29 April 2019

Meditations on the Last Monday in April

I just returned from a dr appt to have my wrist x-rayed for the eleventy-thousandth time, and I got a good report, but of course was instructed to keep working on my exercises.  Occupational therapy is finished, but the rest of it will be up to me.  I have a lot of determination to get back to as close as 100% as possible by the time I go back in November.  The dr said there is a good chance that I may never be 100% in all aspects of movement in my right hand and wrist, but I'm gonna try to do the best that I can.

Anyway, the weekend has moved on, and April is getting ready to exit.  Our weekend was quiet, which was fine, since last weekend was so busy.  Yesterday, I returned to my Scrappy Sunday - using Sundays to work on scrappy projects, in my case, finishing another row on my Cozy Memories blanket.

I added the final three blocks on the left to the top row.  I've really enjoyed Scrappy Sundays, even though this is only the second one for me.  But I like picking up this project every week and remembering everything included in it.

So there I was, happily knitting away on the blocks, and then I heard the news about the shooting at a synagogue in California.  And I thought about how I was sitting with my project, thinking about projects and people associated with the various blocks.  A few of the blocks are from mini skeins and leftovers given to me by friends.

And whenever I am knitting, I remember how the watermelon block on the bottom left is from a pair of socks I knit a few years back.  I was working on them while we were in West Virginia for Memorial Day, and my niece Annie was so incredibly fascinated.  She kept saying, "But ... how does the yarn do that, how did they know to make it that way?"  The first block of the blanket, on the bottom left, is from Dee, who gave it to me when we went to see her and Steve at Christmastime the first year they moved back to Pennsylvania.  She handed it to me and said, "This is to get you started."  In the second row, the blue square that is the second one on the left, is made with a colorway called Unity, a sock yarn dyed in 2008 by my friend Carol, who sent the proceeds from it to the Obama Presidential campaign.

This was my meditation from yesterday.  I was in my own house, and feeling safe, because hopefully everyone does feel safe in their own house.  And I realized that the California synagogue (and months ago, the one in Pittsburgh) were houses of God, where those gathered felt confident and safe, and were thinking of loved ones near and far, those who were gone in body but not in spirit.  They were meditating on the meaning of Passover this year, and celebrating the end of the holiday.

That is, until a 19-year-old nursing student (a *nursing* student - a caring profession if there ever was one!) decided that it was up to him to get rid of them.  And of course he had a gun to do it.  Because the only thing these days more available than thoughts and prayers are guns.

His actions didn't just kill a person, or injure others.  It took away their sense of safety in what should be one of the most universally safe places - a house of worship.

But his actions also served to make all of us wonder how safe we are once again.  We think if we're home, we're safe.  We think if we are at school, or church, or a work meeting that nothing terrible will happen to us.  When it turns out that we just aren't really safe anywhere.

Maybe we never have been.  Maybe finally something will be done about guns in our culture.  Maybe someday we will have a leader and an administration that does not provide us with Exhibits A-Z in the story and action of hate and vindictiveness.  Maybe.  I don't know.

I just know that we need to live our lives and help others when/if we are able to do so.  We need to vote and be active in our neighborhoods and communities.  We need to share our opinions and feelings with each other without it turning into a free-for-all.

Yesterday, I took Hamlet for a walk, and we stopped to visit with a neighbor on our street.  She asked me if he ever growled at the cats, or at dogs who lunged at him or growled at him on a walk.  I told her that he never does.  And that it seems if the cats are bothering him too muh, he just gets up and walks away.  She said, "If only people did that."

Thinking about it, I had to wonder: people say animals are "just animals," or "dumb animals."  But what if humans are the dumb ones?

Here's to a better week ahead.

25 April 2019

Easter Enjoyment

As I mentioned before, my niece Amanda and her husband Patrick made their usual trip from Baltimore to our house last weekend for Easter.  We have done this for so many years, I've lost track - Amanda used to come when she was in college in Baltimore, and it just kind of kept being a tradition.  Which we love, since it is really the only holiday that we get to share with anyone at our house.

This year was filled with good food, good drinks, a ton of laughs, and just an overall good time, as usual.  (The cats and Hamlet are still recovering from all of the excitement.  :-) )  And, as is our now annual tradition, we dyed Easter eggs, which of course also means the annual Inappropriate Egg Decorating.  Just so you know, we do actually do "regular" Easter eggs, but about 20 years ago, we started taking some of the eggs and doing ridiculous designs and stupid themes, and that has now become as much of Easter as anything else is.

Since I had three selections to share with you, I decided to save them for today, and participate in Three on Thursday.

1.  These eggs were the ones for Hamlet and the kitties and were put into their baskets by the Easter Bunny.  Each of these has an "illustration" on the back (that word is in quotes because I am only the one who can decipher what I drew) that applies to that individual.

Milo's egg has a tape cassette on the back - since he likes to pee on everything, it's his very own pee tape!  Hamlet's has an ice cube tray, since ice cubes are his favorite treat.  Jack's egg has a bird on the back, because he loves to watch the birds on the deck.  And Pip has a megaphone on the back of his egg, because he likes to announce things to everyone.

2.  The RIP eggs.  This year, we had Anthony Bourdain, Carol Channing, and The Captain (of The Captain and Tennille).

A friend was disappointed that there was not a Luke Perry RIP egg, but clearly none of us were big "90210" or "Riverdale" fans.  Whoops.

