Saturday, May 31, 2014

What I've Been Reading

My first post this month was "What I've Been Reading," and here we are at month's end with another hodgepodge of genres. These books have kept me entertained during sunny May days when I read outside on the patio and stormy days when I curled up under the covers and read by the backlight of an iPad. Whatever the weather, it's always a perfect day to get deeply involved with other people in other places through the words of a storyteller.

Flight Behavior
by Barbara Kingsolver

Outer Banks
by Anne Rivers Siddons

The Land of Mango Sunsets
by Dorothea Benton Franks

by Anne Rivers Siddons

When You Were Older
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Where We Belong
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Don't Let Me Go
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Secret Lives
by Diane Chamberlain

Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline

The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted
by Andrew E. Kaufman

Upstairs at the White House
by J.B. West

Nora Roberts Land
by Ava Miles

3:00 AM
by Nick Pirog

To read a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.


Now, mindful that today is Saturday (time for a Saturday Song Selection) but not wanting to stray too far from the subject of books, here's a haunting tune that was inspired by a book, John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. If you like books mainly because you can't resist a good story, and if a very short story set to music also sets your imagination off and running, I'm pretty sure you'll like this song:

The song is "The Ghost of Tom Joad" by Bruce Springsteen.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to Spiros Papadatos for posting this video on YouTube.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Safe, Dry, Lucky to Be So

Heavy rains and localized flooding put our area in the national news yesterday. We were under a tornado warning (warning, not watch) until early afternoon and under a watch for the rest of the day, but it was high water that did the most damage. One employee of a local business apparently slipped or was swept off his feet by swiftly moving high water in the company's parking lot as he attempted to get into his truck. His drowned body was discovered later in the day, wedged under his truck.

Kim and I stayed home, not even venturing out to the nearest grocery store, though we were overdue to go food shopping. Instead, we dined on popcorn, peanut butter and crackers, microwavable Rice-a-Roni and spaghetti and eggs. Not healthy, but it didn't kill us.

We live on a little hill, so I never worry about the house flooding, but I do have some concern about becoming stuck here when so many nearby roads become impassable. That's a real possibility.

It stormed for hours and hours:

The water standing at lower left is the end
of my driveway--at the bottom of the hill.

This is Gimpy looking out the front door
at water pouring into the carport.

Here's another picture of water standing in the carport.

Believe it or not, this is the driest side of the backyard.
(The dark spot near bottom center is a recently dug dog hole.)

This shows the road-facing side of our garden shed
and a portion of the neighbor's backyard. The part 
of the yard that holds the most water is on the opposite
side of the garden shed. Back there it often looks like a
fishable lake after even a brief rainstorm. I wanted
to take a picture of it yesterday, but frequent lightning
bolts warned me to keep my behind in the house. So I did.

If this much water stands at the top of a hill, can you imagine what that amount of rain does to low-lying areas? This morning's dry weather won't last. The water in our yard has receded, but the ground is still soggy and another heavy storm is due any minute.

On a side note, I think Oliver may have set a new record yesterday for how long one little dog can "hold it" when he's determined not to get wet. I'd give almost anything to have such an amazing bladder capacity.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

All I Want Is a Good Night's Sleep

I've moved through the house like a zombie since I got out of bed this morning. Lack of sleep has rendered me so sluggish and dull-witted that I'd be hard-pressed to carry on an intelligent conversation--yet here I am, trying to write a coherent blog post. We'll see how that works out.

There were guests in my bedroom last night. Kim's away from home this weekend, so Lucy and Oliver, who usually sleep with her, spent the night with Levi, Gimpy and me instead. It's common for all four dogs to be on edge the first night Kim's away. They expect her to come home any minute, so they're hyper-vigilant and it takes a long time for them to settle down. By the second night (tonight), if history repeats itself, they'll have the situation figured out and will all sleep peacefully.

Last night, though, the three males barked time and again at noises I couldn't even hear, each time moving to the indoor gate and waiting expectantly for the front door to open. Lucy didn't join the barking boys because she was too busy rearranging Gimpy's bed to match her idea of comfort. Throughout the night she alternated deep snoring with frantic bed-pawing activity.

Ollie, once he gave up waiting for Kim, decided to curl into a tiny ball at the bottom left corner of my bed, the corner that didn't have my feet on it. Levi and Gimpy, who aren't allowed on my bed, looked pointedly back and forth from Ollie to me, telepathically urging me to make him get down in the interest of fairness. I didn't. He's little, he was finally quiet, and I was too tired to fool with him.

