Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I bought "Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle,” by Major Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson, and Mary Nethery as a Christmas gift for my niece's children. Their dad is in Afghanistan right now and I knew they would all be missing him very much over the holidays. I love books and dogs and I thought this would be a perfect gift.
When the book arrived, I could not resist reading it before I wrapped it and sent it with the other gifts.
This is an amazing true story of a very special Iraqi dog and his big-hearted American Marine friend. Nubs (a nickname earned by having his ears cut off by an Iraqi soldier) immediately felt a connection to one Marine and his team and struggled his way through abuse, dogfights, a stabbing, and an over 70 mile trek in 18 degree weather to be together.
This book beautifully covers not only Nubs' journey to find his Marine, but also the journey Maj.Dennis endured to make sure Nubs made it safely to his home in San Diego.
This is a beautiful book for children and adults alike including photos, maps, notes and a happy, touching story of hope, resilience and companionship.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Jars Reunion

The idea behind "Christmas Jars" is simple, you take a jar and set it on your kitchen counter for a year. Everyday you drop your left over change for the day into the jar and on Christmas Eve, you give it to someone you believe needs it most. It doesn't have to be a lot, it's the thought that counts. It's a special way of letting someone know that you care.
The story, The Christmas Jars Reunion by Jason F. Wright (which I believe is a sequel to a book I haven't read), is a cheesy little tale of the people surrounding the origin of the Christmas Jars tradition.
Sure, it's sticky, syrupy, sugary, sweet .... sure, I welled up a bit on the train while reading .... sure, it was a bunch of powdery fluff ...
But it's Christmas!!
That's what it's all about!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oliver Twist

Thank God for Charles Dickens’ wonderful sense of humor and playfulness with words, or I would have found Oliver Twist far too tragic to enjoy. I read a version of Oliver Twist that most closely resembles the original print, and I actually found it somewhat difficult to read. I was forced to reread full paragraphs and pages at a time (not to mention my juvenile sense of ridiculousness that forced me to become hung up on trivial matters such as “Master Bates” being a funny name, as just one example). This means I spent nearly two weeks with Oliver and the cast of good and evil. It was honestly somewhat depressing for this glorious time of year!
It’s amazing how many people have never read Oliver Twist or much of Dickens at all. And when you read a classic, people will stop you to discuss the fact. I actually love that, although most people had nothing to discuss as they have never read it. I hadn’t read it either, frankly, and only remembered one line from the movie, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
Well, that little event happened in the first chapter of the book and really wasn’t the most important point, by any means!
I would suggest folks go back and read the classics. Mix them in with their contemporary counterparts because they can get a bit heavy, but books we were required to read as children (books we should have read as children but didn’t) have much more meaning and bring considerable more pleasure when read as an adult. I remember reading classic novels simply to find the answers to questions. And because I read slowly, I was always playing catch-up and skimming rather than reading.
I missed a lot ....
Oliver Twist is a lesson not only in poverty, but in goodness, evil, preservation, truth and justice. I had no idea there would be scandal, murder, intrigue, and oh-so-much anxiety in a story I thought was about a poor orphan boy with a cute accent!

It made me hungry!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prep & Landing

I love television. I always have, always will, and I am not embarrassed about it! I love regular programming, special programming, network tv, cable tv .... you name it! I love it!
I always felt ripped off, however, on my birthday. On my early November birthday, all other programming was interrupted and I got elections. Election reports, election updates, election results. Mudslinging, slanderous ad campaigns ... I hated it! It wasn’t fair! How could God do this to me?!
And I was painfully jealous, too, because on my sister’s birthday just one month later (insert angels singing, harp and organ music, the heavens opening up and glorious beams of light), she got: (Ahhhhhhhhhhh) Frosty the Snowman. Seriously? I get Election Results and she gets Frosty the Freakin’ Snowman?!?!?!
Oh the humanity!
I adore Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Year Without Santa Claus, the Grinch ... all of them!
Last night I was excited to see that Charlie Brown’s Christmas was on at 8/7 Central! Yay! I was happy to watch an old favorite and enjoyed it almost as much as I did as a child.
But then, ABC threw me a nice little gift (and it wasn’t even my sister’s birthday!): Disney’s Prep & Landing!
Prep & Landing is ABC's first television special produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and reveals the never-before-told tale of an elite unit of Elves known as Prep & Landing, who prepare our homes for Santa's arrival. It was brilliantly fresh and clever. The story was brand new and modern while never disrespecting everything we know and love about Christmas. In this modern day and age, Prep & Landing brought back so much magic that is Christmas and did it with a happy new twist and gorgeous animation.
It was funny, clever, suspenseful, tender .... in a word: Magic! I absolutely loved it and am only sad that I have to wait a whole year to watch it again! Maybe they will air it on November 7th, 2010 ... ?!
I’ll start campaigning now!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Reindeer Pause

