Monday, August 27, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

I have to admit I'm probably the last person on the planet to read Fifty Shades of Grey.  I only ended up with a copy of my own because every one else had already read it.

Recently I went to Hawaii to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday.  I thought I was so clever when I picked out her gifts.  First I picked out a beautiful card and in it I wrote,

"May these gifts keep you young in mind, body and spirit."

I wrapped up some brain teaser puzzles of odd shaped pieces that if put together correctly form a perfect square.  Next I gave her a small portable zen garden.  And lastly I added a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Cute idea, huh?

She'd already read it. As had her husband and everyone else at the party.  Not wanting to be considered an Indian Giver, it took me a few minutes to finally admit I was the only outsider. She slid the book across the table in my direction. I now had a copy of my own to read.

Fifty Shades of Grey  is by far the worst book I've ever read. For being smart and educated, Anastasia lacked any focus in her life.  I don't care how good looking Christian was, her character was full of inconsistencies.  Christian was just an ass.  There was nothing to like about him even during some of the email banter the pair had which I considered kind of cute. The writing was poorly done and the characters, ill conceived. If Anastasia's breath hitched one more time, I thought I would puke.

I had to read a few hundred pages of garbage before there even was any sex.  By the time they finally got around to it, I couldn't have cared less.  Now at least I can say I've read it but I'm really sorry I wasted my time on it.  Two more volumes in the series.  I think not.  

Birthday Blessings

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday.  As the years progress what becomes important in one's life changes.  As a child, I anxiously waited for my birthday to arrive.  Being that it came in summer before school started, I never got to take candy or cookies to school to share with my class.  Like a Christmas list for Santa, I made sure my mother knew what new outfits I wanted for my Barbie doll.  And if Ken got some new clothes that would be even more thrilling.   The new school clothes I got for me weren't nearly as interesting as dressing up Barbie in the latest fashions.

My mother would let us choose what we wanted for dinner on our birthday.  I would always choose shrimp or fish.  Being such a seafood fan at a young age, I was destined to end up in Florida where it is a staple of our diet.  My sisters and brother however, only picked at the fish and loaded up on cake and ice cream.  All of them have made their lives in Ohio where beef and chicken are plentiful.

Here's how I know things have changed.  My husband, Richard loves to give and wrap gifts for all occasions.  Here's the list of gifts he wrapped up for me to open on my birthday.   

3 red kitchen towels
A bicycle bell  (When he went to put the new bell on my bike, he dropped the old bell and it began to work again.  The new bell has to be returned to Wal Mart.)
A bag of candy corn ( I love candy corn and yes the Halloween stuff is already in the stores.)
2 black kitchen towels  (The more gifts to open the merrier!)
3 scratch off lottery tickets ( I won $5)
A bathroom scale

A psychiatrist would have a field day analyzing that list.  I can tell you what it means without making an appointment.  I need to do more housework, exercise and lose ten pounds.  But I'm not going on a diet until I finish what's left of my birthday cake and the bag of candy corn. 

I couldn't decide what I wanted for my birthday dinner.  The older you are, the tougher choices are to make.  I only knew I wasn't going to cook or use my new dish towels to clean anything.  Richard decided for me.

"I ordered a pizza.  It'll be ready for you to pick up in 20 minutes."

I got in the car and drove to the gas station.  After I filled up the tank with gas, I went inside to get my pizza.  Lo and behold, I spotted a penny on the floor.  I picked it up and put it in my pocket. And then I began to count all the wonderful things about having another birthday. 

I'm still counting! It's going to be a great year!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy Hurricane Birthday

There are quite a few perks to living in the State of Florida.  The sun shines nearly every day.  The sky is blue and the air is clean.  I don't own a winter coat or even a pair of boots.  Putting snow tires on a car every November is a thing of the past, as is scraping snow off the windshield.  I love my life here in Florida.  Except when it's my birthday.

I was born long ago in a northern spot known as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  My life took me to Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio before it landed me back in Pittsburgh after graduating from college. I spent three more years there struggling to get up an down its hills in the middle of winter while trying to get to work on time.  During a fierce April snowstorm, I made the decision to head south.

I found a job, made friends, got married and became fully entrenched in my Florida life.   I knew when hurricane season was but never paid much attention to it.  Storms would brush by but we never lost power or suffered any damage.  I celebrated my August 26th birthday without interruption.