That turned out to be a mistake. Who knew I turned over so many times during the night? And who knew Ollie was sleeping on the exact spot where my feet would come to rest when I turned over? I attempted to slide Ollie over with my feet, but he hugged that spot like a rock. No, not a rock, a boulder--a compact-car-sized boulder that had rolled or been blown there when the asteroid that killed all the dinosaurs hit the earth and hadn't budged since. That's why all the turning over I did last night involved waking up and scooting around to find comfortable spaces for all my limbs.

Another thing that kept me awake was the music in my head. With every toss, turn or unusual noise, I'd wake just enough to realize that the tune I was thinking--same tune every time--was a song I'd never posted here and that it would make a good Saturday Song Selection. I was worried I'd forget it by morning, so I tried to wake up enough to write down the title, but I never did. Maybe the melody acted as a lullaby, soothing me back to sleep each time.

Anyway, it's a beautiful song and I'm glad I thought of it--just wish I hadn't thought of it so many times in the middle of the night. Press "play" and listen if you want to. I, on the other hand, as soon as I press "publish," am going to shut four dogs out of my bedroom and take a nap.

The song is "All I Want" by Kodaline.
Thanks to songlyricslion for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I am a crier, have been forever. On happy occasions or sad ones, if I am deeply moved, the tears will flow. I hate that, but I cannot help it.

Yesterday I found Levi in the backyard with a baby bird. I assumed he had killed it, but when I picked it up to take it away from him, I could see its chest moving. Levi had carried the little bird in his mouth--it was wet with his saliva--but it had no external signs of injury. Still, it lay on its side, tiny wings close against its sides, delicate legs extended, not moving except for the thumping of its chest, the opening and closing of its beak, and the occasional blinking of its eyes.

I put the little bird on a nest of paper towels in a small cardboard box, set the box on the stovetop under a light I thought might dry it out and warm it up while I tried to figure out what to do. If it began to show any signs of improvement, I would tend it; if not, I was at a loss, because there was no way I could put it out of its misery. I texted my son-in-law, who keeps a close eye on the babies in his birdhouses, and asked for suggestions. Before he could reply, I texted him again: "Never mind. I think it just died." Its chest had stopped moving and its beak was still.

I cried off and on all day about that baby bird, not because of it's death, but because I had witnessed its futile struggle to live. I cried for its parents, little brown sparrows I'd seen the day before when they hovered on a fence near their nest and watched their fledgelings test their wings. I cried for the hope and effort those mates had put into building the nest, incubating the eggs, and feeding the gaping, hungry mouths until the little ones were ready to go out into the world on their own and meet their own destinies.

Thinking about it today makes me teary-eyed again.

It doesn't take a lot to set me off. Loving words written on birthday cards make me cry. Books, movies, and beautiful music frequently do. Reunions and goodbyes bring tears in equal measure. I have embarrassed myself by crying at a shopping mall, moved by the young voices and earnest expressions of children in a choir singing Christmas carols, and in the middle of a beer-drinking crowd at a festival on a hot summer day when a small group of mentally challenged adults took the stage, singing and playing tambourines. The joy on their faces was palpable, and my heart swelled with happiness that they were feeling so very good about themselves at that moment. I have cried in a business management meeting (not cool at all!) when layoffs were being discussed and people I cared about were going to lose their jobs. Once, in Miami, Florida, I sat on the curb with a neighbor's child, comforting her when she was distraught after finding the body of a large dead toad (of all things), my own tears dropping simply because hers did. Another time tears sprang to my eyes in Walmart when I encountered a small girl who was crying loudly because she'd become separated from her mother, and I knew how scary that felt. In New York, during the funeral of my husband's boss, a wealthy man I'd never met, I cried softly for his stoic wife and the equally stoic adult children who surrounded her up front in the family pews. Later, I had to muffle ridiculous sobs as everyone filed out of the church and left one woman behind, on her knees, head bowed, alone. That woman, I'd been told, had been the deceased man's mistress for more than twenty years. My empathy seems to be unswayed by the rules of polite society.

Life happens every day. Much of it is happy; a lot of it is sad. I don't believe empathy and compassion are undesirable human qualities and wouldn't want to have less of either one. I just wish to God I had better control of the waterworks.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Playing Cars

Not long ago I was with some other women near my age when the conversation turned to games we played when we were children. All of us had fond memories of hopscotch, tag, jacks and red rover, but I was the only one who remembered playing a game my family called "cars." I wonder if you ever played it.

Cars was a game Mother encouraged my little sister and me to play when we were cleaned up for some occasion and she wanted us to stay that way until time to go. In fact, she often played with us, which made it even more fun.

Cars was a game of chance. No skill was required to win it, and a player's opportunities to win or lose came quickly and often, depending on the flow of traffic. There was no official scorekeeping, but the competition was fierce, and when the game ended, all the players had a sense of who'd had a run of good luck and who hadn't. There was some gloating.

