster” child for a year and the last 5 days they have him are coming quickly. He wants to keep the boy but his wife has a different perspective. As the reader follows the story-line, the reader becomes involved in the decision-making process. What IS the right thing to do? Who is being selfish? What will each person decide to do? How will it all end?This is a first novel by Julie Lawson Tanner and it is a good one.

    Here’s the book description…
    A beautifully drawn study of what is at risk when you lose control of your own life.  Unique, gripping, and viscerally moving — this impressive debut novel heralds the arrival of an extremely talented writer.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Lone WolfDestined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.

    Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.  
    Here’s another reader’s review…
    Five Days Left is an emotional and touching story about life and death and the sacrifices that are made for the sake of one’s family and relationships.There are two plot lines–two different journeys that are totally separate yet connected and intertwined. The story of Mara is sad and heart wrenching as she goes from a healthy and strong woman to a woman who discovers she has a fatal disease and needs to rely on the help of family and friends. Mara has a loving and wonderful husband and a beautiful adopted daughter. Mara does not want to be a burden to her family so she makes a promise to herself that when the symptoms worsen she will end her life on her own terms. This will spare her family and herself the pain, anguish and humiliation of this terrible disease. The story of Scott is also a heartbreaker. Scott is a foster parent to Curtis while the mother is serving a jail sentence and big brother is fulfilling his college dreams. Scott loves his wife who is pregnant with his first child. He also loves Curtis who eventually will be reunited with his mother.

    Both Mara and Scott have 5 days left to come to terms with a decision and say their final goodbyes. I was on a journey with these two people knowing perfectly well that I may not like the outcome! I thought this was an amazing debut novel. Dark and thought-provoking yet filled with hope and love. I look forward to reading more novels by this new author.

    So that ends this month and this blog.
    HAPPY HALLOWEEN…..
       

October 18, 2014

  • A LESSON OF LOSS

     

     

    My goodness, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted!  As I had mentioned in the previous blog, my year of “firsts” ended on  October 9, 2014.  One entire year since my husband passed away...and still…. it doesn’t seem possible that I will never see or hear him again while I am alive on this earth.

    On that day, I got some phone calls from family and friends who were checking in with me.  I appreciated that so much.  But the way the day turned out was certainly not what I had expected….

     

    …. about 5 weeks earlier, when a dear friend whom we had known for over 40 years called me.  Her husband had suddenly collapsed and since she was a registered nurse, she got him into some doctors right away.  They soon found a tumor on his spine and were also concerned about some severe pain he was having in his left hip.  After more testing, the news came that he had cancer.  So he began some radiation in hopes the tumor would reduce and his pain level would drop.  As these things often go, he had continuing and escalating pain.   He was sent to the same oncologist as my husband had last year.  The doctor decided to supplement the radiation with a 3 week trial of chemotherapy.  He had one chemo treatment and actually felt better.  He had 2 great days and he and his wife and his daughter (who had flown in from California) got a lot of things done.  I had suggested they get a will, a medical guardianship and DNR document done immediately.  And also to make funeral arrangements so she didn’t have to stress about that when the time came. He had always taken care of all the finances and his wife had no idea what to do first.  Two days after those couple of good days; he was in terrible pain and his wife finally got Hospice Home to find him a bed because he had felt a pop and his left hip had shattered.  The oncologist said there was no use in trying to repair it because they had just confirmed that he had cancer everywhere.  His wife called and asked if my son and I could witness the legal documents on that Wednesday.  We went to the Hospice Home and met them and their attorney.  He was mostly sleeping and probably drifting into a coma by then.  We did witness all the documents.  My son and I both talked between ourselves and felt that he wasn’t going to last much longer due to his coloring (or lack there-of) and his lack of response.

    The next day my son and I were doing some errands together when I got the call.  He had passed 6 hours earlier.  The day before we had told his daughter that we knew my husband was just waiting for Jerry because they used to ride in a 2 man police car when they first got on the police department.  I told his daughter that they would be “partnered up” riding together again in Heaven taking care of everyone.  When she called, she said “my Daddy is with your husband now in  Heaven.!”   It was October 9th….the same day that my husband died a year before!!  We all took such comfort in that,  believing that the guys are together again, laughing and telling “police stories” and getting caught up on all the news.

    It actually made my first anniversary without my husband easier because I had my friend to think about.  I was able to help her with some police documents this week.  In a few weeks, she has decided to move in with her daughter who lives in California.  She had a year’s lease on the apt. she and Jerry had moved into a year ago.  The management is waiving the last two months of her lease as a courtesy.  Her daughter is looking for a larger apt. in the same complex she lives in now in California.  They have gone through the house that is still for sale and selected several things to take to California.  I will miss my friend but am happy that she will have a place to make new memories.  She said she just can’t live alone ~ she never has and doesn’t want to have the stress of taking care of everything on her own.