In 1992 Hurricane Andrew came through South Florida on August 24, a Sunday.  When my birthday fell during week, I'd celebrate over the weekend.  My birthday dinner was abruptly cancelled when the one and only named storm of the season approached us.  I probably made leftovers for dinner and I'm sure I didn't have any cake and ice cream in the house.  We lived far enough north of the storm that we didn't suffer much damage for which I'm grateful.  But using candles to light the house instead of blowing them out on a birthday cake really sucks. 

That was 20 years ago and thus my life without birthdays began.  The last week in August and the first week in September is the most active part of hurricane season.  And not every storm turns into a well known and named storm but many do.  Katrina made its first landfall in Florida on August 26 before picking up strength in the Gulf.  Irene came through last year dumping boatloads of rain, as did Fay and Debby in earlier years. 

This year we're watching Isaac.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a blustery, rainy and overall gloomy kind of day. Hurricanes can turn on a dime without notice so it's best to be prepared.  We never know when the roof might start shaking and the the sliding glass windows will begin to bow.  Once the power goes out, we'll have a mad scramble to eat all the food in the freezer before it spoils.  I'm heading out to the store to stock up on cake and ice cream and maybe a few candles too.  I'd rather eat cake than some old casserole that's been tucked away in the freezer unnoticed for years.  I'll have the bakery decorate it with a hurricane tracking map so I can follow Isaac's path as I un-celebrate another year.

Friday, August 24, 2012

This Is The Moment! by Walter Green

This is the Moment! by Walter Green

I found out about this book from my sister-in-law.  Our family recently celebrated her birthday in Hawaii and she wanted to share with us how grateful she was that we could all be together.  She made up little "yearbooks" for each of us filled with pictures, old and new.  The books were passed around and we wrote notes to each other like we were in high school.  The younger kids didn't quite get the concept but wrote funny and charming messages that I will cherish.

I downloaded This Is The Moment! immediately.  I had read The Magic and had felt the change it made in my life when I began to practice gratitude every single day.  Walter Green's journey to express his own personal gratitude to people is touching and heartwarming.  He traveled around the world seeking out those who had a made a difference in his life to personally thank them.

I learned alot from reading his story. What comes back into our lives from expressing our thanks and gratitude to people, regardless of whether they entered our lives for a moment or for a lifetime, is a million times greater than the energy it will take to say a few ordinary words.  Mr. Green lays out a blueprint on how to make gratitude a part of your life.   Follow his steps and mold them into your own.

Maybe we don't all have the means to do the kinds of things Mr. Green did, but we all have the time to say a kind word.  Gratitude is a very personal journey.  A simple thank you to the mailman as he delivers the mail, or to the grocery store cashier as she rings up your purchases of food that will nourish your body, or to your spouse for taking out the garbage is all that it will take to begin to bring gratitude into your life.  Start simple and feel the rewards grow in your heart and in your life. Gratitude is a gift.  Give it to others and the gift will be yours in return.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

I don't usually read two books at once but since I've been traveling so much this summer,  I developed a bad habit of leaving one behind at home and picking up another in an airport.  I can't be on an airplane without a book to read.  When I started to plan out what I wanted to write about Let's Pretend This Never Happened it occurred to me that I'd been reading it alongside Fifty Shades of Grey

Christian Grey never hesitates to tell us that he is fifty shades of f***ed.  Jenny Lawson, however has mastered the age old craft of writing by showing us that she is far more shades of f***ed than he will ever be.  And I mean that about her in a good way. Oh, in case you were wondering.  I do realize that Christian Grey is a fictional character and Jenny Lawson is alive and well even though her memoir is only mostly true.

I'd seen this book with the cute little mouse on the cover in the bookstore and had been drawn to it, picking it up and examining it on several occasions.  The cover blurbs however, weren't quite enough to convince me to make a purchase.   Then I read a review somewhere that said Let's Pretend This Never Happened was not to be missed, so I downloaded it on my Kindle without knowing why there is a stuffed mouse on the cover. 

This book is laugh out loud funny.  I am not kidding.  From the magic squirrel, to the bread sack shoes, to eating Exlax because it tastes like chocolate, to the human sized metal rooster, I couldn't stop laughing.  And every time Ms. Lawson wrote about a topic that couldn't possibly have happened in my mind, she included a picture to document the real thing. I laughed even more then. The photos would have been quite funny to look at on their own even without the backup story.    

I never like to give anything away in my book reviews, but now I know why there's a mouse on the cover.  There's alot of stories about taxidermy in here.  So if you're squeamish, don't worry. You'll still hoot and holler no matter where you are and people will stop and ask you what you're reading because you're causing such a ruckus. 