The real deer in our neighborhood really like the pretty lighted reindeer! Oh, and Dear Santa, I would like a new camera for Christmas! It's difficult to stalk our nocturnal friends with the one I've got! I've been a good girl, of course!
Thank You!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the Night Before Christmas
(or A Visit from St. Nicholas)
by Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem, which he named "A Visit From St. Nicholas," was published for the first time on December 23, 1823 by a New York newspaper, and it remains a family favorite to this day. It is a glorious example of pure magic. Not only of a season, but of words, and story-telling and of setting a mood.
It makes us believe in the unbelievable!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


My baby is nine! How did that happen? Allie is a sweet little dog who loves to play with anything you throw for her. True to her border collie nature, she likes to herd and does well when everyone stays in a group or at least in one room, and she does keep one eye on me no matter where I go. She sleeps with me every night and wakes up each morning to greet me as if she hasn't seen me for a month. She makes our home a happy place and I wish her all the doggie happiness she can imagine!
Happy Birthday, Allie! We love you!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Before I started Rebecca Unpublished, I read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I loved it! I have recommended it to almost everyone I know, and have given it as a gift more than once. It remains on my list of all-time favorite books and fueled my passion for memoirs. I am so impressed with her writing style, outlook and humor. She makes a sad story funny. She makes the tragic seem palatable and she proves that attitude is everything!
So when I heard about her latest book, Half Broke Horses, I ordered it immediately.
And I was not disappointed.
Half Broke Horses is the true life story of the author’s maternal grandmother, who was a fabulously amazing character in her own right. Someone should make a major motion picture about this woman, because this is good stuff!
Not only just because it is true.
If you read The Glass Castle and know about the author’s mother and how she raised her children, and if you then read Half Broke Horses and see how that same woman was raised by her own mother .... you will be as mind-boggled as I was!
But beyond all of that, this is an action-packed, sassy adventure that will stand the test of time. I fell madly in love with Lily and the delicious cast of other characters. Because the author, Lily’s granddaughter, paints a glorious picture with her words, I felt I was traveling with Lily on each and every step of her fantastic life journey. She is my newest hero! She is my inspiration to enjoy my life no matter what hand I am dealt! And she will do the same for you, I promise!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Kids Are All Right

I think it’s interesting how my sister and I can vividly remember the exact same event completely differently. How could we both have such strong memories of the same thing, but our memories are not the same? It frightens me a bit because it makes me question my own history, my own mind.
The Kids Are All Right is a riches to rags story written by the four Welch children who each remember their life together slightly differently. It is well-written and heartfelt. Sadly, the youngest, Diana, is the child with whom I felt the most connection and her poor little childhood was simply ... sad.
I like memoirs.
I like reading real stories written by real people.
This book makes us realize we all have a story to tell and nothing is exactly as it seems. The overwhelming feeling behind their stories is loneliness, sadness, love and family. I cried a lot while reading it.
It is amazing what children of all ages will endure and strive to achieve on their own ... their interpretations of the world around them. How much adults can hurt them and heal them.
I feel sad when I think how quickly children have to grow up. My friend, Brook, once said about the innocence of children, “Why do they have to grow up and become us?”
Why, indeed?
Luckily, in this case, The Kids Are All Right.
Thank you, Amanda, Liz, Dan and Diana Welch, for sharing your story.

Monday, November 16, 2009

We Are DEVO!

