HOLIDAYS: SHARING LIFE’S UNEXPECTED TREASURES

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is a day chock full of family, friends, and stories.

Yes, no matter whether or not I’m celebrating with my own kids and grandkids, or with friends, everyone shares stories at some point.  Some of my favorites are those moments we treasure from the past.

The photos capture those memories from the past, like this one from Thanksgiving 2009.  Typically, we gather a couple of days after the holiday in a restaurant, and not everyone is there every year, but this one shows a fairly good group gathering together:

 

Thanksgiving 2009

As time passes, we tend to have more people missing, as they go their separate ways:  Alec attending UC in Berkeley; Aubrey in San Diego; and Fiona visiting friends in other places.

I treasure the photos and the memories, however, and when we can, we catch up with those we “missed” on the holiday.

A couple of years ago, we had our most successful turnout:

 

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This year will be a small group again, as some of the older kids have jobs, and Alec will be back at Berkeley the day after Thanksgiving.

But when we gather together, we will have stories to tell, anyway.  And memories.

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We love talking about the last Thanksgiving we shared in the foothills, (2006) in the guest house next door to my main house.  The kids were pretty young that year.  My youngest son is holding his youngest, Aiden, on the right, and Noah, who is the youngest grandchild, on his left.

 

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Here is the group in 2003, the year we first began having our holiday in the foothills.

 

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What an odd assortment of photos, right?  I like seeing how everyone has grown and changed, and the memories keep those times alive for me.

Do you find yourself remembering past holidays when the season rolls around?

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HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: WAITING FOR “NO CHILD OF MINE” — MAY 8

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Welcome to another event that features books we are eagerly awaiting.  Visit Jill, at Breaking the Spine, to see what everyone is anticipating.

I just discovered a book that is my kind of read.  No Child of Mine, by Susan Lewis, is a glimpse into a devoted social worker’s world.  To be released on May 14, 2013.

 

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Alex Lake’s day job is all about helping people, especially children. She cares about them passionately and does everything in her power to rescue them from those who mean them harm. It’s as frustrating a career as it can be rewarding, though all too often she is left wondering if she has done enough. When the case of three-year-old Ottilie Wade comes to her attention everything changes. She finds herself completely unable to detach from the child the way she should, and feels an overpowering need to make a real difference in little Ottilie’s life. To do this she needs the support of her superiors, but no one is prepared to believe that Ottilie is in danger. In the end, Alex follows the only course left to her, and takes law into her own hands.

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What book is calling to you today?  Come on by and share….

ONE WOMAN’S EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION — A REVIEW

16162841From the beginning, their relationship had an imbalance built into it by the very double standard that often defined relationships in those times. It was the 1970s and they were in college when they began, and even though Alice was feeling the thrill of realizing her own dreams, the marriage between her and George was not to be an equal one.

He expected her to give up on her career aspirations, since he could provide financial support for them. None of her protests changed anything. She could have fought, you might say. Or demanded her due. But George was one of those men that women loved. Alice didn’t feel she could keep him unless she gave in.

Thus begins the tale of these two. Emancipating Alice takes the reader from these beginnings and the inequity of their relationship and leads us through the challenges of child rearing—mostly for Alice, since George’s presence was as the fun-loving dad—and into the later years when something from the past rises up and changes the dynamic between them.

In the first chapter, we see that George has died and that Alice, at the market, seems to have some kind of prescience about his demise. What we learn slowly and gradually is how the entrapment of one partner by the other can begin gradually until it is firmly entrenched, and that only a drastic action can sever the ropes that bind them together.

Why does George have numerous secret files? How is Alice able to finally take back her power? And what has eaten away at Alice’s relationship with her daughter Elaine until the two are like cold strangers? What will Alice do after the funeral to finally emancipate herself?

Divided into sections, we first see the story from Alice’s perspective, followed by George’s viewpoint. Otherwise, I might have simply detested George, whom we see in a somewhat distorted version in the beginning. But George’s point of view is also skewed, with the justifications for his behavior on full display.