3.  The Topical Eggs.  These are often the most inappropriate, and this year's batch was no exception.  Here are the top four.

We have Amanda and Patrick's kitty named Clancy, getting into USC as part of the crew team; at the top of the next egg, Timmy and Squi are holding mugs and saying "We like beer!" while on the bottom, Brett Kavanaugh is in his judicial robes, saying "I like rape"; next, we have a certain individual when he learned of the Mueller Report; and finally, Julian Assange's kitty.

What we lack in artistic ability we make up for in enthusiasm.  And as The Tim says, "Every year, we make sure that our suites in hell are even more nicely decorated."

24 April 2019

But First, This HO Should Become an FO

Today I'm joining Kat and the gang for Unraveled Wednesday, because why not?  It's one way for me to let you know about what I'm reading and what I'm knitting, so here we go.

Before I start though, I just wanted to say that in my last post, I mentioned that MadelineTosh yarn had controversy surrounding it, and that even so, I still planned to use what I had in my stash.  On a personal level, I feel that they did make a misstep with their "Inclusive" colorway, but I also think the apology on Instagram was sincere, and that they are trying to move forward in a more thoughtful way.  So please no more lectures from anyone to me about it.  I've said what I'm going to say, and I for one am moving on.  Thank you.

OK, back to the matter at hand.  So there's this HO:

I finished this sock before I finished both the Sweet Tart Shawl and the Neverender.  I didn't start sock #2 because I got it in my brain that I wanted to finish the other two, larger projects first.  Then my plan was to start the pair of socks I'm making for the friend having a kidney transplant, and finish this pair after that.  However, I have learned that Brian's transplant isn't happening until sometime this summer, so I have adjusted my plans, and will do sock #2 and THEN start on his pair.  That way, I can have two pairs finished by the middle of the summer (she said hopefully).  Last night I finished the ribbing at the top of the next sock, so things are underway.

Next up for reading is this book.

I've heard good and bad things about it, so I'm curious to see what my opinion will be.  My reading has been all over the place lately, so I'm not necessarily in the mood for anything specific, and this has been on my to-be-read list for a while. 

And that's what's happening with me.  What are you up to?

23 April 2019

Six Months Later, an FO Post!

Oh 2019, you will be the year of so few projects!  But that's OK, I'm not in a contest to get a certain number of things finished to win a prize.  But I have two recent FOs and after so long, it's a nice feeling to have things FINISHED.

First up is my Sweet Tart Shawl. 

Not difficult - it just takes a long time when you can't knit due to a broken wrist!

Project:  Sweet Tart Shawl
Pattern:  Drea's Shawl by Craig Rosenfeld
Yarn:  MadelineTosh Sock, colorway Tart; and Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino (no colorway listed)
Needles:  US 5
Modifications:  None
Notes:  This was an enjoyable knit.  Once I got the hang of things and remembered where to start the alternating yarn for the stripes, it was something that was easily able to done while watching TV, or talking to someone at a knitting group.  The stripes make it fun to watch grow, and by the time you get to the solid part, there's not that much more to go.  Now I just have to decide if it's for me, or if it will be a gift for someone.  The photo above shows the truest version of the colors, but the photo below of it being modeled by the Molly hanger, shows how nice it looks when you wear it.

This was my first time using Koigu yarn, and it was lovely to work with.  And I know that currently MadelineTosh yarn is controversial, but I have had this in my stash for a while, and it is my favorite colorway of that line.  When I worked at Rosie's Yarn Cellar, I was able to add a bit of MadelineTosh yarn to my stash because I got an employee discount.  Come to think of it, that's how I was able to accumulate most of my stash ... it was lovely yarn to use, and I am looking forward to using what is in my stash for other projects.  

I think I'll put this shawl away with the gifts, since I'd be putting my other shawls away until fall anyway, and if I am not inspired to think of it as the perfect gift for anyone, I'll keep it.  

If you enjoy making something that has some interest during the knitting, but is also an easy project, this pattern is for you - and it's free!  It's a win-win situation.  :-)

We had a wonderful Easter weekend, and enjoyed our usual visit from my niece Amanda and her husband Patrick.  As is our tradition, we made our Inappropriate Easter Eggs, which I will share in another post.  But it made for a lot of laughs, and along with good food and drink, as well as perfect weather, we couldn't have wanted anything more.  I hope your holiday weekend was a good one as well.  I have to say that Hamlet and the cats were completely worn out today, as they had quite a good time, eating the treats that were brought for them, and getting all kinds of extra attention.  Apparently, being popular and good hosts can wear one out ...

19 April 2019

Good Friday

"For greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends"

Every year on Good Friday when I hear/see/think of this passage, it really touches me.  It says so very much in just one sentence, and to me, sums up the meaning of the entire Easter season.

For anyone celebrating Easter or Passover, I wish you a very happy and peaceful holiday.

18 April 2019

Up and Running Again

Well, after a lot of fiddling and finally making a purchase of a teeny little wi-fi attachment, my laptop is back among the living.  This is pleasing, mainly because if it died, I was out of luck, since we are not even close to having available funds to purchase a new laptop.  But we were able to spend under $20 for the little attachment.  Phew!

