Thursday, December 29, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
Over 4th of July weekend, we traveled to Denver to celebrate the 70th birthday of Geoff's Aunt Marianne. We are very close to her and Geoff's Uncle Mike and it was a nice chance to see family members that we don't see all that often.
Geoff surprised me with a weekend getaway at Castle Hill Inn in Newport for our anniversary. It was a lovely surprise and the weekend was filled with lots of little luxuries - roses, champagne, gourmet meals and time to relax on the private beach. I felt very pampered.
On August 1, we had to empty out the first floor of our home to prepare for some minor renovations. It's now September 18th and it's still not done. I'm about to lose my mind. I could really use another weekend at Castle Hill Inn.
On August 2nd, Madeleine got her Driver's License!!!! It's hard to describe the feeling I have now that my chauffeuring duties are completely over. Relief, wistfulness, sadness, disbelief. But mostly relief. I'm not sure Geoff feels that same sense of relief. He really misses driving her to school every morning. He's trying to convince her to go to Brown University after she graduates so that he can drive her to class every day on his way to Providence. The empty nest is looming large. *sigh*
50 Years...and Counting
College Drop 0ff - Second Time's a Charm
On August 27th, we dropped Katie off to start her sophomore year at college. Things went much more smoothly than the fiasco that was last year. I sensed that she was a little reluctant to let us leave, but since we were trying to outrun Tropical Storm Irene, we didn't have much choice but to get on the road.
Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got to RI, but that didn't stop it from knocking out our power for 6 DAYS! I have a whole new respect for people who live in the south and deal with hurricanes on a regular basis. The inconvenience was - well, inconvenient. Not to mention my house was already under renovation and I had only gotten my (electric) stove reinstalled the day before the storm hit. Ugh! But, fortunately, we didn't suffer any damage and we had hot water throughout the ordeal. Not everyone was so fortunate.
Annual Family Weekend in New Hampshire
As we have since 2007, we spent Labor Day weekend in a rented house in NH with my Dad and Sandy and my brother's family. As this trip came right on the heels of Irene (and we still didn't have power when we left), it came at a good time. I really needed to get away and get out of my head with regards to our lack of electricity, the inconvenience and how it had brought the (never ending) work on our house to screeching halt. (I was just a wee bit cranky that week.) I spent the weekend reading on the screened porch and napping. It was fabulous. I felt very refreshed when I got back home.
Madeleine started her Junior year of High School on September 6th - one week late due to Tropical Storm Irene. It was very exciting for her to drive herself to school for the first time. This school year really feels like the start of a new chapter. Junior year is such an important one. A year focused so much on preparing for life after HS. That, combined with the independence that comes with having a license, has really changed the makeup and tone of our days. It's freeing and exciting, but it's also a little unsettling. I always find the start of the school year a time of adjustment. This year the adjustment seems to be less about getting used to a new routine, and more about adjusting to the next phase in life. And not just for Madeleine.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Labor Day by Joyce Maynard - When lonely 13 year old Henry and his fragile single mother, Adele, meet a bleeding man on the Thursday before Labor Day, little do they know that their lives will never be the same.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
I've recently read two wonderful books, either of which would make great summer reads.
A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates - A Widow's Tale is a memoir written by Oates after the unexpected death of her husband, Ray. At first I wasn't going to read this book because I'm a little tired of memoirs and I had read Joan Didion's memoir, A Year of Magical Thinking, which deals with the exact same subject. However, I kept hearing such glowing things about this book that I just had to see for myself. I'm so glad I did. I enjoyed this book on so many different levels. First and foremost was the writing. Oh my goodness. Oates is a master of evocative language. She can express the most emotionally authentic thoughts eloquently and succinctly. I was constantly amazed at the beautiful way in which she set her thoughts and emotions on paper. I also found her descriptions of her life with Ray to be fascinating. They had a very unique relationship. It was an intellectual and academic life between two people who had the utmost respect for each other. But there is also something fragile and childlike about Oates and in many ways her relationship with Ray seemed to have a father-figure quality to it. I was also fascinated to read how Oates views her fame. In her mind, she is Joyce Smith and Joyce Carol Oates (or JCO, as she refers to her public persona) is just that - a public persona, a draining role she is reluctantly required to fulfill. Fascinating! I've never heard anyone else talk about this before. I also learned that she is a notoriously private person and rarely gives interviews or shares anything of her personal life with the public. So writing this intensely personal book was quite a giant leap of faith for her. And very brave for one so seemingly unsure of herself. And lastly, from my own experiences with grief - both personal and as a witness to a situation very similar to Oates - I feel that Oates presents a view of grief that is authentic, real and heartrendingly accurate. 4/5 stars - I really liked it!
Monday, May 30, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
In the blink of an eye, Katie's freshman year of college is over. She came home last Saturday and it's so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that her first year of college is over. Incredible.
Monday, May 16, 2011
You can't make this stuff up. Here's a conversation I had today with a patron.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Well, so much for updating my Project 52 goals once a month. Since I'm a week late, I'm including Week 19 as well!