Q: Are we not men? A: We are DEVO!
Imagine if your dad and his golf buddies got together for a little reunion tour of the neighborhood garages. And they ended up being really, really awesome! That was what it was like seeing DEVO last night at 9:30 Club. While the gents certainly had some beer bellies going on under their radiation suits and some strange old-man hairdos, those guys seriously ROCKED! They played the entire album “Are We Not Men” as it originally appeared on vinyl and I was amazed at what a fabulous album it was!
The name "Devo" comes "from their concept of 'de-evolution' - the idea that instead of evolving, mankind has actually regressed, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society". I was expecting the usual new wave synthetic pop sound and was pleasantly surprised by the driving, rocking licks combined with their trademark robotic moves and goofy antics. I love their antiquated futurism and felt a bit like Big Brother may have been watching the show from the balconies.
After suffering through what had to have been the single worst opening act in the history of opening acts, I was pleasantly surprised by the energy and brilliance of an old favorite, DEVO!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wordless ... Thursday

Yesterday should have been Wordless Wednesday. It was also Veteran's Day. I am thankful for all the men and women (and their families and loved ones) who have served or are serving in the armed forces! I am proud to have served my country and am thankful beyond words to those who continue to protect us and honor us!! This picture (taken in Afghanistan yesterday) speaks for itself, but I am especially proud, honored and touched because the serviceperson on the right is my niece's husband, my nephew, Joey!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Love YOU, Super Diamond!!

Years and years ago, back when my mother remembered my birthday and how to spell my name correctly (this is a joke, my mother isn't in any state of mental atrophy, she just forgets about me occasionally), we listened to albums on the hi-fi. I loved putting on a crackling record and cranking it up! There were three singer/songwriters who most influenced my life. They were there when I was a child learning how to sing and dance (neither very well, I might add). They were there when I was a teenager learning to deal with difficulties and angst. They were there when I became an adult and writing my own lyrics, poetry and stories.
They were Cat Stevens, John Denver and Neil Diamond.
And I still love them today.
So, when some friends invited me to join them for a Neil Diamond tribute band for our shared birthday, I was intrigued! 9:30 Club in DC is my favorite venue and it was almost surreal to walk into the hazy room and hear my childhood favorite happily bouncing from the huge sound system.
"Super Diamond" is an amazing, fun tribute to an icon, Neil Diamond! Randy Cordero's voice is almost freakishly identical to Neil Diamond's and I almost didn't sing along just so I could hear him better. Honestly, you can't listen to Neil Diamond or Super Diamond without singing along! You just can't!
So I was singing and dancing and laughing and suppressing the urge to throw my big girls up on the stage ... and feeling, well, young again!!

Tell your mamma, girl, I can't stay long
We got things we gotta catch up on
Mmmm, you know ...
You know what I'm sayin'
Can't stand still while the music is playin'

Hillbilly Gothic by Adrienne Martini

It is my own fault, I realize, but when I chose the book “Hillbilly Gothic”, I was thinking it would be something other than what it was. I love memoirs and when the words “Hillbilly Gothic” were followed by “A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood”, I was intrigued. I don’t know what I actually was expecting, but what I got was a memoir of a nice normal woman who suffered depression and postpartum syndrome. She came from a family that seemed plagued with mental illness, but the author’s style really seemed to downplay that. Her style seemed to downplay all of it, truth be told, even her own illness. Additionally, I am guessing that perhaps she didn’t explain well enough why she considers herself a hillbilly ... I didn’t get that. She seemed like any woman from any neighborhood in any town in the world. And while this author seems like a funny, interesting woman that I would really want as a friend, I can’t honestly say I enjoyed her book. Her humor is sly and I am sure she is hilarious to talk to over a glass of wine, the book was disappointing to me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Debbie Louis Saved My Life

