Friday Book Whimsy: The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans, a novel by M.L. Stedman, is the story of love, loss, despair, hope, and redemption. While I wouldn’t call it the saddest book I’ve ever read, it would rank among the most poignant. And it definitely is a story I won’t soon forget.

Tom Sherbourne returns to his home in Australia after surviving the horrors of World War I, filled with guilt. Why did he survive? He takes a job on a tiny and isolated island off the southern coast of Australia where he takes care of the lighthouse. Doing something good for others helps him forget his past. It is a quiet and lonely existence. On one of his trips back to the mainland, he meets – and eventually marries – Isabel, a young woman looking for a change in her life and eager to have a family. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. Isabel suffers miscarriage after miscarriage, and finally has a stillbirth after which she is unable to have children. Her sadness is almost beyond bearing.

So it seems like a miracle when a boat drifts up to the isolated island carrying a dead man and a living baby, cold and hungry. They bury the man and nurse the baby back to health. Isabel thinks it’s a miracle and believes they are meant to be parents to that child. She is convinced, and subsequently convinces a reluctant Tom, that the mother is dead and that the child would be placed in an orphanage if the truth was known by the authorities. They stay mum, and raise the child as their own.

When the child – whom they name Lucy – is 2 years old, they return for a visit to the mainland, and what they learn there changes their lives forever. Not only their lives, but the lives of several others. They face a moral dilemma.

The Light Between Oceans was a difficult book to read, because there was no right or wrong answer. It was a classic Solomon’s baby scenario. No bad guys; all good guys. No win.

The author’s writing was beautiful. Her descriptions made me understand exactly what it felt like to be so lonely and isolated, and to have a great need to love and be loved.

As far as I am concerned, the book ended about the only way it could. It was a tear-jerker, and that’s no lie. I can recommend this book with that caveat.

It has been made into a movie starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz, and it was largely filmed in Australia. I can’t decide whether or not to watch the movie….

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Rocky Mountain Visit
Now that things have settled down a bit here, Bill and I are taking a quick trip back to Colorado next week. I am looking forward to seeing everyone, and it’s good timing because it will be Spring Break for all of our Denver grandkids. I have learned that the two littlest McLains will be visiting their Aunt Julie for much of the week, so I hope I can see them for a quick hug and kiss before they leave for Montana. And I’m hoping that Dr. Cole can take a break from his busy medical practice to see me….

I was saddened to hear about the terrorist attack yesterday in London, as were people all around the world. It particularly shook me up, however, because the site of the attack was right next to the hotel in which Court stayed during a January business trip to London. He undoubtedly crossed the Westminster Bridge during one of his walks. It reminds me that one never knows what will happen on any given day. My prayers to all people involved.

What Time is It?
You may or may not know that Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time. No one in the desert has any desire for an extra hour of sunshine when the temps are in triple digits. I understand that, but man I get so confused trying to keep track of what time it is in places other than where I live. I have literally been unable to connect with my Colorado family any way but texting because by time I think of calling, it’s too late because they are an hour ahead of us. Plus, more important, I have trouble voting on The Voice because for reasons I don’t quite understand, they think I’m in Denver. So by the time the last performer sings, my time to vote is nearly up. Such problems, right? So, if you have been wondering why it seems that I’m posting my blog later, the truth is I’m posting my blog at the exact same time. It’s just later for you.

Hot Stuff
I’ve committed to making one of my beautiful afghans for my grandson Alastair. Up until now, I have been steadily crocheting these afghans, which are simple to make but look and feel amazing because they are made of Bernat blanket yarn – a thick and extremely soft yarn, perfect for snuggling. He is feeling a bit left out because I hand-made items for each of the girls for Christmas. I attempted to make him slippers, and I found that for reasons I can’t explain, I simply had no luck. They were huge. They were crooked. They were awful. So I bought him a pair of slippers. So when they were here, he asked for one of those afghans. I have the yarn and my will is strong; however, it has been in the mid- to upper-90s, and sitting beneath blanket yarn has been quite unpleasant. I will persevere, however. His birthday is in April.


Shopping Daze

There’s some point in a visit to any IKEA store when I transition from being a wide-eyed consumer equally transfixed and excited by all of the choices in home goods being offered to me to feeling as though I’m part of the Bataan Death March. The point at which this transition takes place varies, but I think it’s generally somewhere around the bedroom linens and furniture, when it becomes abundantly clear that everything looks exactly the same.

I’m not the only one either. If you look around, you will notice that there are people of all ages whose eyes resemble those of the zombies in Night of the Living Dead. They are pushing those crazy shopping carts that have minds of their own into displays of plastic glassware and, even more dangerously, into the backs of people’s ankles. They don’t apologize; no one expects them to. We’re all zombies by then.

