Friday Book Whimsy: The Giver of Stars

Jojo Moyes has written a good number of books. A couple have been made into movies, I believe. I, however, have read nary a one nor seen any movie made inspired by the author. Maybe I live on a desert island without any kind of media.

At any rate, I am not ashamed to say that I read The Giver of Stars because it was a Reese Witherspoon book club choice (what can I say?) and because it takes place in the hills of Kentucky and has strong women characters. Boom.

Alice Wright — born and brought up in England — married Bennett Van Cleve for two reasons: to escape her boring life and because he was a hunk who happened to be visiting England with his father from the United States. Some of us have married for worse reasons.

Anyway, following the marriage, they move from England to the small town in the hills of Kentucky where Bennett’s father owns and runs a coal mine. Much to her surprise, Bennett has no interest in consummating the marriage and obeys whatever orders his father gives — and there are some doozies.

So when Alice learns that President and Mrs. Roosevelt have started a program where library books are delivered on horseback to rural, backwoods areas, she is immediately on board. Volunteering would provide some interest in her otherwise dull and sad life. There she meets a group of women who become her friends and give her the necessary backbone to withstand her miserable life. The book is all about friendship.

I enjoyed this novel so much. I loved the characters and the story, which is based on a real program that existed for a short time in the 30s following the Great Depression. I will admit that the controversy regarding whether or not the story was plagiarized gave me pause and impacted my opinions. I don’t know the truth of the matter. What I do know is that The Giver of Stars was a wonderful book from which I learned something new that took place in U.S. history.

Here is a link to the book.


Thursday Thoughts

Tick Tock
As of the time I wrote this blog post, Jen is still scheduled to have knee replacement surgery on Monday at an as-of-yet-unknown time. This surgeon is keeping us all guessing. Apparently we will know when we see the lights of his eyes and the glint of his surgical tools. Despite the fact that she has been fighting a cold, she has a very positive spirit. Between her daughter and her two sisters, we will take good care of her. She is her mother and father’s daughter, so she will come through like a trooper and nothing will slow her down.

Last night, Jen and I were sitting outside having a glass of wine and waiting for our lemon chicken to finish baking. The evening was gorgeous with the sun setting in the west and the moon coming up in the east. Suddenly, we heard a ruckus. Mark had stopped by with Austin and Lilly to surprise Jen. After they left, I said, “There is nothing like a surprise visit from your grandkids, huh?” She responded, “That’s the first time that’s ever happened. It was awesome.” Since I get frequent visits from my grandkids, I know I’m blessed…..

Cookie Time
I was excited to read that it’s nearing Girl Scout Cookie season. I’m down to only one granddaughter selling cookies. I texted Mylee this morning and asked her if she was selling cookies yet. She responded quickly, telling me not yet. I told her to save me some of the new lemon cookies that are being offered this year, and she promised she would. I don’t know what will happen when she is no longer a Girl Scout. I guess I will no longer be able to blast by those little girls selling in front of the grocery store…..

Oh, the Weather Outside is Lovely
We’ve had some really glorious days this past week or so. Highs nearing 70 with lots of sunshine. In fact, last night, I was about to turn on the fan in our room, but was too lazy to get out of bed. It’s supposed to turn a bit cooler next week with slight chances of rain. Despite the 70 degree temps, Lilly wore her Ugg boots yesterday. Those little desert children wouldn’t survive Colorado temperatures at their lowest.


Grandkids: God’s Gift

My youngest niece spent Monday evening getting engaged. Brooke is the youngest daughter of my brother Dave. We are all very happy for her, except for the fact that given that she is the youngest and is as tiny as a firefly, we can’t stop thinking but she’s too YOUNG to get married even though she really isn’t.

Since learning that she said YES to Alexx’s proposal, I have had my mind on my mother. In fact, my first thought when my brother texted me that Alexx was going to propose that very evening was that Mom would have been so happy. That’s rather funny because of Mom and Dad’s nine grandkids, Brooke was the one Mom didn’t know. She passed away before Dave married Brooke’s mom, and so before Brooke became his daughter, both legally (he adopted her) and in his heart.

Here’s what I know, however. Mom would have loved Brooke because she loved all of her grandkids with her whole heart and her whole soul. I learned how to be a grandmother from two people: my own grandmother and my mother.

