A SERENDIPITOUS EVENING: CELEBRATING THE MOMENTS

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Monday night was a series of serendipitous moments, brought about by an invitation to dinner at the home of Heather and Steven, my daughter and her fiance.

Friends and family gathered together to celebrate food and connections.  And the delightful eggplant lasagna (above) was the centerpiece.

We always have such wonderful conversations, too, about what’s happening in our lives; and about the assorted topics of books, movies, and TV shows.

Noah, who will be twelve in a few months, is an animated conversationalist as well, joining in like the adults.  He has always been that way, probably because he is my daughter’s only child and has been surrounded by adults all of his life.  He has charted his own course, too, enjoying life’s discoveries.

In this photo (below), he is toddling along near the house in the foothills where he lived for the first three years of his life.

 

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The guesthouse just down the sloping lawn from the main house was his first home.

 

 

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Here is where the family gathered back then, going back and forth between the two houses; and (below), he is pictured (left) with his Uncle Chris and cousin Aiden (on the right)

 

 

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I miss those curls…but his more grown-up look is also awesome.  Here he is with his mom:  Heather.

 

Heather and Noah

Serendipitous family moments;  the stuff of contentment.

What has your week been like?  Any accidental/serendipitous moments?

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I also had to change the header here…just for fun!

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REVIEW: THE UNWITTING, BY ELLEN FELDMAN

91wYirk+gzL._SL1500_Our story begins on November 22, 1963, when we meet Charlie and Nell Benjamin, poised for an ordinary day, living the writer’s life in Manhattan. But nothing about this day would be ordinary. Grief, both the country’s grief and her own, would overwhelm Nell for the foreseeable future.

We are then swept back in time, to college years, and to how Charlie and Nell first met. We are exposed to what happened to them during the McCarthy years, and how that era felt to writers and intellectuals with liberal leanings, and we can experience the dark and malevolent shadow of evil that lingered for years.

They were a couple for whom writing was a way of life and even though their choices tested the conventional roles of their time, the two of them, even after the birth of their daughter Abby, seemed to be coping. Their idealism kept them going, even when life was difficult.

But in the pivotal moments after Charlie’s mysterious death, bits and pieces of who he really was began to come to Nell from various sources, including a televised piece that suggested some unethical funding for the literary magazine they both loved. How did the secrets and lies change who they were and what they contributed? Did the secrets change who they had been, or is there another way to see it?

When Nell writes a piece about what she has learned, readers react in interesting ways. Some applaud her, while others suggest that Charlie was just doing right by his country. “Others railed against him for undermining the American system and warned that the road to tyranny was paved with means justified by ends.”

In the end, Nell comes to her own conclusions that allow for the imperfections in others, the ambiguity of ideals, and holding onto what remains. A person could focus on the transgressions and misdemeanors or zero in on the “glue that held you, no matter what.” The Unwitting: A Novel was a thoughtful journey through a time in our country and in the life of one family. Memorable. 4.5 stars.

WEEKLY SUNDAY/MONDAY UPDATES: BLOGGIESTA – OLE!

PicMonkey Collage-WEEKLY UPDATES IN JULY

 

Good morning!  Today’s post will link up to Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post,  and Book Journey, for  Weekly Updates.

**Mailbox Monday is now hosted at the home site:  Mailbox Monday.

Good morning, Bloggers!  Grab some coffee (or a mimosa), and let’s talk about our weeks.

 

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So far this weekend, I’ve been enjoying spiffing up this blog for Mini-Bloggiesta.    Are any of you participating?

 

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

A Guilty Pleasures Day:  Netflix & Chocolate Ice Cream

Curl up with Intros/Teasers – “Big Little Lies”

Tuesday Potpourri:  An Obsessive/Compulsive Week

Going out on a Limb for “Some Luck”

My Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts – Waiting

Friday Sparks:  Book Beginnings/Friday 56 – “Pain, Parties, Work”

Mini-Bloggiesta – Launched!

Family Values:  A Dysfunctional Family Holiday

Review:  Small Blessings, by Martha Woodroof

Review:  Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

Review:  Pain, Parties, Work (e-book), by Elizabeth Winder (Mt. TBR Challenge)

 

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INCOMING BOOKS:  (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

No books came in the mailbox!  But I purchased one book at Barnes & Noble and downloaded two for Sparky.

 

What Remains (Memoir), by Carole Radziwill

 

 

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Downloads:

 

After the Party (e-book), by Lisa Jewell

 

 

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The Bell Jar (e-book), by Sylvia Plath

 

 

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UP NEXT WEEK: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

 

The Unwitting (e-book), by Ellen Feldman

 

 

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Katwalk, by Maria Murnane (Amazon Vine)

 

 

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Waiting for the Moon, by Kristin Hannah (Mt. TBR Challenge)

 

 

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That’s my week!  What did yours look like?

 

 

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MINI-BLOGGIESTA: LAUNCHED!

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Since I did not see a Starting Gate for this Mini-Bloggiesta, I have brought my To-Do list forward, and will be tracking my progress here.

What are you doing for this event?

Here is my To-Do List, crossed out as I finish things:

 

To-Do List:

  1.  do two mini challenges - 1)  Decluttering Sidebar, Debz Bookshelf; Digital Decluttering, Books a True Story
  2.  change or fix one thing on your sidebar  Removed three outdated elements
  3.  add a page (about me, contact, policy, etc) Added page on favorite reads; updated Favorite Blogs page
  4.  change one thing on your layout and/or look (Changed header, background, and tagline)
  5.  comment on other Bloggiesta partipants blogs
  6.  participate in at least one Twitter chat

 

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WEEKLY SUNDAY/MONDAY UPDATES: THE LONG HOT SUMMER CONTINUES….