Like most marriages, there are definitely two sides to the story…and sometimes more than two. The offspring of a couple add another dimension to the family dynamic and change how events will unfold.

A delightful and captivating read, this story was enjoyable. There were some punctuation and grammatical issues that distracted me at times, but the novel’s depth and layers, as well as my curiosity, kept me reading. Four stars.

SERENDIPITOUS WEDNESDAYS: WAITING ON “THE CAT” — FEB. 13

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Good morning, Blog World!  Welcome to another Serendipitous Wednesday, in which we celebrate the books we are eagerly anticipating.  Join our host,  Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Today I’m sharing about a book that grabbed my attention awhile ago.  The Cat, by Edeet Ravel, a story of loss and learning how to go on afterwards, will be released on March 26, 2013.

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SINGLE MOTHER ELISE IS completely devoted to her eleven-year-old son; he is her whole world. But that world is destroyed in one terrifying moment when her son is killed in a car accident just outside their home. Suddenly alone, surrounded by memories, Elise faces a future that feels unspeakably bleak—and pointless.

Lost, angry, and desolate, Elise rejects everyone who tries to reach out to her. But as despair threatens to engulf her, she realizes, to her horror, that she cannot join her son: She must take care of his beloved cat. At first she attempts to carry out this task entirely by herself, shut away from a frightening new reality that seems surreal and incomprehensible. But isolation proves to be impossible, and before long others insinuate themselves into her life—friends, enemies, colleagues, neighbors, a former lover—bringing with them the fragile beginnings of survival.

Powerfully moving and deeply humane, The Cat is an unforgettable novel about the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit.

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What do you think?  I know I’m eager to read this, because I thoroughly connect to stories about resilience after tragedy. 

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: INTROS/TEASERS — THE HEIR — OCT. 9

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Today I’m excerpting from The Heir, by Barbara Taylor Bradford.

 

 

Intro: (Chapter One – Ravenscar, 1918)

It was a compulsion, the way he came down to this stretch of beach whenever he returned to Ravenscar.

A compulsion indeed, but also an overwhelming need to recapture, in his mind’s eye, their faces…their faces not yet cold and waxen in death, but still warm.  Neville, his mentor, his partner in so many schemes and adventures; Johnny, his beloved companion of their youth.  He had loved them well and true, these Watkins brothers, these cousins of his who had been his allies.

At least until a mixture of hurt feelings, overweening ambition, flaring emotions, and dangerous elements had intervened and pried then apart.  They had become sworn enemies, much to Edward’s chagrin, a pain that had never ceased to trouble him.  And now Johnny and Neville were dead.

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Teaser:  Cecily Watkins Deravenel sat alone in the library.  She had positioned herself on one of the large, overstuffed sofas near the fireplace and was enjoying a cup of coffee, thinking about her little grandson. p. 16

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Amazon Description:  At the age of thirty-three, Edward Deravenel, having survived harrowing years of betrayal, threats from ruthless enemies, countless lovers, and a war that ravaged his country, is finally king of his company. It’s 1918, an influenza pandemic is sweeping the country, and Edward has a family and a business to protect. He must thread his way between his loyal brother, Richard, and his treacherous middle brother, George, an alcoholic bent on self-destruction . . . but not before he tries to ruin Edward and his good name. Meanwhile, the wrath of his ever-jealous wife, Elizabeth, is reaching a boiling point as suspicions about Edward’s relationships with other women arise.

Politics of inheritance are intense, and different family factions vie for honor over the years. An heir is needed to keep the Deravenel name alive, but tragedy and death remain obstacles at every turn. The choices include a loyal caretaker, a jealous rumormonger, a charming young woman, a sickly boy, and the scion of the family Edward ousted from power years before.

Barbara Taylor Bradford triumphs once again with a novel about passion, treachery, marriage, and family, and the compromises we’re forced to make for power and love.