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
As some of you know, I'm on the nominating committee for Reading Across Rhode Island (RARI). This year I was so please when the committee chose Rhode Island native, Craig Mullaney's amazing memoir The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education. When I saw this book on the list of nominated books my immediate reaction was that I had no interest in reading a "war book" and would wait to see if was eliminated in early discussions before committing to reading it. During our first session, another member of the group stated that she had the read book (even though she was sure she wouldn't be interested) and that it was fabulous. That got me curious. I decided to read it before our next meeting. And it made a very positive impression on me. At our next meeting there were several of us who had read the book and we all gushed about what a wonderful choice it would be for RARI. The rest is history.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Does anyone else feel that the public celebrations of Osama bin Laden's death being telecast on national TV are inappropriate? I think it's entirely natural to feel proud, relieved, thankful and even pleased. But, I also feel that this is an occasion that should lead to quiet reflection and remembrance. Not a party in the streets as though your favorite team just won the Super Bowl. This type of behavior seems disrespectful and even offensive. Please take a moment today to remember all the innocent lives lost on 9/11 and all the brave servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of this goal.
Friday, April 22, 2011
For the last week, Geoff and I have had a sneak peek of Life in the Empty Nest. Our oldest daughter, Katie, is away at college and our younger daughter, Madeleine, has been in France for the past week with her French class. Before she left, I flip-flopped from being thrilled to have a week to ourselves, to being terrified. Geoff and I have had the occasional vacation without kids, but we've never been home all by ourselves for more than a night or two. I really wasn't sure how it would feel. Would we stare blankly at each other across the silent dinner table or charm each other with sparkling conversation? Would we reconnect with each other as a couple or wonder who the heck is this person I'm sharing a home with? Would we feel off balance in a house gone suddenly quiet and still?
Sunday, April 17, 2011
I used to think that I didn't like movies that were made from books. I had the attitude that "the book is always better than the movie". But recently I've begun to see things a little differently and have a had a change of heart. I can no longer make such a blanket statement.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Well, so much for updating my Project 52 goals once a month. Since I'm a week late, I'm including Week 14 as well!
Friday, April 1, 2011
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier – Chevalier has written quite a few books, most famously The Girl with the Pearl Earring. She is one of my favorite authors and I’m always interested to check out her latest book. I must admit that when I read the summary of Remarkable Creatures, I was not all that interested and had decided not to read it. But then Peggy, one of my co-workers whose opinion I value, said it was a great story and would make a good book club choice. And she was right. The story takes place in the early decades of the 1800s during a time of great scientific discovery. Remarkable Creatures tells the story of Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning, two unlikely friends who live on the coast of England in an area rich in fossils. The two women are both fossil hunters – but for very different reasons. When Mary makes an important discovery, she is thrust into the world of academia, for which she is ill equipped and which is also closed off to her because she is a woman. But Remarkable Creatures is about so much more than fossil hunting. It’s about social class, the roles of the sexes in the early 19th century and most importantly about female friendship in all its incarnations. This is a great read and it generated a wonderful book discussion – all the more so since it is based on real people and actual events! 4 stars – I really liked it.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy – After watching the wonderful movie, The Last Station, about the last years of Tolstoy’s life, I found myself wanting to learn more about this intriguing and mystifying man. I did a little research which led me to want to immediately pick up one of his books and read it. I have always wanted to read Anna Karenina (and I will someday), but I decided I wasn’t ready to make such a big commitment. During my research, I learned that Tolstoy was fascinated with religion and death and that he was quite a philosopher. His novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich was mentioned as being “one of the world’s supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying”. I decided it would be the perfect book to scratch my Tolstoy itch. Not only is it short , it deals with a topic that is pure Tolstoy and it was written in the latter part of his life – which fit in nicely with the fact that my interest was generated by the movie. In addition, I remember having read it in college in my Russian Literature course and I still have my copy. It was so much fun to see the passages that I highlighted as a 20 year old all those years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this classic piece of literature, which deals with a middle aged man, who has followed all the rules in his life and now finds himself suddenly faced with his own death. A matter he has never spent a moment considering. The Death of Ivan Ilyich follows Ivan’s journey as he comes to terms with his imminent demise. I noticed as I was reading that my long ago self had not highlighted any of the 34 page introduction. Which is not all that surprising. But it is a shame, because I got so much more out of this story by having first read the introduction. I can’t say that I came to any great epiphany after reading Ivan’s story. I have a feeling I’m still too far removed from my own death (at least I hope I am), but it I did enjoy the wonderful writing and I certainly can appreciate Tolstoy’s message about death. I’m pretty sure the whole point of the story was lost on me as college student. I’m so glad I made the time to revisit this “supreme masterpiece”. 4 stars – I really liked it.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – I LOVED this book! I can not say it enough. I listened to the audio version of this one in my car and I’m not sure I would have loved it quite so much if I had read it, but I can’t be sure. The book is written in a very conversational style, which might have seemed a little sleepy on the written page. Never Let Me Go takes place in England in the 1990s (my best guess). It is narrated by Kathy, a 31 year old woman, who is reminiscing about her time at a Hailsham, a boarding school, with her two closest friends Tommy and Ruth. The students at Hailsham were sheltered from the outside world and made to feel special and separate from it. Kathy left Hailsham, Tommy and Ruth behind long ago, but when they are reunited she begins to allow herself to think about her time there and to explore the dark secrets of who they really are. I don’t want to give too much away, but Ishiguro masterfully reveals the plot in small crumbs that kept me questioning and rapt. I couldn’t wait to get into my car to run errands or drive to work. I simply had to find out how this story would fully reveal itself. Never Let Me Go would make a fabulous book club book since it not only deals with issues that lend themselves well to discussion, but Ishiguro also leaves the reader pondering some big questions. Fabulous! (Note: I have heard from a friend that her book club read this one and people either loved it or hated it, but I think it’s worth giving it a try. Because if you’re in the love it camp, you will be so happy to have read it). 5 stars – I LOVED it!