I was all arms and legs, ‘squito bites and scabs, the summer I was ten. My feet were like dog pads from so many barefoot summers, which I find funny now that I can scarcely run from my bed to the toilet without at least a pair of socks between my delicate extremities and the hardwood floor. My mother remarried and relocated that summer from small town Watertown, South Dakota, to the even smaller town of Pierre (Peer). Don’t let the honorable title “State Capitol” fool you, Pierre wasn’t much more than a village back then, comfortably nestled on the banks of the Missouri River.
I was lonesome after the move and missed my friends dearly, so I was absolutely thrilled when one of my best buddies, Debbie, came to visit her dad that summer. Debbie and I had been friends for as long as I could remember, and every minute with her was a great adventure waiting to happen. Debbie and I were two friends who probably should have had a third just to say, periodically, “Really, girls? Is that really a good idea?”, but for one week in South Dakota in the mid-seventies ... it was just the two of us! And I was beside myself!
Debbie was brave and curious and I was the perfect yes-man! Her dad lived somewhere near the river and we found ourselves there one afternoon with nothing to do. Of course, we decided to explore! We were nothing if not imaginative and could find an adventure in almost any situation.
Never afraid of getting dirty (she and I spent the better part of our childhood digging beautiful roadwork for future miniature cities), we set off toward the river. We spent what was probably close to 2 hours playing in a frog-infested sandpit before wandering off into the woods. At some point, the path we were taking arrived on the banks of the river and broke into a perfect fork. To the left were mounds and a single winding path and to the right an enchanted forest! Debbie suggested we each go in a different direction for 100 steps and then meet back to report our findings. I wasn’t terribly enthused about going into the great unknown alone, so I walked just out of eyesight, counted to 100 and walked back to wait for Debbie. Just as I expected, her way seemed much more exciting!
So, we headed to our right, traveling along with the river to our left and the deep dark woods to our right. Eventually, we came to a place where no less than seven paths entered the woods, away from the water.
Afraid I would be sent up one of the rickety paths alone and tired of counting, I simply let Debbie decide which path to take and, through a process of elimination, we chose a slightly less scary path than the one I had been eyeballing with aversion.
The chosen path went upwards into the woods away from the river and provided us much amazement until it opened to a field on the other side of the woods. The field was huge with baseball diamonds in the distance and a couple of Beagles bounding through the grass. To our left, another, only slightly wider path, would take us back into the woods. While I had visions of sunlight and puppies in my head, I followed Debbie back into the woods. This path was wider, but the trees still met in an arch over our heads making the path dark and spooky, in spite of the bright summer sun. I was a bit like a puppy myself, and quickly forgot about the field of dreams and began to take wonder in my new surroundings. In a flash, several older boys on bicycles flew by us, startling us but only briefly interrupting our adventure, to which we easily returned.
Suddenly, an old man appeared on the path. He looked rather creepy and when I say “old man”, I mean, this guy was probably in his early forties! “Have you seen my dogs?” he asked. “Yeah, I saw them over there!”, I turned and pointed back toward the clearing. Strangely, he didn’t look where I was pointing. He said, instead, “Come back here and tell me.” He stepped back a bit into a small opening in the trees. It was like a tree cave, actually, and not at all where a little girl should go to talk to an older man.
I stepped toward him but kept pointing behind me toward the clearing, which seemed a very long way away at this point. “They’re over there in the field.” I explained. “Come back here and tell me”, he said as he stepped back deeper into the tree cave and grabbed my hand.
I was definitely confused and frightened and remember his hand being clammy and strange. “Come back here and tell me.” He had dog leashes in one hand, and my hand in the other, I took note. The whole thing seemed surreal and in slow-motion.
Out of the blue, the teenagers on bikes came flying back down the path, “Hey Mister!”, they shouted, “We found your dogs!”
The man looked up for a split second at the boys and in that very moment, Debbie grabbed my other hand and RAN!
The man was hanging on and for an instant I was literally being pulled in two different directions, but the boys were yelling at the man and Debbie was determined.
My hand slipped away from the man and Debbie and I sprinted! We ran like the wind. I have a bucket full of medals confirming that I can run fast, but that day, I ran faster than anyone has ever cantered in the history of the world. We ran for our lives, not feeling the branches scratching our skin and the South Dakota earth under our feet.
We ran for our lives.
We burst out of the woods on the ricketiest of paths and slid down the bank to hide at the edge of the water. Our spindly little legs shaking and our lungs stuck in silent screams, we sat by the water ...
... waiting ....
I have no idea how long we stayed by the water. I don’t remember at what point we deemed it safe to move one. I don’t remember going home.
I am fairly certain, however, that when her dad asked, “What did you girls do today?” we said, “Nothin’”.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lucy Still Inpires Me

