Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Ends

Let it Snow

by Joanne Faries

faint frilly flakes

tease eyelashes

tickle the nose

swirl, twirl




snowball splat

Happy New Year everybody!  I end this year with a poem. We do not anticipate snow in Dallas for New Year's Eve or Day, but what the heck - I wrote a snow poem.  And I'm throwing a snowball your way. It's been a good year. My poetry collections are published and languishing on Amazon. I swear I don't look at the numbers anymore, and if Amazon sends me some money I treat Ray to a taco (at Taco Bell - the 99 cent menu).   I hope all of my writer friends can buy the full enchilada plate.   My 2014 resolution - keep blogging because it's fun. Finish my next humorous memoir - Athletic Antics. And just have fun.   I wish everyone good health and good  cheer.  Chat with you in 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: Mad About the Boy

I've read decent reviews of this book and some absolutely thumbs down ones. I liked it - so here we go:

It has been fourteen years and a lot has happened since we met Bridget Jones first in Diary and then in Edge of Reason. Now author Helen Fielding is back with current technology, slick dialogue, texts, and tweets, and a widowed Bridget. Alas, Mark Darcy died in an overseas peacekeeping mission five years ago, leaving Bridget with a toddler, Billy, and a baby, Mabel.

Fast forward and the kids are in school, Bridget's working on a screenplay, and she's lonely. Her friends all agree it's time to date, but Bridget is out of the social media loop and all the new lingo.

Middle age single motherhood is not for the feint of heart. Bridget Jones Darcy bumbles her way through in Mad About the Boy, a funny heartwarming, timely tale. The cover blurb offers typical Fielding laugh-out-loud lines:

"Is it better to die of Botox or die of loneliness because you're so wrinkly?

Is it normal to get fewer followers the more you tweet?

What do you do when your girlfriend's sixtieth birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend's thirtieth?"

Yes, Bridget dates a boy toy for awhile, suffers writer rejection, is constantly late for her children's school programs, and can't bare the thought of Facebook. Mad About the Boy is a quick breezy read. It's mind candy and you'll chuckle all the way through.

"Is sleeping with someone after two dates and six weeks of texting the same as getting married after two meetings and six months of letter writing in Jane Austen's day?"

I chuckled. I think Helen Fielding is clever and this book is not rocket science - it's fluff, but good fluff. Read it with a mouthful of leftover Christmas chocolates.  Enjoy

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

Christmas Spirit

by Joanne Faries

secrets abound

this time of year

mom and dad whisper

say "Get out of here."

I won't look in the closet

it is tempting, I say

but I'm on Santa's good list

and I want to stay that way

rustle of bags

buckets of bows

yummy smells from the kitchen

Christmas star glows

excitement builds

we hum holiday songs

wish for peace on earth

all year long

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas Essay

Christmas Message for Parents on Behalf of Kids by Joanne Faries

I don't understand folks who say, "It's all such a bother. I hate this time of year." Indeed, it is ridiculous that holiday red and green decorations fight for floor space with pumpkin orange in October. Then the poor turkey gets shoved aside for the Christmas ham.

Ads blare from all media, and consumer reports declare doom and gloom for the economy based on shoppers' wallets. There is a lot of pressure to purchase goods, decorate the home, hang a fantastic light display, attend parties, bake cookies, send cards, and be of good cheer.

But that is the key - be of good cheer. Take a breath, step back, and enjoy moments. Stay in budget and don't just frenzy buy. Pause for a second and gaze at a decorated tree or store window. Savor the colors and whimsy.

Sit with the kids at the kitchen table with white paper and cut out snowflakes, then tape them to the front windows. Sip hot chocolate and read Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol or Dr.Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas, OR the Trinity Writers' Workshop Christmas Collection.

Sing a carol off-key in the car, and let that idiot in front of you make an illegal turn. Chill out. Hug your kids and your seniors. Slurp a candy cane and make a sticky mess. Lick a baking bowl, and eat a mouthful of chocolate morsels.

Look for the star in the east, and contemplate peace on earth, goodwill towards man.

I wish you a Merry Christmas (or any holiday you celebrate this time of year)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Movie Review Madness: All is Lost

All is Lost is a film study of man versus nature and nature wins. In the voiceover opening, Robert Redford's man at sea expresses his dismay and apologizes for not making it. He tried his best, but Mother Nature threw everything she had at him and conquered his boat and spirit. That's it. There is no dialogue. Often the only soundtrack is the wind howling and water spraying. But this film is enthralling and heart pounding and sad.