    According to Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book SIMPLE ABUNDANCE…

    “If we are alive, we cannot escape loss.  Loss is a part of real life.  ”Have you ever thought, when something dreadful happens, a  moment ago things were not like this; let it be then not now, anything but now?”  The English novelist Mary Stewart asks.  ”And you try and try to remake the time, but you know you can’t.  So you try to hold the moment quite still and not let it move on and show itself.”

    “Today might be tough for you.  You might not want the next moment to show itself, to reveal the twists and turns of life’s mystery. But at least you have it.  YOU still have life.  A choice as to how you will live this precious day.”

    “Don’t wish it away.  Don’t waste it.  Redeem one hour.  Hold it close. Cherish it.  Above all, be grateful for it.  Let your thanks rise above the disappointment–opportunities lost, mistakes made, the clamor of all that has not yet come.”

    “And if today is so horrendous that the gift doesn’t seem worth acknowledging, if you can’t find one moment to enjoy, one simple pleasure to savor, one friend to call, one person to love, one thing to share, one smile to offer, if life is so difficult you don’t want to bother living it to the fullest, then don’t live today for yourself.  LIVE IT FOR THE ONE WHO IS GONE.”

    I had lunch with another good friend.  She is starting a new job on Monday.  She hasn’t worked a 40 hour week for several years and she hasn’t worked part-time for several months.  But she wanted to rebuild her retirement fund and thinks this will be a good way to do that.  It’s the same type of work she had done for years ~ insurance claims  handing and she already knows a couple of the employees so I think it will be a good fit.  I can’t wait to have lunch with her again to find out how she likes it.

    In-between all of that turmoil, I have planted some more plants for the winter.  I have continued to transcribe for the Smithsonian Institute and recently worked on a diary of Gertrude Vanderbilt (Gloria’s aunt).  It was written in 1890 when Gertrude was 15 years old.  She traveled from New York to London to Paris and back to London and then back home to New York.   It was quite interesting to read and transcribe.

    The first of November I will begin writing my 4th book for NANO National November Novel Writing Challenge.  I thought of a “working title” and just asked my granddaughter to draw a cover idea I have.  She is very excited and I can’t wait to see what she has in mind…..If I use it as a cover, I am putting her name in my book as the illustrator!

     

    I also managed to read a couple of books…

    6319371

    This is Candy Spelling’s first book. I have already read her second book. This book also covered her marriage to Aaron Spelling and how it changed her life. From what she describes, she adored her husband but learned that working behind the scenes was best. Aaron wanted her by his side almost all the time. She got involved in buying the gifts for the all clients and employees, creating dramatic dinner parties, always being dressed to perfection and being the perfect wife and hostess. In spite of all the wealth the couple eventually acquired ~ they started out like most young couples with little to nothing. They soon learned how to become a “brand”. She talks about the huge Manor they built and lived in together. She realized after Aaron passed away that she should downsize so she sold the Manor and moved. Well, reducing from a 56,500 sq. feet of living space plus a 17,000 sq. ft completed attic to just 17,000 sq. ft. on two floors of a penthouse IS downsizing, I guess.She also mentioned her children, Tori and Randy. She said that she and Aaron wanted their children to work for a living and both of them do. She said there are trust funds and college funds for the grandchildren. She also talked once again about the on-and-off relationship she has with her daughter, Tori.
    Here’s the book description…
    Carole Gene Marer spent her girlhood dreaming of meeting Rock Hudson, but when she finally had the chance—on her second date with her future husband, television mogul Aaron Spelling—she was so shy she hid all night in the powder room.  How Candy morphed from that quiet girl into a seemingly-confident, stylish trophy wife, mistress of the largest house in Los Angeles ( over 70,000 square feet when you count the attic) is at the heart of Stories from Candyland. 
    The life Candy created for her family—her husband and children Tori and Randy—was fabulous, over-the-top, and often magical.  So what if California Christmases don’t come with snow? Let’s make some on the tennis court!  How do we take a cross-country family vacation with a dad who doesn’t fly? By private train car, of course (with an extra for the fifty-two pieces of luggage).  The kids want to dress up for Halloween? No problem, why not call in Nolan Miller to design their costumes?Candy had a hand in some of the most beloved television shows of all time (she once stopped production on “Dynasty” because Krystle Carrington’s engagement ring was not spectacular enough), has entertained half of Hollywood in epic fashion, and lives an enviable life.  But under all the fun and showmanship lies a more interesting character, still wrestling with some of the insecurities of her ingénue self.  Oprah threw her into a major panic with a discussion of hoarding.  A lifelong humming habit evolved as a unique coping mechanism.  And there’s nothing like being defined as, “well, you know, complicated” by your daughter on television and in her own book.Stories from Candyland sparkles with glamour and grand gestures. But it also satisfies with some more intimate Candy concerns: why being a perfect wife and mother was so important to her, how cooking and cleaning can keep the home fires burning, why collections matter, and whether dogs are better judges of people than people are.