You know what I missed the most?  Not being able to easily post here or read blogs, or do it in a leisurely way.  And not being able to watch or listen to the podcasts I enjoy.  Don't get me wrong, I do check social media regularly, but not being able to check it wasn't what bothered me the most.  Granted, I was also not overly upset about not being able to read blogs or the whole podcast thing, but I did miss it.  I did realize that I clearly spend a lot less time online than most people I know, so that was interesting.  Who knew?

Over the weekend, I did actually finish the knitting and the weaving in of ends on my Neverender!  You can sorta/kinda see it here (along with a bonus shot of Jack's butt ...).  You may remember that I mentioned finishing my Tart shawl as well, about ten days/two weeks ago.  Well, since then, I have been looking everywhere for my blocking stuff.  And I have had no success.  I'd gotten to the point where I figured I must have put it someplace weird where I would only find it after I'd broken down and bought new stuff.  I mentioned it yesterday at work, and one of my knitting co-workers said, "Oh my God - I have it!  You loaned it to me a few months ago, when I finished a shawl.  Now that I think I'm becoming a 'real' knitter, I bought my own stuff, and keep forgetting to bring it back to you!"  She felt bad, but I was just relieved that I hadn't put it all somewhere weird.  :-)  Of course, I will have to wait until next week to do anything even if she brings it to me today, because we are having guests for Easter weekend.  But soon I should be able to share some "official" FO pictures.

My next knitting project will be a special pair of socks.  A friend of mine's husband has been on dialysis for years, and has been going downhill quickly over the past couple of years.  She put out a call on Facebook for kidney donors, and though there were no matches as a result of that, a ton of people did get tested, etc. and put on the registry as potential donors, once it was shared, etc.  So that's good.  But even better is that a few months ago, they found a donor for a kidney transplant!!!  Sadly, they couldn't do anything then, because Brian was recovering from pneumonia.  But right now, the surgery is planned for May.  I have been feeling bad because other than sharing the Facebook post, I couldn't do anything to help.  But now that he will be able to get the transplant, I wanted to do something to celebrate.  So I found some lovely yarn and have decided to knit him a pair of socks.  He'll be housebound for at least 2 months after the surgery, and I know from experience that after surgery, even in the summertime, sometimes you can have cold feet.  So my next project will be to cast on socks for Brian.

(Of course, I may have something else going too, but those will be my primary project until they are finished.  I mean, everyone needs *some* variety, right???  ;-)  )

I am going to use a pattern that was just released today, the Red Brick Socks pattern from The Crimson Stitchery.

I am so thrilled that this pattern was finally released just in time for me to start Brian's socks!  (BTW, you can get a discount on the pattern by using the coupon code THANKYOU on Ravelry.  The code is good through April 25.)

So, I am indeed up and running again, and should be able to post regularly.  Technology is always good, until it isn't, right???

12 April 2019

It's Time for Some Friday Letters

I'm in the mood to "send" some letters today, so I'm sharing them with you.  Because Friday letters can help you get things off your chest and start the weekend with a better outlook.  :-)


Dear Koodle:

I deeply apologize for going to the bathroom this morning before I went downstairs to feed you.  However, I do not feel that your retaliatory peeing on my pillow was deserved.  How can you be such a good boy (in a manner of speaking) most of the time, and such a terrible awful brat on occasion?  Also, I would like to remind you that you have two parents, and could have just as easily peed on the other one's pillow just as easily, if that was something that just *had* to be done ...


Dear Toll Brothers:

Admittedly, I find you despicable all of the time.  But did you have to add to my negative feelings towards you by numbering the new block of houses the way you did?  ALL of the other houses in the neighborhood -and the city - follow this kind of numbering:  2100, 2102, 2104, 2106, etc.  In what universe does your numbering system make sense???  You have numbered these houses in the following manner:  2404, 2402, 2408, 2406, etc.  THIS MAKES ME STABBY BEYOND BELIEF.  I can no longer walk on the 2400 block of South Street because the way you have numbered things makes me twitch.  Plus, it makes no sense.  This is further proof that you are pure evil.


Dear Guy in Rittenhouse Square singing "Hot-Blooded" this morning:

Thank you for being amusing while also not being threatening or seeming like a nutjob.  Your obvious pleasure in singing out loud was a really nice thing.  My only request for the future is that you sing a variety of songs, rather than sticking with just that one.


Dear Toll Brothers, Again:

See above.  STOP IT.


Dear Amoroso Bread Delivery Guy:

Hamlet and I see you every morning on our early walk, and I appreciate that you pay enough attention to ask me how I am doing, since you had been on vacation last week, and "was worried something had happened" when you didn't see us the week before.  It's nice to know that even though we are basically strangers, you are paying attention to what is going on around you as far as people you see regularly.  I hope it didn't creep you out when I said that *I* wondered where you were last week!


Dear Toll Brothers, 3rd Time:



Dear Bird in the Tree on the Deck:

I hope your singing is because you are as happy and joyful as you sound.  It makes my morning so much nicer to hear you, and your song is so lovely.  (Keep away from any neighborhood kitties, please.)


Dear Universe and Whoever/Whatever Is In Charge:

Thank you for letting me be here.  Fourteen years ago today, I had my first cancer surgery, and though I had every assurance from my wonderful doctors that all would go well and be OK, I was scared about it all.  It was a long haul, but I'm still here to rant against things and appreciate the birds, so my gratitude is eternal.


What about you?  Do you have any letters to send today? 

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.  Ours is supposed to be spotted with rain showers the whole time, but as long as it's not continual, I can deal with it.  My plan is to stay put, knit, read, and hope I can feel better.  Take care!

