Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Recommendation: So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

So Much for That is a precautionary tale for any of us who have health insurance, who don't have health insurance, or who don't have enough or the right kind of health insurance.  It's about Shep Knacker, who has worked most of his life building a successful business.  He has reached the point that he is ready to proceed with the second part of his life, which he has dreamed about -- a place where he and his wife can live the good life for dollars a day.  He has been exploring possibilities for years, and his wife has not found any of his choices suitable.  He has finally sold the business and invested the proceeds, but has remained as an employee to the buyer (who once worked for him), waiting for the perfect time to leave.  The time has arrived and he is ready to tell his wife that he is going, whether or not she will accompany him.  He leaves work and goes home, ready to make his announcement, but his wife beats him to the punch.  She says that she is going to need his health insurance.  She has cancer.

Shep was a good employer, who provided good health insurance for his employees.  It turns out that the new owner has downgraded the health insurance.  It turns out that Shep's wife has mesothelioma and her prognosis is grim.  Shep lives with this fact, although the doctors don't choose to be completely open with his wife about her chances.  They feed her hope.  She is also buoyed by a possibility of a settlement, due to her exposure to asbestos.  Who could blame her?

Shep, in the meantime, must deal with the reality.  Thus, the title, So Much for That.  He must continue to work for his former employee.  The reader is kept apprised of Shep's investments, through an account statement every couple of months.  We despair with him (and think, "so this is what it's like") as his account balance goes from about $750,000 to about $3,500.  Remember, he does have insurance for his wife -- although it's not the insurance he(we) would like to have.

You will want to read this book.  It's an interesting story of a couple living through a very rough time in their marriage.  You'll want to know if they, and their marriage, survive.  But, as I said, it's also a precautionary tale -- for the rest of us.

You can find this book at your local library or purchase it below.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some Gifts and Blessings and a Warning

I love white stoneware.  My stepmother knew this, and gave me the beautiful soup tureen and pitcher before she passed away in November.  The sweet creamer and salt and pepper shakers came to me more recently, and therein lies the warning.

We were visiting my dad on Friday and when we walked through the kitchen, a disturbing sight stopped me in my tracks.  One entire cabinet in the kitchen was gone, leaving only the bare wall (really bare, with unpainted wall and screw holes showing). 

I asked Dad, "What's this?" and he told me that the kitchen cabinet had fallen off the wall.  He said that he had thought there was a car accident out on the road, the crash was so loud.  All of the dishes were broken except a pitiful few that were on the countertop: four small dinner plates, three salad plates, one cup, the salt and pepper shaker and creamer.

The cabinet held dishes, quite a few of them, but it also held some of Jo Ann's collection of cookbooks.  Dad said that the cookbooks completely filled a fairly large box; I think that there was an entire shelf of them.  The bits and pieces of the dishes filled another box.

Lest you think that this was shabby construction, let me explain that my dad was a building contractor and built this house almost 35 years ago.  No other cabinets have fallen.  It was just that the tipping point was reached.   You may want to check your own kitchen cabinets for overloading.  I have, and acknowledge that I'm just about at that point.  I'm going to redistribute some things.

I asked Dad if I could have the salt and pepper shakers and the creamer and he said I could.  I brought them home and noticed that the salt shaker has a small chip in its base.  Not bad, for such a small item taking such a big fall.  They all have a place of honor now in my house and a story that can be told about how they got here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Girl Scout Cookie Season: A Poem from PePaw

It's Girl Scout Cookie season!  I don't have Girl Scouts in my neighborhood, but have memories of selling them in the 1950's and 1960's.  I also got involved as a parent (buying many, many boxes) and as a troop leader in the 1970's.

My Dad let me bring home a folder of  newspaper clippings, cards, and drawings from and about his children and grandchildren. Included were several poems he had written when the grandchildren were small and the following is one of them:

To Jeannie, A Super Cookie Salesperson


"Hi, PePaw, This is Jeannie!"
"Hello, Jeannie, How are you?"
"I’m selling Girl Scout cookies, PePaw."
Would you like to buy a few?"

"We have many kinds to choose from
Surely, there are some you need.
Chocolate chips, you can rely on
For a group you want to feed."

"One they call a sandwich cookie
They’re chocolate, one stuck to another.
Then we have one called Savannah
They’re delicious, peanut butter."

"Chocolate mints are tasty also
They disappear with great speed
Then we have a new one this year
A cracker called Sesame Seed."

Jeannie’s only eight years old
Not old enough to know
How much she means to PePaw
With her youthful voice aglow.

She could sell him anything
For a dollar or a penny
It’s worth the price to hear her say,
“Hi, PePaw, this is Jeannie.”