    Visit Candyland in these pages and get a glimpse of a generous, glittering world revealing many of its surprising and funny secrets for the first time.

    and here’s another reader’s review….

    I have read both of Tori’s books and I was curious to read about Candy’s version. I picked this one up with and open mind and tried not to be influenced by too many reviews. It seems that most people who have read Candy Spelling’s memoir tend to give it more negative reviews than positive. I read this book for entertainment purposes and to hear what Candy had to say about her life. I was not going into this hoping to read the best work of literature ever published, nor did I have any unrealistic expectations. With that said I need to review this book for what it simply is. It is the story of a woman who becomes a celebrity through marriage.

    Growing up I was a fan of Dynasty, The Love Boat and occasionally watched Fantasy Island. As I entered my teenage years I was a 90210 and Melrose Place fan. I looked forward to watching a new episode each week and I loved all that the shows had to offer. I knew Aaron Spelling was a very successful producer and his family was often talked about. Candy Spelling makes it a point to mention throughout that Aaron was one of the most successful and wealthy Hollywood producers. She also briefly mentions her “complicated” relationship with Tori, and of course she talks about their 70,000 plus square foot Mansion.

    If you don’t think you care to know about the lavish life she led, then don’t read this book. If you’re looking for a quick read and an inside look at the Spelling legacy then pick it up. This is not the best book I ever read, but it wasn’t the worst either. I think that the reviewers who bash her for writing this book do it unnecessarily. It is not all that bad and it is pure entertainment.

     

    18453249

    THE BLESSINGS is a story about an ordinary family…or what most of us would expect an ordinary family to be. They support each other, they gather almost every week together for a meal to celebrate, mourn, discuss family matters or just to watch football games and eat. They are a close Irish-Catholic family in Philadelphia. Most of them never leave but those who do ~ eventually come back, even if it is only for a short time or a holiday. They have the same fears and problems that most of us have except they are always ready to forgive and move on. They endure sickness, death, birth, marriages, divorces and all of the things that make up life.

    One of the females goes to college and becomes a photographer and an artist.   She has a showing which features plenty of dioramas that she has created. One is entitled (DIS)COMFORT… which is done “in layers of five shoeboxes stacked on top of one another like the floor of a tall, unwieldy house. On some floors, people sit alone in rooms; on others, the same people are all grouped together. She was trying to get at the feeling of being separate and together, belonging and not belonging at the same time.”
    I read this book in one day. It’s 260 pages. It will make you think about your family too.
    Here’s the book description….
    3.78 of 5 stars
    When John Blessing dies and leaves behind two small children, the loss reverberates across his extended family for years to come. His young widow, Lauren, finds solace in her large clan of in-laws, while his brother’s wife Kate pursues motherhood even at the expense of her marriage. John’s teenage nephew Stephen finds himself involved in an act of petty theft that takes a surprising turn, and nephew Alex, a gifted student, travels to Spain and considers the world beyond his family’s Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood. Through departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions, THE BLESSINGS reveals the interior worlds of the members of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them.

    “There’s no shortage of novels about the quirks and tragedies of large families, but The Blessings is a uniquely poignant, prismatic look at an Irish-Catholic clan as it rallies after losing one of its own.”-Entertainment Weekly
    And here’s another reader’s review…
    I had been hearing some positive things about this book around the library and so I decided to give it a read, not knowing what to really expect. It wound up being a very relatable and enjoyable book. There isn’t really much by way of a plot, rather each chapter winds up being basically a short story about one member of a very close, extended Irish Catholic Philadelphia family over the course of several decades. They are all connected, and so answers that aren’t necessarily provided during the course of one person’s “story” wind up being provided during someone else’s. Each character is both different enough from the others and fully fleshed-out enough to keep things interesting, and the choice to follow different people in each chapter makes it hard to guess where things may be heading next. There are certainly some surprises in store for members of the family throughout. Growing up with a large family that was very close makes many of the moments immediately resonate with me, and some of the problems faced throughout the course of the novel strike close to home as well. Still, the aforementioned lack of plot makes it feel somewhat uneventful when all is said and done. The Blessings do wind up being a great cast of characters though, and the family’s unwavering love for and faith in each other no matter how much life throws at them is a joy to behold, and that alone makes this one of the better works of fiction you might run across this summer.
    ***

October 10, 2014

  • A YEAR OF FIRSTS….

