Friday Book Whimsy: Watching You

Before sitting down to write this review, I tried to think how to describe Watching You, the newest novel from author Lisa Jewell. I finally decided it’s like eating some kind of complex meal in which the flavors combine to create something wonderful and oh-so-satisfying.

Tom Fitzwilliams is a handsome and charismatic educator who has traveled from school to school, “fixing” them. He is successful, the husband of a beautiful young wife and the father of a gifted — if voyeuristic — young son.

But there is something a bit off about Fitzwilliams, starting with an interaction 10 years earlier with a mother who attacked him, shouting that viva was her life, her everything. Who or what is viva?

The novel includes a variety of characters, including recently-married Joey, who moves to the neighborhood to live with her brother, but is immediately obsessed with their neighbor Tom. There is Tom’s son Freddie, who sits in the window and watches everything that goes on in the neighborhood, and knows there is something a bit off about his father. Nicola, Tom’s adoring wife; Bess and Jenna, two high school students, one of whom is infatuated with the teacher, the other of whom distrusts him from the get-go.

The author doles out the information piece by piece, little by little. The reader knows from the beginning that a murder has taken place. What we don’t learn until the end is just who was murdered, and why. And, of course, the name of the murderer.

I loved this novel from beginning to end. I read it in a day-and-a-half, and was satisfied with how the novel wrapped up.

Great read!

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Baby, It’s Cold Outside
While much of the country is in a deep freeze and/or buried under a deep blanket of snow, the Valley of the Sun is facing its own odd weather. While there is no guarantee of warm weather in late January and into February, it seems to almost always happen. This year, however, there have only been a couple of days that reached 70. Yesterday’s high was in the low 50s with the overnight temps nearing freezing. Today is supposed to be much the same. I’m pretty sure I’m not getting a lot of sympathy, but this is a picture of Bill watching Lilly’s soccer game. Have you ever seen anyone look more miserable?…..

My niece Maggie works from home, and while the job offers a lot of flexibility, she has work to accomplish, even when her kids are home from school. Generally, her husband Mark is there to provide backup and distraction for the kids. He has been out of town this week, however, so I went over to their house to provide entertainment after school while their mom tried to get some work done. Lilly and I baked snickerdoodle cookies, with my biggest challenge being getting Lilly to agree to make the cookies round. She had many other shapes in mind. Once the cookies were finished, we played a couple of hands of Old Maid and one game of Go Fish. Lilly plays perfectly fair with no cheating; however, when she possesses the Old Maid card (the kiss of death, as you will recall), she is about as non-sneaky as you can get in order to attempt to get rid of it. She always — ALWAY — puts the card in the middle of her cards, sticking way up above the other cards. Being her loving aunt, I would take the card. Her brother Austin, however, was not falling for that old trick. I finally convinced her that having the card stick way up was the best way to get him to NOT select that card. Sure enough, as soon as she stopped, Austin picked the Old Maid card (which he quickly enough gave to me!) Nothing like a rousing game of Old Maid to get your heart racing.

Maybe If He’d Been Naked
Bill and I went to the theater on Tuesday night, thanks to a Christmas gift from Allen and Emma…..

Seriously, can anyone take worse selfies than Bill and me?

We ate dinner at an old-school restaurant called Durant’s (about which I will tell you next week). The restaurant was about a half mile from the theater, so being unfamiliar with the area, we asked the valet if it was safe enough to walk. He somewhat hesitantly said it was, given the number of people that were still out and about. So we set off to the theater. We in fact only encountered two people in the entire half mile. When we arrived at the theater, Bill asked me, “So, did you notice the guy we passed who was wearing the animal mask and the hood?” Nope, I sure didn’t. Honest to goodness, I don’t notice ANYTHING. I believe the only reason he didn’t rob us is that we were so old and stodgy looking, and so confident, that he presumed we had a concealed carry gun permit and were packing heat. Little did he know that the what he presumed was confidence was really only cluelessness, at least on my part. Sigh.


Estate Sales

The east side of Mesa is a world in and of itself. I pondered this notion as I drove through the streets of our adopted Arizona city to pick up Bill from the Hyundai car dealer where we dropped off our Sonata for some repair work.

Mesa — particularly east Mesa — has so many retirees that you are caught off guard when you meet an older person who doesn’t have a Minnesota accent. Seriously, is there anyone left in Minnesota over the age of 50? (Cynically stated as only another snowbird could do in all good conscience.) While Scottsdale — also a mecca for retirees — is thick with men and women with expensive haircuts, golf course suntans, wearing tennis whites in the grocery store, and driving Bentleys, east Mesa is home to we common folk. You know, the people who grew your corn and wheat, or who fixed your automobile, or who taught Junior his new math.