Bill and I got out of our ‘hood yesterday, first making our way south to the Chandler Fashion Center, or whatever the hell they call malls these days. I needed something from Nordstrom, and there are only two Nordstroms in the Phoenix metro area. I’d be damned if I would drive to the Scottsdale Mall – er, Fashion Square — since it is described as an upscale luxury fashion center, and I am neither luxurious nor fashionable. Chandler it was.

I was helped at the MAC counter at Nordstrom by an exceptionally nice young woman wearing neon blue lipstick that kept me so distracted that I had trouble concentrating on all of the things she was telling me to do if I wanted to look 10 years younger, and praying that wearing blue lipstick wasn’t one of them.

I rarely wear makeup, but I noticed recently that Jen looks years younger than me, and attributed it to the fact that she wears a foundation that covers any signs of aging. Of course, it could be partially due to the fact that she actually is younger than me. Nevertheless, I felt it might be time to set aside some of my hillbilly ways and perhaps put on a bit of makeup now and again. Hence, the stop at Nordstrom. Next time you see me, you will be astounded at how young I look. Or, on the other hand, you might think I look like Charo.

But back to IKEA.

Since we were on that side of town, we decided to visit the IKEA store. I had recently seen a photo of some shelving in a bathroom that appealed to me. I mentioned it to Bill, forgetting that if you mention it to Bill McLain, it will come. With the persistence of a dog with a bone, he immediately began researching where to find the right kind of shelving and for the best price. The final answer? IKEA.

Very often we can circumvent the unavoidable somnolence of a trip through IKEA by going in the exit and making our way directly to the area where you pick up the various and sundry boxes that contain all of the 10,000 parts that make up your item. We have even been known to walk the opposite direction of the arrows – like a salmon swimming upstream – if we know the item at which we want to look is near the end of the maze.

This time, however, he wanted to show me the item and wasn’t entirely sure in what section it was located. Hence, Night of the Living Dead.

And, by the way, we were not the only ones to have the idea to visit IKEA yesterday. Don’t these people have jobs? Perhaps, like us, they just wanted to get out of the heat.

But within 45 minutes of arriving home, Bill had put the 10,000 pieces together and here is the result…..

This post is linked to Grammy’s Grid.


Chickened Out

The car thermometer showed 98 degrees; my friend Hey Google said it was only 95 degrees. Tomato, tomahto. It was hot out yesterday afternoon here in Mesa.

Thanks to a Facebook feed that I got from Silver Sneakers, I learned that, at least in their opinion, working out via walking outdoors is a better workout than walking indoors on a treadmill. Silver Sneakers doesn’t live in Mesa, AZ! Though I do it, admittedly, walking on a treadmill is about as boring as exercise gets. So I accepted Silver Sneakers’ contention with great joy, and we were out walking early, around 7:30 a.m., to start our day with a bang.

We walked just over three miles, and during the final mile, as I was ready to curl up in a ball and let Bill roll me home, I heard my niece Jessie’s voice in my head saying – as she had when she was 10 years old and taking her aunts for a hike – now don’t wait until you’re tired to turn around. I had done exactly that.

Nevertheless, the three mile walk was about the highlight of our day. That, and a visit to see my sister-in-law Sami who is home after spending three weeks recovering from a broken back and subsequent surgery.  Bill put on his plumber’s hat and installed a handheld extension in her shower so that she can, well, shower. Sitting down, that is, as will be necessary for the immediate future. It’s the little things, folks.

Anyway, we were getting ready to drive home, and Bill asked if I would like to stop at the Superstition Ranch Market and get some more of the crack, er, Stewart’s Diet Orange and Cream sodas. (By the way, I bought a few bottles of Stewart’s Black Cherry soda for Alastair when they visited. As a result, I think I can count on him to care for me in my old age.) Anyway, I, of course, enthusiastically agreed that a stop for my favorite beverage would be great.

I was driving, as Bill (who has the joy of experiencing hay fever here in AZ and then again when we get back to Denver in May) had taken a Benadryl and was sleepy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he didn’t install Sami’s shower head upside down, resulting in water spraying only towards the ceiling. Anyway, instead of our regular route home from their house, I headed the car down Main Street towards the Orange and Cream sodas.

“Oh, by the way,” Bill said innocently, “since the Tractor Supply Co. is right on the way, could we make a quick stop there? I want to take a quick look at their work boots. I’ll make it quick.”

I think he used the word quick too many times, and I should have been suspicious.

He, in fact, tried on two or three sizes of two or three different kinds of boots, all of which are heavy and stiff and unbelievably difficult to get on and off your feet, thereby resulting in about a 45-minute “quick stop.”

I was, however, very patient, because I recalled all of the times that Bill has patiently waited while I trolled the aisles of kitchen stores. Well, kind of patiently waited.

But do you know what happens as you are idly wandering around farm supply stores and it’s hot and boring and you’re dreaming of Orange and Cream sodas? What happens is that you actually start considering buying farm supplies. Or chickens…..

…and all of the accoutrements, especially since Tractor Supply Co. is celebrating Chick Days…..