     

    Once again, it’s been several days since I last posted a blog.  Time just seems to get away from me.   I have nearly gone through an entire year of Firsts…next week will be the first anniversary of my husband’s death.  I’ve had my first Thanksgiving and Christmas, and New Year’s  without him.  I’ve had my 49th wedding anniversary without him by my side.  I had his birthday and mine without him.  I’ve even attended some funerals without him too.  Most of the time, I do OK with it.  Some times I feel a bit sad especially when I am with other couples that we used to do things with.  It’s hard to listen to them talk about their vacations and plans for the future because I know I don’t have him to do that with any longer.

    But, I am managing quite well.  I’m getting used to a very reduced amount of laundry, less food to buy, smaller portions to cook and having silence in the house.  Sometimes I play CDs and listen to  music which can bring back some memories.  Sometimes I just sit here in front of the computer and type away.   I pay the bills, and try to figure out how to fix things and what to buy when I need something done that he used to do. I do miss the fact that when he started a job, he worked until it was completed.  Now, I sit and wait for repairmen or contractors to finish up what I asked them to do months ago…Of course, the contractors haven’t charged me yet so that’s a blessing!

    I remember how many times we had conversations and he said to me.  ”I don’t want to sound morbid or even selfish but when the time comes, I hope I pass away before you do.  I don’t want to be alone.”   I agreed with his thinking.  He was certainly a people person.  He needed conversation and people to pass his time.  He liked nothing more than to do things for others.  I can’t imagine him living without me…not to sound arrogant but I don’t think he could or would have adapted as well as I have.  The things I like to do can be done by one person and that does keep my days filled with activities.  Most of them are by myself but that suits my personality quite well as I am an introvert.

     

     

    A dear friend of mine recently posted a blog based 15 things that made her happy.  She wrote them down within 5 minutes.  I decided to do the same.

    THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY…

    1. Library

    2. Good friends including my sisters

    3. Doing what I want when I want

    4. My cats

    5. Helping others

    6. Completing tasks on my own.

    7. Old photographs

    8. Writing 3 self-published books and planning on a fourth

    9. Losing weight

    10. Good TV shows

    11. Books

    12. Finding the perfect gift for someone

    13. Butterflies and hummingbirds

    14. Sound of my cats purring

    15.  Cozy home

    What would YOU list in 5 minutes?

     

    I’m still doing transcription for the Smithsonian Institute.  Currently I am working on a journal by a man in 1860 who is in Greenland and doing some exploring.   His “cursive” handwriting is poor at best and sometimes it is nearly illegible.  My eyes and brain are learning to read most of it but sometimes I get a headache and have to stop.  I’ve been transcribing the various journals  for 6 weeks now and still enjoy it very much.

     

    I did manage to read one book this time around.

     

     

    18404135

    This book kept me interested enough to keep on reading. After I finished, I realized the plot wasn’t anything special. However, it took place in 1875 in England and it involved some royalty, a very handsome man and a lovely young woman. It wasn’t over the top with sex or swearing. It was just a nice story about love and lust and attraction and what the world was like back then.  This is based on some real people which makes it a bit more intriguing.
    If you want an easy read with plenty of description ~ this could be the book for you. No deep messages ~ no lectures ~ just a nice love story.
    Here’s the book description….

    In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies.

    Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything – except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

    Full of passion and drama, THE FORTUNE HUNTER tells the true story of a nineteenth century Queen of Hearts and a cavalry captain, and the struggle between love and duty.

    and another reader’s review…
    I did totally enjoy this novel. Daisy Goodwin has a wonderful way with details when she writes her books, this my second novel by her and like her first one, I was enthralled with all the sumptuousness of her details. The beautiful gowns and finery were vividly imagined, the excitement of the fox hunt, the splendour of the social gatherings of the rich and snobbish were all presented wonderfully in this book!
    I know this has a mixed bag of reviews, but in its defense this book is geared to the romantic at heart, the person who roots for the heroine Charlotte, who despite the fact, she is an heiress is totally unspoiled by her wealth. I mentioned that I didn’t care for the Empress, I was put off by her constant demanding and her worries about wrinkles and losing her beauty. I didn’t feel sorry for her that she was lonely and unloved, she came across as one who got what she wanted.