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

A friend gave me this book in 2001, according to the inscription, but I don’t believe I ever read it. I am not sure why. I absolutely loved the first several chapters and felt my tummy growling and mouth watering throughout the entire memoir.
It is difficult to describe, for me. I love food and travel and could certainly relate to this author’s “colorful” mother. But I don’t have many fond memories of being in the kitchen as a child. In my childhood, the kitchen was rarely the warm gathering place so many adults remember with relish. I generally avoided that section of the house and therefore, did not learn to cook until I was an adult experimenting in my own kitchen. I did not enjoy trying new foods until I was traveling Europe on my own and didn’t develop many fond gastronomic memories until that time. I do relate certain foods and drinks with the various places I have traveled, but very, very few dear memories of such as a child.
I certainly appreciated the author’s emotional memories and was proud of her for relating eras in her life that were probably extremely painful with humor and tenderness.
The book started on the highest peak of emotions with me laughing out loud and slowly, slowly took me on a downward spiral until I simply closed the book and walked away. I was a little disappointed with that, but would still recommend the book, especially to those who love the fine details of food and travel and a glorious glass of wine.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Remember Me?

After spending 2 days with trashy magazines, I knew I had to have a book! I decided to simply grab a paperback to tide me over until my book order arrived in the mail. The selection at CVS pharmacy was slim to say the least, but Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella seemed the least offensive to me.
I am not really into chick lit, but this was kind of funny and had a nice happy ending. It certainly did the job it was intended to do for me: it killed a little time on the Metro, it made me giggle ...
.... it had a sunflower on the cover.
I don't know!
It's a cheesy Sunday afternoon movie of a book and I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it ... but slightly embarrassed to say I did!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Peace by Richard Bausch

I felt cold for the better part of a week. As the city was pelted by a never-ending, almost icy rain, I read Peace by Richard Bausch. I felt wet and cold and miserable due to both. I dragged myself up an Italian mountain with three American soldiers in the winter of 1944. I felt the rain on my face. I felt the snow slide down the back of my neck. I felt as angry as they felt. I felt as fearful as they felt. As guilty, as uncertain, as insane. I did not, however, feel Peace.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Disco Brunch

Sitting in the autumn sun, listening to groovy disco tunes from the seventies and sipping on a bottomless Mimosa with the remains of Ahhhhhh Freak Out! French Toast on my plate, I laughed delightfully with strangers.
Yesterday was one of those delicious little surprises Life serves up occasionally.
A lazy Sunday afternoon in Dupont Circle.
New friends with delightful tales to tell.
Petting dogs and exchanging numbers.
Laughing and feeling warm.
These are the things that make one want to leave the comforts of home and take a bite out of Life.
These are the good times.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Well and The Mine by Gin Phillips

The Well and The Mine is a well-written, rather anticlimactic, little tale of one mining family in Depression Era Alabama. I enjoyed reading this story which allowed me to fondly reminisce about my own childhood.... jumping in a pile of leaves, swimming in a stream. While I certainly didn’t grow up during the Depression, I can appreciate a simpler, and simultaneously, more difficult time. There is an envious curiosity and innocence to any childhood, and this author’s writing style readily took me there.
The Well and The Mine didn’t change my life or anything, but it was an easy, enjoyable read.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Cheyenne

In the late eighties, I met my bestest best friend in the whole wide world! We both found ourselves stationed in Cheyenne Wyoming after wonderful, fun-filled, glorious years in Europe. We formed an immediate bond and we began writing songs together. He is an amazing musician and poet and I gladly went along for the ride. Some beautiful pieces of inspiration came from our partnership, and we actually came up with some pretty good songs.
And then there was this!
We decided we should write a boot-scootin’ countrified piece of garbage in honor of our new home: Cheyenne. Enjoy!

In Cheyenne

Male voice:
When I left you in Cheyenne
You were pregnant and afraid
Your teeth were still in braces
And your hair hair was in a braid
Then I went off to Texas
Breakin’ broncos in a show
And you stayed back in Cheyenne
Just a’watchin’ my babies grow

Ohhhh whoaaaa
Just watchin’ them babies grow
Ohhhh whoaaaa
Just watchin’ ‘em grow ....
..... in Cheyenne

Female voice:

But that was fourteen years ago
The kids are almost grown
Molly done had a baby
And LeRoy’s on his own
I turned twenty eight today
I’m feelin’ old and frail
Molly’s kids are cryin’
And LeRoy’s back in jail

Ohhhh whoaaaa
Just watchin’ them babies grow
Ohhhh whoaaaa
Just watchin’ ‘em grow ...
... in Cheyenne

Female spoken word:
C’mon Robert Earl
Why did you leave me
What’s there in Texas
That there ain’t in Cheyenne
Them broncos don’t love you
Likes the way I do
C’mon back where you belong ...
.... in Cheyenne

(Give us enough beer and we might even sing it for you!)

