Sunday, March 19, 2017

Week(s) in Review

Oh, I know. I missed a week. Things got a bit hairy around here last weekend, and my attention was divided in too many ways. By the way,  if you really want to experience the feeling of utter humility, let a scheduled blog post go missing. Prepare yourself to hear a whole lot of this:

Anyway, this one will be fast and furious and to the point since there's so much catching up to do.


After a spate of spring-like days, I decided it was time to break out the sandals again. That means it's time to expose feet again, and mine were looking pretty rough. I treated myself to a pedicure a week ago Friday......   after which our temps plummeted again for another week of winter.


We took Jimmy and Rosemary to the zoo last Saturday to celebrate Zoo Weekend. It was a madhouse, but a happy one.

We even braved the playground area in order to get to the petting zoo so they could pet all the soft, furry animals.

Uh huh. 

Jimmy made a bee-line for the tortoise, and as you can tell, offered the poor fellow some directions on how he might best escape the crowds. 


The zoo offered pony rides. Nothing doing.

Girl had to ride the camel.


I attended my Little Old Lady Literary Luncheon this week. The table arrangements were simple and quite lovely. When I got up close to this one I discovered that the arranger had used dried split peas to stick those roses and tulips in. I have no-zip-zero-nada esthetic abilities, so this sort of thing just amazes me. 


Oh, let me back up to that whole zoo thing for a second. You might remember that I keep a pseudo-journal on my desk in the home office. I write notes like "got pedicure yesterday, but too cold to bare toes today -- bummer." You might also remember that Rosemary sneaks into my office at every opportunity, and that she has discovered my journal. She left a little Valentine message a few weeks ago, you might recall, but this time what cracked me up (and warmed my heart during this past week's cold snap) was discovering that she'd taken it upon herself to journal our zoo visit  to save me the trouble. 


We ended our week going to the rodeo last night, which was always a huge deal when I was growing up. My Grandpappy (who was inducted, posthumously,  into the Alabama Cattleman's Hall of Fame in 2001) was a world-famous auctioneer. He died just before I turned nine years old, but to this day, because of the trips I took with him to the stockyards, the earthy-clean smell of dirt and animals summons the feeling that he is very much still a presence in my life. Henry and I used to take the boys when they were little, but we haven't gone ourselves in a number of years. It didn't take me 30 seconds after entering Garrett Coliseum to feel like a kid again. I want to come back as a barrel rider in my next life. I want to know what it feels like to be in control of that much beautiful power, that much speed. I cannot imagine anything more thrilling.


The week for our Rosemary ended with her experiencing a pretty big thrill. She and her Mama and little brother went on a camping trip with their Granna and Papa Marsh, where she caught her first fish!  It was kind of a big deal, as you can plainly tell. I'm so grateful for modern technology - this is a moment her Pop and I were thrilled to be able to witness. 




WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes the hype is true! I cannot wait until my grandchildren get to read this story about being different, and loving people who are.

Like all really great books for kids, this one works because, at its heart, it's about just how tough and glorious just being a kid can be. There are universal themes: being the new kid at school, the weird push and pull of not being a little kid anymore but not quite being ready to let go of that... all of that.

Garnethill (Garnethill #1)Garnethill by Denise Mina
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This first-in-a-series had been on my TBR list for a long time. I jumped through lots of hoops to get my hands on a copy: the person I just knew had a copy was in the middle of a move and couldn't put her hands on it, the local library didn't have a copy, it wasn't available for Kindle download, and I am on a "book diet" trying only to buy bound copies when it's a book I am certain I want to have in my home library. I finally found a used copy on sale, and bit.

Quite a mixed bag for me: strong start, enough interest to read the second in the series, and probably only disappointed because of heightened expectations I had for it. 

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War IIIn Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II by Rhys Bowen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

I chose this one because it was offered at a discount to download to my Kindle, and Rhys Bowen is an author with whom I was familiar, although I'd never read one of her books. One of my old bookselling saws is that there are great writers and there are great storytellers. Even when a writer is only one of those, I find their books well worth my time, and this novel was certainly that. Bowen is a solid writer, and a very good storyteller.