The rules were simple: We took turns. We sat on the front-porch swing and watched cars go by. The first car that passed when it was my turn would be my car, and the first one that passed on Judy's turn would be hers. The goal was to get the best cars. Sounds boring, right? It was anything but.

On a busy traffic day, the game took on all the excitement of horse racing. Maybe even more--I doubt there's as much schadenfreude in horse racing as there was in cars. I was ecstatic when a shiny convertible passed on my turn and equally thrilled when a beat-up older model puttered by on Judy's turn. Judy was the same way. What made the game especially interesting was the fact that our house stood near the top center of a "T" intersection. That meant we could see cars coming from three different directions. When two or more approached at the same time, especially if one was much nicer than the other, we could hardly contain our excitement. We clapped. We stood up and cheered: "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, C'MON!" We tried to anticipate which car would go past us first, and if an old or ugly one edged out a sleek, late-model beauty at the last second, I'm sure the neighbors on all sides must have been able to hear the groans of the girl whose hopes had been dashed and the joyous shouts of her victorious sister. Sister or mother. I was just as happy to beat Mother as I was to beat Judy, though I had the good sense to tone down the gloating when Mother got a rattletrap.

Judy (left) and Linda on the front-porch swing. Judging from Judy's smile, 
I'm guessing she got more good cars than I did on the day this photo was taken.

So, did you ever play cars? Or anything similar? I wonder if today's kids, used to organized sports and electronic games, would enjoy a game of cars as much as we once did.

Friday, May 16, 2014


I've never seen or heard the word "olio" used in any context other than a crossword puzzle. Because it's a short word that's rich in vowels, puzzle writers tend to overuse it in the same way they do a few other words having those same characteristics: aloe, alee, alias, etui and that well-known cookie, Oreo. Anyway, I'm glad that crossword clues have taught me that "olio" is a synonym for "mixture" or "jumble" or "hodgepodge," because that's what today's post is.


I never announce that I'm going to take a brief blogging hiatus because I never intend to do so. It would be more accurate to say I just fizzle out now and then and, in that vulnerable state, allow a brief blogging hiatus to overtake me. One day piles on top of another until I know it's been too long since I last posted, but by then I can't think of a single thing to write about. (The strict grammarian in my head keeps nudging me to change the last sentence to read "...a single thing about which to write." Sometimes I hate that prissy old biddy.)

Anyway, I'm back. I think.


Mother's Day was wonderful. We had our traditional celebration with a crawfish boil at my daughter Kelli's house, but with one major difference from past years: a raging thunderstorm that kept everybody under the carport instead of scattered around the swimming pool. We had to speak loudly to hear one another over the rain on the tin roof, but we had some of the best group conversations we've had in a long time, and I loved every minute of it.


On Kelli's refrigerator, held by a magnet, was a letter-sized sheet of white paper on which four-year-old Owen, my great-grandson, had used a blue marker to draw a line that looped and swirled all around the edges and connected to itself in one corner. It was, he had told her, a map of the world.

I was standing near that refrigerator when I spotted an opportunity to compliment Owen on the drawing. "I like your map of the world," I said. Indicating a spot on the paper, I asked, "Where's Louisiana? Here?"

Owen raised his eyes from the hot dog on his plate to glance at me for about two seconds. His mouth said, "It's not a real map." His face said, quite clearly, "How stupid are you?"


There are two dog beds in my bedroom: Levi's on the right side of my bed, Gimpy's on the left side. The dog beds are identical except that Levi's blanket is brown and Gimpy's is tan. This sleeping arrangement seemed to be fine with everybody for months and months until Gimpy decided a few weeks ago that he prefers Levi's bed to his own. He's slept there ever since. So has Levi, who must not have wanted to swap.

I sleep on the right side of the bed, too. This new arrangement makes navigation a little bit tricky when I need to get up in the middle of the night.

Spooners: Gimpy on Levi's bed and Levi with his head under my bed.


Speaking of sleep, the upper respiratory virus I had for so long (still coughing) seems to have put me in the habit of taking a long nap every day--a bad habit I'm only now beginning to break. I love the fact that retirement gives me the freedom to take a 20-minute, pick-me-up nap when I need one, but a long nap in the daytime makes me groggy and keeps me from sleeping well at night. It also eats a big hole in my (semi) productive daytime hours, leaving me depressed about the lack of accomplishment. 

So. Today I've written a blog post. Now I think I'll go unclutter some surfaces. That'll be two accomplishments. That isn't many, I know, but it's an improvement.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

What's Not to "Like"?