11 April 2019

In Which I Am Betwixt and Between

Hello!  I hope your week has been going well.  Mine has definitely been up and down, though for the most part it has at least been nice weather, which feels good.  But I have had a sore throat and a cough, which do not feel good.  Then again, it's Thursday, so the weekend awaits, right?

The other thing about this week is that technology has not been my friend.  Not that we are exactly besties most of the time anyway, but we've definitely hit a rough patch.  And though it hasn't been brutal, it's been inconvenient. 

And because of my aforementioned problem I have no photos to share with you, save for the one below that is on my work computer as well as my home computer.  And since I am having to take a [very early for me] lunch break, here are three things I've decided to share for Three on Thursday

1.  Technology at home - our Internet crapped out about 10 days ago.  The Tim contacted our ISP, and a technician came to check things out.  Long story short, we had to upgrade to the next level of service - but since it was not our fault, we at least don't have to pay that price for another two years, rather we pay what we were paying before.  Fine.  So this past Saturday, Joe the Installer (this is how he identified himself) came and got everything installed and set up.  Yay.  Except that my laptop will not connect/recognize the new network.  My Nook has no problem with it, none of The Tim's devices have a problem, just my laptop, which claims the signal is weak.  Because as I mentioned above, technology and I have a tenuous relationship, I'm just stabby about this.  Whereas, The Tim is determined to crack the case.  Stay tuned.

2.  You may remember me saying I was finished with the body of my Neverender Sweater, and was ready to start the sleeves.  Well, I got to approximately 2 inches from the end of Sleeve #1 and then got the flu.  The other night, I finally felt with it enough to finish it.  So I finished knitting the cuff, and then followed the pattern instructions for finishing it, which called for a kitchener bindoff.  OK.  I kitchener on socks all the time, no big deal.  But this just didn't work - she had you put the purl stitches on one needle and the knit stitches on another, and then start working.  Well, I messed that up big-time.  So I ripped it out, and put the cuff stitches back on the needle and put it away.  Walking to work the next morning, it occurred to me that NO ONE WOULD ARREST ME if I did a different bindoff!  That night, I used the trusty tubular bindoff, and now I'm ready to start Sleeve #2, which means that the Neverender might soon become an Ender!!  (So to speak.)

3.  This weekend is the Allentown Fiber Festival.  Allentown is not that far from Philadelphia, and I've really wished I could go to the festival for the past few years since I learned of its existence.  Granted, I have a negative amount of money to spend on anything, and I don't need any yarn, but I enjoy getting to see what's out there in the knitting universe anyway.  The Tim has always said he'd be happy to go with me, since he likes exploring new places and actually likes driving (which I truly hate to do), and we were thinking of going.  But you know what?  I don't really feel good enough to go.  And that makes me stabby, because all I would need is thismuch more energy to be able to go and enjoy myself.

The Lord/universe giveth, and the Lord/universe taketh away, it seems.  Maybe next year.

In the meantime, Sleeve #2 awaits.  I am determined to finish that sleeve and that sweater before I work on anything else!!

08 April 2019

First Book Report for 2019 - January, February, March

Hello!  Thank you so much for all of your kind words and well wishes after my post about having the flu.  I really appreciated everyone being so kind.  I am finally starting to feel like I can function again, which is a nice change from the past couple of weeks, let me tell you.

Anyway, I didn't want April to get much further underway without sharing what I've read and how I felt about it in the past three months.  Without further blather, here you go, in no particular order.

The Sellout, by Paul Beatty.  This book got good reviews overall, and I was looking forward to reading it.  Sadly, I didn't really like it. 

There were some funny moments, and I understand (I think) what it was trying to say - but it didn't work well for me, and I just felt like it was trying too hard.  The book begins with the main character (aka The Sellout) preparing to go into the courtroom of the United States Supreme Court who is hearing his case.  Which involves charges of owning a slave, and fighting to re-segregate schools.

The bulk of the book tells the story of how he got there.  I don't know, maybe it was all brillian, maybe not.  I just didn't feel like I "got" it.

Working Stiff, by Annelise Ryan.  I've had this one on my Nook for a while, and decided to give it a try. 

Mattie Winston is new at her job as assistant coroner.  A former OR nurse, she left her job when she found her surgeon husband cheating on her with another nurse.  When that nurse if found dead in her house, Mattie gets involved so that she can hopefully clear her ex's name.  But things get even more complicated when it turns out the the dead nurse was not necessarily who everyone thought she was.

I enjoyed this book.  There were some funny moments, and the story moved along well, without a lot of extra and unnecessary sidebars.  Mattie is an interesting character, and her co-workers at the coroner's office have the potential to be fun down the road.

The Witch Elm, by Tana French.  This particular book is completely different than French's Dublin Murder Squad series, but is just as good on its own.

Toby Hennessey has a nice life.  But one night after he is in bed after a night in the pub with his friends, he hears something in the living room of his apartment.  When he goes out of his bedroom to investigate, there are two men, and the resulting scuffle leaves Toby hospitalized with major injuries, including a serious head injury.  During his time in the hospital, when questioned by detectives, he realizes that large chunks of his memory of that night - and of the other parts of his life - is either gone altogether, or only piecemeal.

