Saturday, September 6, 2014

Confessions of a Binge Reader

My friend, Jennifer D. Munro, responded to a Facebook challenge and listed books that had influenced her. Instead of passing on the challenge, Jennifer gently suggested she would like to see my list. So, I'm putting together today's version of that list.

I'm a binge reader and I tend to think of books in clumps linked by my craving at the time. Here are some of the most vivid clumps in my ever-dimming and cluttered memory;
  • The Oz books. I obsessively collected, read, and wrote all over the original fourteen Oz books, in order, of course, from Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz through Glinda of Oz. Someone gave me one of the "pseudo Oz" books written by Ruth Plumly Thompson, but I wasn't taken in, only the L.Frank Baum originals make my list. When my younger brother Ken, was old enough to enjoy them, he read them and left his marks on the pages, and then younger sister Valery took her turn. As a young mother, I reclaimed the set and passed them on to my children who also read and wrote in the books. Just this year, my son Kevin asked if he could have them. I gathered those I could locate and shipped them off to him. Some of the books are missing and Valery has a couple of them she is not quite willing to part with yet. Kevin has just finished reading the first one to his foster children. 

  • The Nancy ,Drew mysteries by Carolyn Keene, again collected and read in order from The Secret of the Old Clock through number 28, The Clue of the Black Keys. I guess I lost interest or aged out of the series by then. Nancy Drew was a wonderful role model for girls in the pre-women's lib days (if only she would dump Ned).
  • Little Women, Little Men, Eight Cousins, and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott. Oh, Jo, my hero, my role model. And why, oh why, did Beth have to die?
  • Late in high school, my binge reading became even more serious. I wanted really big books that would satisfy a deep thirst for escape. In this group I lump Forever Amber, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Marjorie Morningstar, and Gone With the Wind. My mother thought Forever Amber was scandalous and nearly forbid me to read it, but I prevailed.
  • Next came more Herman Wouk, James Michener, and Leon Uris. History in painless doses. 
  • The holocaust. When I discovered the holocaust at about eight years old in 1947, I couldn't believe it and I still struggle to believe both the horror and how little we learned. I read everything about it I could get my hands on. And I still do. Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise, an amazing novel/memoir, written in occupied France is a recent and powerful contribution.
  • English Literature -- all the usual stuff from Shakespeare, through the Brontes, Thackarey, Dickens, and Trollope, to P. D. James and Ian McEwan.
  • Russian Literature -- Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Bely (Petersburg), Chekhov. Interesting how English lit. is about human nature independent of place, but Russia is always a central character in Russian Lit.
  • Twentieth century American men of letters -- Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, and John Updike. More important than Steinbeck and Hemingway to me. I think American writing opened up in the second half of the twentieth century; the first half suffered from inhibition. I like John Updike's book reviews in the New Yorker even better than his novels.
  • Twentieth and twenty-first century American women -- Amy Tan, Anne LaMott, Barbara Kingsolver (Poisonwood Bible should have had the Pulitzer), Diana Gabaldon (yes! literate and full of great history, albeit a bit formulaic after a while), Ann Morrow Lindbergh, and Joan Didion. I know I'm leaving many important writers.
  • The Mann Booker Short List -- whenever I'm at a loss for what to read next, I check out the Mann Booker Prize Short List for the past few years, I love British writers.
I'm sure if I made a list tomorrow, it would look nothing like this. I've been blessed by having thousands of books in my reading past and an ever-diminishing memory.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wireless and Lovin' It!

NOW I feel at home. As of yesterday, all systems were go. Stupid stuff like being unable to find my pc power cord and running out of printer ink kept everything from functioning in a way that gave me peace. At last I have Kindle, iPhone, PC, two TVs, an X box, laptop, printer, and sewing machine all operating the way they are supposed to. All that is left to for me to conquer is the full use of my new iPhone and the TV remote. I caved in and bought iPhone for Seniors for Dummies to help with the phone (it's a stretch for a former techie who wrote manuals to actually break down, buy one, and read it). Conquering the TV remote I'll leave for some day when boredom sets in. I'll know I'm home when I find time to sit down and sew once again. My fingers are itching to touch fabric.

