Monday, November 30, 2020

Monday Moment - Book Review: News of the World

 News of the World by Paulette Jiles is a small gem of a book that covers Texas after the Civil War. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through the outlaw wilds to perform live readings of newspapers. Folks eager to hear about other places pay a dime to hear this dignified seventy one year old war hero give them news and escape for an hour. 

In Wichita Falls, the Captain accepts a fifty dollar gold coin and mission to take a young orphan to her relatives near San Antonio. At age six, Johanna was captured in an Indian raid that killed her folks. Now age ten, this blond haired blue eyed girl, is wild - knowledgeable in Kiowa ways. The Captain has a challenge ahead. 

The four hundred mile odyssey is fascinating - thieves, Indians, anarchy and lawlessness rule Texas. Yet as the miles go by, he and a wary Johanna become quite a team. She's in a dress learning how to use a fork. He's learning to appreciate her survival skills and grows fond of her resourcefulness and spirit. 

Their fate is intertwined and the conclusion is heartwarming. News of the World is sweet, well written, descriptive, and has rich characters in the Captain and Johanna. Pay a bit more than a dime, and enjoy this book escape. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Frivolous Filler Friday

In a normal year, I would be in line at Kohl's with my coupons for Black Friday shopping.  2020 isn't normal, so I'm off to San Saba with Ray for a quick visit to Aunt Pat's . I'll come home Saturday for some time on my own - to read, chill out, and watch some holiday movies on the big screen. 
People who care nothing for their country's stories...are like people without a past - without a memory - they are half people - Alasdair Gray
As I walk, solitary, unattended

Around me I hear that eclat of the world

    Walt Whitman

Sunsets, snakes, San Saba - plenty of stories will be told on Friday night. I hope you and family are enjoying a quiet holiday weekend - staying safe

 And after the turkey feast on Thursday, there's always a Tex-Mex meal Fri, Sat, or Sunday.  Enchiladas, anyone?

Happy Friday

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday Whatever - Grateful

2011 - Thanksgiving back East - here's Dad, me, and Lori.   Happy Birthday to my little sis today Wed. 11/25/20.  She's the best!
I'm grateful for my brother David and his wife Cherie up in PA.  They are a hoot and do a lot for my dad. Hard working, good people.  I'm very fortunate to get along with my siblings, even long distance. (Or maybe it's best that I am long distance - ha. Either way it works)
I'll give a grateful shout out to my cammo wearing, RZR riding, golfing, sporty, good cooking, sweet to put up with me husband.  (Sweetheart - have fun hunting over Thanksgiving weekend, but you TRULY do not have to shoot a thing. That would make me extra grateful)
I'm grateful to my PA gang above (RIP Terri on the right). From junior high, high school, and college, we met and stuck together. Now it's laughs and book club, tears and medical issues, and through it all  - solid friendship.  I'm also lucky with long time TX friends - hugs to Linda H,  Julie, Linda T, Trish, and writer friends Becky and Deb,  and more. 

 I'm going to throw in a grateful to Founding Fathers in Philly back in the day who pulled together this wacky country  and wrote down some words that I hope work. If only Americans can still read. 

Have a safe, healthy, distance Thanksgiving with all of the trimmings. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Monday book review - The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

 Ann Patchett can do no wrong as a writer, and her latest book The Dutch House is a tour de force in my humble opinion.  It's the story of paradise lost that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love, forgiveness, how we want to see ourselves, and who we really are; plus it's suspenseful.  (cover blurb)

Indeed, I wanted to read quickly to find out what happens to Danny and Maeve. But I also tried to read it slowly to savor the story, the writing, and the characters. I enjoyed the suburbs of Philly and could feel the chill in the air. 

Cyril Conroy bought the Dutch House, completely furnished, as a surprise for his wife. That did not go over well as she leaves him with two young children and heads to India. Danny tells the story as he and his sister Maeve are ultimately exiled by their stepmother from the house where they  grew up. Back and forth in time, we learn how Danny wanted to follow his father in real estate but first got his medical degree at Maeve's urging. Education funds were the only life remnant from their father. 

cover blurb - Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Danny and Maeve rely deeply on each other, and as they sit outside their former estate they smoke cigarettes and spin memories. 

p. 121 (some wonderful writing) There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you've been standing on falls away behind you, and the future that you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you're suspended, knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself. 