As such, our abodes are more down-to-earth as well. While Jen, Bill, and I have a small single family home in a regular neighborhood where a school bus picks up the neighborhood kids each morning, I would venture to say that a large segment — perhaps the majority — of the senior population in east Mesa live in what are called Park Model neighborhoods. These are neighborhoods with small but usually nice homes — sometimes mobile homes or even RVs — that are limited to the 55 Plus demographic. The neighborhoods offer a lot of group activity options. You will often find pickle ball courts and bingo nights and monthly square dances in these types of ‘hoods. As with most things, some are nicer than others.

What got me to pondering was my driving past a somewhat sad-looking trailer park neighborhood near the car dealership that was called Apache East Estates…..

That made me smile, because I would imagine that the people who live in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, refer to their homes as estates. Without being judgmental, the two are not the same. For one thing, inexplicably, Grosse Pointe feels the need to add e’s to the end of each word, giving me the urge to call it Grossie Pointie. (That would not make the Grossie Pointie City Council happy.) The residents of Apache East Estates probably come from midwest towns that don’t end in unnecessary e’s. You don’t hear about Rede Cloude, Nebraska, for example.

I’ve also observed that the communities that aren’t Something-or-Other Estate are often Something-or-Other Resort. Just sayin’.

Euphemisms or not, I feel the need to add that the people who live in these estates and resorts have a lot of fun. And a lot of community spirit. I know this because many of the restaurants where Bill and I choose to eat often have literally tables full of neighbors who are dining together. They are generally happy to be retired, conservative in their dress (and probably their politics), wear shorts and Hawaiian shirts even if it’s 45 degrees (because they’re used to 45 below and this feels like a heat wave), and love their retirement. Rather than making me cranky (as most things do), I find myself smiling at their joyful companionship.

After we dropped off the car, we went to a little family-owned restaurant on Main Street near our house. There were only a few people (it was early, even for the 55 Plus crowd). We walked in and looked around for a hostess. A woman sitting with a male companion in a booth hollered out to us, “Take a seat anywhere. The staff is in the kitchen right now.” Clearly a regular, I thought. And I was right, because as she and her companion — probably her husband — left, she bid the waitress a chipper, “See you tomorrow!”

And then they returned to their home in Apache East Estates or Sonoran Valley Resorts, happy as a clam to be retired.

As am I.

It Can’t Be That Time Already

My mother wasn’t much of a joiner. Not like Bill’s mom, who was a member of her garden club and her church bell choir and a book club and PEO. Mom worked and cooked and watched football and went to church and spent time with her family.

Because Bill’s mom enjoyed participating in community groups and clubs, she had her kids active as well. As a child, Bill took acting lessons and singing lessons and tennis lessons. He sang in his church’s children’s choir. If there was a way she could get Bill out of the house and thereby not torturing his sister, she found it.

I belonged to exactly zero clubs as a kid. It wasn’t until junior high when I was able to join CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) because if she didn’t let me, the nuns would have hunted her down. Mostly it was okay, because I, like my mother, am not much of a joiner. But man-oh-man, would I have liked being a Girl Scout.

Let me rephrase that. I would have liked JOINING the Girl Scouts. For about two meetings. Because for me, it was mostly about getting to wear the Brownie and Girl Scout uniform.

Court was a Cub Scout for a brief period of time. It didn’t really stick. After all, this is the child who told me he didn’t want to go on a hike because “I hate nature.” But he stuck it out long enough to get his Webelo badge and then happily tossed aside his blue uniform and pretty much has stuck to his dislike of nature ever since.

I am reminded about this hole in my life about this time every year, when my grandchildren who ARE Girl Scouts are selling cookies. For a time, I had three Brownies, resulting in the purchase of a hell of a lot of cookies, resulting in situations like this….

Since Maggie Faith tossed aside her brown vest, I’m now down to only two….

Kaiya and Mylee are ready to begin their 2019 course in consumerism. They start with their grandparents.

I don’t know the level of the rest of the grandparents’ commitments, but this nana is determined to order four boxes of cookies from each cookie entrepreneur. I will give Bill his choice of four, and I will choose four as well. Bill will select any cookies involving chocolate. As for me, I am all about the Savannah Smiles and the Tagalongs. I used to be a Samoa girl, but now it’s all about the peanut butter.

