"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

16 November 2018

2018 Book Review #37: The Beginner's Goodbye

My sister Joy recommended this author to me.  I've seen some of her books in the town library but have never taken any out.  So I started with this one from about 5 years ago.  It was very good.  It's told in the first person.

STORY SUMMARY

Aaron is a middle-aged man whose older wife Dorothy, a doctor, (she's 8 years older) suddenly dies when a tree falls on their sun porch. Aaron is left to cope with the house and his  grief.

Aaron is crippled in his right arm and leg and uses a cane for walking.  He has an older sister Nandine, who is single, and is always trying to manage him.  She's been that way since childhood.  And now with Dorothy gone, he feels adrift.  Dorothy was a solid, outspoken, independent woman and although they often had a difficult marriage, they loved each other deeply.

As Aaron begins to go through the grieving process, he begins to see Dorothy around Baltimore.  They are always unexpected appearances and they help him to find peace in the moment.

As Aaron continues to go to work in the family publishing business, he also begins to discover that there is a way to say good-bye.

Will he ever really be happy again.....where will this grieving process take him?

MY THOUGHTS

This was an easy read and a short book.  It's beautifully written and very moving.

The characters are believable and at first it is difficult to figure out just what era the author is setting the story in.  It seems to be the present but it also has a hint of the long ago.....just descriptions of computers makes you realize it is set in modern times.

The book touches on grief, death, loss, and regaining a sense of control, a sense of life. It touches on the difficulty of saying good bye forever and moving on.

We learn a lot about Dorothy through her death and even more about Aaron as he grieves.

The author is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Literature which she won in 1988.  I will definitely be looking for more of her novels.  

One quote that jumped out at me is:

"My friend Luke told me once that he'd been considering my question about whether the dead ever visit.  It was true that I asked him........"I've decided," he said, "that they don't visit.  But I think if you knew them well enough, if you'd listened to them closely enough while they were still alive, you might be able to imagine what they would tell you even now.  So the smart thing to do is, pay attention while they're living....." (pg 197, The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler, c.2012)

The ending is exquisite and just so wonderfully satisfying.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.



Mid-November Faves


Here in the USA, Thanksgiving is less than a week away...we set aside one day a year to give thanks for the blessings God brings as per the tradition of the Pilgrims after their first year in this land..... yet here in the Christian blog arena, some of us practice the art of intentional gratitude all year round by participating in the Friday Fave Five, created and hosted by Susanne.  Head on over to her blog to link up and join in!

FIVE FAVES

Yet another hiking challenge completed!

  • ANOTHER BADGE! I received my Indian Lake 4-3-2-1 Hiking Challenge badge in the mail this week!  I loved working on this challenge.  Most of the trails were very easy (especially the ones in the "4" category) and I did those with my family. Some of the mountains were tough but a couple I loved so much that I hiked them more than once. I'm thankful for these fun Adirondack Hiking Challenges.  Now, I won't be back to the mountains until probably February if we have a mild winter or April if the winter is tough.  Time to explore around my local area, I guess!
a touch of Thanksgiving for the living room bookcase
  • LOST AND FOUND!  Last year I couldn't find the Thanksgiving ceramic turkey a dear friend of mine from childhood had gifted me with many years ago.  Last weekend I was rummaging around the basement closet and found it!!  It was in the bottom of a bin labeled Autumn Decor and I guess I just didn't see it last year as there was a pile of tissue paper on top.  I pulled it out, wiped it free of dust and set it next to my glass jar of mini pumpkins.  Isn't he festive? My dear friend Ann lives out in Michigan and she had mailed this to me back when the girls were little.  She was one of my dearest youth group friends when we were in high school.  I'm thankful I found it!!


  • SAFE!  Dave had to travel with the church youth group (about 45 teens went plus about 10 leaders) to the central part of NYS last Thursday through late Saturday.  He drove one of the church vehicles.  Courtney, our oldest, had to drive to Maryland and West Virginia for a wedding from Friday- Monday.  I was alone in the house for the first time in 25 years!!  I loved that but I tend to "worry" before praying for traveling mercies. This time I remembered to pray first and I had peace for them both.  And both got to their destinations ok and made it back home ok.  I'm thankful for safe travels!

Dave on Nature Trail

  • LOCAL HIKE!  Dave and I had some errands to run together on Monday and it was a gorgeous autumn day.  Chilly but sunny.  We went to the local park where Claire had her senior pics taken because she had told us there are trails there.  We've lived in this town for 28 years and this is the first we've known of these trails! (our town is very large).  We did the outer loop trail which was called "Nature Trail" and loved every minute. It was only about a mile, if that, but the late autumn scenery was lovely.  Very deep in the woods yet with suburbia all around us.  I'm thankful we had a nice walk before doing chores.