What was/is your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Tale of Two Kindles and a NOOK: Part 2 - The NOOKcolor

A few weeks after I delivered my dad's new Kindle, I was talking to my son on the phone, telling him about Dad's learning to use his Kindle and how much I was enjoying mine.  He said, "Well, actually, I need to tell you that I have purchased a NOOKcolor for myself."

He went on to explain his reasons for the additional purchase.  Primarily, it had to do with the larger touch-screen, the fact that everything is in full color, and the wireless web access.  (You can access the web through the Kindle, but it is difficult to manuever, due to the smaller screen size and the lack of the touch-screen.)  His enthusiasm was contagious.  I decided to explore the NOOKcolor on the Barnes and Noble website.

First, the color is beautiful.  It's especially nice for cookbooks, decorating books, anything with photographs or color illustrations.  (You can also enlarge and zoom in on the photos.)  I remember when we went from black and white TV to the first color sets.  The color was not good.   This experience was more like going from watching one of today's movies on a black and white TV to watching it in color in high definition.  I was sold on the color!

Barnes and Noble offers the option of purchasing subscriptions to many magazines, as does Amazon for the Kindle.  Of course, the color makes a huge difference with a lot of the magazines.  Another option for the NOOKcolor and the Kindle is to purchase the most recent issue of magazines and newspapers individually.  This is an option that we will enjoy when we're on vacation or when a special event or issue comes up that we want to explore, without purchasing an entire subscription.

Next, some books are interactive.  For example, some cookbooks have demonstration videos embedded in the text.  You just touch the screen on the NOOK to play them.   Brilliant!  I can have my NOOKcolor right there with me in the kitchen (in a protected area) and use the demos as I go through the recipes.  Also, some of the color children's books have interactive segments in the illustrations.  The child can touch a ferris wheel car, for example, and the car will rock.

By the way, the screen can be turned sideways to read the children's books and there is a "read to me" feature that the child can choose to listen to the book as the pages are turned.

The touch screen is very nice, but there is a learning curve.  I had no experience with touch screens (I don't have a smart phone) and am just now getting more confident using mine.  It just takes practice.

The web browsing capability is also very nice; the touch screen makes it easier to use and there are some other extra bells and whistles like the ability to preset your social media and e-mail for easy access.

Here is the final selling point for me:  My library system has books available to check out on e-readers from its website.  The NOOK is one of the e-readers that will accept the borrowed books; the Kindle is not.  This is a major money-saver and is what really made me decide to buy the NOOK.

The bottom line is that I will use both, and I'll be using them for different functions and for different reasons  (just as I will continue to read the traditional book).  The Kindle is a good basic reader with features that will appeal to people my age and older:  it's lightweight, simple to learn, has buttons rather than the more senstitive touch screen, the screen doesn't smudge easily, and it can be read in bright sunlight.  The NOOKcolor has, of course, beautiful color; touch screen; interactive functions; easier web access; and a larger reading screen (than my Kindle -- I understand that the Kindle DX has a larger screen) AND allows me to download e-books from my library.  Both the Kindle and the NOOK have many features in common that make my reading an even more wonderful and varied pleasure than it has been.

I would recommend, of course, that you visit the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites to learn more about both devices, especially if you are in the market for one (or both).  Happy reading!


Monday, February 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Kindles and a Nook: Part 1 - The Kindles

I thought that I had found the "sweet spot" in regard to my ever-present need to have books and magazines available to read.  My library provides a "book box" two miles from my home, where I can pick up and drop off books that I've reserved through the system website.  I also have three branches within a twenty minute drive, for those times I want to browse.  I subscribe to a dozen magazines and look forward to their arrival each month, and I have a personal library with enough books to keep me happy into my eighties.  I have carried suitcases full of books on the plane ride home from library conferences and book festivals (before that became too expensive) and never leave for an auto trip without a book bag filled with three or four books and several current magazines. 

I thought that I had plenty to read when I went to Alabama in October.  My daughter had a very bad case of double pneumonia, but she was released soon after our arrival.  I decided to stay a couple of weeks, and settled in with her family.  My granddaughters understood that Grandma's reading time was important and I was happy to see them (and hear them) read their own books. 

My son had brought his Kindle when he was visiting there, and left it when he went home.  During my stay, I picked it up and began reading.  I alternated between reading my library books and The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo on the Kindle.  After a week or so, I had finished my library books, and moved on to The Girl Who Played with Fire.  I also read some of the Kindle's User Manual and figured out how to have a book downloaded (within seconds) from Amazon. 

