Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Day That Rolls Around Every August

The Day That Rolls Around Every August

It's that time again, time for my annual birthday post.  Ugh.  I'm not looking forward to this one at all.  Sixty!  How in the hell did that happen?  A friend of mine called yesterday to tell me that 60 is the new 30.  Sounds good to me, so I'm sticking with it. 

I was going to write a very different kind of post today than I originally planned, but I awoke this morning to a dining room table filled with gifts from Richard and Ginger and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Pam and the grandkids. Richard doled out the gifts in a very specific order. 

First he gave me a card from Corinne, the next door neighbor.  Her birthday was yesterday so we commiserate together, and it had a beautiful sentiment about the beauty of being 60.  Next came Ginger's card, also with a nice verse.  Ginger is 9 years old.  Here's what she wrote in her card.

"Just remember Mommy, you are still younger than me!"  LOL!

Next I opened a series of presents containing scratch off lottery tickets, a tradition for all special occasions at our house.  I won $25!   I had ordered some clothes from a catalog that had been hidden when they arrived.  Now they were wrapped and I opened them as if I'd been surprised!

Lastly Richard brought me a box that was a mystery.  (I would not normally write about this topic in a blog, but this is too funny to ignore!)  I slowly unwrap it to find a picture of a scantily clad woman with a huge smile on her face on the box.  Are you getting my drift here?  It's a vibrator! 

There is a big sex store down in Melbourne.  In case, you were wondering, I've never been there.  With nothing to do one day, he drove down while I was at work.  The sales girl helped him pick out the best one, the one she likes best.  He checked the money in his wallet.

"My wife checks the credit card bills.  What will it say on the bill if I charge this?" he asks.

"The name that's on the sign on the outside of the building," she replies.

"I don't have enough cash." Richard counts out all his change too.

"Are you military or retired military?  I'll give you a 20% discount." I have a feeling she's been down this road before with her customers. I'm surprised she didn't ask for an AARP card.

Richard answers 'retired military' and walks out with my gift.

Lastly Richard hands me a card from him.  The card itself made me laugh but what he wrote in it made me cry.

"Linda, I met you in your twenties, we got married in your thirties, we made it through your forties and fifties.  I may not see you turn 70 and certainly not 80, so let's enjoy your sixties together."

It's going to be a very good decade, I just feel it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I'm not exactly sure how Take Me With You ended up on my Kindle.  Maybe because the blurb talked about a man, August, who traveled every summer and wanted to go to Yellowstone and ended up with two unexpected passengers for his adventure.  I have a thing about Yellowstone.  Old Faithful is quite spectacular and I've even been known to go to the Old Faithful web cam just to watch it since I'm not there live and in person.

Yellowstone was only a small part of Take Me With You, yet I was not at all disappointed.  The first tear I shed was on about page ten, when I was introduced to August, Wes, the mechanic and Wes' children, Seth and Henry.  August's dog Woody, wiggled his way into my heart too, probably by page eleven. From then on my emotions were kicked into high gear, laughter, tears, fear and surprise.

I couldn't put this book down. I never like to rehash the story lines in my reviews and I won't here either.  What was this book about?  It's about the fact that it takes a village to raise a child, that alcoholism is a disease that can be overcome but it takes alot of hard work to do it, that the love of a good dog can break down barriers and that grief over the loss of a child will never leave but can be healed. And sometimes taking a chance against your better judgement, is worth it in a million ways you never thought about.

August made Seth and Henry feel important, something they never got at home.  Seth and Henry helped August stay strong after the loss of his son and the onset of a debilitating illness.  Together they formed a bond that would never be broken.  Take Me With You touched my soul on so many levels, I never wanted it to end.  I never expected the range of feeling I got in return from reading this book.  It's one that will stay with me for a long time to come.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I've been searching for a book club to join for a long time.  I live in a retirement community so you wouldn't think a finding a book club would be an issue, but they meet at 10 am.  Ever since I went back to work, a morning meeting is out of the question.  Finally, I thought to call the local library and guess what!  They have an evening book club! 

The Dovekeepers was the book selection for the month.  I've never read Alice Hoffman before and with close to 600 pages, I feared I may not make it to the end.  Boy, was I wrong. The Dovekeepers tells the story of nine hundred Jews living on Masada in the desert, under siege by the Romans.  We see life in the mountain fortress through the eyes of four women all assigned to work in the dovecote.  Each arrives at Masada from a different path. Each has a story, and a secret which eventually binds them all together. Their fight for survival often conflicts with a deep faith that governs their way of life. 

Alice Hoffman has given us a poignant, beautiful and gripping novel.  It has been meticulously researched and written.  I learned so much about a piece of history that I knew little about and it touched me deeply.  The language used to tell these women's stories is magical.  How they are woven together is perfection.  The Dovekeepers is not to be missed. 