Jenny Lawson used the word f*** alot so I think she'll understand when I say she's far more than fifty shades of f***ed.  It's a wonderful quality to have, being able to laugh at yourself.  She is not afraid to poke fun at herself or her family. At least I think that's the case, according to her mostly true memoir anyway.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer Vacation

I'm finally back home from my whirlwind summer vacations.  Thankfully, because I'm exhausted.  Sadly, because I don't quite know what to do with myself now that all the planning and anticipation are over. 

The places I've been and things I've seen have been amazing.  I listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing, rafted down the Snake River in Wyoming, waited for Old Faithful to spout off right on time as usual, watched bison and elk cross the road right in front of me, took a sunset cruise at Waikiki Beach, went to a luau, attempted to hulu dance in a grass skirt, ate multiple boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, dined on lobster, rode in an amphibious DUCK through the streets and waterways of Boston, and topped it all off with a beautiful wedding on a perfect summer evening.

Whew!  No wonder I'm tired.

In between all the activities, I enjoyed time spent with grandchildren, a husband, nieces, nephews, in laws, and old and very dear friends, all of whom touched my heart in very different ways.  I went in as one person and came out the other side changed.  Before I started down the vacation road, I was afraid I'd collapse half way through not being able to complete my journey.  Being faced with new and exciting adventures turned out to be invigorating and uplifting.  But it's the people I shared each leg of my trip with that made it so special.  They opened my eyes to things I may not have noticed on my own.

I'm not anxious to see an airport again anytime soon but I bet once I download all the photos and start making the scrapbooks, I'll be itching to do it all over again.  I've been blessed to have been given an awesome summer.   I am blessed to be surrounded by a loving group of family and friends.  And I am blessed to have a nice, soft bed to lay in for as long as I need.  And right now, it's calling my name.  Nap time. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Letters From Yellowstone by Diane Smith

Letters From Yellowstone by Diane Smith

I picked up this gem on my summer travels through Yellowstone National Park.  If you've never been to see the park in person, put it on your bucket list.  Beauty, awe and wonder abound here.  I had a tour guide that said every day he's still amazed that the adventurers that first discovered Old Faithful actually decided that this place should be saved for all Americans to enjoy instead of putting a fence up and charging admission.   

Set in 1898, the story of scientists and botanists in Yellowstone is told through their letters home.  The main character signs as A. E. Bartram, short for Alexandria.  The leader of the expedition doesn't know A. E. Bartram is a woman until she appears at camp wearing a dress.  Alex is a medical student who longs for something more in her life.  Young and still trying to find her way in the world, she follows her dream of studying botany.

Professor Merriman reluctantly allows her into camp and slowly begins to rely on Alex's precise methods of documenting and collecting plant specimens from nature.  Alex's family on the other hand is desperate to bring her home.  A woman had no place in such primitive surroundings.  She is strong willed and successfully rebuffs all of their attempts to disrupt her studies.

Letters From Yellowstone tells a brilliant historical tale of what life was like at the time.  Men in control of the world and women struggling to make their voices heard in society.  These pioneer women laid the groundwork for us all.   The Yellowstone National Park of their time remains beautiful and pristine today because of their foresight.   For that I am truly grateful.  As we all should be.  Read the book and then go for a visit.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

I found this title on a list of summer must read books for teenagers.  My summer vacation included a trip to Yellowstone with two teenage granddaughters and I wanted to bring along something they might enjoy reading too.  I was also swayed by the fact that I am a member of SpacecoasT Authors of Romance and I know Roxanne St. Claire. Not being a typical reader of YA novels, in this case the stars were aligned so I nabbed it off the bookstore shelf.

Annie and Ayla lead very different lives.  Annie and her family struggled to make ends meet.  She's never been a part of the in crowd at high school and often finds herself at the brunt of their jokes.  Ayla lives a life of money and privilege and has learned how to use that to the best of her advantage. When Annie ends up in Ayla's life everything begins to change.

The lessons in this story were numerous and delivered in a fun and engaging way.  The bullies got their kicks exerting control over the kids deemed stupid and nerdy.  A closet full of stolen designer fashions even when having an unlimited credit card with which to pay for anything they wanted, made them cool.  Girls viewed losing their virginity as a prize to be won like a stuffed animal at a carnival.  Annie's father's crazy invention changed all that.

This book is now in the hands of my granddaughter and I hope she takes the time to read it.  Kids today are bombarded by so many things good and bad about this world.  Their struggle to grow up is much harder than the one I knew.  Don't You Wish is current and relevant to today's teenagers.  It's a novel that's a joy to read no matter what your age.

I loved Don't You Wish.  I laughed.  I cried.  And I adored the ending.  It made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. 

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...