Trail in upper section of park

the pond in the Newtonville Park
Town of North Colonie, NY

a glimmer of sunshine


image courtesy of amaz*n
  • COZY COFFEE!  If I had to describe a coffee flavor that evoked "coziness" it would be DD's French Vanilla.  I hadn't had any in a very long time so I picked up a bag when it was on sale at my local grocery store last week.  I've enjoyed a nice steaming mug of it every afternoon this week after work because the temps have dipped down into the 20's a few times and the house was cold when I got home. The vanilla isn't too overpowering yet I don't need any kind of sweetener in it.  I'm thankful for sales and good coffee that keep us cozy and warm.
That wraps up my faves.  We've had freezing rain this past week and tonight (I'm writing this on Thursday evening) we are supposed to get our first snow of the school year.  The mountains have already had several inches and back where I went to undergrad school, in western NY, they have had several inches!  I'm kind of hoping we only get a dusting...it's too early for a snow day!

Enjoy your weekend!!




11 November 2018

2018 Book Review #36: The Girl Before

This book is going to be made into a movie and I'm hoping it stays true to the plot because WOW.  What.a.story!!

It's a psychological thriller with a little bit of romance and mystery.  It's quite well done!

STORY SUMMARY

Emma is a young, single woman with a live-in boyfriend named Simon.  They get burglarized one evening and now Emma wants to move.  London apartments are very expensive and she can't seem to find an affordable one that is also what she considers a safe one.  Until she learns about One Folgate Street from their real estate agent.  Apparently, to live at One Folgate, one must fill out a lengthy application per the architect's request.   It's considered a masterpiece and is in the minimalist style:  pale stone, plate glass and huge ceilings.  And there are rules that come with signing the lease.  The architect has full control:  there are to be no books, no throw pillows or knick-knacks, no photos or personal effects and definitely no clutter.  The space in the house is meant to totally transform the occupants.....and it does.

Fast forward a couple of years to Jane.  Jane has just suffered the loss and grief of giving birth to a stillborn baby girl whom she named Isabel.  She was going to be a single mom.  She decides she needs a fresh start so when she is shown One Folgate Street, she is immediately smitten with it.  She is totally drawn to the space and to the creator.  But once she moves in, she discovers that this house has a history.  She learns about the untimely death of the home's previous tenant.....a woman who looks similar to Jane and who was about the same age!

Soon Jane begins to try to unravel the mystery of the woman's death...only to learn that Monkford (the architect) had a wife and little boy and they, too, died at the scene of the apartment!  She tries to figure out which is truth, and which is lies....and in doing so, she begins to follow the same patterns and makes the same choices...even crossing paths with the same people....as the girl who was there before.

Will she uncover the truth about One Folgate Street and how far is she willing to go to get to the bottom of things??  

MY THOUGHTS

This book is a winner!  The only thing I did NOT like was the description of some of the intimate scenes between the architect and the women, and the use of the "f" word.  Seriously, I would give this book a 10 because it is a phenomenal story but those two things alone, force me to grade it lower.  There's no reason for the crassness of the F word.  Thank goodness it isn't thrown in on every page but I still feel like it was overdone.  Also, there are some s*x scenes, which yes, make the story move forward and are important in establishing character development further, but again, it was a bit crass in spots.  Other than that, this book is wonderful.

It's exciting and a page-turner.  I stayed up late almost every night this past week to find out just what was going to happen to Jane.  

The book touches on many themes, mainly about an obsessive compulsive disorder along with a person with a history of low self-esteem.  There are many layers of psychological twists and that makes the book move forward quickly.

The book also touches on grief, stillborn births, Down Syndrome, single motherhood, and domestic violence.

A huge underlying theme is deception and what happens when one lie leads to another.

It will be interesting to see if Hollywood sticks to the plot in the book or if they change things. I hope they stick with the plot and with the same ending as the book.  It's quite surprising towards the end and wasn't what I was expecting at all!

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (due to mature subject matter)

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 9.


09 November 2018

Random Faves


It's time to reflect back on the week and share FIVE of my FAVE things...blessings from God....and then I link up at Susanne's and read what other women are sharing.  

Mine are just random and really aren't connected in any way but they made me smile and say "thank You, God!"

BLT Crepe
  • NEW PLACE IN TOWN!  My friend Cindy and her daughter K met me at the brand new crepe place in town last Friday for an early dinner.  The grand opening celebration at this amazing new place had just ended and so the crowd had died out.  Oh.my.goodness. We finally have a non-burger joint in town.  It was simply amazing.  If you don't know anything about T-Swirl Crepes, read about it here. I'm hooked!  Next time I go, I'll get a dessert crepe. I'm thankful for good food with REAL ingredients and FRESH ingredients where everything is made to order.
Sunday chores in our backyard!
  • OUTDOOR TIME:  Dave and I had our "sabbath" on Saturday and most of the morning was rainy and the afternoon was downright cold and windy!  But Sunday dawned bright and clear and warmer so after church, we began the dreaded chore of raking up leaves from our two maples in the backyard plus the 2 cherry trees in the front.  Most of the large maple still had its leaves so we only completed 5 bags.  I completed another bag from the front yard on Wednesday after work and the rest of the leaves will probably fall in the next week or so.  I'm glad we have a good start on this chore and I'm thankful we both enjoyed the time outdoors working together.