I upgraded my iphone 3 to an iphone 5s the day before I left Ozark. So, I took off cross-country not knowing for sure how to even answer a phone call. I quickly learned how to use the map feature and "she" guided us to our hotels most of the time. I'll let the mis-direction in Flagstaff slide for now.

I've bought cleaning supplies and implements, food, and some plants for the back yard, so I'm starting to feel settled. Pictures still need to be hung and I need to clean house. Once I've cleaned, I'll feel like it really is mine.

Logan is settling in, although he is lonely and bored some of the time. He has made some acquaintances by hanging around the pool. It's really tough when you are 17 and need to be cool all the time. I want him to bring the new people around to meet me and the idea horrifies him. He wants to go hang out with them and I don't know anything about them. It's tough. I'll be glad when school starts and we can get a rhythm to our lives. Now, he sleeps late and stays up late. All of this is so normal for a teen-ager, but it is still a bit inconvenient for this morning person.

More later about the move, the trip, the new place, etc.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Read All About It

The house is under contract! We close on June 11 and that seems impossibly close. We are going through farewell rituals now, not knowing when and if we will be back to Missouri.
Logan went to the Jr/Sr Prom Saturday night as a goodbye to Ozark High School since he will be graduating from high school in California next year. He will graduate with kids from his attend kindergarten through second grade years. I wonder how many of them he will remember.
Going to the prom was a last minute decision. He bought a jacket the afternoon of the dance because he needed one large enough to fit around his back brace. I think he looks pretty sharp. He went stag but joined up with some kids to go out for something to eat after. It's very hard for me to let him go, but he's very considerate of my anxiety and reports in frequently.

Tonight I attended what is most likely my last meeting of my book club. I think I've belonged to this group for about three years and have really enjoyed the company of a bunch of interesting women. And of course, the books, the food, and the wine. Here we are at Cathy Gearing's house. It was very well attended. I know Martha Swick didn't make it and maybe someone else can think of others who were missing. Here we are at the end of the meeting where we talked about Mary Coin  by Marisa Silver. It's a novel based on a depression-era photograph taken by Dorothea Lange. Here's the iconic photograph:
And here we are:

I will miss these ladies!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Party On!

 Last night I crossed an item off my bucket list. I had never had Dom Perignon before and I was determined to have it for my 75th birthday. Friend Sharon thought that sounded like a fine idea and suggested a small group of my friends pitch in to buy a bottle and celebrate with me. Well, it sounded like a good idea, but I wasn't too keen on sharing a single bottle with a group of people, so I offered to buy a bottle if the group also bought one. And to sweeten the pot as it were, I had a very fine bottle of Veuve Cliquot on hand, a gift from Lindsay for helping her edit work for her masters degree.
The group also contributed some yummy food to complement the bubbly.
 Sue Walker takes her turn pouring a glass for herself.
 With fierce concentration, Sharon takes her turn. Not a drop was spilled.
 And then the bottle was passed to Molly who has a death grip on the neck of the bottle.
 I didn't think Lindsay would care too much for champagne. I was wrong.
 Andra also said she didn't think she would like it, so she brought a backup bottle of white zin. She never opened the zin and she learned something new about herself.
 Cheers, ladies!
Three bottles and about three hours later, this is how we looked. We felt fine! The wine was wonderful, the food was great and the company fabulous. Now I have to figure out how to celebrate my 80th birthday.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Obligatory, Late, and Final Dogwood Report

This year's photo of my Dogwood tree's blossoms is ten days later than usual for a couple of reasons. Spring is about two weeks later than usual and my enthusiasm is waning. But, here it is:
I had the tree severely pruned last fall, all the lower branches which were beginning to obstruct the walkway have been removed, so the tree now has a taller, thinner aspect than a typical dogwood. Here's a link to last year's picture taken ten days earlier. Notice in last year's April 18 picture the tree is already in leaf. This year, ten days later, the leaves are just beginning to appear. It's been a long snowy winter for this part of the country.