I received a warm welcome as the newcomer in a well established book club.  The discussion was lively and made me think about events in the story in a different light, one that I wouldn't have thought of on my own.  I read a wonderful book, one that I never would have chosen myself.  And I made some new friends who share my love of books. 

Whether you belong to a book club or not, please put The Dovekeepers on your list of must reads. A whole new world may be opened up that you never expected. I know it did for me in more ways than one.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier

A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier

Jeanie Munroe finally gets up the guts to confront her husband, Henry, about his extra marital affairs, until she finds him dead of a heart attack in the bed beside her.  Henry loved burgers and bacon and much to her dismay, left Jeanie's questions unanswered. 

A Year After Henry his family is grieving and struggling to understand why.  Henry's mother is planning a memorial for her beloved son and mailman.  Henry's brother, Larry who lost his job teaching at the local high school, has taken over Henry's postal route.  He's holed up in his bedroom at his parent's house however, refusing to come out and deliver the mail.  Jeanie is stalking Henry's mistress, Evie who works as a spiritual portraitist and part time bartender.  The anticipation of Henry's memorial service is driving them all to the brink. Or is it forcing them to face their personal shortcomings head on?

I love Cathie Pelletier's quirky characters who find themselves in bizarre situations in small town, Maine.  Her style of writing is straightforward and down to earth.  Just like the Mainers I know.  Although the situations the characters find themselves in at first glance appear unrealistic, the farther into the book you read, the more you will understand why they acted as they did.  And in the end all becomes right in the world. 

A Year After Henry is laugh out loud funny, unusual and heart wrenching all rolled into one.  If you are looking for something to lift your spirits, Cathie Pelletier's work will bring a smile to your face.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I have to say it took me a long time to read this book, not because it was poorly written or uninteresting, but because I was living everything that was inside of it.  My step mother, June passed away in March at the age of 93.  I've spent the past two years managing her care and taking care of her finances all while watching her move into the final days of her life.

What I learned from Being Mortal is that our doctors are trained to save lives.  There is little in their extensive education about how to help people die peacefully. When I read Dr. Gawande's words, I finally knew I was not alone. I'd spent a lot of time questioning each and every decision I had to make for her.  Conversations with doctors, nurses and nursing home administrators left me frustrated and exhausted.  The road is bumpy to say the least.

First I moved June to an assisted living facility.  It took several months but finally she'd settled in nicely and seemed happy.  Then she fell and broke her hip.  I had to decide whether or not she should have a hip replacement or allow the bone to heal naturally, confining her to bed and risking bedsores. She had the surgery but was never able to recover from it.  On top of all that she also had dementia.  June didn't want any more physical therapy, I felt helpless trying to get it to stop.  She didn't want to eat, and yet my instructions that she didn't have to eat if she didn't want to, went unheeded.  I was the only voice she had, and I knew she was ready to go.  We had talked about it many times over the 50 years I had known her.

Being Mortal gave me tools to work with and helped me to understand how our system for caring for the elderly is set up.  The knowledge I got from it gave me with some small victories over time.  This is a book that should be read if you are caring for an elderly loved one, or if you want to prepare for your own old age.  We should all be able to live out the end of our days in a way that is best for us.  This is a powerful and moving book.  Thank you, Dr. Gawande for your compassion and showing us that we have a choice.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Every high school student in America has probably seen this play or acted in it, since it's a staple in every drama program.  Unfortunately, its message is probably lost on a sixteen year old, I know it was lost on me.  But something about it has stuck in my head all these years.  A book I'm currently reading made reference to Our Town and at the same time it had popped up as part of a storyline in my own writing.  I thought I'd better revisit this Pulitzer Prize winner.

Our Town is a play in three acts and tells the story of two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. We watch George, the doctor's son and Emily, the daughter of the newspaper editor, grow up, fall in love and face the end of life while the townspeople go about their business every day.

Life hasn't changed much over the years.  We get out of bed, go to work, hustle the kids out the door to school.  The children grow up, get married, and build a life starting a new family.  And for all of us it ends the same way, in death, leaving the living behind. We may want to think that our fancy cars, computers and smart phones have changed our lives but if we take the time to look deep into the our core, they have not.  Life remains the same with or without modern conveniences.

One of the many lessons of Our Town is that life is precious.  We should try to make each and every day the best day of our lives.  Maybe we can only learn that through the wisdom that comes with age. Our Town's story may be lost on the young, but I never forgot it. And I bet you haven't either.  It's well worth reading again as an adult.  Thornton Wilder's play is classic and timeless and even more meaningful when wisdom is on your side. 

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...