After I got back home, I let my son know that I owed him a couple of dollars for a book I had downloaded and also told him that I really enjoyed the Kindle.  He said that he was happy to hear that and told me that he was sending me one for Christmas.  I started making plans about how I would integrate the Kindle into my reading times at home.  I wanted to put it to good use, but felt, somehow, that I was being unfaithful to my books; I was having an extra-biblio-affair -- my own guilty pleasure that would somehow diminish my book-lover status.

Of course, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas went very quickly, and I was extremely busy with preparations for both.  We had lots of company for Christmas and I put my new Kindle aside until after everyone was gone.

During January, I explored the features, skimmed the manual, downloaded some free books, and visited the Amazon website to explore more thoroughly what was available.  Among my downloads were two versions of the Bible: The King James and the American Standard.  I also downloaded a book of daily meditations and a couple of classics that I had intended to read.  I wasn't ready to download bestsellers, literary fiction or nonfiction, but I was happy with my Kindle and decided to use it in the following ways:
  • I wanted to read the Bible through.  Previous efforts (or promises) had failed.  The "Read the Bible in a Year" assignments that I had try to follow jumped around too much and the assigned readings didn't necessarily fit my schedule.  Sometimes I was able to read more, and sometimes less.  Using the Kindle, starting with the New Testament, I am able to read at my own schedule.  The Kindle stays at the page where I stopped, in the font size that I have chosen.  If I do happen to go to another passage, I can easily bookmark where I left off, so that I can return. (My "home page" contains a list of all my books.  No matter what book I want to read, the Kindle takes me to where I left off in that book.)
  • I also decided to use my Kindle for my daily meditations, for the reasons above.
  • I have vision problems.  I particularly have vision problems in church; I can't follow the scripture in the Bible because the print is too small and my eyes don't adjust quickly enough from visually following the minister and the illustrative screens at the front of the sanctuary to the small print in the Bible.  My Kindle solves this; I can look in the bulletin and find the scriptures for the day's sermon and go ahead and have them in the font size that I can see. 
  • I looked forward to having my Kindle with me when I was away from the house.  I especially looked forward to travelling with it and planned to download some leisure reading when we vacationed during the summer.
During the time I was getting acquainted with my Kindle, I visited my Dad, who is 89 and is experiencing visual and hearing problems. Dad loves to read and  I thought that he would be interested in the Kindle's font-size feature, where he could increase it to the size he needed.  He seemed mildly interested, but as I suspected, he wasn't ready to commit to a new technology.  This wasn't surprising, since his interest in any technology is pretty much limited to watching DVDs my brother loads for him, and using the closed captioning when it's available.

Later, I mentioned to my brother that I had introduced Dad to my Kindle and Rick said that Dad had told him about it.  This was evidence that Dad was interested, if not completely sold on having one.  I also mentioned it to my son, and Cory said that he wanted to buy a Kindle for Dad, which he did and had it delivered to my house.  I downloaded a Bible and several collections of westerns, plus some biographies of presidents and the writings of Abraham Lincoln (all free or almost free).  My Dad was one of the pilots who flew in supplies during the Seige of Bastogne (Battle of the Bulge) during World War II, so I also purchased a book entitled The Battered Bastards of Bastogne and downloaded it.  I asked Rick to meet me at Dad's when I took the Kindle to him.

We introduced it and all it contained to Dad.  There is a learning curve for seniors with any new technology, but Dad was willing to try, and didn't seem too daunted by accidently turning a page or learning the nuances of the arrow buttons.  He has begun to read the Book of James in the Kindle version of the King James Bible and was very interested in the westerns and the book about Bastogne.  As usual, I went a little too far when I wanted to show him how to search for his battalion and company; he was a little frustrated when I showed him the results and explained that he would have to go back into the book to read the complete passages.  But he is willing to learn and I think that he'll appreciate the gift more and more as time goes on.

So, that's basically my own experience with the Kindles in my life.  I will tell you about my Nook in my next post.  Yes, I have a Nook and a Kindle and, for me, that's not too much of a good thing.  More later --


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cure for a Listless Tuesday: A List of Movies that I've Seen So Many Times that I've Memorized the Dialogue

This is not a list of my favorite movies; neither is it a list of  "the greatest movies ever made" (although I would put some of these movies belong in both categories).  Instead, it is a list of movies that I've watched many times.  The reasons that I've watched them many times vary.  I will undoubtedly leave some out, not remembering until they show up again on AMC or Turner Classics, and I watch them again, maybe for the 100th time.  Some of them, of course, would be on almost everybody's list; some (including the reasons for watching them) will be unique to me.