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Good morning!  Today’s post will link up to Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post,  and Book Journey, for  Weekly Updates.

**Mailbox Monday is now hosted at the home site:  Mailbox Monday.

Good morning, Bloggers!  Grab some coffee (or a mimosa), and let’s talk about our weeks.

 

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Are you enjoying your summer?  Or the opposite season for those living down under?  I can’t believe that July is almost half over, but when I got my utility bill with the air conditioning charges, I totally believed we are in the midst of a “long hot summer.”

Here’s what my week looked like…

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Tuesday Sparks:  Intros/Teasers – “Little Mercies”

From the Interior:  Eagerly Anticipating “The Children Act”

My Favorite Places to Curl up and Read:  My Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

The First Day of the Rest of Her Life:  An Excerpt

Curl up with Book Beginnings/Friday 56 – “Small Blessings”

Creative Saturday:  Spotlight on Street Art

Blindsided by a Phone Call:  An Excerpt from “Interior Designs”

Mini-Bloggiesta is Coming – July 19-20

Review:  Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, by Susan Elia MacNeal (Mt. TBR Challenge)

Review:  Little Mercies (e-book), by Heather Gudenkauf

Review:  The Silver Boat, by Luanne Rice – Mt. TBR Challenge

Review:  The From-Aways, by C. J. Hauser (Vine Review)

 

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INCOMING BOOKS:  (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

 

I received one book in my mailbox that I purchased, and I downloaded one purchased e-book.  A nice quiet week for new books.

 

Thursday’s Children (Frieda Klein Series), by Nicci French

 

 

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The Escape Artist (e-book), by Diane Chamberlain

 

 

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I am a big fan of both authors.  Thursday’s Children is the fourth book in the Frieda Klein series; and the Diane Chamberlain book is one I hadn’t yet read or seen around the blogosphere.

 

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WHAT’S COMING NEXT? (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

 

Small Blessings, by Martha Woodroof (Vine Review)

 

 

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Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty (Vine Review)

 

 

 

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Pain, Parties, Work:  Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953  (e-book), by Elizabeth Winder

 

 

 

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And that’s it, folks!  On to another week in this long, hot summer!  What did your week look like?  All week long, I have spent my afternoons with tall glasses of iced tea.  What do you do to beat the heat?

 

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MINI-BLOGGIESTA IS COMING! JULY 19-20TH

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Coming on July 19 and 20th:  Mini-Bloggiesta.

I have adapted the To-Do List to fit my needs for this blog, where I will be making the changes.

 

To-Do List:

  1.  do two mini challenges - 1)  Decluttering Sidebar, Debz Bookshelf; Digital Decluttering, Books a True Story
  2.  change or fix one thing on your sidebar  Removed three outdated elements
  3.  add a page (about me, contact, policy, etc) Added page on favorite reads; updated Favorite Blogs page
  4.  change one thing on your layout and/or look (Changed header, background, and tagline)
  5.  comment on other Bloggiesta partipants blogs
  6.  participate in at least one Twitter chat

 

 

What will you be focusing on during the weekend?  I hope you’ll stop by and share your changes.

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REVIEW: LITTLE MERCIES, BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

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Their lives were in a constant state of never-ending schedules and arrangements. Between the two of them were jobs, parenthood, and communicating the arrangements that would successfully get them through their days. Ellen’s social work career is especially stressful, with interruptions to her sleep and family life. But life in Cedar City, Iowa, is just about to get more troubling for Ellen and her family, when, on one especially hectic morning, Adam and Ellen Moore make a serious error in communication that would have disastrous and life-altering repercussions.

Meanwhile, the trajectory of another life is also impacted when young Jenny Briard, aged ten, has crossed paths with Ellen in the form of her mother Maudene. Jenny is fleeing the unknown of her own life back in Benton, Nebraska, where she saw her father arrested just as the bus they were boarding is set to leave for Iowa. She meets Maudene when she enters a Happy Pancake restaurant in Cedar City, a familiar site she has enjoyed back home.

Alternate narrators lead us through Little Mercies: Ellen’s first person narrative shows us her inner thoughts and feelings as she traverses the unknown terrain of life on the other side of the courtroom. Someone who is charged with an offense. Someone who realizes, with alarm, that her reputation as a professional and valued social worker cannot protect her from what unfolds. In some ways, her position seems to have intensified the reactions of the public and the press.

In Jenny’s narrative, told convincingly in her youthful voice, we learn her fears, her worries, and how she perceives the life changes she is experiencing. And in her quest to find family, she has placed herself on a path to hidden dangers.

With the lives of these characters seemingly in freefall, the “little mercies” include those who offer them the necessary support as they face what lies ahead.

One such person for both Ellen and Jenny was Maudene. I was especially drawn to this scene between Ellen and her mother, in which Maudene relates an incident from her own past, when she made a mistake that could have ended badly:

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have our moments. We all have those times when we turn our backs, close our eyes, become unguarded…We’ll get through this. You have to look for the little mercies, the small kindnesses and good that comes from the terrible.”

As a parent and a retired social worker, I was especially drawn to this story of the events that can transform lives, and how we all can look back and consider how our lives could have turned on a dime if one small choice or action had ended differently. Since none of us are immune to life’s unexpected tragedies, perhaps we can afford to look with empathy and kindness on others. An emotional read that had me crying tears of sadness…and then joy. Five stars.