He and his girlfriend Melissa eventually go to Ivy House, a family homestead, where Toby's bachelor Uncle Hugo has been living since the death of Toby's grandparents.  They move there because Hugo has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, and the family wants to make sure someone is always with him.  This also provides Toby with a chance to recover away from his job and other friends.

All is going well until one evening when Toby's cousin's children find a skull in the Witch Elm tree in the backyard of Ivy House.  Toby and his cousins spent most of their summers through high school at Ivy House, but were never allowed to climb that tree.  So everyone is surprised.

Once the detectives investigate, the skull is found to belong to a high school classmate of Toby's that everyone thought took his own life.  Toby remembers the guy as a nice enough person, but as more people are interviewed, their memories are completely different from Toby's.  Then he also learns that his cousins had completely different experiences with the guy than Toby remembers.

As the story continues, Toby begins to wonder if he was the murderer.  Then Uncle Hugo confesses to the deed, but dies in custody before any details or motive can be discovered.

Was Uncle Hugo a murderer?  Was it Toby or someone else he knew?  This book takes you on quite a ride as the story develops and Toby tries to figure out if he has a future, and if so, what it might be.

Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith.  I really liked this book.  I have enjoyed all of the Cormoran Strike books, but this one was much more complex and invovled than the previous ones.

Professionally, Cormoran's agency has gotten a lot of good press from his last success, and he has hired two more investigators.  Robin is still a partner, but their relationship has been strained, and her wedding did not help it to thaw.  A cabinet Minister asks Strike to help him with a case of blackmail, though he is unwilling to provide crucial details.  However, they take the case, and Robin goes undercover in the Minister's office.  The case becomes much more than originally presented, and when the Minister is found dead, both Strike and Robin think it's not likely a suicide.  When the Minister's daughter asks them to investigate, things become more complicated and often a lot murkier before things are resolved.

Personally, Strike is dealing with issues related to his relationship with his current girlfriend, Lorelai.  They entered the relationship with a no-strings attitude, but she is clearly more invested, and he is thinking it's time to try and get out.  As for Robin, she is incredibly unhappy in her marriage, and trying to get the right time to leave worked out. 

A lot happens in this book - to Cormoran Strike, to Robin, and to a lot of characters in their paths.  The political intrigue is just as interesting (to me at least) as the other aspects of the story, as the book takes place when London is getting ready for the 2012 Olympics, and for every person/group who supports the idea, there are as many protesting. 

This is a long book, but definitely worthwhile.

Murder at Midnight, by C.S. Challinor.  This was my final holiday book for Christmastime 2018.  I have never read anything in this series before, and though it may have fleshed out some characters more, I also was able to read the book without a problem.

Rex Graves and his fiancee Helen are holding a New Year's Eve party at his home in rural Scotland.  We meet the various guests, and get some background on them.  One couple, the Frasers, have just moved nearby to an abandoned castle that has belonged to Clan Fraser as long as anyone remembers.  There is a legend of a stolen fortune buried somewhere on the site.

At midnight, when the new year comes in, the power goes out (because of course there is a violent storm outside).  Once everyone is re-settled with candle power, it's discovered that both of the Frasers are dead - and further investigation shows they were likely murdered!  Rex hopes to solve the case before the police arrive.

I enjoyed the book, though it was really hard to get into it until about 30+ pages into the story.  I'm glad I stuck it out, since it did turn out to be an interesting mystery, with some unexpected twists and a murderer that I didn't suspect.

I also realized that this was the third book I read this Christmastime where most of it took place in Scotland.  Hm.

Famous Father Girl : A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein, by Jamie Bernstein.  This is an insider's look at life with Leonard Bernstein, the larger-than-life conductor/composer who was a major influence on 20th century music.  The book does talk about his music, in that he really could not be separated from it, but this is told by his eldest daughter, Jamie, and is more about family life and how she grew up than anything else.

Of course, growing up with a famous father (the book's title is from a name another student called Jamie Bernstein in second grade), recognizable names and various celebrities are part and parcel of everyday life.  And I always find it interesting and also amusing to hear snippets about famous people that are not supplied by their publicists or agents. 

Anyway, this memoir is a very comprehensive look at the author's life, with no unpleasantness left out.  Leonard Bernstein comes across as larger-than-life, even to his family, but as someone who enjoyed his children and thought life was just amazing.  His children seemed to have led lives that don't differ that much from lives of other wealthy families - Park Avenue apartments, summer homes, international travel, fancy educations - but the author makes it interesting and also often amusing.  Overall I enjoyed the book, but there were a few things that I questioned:

1.  Why do rich children seem to often refer to their parents (even when they are adults) as "Mummy and Daddy?"
2.  It seems to be a right of passage for rich kids to either skip entering college, or interrupt it in the middle to do something that is either "finding" themselves or just getting kicked out for poor grades.  This always annoys me, since most of the rest of us see college as a lucky privilege and work as hard as we can to be there, and once there, stay there not always because it's so great, but because it is the path to a job/career after graduation.
3.  As much as the author goes on for the bulk of the book about not wanting to be hired/successful/whatever simply as a result of her last name, the opportunities she is given are 100% because of that. 
4.  I was appalled at how both parents communicated bad news to their children.

I understand that growing up with money is very different than how most of us experience life, but I truly wonder if the author and her siblings really "get it."  Not that they have to, but it does make me curious.

Having said all of this, I thought the book was really good, and there were times when it was laugh out loud funny.  Leonard Bernstein seemed to be a lot like his public persona, which was not necessarily surprising to me, but interesting nonetheless.