Robert Redford is superb. He's 70+ now and while fit, he shows his age. His weather-beaten face reflects his frustration as he repairs a hole in his boat, then has to flee in a lifeboat after a killer storm. The ocean is vast and unforgiving, and he was a speck, a piece of flotsam. Great film making and acting. One man in a boat versus a large ocean proves hypnotic.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: The Lowland

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri is another dazzling book by this Pulitzer Prize winning author. Her prose is musical, her characters are rich, and she puts the reader in the middle of place - whether it's Calcutta, India or a seaside town in Rhode Island. You can smell the air and feel the heat or cold.

cover blurb: "Two brothers bound by tragedy. A fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past. A country torn by revolution. A love that lasts long past death. The Lowland is a tale of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga with a story steeped in history that spans generations and geography with seamless authenticity. "

Inseparable brothers, Subhash and Udayan, are opposites with different futures. Subhash is quiet and scholarly, ultimately making his way to a new life in America. Udayan is brash and impulsive and participates in a rebellion to erradicate poverty in India. Unfortunately the family is shattered by Udayan's choices. Subhash must pick up the pieces, make choices, and try to raise a daughter.

Lahiri weaves Indian customs within new world expectations. She's excellent at depicting internal conflict, and outward strife. Her characters are intelligent and display heartfelt emotion. Her writing is sublime, and when you finish The Lowland it is with a sigh of regret at leaving these peoples' lives, and yet knowing they are going to survive and succeed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fun in PA with Pa (alias Dad)

 Quick trip to PA - post Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas. Arrived on a lovely winter day. Blue sky, very cold, and icicles hanging from Dad's front porch.
 They are in for a wicked winter. This shows the accumulation on the bushes from the Sunday and Tuesday before I flew into Philly. But it is pretty and glistens in the sunshine.
 Saturday turned bleak, but dire predictions did not stop us. We had tickets for an exhibit at the Michener Museum in Doylestown. Teensy flakes fell in the morning. Here are my Dad and younger sister, Lori braving the cold with a smile.
My smile is more of a grimace as a cold wind blasted us. We scurried inside and waited for my brother, David, his wife Cherie, and my Aunt Janice. I will have more on the exhibit in a later post. Needless to say, we had a splendid time, great lunch at the Hickory Cafe, and we got back to Dad's before more snow accumluated followed by sleet.

You can go home again.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film by Marisha Pessl is a puzzle, an enigma, and you have to keep turning pages to find out what really happened to Ashley Cordorva. She's beautiful, a piano prodigy, daughter of an elusive horror film director and Ashley is dead - an apparent suicide in Manhattan. Investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he pursues leads, encounters strange activities and possible cult connections, McGrath is haunted by his memory of Ashley. He's positive he saw her that last night as he took a late run in Central Park. A dark haired girl in a red coat seemed to seek him out on the path.

With the help of two strangers connected to Ashley, Scott seeks clues in the father's disturbing films. Marisha Pessl includes documents that look like newspapers, film blurbs, and excerpts from a frightening website by those obsessed with Cordova. Her writing is enthralling, the suspense is taut, and this thriller suprises until the end. Night Film is a tight read from start to finish.

p. 63 "I ducked through the opening, the rancid smell of garbage overpowering, unseen animals scurrying away as I made my way along the path....As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could see the crumbling brick exterior, a door to my left. I stepped toward it, tripping on an old bicycle, some plastic bottles, and pulled it open."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


This blurry photo is circa 1981, the house I grew up in on Oakland Place. It was built in 1960 and stands today. The trees are taller. My Dad is shorter. I'm headed there for a Thursday thru Monday visit - post Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas. You have to work with the airlines these days if you don't want to pay them thousands.

Home is in Texas with Ray. But home is also here - no doubt as long as Dad is alive and shoveling snow, raking leaves, and vacuuming the carpet. He's darn healthy and has nice neighbors. Nothing really changes here, but it's clean, packed with memories, and we sit at the kitchen table and talk forever.

I'm very fortunate. I might have to dig in the basement and see if that big red stocking is still around to hang on the front door. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Black Nativity

Jennifer Hudson can sing. She can sing like an angel, and she's the reason to see Black Nativity. Based on a play by Langston Hughes, it's a story about family, love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Poor and getting evicted, Jennifer sends her son in Baltimore to stay with her well-to-do parents in Harlem. The Reverend (Forrest Whittaker) and his wife (Angela Bassett) welcome the young teen but immediately impose house rules. The teen rebels and wants to know why he and his mom are so poor, and his mom never contacted her parents.

