EXPERIMENTING…

Here I am, experimenting again with writing a blog post!  After all these years (since 2009), I didn’t expect to deal with such a clumsy way to write.

But I’m going to try.

So…let’s see what happens.  I’m going to try to add a photo.  Okay, there it is, but how do we size it?

Now for linking something. A book.

I just downloaded Life in Pieces, by Dawn O’Porter.

How can I link the photo?  It doesn’t seem to work.  Hmm.  Frustrations.

I welcome any feedback!

If you are reading this, I hope you can offer some clues for the journey. Thanks for sharing!

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SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS: SAVORING A TRADITION

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Good morning!  A week ago, I wrote some thoughts on Holidays: Sharing Life’s Unexpected Treasures.

In my post, I spotlighted some photos…and mentioned one special holiday tradition that began in 1979:  see photo above.

A couple of days after Thanksgiving, we found this great sculpture over at the local university, and a tradition was born.

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A few years later, we took another photo…I couldn’t find the snapshot, so I took a picture of the framed version from my iPhone…it’s not that great, but you get the idea:

 

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Fast forward to 1991…we tried to take the photo in 1989, set on the five-year intervals, but something went awry with our photographer (not my son that year!), and we couldn’t do it again until 1991:

 

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That was the last one we took of the original four kids!  Some grandchildren have tried…here are a couple of them…Fiona and Dominic in 2009:

 

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When my eldest son was here in the summer, we had hopes of recreating a shot of the Original Four…but again, one member of the crew was unavailable.

My second son, Brett, is the “Arbiter of the Tradition,” pushing for a recreation of those special moments.  He persisted…but despite his efforts, we were unable to pull it together.  Sigh.

Perhaps there are just some moments you cannot recreate…and you just have to find new traditions.  Or savor the memories of the old ones.

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Do you have traditions special to your family or group?  How do you maintain them?

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WHEN LIFE THROWS US A CURVE….

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Our lives are a journey, and they bring unexpected treasures—as well as obstacles and problems to solve.

My Blogging Journey has been like that, too, and over at Potpourri, I have detailed some of those moments.  In 2009, I created several blogs, and this one was originally An Accidental Life, in honor of the first book I published.  That premise was all about those moments in life that seem accidental…serendipitous.  We can choose to see them as annoying…or they can be viewed as gifts.

Here are some images, followed by a description of An Accidental Life:

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The cover was based on the A-Frame house in the foothills where I lived when I wrote the book:

 

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Summertime is hot and dull in the Central Valley of California and four teenage girls from very different families are determined to spice it up. With a single-mindedness that foretells disaster, they push aside all the rules and explore the underbelly of valley life. Drugs, sex, alcohol, adventure, anything to challenge the norm, yet all experienced without the benefit of maturity. As the girls become increasingly uncontrollable, their mothers–from dramatically diverse social backgrounds–are forced to work together to save their daughters. Like a tornado moving across the landscape, lives are wrenched from their foundations…

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The young girls in my book were based on teenagers with whom I worked in my social work career…and I borrowed some of the characteristics from my daughter and her friends…embellishing them, of course, and fictionalizing them.

To this day, my daughter thinks the character Bridget is her…and she isn’t far off base.

The setting of the novel is California’s Central Valley, where I have lived for more than 40 years!  I cannot believe it even as I write the words.

I never intended to “end up” here:  another of life’s accidental moments…or unexpected treasures, depending on how you view it.

That’s what I am trying to share in the book.  Perhaps it seems as though life throws us challenges, accidentally, as it were.  But we do have a choice.  What we do with those unexpected events can inform our lives.  Are they a curse…or are they unexpected treasures?

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I just changed the “look” of this blog again…the image of the blackboard on the header and background take me back to my favorite moments:  school.  Especially my early years, when my teachers wrote on those blackboards. 

I grew up on a farm and had little exposure to many of the ideas I would find in school.  I soaked them up, like the treasures they were.

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What unexpected events in your life have transformed you, for good or bad?  Did you find that you could look at each thing from a different perspective?

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AUTUMN LEAVES: NOSTALGIC MOMENTS

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On a somewhat cooler Friday morning, I sit in my temporary office in the dining area…and gaze out the open patio door at the image (above), which reminds me that autumn is on the way.  Just a few leaves on the table, but that’s all I need to sweep me back to all the autumns of the past, moments I’ve loved.

First of all, I love the colorful leaves juxtaposed against rough surfaces, like these:

 

 

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Some of my sensory moments from the past exist no more, as they include the scent of smoke from fireplaces…not something we like to think about when we are surrounded by fires….Our drought, the heat, all the elements that conspire to bring frightening conflagration during the summer and fall.

 

 

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My first published novel was set in California’s Central Valley, published in the fall of 2006….and it contained a lot of my “accidental moments” from the past:  An Accidental Life.