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So…would you keep reading?  I know that I have thoroughly enjoyed Barbara Taylor Bradford’s books, especially the Harte series.  This one is taking me a bit to warm up to…but I’m going to give it a try.

What are the rest of you sharing?  I’m now off to check your excerpts.

BLOGGIESTA MINI-CHALLENGE: GETTING PERSONAL — SEPT. 29

“Getting personal” on my blogs is something I do fairly often.  Whenever there is an event that allows us to show bits and pieces of our interior world, I’m there.

In my books (five published so far) I do share about my life “back in the day,” with the protest marches and the flower power.  This blog commemorates some of those moments, hence the “hippie” aura to the header and background.

Today my life is about writing, blogging, and reading…and enjoying my four grown kids and seven grandchildren.  I often showcase family moments on Saturday Snapshots, and my Potpourri blog is another setting for my “sharing.”

For those who have read my blogs, they have already seen my quirky obsessiveness that manifests itself in numerous redecorating and blog makeovers.  Not to mention adding blogs, followed by merging of a few of them.  At this point, I have eleven sites.

Why so many?  Each one represents a different aspect of myself and my interests, and gives me an opportunity to spotlight my “alternate” selves.

At my website, you can find a page listing all the blogs…along with info on the books published and WIPs.

Here are some versions of me.  In 1968, with my two oldest children.

Above:  Photo of me with my third child and youngest son (1972)

And here I am in 1977 with my daughter.

And here’s a recent shot of two of my grown children (2nd and 4th, in the rear) and six grandchildren.

I share family moments in my blogs…a lot.

Oh…and I guess I should mention that, along the way, I spent three decades as a social worker, specializing in child welfare services.

So what does the “face” behind your blog look like?  I’m eager to find out more.

CHRONICLING A FAMILY DYNASTY: A REVIEW — SEPT. 14

They burst upon the theatrical and movie-going world as individuals with talent, charisma, and sheer brilliance. Each member of the Redgrave family brought to life a combination of their rare gifts, even as each of them had their share of flaws and troubles.

Beginning with Michael Redgrave, The Redgraves: A Family Epic chronicles the personal and public lives of each of them, and takes the reader from Michael’s birth to the lives of descendants in the year 2012.

Michael and his wife Rachel had an unconventional relationship, but the marriage lasted until their deaths. Michael’s issues with sexuality were mostly hidden due to society’s taboos.

Vanessa, Corin, and Lynn were the talented progeny who each showed early signs of the famous talents of their parents.

Political views and actions were also brought into the mix, especially with Vanessa and Corin protesting various wars over the years, and the ramifications of these actions were shared with the reader.

The next generation included Vanessa’s children Natasha and Joely Richardson, as well as Corin’s daughter Jemma.

Narrated in a somewhat dry style, with mostly facts detailing theatrical and movie productions and various marriages and liaisons, the book left me feeling as if I had entered a classroom where a professor told, rather than showed me, what I had hoped to learn. I was delighted to learn more about this fabulous family, but the narrative didn’t work for me. Three stars.

TSS: A MONTH (AND A WEEK) IN REVIEW: SEPT. 2

Good morning!  Welcome to our end-of-the week review at Sunday Salon.

Incidentally, we have also just ended another month…and it was a HOT one in my part of the world.

What was your month (and week) like?

Just as I was getting ready to write this post, I realized that I hadn’t yet posted my Monthly Reading Wrap-Up...so I did.  Check it out!

Many of you are celebrating the Labor Day weekend…

When I was young (in the olden days!), Labor Day weekend marked the official end of summer, followed by the start of school.

Nowadays, kids here have been in school for two or more weeks….

My granddaughter Fiona spent the weekend here, taking a break from school…and enjoying her music.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, three of my other grandchildren set off for school, enjoying their return to “earth” after their European travels during the Olympics.

As for the past week, I did some blogging, beginning with a Monday Potpourri, in which I mused about strange and weird books.