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

When I was nineteen and the whole world spread out before me like a banquet for the starving, I lived in Spain for a couple of years. Spain always seemed old to me, and I absolutely adored that. I was a little punk at the time and wandering the antique streets made me feel old and new synchronously. Each street seemed like a secret passageway to me and I was extremely curious. I liked stumbling into an old theatre, for example, and finding a dance party going on. Or opening the crumbling doors of an abandoned department store and finding Spandau Ballet doing a couple of sets.
Spain, and most of Europe, was a magical place to me, and my memories go far beyond mere fondness. So, I was excited to read The Angel’s game because it takes place in Barcelona’s old quarter and, physically, it is a lovely book. I liked returning to Spain, albeit briefly, and I really liked the look of the book! I liked carrying it around! And, for the first two thirds of the book, I liked reading it.
The author, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, writes well. My copy of the book is dog-eared over and over again with pages filled with clever sentences or descriptions. And I found myself enjoying the twisting turns in plot like those old twisting streets of Spain that I loved so many years ago.
I was giddy with all the literature, poetry, and passion of this story and was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of meeting Lucifer Himself.
Eventually, however, I realized that I was loving the bits and pieces of The Angel’s Game much more than I loved the whole story.
The author describes the hell out of a room or a street, but skims over important events and characters. I found that a little irritating, in all honesty.
I didn’t hate The Angel’s Game, but I really was disappointed with the final third of the book. Sometimes I am sad when I finish a book because I don’t want it to be over. I want to know more .... I’ve become attached. But I was sad when I finished this book because I just didn’t love it as much as I had hoped I would.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Don't You Forget About Me

Class of 1984.
Watertown High School, Watertown, South Dakota.
Dear Mr. Principal...we accept
the fact that we had to sacrifice a
whole weekend in detention for
whatever it was that we did wrong ...
what we did was wrong.
But we think you're crazy to make us write this
essay telling you who we think we
are, what do you care? You see us
as you want to see us...in the
simplest terms and the most
convenient definitions. You see us
as a brain, an athlete, a basket
case, a princess and a criminal.
Correct? That's the way we saw each
other at seven o'clock last Thursday morning.
We were brainwashed...

But what we found out, after a couple of
sultry September days twenty five years
later, is that each one of us

is a brain...

...and an athlete...

...and a basket case...

...a princess...

...and a criminal...

Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I don’t know much about my family’s history, but I am fairly confident in assuming we never had any “help” around the house. More than likely, we were the help, but that’s pure speculation, as well. So it is not as though I could actually relate to any one of the characters in this book, although I could certainly fall in love with a few of them and loved to hate a few more!
The Help is a delicious story of a tiny, unexpected band of Southern women trying to change the world as they knew it in the early 1960’s. One little slice of chocolate pie at a time. It is not a deep piece of work nor an earth-shattering one. But it is a fun, moving, heartfelt story that tapped into all of my emotions and left me chortling and sobbing simultaneously.
When they make this delightful tale into a movie, and I am sure they will, I will happily attend the first showing bringing my best gal pals with me because there is nothing better than sharing a secret ... a laugh ... and a few tears with a friend!

Farewell, Old Friend

Here's to Amy, who wagged her whole body whenever she saw me.... She's in excellent company now, but will be sadly missed by those of us who loved her......