Set during WWII, when the German invasion of England was imminent, there were a group of British citizens who cooperated with the Germans. They weren't Nazi sympathizers, they were (in their view) pragmatists who didn't want their country's architectural and national treasures destroyed by bombing. It is from this piece of history that Bowen weaves her tale.There are many elements in this story that readers looking for different things can get hooked on: wartime romance, spies, the ongoing fascination that Americans have with the British aristocracy, and Bowen manages them all with nary a misstep. There were a couple of wild leaps, but hey!, it's fiction. Altogether an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. 

(and will probably splurge on) 


Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Weekly Whatever

My husband traveled to New Orleans this week, in time to celebrate Mardi Gras, although he was busy working the whole time he was there. Of course, while he was there, he suddenly remembered that he had a Twitter account and that his phone could be used as a camera and that those two things could work together.... just about the time I'd decided that, bless his heart, he was probably holed up in his hotel room wishing I were there with him. 



Meanwhile, back at the office..... 

No holiday goes unobserved at the office, and Fat Tuesday was no exception. The table on the Board room was covered with beads, and there was a box of these beautiful iced cookies from Ligers Bakery, and a King Cake. It was almost exactly like being in NOLA, less the opportunity to wake with a hangover on the first day of Lent. 


One hears lots of music when one is in New Orleans, but I'm betting you cannot find a 7 year old girl dressed as her favorite Pokemon character Pikachu practicing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture when you're there. 

... and if there is music there should always be dancing. 

I have recently been in touch with my second cousin, Kitty. Our grandmothers were sisters. We've been exchanging old family photographs and filling in blanks for one another over the course of the last couple weeks, via email, so I decided to reopen an old valise that belonged to my grandmother, which contains a world of old letters, a scrapbook, and loads of pictures. Within the scrapbook I found this charming little bit of newsworthy gossip pertaining to my grandparents, Tom and Sarah McCord, and their behavior on the dance floor. Not only did this delight me to know, it delights me that my Nannaw carefully preserved it, and that it remained in this valise as a treasure for me to find. 


On Friday night, Henry and I began to work through our DVR queue and watched the episode of This Is Us in which Randall and his biological father William go on a road trip that becomes, quite literally, the journey of a lifetime. Let me just say this: I cry at the drop of a hat, so that's never a good gauge for anyone to use to judge what sort of emotional wallop a book, movie, TV show, or Coca-cola commercial might have on them. But honey? This particular episode threw me right into the sort of cathartic cry I haven't had in years, the kind that you're pretty sure -- if you went and got on the scales when it was finished-- would have meant you'd lost weight. 

And, by the way, if you aren't watching This Is Us, I'm not sure how we can remain friends. 


It's been a long week for this girl, and a couple hours before I picked her up for the ballet, she and her Mama made it home from a road trip to Texas. Her great grandfather, Jack Hanifan,was laid to rest just a couple days ago. I only met him once,  when he was in town to see his granddaughter marry my son a decade ago, but I will never forget the sparkle in his eye, and the way he looked at his granddaughter when he saw her in her wedding dress for the first time. He was 92, and he had lived well, and was loved even better. 

The ballet, a series of vignettes featuring the Disney Princesses (Aurora, Jasmine, Pocahantas, and Belle), was an enchanting presentation by the wonderful dancers of the Alabama Dance Theatre. Rosemary enjoyed it, and loved meeting the dancers (in full costume) afterwards, but she was just pooped. She wanted to walk down to the Court Square to see the fountain afterwards, and we did, but by the time we'd perambulated the couple blocks between the theatre and Court Square, she was done, just like this week's edition. 