Cheryl, me, and Julie
  • LUNCH DATE!! On Saturday morning, I headed about 40 minutes west of my home and met 2 of my high school friends for brunch at a fave diner.  Oh my goodness, the fun we had catching up with each other. Julie and I hadn't seen each other in 40 years, since the day we graduated from high school, other than a few weeks ago at the reunion dinner.  Cheryl and I hike together all the time.....at least twice a month in the warmer months, and we've stayed in touch all through college, grad school and our careers.  Julie is married with two sons and Cheryl never married.  Both still live back in my hometown.  What fun we had, along with delicious food, and we chatted for a little over 2 hours!  We decided we were going to get together again once the holiday season is over and try to make this a regular thing every couple of months.  I'm thankful for my old friends with whom I've reconnected.

  • FAFSA COMPLETE:  This isn't usually a fave but the reason it makes the list is because this year it was super easy to complete and we got the bonus of chatting with our youngest on the phone while doing it because we had to call her to get some info. (for those of you living in the USA and have had children in college, you know what I'm talking about!!). I'm thankful my husband is good at math and gets these kinds of things done quickly and I'm thankful that Claire is doing well as the semester winds down and that she was able to contribute to this task.  


the grassy area to the left of our playground.
Children were on the playground so I couldn't take their photo.
But this is one of our running spaces.

  

  • PLAYGROUND FUN:  This past week we had one half day (Election Day) and one rainy day.  Then on Wednesday and Thursday the sun was shining, temps were in the high 50s so we took the preschoolers outside for gross motor.  What fun we all had on the playground.  Three of our male students love to "play chase" (tag) and always want me to chase them.  It was a delight to do so....I'm so thankful we have a play-based special education curriculum where I teach.  We incorporate so many fun things while teaching basic skills.  I just love it!  Plus, it's great exercise and the fresh air is perfect this time of year.

That wraps up my faves.

I hope you have a fun weekend planned.

I have the house to my self for a couple of days/nights this weekend for the first time in 25 years!!  Husband is on a youth group convention trip and oldest girl is down in the mid-Atlantic region attending a wedding.

I'm gonna love it!




04 November 2018

2018 Book Review #35: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


Ah.

A childhood favorite re-visited.  

I borrowed this book from my youngest girl.  I first read this novel in 1974 when I was 14.  It's one of my very favorite books from my childhood and actually even as an adult.  This time was my 2nd time through the entire book.  It's still a gem.

STORY SUMMARY

Francie Nolan (Mary Frances) is a poor, Irish 11 year old girl when the story opens.  The setting is Brooklyn, NY in 1912.  She has 2 parents, Katie and Johnny.  She also has a brother who is two years younger named Cornelius but everyone calls him Neely.

She has a grandmother named  Mary and 2 aunts named Evy and Sissy.

She has a neighborhood full of children and mothers and fathers and poverty, and a school, and a library, and Jewish stores and corner stores and penny candy stores.

It's not really a book with a set plot. 

It's more an awakening of a person....a little girl who by the end of the book blossoms into a young woman of 18 on the verge of going off to college.

It's a coming of age book.

It's filled with love, loss, death, childbirth, stillborn births, pedophiles lurking in hallways, bullying, poverty, alcoholism, war, traditions, city life, education, friendship, first loves, heartbreak, joy, trials and triumphs.

We watch Francie as an 11 year old and then we read about how her parents met.

We see Francie as a little preschooler and then an elementary student.  

We see her get her first job, graduate from junior high, and hope and dream and read and write.

It's all about humanity and finding one's way in the world.

And all the while.....that tree just stands there.  Providing shade and being stalwart.

And when it finally has to be cut down.....and is left a stump....well....

what do you think happens??

MY THOUGHTS

This kind of book is one that you can't put down.

I read long into the night and picked it up every time I had a free moment the last 2 weeks.

It's long but it moves so quickly.

It's poignant and deep and rich with meaning.

It's filled with truth and reality and dreams and lies.

It's emotional and endearing.

I like that there's a description of the author's life at the end and you discover that she wrote from her heart with what is most likely her own growing up story.  There are many parallels.

I'm glad I re-read this book as an adult.  I loved it still and of course I know so much more about life now than I did at 14 so it's even more precious to me.