Then I had some Creative Fun, sharing thoughts about Pinterest, blog headers, and excerpting from a WIP.  Wednesday found me Checking In at the ROW 80 Challenge and posting an Interview with Author Carol Kilgore.

Hump Day Potpourri is often a fun place to share thoughts and commiserate about reading and blogging and life.

Then I did something I hadn’t done in awhile:  I posted Thoughts From the Interior:  Creative Obsessions.

Sweet Saturday Samples:  Commiserating, continued our journey with Martha and Maeve, characters from Interior Designs.

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I finished three books this week:  and will probably finish the fourth one today.

Reading:

1.  The Meryl Streep Movie Club, by Mia March

2.  Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch, by Haywood Smith

3.  Against My Will, by Benjamin Berkley (Review will go up on Oct. 1 during Blog Tour)

4.  The Song Remains the Same, by Allison Winn Scotch (Review should be up later today).

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Unexpectedly, Fiona and I decided to grab a movie neither of us had seen (but she has read the book); it was playing at one of our older theaters.

The Hunger Games!

Now I just might have to read the series!

What does your weekend look like?  Trips, stayvacations, etc.?  I plan to read some more…watch some movies, and take a nap!

SERENDIPITOUS WEDNESDAY: WAITING FOR “WE SINNERS” — JULY 25

Welcome to a Serendipitous Wednesday in which we discover upcoming releases we’re excited about.  Hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine, hop on over and see what’s coming.

My featured book today is scheduled for release on August 21, 2012.  We Sinners, by Hanna Pylvainen, is the story of a family of eleven in the American Midwest, bound together and torn apart by their faith.

The Rovaniemis and their nine children belong to a deeply traditional church (no drinking, no dancing, no TV) in modern-day Michigan. A normal family in many ways, the Rovaniemis struggle with sibling rivalry, parental expectations, and forming their own unique identities in such a large family. But when two of the children venture from the faith, the family fragments and a haunting question emerges: Do we believe for ourselves, or for each other? Each chapter is told from the distinctive point of view of a different Rovaniemi, drawing a nuanced, kaleidoscopic portrait of this unconventional family. The children who reject the church learn that freedom comes at the almost unbearable price of their close family ties, and those who stay struggle daily with the challenges of resisting the temptations of modern culture. With precision and potent detail, We Sinners follows each character on their journey of doubt, self-knowledge, acceptance, and, ultimately, survival.

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I’m expecting a review copy soon…and I can’t wait!  What are you all waiting for?  Come on by and share….

A LONG JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF & LOSS — A REVIEW

Filled with themes of struggle, loss, and triumph, Rain portrays a family through the decades. From the 1960s to the mid-2000s, this journey of one family living in rural Australia is a testament to survival in the face of extremes.

A fire in the mill owned by the Wallin family is only the beginning of what seems like a trail of grief. The theme of rain peppers the pages, too; not just the seasonal rains that bring devastation but the symbolic rain of grief and loss.

But the rains can also remind us of other things, as in this excerpt:

 

 

 

 

 

(Carla, the third generation daughter is contemplating the rain). “I am waiting for the rain to pass so I can hike again through the bush—I go there in search of my guide. There is something about the rain. I have always found it comforting. It makes me feel warm even when it is cold. I love the way it smells, especially the way the bush smells after the rain. I love the way it tastes and I love the way it feels on my skin. Rain is life—everything grows from it….”

When I chose this family saga, I expected something quite different. I enjoyed the symbolism, the struggles, and the persistence of the characters despite the tragedies that seemed to flank them. Perhaps even because of the tragedies. But parts of the story seemed bogged down by a tendency toward “chronicling” the lives of the characters rather than showing them through their interactions and through dialogue.

I did care about what happened to them, but at times, I felt frustrated by the detached tone of the author. I would still recommend this book to those who enjoy family stories. My rating is 3.5 stars.