RETURNING TO MY ROOTS

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Today I’ve been thinking about those accidental moments in our lives, the happenstance…the SERENDIPITY.

All of those themes that are featured in the book I first published, An Accidental Life, and created in the A-frame house pictured above.

 

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As I recall the history of that book and this blog, I took a look at my “about” page, and decided to excerpt this portion:

 

When I decided to create this blog, I had been contemplating some issues about life and choices…and how sometimes we end up accidentally in one place or another, either because we made a choice that had these results, or perhaps because we didn’t make a choice…and life just happened to us.  Serendipitously.

In working with dysfunctional families as a social worker (for three decades!), I saw many of my clients making “choices” in this way.  Just allowing things to happen to them.

I also recalled how I sometimes made a choice and wound up facing unexpected consequences.  So I thought…what if I created characters out of these ideas, and spotlighted ways in which they found themselves inexplicably in one place or another because of choice?  An accidental choice.

So my first published novel came about.

However, this particular blog is not just about that first novel.  It encompasses the issues of choice, accidental moments, consequences, and how to live with these events.

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Going back to the beginning sometimes helps me focus.  Which brings me to my next point:  I began posting my Sunday Salon events here, back in the day, when the blog was called An Accidental Life…then, Accidental Moments.

Nowadays, I combine the Sunday Salon event with others, like The Sunday Post,Mailbox Monday, Stacking the Shelves, and It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

I took a detour for a while over to Rainy Days and Mondays, as I had just moved that site to Word Press from Blogger and wanted to give it a chance to attract visitors.

But this Sunday, I’ll be returning to my “roots” and posting all of those events here.  I hope you’ll stop by and join in the serendipitous moments.

Don’t worry, there will still be plenty of opportunities to Chase Away the Blues on my Rainy Days and Mondays site….In the meantime, Enjoy Life’s Unexpected Treasures here….

 

 

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REVIEW: THE NESTING PLACE, BY MYQUILLYN SMITH

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I found the book The Nesting Place on a blog, and also clicked on over to see the author’s site. I was immediately drawn in by the ideas she presents about home. Home can be imperfect, and home can be created “intentionally.”

The author shares about how she moved thirteen times in eighteen years, and what she learned at each home.  And how she finally decided to make each place she lived a “home,” and fully nest there.

She has lots of great ideas, which somehow coincide with my own, (funny that!), about how you can shuffle your stuff around to create a new look (I do this regularly!), and how you can see your home in a new light when you “quiet the room.”

That was new to me…and the author leads us through the experience, which involves stashing all the “extras” in the room off to a holding place and leaving them there while you study the room…and find a new way to look at it.  Seeing the possibilities.

Using things in different ways is another trick that I have found useful…yes, that cart is supposed to be for barbecuing, but it works wonderfully to hold the unread books while they wait for me to grab them.

Finally, I loved the idea of adding quirk to a home, since I tend to do that in my own. Here is the author’s description:

“I decided my home needed artistic quirk. It happened over time, but looking back, I see now that quirk was a turning point for me. Once I added quirk, I fell deeply in love with my home….Quirk is that last squeeze of lemon on the sautéed mushrooms, the zest of my home. Quirk brought me back to childhood, because I realized that the home I always dreamed of wasn’t one that was sophisticated and completely grown-up, perfectly put together and classified as French Country or English Cottage or (gasp!) Modern. The home I longed for was one in which I was completely free to do what I wanted no matter what others might think.”

Adding quirk allows us to display average items in un-average ways. We can display unexpected, disposable items in an expected way. We can display things that make us happy, even if they are a little odd.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s journey through her various abodes, and how she created home in them. Especially the later ones, after she had learned that home is where her people live. Recommended for all who enjoy interior design and how to find one’s own “home.” 5 stars.

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…

***

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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REVIEW: THE SPECTACULAR NOW, BY TIM THARP

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Sutter Keely is all about the Life of the Buzz. From early morning until late at night, he works on keeping that buzz going.

Each of his girlfriends tire of him, he blows off academic life, and has no plans for the future. His philosophy: “To hell with tomorrow. To hell with all problems and barriers. Nothing matters but the Spectacular Now.”

