Things I Love About 2020

Today I treated myself to a lovely massage and while I try to turn off my monkey mind while being rolled into a rag doll, it’s not always possible. I thought I should do my part to dispel all the negativity in the world and talk about good things.

Pepper, my sweet little pandemic dog, came into our lives in February. While he’s clueless about what a pandemic is, he forced us to get outside every single day. There’s no moping around the house with a puppy. He’s happy and healthy and I love sloppy Pepper kisses.

My book club dove right in and figured out how to meet online. We’re not expert at online meeting and probably never will be but it’s so much fun just to see their smiling faces and hear their laughter once a month. It keeps us all reading and our minds off other things.

As corny as this my sound, I’m grateful for my Facebook friends. The other day I had a good laugh with my college sorority sisters over singing the Greek alphabet. I played the plunger in our hokey washboard band. So if I had told them I used the toilet plunger as an instrumental accompaniment, we would have laughed together even harder.

My work friends now live all over and most, like me, don’t work where we originally met. As co-workers became friends we found so many other things about our lives that we had in common. I love keeping in touch with their accomplishments.

I especially love my high school friends. I don’t know what else to call them since most of them I’ve known since first grade. This group loves the throw back stuff like the Beatles, long hair rolled on orange juice cans and Mickey Mantle. They share their kids and grandkids and various orthopedic surgeries.

I didn’t lose my human connections in 2020, I simply connected with lots of different people in a virtual way. The love and friendship we found in each other many years ago was reignited digitally in these uncertain times. When the mask can finally come off for good, I’ll be waiting with open arms to give everyone a hug and have a few more good hearty laughs with all of them.

Should I Reveal Family Secrets?

I recently read a friend’s blog post about whether it’s right to reveal your parents flaws in a memoir. I thought about that for awhile.

In my memoir, A Bittersweet Goodnight, I had a lot to say about my parents and their lack of parenting skills. I didn’t put those words on the page without angst and anguish. But I had to in order to resolve my own feelings about my upbringing at this late stage of my life. I came to realize that I stored way too many unpleasant memories in a deep dark corner. Writing them down helped me to set myself on a happier path.

My parents both passed away many years ago. Even though I never had a close relationship with either of them, they did teach me respect for others. I never could have written this book if either of them had still been alive and able to read my writing. But I often smell cigarette smoke for no reason, which tells me that my stepmother, June, is on board with my story that revolves around her role in my life.

I don’t believe the choice is a matter of right or wrong. For me it’s what felt sincere for me in my life. Much of the feedback I’ve gotten from readers tells me that many people have had similar life experiences and were grateful to know they had company in that regard. We don’t have to reveal every single family secret in a memoir, choose what is meaningful to the storyline, put an appropriate spin on the rest or leave it out altogether. The choice belongs to the author.

Reading and Writing

In my quest to read all the books on my Kindle, I have come across more than a few duds. They must have found their way to me as freebies because I can’t think of any other reason I would have picked them up.

I’m a person who once I start a book, I have to finish it. Maybe that’s why I can’t make any real headway on my Kindle list. Right now I’m reading a book that shall remain nameless for now. I can’t wait to finish it, not because I love it but because it’s making me angry.

The protagonist is a doctor from New Zealand who now lives in London and who ended up in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. She speaks with a British accent and all the Americans she comes in contact with do too. Ugh. Next she got on a plane from Baton Rouge to Boston and expected to sleep for six hours on the flight. A non stop flight on this route takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours tops. This author took on an American plot line without much knowledge of how Americans act, talk and think.

The story line that irritated me most however, was Hurricane Katrina. Having lived through my fair share of Category 3 and 4 hurricanes during my forty years of living in Florida, I don’t feel this author did any justice to the pain and suffering of that time. The pacing of the story for me made it all look too easy. The aftermath of a storm like Katrina continues for many to this day, fifteen years later.

As an author myself, maybe I’m too critical of others. What I learned from reading this story is that research is paramount especially when you are dropping fictional characters into real life events. Editing comes next to make sure not only that the periods and commas are in place but that speech and dialect are true to the story line as well as the character’s speech pattern.

Even though I want to move on to a more captivating book, I will stick this one out. And I will study my own writing to make sure I don’t make the same stupid mistakes and irritate my readers. Because without readers, my writing has no meaning.