Just so you know, I normally don't watch movies more than once, just as I normally don't reread books.  This is a list of exceptions to that rule.  Here is my list of movies I've rewatched again and again:

Gone with the Wind -- I guess GWTW would show up on the lists of most people over age 50.  I didn't see the movie nor read the book until I was an adult.  It was part of my parent's generation, and my interest in movies that would appeal to them was minimal.  I actually have a memory of my mother saying "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" (although I don't remember the context) and my dad named one of a litter of our boxer puppies Rhett Butler.  I first saw the movie on an army base in the late 1960's and have watched it many times on tv.  I love the costumes, the scenery, and the background story of the war, as well as Rhett, Scarlett, Ashley and Melanie's story.  I'm always moved when I hear "Tara's Theme" at the beginning of the movie.  The truth is, I do give a damn and would include GWTW in my own "greatest movies" list.

It's a Wonderful Life - For many years after my first husband and I divorced, my children would be with him and his family on Christmas Eve and spend Christmas Day with me and mine.  Christmas Eve was my time for final gift wrapping.  I would spend that time wrapping and watching It's a Wonderful Life.  Somtimes I would watch it more than once on Christmas Eve and several times during the season. To me, it will always be the Christmas movie. 

The Wizard of Oz  - This is the childhood movie that will always stay with me.  I've always identified with Dorothy's journey and the characters she met on the way.  Even now, when it appears on tv once or twice a year, I'll watch at least a part of it.  I used to think that the scenery and the citizens of Oz were the most enchanting part; now, it's Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" that never fails to move me.

All About Eve - This movie has so many memorable lines:  "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"  "You have a point.  An idiotic one, but a point."  "Everybody has a heart -- except some people."  Eve Harrington's character provides a lesson in how not to be an authentic woman.  Margo Channing's character provides a lesson in how to be one.

Steel Magnolias - I loved this movie because of the cast, the setting, and the many wonderful lines -- so many that I find myself repeating them 21 years after the movie came out.  I enjoy, celebrate, and decorate for holidays and the change of seasons, and watching Steel Magnolias can always put me in the mood for Christmas, Halloween, or Easter.  Some favorite lines:  "A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste."  "An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure."  "Well, you know what they say: if you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!"

Calamity Jane  - I wonder if this would appear on anybody else's list.  I have watched this movie so many times; the first was at the Palace Theater when I was about ten years old.  I have always loved Doris Day and I found this movie enchanting.  There was something that touched me in her portrayal of Calamity Jane that introduced me to the concept of strength and vulnerability in a woman.  The scene where the song "A Woman's Touch" was sung and the dirty, falling-down cabin was transformed into a lovely and cared-for home was magical to me.  Even today, I believe in that premise, that just a little work and attention can transform our surroundings.

There are two additional movies that I could (and have) recited almost every line of a specific character.  My appreciation of these movies comes from participating in local theater.

Life with Father - I had the opportunity to play Vinnie Day (the mother) in a little theater production.  It was a special time because there were several mothers and children who were among those in the cast.  My son played the part of Clarence Day, Jr.  My two youngest daughters attended many of the rehearsals.  I remember hearing a familiar little voice from the audience when my character fainted: "My mommy died!"  Of course, that was a show/rehearsal stopper!  In the years since that production, I have watched the movie many times, to revisit the wonderful time I had with the rest of the cast and the production members.

Crimes of the Heart  - I played Lenny McGrath, the oldest sister, who is celebrating her birthday.  As the tags explained, "Meg just left one.  Lenny never had one.  Babe just shot one.  The McGrath sisters sure have a way with men!"  Participating in this play was such fun and I still think about how much I learned.  I hadn't appeared in a production since our senior play in high school, where my part was a small one.  What impressed me most was the hard work and dedication that it took to present the play by so many people.  I was in a position to actually see what it took to direct, build scenes, make costumes, keep props in order, and all of the other tasks that are so vital to the production's success.  Again, I revisit the movie time and again to remind me of the wonderful experience.  Some of my favorite lines:  "I'm not liberal; I was just lonely."   "Why, you're just as perfectly sane as anyone walking the streets of Hazelhurst, Mississippi."  "We just have to figure out a way to get through the really bad days."

I might mention that I will be attending our Little Theater's production of The Miss Firecracker Contest this weekend.  Beth Henley won the Pulitzer Prize for Crimes of the Heart and I look forward to being in the audience for another of her plays on Sunday afternoon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lots of Valentine Ideas at Laurie's and Holiday Haven Valentine Parties!