It all comes together at the Christmas Eve service with confrontation, family drama, and a gospel chorus to boot. Mary J.Blige has one song and she soars. All in all, the story is predictable. But Black Nativity has an excellent cast, and Jennifer Hudson can sing. Man, she can sing.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Review Madness: The Book Thief

Read The Book Thief first. It's a great book. Or see the film The Book Thief - it is worthy of the book. The setting is a small town in Nazi Germany. The story is narrated by Death, who discusses how he doesn't mean to hasten the inevitable. Man seems to do the job for him.

A couple agrees to "adopt" a young girl and raise her as their own since the mother had "issues". Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are perfect as the parents. He's a softie, and she's tough as nails with a heart of gold. The girl, Liesel, learns to read and is obsessed with books. She grows and learns a lot when the family takes in Max, a Jew.

Air raids abound. The father is conscripted for the army despite his age. So many boys leave and don't come back. The father and mother don't subscribe to the Nazi way, but they also fight to survive and not cause trouble. The Book Thief is a touching film about human spirit, love, family, and survival. Take a tissue because you'll sniffle at the end.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's Only a Little Sleet

 Wednesday I got home from work and raked leaves. It was a balmy 78 F.  Then the north wind howled. By Thursday morning, it was 40 F and raw. Drizzle started mid-late afternoon and the temperatures fell below freezing. A nice glaze covered the streets. I awoke at 1 am to sleet pellets pounding the windowpane.
At 7 am, it was 28 degrees and we had ice covered with close to two inches of sleet. No work, no schools, huge cancellations and treacherous conditions. That's Texas.
 Ray was in Boston and tried to fly home on American Airlines. They cancelled over 1000 flights at DFW. He managed to get booked on Southwest Airlines through Houston to Love Field. An all day journey, plus trying to get a ride home. He understood my car was not leaving the garage.
 I did wander out back (careful to not slip into the pool) to take these icy wonderland pics. I'm fortunate that our power did not go out. So I stayed warm - read and watched Netflix, and of course had to keep looking out the window. Temperatures stayed at 28 F so not much melting occurred.
Our odd metal sculpture looks quite alien with icicles. Very cold predicted for the whole weekend. I think my car shall stay in the garage. Stay safe and warm, my friends.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Humble Man of Peace: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed at the age of 95 yesterday. He was someone to admire - a humble man of his time who stood for what was right and wrong. He believed in democracy for South Africa and spent twenty seven years in prison for it.

From his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom:  I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mr. Mandela is now at rest. However, we on this earth have a lot more hills to climb.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Hunger Games Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a very successful sequel to The Hunger Games and keeps us thirsting for more. War drums throb and tensions build as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) battles wits and power with President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

She and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are back to participate in the special Quarter Quell - like a Survivor All Star version, they must compete against former winners from each district. The new gamemaster, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) created a jungle world of toxic fog and evil monkey attacks.
Who works with whom? Is Plutarch with the President in trying to eradicate Katniss and her influence? Are hunky Finnick (Sam Claflin) and punkster Johanna (Jena Malone) allies to be trusted? Rebellions in the district abound - three fingers raised silently and the mockingjay whistle are a call to arms and a sign of hope for desperate people.

Keeping us on edge is Jennifer Lawrence herself. This plucky actress can do no wrong. She's fearless and yet questions herself. She feels responsible for the people and is torn by the burden. She is the Girl on Fire and when Hunger Games: Catching Fire ends we are pumped for the Mockingjay finale. Whew!!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: Insurgent

"One choice can transform you or it can destroy you." (cover blurb). Insurgent is the second book of a trilogy and our heroine, Tris Pryor, is fighting for her life and those she loves. War and conflict loom amongst factions and the key to power is the Erudite computers of knowledge. As a Divergent, Tris dances between Dauntless, Erudite, and her home Abnegation upbringing has been strong. She has to be careful because the Erudite want to eradicate the divergent and factionless. Fear of the unknown is powerful.

As Tris, Four, and her friends seek a solution to gain entry to the Erudite fortress, she must count on some folks she didn't trust before. Choices become sacrifices which become loss, burdens, battles, and more choices. At sixteen, Tris grows up a lot. Veronica Roth has written an exciting series with strong characters. This is a fast read and I'm ready for the final book in the series.

"Insurgent is a noun. A person who acts in opposition to the established authority, who is not necessarily regarded as belligerent." p. 458.

Follow Tris into battle, and make wise decisions with her. You will keep the pages of Insurgent turning as the pace quickens. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Poem: Queues

Inspired by the holiday shopping season and standing in line at Kohl's, I reflected on lines - past and present. Thus I present a new poem:


wait here

line formed
faced forward, turned around
leaned against wall
smiled, nodded as others joined
checked watch, tapped toe
chatted about nothing
weather, sports, or "What's taking so long?"

wait here

line forms
stand hunched
head down
caress phone
send communiques
self indulgent blather