My enthusiasm is waning because in my heart, we have moved back to California.  We will be leaving on June 20, nine weeks from tomorrow. Logan will be travelling to Europe June 2-16 and as soon as he returns, catches his breath, and does his laundry, we'll be on the road. So much to do before that time! So much stuff to sort through and get rid of. So much packing and planning. So much overwhelm!

Logan has started a regimen of walking to build up his endurance for the trip. He is very determined to be able to participate fully. I'm excited for him. I think he has my wanderlust. While he's gone, I plan a quick trip to Charleston, South Carolina. South Caroline is the only state I haven't visited, so I want to check off one more item on my bucket list. Tomorrow evening I'm checking off another item. I'll report more on that next time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Whirlwind Trip

Logan and I spent a very productive long weekend in California over Easter. We left Springfield on Friday, my 75th birthday. I celebrated by walking through airport security wearing a sweater and my shoes (and a few other articles of apparel), having just arrived at the age of privilege where such wild goings-on are tolerated by the folks at TSA. Nonetheless, Logan and I both had to endure patdowns because of our various metal body parts.
I drove our rental car (a Chevrolet of some sort that was nearly impossible to get in and out of because of the low entry)straight to Davis because I miss Ben too much and couldn't wait to see him. Well, I was able to wait just a bit -- Logan and I hit In and Out Burger before driving to the campus. I don't know why their simple classic burgers, shakes, and fries are so good, but nearly all California emigres drool at the thought of them. Many of the joys of moving back to California are retail related: Costco, Ikea, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, In and Out Burger, REI (gift shopping for Ben), Crate and Barrel, Cost Plus, Williams-Sonoma, etc. I know these places exist in other parts of the country, but they are all close together and easily accessible from where we'll be living (and shopping).

Colleen and Robby met us in Davis and Ben "bought" all of us dinner loowith his student dining

commons card after we spent some silly time in my hotel room at the Aggie Inn. I spent the night in Davis while Logan went home with Robby and Colleen.

The next day Logan and I checked out the apartment we want to rent in El Dorado Hills. It is quite nice and conveniently located to retail (!) and family. Amenities of the complex include a pool, clubhouse, basketball court, dog park, washer and dryer in the unit, and three bedrooms which we will somehow squeeze into. I am so ready for this move.

Sister Valery and Jim Piper were married at Saturday noon. They said their beautifully-scripted vows on the beach at Negro Bar Beach on the American River and then we went to the nearby Sudwerks for lunch. The weather was sunny and mild and the very small select company sublime. 
 Colleen and Andy wait for the ceremony to begin while Susie Lee and I fool around taking each other's pictures. Susie (she calls herself Sue these days) and Valery have been friends all their lives, 61 years. Our families lived next door to each other.
 Logan made it down the stairs to watch the ceremony. He did amazingly well on the trip, schlepping through airports, sitting in cramped seats, sleeping on couches, and maneuvering over rough terrain.
 The bride and groom just before the ceremony, and (below) while exchanging vows.

 The happy couple hosting the reception at Sudwerks.

Valery shows off her wedding band while Jim proves he never grew up.

 Ben and Logan paid their respects to Missy while we visited Jim and Valery at their home after the wedding festivities.
 Silly cat at Valery's thinks Colleen placed this bowl under the table just for her comfort.
Silly Ben thinks this hammock was placed in Colleen's backyard just for his comfort. Valery looks on while he reads from an assigned book for one of his classes at UC Davis.