I wanted to join the fun at Laurie's and Holiday Haven's Valentine party at Bargain Hunting (and Chatting) with Laurie and Holiday Haven and I needed to contribute an idea.  I had already posted photographs of my Valentine curio cabinet, so I decided to do something quick and simple for our guest room.  Believe me, this is the quickest and most simple display, thanks to a blog called The Graphics Fairy.  If you visit there, you will find these vintage cards and more, ready to print out on card stock and use for display or for other projects.  Thanks for joining me for this "lazy woman's" tabletop display and thanks to  and these wonderful blogs for making it possible and so easy!

I also want to apologize for arriving late to the Holiday Haven party.  Something happened to my memory!  Please do drop in if you get the opportunity!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

This book is beyond belief.  I am not saying that it is unbelievable; it is believable and entertaining, humorous, sad, compassionate -- all the qualities that make a book worth reading and remembering.  It is "beyond belief" in the sense that it's really not about whether you believe in or condone polygamy.  It's more about a family (albeit one with one husband, four wives and 28 children) who struggle, compete, form alliances, break alliances, express love, fear, self-protection, self-doubt, and all of the other qualities of the human condition that we all do.  The setting is certainly different from the family in which I grew up (and probably from your own), and it makes for a different story.  But I didn't feel a complete stranger in that  household; I felt a tolerance and an odd type of kindship with the members of the family.  Maybe it's because I've been a wife (although not a "sister wife") and a mother (never with 28 children, although sometimes it seemed like that many).

This riotous household is headed by a building contractor who, in designing his own home, placed all the main rooms around the kitchen.  The children have turned the area into an indoor race track, where they chase each other to the point where the carpet is worn completely through to the padding.  This, I believe, is an underlying truth to the entire novel.  The household is in constant motion.  But while the reader gets the impression of a certain type of household chaos, we also understand that all of the children are also individuals and inevitably, some are suffering from lack of attention and expression of love.  This is where we find that the book is more than a slapstick portrayal of a chaotic family.

And guess what?  The man of the family is having a mid-life crisis, which brings him to a place where he's taken on a new mistress.  Golden Richards isn't despicable; we can even sympathize for his wishing for some peace and quiet and relief from constant demands for his attention.

But we have more empathy for his four wives, who must share a man who has limited time, energy, and (apparently) foresight.  We have empathy for his other children, who are, after all, children.

And we have even more empathy for Rusty, son of Golden's first wife, who finds himself an outcast among the children, and who receives the brunt of disapproval and punishment in the household.  Rusty's bond with the youngest wife, Trish, provides a respite, but not a solution for his situation.

I recommend this book.  I recommend that you read it, enjoy it, and share it.  You may find some passages hilarious enough to read out loud (as I did); you may find the references to the Mormon religion interesting and informative.  I hope that you will also find that nugget of truth that is found in all good and memorable stories of families like (or not like) yours and mine, whether they be monogamous or polygamous; Morman, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim; gay or straight:  all of us seek love and understanding.  The best of families are where we find it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My Readers: More Friends than Followers

I have noticed something recently; I have been falling really behind in my blog reading!  If you look at the list of blogs I follow, you'll see why.  I'm not inclined to trim my list, because there are so many wonderful, beautiful blogs there, many that focus on specific subjects in which I'm interested.  The other thing that most of them have in common are the bloggers who produce them -- mostly vibrant, intelligent, humorous women who provide a lift for my day.

I'm not giving up my long list of favorite blogs, and will continue to monitor the newest posts and visit when I can.

But I want to make a promise to a group of people that give me another type of boost.  In the blog world, they're called "followers".  I choose to call them my friends. Most of them are also bloggers. I am not a person who claims 500 friends on Facebook; neither do have have thousands of followers on my blog.  I know that I never will and am content with that.

My blog is one of those who is visited (as expressed by one of those funny ladies who makes my day better) by "tens of readers each day."  Actually, make mine "tens of readers each week", on a good week.
The advantage of the smaller numbers is that I can actually consider these readers friends.  They are more likely to get to know me, and through their comments and my visiting their blogs, I can get to know them.

So this is my promise to my blogger friends (aka "followers").  I will visit your blog (if you have one) at least twice a week.  I won't wait until your latest post appears on my reader, which will lessen the chance that I'll overlook it.  I will comment sometimes so that you'll know I've been there, but even when I don't comment, you can know that I'm in the background, not lurking, but interested in what you're doing and what you have to say.

That's what friends are for.  I couldn't do this if I had 5,000 friends, but since I have a (much) smaller number, I can.  I'm happy about that.


p.s.  If you happen to read this post and are not a friend/follower, please don't consider it a ploy to add to my numbers.  If you feel a kinship or like what I've written, please add yourself to my circle of blog friends.


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  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost
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  • The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
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