I really liked The Dutch House for its characters, story, and soul searching. It's the choice of my PA book club and I look forward to our 12/4/20 discussion.  Why don't you read it over Thanksgiving and join us?

Happy Monday

Friday, November 20, 2020

Finally Friday

 In a normal year, this weekend I could be flying to PA to see family and enjoy Thanksgiving with them. Well, that ain't happening.  2020 will be the first year ever to not go to see Dad.  But, this little meme sums up life and holidays to me. Hope everyone is dialing down their ambitious family hugging plans. We shall see what the week brings.  I'll give a grateful post on Wednesday


Meanwhile, here's a quick book review. All Adults Here by Emma Straub follows the Strick family. Astrid's the senior and matriarch of the family. Russell passed away and she has a secret love - Astrid the local salon owner. It's a small town, so if she goes public, that could be quite the news item. 

Her son Elliott and his wife Wendy have twins - holy terrors at age three. Younger son Nicky and his wife Juliette don't know what to do with teen daughter Cecilia. After a school incident, they send her to live with Grandmom Astrid. And Astrid's daughter, Porter, feels her time clock ticking. She sleeps with her ex, Jeremy, but ultimately re-thinks a sperm donor. 

That's quite the summary of small town and family drama. (A Thanksgiving gathering in 2020 would be a blessing of sorts if canceled. )  Just saying - some families could use some time apart. 


And that's another week done. Enjoy your weekend everyone. Stay safe. Don't watch the news. 

Take a fall walk in the leaves. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wednesday - Wander Britain with Bill Bryson (a book review)

 If you want a very humorous read and a nice escape, read The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. An American from Iowa, he lives in England with his wife, and this is his second homage to a beloved country. He's very funny and has a way with words. Plenty of walks, a few train rides, and time in the car lead him from Bognor Regis in the south to Cape Wrath in the north. 

Gardens, museums, bars, and small towns - he wanders down plenty of paths many of us would miss. His droll observations are a hoot.  p. 119  "I have never assumed that anything is fun just because it looks like the English are enjoying themselves doing it."  (This was in reference to a bitterly cold day at a beach). 

p.222  He talks about the train game at Cambridge station. He calls it - does the train really terminate here? A train stops, but is it really done or will it go on to London? The signs are not giving a clue. "Eventually a few brave souls got on, and then there was a kind of rush like when they opened up the Oklahoma Territory to settlers, as nearly everyone hurried to get a seat. But we all had to remain poised to jump off again."

I chuckled my way through this book (it was published in 2015), and shall use it as a travel guide someday. Every place sounded delightful, and Bryson absolutely gushes over the English countryside. 

I'm ready for a long stroll and then a stop for some tea or a pint.  Cheers, mates on a Wednesday. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Monday - meh

 Should have written a post last night, but meh - didn't have a good idea. A bit of a dark cave, black hole, meh.   (This pic is courtesy of a cousin - they are off hiking in Death Valley - and having tremendous weather)

Streaming - started Season 4 of The Crown last night. Jolly good stuff. Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) just came aboard as the new Prime Minister. She was invited out to the castle in Scotland to muck about. Not her cup of tea - I was amused. And Charles has just met Diana, so that shall be interesting. Plus the I.R.A is bombing a bunch. So in general, the United Kingdom isn't all crumpets. We'll see what the Queen chooses to do. Olivia Coleman is such a good actress. 

Good book - Homefront by Kristin Hannah. Jolene is a mother and a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. The Guard calls her up to deploy much to the distress of husband, Michael. The couple were headed toward divorce, but duty calls on all sides. Betsy is 13, Lulu is 4. Tough family times. Then it becomes even more troubled. Jolene's helicopter takes fire, crashes, she loses her leg, her best friend and co-pilot, Tami, dies. Coming home is not a smooth transition. Homefront depicts the drama of loss, family issues, depression, PTSD, and more. Well written and poignant. Have a tissue ready - sniffle. 