 

 

 

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Blurb:  Summertime is hot and dull in the Central Valley of California and four teenage girls from very different families are determined to spice it up. With a single-mindedness that foretells disaster, they push aside all the rules and explore the underbelly of valley life. Drugs, sex, alcohol, adventure, anything to challenge the norm, yet all experienced without the benefit of maturity. As the girls become increasingly uncontrollable, their mothers-from dramatically diverse social castes-are forced to work together to save their daughters. Like a tornado moving across the landscape, lives are wrenched from their foundations. Page after page, and over a period of two years, the author introduces characters who struggle to support and defeat the dreams of what began as four innocent girls desiring to taste the forbidden fruit. Laurel-Rain Snow’s An Accidental Life is a fascinating look into not only the lives of very diverse family systems, but the mechanism that drives a cross-section of an all-American community.

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When I think of autumn, I think of those accidental moments in life:  leaves, fire, combustible happenings fueled by drugs and youth….and my nostalgia ratchets up to its fullest.

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Today I am thinking about family….and how my eldest son Craig and his lovely wife Gabi are now on the coast, having spent the week driving down 101 and the Pacific Coast Hwy., enjoying the coolness, before heading this way again.

The house is spiffed up, as described in this post, Spiffing up My Interior World:  The Berliners Return.

I am on my laptop in my temporary office, below, enjoying the autumn breeze.  Already I can feel the heat, though, and will have to close the door and sigh.  Not quite autumn!

 

 

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I am reading All the Summer Girls, by Meg Donohue, clinging to the last gasp of summer.

 

 

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A rich and detailed novel about women, relationships, and forgiveness. 

Now I will move from my laptop to my cozy couch and read.  Enjoy your day!  What autumn moments are tugging at you?

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ENJOYING LIFE’S UNEXPECTED TREASURES: FAMILY VISIT

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Earlier I wrote about how having house guests led to a few shake-ups in my interior world.

Yes, I did some reshuffling to make my guest room/office more comfortable for my son and DIL, who will be staying here on and off for a while.  First I removed that “jutting out” bookcase from the room, along with those books.

 

 

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Then I created my temporary work station, as seen at the top of this post.  And here’s another view of that work station:

 

 

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And back in the office/guest room, here is the changed space (below).

 

 

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And another view:

 

 

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And while all this rearranging is going on, we are having get-togethers, like Margarita Night, which I posted about in my Weekly Updates

 

 

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And some other fun-filled days, beginning with the first night’s dinner at Heather’s:  corned beef and cabbage.

 

 

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Here’s Gabi, enjoying the bear outside a pub in Shaver Lake, a mountain community above us.

 

 

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This week, Craig and Gabi will be at Heather’s house, although I’ll be joining them for dinners, etc.

Back at home, I am reading and bingeing on Netflix...just like I did before.  As if nothing has changed.  But knowing that more adventures lie ahead.

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PASSING THE TORCH: SAYING GOODBYE TO “SPARKY”

Remember Sparky?  Here I am, above, reading from its beautiful pages.  My daughter gifted me with this lovely device in 2010, at Christmas.  She was gently trying to tell me that my books were taking over my life, and if I wanted them to be less visible, I should start buying e-books.

I wasn’t so sure about it, but once I got the knack of reading from it, and after I named the device, I was in.

But as all things must come to an end, I knew I needed to upgrade.  So Pippa came into my life.

 

 

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But what about Sparky?  Well, long story short:  my youngest grandson, Noah, aged 12, who loves accompanying me to bookstores, asked if he could have it.  Of course!  How appropriate to pass the torch to him, especially since his mother gave me Sparky in the first place.

I was new to how all this works.  First I had to deregister it, and I thought that would be it.  But no, there is more to it.  My books were still showing.  Then I realized that I needed to return to the “factory default setting,” and voila!  Books gone.

Now he can begin his own collection.

 

 

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Yes, it is only fitting that this kid who loves books…and devices, would be the perfect recipient for Sparky.  Live on, Sparky!  Have fun, Noah!

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REVIEW: BALTIMORE BLUES, BY LAURA LIPPMAN

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In the first book of the Tess Monaghan series, Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan Novel Book 1), Tess is feeling adrift. It has been two years since her newspaper job ended, and she has yet to discover her new “true passion.”

Meanwhile, she does odd jobs and works in her Aunt Kitty’s bookstore, while living upstairs in a tiny apartment. She has regular routines, however, like daily exercise, including running and the occasional rowing with her friend Rock (Darryl Paxton).

One day, he asks her for a favor, for which he will pay her what will be a rather nice amount, so she agrees. He wants her to follow his fiancé, Ava Hill, who works for a well-known law firm in Baltimore. She is reluctant, but soon finds herself immersed in it all. Could this kind of work be her new passion?