My mother was whatever is the opposite of a helicopter parent. We were not coddled. We were loved, but not spoiled. She protected us if we were in need of protection, but she didn’t hover. And if we were the cause of any problems, she made sure we took responsibility and made things right.

Her grandkids, on the other hand, simply could do no wrong. And woe betide anyone who caused them any trouble. When my son Court, for example, didn’t make the basketball team at his high school, my mother was furious. It never dawned on her that perhaps he wasn’t quite as talented as the kids who did make the team. All she knew was that he was disappointed, and had that coach walked into the room for any reason, she would have given him a, well, stern description of the error of his ways.

From my mother, I learned the importance of spending time with your grandkids and accepting them for who they were. I also learned that any bad traits your grandkids demonstrate came from the other side of the family! What a coincidence.

From my own grandmother, I learned how to love without reservation. My grandparents came from the German area of Switzerland, and so were expected to be somewhat cold and stern. My grandfather rather fit that bill, but my grandmother never got the message. She loved whole-heartedly, giving lots of hugs and kisses. Her personality was full of wry wit coupled with the softest heart you can imagine. She was patient and kind and oh-so-funny.

I don’t know if I demonstrate any of those traits, but I know that loving my grandkids is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

And I know that my mother would love that her youngest grandchild was getting married.

See You in Sixty Years

I can remember the day my baby brother was born like it was yesterday. December 28, 1959, was a clear, icy cold day. I could see my breath in the early morning air, clutching my dad’s hand tightly as we walked across the parking lot of St. Mary’s Hospital in Columbus, NE. I remember being excited to meet…..

….Oh, that’s all a bunch of baloney. I don’t remember a single thing about his birth. Heck, I had just celebrated my 6th birthday a few weeks earlier, and was probably at my grandma’s house playing with my new Tiny Tears doll that Santa had brought me for Christmas, clutching the two quarters Grammie gave me to go to the bar next to the bakery to buy a strawberry Nehi. Beckie was likely downstairs working in the bakery, and Jen was somewhere trying to decide what she could do next to drive me out of my mind.

It’s one thing to grow older yourself. I turned 66 years old in December. But my baby brother is always the baby. Believe me, I don’t think 60 years old is old any more. Back when I was 6 years old, I thought 25 was ancient. Now I’m looking at 80-year-olds and thinking, hey! I can do that. 

His sisters spent considerable time trying to decide just how to celebrate a milestone birthday with a man who isn’t really INTO celebrations. After considering this and then that and then the other, we finally decided it would be fun to go out to dinner. Just the four of us without spouses. An opportunity to reminisce, laugh, and do what we all like most to do: EAT.

Where do you want to go? I asked him. Anywhere you want, as long as it isn’t somewhere you go all of the time. We thought he might choose a steak house. After giving it considerable thought, he decided on an Italian restaurant way up in Scottsdale that he had visited before. I love a good surprise.

We had a bit of trouble nailing down a date and time, but we finally successfully gathered Sunday for a late lunch/early dinner at a restaurant called Tomaso’s Italian Kitchen. We took Lyft so that we could eat and drink with abandon, and, as often happens when we get together, had a good laugh, this time about our driver. He was in an unfortunate state, lacking teeth, having a good days worth of stubble (and not in a hip way), and perhaps with a beer or two under his belt. We made it safely, and our Uber  driver on the way home was much better — actually entirely sober. Imagine!

We enjoyed our celebration very much……

Some 59 years ago…..


I wonder why we wait for landmark birthdays to get together……

Back to Reality

For reasons unknown (but probably having to do with being 66 years old), I have had a difficult time remembering what day of the week it is. I’m optimistic that now that’s it’s Monday, I’m going to be able to keep track of what day it is. Today is Monday, tomorrow is Tuesday, the next day is Wednesday, and so on.

We are beginning to get into a routine. When I say we, I mean Bill, Jen, and me. For the first time since we bought this house together in 2010, the three of us are going to be living together for a full two months. It’s a small house, ladies and gentlemen, so keep us in our prayers.

The reason Jen is staying is that she will be having knee replacement surgery a week from today. It made sense for her to have the surgery here because we live in a ranch-style house with no basement, and there are many, many people to be care partners for her. Between her daughter Maggie, Beckie, Bill, and me, she will be watched like a hawk.

