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Before I started Rebecca Unpublished, I read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.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.