The Cheating Continues!

I’ve been remiss in keeping all my fans updated on the status of my Kindle. I try not to look at it regularly because it’s too depressing. But I did take a peek and sadly I still have 7 pages of books on my Kindle. I’m reading like crazy but the list never seems to get any shorter.

I admit I’m a sucker for free books. Net Galley tempts me with free books every few days. I follow several reading groups on Facebook and they talk about loads of different books that all sound interesting. When a title piques my interest. I put them on hold at the library even though I promised not to until I made a dent in the Kindle. I’m a proud member of the Florida Writer’s Association and they want to give me money to buy their recently announced Published Book of the Year and write a review for it. I simply can’t refuse an offer like that.

I just finished reading The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. Those Ya Yas were crazy, naughty girls but oh how lucky they were to have friends like that. But their message was as clear as the Louisiana bayou they swam in. None of us are perfect and we all need to embrace our flaws.

I am far from perfect. And I am addicted to books. Things could be a lot worse. I am tenacious and I made a promise. I will read everything on my Kindle. Eventually.

Sugar, Sugar, Sugar!

While scrolling through the titles on my Kindle I found several books with the word sugar in the title. Obviously at some point I was gung ho on eliminating sugar from my life. That is until they became buried behind other books that suddenly became more interesting.

These two books, Sugar Love by Rex Bonds and The 40 Day Sugar Fast by Wendy Speak address our addiction to sugar at different ends of the spectrum. Sugar Love attacks it from a scientific point of view. The 40 Day Sugar Fast looks at it from the spiritual side. For me, the combination of the two were exactly what I needed right now.

You see, recently the doctor told me my A1C was high and I was at risk of developing diabetes. I’ve been trying to eliminate carbohydrates from my diet but I struggled to understand what foods that meant. Sugar Love includes a list of what is sugar. It sneaks into our food with a long list of names, none of which are called sugar. I have been pretty good at reading the calorie counts on labels, now I have learned to read the ingredient list too.

The 40 Day Sugar Fast is a day at a time journey to eliminate sugar with prayer and guidance from God. The author asks us to examine all aspects of our lives and that addictions come in many forms, like alcohol, shopping, boredom and bad habits in general. She asks God to satisfy the unfulfilled need within us with prayer instead of filling it with cookies and cake. Why did this book speak to me?

I have been sober for 10 years. I will never forget that I asked God over and over again to help me stop my nightly wine splurge. And one day He did. I have never looked back. I thank Him every day.

If you are struggling with any kind of addiction, either of these books or both in tandem may help you change the trajectory of your life and set you on a different path leading to better health and spiritual contentment. Right now I am adding the information from these books into my daily routine. It’s a good place for me to start. I’m down 7 pounds already.

Selling The Farm by Debra DiBlasi

Selling The Farm by Debra DiBlasi is another one of my cheats. Well sort of. It’s a paperback book and I won’t get to cleaning off the books on my bookshelf until after I have cleaned off my Kindle.

When this book arrived in the mail, I was surprised. I vaguely remember filling out a questionnaire on Facebook from the author. I do that a lot, fill out things to try to get free books. Usually I don’t get anything for free until now.

Everything about Selling the Farm is absolutely beautiful, from the prose to the poetry all the way down to the paper it is printed on. This is the story of a young girl growing up on a run down farm. She and her siblings roam the property uncovering treasures as well as mysteries. From a child’s eyes, her parents have struggles of their own while trying to keep it all together.

The way in which the author tells this story through her own eyes is part prose and part poetry which together becomes pure magic. Every human emotion, happiness, fear, shame, grief, sadness, is brought to life in this lyrical tale.

I absolutely adored this book. From the very first page you will be amazed.

I Cheated. Just a Little

For those of you following my Clean My Kindle Challenge, I have to admit I cheated. But just a little bit.

I finished This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger and it was excellent. I had this book on hold at the library for about 6 months, so when it came up for me I took it. My rules of the challenge do state that I can add my book club selections and any I books currently have on hold at the library. So I passed muster in this regard.

I have a hard time resisting a free book so when NetGalley offered me one, I took it. And there was a book I forgot I had on pre order at Amazon. When it was released last week it magically appeared on my Kindle. My Facebook page is overloaded with book recommendations and new releases which are very difficult for me to resist even on a good day. My self imposed Kindle Challenge is testing my will power to its core.

