Thursday, February 26, 2015

Happy Half Birthday To Me

Today is my half birthday. Happy birthday to me! Normally I wouldn't be celebrating a half birthday, I outgrew that practice at about fifty years ago.  This one however, deserves a commemoration.  I'm 59 1/2 which means I can withdraw from my IRA without paying a 10% penalty.  Hip. Hip. Hooray!

Should I be dancing a jig?  I wish I could, but my hip is quite arthritic.  My bank statement came today to tell me how much I can spend now that I'm legal in the world of retirement, but I can't read it.  I can't find my glasses.  And now I'm only six months away from being 60.  How in the heck did that happen?

I'm the youngest of four siblings.  They have all made it safely into their sixties and are waiting for me to catch up.  In this case, playing catch up is a good thing. Except that I have five more years before I can get Medicare.  But those milestone birthdays always scare me and this one is no different. And the next milestone comes in only five years instead of the customary ten.  I'm edgy about it already.

Is all of this really worth celebrating? Honestly, it is.  We all have a few off days here and there.  When those happen I keep my chin up and focus on the bigger picture.  I'm happy and I've been blessed with so many wonderful people and experiences in my life.  I've prepared for my old age as best as I can. No matter what happens in the future, the past has been pretty darn good.  And I'm looking forward to making it even better, a good hip or not.

So bring on my half stack of presents and the half of a cake with the half a candle on top.  I'm ready to blow out half the flame and keep the other half burning! Happy half birthday to me!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

Looking back, I almost gave up on this book, which is an extremely hard thing for me to do. Now that I have reached the end, I probably should have cut my losses and moved on based on my gut feeling.  Whenever I begin to consider not finishing a novel, I turn to Amazon and Goodreads and look at the reviews.  A Small Indiscretion had so many five star reviews and glowing remarks that I decided to keep going. 

Annie Black is married, living in San Francisco, and runs her own lighting store where she creates unusual lights and lamps from salvaged and discarded items.  Someone has been in an accident of some kind and she's writing to this person.  The story revolves around her telling her life story to this person.  Eventually I'm able to figure out that this 'someone' is her son. 

I say 'eventually' because that was my issue with this book.  The reader is dragged from the present to the past, and back again with reckless abandon.  I had a difficult time following what time it was and what phase of her life I was in.  Not until the last couple of chapters did I even know where the story was headed.  Frankly, I found her story ordinary, nothing about it was really gripping or edge of my seat exciting.  Most of us fumbled through our young adult years at a meaningless first job that paid little.  So we drank too much and hung out with an unsavory cast of characters while we desperately tried to find our own way in life.

I respect that others loved the story of Annie Black. I however, saw nothing special in it.  That's why there's an endless choice of books to read.  I'm moving on to one of them. To each his own.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What's In A Name?

The snow in the Northeast this winter has been overwhelming.  Simply watching it on TV from the sofa in my warm Florida home brings tears to my eyes.  It's devastating.  Strangely, however, I've become hooked on The Weather Channel.  Watching all that snow fall at any hour of the day is my latest pastime.  But what's up with those names that the storms have now?

I've always been fascinated by names.  Maybe this is because my siblings and I are a product of our parents odd naming system.  My parents wanted to name my oldest sister Linda but chose Susan instead.  They thought too many girls would be named Linda at the time.  Susan isn't exactly what I would call an uncommon name, but hey, whatever works.  Eight years and three children later, they must have become weary of naming children.  I ended up with the recycled name, Linda.

Do you know that Linda was the number one girls name of the 1950's and has never made the list since?  Everywhere I go there is at least two more Lindas.  In my working days, I had an office right next door to another Linda.  People would stand outside our doors and say "Good morning, Linda,"  killing two birds with one stone. I met four Lindas at Weight Watchers. Once I was in a meeting with five Lindas.  Trying to keep us all straight was impossible.  I don't think my sister Susan, is suffering the same fate.

Being a Floridian, I'm familiar with naming hurricanes.  On June 1st of each year, the start of hurricane season, the current year's names are headline news.  The National Weather Services is in charge of the names and retires names that meet certain criteria for a level of storm induced devastation.  When The Weather Channel started calling each new blizzard by name, I was curious where these monikers had come from. 

To my surprise, TWC thought them up themselves starting in 2011.  The names are a lineup of who's who of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology, but not a god of snow in the bunch. The names, Hektor, Juno and Linus are among those on the list. Right now Neptune is pounding Boston just like the storms that have come before him.  And guess what! NOAA doesn't acknowledge the use of these names. It took the unsuspecting public a nanosecond to accept the term "Winter Storm Octavia "as a perfectly normal thing.

It used to be that winter storms were simply referred to as "The Blizzard of 1977" or "1985" or whatever year it happened to be.  I'll bet that it snowed more than once in those years blessed with "Blizzards".  When clearing out 20 foot piles of snow, is anyone really going to care whether it came from Marcus or Iola?  No. We'll only remember the winter of 2015.

A person's name is like gold, music to our ears every time we hear it. So for all the Hektors, Iolas and Octavias who love being told, "What an unusual name you have," you are about to join the same name club. As a Linda, I share my name with lots interesting and lovely women of a certain age, not a devastating hurricane or blizzard.  Or at least not yet.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy(ish) by Cara Trautman

Happy(ish) by Cara Trautman

How Happy(ish) found its way onto my Kindle, I don't recall. I do enjoy a story that's light and frivolous after reading a long, dark, family drama.  Happy(ish) turned out to be a family drama too, but with alot of comic relief.

Jean is 35 years old, unmarried and lost.  Her house is a wreck, her job is a constant source of irritation and her love life is in a state of disrepair.  She lives next door to her best friend Clair, who along with her husband, stars in commercials for the online dating website where they met.  Jean refers to her dysfunctional parents as Pat1 and Pat2.  Pat2 is her father, who divorced Pat1 since he could never understand why he was number two.  He was the man, shouldn't he be Pat1?  They had plenty of other issues and that was the best excuse he could come up with. 

I found myself chuckling at the silliness of this story.  Happy(ish) is not the most gripping and well written story but it did have plenty of enjoyable moments.  And just when I wondered why I had kept reading, the story took a turn and touched my heart.  I never like to give away the ending, and there will be no spoilers here.  After all her crazy antics, the true Jean discovered what life was all about.  It was sweet and simple and the perfect ending.  I felt Happy(ish)!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm just crazy, head over heels in love with the State of Maine.  I've spent the past 2 summers there soaking in the sea and the mountains, the locals and the tourists, the sun and the rain, all of which are gorgeous, peaceful and calm.

A book with the title, Maine should be right up my alley, right?  Wrong.  There was not a single likeable character in this story.  Alice, the matriarch of the Kelleher family, is an outright bitch.  She wanted us to feel sorry for her because her sister, Mary died in a fire many years ago and Alice felt responsible.  I had not one ounce of sympathy for her, she was that mean.  Her daughters and daughter-in-law displayed plenty of shallow and pathetic behavior.  The big family gathering that the reader expects to occur, never does.  Thank goodness.  It probably would have turned into a brawl.

Maine  turned into one long, boring backstory.  No one even appeared in the Maine until more than halfway through the book.  I got lost in the constant flashbacks, excruciatingly long chapters and unlikeable characters.  Once I start reading a book however, I can't stop no matter how painful it is.  As the eternal optimist, I keep hoping to find redemption somewhere even if it's on the very last page.  While looking for the buried gem, I have a tendency to skip pages to speed the process along, which was the case with Maine.

I never found the prize in this novel.  I'm sorry I wasted my time on this book.  This is not the Maine I know and love. 

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...