The Dinner List, by Rebecca Serle.  I think at one time or another, we have all made one of those lists of people - living and dead - who we would like to have dinner with. 

The main character in this book, Sabrina, arrives at a restaurant in New York City on her 30th birthday to meet her friend Jessica, as is their custom.  Except when she gets there, there are other guests - the people from *her* list:  Audrey Hepburn, her favorite philosophy professor, her father who left when she was six years old, and her ex, Tobias.  At first she is put off, but as the evening wears on, we learn more about her and her story, as well as about the lives of the others. 

This was an interesting, sometimes heartbreaking, and mostly bittersweet book about those we love, growing up, learning to deal with loss, and just overall how life doesn't go the way you expect it to be. 

On the one hand, after reading this, I think it might be nice to have the opportunity to talk to those who are gone that we may have included on our list.  Then again, perhaps sometimes closure isn't all it's cracked up to be.  Who really can say?

Behind Closed Doors, by J.J. Marsh.  I heard of this series through one of those ads on Facebook that I usually ignore.  Anyway, we are introduced to DI Beatrice Stubbs of Scotland Yard, assigned to her first big case after returning to work after some time off to deal with a personal situation (we learn what happened near the end of the book).  She is sent to lead an Interpol investigation, as a series of deaths have occurred over the course of a few years that have raised suspicion.  Appearing to be suicides, the victims are all men who are larger-than-life characters of questionable moral practice.   All of them are known to be shrewd and successful businessmen who had no discernible reasons to take their own lives.  Beatrice and her team are tasked with taking a closer look to see if these "suicides" were instead the act of a serial killer.

This book was interesting, given the team lead by Beatrice were all from different places and used to working in a certain way.  It also takes place in Switzerland, and the descriptions of the locations are very appealing.

The reader knows how the murders were actually carried out, but nothing about the murderer, other than it is a female.  Beatrice's team digs and digs and is successful in the end about sussing out the killer.  However, they do not manage to be completely successful.  I'll leave it at that.

There was a lot that was creepy about this book, related to poisons and the killings.  But it was a good read overall.

Probable Claws, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown.  I am well-aware that a) these books are not everyone's cup of tea, and b) some people also think they are just downright stupid.  The good thing is, no one else is forced to read them.  I enjoy them, and especially enjoy the idea that animals observe and discuss things among themselves (which I believe happens somehow, even if it is far-fetched).

Anyway, in this book, a prominent and well-liked architect in Crozer, Virginia is gunned down on the street in the light of day, surrounded by friends, shoppers, and other citizens.  The question is not just who would do this, but why?  Harry and her friends (furry and otherwise) investigate, but there is also a parallel story being told that takes place shortly after the Revolutionary War, when delegates are meeting in Philadelphia to write the Constitution.

I found both stories interesting, and learned some things I didn't know regarding poisons.  Apparently the historical story follows a previous book, which I have not read, but probably will at some point.  Having said that, the main and current day story is interesting and stands on its own.

Plus, Harry and her family end up with an Irish Wolfhound puppy joining their family, and I'm definitely here for that.

Prescription to Die For, by Bridget Bowman.  Admittedly, I had very low expectations for this book.

Good thing:  It was short.
Bad thing:  Everything else.  I only read to the end because I knew it would come quickly, and I wanted to know how this would all end. 

My low expectations were actually being generous.

Little Comfort, by Edwin Hill.  This book was really interesting.  The main character, Hester Thursby, is a research librarian at Harvard's Widener Library.  When the book begins, she is on leave because her best friend and the sister of her boyfriend has left her young daughter with Hester and her boyfriend and disappeared.  They are adjusting to a life as "parents" that had not been part of their plans. 

As a side activity, Hester tracks down missing people, or helps people with their geneaology.  A woman asks her to try to find her brother, who has been missing for years.  Hester is somewhat hesitant after interviewing the woman, who didn't seem to make a concerted search when the brother first left.  However, the woman has been receiving post cards from her brother from various cities, and that intrigues Hester.

Somewhat quickly, she finds that the woman's brother and his best friend (who disappeared at the same time) are currently living in Boston.  Before letting the woman know, she decides to do some poking around to see what the whole story might be. 

At this point, the book focuses on the two young men, their relationship to each other, and the secrets that have kept them together and moving to different places all of the time.

The book is interesting, and kind of creepy.  It's the kind of story that makes you realize that you likely don't know most people around you every day as well as you think you do.

Hope Never Dies, by Andrew Schaffer.  This was very entertaining to me, mainly because the idea of Barack Obama and Joe Biden solving mysteries now that they are out of the White House cracks me up. 

At the beginning of the book, Joe Biden is feeling bad because Obama never returns his calls - instead, he sees him partying with celebrities, going on vacations, etc.  He's feeling that maybe he misunderstood their relationship.  But one evening, Obama and a Secret Service agent show up and tell Biden that it appears that a conductor on the Amtrak Wilmington line committed suicide by being on the tracks.  Which is sad enough, but the Secret Service is involved because the deceased had a map to Biden's house in his pocket.

The conductor is one that Biden knew from all of his Amtrak commutes over the years from Wilmington to DC.  And he is convinced that the man would never commit suicide.  He starts poking around, and then Obama gets involved with it, and they head on a path that will either lead them to the answers or put them in real danger.