    Bay was a cad for so easily coming under the spell of The Empress.But without giving away anymore details, I enjoyed the time spent reading this lovely novel. I wanted more.

    *****

    I am currently in the middle of this next book.  I am not very impressed.  It is interesting that she admits that her husband Aaron Spelling basically wanted her by his side to show her off.  I think she is an intelligent woman but as she even says herself….”most people believe she is cold and heartless.”  I’ll let you know next time how I feel about the book when I have finished it.

    6319371

    November NANO novel writing Challenge is coming up soon.  I have an idea for a new book and plan to start writing it during November.

     

     

     

September 21, 2014

  • IT’S BEEN A FEW WEEKS….

    It’s been a few weeks so I thought I should check in.  I’m doing OK.   I’ve been keeping so busy that I had lost track of the last time I had posted a blog.  I KNOW!!!!

    So, let me fill you in a bit.  If you follow me on Facebook, you probably already know most of this.   I am volunteering to transcribe old diaries and journals for the Smithsonian Institute.  I have done work on journals/diaries from the late 1800′s and early 1900′s written by scientists and inventors.  It is quite interesting even when I am transcribing the expenses of items they had to purchase.  It’s amazing to see the costs of things back then.  I plan to continue doing this for as long as I can.

    I also located someone on Facebook whose name was the same as my oldest brother-in-law except the spelling of the last name was altered.  Knowing that in my husband’s family line, there was a rumor that some brothers from Germany had a falling out and one changed the spelling ~ I contacted this person via Facebook and we exchanged some information.  For now, we haven’t found a connection.  However, I just signed up for a 14 day trial with Ancestory.com and I have already traced some of the line back to Germany.  It turns out the last name used to be DINKLE.  Obviously when the people came over from Germany, they didn’t speak English and probably immigration changed the name by accident.  Two stories in my husband’s family are that the oldest ancestor we know of who immigrated to the US was either sent as an indentured servant at age 9 to pay his passage ~ or ~ he came with his family and his mother died in childbirth on the way ~ his father couldn’t pay the passage and allowed his two boys (age 10 and 9) to be indentured.  Either way, what a tough way to start living in a country where you didn’t speak English.

    I also have managed to trace my mother’s side of the family ~ both maternal and paternal back to 7 greats….  I will be checking on my father’s side next.  I already had the name and birth date of an ancestor from the 1800′s and he was originally from Germany too.  I got some names that I had been trying to find out about for several years too.  I also connected with another member of part of that family and she has made a wonderful family tree.  She just sent me an e-mail that she is going to send me some private information that she didn’t put on Ancestry.com.!!!

    I have also been on Facebook trying to keep up with friends and family.  I play a couple of games on FB too to keep my mind active.  And in-between I try to take care of the little chores and pay the bills and get ready for Autumn.  I have a few plants coming next week to be planted this fall for next year.   I’m anxious to get them so I can forget about working in the yard for a few months.  I cleaned up the garage a bit so I will be able to get to the snow blower   when it is time.  I also managed to get a 2 seater bench with an umbrella back into the shed by myself.  I need to make a trip to get more bird seed if I am going to feed them this winter…and then I probably should make room in the garage for the metal can that holds the seed so I can get to it when the snow piles up against the shed…

               

    Although I haven’t read many books lately, I did get through a few.

    18518285        3 of 5 stars  ~   bookshelves: dramafamilyfriends

    Read on September 02, 2014

    The book started out as a story about two young girls who befriend each other and become close enough to feel like sisters. Lorrie Ann is beautiful, perfect, seems to have the most wonderful family and life. She is very supportive to her friend, Mia, who lives with an alcoholic mother, younger brothers who can be difficult and then an unexpected pregnancy and abortion. As the girls turn into women, their lives not only change but take unusual twists. As they drift apart due to location and circumstances ~ Mia feels like she can’t help her friend, Lorrie Ann, enough. In spite of everything Mia tries to do, Lorrie Ann is spinning out of control. After many years, they meet again and some truths are revealed that changes everything.   This is a rather sad story in my opinion but a truthful one.