And there's a post. I'm not still sitting in a cave. 

Good luck with your Monday. I'm off to work. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Finally Friday - Joy

Unabashed joy. Isn't this a fabulous pic and don't we all wish we had this moment, right now, in our lives? Thanks to a Facebook Friend -I met her at a writer conference and we've stayed in touch. She's funny as hell, is a lawyer, an excellent writer,  and mom to these two lovely kids. She gave permission to use this pic (well, she IS a lawyer after all. I had to ask!)
I enjoyed a virtual author tour moment with Barbara Kingsolver and her new book.  She can write anything - fiction,  nonfiction, and poetry - and does it with grace and ease. Her word choices and flow bring me joy

p. 10 How to Do Absolutely Nothing

final lines -  Don't take a cookbook, or anything to cook.  A fishing pole, ok but not the line, hook, sinker, leave it all.    

find out what's left....


This little superstar student, Makyla, is now a teen and she began a blog. I'm impressed and pleased. She's already posted a book review and more.  Check out

She's always been a reader and now she's a writer and creator too.  Yes,  I'm bragging and proud.  Very cool.  Joyous


And now as we enter a weekend,  a whole week into the netherworld of "say, what?"

let's stick  with our theme of joy:

The root of joy, as of duty, is to put all one's powers toward some great end.  Oliver Wendell Holmes

The highest joy of man should be the growth of personality   Goethe

Winning is important to me, but what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I'm doing   Phil Jackson

Stay engaged everyone. Have some joy in your life this weekend. Stay safe my friends. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Whatever Wednesday - Veteran's Day Version

Hoorah America.  Navy Blue Angels in flight a year or so ago. I like fighter jets zooming about in non-combat shows. Salute our veterans and all who serve. 
America unbound, unfettered.  Celebrate democracy and the process. It's going to work. It has to work. 

Meanwhile, I go to work. 

Yes we can. As Covid cases rise along with hospitalizations, let science make sense. Wear a mask and use some sense. How can it be so hard?

Quick review of something completely different. The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson is a nonfiction take on Winston Churchill's first year as Prime Minister of England. WWII has kicked off in full swing, air raids are nightly, bombings, speeches,  Dunkirk, and hope for the USA to enter the war - this book covers a lot in very readable fashion.  Larson did his research and kept it to one year of detail - following Sir Winston, Clementine,  and the family as they navigate the war. Oh the speeches, the leadership! This is an excellent read, and a good recommendation for their Remembrance Day,  our Veteran's Day.  Strong leadership and heartfelt caring about country and people. 

Here's a vet. My dad is 89 and served in the US Navy, just after the Korean War. Yes,  he's always cold now. This picture was taken at my brother's place this past weekend - they treated dad to good meals, a nice push around the block, fresh air on the patio,  and yes, he snoozed (a lot) under the blankets. Thanks dad. 

Ray's dad served in the Navy,  and Ray created two Marines. Thank you Chris and Kevin for your service, honorable and stalwart.  


Monday, November 9, 2020

Monday Montage

Fall color is popping in Texas. I stole these from some retired friend's FB page - this couple gets out and about during the week and find nifty places to hike. 
These pics are merely something pretty to look at while I give more reviews.  

Since I'm on a chess kick,  I watched The Queen of Katwe on Disney plus.  Based on a true story, it's about a teen girl (Madina Nalwanga) from the slums of Uganda who manages to learn chess from a coach (David Oyelowo) who runs a church camp for kids. She goes on to help this poor group beat some posh school kids, and then on to state champs, and a world competition. Her goal very quickly was to achieve "masters".  Convincing her mother (the wonderful Lupita Nyong'o) that this is not crazy, adds drama to the story. Well done,  kid friendly, and a nice story all around. Checkmate!