The mystery itself is a good one, in spite of the fact that those trying to solve it take it to a level of being fantastical.  There are some funny moments that also seem very believable, based on what we know about each of the main characters. 

I would say read this if you want to be entertained, but don't expect it to be a meaningful piece of literature.  My *very* favorite thing was the dedication of the book, which reads simply, "Thanks, Obama."  Pure gold.

Next Door, by Blake Pierce.  This was a freebie for my Nook, and it was extremely readable.

The book begins on the day that Chloe Fine and her sister Danielle come home from their respective activities at the age of about 10 years old, and find their mother dead at the foot of the stairs, covered in blood, and their father standing over her.  They are taken to live with their grandparents as their father is sent to prison for the murder of their mother.

Fast forward seventeen years, and Chloe and her fiance are moving into a house together in the town where she grew up.  Her sister Danielle lives nearby, and Chloe is hoping to reconnect with her, as they have not had much contact since their grandparents died.  Chloe is an intern FBI agent, but Danielle has never really settled into any meaningful career.  She also suffers from some mental health issues, and unknown to Chloe, has been receiving mysterious and threatening anonymous letters.

I will admit that this book completely deceived me.  Not that far into it, I thought I figured out the supposed plot twist.  But as I said, the book is very readable, and I was curious to see how the author would resolve it.

When Danielle's boyfriend turns up dead, suspicion falls on Danielle, and her DNA is found on the body.  Chloe feels really certain that even if her sister has other problems, she is still not a killer, and decides to dig deeper into it all, with the support of her FBI mentor.  She realizes that in doing so, she may have to delve deeper into the past.  She also discovers the letters being sent to her sister, and feels that they must have some relationship to the case.

Well, things go in a completely different direction than the one I was so certain was going to be the result.  Which is actually a good thing, since it means the whole story was not as simplistic as I was thinking it would be.  As a result, I think I will be likely to read the next book in the series to see if it is as interesting.

Poker Face : A Girlhood Among Gamblers, by Katy Lederer.  This book was fine, though not what I was expecting.  The author grew up on the campus of a fancy private school in the northeast US, where her father was a teacher.  In spite of the possibilities that could bring to mind for the family, each one of them at one point or another became deeply entrenched in the world of gambling. 

I grew up with parents who were gamblers - and by that, I mean that there was some kind of bet or game involved with nearly everything.  I understood the nuances of handicapping at the horse track and what was an excellent poker hand long before I had my first day at school.  There was no such think as just a card game at our house - nope, there had to be betting somehow involved.   I even remember when the game "Trivial Pursuit" came out, and my elderly mother figured out how we could play it for money.  I remember my mother telling me a few years before she died that one of her life's regrets was that she never got to be a dealer in Las Vegas.

So I guess I was expecting this book to be something similar, with stories of different events and characters that were part of the author's life.   In a way, I guess this book is more valuable, in that it describes the way that a gambling addiction/obsession/whatever you want to call it can skew a life and the life of a family.  And particularly as a cautionary tale, that is interesting.  But it wasn't really presented in a way that made you care that much.  Rather than explore what seemed to be the root of the entire family's gambling addiction, Lederer just talks about it all rather mechanically.

Granted, I didn't finish the book because it was due back to the library before I had gotten to the end.   But rather than renew it, I just returned it because though I was nearly finished, I really didn't care about any of the characters enough to make the effort.

Scone Cold Killer, by Lena Gregory.  This was entertaining enough for a time when I didn't want to have to concentrate too much. 

Gia Morelli has left NYC after an ugly divorce from her cheating husband, who was also guilty of cheating people out of huge sums of money.  She is starting over in Florida, where she hopes to open a cafe that serves breakfast food all day.  With the help of her friend, Savannah, who is from there, she finds a place for her business, and a house where she can live.

On the first day the cafe is open, Gia's ex-husband is found dead in the cafe's dumpster.  Things don't look good for Gia or her cafe, but she is convinced that his business dealings led to his murder.  As the story goes on, more bodies pile up, and Gia isn't sure who to trust.

With the help of her friend, the friend's cousin - who is a cop - and the comfort of her new puppy, things finally work out, but not before there are a few more twists and turns in the story.

A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy.  This is a lovely book.  Again, one of those that is not really "about" anything per se, just a story of a group of people and how they come together from different places and walks of life, and what led them there.

Chicky Starr comes back to her home town of Stoneybridge on the west coast of Ireland after living in New York City for some years.  She decides to take the stone mansion which was the home of three maiden sisters - one of whom is still around - and turn it into a vacation destination.  Everyone thinks she is crazy to take on such a thing, and they also wonder who will ever come to Stoneybridge on holiday.  But she perseveres, and with the help of her nephew and the remaining sister who grew up in the house, the Old Stone House is reborn in all of its glory, and then some.

Each chapter after Chicky starts her project deals with a different person or couple and their journey that ends up at the Old Stone House.  From her nephew, Rigger, who is sent to work with her on getting the place up and running to avoid getting into more trouble, to a movie star who ends up at the Old Stone House because his flight to Germany was cancelled due to weather, each character who ends up there has their own story of a journey. 

Told in a leisurely and kind manner, but not in any way sentimental, the story of Chicky, her family, the Old Stone House and its visitors moves along in a way that makes you realize that for most of us, life does not always end up the way we thought it would.  But it also emphasizes that the twists and turns don't have to defeat us.