Then one night, after hours of partying, he wakes up on someone’s lawn to find a girl staring down at him. It is Aimee Finecky, the nerdy girl he has never really noticed before. But there is something about her that calls to him. He feels a need to help her, to “fix” her, to show her how to have a good time.

But what happens when Aimee falls for him? Even worse, what about how he is suddenly needing her in his life? How will that work? And how will Sutter’s journey to find his absent father, ending up on a road trip with Aimee to Fort Worth, Texas, change the direction of his life?

Narrated in Sutter’s first person POV, The Spectacular Now shows us his internal world, something most people don’t notice about him. He is more than a party animal. Unlike the ordinary life most people are living in his Oklahoma City neighborhood, he has a mission. He is not looking to the future; he is determined to embrace the moment. To feel everything there is to feel…or to follow the Life of the Buzz past the middle and on.

I came to feel sorry for Sutter, and his quest for the constant buzz. I felt sad for him as he fell for Aimee; and then, even more so, when he made a decision that would change everything. The story is not so much a coming-of-age tale as it is a young man’s determination to have a different kind of life than his parents or even his friends. He is trying to carve out his own destiny. 4 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: “PRETENDING TO DANCE”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s featured book is an e-ARC from NetGalley:  Pretending to Dance, by Diane Chamberlain.

 

 

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Intro:  (2014 – San Diego)

I’m a good liar.

I take comfort in that fact as Aidan and I sit next to each other on our leather sectional, so close together that our thighs touch.  I wonder if that’s too close. Patty, the social worker sitting on the other wing of our sectional, writes something in her notes, and with every scribble of her pen, I worry her words will cost us our baby.  I imagine she’s writing The couple appears to be codependent to an unhealthy degree.  As if picking up on my nervousness, Aidan takes my hand, squeezing it against his warm palm.  How can he be so calm?

“You’re both thirty-eight, is that right?”  Patti asks.

We nod in unison.

Patti isn’t at all what I expected.  In my mind I’ve dubbed her “Perky Patti.”  I’d expected someone dour, older, judgmental.  She’s a licensed social worker, but she can’t be any older than twenty-five.  Her blond hair is in a ponytail, her blue eyes are huge, and her eyelashes look like something out of an advertisement in Vogue.  She has a quick smile and bubbly enthusiasm.  Yet, still, Perky Patti holds our future in her hands, and despite her youth and bubbly charm, she intimidates me.

***

Teaser:  I have no old family photographs.  I’d taken a handful with me when I left home at eighteen, but I threw them away one day when my anger got the better of me.

I wish old memories could be as easily discarded. (Loc. 450).

***

Blurb:  Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can’t have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly’s past and her family-the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison’s Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father’s death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading?  I know I’m excited about this book, as this author is one of my favorites.

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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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REVIEW: BEFORE THE STORM, BY DIANE CHAMBERLAIN

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Laurel and Jamie fell in love serendipitously, almost as if the events that brought them together were fated. An accident between her car and his motorcycle, but with no injuries. But they both knew right away that they were destined to be together.

When Laurel got pregnant, they got married, and everything was perfect. Until after their daughter Maggie was born. Laurel’s depression and how she felt nothing for the baby might have started when she and the baby were separated shortly after the birth due to her hemorrhaging…but what continued afterwards could only have been an undiagnosed case of Postpartum Depression. Soon Laurel and Jamie were living separate lives, with Jamie and Maggie staying with their friends Steve and Sara.

Meanwhile, Laurel slept and drank a lot, and turned for comfort from Jamie’s brother Marcus, who lived next door. What was set in motion soon escalated, and then an unexpected pregnancy catapulted them all into a storm of emotions, secrets, and lies.

Before the Storm was set on Topsail Island in North Carolina, and the Lockwood family, to which Jamie and Marcus belonged, was wealthy and privileged, but their family dynamics left much to be desired. Jamie was the “perfect” son and Marcus, the bad boy.

What subsequent events would forever change the landscape of their lives? How did Laurel’s drinking during her pregnancy result in her son Andy’s disabilities? And how would those very problems turn into tragedy during one summer when he was just fifteen years old? A church fire, pointed fingers, and a series of misunderstandings would lead to more complications. Would the truth ever come out?