Some favorite passages from the book are:
"...look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains.  It's growing out of sour earth.  And it's strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong....." (pg 95, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, c.1943)

"Intolerance," she wrote, pressing down hard on the pencil, "is a thing that causes war, pogroms, crucifixions, lynchings, and makes people cruel to little children and to each other.  It is responsible for most of the viciousness, violence, terror and heart and soul breaking of the world." (pg 229, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, c.1943)

 "Oh, the last time how clearly you see everything; as though a magnifying light had been turned on it. And you grieve because you hadn't held it tighter when you had it every day.  What had Granma Mary Rommely said? "To look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first time or the last time.  Thus is your time on earth filled with glory." (pg 476, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, c. 1943)

"But the tree hadn't died....it hadn't died.  A new tree had grown from the stump and its trunk had grown along the ground until it reached a place where there were no wash lines above it.  Then it has started to grow towards the sky again.........this tree that they built a bonfire around, trying to burn up its stump----this tree lived!  It lived!  And nothing could destroy it. " (pg 493, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, c.1943)

There were other really good passages, but these have stuck with me and have such deep significance and meaning.

 
 In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 13 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, I rate this a 10.  

And if you've never read it, which I can't imagine if you are a book lover, then do so!  You won't regret it.


02 November 2018

Early November Faves


Well, here we are into November! The holiday season is fast approaching, as well as getting the house ready for the winter months, soon to be upon us.  I always find that November flies by.

Let's pause and reflect back on the week to find five blessings.  Susanne calls them "Faves" and you can join in on the fun of being grateful by clicking here to find her guidelines and link.

FIVE FAVES


  • SHOPPING STARTED:  Last Saturday, we had a solid day of rain so I did housework, got caught up on bills, organized my desk, and started some online (there were already some sales!)Christmas shopping.  Then Sunday, after church and dinner, I had to run to one of the local malls, so while there, I discovered a gift I had been looking for, to give to my sister Hope and her husband. And it was on sale!  Score!!  So....I guess you can say I'm thankful for good sales, good finds, and that my shopping for the holidays is under way.

  • PRAYER POWER:  praying for and with each other brings such peace. I had opportunity to do both this past week.  I prayed for a certain situation regarding our youngest daughter that will be shared in the future (can't yet because part of the prayer was that she'd come to a decision based on thought, wisdom and her own praying) and I needed prayer for something.  My husband holds me when I'm anxious about something and I so appreciate it. We both need to be more intentional in praying together more regularly and I'm purposing in my heart for that to happen.  I'm thankful to have a godly husband and friends I can pray for and with.
Look up to see God's Glory!

loved walking in the crunchy, crisp-scented leaves!

I like walking the roads in the local cemetery
  • WONDERFUL WALK:  I took an absolutely wonderful walk after work on Tuesday.  I was home by 3:20 pm, changed my shoes and coat, added a hat and scarf and got out in the fresh air and sunshine. Instead of doing my usual power walk, I just did a brisk walk leaving the neighborhood to go the mile down the road to a local cemetery.  Once there, I walked the roads in the cemetery (there was only one other person there) and snapped a few mid-autumn pictures. The reds, oranges,yellows, and golds.... love the colors!   I just loved my time outside.  The leaves are pretty much at peak now and it's actually late for us.....in fact, not all the leaves from our backyard maples have fallen yet.  Usually by Halloween it's time to rake.  I'm thankful I had the time before cooking dinner to get a good 2 mile walk in.  There's nothing like the fresh air on a crisp October afternoon.

image courtesy of Forbes website
  • SOX SCORE!  The Boston Red Sox, our family's beloved baseball team, won the World Series and yes Dave and I stayed up late Sunday night to watch it. It was fun.  I'm so thankful that in my daughters' life times, they've been able to see the Sox win the series 4 times.  In 2004, when they were just 5 and 11, we took them to the celebration parade in Boston.  We were there for two days. What fun it was along with about 3 million other fans. Haha...I'm thankful too that Dave's folks, who live in Plymouth County,  got to see another win. 




image courtesy of Targ*t


  • COZY COMFORTER:  our old quilt that was handmade by Dave's mom back in 2001, has finally been put to rest.  It was becoming very tattered and ripped in a few spots so we retired it.  I went out and bought this set (shown above) for our bed during the colder months, and we love it!  No blanket is needed yet with this comforter plus our flannel sheets,  as the nights haven't been super cold or down in the 20s yet. Once it gets to be very low temps, I will add our fleece blanket but we might not need it as this comforter is so warm! I love the pinch pleated look because it's so different and it was less than $80 for the comforter and 2 shams.  I'm thankful I found one in the color we wanted and that was affordable.

That wraps up my faves for the week.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend doing some thing that helps you smile and relax.

I'm planning on meeting 2 friends from my high school days for lunch somewhere at the half way point between our homes. One friend I've only seen once in 40 years (at the reunion last month) and the other friend is one of my hiking partners.  Should be fun!