Books I Finished This Week:

The Sleepwalker
Borrowed from public library
The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this one for a couple reasons: I have never been able to get his powerful novel, Midwives off my mind, and because one of my children was, for about an year-long period in his life, a sleepwalker. His were not benign midnight rambles: he suffered night terrors which, frankly, terrified me and my husband as well. They finally ended the way they'd begun: abruptly and with no explanation, even to this day.   (Read the rest of my review by clicking HERE.)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Read on my Kindle  

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Look, I'm not going to spend tons of time reviewing this book. It's another of those that everybody read when it first came out, and it had been on my TBR list for a long, long time. So here's my review:

This is a lovely, lovely novel, and you should absolutely make time to read it.

Favorite passage: “Oh, it’s simple pragmatism, Dad. It’s called the real world. If we refused to do business with the morally questionable, the deal volume would drop in half and the good guys like us would end up poor. Then where would we all be?” “On a nice dry spit of land known as the moral high ground?” suggested the Major.

What I'm reading now: 

Garnethill by Denise Mina  (bound book)

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Kindle)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekly Roundup

The week started off with another CACF staff Surprise Grant trip to the Children's Center Adult Program (CCAP). We got to tour the campus, tucked away just on the outskirts of Downtown Montgomery. The clients, all young adults with severe physical and/or mental disabilities, benefit from the passion of the staff and volunteers who provide an amazing array of activities. I spent most of my time in the art room, where I was intoxicated by the energy of the instructor and the clients who were taking her class. Art has a way of triggering reflection, and that was certainly the case for me.

Artwork by the clients at CCAP

When I asked the instructor to talk to me about the art projects I saw displayed on the walls, she started with this one.  You know how you do those things: you plunk some paint on one side of a piece of paper, then fold the paper. What you get, when you open it up, is a mirror image of the design you started with. Perfect symmetry. 

Of course, few things in nature are balanced perfectly this way. That was very obvious standing in that room with these young adults, many of whom live in bodies that are bent from their physical challenges. But it's true for all of us in less obvious ways. Speaking for myself, one eye is slightly larger than the other; hair on one side of my part refuses to lie the way I want it to, no matter how much time I spend trying to force it to so it'll "match" the other side; and one of my feet is just enough larger than the other that it can be challenging to find shoes that fit comfortably for both.  

The most that most of us can hope for - figuratively and literally - is balance, symmetry's kissing cousin.


We all get a fresh canvas every day, although that doesn't mean you get to completely leave aside your experiences, or the wisdom you've gained from coloring outside the lines of your life, or the messes that you sometimes leave behind. It only means that you get another chance to create something beautiful in the midst of all of that. 


And would it be too trite to say that seeing the whimsical garden outside the otherwise rather institutional building reminded me to bloom where you're planted?



Okay, okay, enough of platituding my way through a post....

I've begun to revive a long dormant habit of keeping two books going at once, and most weeks make it a point to have a bound book at hand to read curled up on the sofa and another going on my Kindle. I was nearing the end of the bound book (an ARC) I'd chosen (Edgar & Lucy by Victor Lodato) when I flipped it over to read the back jacket. I thought it deliciously serendipitous that one of the blurbs on the back of it was written by the author of the very book I was simultaneously reading on my Kindle! 



Yesterday my oldest son and I took his children to the zoo. Their Mama is away on a business trip, and it was just too pretty to keep them cooped up in their house. Jimmy, the two year old, was utterly fascinated by the dead leaves that were constantly skittering across the walkways, and, of course, was mostly interested in the ducks, never mind that they are pretty much everywhere in town right about now. How easily we forget that the ordinary is extraordinary?


And this final "dedication" goes out to anybody who finds they need this reassurance today.

Out of the mouths of babes and all that, you know.


Best meal this week:

Grilled Gulf Shrimp Tacos and a nice margarita (or two) at El Rey Burrito Lounge.

Book finished this week: 

Edgar & Lucy by Victor Lodato

click on title to find my Goodreads review

Currently reading: 

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (kindle)
The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian (bound book, on loan from the library)