Multiple narrators told the story: Laurel, Marcus, Maggie, and Andy, and each character’s voice was distinctive. The story flashed back to the past and then forward to the present; the mystery of what happened during that summer night would keep this reader guessing until almost the end…and then the reveal would be stunning. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: MY REAL CHILDREN, BY JO WALTON

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Confusion. Holes in her memory. A surreal sense of two separate lives that veered from one path into two during her younger years.

Patricia Cowan remembers a few incontrovertible facts about herself. She was born in Weymouth, England, in 1926. She attended Oxford University. And at one point, she was involved with a man named Mark.

But did she marry Mark and have four children and five stillbirths? Or did she live with Bee and have two biological children and one whom Bee gave birth to, but who was also her “real” child?

In both lives, Patty (or Trish or Pat) ended up with memory issues, living alone in a home, trying to piece together the lives she had lived and the choices she had made.

My Real Children was impossible to put down, and one could feel confused before reaching the final page. But along the way, the story of each life is told in alternate chapters, from the perspective of either Trish (four children, married to Mark) or Pat (living with Bee and with two children of her own and one who was not).

The narration is a summary of life moments, skipping ahead quickly in order to bring decades of two separate lives to the reader, from the 1940s to 2015. There were many characters, but some of them left an indelible print on the lives of our narrators, either through loving kindness or condescension, as in the case of Mark. He treated Trish badly, and demanded from her all the things an old-fashioned male chauvinist would expect from a wife. It is easy to see how an alternate life with a loving partner like Bee would appeal to Trish/Pat. The children in the life of Pat and Bee were more loving as well.

Could Patricia have imagined that life as an escape from the dreary one she shared with Mark? If the “real children” were the ones she shared with Mark, she would have to accept that they were dismissive and condescending, instead of the loving, caring children from her alternate life. In the end, however, Patricia concludes that they are all her “real” children, as she loved them all, no matter how they came to be or how they treated her.

I won’t stop thinking about this story and what it reveals about the nature of choice and memory. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy a good “sliding” reality tale. 4 stars.

REVIEW: A WEEK AT THE LAKE, BY WENDY WAX

 

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Friendships that go on for years can sustain a person, and when there is a break in the regular get-togethers and an absence of contact, feelings are hurt. People feel abandoned.

Emma Michaels grew up among Hollywood royalty, and was a child actor. She famously divorced her parents at a young age and lived with her grandmother. The cottage at the lake was a special gathering place for Emma’s friends, the ones she bonded with in their Manhattan days: Mackenzie Hayes and Serena Stockton.

Now, after a five-year absence, Emma has invited her old friends to the lake house for a week in the summer.

But when they arrive in Manhattan, before heading up to the Adirondacks cottage, they are stunned by the news that Emma is in the hospital, after sustaining major injuries. Her daughter Zoe, almost sixteen, is waiting for them at Mt. Sinai.

While Emma is in her coma, we see flashbacks of the friends over the years, learning about what kept them together…and pondering what might have separated them.

Mackenzie is going through her own angst, as her husband Adam is in LA, meeting with production companies about his screenplay. For the past twenty years, they have been living in Indiana, running a small theater. Mackenzie writes a popular blog.

Meanwhile, Serena, an actor, portrays a cartoon character, and she has received a lot of attention and some fame. But the loss of her long-ago love, Brooks Anderson, has left her bereft and making poor choices.

Why did Emma call her friends together? What does she have in mind? Explanations, or is there a deep, dark secret that will change everything between them?

Finally they are all at the lake, and as Emma heals, with the moments and days ticking away like a time bomb, we learn bits and pieces. I guessed the secret long before it was revealed. And it was a doozy. Despite that fact, I enjoyed seeing how the ramifications would all play out.

Will the friendships survive? Will Mac’s marriage go on after the decisions Adam made in LA? And what will Serena do when an unexpected brush with the past puts her in another quandary? A Week at the Lake was another novel from a favorite author that I enjoyed all the way to the end. 5 stars.

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.