While we await her surgery, we are getting used to living with one another. She  brought her dog Winston because two months was a bit long to leave him at home with a bowl of water and the window cracked. He has been no problem thus far, but you can see him looking at Jen and thinking isn’t it time to go home now? For Bill and me, our biggest concern is that we don’t trip over him given that we aren’t used to a dog and he’s very small. So far, so good…..

Our weather when we first got here was not very good. I felt bad about that because we brought Addie with us, and she was looking to go back to school with a suntan. She gave it her all. She literally wore nothing but shorts and short-sleeved shirts the entire five days, despite the fact that the temperature hovered around 50 degrees. Maggie told her that everyone would know she was a visitor because all of the Phoenicians were wearing parkas and Uggs. Brrr. She shrugged it off and dressed like she was on the beach in Mexico (which is probably where she wished she was).

The thing is, for the past four or five days, the weather has been beautiful — 68 degrees and full-out sunny. I texted her the other day and told her about our weather. She responded: Shucks.

This week our focus will be on stocking our larder, trying not to eat out every meal, getting back into regular exercise, and getting Jen mentally and physically ready to face surgery and the subsequent recovery.

As for me, I appear to be fully recovered from both bowel obstruction and shingles. We are all ready to face the adventures ahead.

To celebrate, his sisters took our brother Dave out for dinner to celebrate his 60th birthday. Yes, friends, it’s true. My baby brother is now 60. What’s next?…..

Saturday Smile: For Heavens Sake, Stay Strong

When I was admitted to the hospital on December 23, I didn’t think there was a chance in the world that I would get out in time for Christmas. One of my favorite Christmas activities is the Christmas Eve service that we attend at Wellshire Presbyterian Church, where some iteration of the grandkids are in the choir and perform at the service. This year the three girls were going to participate in the choir. I was sad that I was going to miss that service.

On Christmas Eve Day, who should come to visit, but Jll and the four kids. I told them how sad I was that I was going to miss the service and their singing. I wondered if they would be willing to perform for me acapella. I was awarded a private performance of the song they would sing that evening at the candlelight service…..

That definitely made me smile. But what made me laugh out loud was when Addie proclaimed that she had chosen the wrong t-shirt for a visit to the hospital. Why, I wondered. And then she turned around and showed me the message on the back of her shirt…..

Perhaps not the best choice for a hospital visit, she declared.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsey: Top Five for 2019

In 2019, I read 84 books out of my 100-book yearly goal. I feel like I read a LOT, so perhaps my goal is too high. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep challenging myself.

Out of the 84 books I read, I would like to present my five favorite books. They weren’t all necessarily published in 2019, but I read them all this past year.

So, in no particular order….

1. Watching You, by Lisa Jewell
Tom Fitzwilliams is hired by schools in trouble. He is handsome and charismatic. There is a murder, and there are many folks who could be the killer, including Fitzwilliams. The author provides readers clues a little at a time, keeping us all guessing. Jewell is one of my favorite authors.

2. November Road, by Lou Berney
Maybe I liked this book so much because I am so familiar with the time period that this took place, right around the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Mobster Frank Guidry realizes that he inadvertently played a part in the assassination, and knows the mob will be coming to get him to keep him quiet. At the same time, housewife Charlotte leaves her husband taking her children, heading for L.A. The two meet, and despite the fact that Guidry initially only is interested in them as a cover, he finds real happiness, at least for a time.

3. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
Kya is abandoned by her family when she is 6 years old, and is left to take care for herself in the marshes of the southern Carolinas. As she faces the obstacles of life, she learns what is important and what isn’t. The story involves a delicious mystery as well.

4. The Chelsea Girls, by Fiona Davis
All of the author’s books to date have involved well-known places in New York City that add to her stories. The Chelsea girls takes place in the 1950s during the McCarthy period. The characters, who live in the historic Chelsea Hoel, represent several sides of the issue, and I not only found the book highly entertaining, but I learned a lot from reading it. Win-win.

5. Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes
I loved this book. It might have been my favorite of 2019. Evvie is literally packing up her car to leave her abusive husband when she learns that he has had a massive heart attack which eventually kills him. Evvie feels so guilty and distraught that she can scarcely get on with her life. She meets a professional baseball pitcher who has suddenly and inexplicably tanked. The two fall in love, and save one another.

Happy reading in 2020.