    Here’s the book description…

    3.51 of 5 stars
    A fiercely beautiful debut blazing with emotion: a major first novel about friendships made in youth and how these bonds, challenged by loss, illness, parenthood, and distance, either break or sustain.
    Mia and Lorrie Ann are lifelong friends: hard-hearted Mia and untouchably beautiful, kind Lorrie Ann. While Mia struggles with a mother who drinks, a pregnancy at fifteen, and younger brothers she loves but can’t quite be good to, Lorrie Ann is luminous, surrounded by her close-knit family, immune to the mistakes that mar her best friend’s life. Until a sudden loss catapults Lorrie Ann into tragedy: things fall apart, and then fall apart further-and there is nothing Mia can do to help. And as good, kind, brave Lorrie Ann stops being so good, Mia begins to question just who this woman is and what that question means about them both. A staggeringly arresting, honest novel of love, motherhood, loyalty, and the myth of the perfect friendship that moves us to ask ourselves just how well we know those we love, what we owe our children, and who we are without our friends.
    Here’s another reader’s review….
    Mia and Lorrie Anne are best friends in high school. Mia has a dysfunctional family dynamic, an alcoholic mother and an absent father, while Lorrie Ann’s family is a model of love and happiness, even if they rather unconventionally live in a one bedroom apartment where her brother sleeps in a tent on the balcony. Mia believes herself to be hard-hearted and cold while Lorrie Ann is angelic and loving to all. Their paths diverge right after graduation when Mia gets accepted to Yale and Lorrie Ann gets pregnant and drops her plans for college.One tragedy after another dogs Lorrie Ann, while Mia’s life just gets better and better. They drift away from each other until one day Lorrie Ann shows up unexpectedly at Mia’s apartment in Istanbul. The tale she tells is stunning and Mia is once again caught up in Lorrie Ann’s life, but Lorrie Ann disappears as suddenly as she arrived.

    A few years later Mia and her family are back in California and she reconnects with Dana, Lorrie Ann’s mother. The picture that emerges is nothing like the image that Mia has carried in her heart all these years, and she is forced to acknowledge that maybe she never really knew Lorrie Ann at all. It’s a painful realization for her, but it helps her move forward.

    I found this book so compelling that I read it in two days. I simply couldn’t put it down. I don’t think I’ll forget it soon.

    18691005         4 of 5 stars  ~  bookshelves: dramafamilymothers-and-daughters

    Read on September 05, 2014

     

    Another Danielle Steel book which fits her usual format of storytelling. The main character is a beautiful redhead named Blaise (of course!) She is successful, a journalist, travels all over the world, has her own news program and seems to have everything she wants and needs for a perfect life. But is it perfect? Not by a long shot. She has a daughter who has diabetes and has lost her eyesight as a result. The daughter lives a very protected life on the campus of a boarding school When a virus runs through the school, it must close down for several months. Blaise has no choice but to bring her daughter back to her pent house suite along with an assistant to help care for the girl and monitor her diabetes. When a tragedy occurs, the assistant is replaced by a man. Over the course of several months living together, of course there is a romance. I will let you find who who falls in love with whom.This is a fast paced story and is typical of a Danielle Steel novel with lots of beautiful clothes, gorgeous people and descriptions of lovely places.

    Here’s the book description…
    A PERFECT LIFEThe epitome of intelligence, high-powered energy, and grace, Blaise McCarthy is an icon in the world of television news, asking the tough questions and taking on the emotionally charged issues of world affairs and politics with courage and insight. A single mother, she manages her well-ordered career meticulously, always prepared on the air or interviewing world-renowned figures and heads of state. To her audience, Blaise seems to have it all. But privately, and off the set, there is another untold story she has kept hidden for years.
     
    Blaise’s teenage daughter, Salima, was blinded by Type 1 diabetes in childhood, and her needs have kept her away in a year-round boarding school with full-time medical care and assistance ever since. When Salima’s school closes after a tragedy, Salima returns to her mother’s New York City apartment, and suddenly they face challenges they’ve never had to deal with before, and that Blaise feels ill-equipped to handle. A new caretaker provided by Salima’s school creates as many problems as he solves. Handsome, accomplished, thirty-two-year-old Simon Ward, with strong opinions on every topic, questions how mother and daughter view themselves and each other. Simon opens new doors for both of them and refuses to accept Salima’s physical limitations. He turns their world upside down, and the three become friends.
     
    Then everything starts to unravel and Blaise can’t keep her two worlds separate anymore. A beautiful young anchorwoman is hired at the network; it is no secret that she is being groomed to take Blaise’s place. Her career as she has known it is threatened, and her previously well-ordered life feels totally out of control. For the first time, Blaise’s life is not perfect, but real.
     
    In this unforgettable tale, the incomparable Danielle Steel has written a novel that pulsates with emotion and honesty as three people face the truth about themselves. A Perfect Life is about what we do when facades fall away and we can no longer run from the truth. As old ideas fail, everything changes, and life is suddenly brand-new.