But what Tess discovers leads to a series of unfortunate incidents. Ava seems to be having an affair with one of her bosses, Michael Abramowitz, and Tess somehow threatens Ava into telling Rock herself, before she does. What she hadn’t anticipated would be Ava lying and making it sound as if Abramowitz had “forced” her.

So when Abramowitz ends up dead, shortly after Rock had been to see him, Rock is arrested and charged with the murder.

His lawyer, another old rowing buddy, convinces Tess to continue working as an investigative assistant, searching for possible suspects or ways to create reasonable doubt.

From there, the story takes a number of somewhat curious turns as Tess follows one clue after another, revealing to the reader how much she still has to learn. Much of what she discovers could be considered accidental, and where it all ends up is rather serendipitous. But in the end, there is a satisfactory resolution. A few other casualties along the way make it all seem realistic for a novice detective.

I have read and enjoyed several books in this series, and my favorite parts involve Tess in her surroundings, with her friends, while enjoying an insider’s view of her world. This first outing was not my favorite, but I have added Tess to my list of intriguing detectives. 4.0 stars.

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.

 

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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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WEEKLY SUNDAY/MONDAY UPDATES: HOT DAYS ARE HERE!

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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, and let’s talk about our weeks.

 

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I just came home after seeing the movie The Fault in Our Stars.  I loved the book…and now the movie.  It is definitely one that I will buy when the DVD comes out!  Who has seen it?  What did you think?

 

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My reading week was strange.  Awesome books, not so awesome one, and then a slight SLUMP.  Luckily I found my way out of it.

 

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Potpourri:  Netflix, Reading, & Nostalgia

Curl up with Intros/Teasers:  “Keep Your Friends Close”

Hump Day Potpourri:  Waiting for “I Love You More”

Fantasy Interiors vs. Reality:  Organizing My Stuff

Secrets & the After-Effects:  An Excerpt from “Interior Designs”

Thursday Potpourri:  Alas, a Reading Slump!  What to Do?

Creative Friday:  Book Beginnings/Friday 56 – “The Stories We Tell”

A Movie I Can’t Wait to See!  “The Fault in Our Stars”

Creative Saturday:  A Room of Her Own

Review:  The Appetites of Girls, by Pamela Moses

Review:  The Fault in Our Stars (e-book), by John Green

Review:  The Headmaster’s Wife (e-book), by Thomas Christopher Greene

Review:  Second Chance Grill (e-book), by Christine Nolfi (Mt. TBR Challenge)

 

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INCOMING BOOKS:  (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

One review book came in the mail…and I downloaded four e-books!

 

1.  Real Murder (A Lovers in Crime Mystery), by Lauren Carr

 

 

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Downloads:

 

Scared Scriptless (e-book), by Alison Sweeney

 

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My Salinger Year (e-book), by Joanna Rakoff

 

 

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Sensuous Burgundy (e-book), by Barbara Delinsky

 

 

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Little Lies (e-book) (Prequel to Little Mercies), by Heather Gudenkauf

 

 

 

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

 

Keep Your Friends Close, by Paula Daly (Vine Review)

 

 

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Abroad, by Katie Crouch (Vine Review)

 

 

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The Stories We Tell, by Patti Callahan Henry (Vine Review)

 

 

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A Matter of Choice (e-book), by Nora Roberts (Mt. TBR Challenge)

 

 

 

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Another week has passed….and as we ponder the week ahead, let’s chat!  What are you reading and blogging about?

 

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FROM RECLUSE TO “ZEN GODDESS” – AN AUTHOR’S ACCIDENTAL LIFE

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When aging novelist Amy Gallup has a freak accident in her backyard, only hours before a scheduled interview that she has almost forgotten, nothing could have prepared her for the subsequent fallout of her literal “fall.”

Almost immediately, we are struck by the theme of how accidents can have such unexpected consequences, but for Amy, her accident thrusts her into an ensuing period of renewed interest in her work, as well as to participation in a number of radio interviews and panel discussions throughout the country.

Up until then, Amy had been a recluse for years. And as we see her struggling against participating in the events that unfold, we are shown some of her backstory, including her marriage to her best friend Max and a subsequent marriage to someone she thinks of as “Bob,” complete with quotes; and the thought of whom makes her cringe to this day. We learn more about why as we keep turning those pages.

Amy is the kind of character I enjoy, for her eccentric charm, witty repartee, and even for her struggle to remain a private person. But it was also fun to watch her slowly coming into her own in this new age of social media and realizing that she could roll with those punches,too. One of the funniest events involved a panel discussion and a firestorm of tweets that bombarded her on that day, and on subsequent days on her blog.

What did Amy learn most about herself along the way? How did her new experiences change the way she viewed her future? And what did her basset hound Alphonse contribute to her new world?

A book that was funny and charming, and a little quirky, Amy Falls Down: A Novel kept my attention throughout most of it, but there were some moments in the middle when it didn’t quite grab me. But before I turned away from it entirely, I kept going and the story engaged me once again. Four stars.