We left Tractor Supply Co. without shoes, since, despite best efforts, he couldn’t find any that fit just right. I’m happy to report we also left without chickens. This is mostly because of a true story about a man who cut my hair for years. He talked and talked and talked about wanting to raise chickens and enjoy fresh eggs. Finally, after talking about this for at least a year, his wife agreed, and they bought chickens and built coops and eventually began getting eggs. And more eggs. And even more eggs. Until he found that there was no way he could keep up with egg production. He gave the eggs away to everyone he knew, but still, eggs, eggs, eggs. Finally, he sold Everything Chicken, and never spoke about it again.

But we did buy our sodas…

Start. Your. Engines.

NASCAR comes to Phoenix two times a year – once in March, at the beginning of the racing season, and again in November, nearing the end of the racing season. Bill is a NASCAR fan and so is my brother Dave. So the two of them go to both races every year, and have for nearly a decade.

This year, my brother had planned to attend the race with Bill as usual. What no one counted on is that my sister-in-law would have an accident at work that resulted in a broken bone in her back. I know, I know. You all just sucked in your breath. I’m so happy to tell you that she is recovering unbelievably well, and in fact, got out of the hospital a couple of weeks ago and got out of the rehab facility yesterday, and is now at home.

Yesterday – the day of the NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway.

My brother, being the sensitive kind of guy he is, decided it wouldn’t be prudent to do either one of these two things: 1. Ask the doctor to keep her in rehab for one more day so that he could enjoy beer and cigars at a racetrack; or 2. Order up an Uber to take Sami home in her wheelchair so that he could enjoy beer and cigars at a racetrack.

Dave took Sami home; Bill went to Plan B, which is me…..


Because I don’t normally go, I don’t pay attention to the preparation involved. What I learned is that Bill owns a little table and a little grill (both of which I was unaware) and he brings breakfast food and lunch food and beer and cigars and all necessary items to accompany all of the above. Dave assured me that Bill has everything down to a science, and that was true.

If my mom was the Queen of Picnics, then Bill is the Prince. He even remembered to include a tablecloth for his little table. My mom always had a tablecloth in her picnic basket.

The fact that we awoke with the birds resulted in us getting a superb parking place very close to the entrance of the actual racetrack. Despite the early hour, we weren’t the first, but nearly so. The early arrival also resulted in me having a bloody mary at 8 o’clock in the morning, and not feeling a bit odd about it. It did occur to me that if Bill came out of our bedroom some morning this week at 8 o’clock and saw me sipping a bloody mary, he might be concerned. Something about being at the racetrack makes it alright. In fact, Bill told me by the time I had my first bloody mary, he and my brother would have already downed at least one beer and smoked at least one cigar.

The race was a lot of fun, I must admit. It was hot. Damn hot. So hot that we didn’t stay for the entire race. So hot that despite the fact that we both slathered ourselves with sunscreen, we resemble brown bears. Take a look at this tan line….

Here’s some things I learned about NASCAR yesterday. A. The pre-race festivities (i.e. tailgating) are about as much fun as the race. B. The best things about the race are the flyover by the F-35s from Luke Air Force Base right after the performance of the National Anthem and when we hear the words, “Drivers, start…your….engines. Vrooooooooom. It’s awesome.

But perhaps the most interesting thing I learned is that NASCAR fans are incorrectly described as hillbillies or rednecks. In fact, every single time I, myself, told anyone that I was going to the race, I added the exclamation yeehaw. The truth is very different. Oh, there might be some rednecks at a NASCAR race because the fans comprise a large variety of folks. But as we walked through the area where people park their RVs (most of which cost as much as our AZ house), it became abundantly clear that while they are unwaveringly patriotic as evidenced by the American flags that adorned a large number of the vehicles, NASCAR fans are likely to be bank presidents or lawyers or successful business owners.

Having said that, I must admit to hearing the guy sitting behind us in the stands tell his buddy, “Damn, It just feels weird to not have my gun.”

Whatevah! I like NASCAR.

This post linked to Grand Social.

Saturday Smile: Splash

The coolish winter has morphed into a pretty warmish spring in the Valley of the Sun. The days are now reaching 90 degrees or more, and at 8 o’clock at night, it’s still in the 80s. It does cool down sometime around 4 o’clock in the morning to the mid-60s, but still, the days are hot.

Since Jen has been visiting, her grands have spent time over at the house. Last spring, Jen dug deep into her pocket and bought a swimming pool. Not a big fancy one, mind you. Instead, she spent maybe 8 or 9 dollars and bought one of those little plastic blow-up pools. It was the best money she ever spent because her grandkids love that pool. I can relate, because almost to the very last ones, my grandkids also love when I blow up a plastic pool in our backyard in the summer. Still, my pool is rather large; this pool is maybe three or four feet across.

Thursday we blew up the pool, and they spent the afternoon doing this, about a million times…….

They couldn’t possibly had more fun even if the water had been 6 feet deep. Giggles galore. Simple pleasures.

Have a great weekend.