Some days my Facebook news feed is made up almost entirely of photographs and status posts of people I don't know. Granted, some of them are lovely photos, but because I don't know those folks, I could live quite happily without seeing them. Imagine if you were in an office, working at your desk, and all through the day your coworkers approached and interrupted you, one after another, each wanting to show you a picture of his or her friends. Now, truthfully, wouldn't that annoy the heck out of you?

The reason I'm seeing each of these photos is that one or another of my Facebook friends (who actually knows the people in the photo) clicked the "like" button on it, and Facebook, in its infinite quest to link us all together, has decided that each of us needs to know what our friends "like." Against my will--and probably yours--if you're my Facebook friend, my nose is all up in your business.

I'm not talking about status posts that friends wrote or photos they posted. I want to see those. Those are the reason I signed up for Facebook in the first place. Nor am I speaking of things friends decided to "share." If it meant enough to them that they wanted to call attention to it, then, by golly, I'll give it a look. I just don't want to have to search through a page full of random posts my friends have "liked" in order to find the things they intended for me to see.

Facebook shows those "liked" posts anyway. There is currently no way to opt out of seeing all the "likes" while leaving the status posts and "shares" intact.

Why is this a problem? Well, for example, one friend really likes cat pictures. I don't mind one or two cat pictures, but a news feed full of them is way too many. A male friend "likes" photos of swimsuit models, so those show up in my news feed, too, even though swimsuit models are definitely not my thing. Some of my friends are talented artists and craftspeople, and I enjoy seeing photos of their work. Those friends, of course, "like" the images that their friends who share the same interests post of their own work, so I see those photos, too. Another friend (bless her heart) recently experienced a betrayal. When she sees a pre-made graphic or slogan related in any way to broken trust, it resonates with her, she clicks the "like" button, and voila! There it is on my news feed. Sometimes there's a long string of slogans and images on that topic, and, frankly, that's kind of a bummer. All those "liked" posts add up, and it takes a lot of time to filter through them. But wasted time isn't the biggest problem. It's the photos of "friends of friends" that bother me most. I feel as if I'm invading people's privacy when I see those pictures, yet there isn't a doggone thing I can do about it.

The flip side of this hasn't escaped me: I realize that posts I've "liked" (mostly because I really did like them but occasionally just to be polite) must have contributed to the clutter on my friends' news feeds, too. I sincerely apologize for that, but this time the buck stops with Facebook.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Love in the Air

On this most gorgeous Saturday in recent history, when spring is in the air and so are the lovebugs, making their first appearance of the year here in Southeast Louisiana, it seems only fitting to make today's Saturday Song Selection a love song. And so it is. If you're not feeling the romance after listening to these lyrics, go take your temperature. Something might be wrong with you.

The song is "A Night in Summer Long Ago" by Mark Knopfler.
Thanks to amindenandel for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Friday, May 02, 2014

What i've Been Reading

Looking over the covers of the most recent books I've read, I realize they look like I might have ordered them at a donut shop:  "A dozen assorted, please." That analogy continues to the contents: some are filled with flavor and richness and some are just sweet, light and fluffy, but there isn't one among them that I wish I'd left in the box.

Second Hand Heart
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

The Midwife of Hope River
by Patricia Harman

The Cutting Season
by Attica Locke

The Rosie Project
by Graeme Simsion

Honey on Your Mind
by Maria Murnane

The Baker's Daughter
by Sarah McCoy

The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
by James Weldon Johnson

Opal Fire
by Barbra Annino

by Barbra Annino

Tiger's Eye
by Barbra Annino

Emerald Isle
by Barbra Annino

The Bloodletter's Daughter
by Linda Lafferty

To read a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.


Normally I leave the reviewing to others and ease my conscience about that sort of laziness by turning each book cover pictured into a link to other people's reviews. That's pretty much what I've done this time, too, except that I feel compelled to call your attention to three books that are so good I need to make sure you don't overlook them. In order of their appearance on the list above, they are:
  1. The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman. Excellent writing, a moving story set in Appalachia in the 1930s, and a main character you'll wish you had as a friend.
  2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. This book surprised me by being sheer delight from beginning to end. Set in modern times, it's a love story--sort of--with quirky characters you won't soon forget. It's already been sold to the movies, and I can't wait to see who gets cast to play the parts of Don and Rosie.
  3. The Bloodletter's Daughter by Linda Lafferty. If you like the details found in good historical fiction (facts you can check on the Internet), and if you were one of those kids whose imagination was captured completely by the grimness of a Grimm's fairy tale, then you will love this book. It has it all. I woke up feeling a little sad this morning because I finished the book last night, and I wasn't nearly ready for it to end.