A new self help book appeared in my feed and it struck me that maybe it would really help me. So I bought it. Bad me. The title is Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day by Jay Shetty. My mind needs some training. I’ll let you know if I can train it not to cheat on my book stash.

The number of books on my Kindle doesn’t seem to be diminishing but I’m keeping track in case some day it miraculously does. I’ll let you know if I can proceed without any more cheating. I hope reading another book will help me become book strong and work toward an empty Kindle.

Happy reading!

Happy Hurricane Birthday!

My birthday is in a couple days and it’s a monumental one. I’m turning 65. The good thing is I can now get Medicare and the bad thing is I can’t take that cruise I was dreaming of to celebrate it.

The end of August is peak hurricane season and ever since I moved to Florida I’ve spent plenty of birthdays locked behind hurricane shutters. Since I started blogging, almost every year I’ve written a post titled Happy Hurricane Birthday!

So here’s this year’s commentary. There are two hurricanes brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a first, two storms expected to make landfall within hours of each other. It’s 2020. What else can I say.

Please pray for the people of the Gulf Coast.

The Benefits of Random Reading

When I started my Clean Kindle Challenge I thought I’d be stuck reading a lot of long, dragged out titles that at one time I had high hopes of enjoying. Many times books sound interesting to me or I can get them for free so I download the book and there it sits because something more intriguing has come along that took precedent in my world of books.

What I’ve found so far however, is that I may not be that fickle when it comes to choosing a book that is worthy of my attention. A couple of my Facebook fans chose The Great Gatsby as my next read. I never read it before and thought I should, but more modern titles always won out. Well, I read it and I loved it and now I know why so many people do too.

My Facebook friends didn’t recognize any of the titles I randomly picked for them to choose from this week. I didn’t know any of them either. I selected The Dogs of Detroit by Brad Felver. It is an award winning collection of short stories that is absolutely amazing! I have trouble putting it down.

He is an Ohioan and I suspect I came across this book in a BGSU alumni newsletter. I also went to college at Bowling Green State University in northwestern Ohio. I look for and find books to read in all kinds of unusual places and never lock myself into a specific genre or author. There is so much to learn about the world around us between the covers of a book. And that is true for just about any book.

Based on what I’ve already found stored in my Kindle, I’m looking at the rest of my Clean Kindle Challenge with more anticipation than dread. See what books are hiding in the back of your Kindle or even tucked away, lost in a sea of books on your bookshelf. You just may find a hidden gem.

Thoughts of a Hurricane

Yesterday we closed the hurricane shutters since we were told that Hurricane Isaias was on its way to us. Today we’re still waiting. I went out for my morning walk before the rain supposedly begins to arrive in a couple hours. That gave me time to think about hurricanes of the past.

I’ve lived in Florida for 40 years so I’ve been through my share of hurricanes. My first recollection of a storm was in the late 1980’s. Richard and I would go to the store and buy pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, pick our favorite, get a spoon and climb into bed to watch the storm go by. We didn’t get the flashlights out, no one I knew even had shutters. Sometimes we might put masking tape on the windows as a precaution, but mainly we did a lot of nothing.

Then Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992. I can still see the face of the woman who said, “Where the hell is the cavalry?” That storm was devastating and people suffered immensely because we had no safeguards or backup plans in place. After that things started to change in terms of hurricane preparation.

In 2004 Richard and I took a trip to Washington DC. We got a call while in the Holocaust Museum to come pick up our dog from the kennel. That was embarrassing. He had to stay alone as Hurricane Jeanne pummeled through. We had to stay an extra night in our suite at the Willard Hotel since the airport was closed. Poor us.

Wilma came through in 2005 and we were without power for 9 days. But I have to say the worst storm we experienced was Irma in 2017. The house even with all the shutters closed, rocked and rolled all night long. It was a Cat 4, the strongest I’d ever tried to sleep through.

So here we are with Isaias. We can’t pronounce the name and she is unsure of what she wants to be, hurricane or tropical storm. So here we sit in the dark with all the shutters closed and as Richard says, he farts harder than the wind we are going to get from Isaias. Even though we now take all the precautions we can for a storm, batteries, flashlights, water; one tradition stays in place. I got mint chocolate chip ice cream and Richard got dark cherry chocolate.