Today we are back at home and things are gearing up for our move. The house is listed and we have already had a couple of people express interest. One opted for another house, the other hasn't seen the house yet, but wants to have a big house in this neighborhood and ours is the only large house in our neighborhood on the market. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

All Clear

A momentous doctor's appointment today! Logan has been given clearance to travel to California this weekend and to Europe in early June. It's like a new sun has been hung in the sky. We are both feeling very optimistic and positive about his future plans. Here's what his spine looks like these days:
The titanium brackets hold a carbon cage filled with boned fragments from one of his ribs. The fragments will fuse to build solid bone.
In further progress notes, he drove from doctor's appointment, his first behind-the-wheel experience since March 6. And I didn't even cringe once.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Moving On

Logan and I will be moving to California this summer.We will be living in an apartment in El Dorado Hills to be near Colleen, Valery, friend Lisa, brother Rick and his wife, Kathy, Ben, and probably lots of other folks I forgot to mention. Logan will be able to finish high school with some of the kids he started kindergarten with/ He looks forward to trying his hand (feet?) at snowboarding with Danny as teacher. I am looking forward to the end of home ownership responsibilities.
So, that means I'm going to be very busy selling, trashing, and packing. I expect the new place will be around 1,000 square feet with no garage,, going down from 4,500 square feet with a three car garage. Big changes, welcome changes. Somehow, we'll bring it off.
Logan is healing well, although we are both suffering mightily from cabin fever. He is too old (and so am I) to be spending so many hours with me. It's exhausting and grueling for both of us.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Today has been a really good day. Logan went to school for half a day and I experienced that euphoria that comes when your youngest child starts kindergarten. You know the kind of day you torture yourself trying to decide if:
  1. You should run naked through a meadow whilst tossing daisies in the air, or
  2. Stay in your jammies all day eating Godiva chocolates while reading bodice-bursting romance novels, or
  3. Begin a movie marathon wherein you go by yourself to the movies, get a really big box of really buttery popcorn, and a slurpee, and milk duds and catch up on all the Oscar nominees you failed to see
  4. Have a late champagne breakfast (does Dom Perignon go with with Cheerios?)
  5. Meet your best girl friend for lunch and gossip and dis all the people you mutually feel superior to
  6. Do your income taxes
Well, at least I've narrowed the list down to five items. I'm sure I'll get at least one of them accomplished today, but I have many days ahead to work on it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Foot Notes

Today Logan's orthopedic surgeon told us Logan's foot is healing nicely. The dislocation is perfectly in place and the fracture is knitting just as it should. He is now cleared to bear weight on it as he continues to wear the boot cast. He tried walking without the walker and can manage limited distances. If the neurosurgeon clears him next Tuesday, we will go to California for Easter weekend.
We hated saying good-bye to Valery as she began her drive up to Kansas City to catch her flight back to California this evening. Her presence allowed me precious hours of respite spent with my quilting buddies and enjoying a glass of wine with friend Sharon. Valery  cooked, she cleaned, she cheered us up, took us out for meals and spread joy.
Kevin and Rachel came down Friday afternoon. It was great seeing them and seeing Rachel's hair starting to grow out. Support of my family has been so healing to both Logan and me during these very difficult weeks.

Friday, April 4, 2014

School Daze

Logan returned to school for a few hours yesterday. He took a big nap when he got home. Today we went back to the school and met with the counselors to decide how to get him caught up. He will probably continue attending as his strength allows and fill in with homebound instruction. He was very pleased to get his computer back today. It survived the accident with only a shattered screen which has since been replaced.
Today is Colleen's last day here. I will miss her, she made a lot of progress with those of us mired in emotional quicksand. Tomorrow Valery arrives to spend a few days. It will be very comforting to see her as well.
Logan enjoys getting out and about and is tired of lying around on the couch. Today we went to Lambert's (Home of Throwed {sic} Rolls). I hate that place but going there is a right of passage for visitors. Tonight we will go to the school play "Mulan." Aunt Krista Cronin is doing the makeup for the performance and I'm eager to see her creativity in action.
These reports on Logan's progress are kind of dull and smack of "How I Spent My Summer Vacation,"type essays, bereft of any demonstration of writing skill, but I know there are several of you concerned about Logan's progress and I want to keep all of you in the loop. So look forward to several more days of simple factual reporting.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Small Stuff