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – Unbroken tells the remarkable true story of the record breaking Olympic runner and WWII veteran and POW Louis Zamperini. The book covers Zamperini’s life from his years as a delinquent teenager all way up to the present day as a still vibrant 93 year old. But the majority of the book focuses on Zamperini’s time as a bombardier and POW in the Pacific theater during WWII. Zamperini’s plane was shot down over the Pacific and he and 2 other men survived over 40 days on a leaky life raft in the shark infested waters. That alone is hard to fathom. However, when the survivors finally wash ashore it is on a Japanese controlled island and the men are taken as POWs. The majority of the book chronicles Zamperini’s time in various POW camps . What Zamperini and the other POWs were subjected to defies explanation. There were many parts of the book that I found how to believe. And while many of the atrocities are related in the book, they are handled with great sensitivity. But this is not a story of torture, it is a story of survival and the strength of the human spirit and the incredible will to live. But most of all it is the story of human dignity. But I learned so much more by reading this book. I’m embarrassed to admit that aside from Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagaski, I knew nothing at all about the war in the Pacific. Seems all I ever learned about was the Germans, Hitler and the Holocaust. I know have a much fuller understanding of Japan’s role in the war. Unbroken is non-fiction at its best. 4 stars – I really like it.
It’s been a really good few weeks of reading for me. I hope it continues. How about you? Read any good books lately?
Thursday, March 24, 2011
If you're anything like me, you have a long list of books "to be read". I find new titles almost everyday. I find them in all kinds of places: your blogs, at work, magazine and newspaper reviews, friends' recommendations and sometimes I have no idea where I heard of a particular book.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Sunday, March 6, 2011
By now I'm sure most of you have heard Carolyn and Sean Savage's heartbreaking story. They are the couple who where inadvertently given the wrong embryos during an IVF treatment. When faced with this horrible and horrifying news, they decided to not only continue the pregnancy, but to surrender the child to his biological parents and not fight for custody of him. It's hard for me to imagine a worse situation to be in. And if faced with a similar situation, I'm not sure I would have been as strong, gracious or giving as the Savage's.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Some of you may have noticed that I haven't posted a Project 52 update in a few weeks. Rest assured that even though I haven't been posting about it, I have been busy keeping up with all my goals and chipping away at my Project 52 list. I simply decided that since posting every week was beginning to bore me, it must really be boring the rest of you. Since many of my goals are weekly goals, I really felt as though I was saying the same thing week, after week, after week. Boring! So I decided to do one update at the end of each month, reflecting back on my progress. Hopefully, that will be less boring for all of us!
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Back in April of last year I wrote a post about having the whole house to myself during my girls' spring break. Well, the heavens smiled upon me again this past week during Madeleine's February vacation. Once again, Geoff and Madeleine flew off to warm and sunny Arizona and I stayed behind to enjoy some peace and quiet. Five days and four nights to myself.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
In the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to see wonderful productions of two classic plays - The Crucible by Arthur Miller and A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. I was excited to see these plays since I had studied both of them during my years as a student. How ironic, considering the fact that many schools are considering teaching less literature in favor of more "informational texts". Bah! I wonder if I would have been interested in attending these productions, if I hadn't been introduced to them in school? I think not. As a matter of fact, Madeleine, who is 16, asked if she could come with Geoff and me to see The Crucible since she had studied it earlier this year! Imagine that! The arts and cultural entertainment could be just one more causality of removing challenging literature from our schools' curriculum. What a pity.
Before seeing The Crucible I decided to try an experiment. I decided to reread it to see if familiarizing myself with the details of the story would add or detract from my enjoyment of it. I have considered doing this in the past, but always decided not to, in order to let the story wash over me - without any expectations. I was somewhat surprised to find that a fresh exposure to the play added to my enjoyment of the production immensely! The Crucible is a complex and multi-layered story and having read it ahead of time really added to my understanding of the deeper messages of the plot. Having the time to really ponder the moral questions presented by Miller added another level of appreciation to the live production.