    Here’s another reader’s review…
    Ive been reading Danielle Steel books since I was a teenager, and I’ve loved them. She has some truly great reads. This is not one of them. The story is tired and predictable. Strong, overachiever female character has the perfect, cosmopolitan life and doesn’t need a man.  I have to say, I DESPISED Blaise. I’m supposed to admire a woman that has put her career over every facet in her life, including her child? No, thanks. For me, she wasn’t admirable, and my ire for her only rose as I realized how she’d made sure to completely rendered her daughter helpless on top of sending her away to a special school so she wouldn’t have to deal with the realities of her illness.That may not be how Ms. Steel intended Blaise to be seen, but it is how she came across to me. As much as I love her books, I feel like the last few have been really reaching. The plots are mundane and predictable and I don’t feel the fire and passion that I once did when I read her books. I hope she snaps out of this streak, because I do enjoy her writing.
    18404427         3 of 5 stars  ~  bookshelves: familyfriendsmarriagedrama

    Read in September, 2014

     

    I have enjoyed every book I’ve read by Lisa See. This story takes place mostly in California before and after Pearl Harbor. 3 Oriental girls meet each other in Hollywood. Each is looking for a friend and a job and a place to live. They all wind up together. But as most relationships with 3 people in it; it’s usually two against one. Two of the girls are Chinese and one is secretly Japanese. When Pearl Harbor is attacked, anyone who is oriental is labeled Japanese and is in fear. Someone tells on one of the 3 girls, the one who really is Japanese and she is sent to a camp in the US. The other two continue to work and live as Chinese. As the war goes on, each girl is faced with serious problems. During the story, their past is revealed. It takes a long time for the girls to get together again and even then, they are not sure who the one was who told…..and why.
    Here’s the book description….
    3.55 rating
    An exciting new novel set in the “Chop Suey Circuit” of San Francisco right before World War II, from the beloved bestselling author of Snowflower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls.In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco’s exclusive “Oriental” nightclub, the Forbidden City. Grace, an American-born Chinese girl has fled the Midwest and an abusive father. Helen is from a Chinese family who have deep roots in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And, as both her friends know, Ruby is Japanese passing as Chinese. At times their differences are pronounced, but the girls grow to depend on one another in order to fulfill their individual dreams. Then, everything changes in a heartbeat with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly the government is sending innocent Japanese to internment camps under suspicion, and Ruby is one of them. But which of her friends betrayed her?

    Here’s another reader’s review….
    Perhaps I took too long to finish reading this book; perhaps the intervals led to me getting bored over the story, I don’t know. I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt, seeing how many others have been captivated by this story.The book traces the life of three female oriental dancers (and a plethora of other characters) through their time together performing at night clubs, being friends, turning enemies and trying to figure it all out. For such a sparkling premise, I expected a moving tale, or an emotionally wrought tale. I expected to feel sad, lost, poor, angry and furious in tow with each of the leading ladies. But I felt only a diluted version of these emotions, the narration starting lightly, and disappointing with not building up into a powerful force as the book picks up.

    I felt all three characters sounded the same, with similar thought processes, contemplations and a readiness to accept anything thrown at them, reacting briefly and going back to being all lovey dovey. With the amount of crap each character has gone through, (they have stunning backstories that bring them to the point where the book begins), they seem to have no depth, taking them at face value for the reactions they portray. There are just too many incidents that come across as convenient and hence unconvincing.

    I feel this book would’ve worked better if it had been a second or third person narrative instead of first. Most of the time I was confused over who was speaking. That and tighter writing would’ve made this a stellar novel. For now though, it did not quite satisfy my appetite…
    18656036        2 of 5 stars  ~  bookshelves: dramafamilyfriends

    Read in September, 2014

     

    This story started out so well. I was immediately drawn into the lives of the main characters. A family  made up of a father who is a high school teacher and his two teenage children, Eli and Deenie, are very close. Then one day Deenie’s best friend has an unexplained seizure in class. After she is hospitalized, the entire high school is caught up in what is wrong…especially when some other girls start experiencing bizarre problems. The pace of the story was quick. I was drawn into the mystery of what was causing the problems. Was it really because the school was old and could have black mold or other dangerous issues? Why weren’t the boys affected? Was it the lake that always had a stench and a neon-like glow? Was it because of drugs or sex or something else? As the story started to reveal many secrets, the pace slowed down to a crawl and then the conclusion just fell flat.
    Here’s the book description…
    3.33 of 5 stars
    The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