This book was a lovely break in reading, and it reminded me that quiet lives are rewarding lives.

I've Been Thinking ... Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life, by Maria Shriver.  I don't remember how I found out about this book, but whoever had mentioned it to me said that it was not too overly religious, and was easy to read and enjoy in snippets.  Which is currently how my brain is functioning.

Full disclosure: I did not finish this book.  Not because it wasn't worth finishing, but because it was due back at the library, and at the time, I was so sick, I couldn't read anyway.  So I just returned it for the next person.

Each entry is about a certain theme in life - family, happiness, loss, change, etc.  Then at the end, there is a brief prayer related to the topic.  Nothing earth-shattering, but reminders that we are all experiencing the good, bad, and messiness of life, regardless of whether we have fame or money or anything else.  I think it was a good book to remind the reader to just think about what you have and can do and try do live the best you can be.

You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz.  I read this book on the recommendation of my husband, who described it as a "page turner."  We don't usually read the same books, so I was intrigued.  It is in fact a page turner, and though you aren't terribly far into the book before you suspect what is happening/has happened, it tricks you into thinking that you have figured it out.  But trust me, you haven't even scratched the surface.

Grace Reinhardt is a couples psychologist who is getting ready to have her first book published, titled "You Should Have Known."  Grace's theory is that people often delude themselves at the beginning of relationships about their partners, thinking that they will change, maybe their habits aren't really that bad, etc., when in truth, being in the first part of being in love makes you ignore or dismiss those things that will likely remain or sometimes even get worse.  It's an exciting time for Grace, and she is happy to be sharing it with her husband, and pediatric oncologist, and her 12-year-old son, Henry.  They have a wonderful life in New York City, living in the apartment where Grace grew up, which was given to her when her father remarried after her mother's death.

What throws a wrench into the whole thing is when one of the other mothers at the school that Henry attends, who Grace has only met in passing, is brutally murdered.  Grace quickly learns that her life is much different than she thought it was, and it's about to change drastically.

I thought this book was well-done, with a compelling story.  It's technically about Grace, but it's really about how she should have known.  And even then, she really didn't know anything.

Hm.  I didn't realize I'd gotten through so many books already.  Go figure.  Anyway, that's it.  Let me know if you have any recommendations - or even warnings of titles to avoid!

04 April 2019

Things That Happen In a Brain Fog

I'm still alive.   I'm guessing most of you figured that anyway, but this is my first post in a couple of weeks, so for those who were worried (ha, like I have a massive following), I'm here and I'm doing much better, even if I still have a way to go.

Where did I go?  What did I do?  Well, on Friday, March 22, I left work early because I was feeling increasingly icky as the day went on.  I got home, changed into my pjs and got into bed.  I remember The Tim coming home from work, I remember extreme chills and then extreme sweats, and then snippets of things.  By Sunday, I could get out of bed long enough to call the dr's office and have them prescribe me Tamiflu.  The Tim was kind enough to pick it up for me, and I started taking it.  Then I remember very little else until last Wednesday, March 27 when I actually got out of bed and took a shower.  I still have no voice, and I'm still not back 100%, but I am definitely improved and improving.  Yep, even though I got a flu shot, I still managed to get a major smackdown from the flu.  I truly cannot remember ever being that sick. 

I do remember certain things from my brain fogs, and I have to say that even when they were happening, I would think to myself, "WTF?"  Here's what I mean, as I have decided to share some of them for today's Three on Thursday.

1.  This conversation:

              The Tim:  I wish I had some potatoes.
              Me:  What do you mean, we always have potatoes.
              The Tim:  Well, I don't know where they are, none are in the cupboard.
              Hamlet:  Sorry guys, I fixed french fries for me and the cats and I guess I used them all.

This is a conversation that was as clear to me at the time as if I just had it ten minutes ago.  Needless to say, it never occurred, and I do remember at the time thinking that there was something *slightly* suspicious about a) Hamlet being able to cook, and b) the cats eating french fries.

2.  The same movie scene, with different twists causing different reactions.  Apparently in my brain fog, I was directing or watching or doing something actively with a movie scene.  The setting is a narrow, cobblestone street in some charming little village.  A man is lying in the street asking for help.  However, each time, there is something different about the man that has an effect on whether or not, or how, people try to help him.  For instance, in one variation, he is dressed normally, but appears drunk.  No one offers to help.  Next, he is clearly injured, but really dirty and smelly, and though some people stop to ask if he is OK, most people are clearly disgusted.  Another time, he is dressed as one of the Three Musketeers, and everyone just laughs when they walk by.  WTF???  Also, an even weirder aspect is that the person portraying the man each time is Eric Stonestreet, who is one of the actors on the show "Modern Family," which I used to watch, but haven't really seen in years.

3.  French film noir.  Again with the movies or whatever.  But these were the most prevalent things that would occur in my brain fog, particularly one that kept repeating itself.  The viewer is clearly in the back seat of a car (you only see the back of heads in the front seat in silhouette).  We are on a dark road, with only foggy headlights showing the way.  Out of the trees next to the road, comes a woman who is clearly French by the way she is dressed (as in a French film noir), disheveled, and she keeps screaming at the cars' inhabitants (in French), "I am a woman! I am a doctor!"

As I said, even when I would gain consciousness enough to think about these, they amused me as much as puzzled me, but mostly I wondered where in the world they came from and why ...

I got nothin'.  Nothin' I tells ya.