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Keep America Beautiful

I live in a gorgeous, tree-filled neighborhood in southern Maryland. We have a lot of land and foliage and breathtaking views that make me want to stay home more often than not. But, while it is a heavily wooded area, it is still a neighborhood and we do have paved roads and the occasional street sign (see Walking Small 06/03/08). I like to take long walks on these winding roads through the trees and woods with small creeks and trickling water guiding the way. I like to be alone with nature and my thoughts.
It is a perfect 71 degrees today with low humidity and a happy little breeze to carry the scents of the coming fall weather to my eager nose.
However, I became increasingly saddened on my walk today. It seems some very disgusting people think my neighborhood woods are simply a dumping ground for their excessive trash.
Did that weeping Native American dude in the early 70’s teach us nothing?
Why is it easier to drive out into the woods in the middle of the night with all your garbage than to simply roll it to the curb like the rest of the good citizens of the world?
They eat a lot of fast food, these dregs of society, and apparently buy their six packs still attached by those plastic rings we used to use as handcuffs when I was eight. And while that curious little memory occupied my mind, I became even more depressed by all the small game that apparently did not make the trek across the road.
So, so sad.....
So I began looking up while still attempting to glance down, because while I didn’t want to see anything, I certainly didn’t want to step on anything, either!
After about 45 minutes, and after a headache and stiff neck began to set in from the strange tilt of my head and scissor-crossing eye movements, I spied an open cardboard box next to the road. Inside were stacks of insurance papers. Unused forms still in the plastic wrappers. Who disposes of office supplies in such a manner? So strange.
A few more steps and I spotted a child’s backpack on the side of the road.
Oh dear, said I.
I’ve never seen any kids on this road.
Is that because a clown saw them first?
Do I need to go searching for a child in the woods? A child whose affairs are not in order due to lack of insurance forms on hand?
I’m not dressed for that!
Why does this have to happen on MY walk?
Why don’t private investigators and police officers take walks on this road?
Then, a few more steps, and a pair of slightly used surgical gloves ....

You know, I used to be quite a little track star in high school, perhaps I should go ahead and JOG home!
And, by the way, who runs over turtles? Honestly, how does that happen? Did it dash out in front of you while you were dumping cadavers and cans of Coors Light?

.... I’m beginning to understand the whole Crystal City Concept!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

From time to time, I will take my laptop and a movie to my room and go to bed before the sun does. I usually take something sappy or deep. Because there is no one in my womb - I mean room - to see me weep or cheer or whatever other emotion I may conjure in my solitude.....
This week, I chose The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a little short story of a film set in World War II Germany. A short story that packs a powerful, jolting wallop.
This film is character driven, for which I am extremely thankful, because the images my mind invoked were horrific enough to stay with me long after the final credits rolled across the screen.
That being said, however, the cinematography was amazing and even beautiful. The images were subtle and powerful simultaneously.
What I loved about this film is what it didn’t show. What it didn’t have to throw in my face. It gives the viewers credit for being intelligent, educated people who know what went on in our recent history.
It is the story of two eight year old boys who form a tentative, unlikely friendship - between the barbs of a concentration camp fence.
It is the story of a woman realizing her husband is neck deep in something she cannot believe in. And justifiably fearing for her children.
It is the story of living. And dying. And continuing to live in spite of it.
It is tragically sad.....

... and I feel numb ....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

My inaugural impression of this opuscule was that it was merely composed of a colossal abundance of perspicacious nonrhythmic literature.
And I was afraid for my loathsome, uneducated self.
But I was wrong!
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery is a clever, witty, effortless book filled with the musings of our two protagonists, Renee and Paloma. The plot is very nearly nonexistent, yet powerfully meaningful. Could it really be that simple?
Through the hilarious observations of these two seemingly different women (I use the term women loosely, as Paloma is only twelve and a half years old), could we really discover the meaning of life?
Again, could it really be that simple?
Love something!
Love your friend (but choose her well). Love Art and Literature. Love the flowers on a hill, the stars in the sky. Love ... Purple.
Love your dog.
It doesn’t really matter what you love or how, just find something in your life to truly love and you will love yourself.
Look beyond the thunderclouds and see the colors in the sky. Look beyond the flesh and see the beauty in a soul. Look beyond the obvious and see glorious depths that exist.
In everything.
And most of all ...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

My niece is extremely competitive. She knows it and will readily admit it. Her husband’s coworker loaned him a book to read and while reading it, my niece felt compelled to read over his shoulder. Racing him! Of course, she won ... she always wins, but in the process, she read a pretty good book which she recommended to me.
Granted, this is a fairly cheesy novel, written in an adolescent style making it seem as if it were geared toward lonely teenage girls ... think Pretty Woman meets Little House on the Prairie.
The message was beautiful, however, and the story kept me going back even when I knew what was coming next or felt irritation at the stubbornness of the characters.
Although when I was seventeen I was into vampires and ghost stories, this actually would have been an excellent book for me to have read.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What's too painful to remember ....