    As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

    A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire,The Fever affirms Megan Abbot’s reputation as “one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation”

    and another reader’s review….
    The premise of Megan Abbott’s new book, “The Fever”, grabbed me. A high school girl collapses in class and is rushed to the hospital. She lapses into a coma and the doctors are baffled. What could cause a seemingly healthy girl to collapse? While she remains hospitalized, another girl collapses during a high school concert. Are these incidents related? What is causing these young girls to become so ill? Is it something in the environment? Is it related to recent vaccinations? Or something more sinister?
    Overall, I would give this book three stars. The characters were a bit stereotypical but the mystery did make me want to keep reading. However, I definitely waffled between two and three stars by the time I was done with this book.
    So that’s what I have been doing these past few weeks…..
      

September 7, 2014

  • I HAZ A SAD…..

    I can feel some sadness coming on.  It’s just over 4 weeks until the first anniversary of my husband’s passing.  I can feel the emotions coming up.  I’m not putting this out there for anyone to think they have to rescue me or save me or send me lots of uplifting comments.  I’m just knowing that this next month is going to be tough…..

    I read the book about the 5 stages of Grief last year.

    On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nursers, Clergy and Their Own Families, by Kubler-Ross 9780684839387  At first, I thought something was wrong with me because I hadn’t collapsed with grief or had long crying spells or even felt overwhelmed with sadness.  From reading the book, I learned that we all grieve in different ways.  Also, I learned that when you are living and caring for someone who is dying over a period of time, you have been grieving all along.  You try to be positive and cheerful and optimistic even when your partner tells you not to do that.  You cry alone when you know they can’t hear you ~ in the shower ~ in bed at night ~ in the arms of a friend ~ you always find a way to feel it.  You beg them to eat something ~ trying to find the magic food that will give them protein, strength and nourishment but not make them feel sicker than they are.   You try not to let your feelings get hurt when your spouse is cranky or snaps at you because  you know they don’t really mean it.  You try to be comforting when they are frightened and confused even though you are exhausted because you have been up with them for hours.  You try to forget the loss of dignity and privacy they have to give up as you clean them up again and again.  You have to also be firm with friends and relatives that want to visit when you know it’s not going to go well and your spouse is forcing himself to be conversational when all he wants to do is go to sleep for a few minutes.

    Just when I thought I was going to be overwhelmed with all the work every day…. the Hospice nurse suggested to me that I ask my doctor for a light anti-depressant  to help me get through the days while my husband slowly lost his strength, his hope and his will to live.  I am still taking that little blue pill and it does help.

    But, I also know there comes a time when you have to let all those feelings come up again.  Sometimes it is just a song or a photo or listening to  your friends talk about their plans to go somewhere with their partners in life.  That’s when it really hurts.   You are happy for them, of course, but oh so sad for yourself because you can’t do the same thing.

    Of course, there are good times too.  I do enjoy being by myself most of the time.  I don’t think that is hypocritical.  I really do enjoy some of my quiet times.  I can stay up as long as I wish.  I can buy food that I like and prepare it the way I like it.  I don’t have to answer the phone or the door if I don’t want to.  I don’t feel the need to put on makeup every day or change my clothes every day.  I can come and go as I please.  I’ve learned to do many things on my own, without asking for help.

    I do have good friends and family that check on me.  I do have lunch with some of them.  And I am not surprised at the number of people who haven’t been around for months.  Sometimes they can’t handle the grief either.

    Still, this next month is going to be tougher than the first several months were, I think.  I still have a DVD of songs my husband made for me to listen to. When he tried to have me listen while he was still here, I couldn’t.   I have decided to listen on the anniversary of his death…all alone…in the dark and cry as long as I need to.

    Again, I am not asking for sympathy.  No one can change what happened anyway.  I just want you to know why my blogs may be in a different tone for a few weeks.

    And here’s part of my thoughts….

    It’s strange how it feels when you have to make that call  ~ your world is rocked.  You almost can’t breathe.  Everything seems like it’s going in slow motion.  You see the sunshine as if through a veil.  You hear sounds of the world continuing but it’s muffled as if you are trying to protect yourself.  You can’t talk or breathe – your stomach knots up and you want to wake up from a bad dream ~but you can’t.  It’s not a dream.  It’s not a movie you can turn off.  It’s not avoidable.  Your life will never feel the same.  Your husband HAS DIED!  Moments ago, your life was going along just  fine and then he died and your life will never be the same.  You’re a widow and just joined the club no one ever wants to be in.  And now ~ even worse ~ you have to TELL people.

     

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 ….

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    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.

     

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    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.

     

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    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.

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    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?