Logan has an ingrown toenail. He's had it since before he was injured. I pointed it out to the medical team in the ER. They said not to worry about it, that he would be receiving massive doses of antibiotics that would take care of it. But, I continued to worry about it and would point it out to various medical folks over the next three weeks. Everyone assured me they would take care of it. No one did. It really began to annoy me. Yesterday, Logan had a check up at the trauma clinic. I pointed out the infected, swollen, oozing toe. They said, go see his primary care physician. So today we went to the primary care physician who looked at it, prescribed antibiotics, Epsom salt soaks, and a return visit in four weeks. I was not especially pleased at deferring aggressive treatment four more weeks. Then, a twenty-five year old man who had broken his neck in a motorcycle accident wheeled into the waiting room in his very elaborate wheel chair. He had come from his nearby apartment home where he lived with his grandmother. He is a paraplegic, completely paralyzed from the waist down with some limited use of his upper limbs, an intact mind and charming smile. He wanted a referral to physical therapy. He said he could get there three times a week when his grandmother went in for her dialysis.
I had been feeling so overwhelmed and sorry for myself, but oh man, lessons like this are a real sock in the gut. Ingrown toenails really are small stuff.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

To the Mall

Tomorrow is Danny's 25th birthday/ I think of him as my 50th birthday gift. Planning to celebrate Danny''s arrival around the 18th of April, we were all surprised when he made his appearance three weeks early. Because he was early, he was jaundiced, a bilirubin baby. He was placed under ultraviolet lights in a preemie isolette which his 8 pound 3 ounce body filled to overflowing. Had he been full term, the doctors speculated he would have weighed over eleven pounds.
Today Colleen took Logan out to the mall to gift shop for Danny. Logan propelled himself around on his scooter and wore himself out. When he got home, he recuperated with a four hour nap. Colleen's nap lasted only half that long.
Logan spent most of the rest of the day on the couch, cheering the Padres on to their first win of the season. All in all, it was a pretty good day.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Crash Report

Most of you already know Logan had a terrible automobile accident on March 6, 2014. While driving alone south of Ozark, he went off the road, crashed through some trees, and came to rest upside down in his car. Witnesses immediately called the highway patrol and went to the scene. Within fifteen minutes he was loaded into a helicopter and was on his way to the hospital. His injuries included a slight collapse of one lung, a severely dislocated left foot, and a crushed L1 vertebra. The foot was set immediately in the emergency room, the lung recovered without intervention, and he had surgery to replace his vertebra. The damaged vertebra was removed along with the surrounding discs, and a carbon "cage" filled with bone from one of his ribs was secured with titanium hardware. Fortunately, there was no nerve damage. He had lots of bruising and abrasions all over. He was conscious and communicating throughout the rescue and ER process.

Twenty days later, he returned home. Colleen is here with me and helping with his care as he quickly gains strength and ability to care for himself. He must use a back brace anytime he is not flat on his back, but he can put it on and take it off by himself. The walking cast on his foot remains on all the time, except when he is showering. A plethora of mobility assistance devices are at his disposal: crutches, a "scooter", and a walker. At the moment, he seems to prefer the walker because it is useful in getting up and down.

We have lots of follow-up appointments scheduled over the next weeks, but would love to see any of our friends who would like to stop by. Understandably, after such a long confinement in the hospital, Logan loves to get out. He has been out to the movies, dinner, and just riding along on errands.

Some days are still very difficult and filled with pain, others seem normal and bright. We look forward to tipping the balance toward brightness.

I am finding that scheduling all these appointments and taking care of all the business attendant to the accident and hospitalization require a great many phone calls. Because of my hearing loss, I don't do well on the phone and find using it stressful. Consequently, I may seem lax in my communication with all our caring family and friends. Please believe me, it is not intentional. I love and need all of you. I'm going to try resurrecting my blog, which I had thought had run its course, as a means of keeping all of you updated.