My 25th High School reunion is quickly approaching, so it is no surprise that I have been taking grueling trips down memory lane lately. Although we had a lot of great laughs, I honestly think high school was just one big embarrassment for me. I was never real popular with the fellas, let’s be honest, but for a few months during my 16th year, I actually did have a boyfriend. And I liked him long after he stopped liking me, which made for additional, painful high school drama.
Like most teen aged girls, the thought of being caught in public with my mother was a nightmare to say the least, so I don’t honestly remember how I came to be at the grocery store with mine one fine spring day. And I don’t remember why we had my dad’s Chevy Blazer with the over sized side mirrors affixed so my dad could see the pop up camper trailing behind. Thankfully, the camper was no longer attached, but the mirrors were still there to reflect my misery.
My mother shopped like we lived on the prairie and only made it into the mercantile once or twice a year. I don’t know why she thought she had 15 daughters living in our house instead of two, but grocery shopping was certainly a bulk ordeal for her.
My “ex” boyfriend worked at Hy-Vee loading groceries into the vehicles of the various shoppers, and it was just my luck that he was there to load our colossal purchase. As I tried to sink deeper and deeper into the pleather seats, Boyfriend loaded our groceries making humorous commentary along the way. He tossed two huge bags of dog food into the back of the truck, “Looks like you gotta coupla dogs ...” That really irritated me because he’d been to our house several times and he knew we had dogs! He was just being charming and how dare he do that when I was dying?!
What was completely, foolishly lost on me was the fact that he was actually paying attention to our purchases.
Paying. Attention!
So it was with absolute, shocking, excruciating horror when, as we drove away, I heard him call, “Wait!! You forgot these!!” And I died a tragic death as I looked into the big screen mirror to see Boyfriend holding up a giant steamer trunk of adult feminine protection!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

their eyes were watching god by Zora Neale Hurston

Very often, when Rain rolls in and makes himself at home on my deck furniture, and Gloom creeps under the door demanding my undivided attention, I seek shelter in the pages of a book. And then little Miss Sunshine tells me her remarkable tales of all she’s seen on this big blue marble. She sends whispers of Truth to touch my skin and the magical wings of Fiction to whip the air around me.
And sometimes, in that bewitching frenzy of words and imagination, I meet a character who stays with me a lifetime.
Janie Crawford quickly made her way to the top of that very long list!
And Zora Neale Hurston, her creator, found her way there, too.
Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the most amazing books I have read in a very long time. I received such warm pleasure from the author’s delightful writing style. Her clever balance between the rough Southern/Caribbean dialog and her poetic story-telling left my copy of the book dog-eared and weathered. I often stopped to smile at the heavens while reading her brilliant descriptions and Janie’s profound musings ... and more than one friend was forced to hear me read excerpts out loud.
Not only is this an important work of fiction, delving into issues of race, class, prejudice, jealously, and most importantly, love, but it is also - very simply - a wonderful adventure story!
Miz Janie is a woman I would want to come sit on my porch and tell me stories until we both collapsed into a pool of tears thunderously churning with waves of laughter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Love Story

I caught a little bug on my last plane ride and have been feeling ill and uncomfortable for nearly a week. Last night I really wanted to get a good night's sleep, so I took Tylenol PM and popped "Love Story" into my laptop. So, with dopey eyelids and the lulling notes of Bach and Mozart, I watched a film that came out the year I turned five. My mother and grandmother loved this movie so we had the soundtrack playing on a continuous loop on the hi fi when I was little, and I remember watching it on television at some point in my early childhood. Tears refilled my eyes as I watched Oliver and Jenny fall in love all over again, but I really had to chuckle before I fell asleep at the memory of a conversation I once had with my grandma, who apparently had just seen the film.
Me: I'm sorry, Grandma.
Gram: Love means never having to say you're sorry.
Me: But I am sorry.
Gram: But love means you don't ever have to say you're sorry.
Me: But what if I feel sorry?
Gram: Love means you don't have to say it.
Me: But what if I want to say it?
Gram: When you love someone and they love you, you don't have to say "I'm sorry."
Me: But what if you really are sorry?
Gram: Someone who loves you would know and understand and you wouldn't have to say it.
Me: But, wouldn't they know that I want to say it?
Gram: But it's not necessary. That's what love is.
Me: But I want to tell them that I really am sorry.
Gram: Love means never having to say it.
Me: Isn't saying "I'm sorry" a lot easier than saying "Love means never having to say you're sorry"?
Gram: Go outside and play.
Me: ... I'm sorry.