Girls Scouts of America now allows grandparents (and others) who live far, far away from their grandkids to place an order and have them delivered right to their door step. Sales can be completed entirely without talking to a single Girl Scout. Except I will talk to mine.

I will place my order which will allow me to confidently refuse the scads of little girls selling cookies in front of every single grocery store in the city.

“Sorry,” I sing to them. “I’ve already given my order to my two favorite Girl Scouts.”

By the way, if you’re in the cookie market, give me a buzz. I can hook you up.

It’s Incredible

Friday afternoon I got a text message from my 10-year-old granddaughter Kaiya: Nana. (Kaiya always starts her text messages to me with an emphatic Nana and a period. She just wants to make sure I’m paying attention.) Incredible 2 is on Netflix.

She was alerting me to this fact because she knew that I desperately wanted to see this movie. Yes, it’s true. I — like thousands upon thousands of Incredible fans (99.87 percent of whom are 10 or younger) — was simply DYING to know if the baby had superpowers. The Incredibles (the original one, that is) left us dangling. It was the biggest unfinished plot line since Who Shot J.R.?

Kaiya and her siblings had already seen The Incredibles 2, but they kept the secret of whether or not the baby had powers and, if so, what those powers were. I kept trying to make our schedules work so that I could take them to see the movie with me (they had already seen it with their parents), but I couldn’t make it happen before we left Denver. I even considered renting it from Red Box, but I was pretty sure Bill wouldn’t want to see it, and also pretty sure he might call a mental hospital to pick me up should I watch it by myself.

Still, now that it was on Netflix, I was going to watch it one way or another. And then I remembered my AZ-resources: my great nephew and great niece Austin and Lilly.

Taking my cue from Kaiya, I sent my niece a text message: Maggie. The Incredibles 2 is on Netflix. Would Austin and Lilly like to see it?

Actually, that’s not completely true. I asked her while we were at Lilly’s soccer game. But if I had sent a text message, I would definitely have started with her name followed by a period. It’s my new signature text message style.

Anyway, she told me that though they had just watched it the week before when they had been home sick, they would love to watch it again with me. And so we did.

As soon as I sat down, I instructed both of them to NOT do what my 8-year-old granddaughter Mylee always does when we watch a movie together that she’s seen before: tell me what’s about to happen before it does. Mylee is not being mean. She just is so excited that she wants to make sure I’m not dozing off. They both sincerely promised that they wouldn’t spill any beans.

And then they both promptly began spilling beans.

The baby has 17 superpowers Austin told me even before the movie started. And it was downhill from there, plot surprise-wise. It really didn’t matter, because I’m the one who always reads the plots from Wikipedia before I watch any movie, and frequently look at the end of books first. Still…..17 SUPERPOWERS!…..

And now I’ve told you.

I love the animated movies they make for kids these days. Long gone are the days of those dreadful movies I had to sit through with Court when he was young. Nowadays, the animation is mesmerizing and the stories are clever, often with quips meant for the grown ups in the audience. The animation is amazing, especially the Pixar movies. I love how the characters resemble the actors who are providing their voices.

It’s not surprising that good triumphed over evil in The Incredibles 2. And it really is a movie worth watching, especially if you can borrow a kid.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Saturday Smile: Birthday Celebrations

After starting out the week with some very bad news about the death of our neighbor, it was nice to have a high point midweek on Wednesday as we celebrated my sister Bec’s birthday. For quite a few years, Bill and I have been blessed to be included in the birthday dinner. In fact, some four years ago or so, we were at a Cajun restaurant in west Mesa, and who should walk in but former Phoenix Suns superstar Charles Barkley. Without giving it any thought whatsoever, I grabbed my niece and nephew by the hand and marched over to where he was being seated and politely asked if I could take a picture of him with the two kids. He couldn’t have been nicer. I’m glad he was because when I told my brother what I had done, he informed me that Barkley had once thrown someone bugging him through a window. Phew. Dodged that bullet…..

This year we didn’t have any celebrity sightings, but had a hellava good time nonetheless…..

Being with family always makes me smile.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Super Bowl Crime Prediction

An article about the Super Bowl caught my eye. Odd, because I have been paying absolutely no attention to any of the Super Bowl hype, in part because my beloved Denver Broncos are not playing, but in larger part because the New England Patriots ARE playing. Again.

Anyway, this particular article caught my eye because while the sports people have been analyzing this game down to the very last detail, this author is basing his prediction on the mystery and crime novels that identify with each city — Los Angeles and Boston.

Despite the fact that the author is a (rather smug, I believe) New England fan, I found his article to be amusing and interesting.

Enjoy his prediction!