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin is a fiction version of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's life.  It's a good read and offers quite a contrast to the myth that is Charles. She's the "plain" daughter who's very malleable. He's the dashing hero who needs a co-pilot in life. By that, he wants a yes person by his side. The author slowly shows Anne evolving into her own person, aware of his affairs, but loyal for the children, and a talented writer and person who stretches her wings too.

 Saturday I tuned in to the virtual Texas Book Festival that's normally held in Austin. I've gone to the live version in the past and it's awesome - so many authors, programs, and books, books,  books.  The virtual is working out okay and I did pay for a ticket to hear Matthew McConaughey chat with Ethan Hawke. Matthew was promoting his new memoir Greenlights. He's a very zen dude with his own life philosophy. He grew up with a bit of an abusive father, but a loving mother and strong siblings. He's been keeping journals for thirty six years and at fifty decided to peruse them and write his book. He's worked hard at his craft, worked hard to not let the noise of fame drown out what's important. He appreciates solitude. Very cool dude.  

I was excited for Ethan Hawke to be the  host. I like him as an actor. But he proved annoying and talked too much. Almost tried too hard to outshine Matthew, who stayed chill but looked a bit on camera like, "Dude, let me promote my book. No one cares about your crap today. Stoplight."

That was my culture moment for the week.  

Happy Monday!  

Friday, November 6, 2020

Finally Friday

Finally Friday and I think my first week back has gone okay.  I stole this lovely picture from my cousins. They live up in the Northwest and do lots of hiking. I thought this photo was wonderful, and I wish I could be there now. Can't you just hear the water rushing along? I bet it's cold
Hey - we have to laugh. I found this quite humorous. 

 Aah - Mary Oliver. 

And now a mini-review since what I've mostly been doing with my time when not working is watching Netflix. 

The Queen's Gambit is fast paced, intriguing, and well done. We meet our flawed heroine as she emerges from a car wreck caused by her mentally ill mother. As the show progresses, we flash back and forth in this girl's life as she goes to an orphanage, learns to play chess from the janitor, goes to a foster home, and works her way up in the chess world. 

Alcoholic, brilliant, a young lady in a man's world, and flaunting conventions. Who knew chess could be this exciting? I highly recommend this short series. I binged it in a weekend. 

The Home Edit is a fixer upper type of series and it's fun. Two ladies working out of Nashville will organize the heck out of your closet, garage, or pantry. In thirty minutes they work magic for some lucky "normal average" people, or they are organizing Reese Witherspoon's (she's a producer of the show) costume room. I watched this show and had two trips to the Container Show. It's organization porn - addictive, fun, and creative. 

Last Tango in Halifax - this has been a PBS series, but I'm catching up with it on Netflix. What a soap opera - only it's classy with British accents. And you can't go wrong with Derek Jacobi as Alan. Such a good actor. But long lost loves reuniting, step sisters sleeping about, one choosing lesbianism, out of wedlock babies, deaths, and more all while drinking lots of bottles of wine or pints of beer. Good acting, fast paced, and plenty of story lines - Last Tango will keep  you dancing in life and wanting to visit Halifax. Lovely countryside. 

Have a good weekend everyone. 


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Whatever Wednesday

I am writing this Tuesday evening with no clue what shall happen in America. 
It could be a wreck like this heap left on the trails in Marble Falls. A warning to slow down and heed signs of danger.  Or what the heck - speed up and go out like Thelma and Louise.
Yes - I am killing time here for a Whatever Wednesday. If you want to social distance and even leave a cell phone tower zone, head to the hills (Hill Country Texas)
Some pretty fall weed foliage.  Will we dig out of the weeds?   America is resilient. No matter what,  the alarm is set and I shall go to work tomorrow. 

 Lady Liberty may sob quietly, but her lamp will stay raised to guide us - the tired,  the poor, the huddled masses. 

Carry on and stay safe.  Does anyone have leftover Halloween candy? I might need more chocolate!

Monday, November 2, 2020

November - Are we ready?

I love the show Hamilton and when Jefferson returns from Paris, he comes in singing, "So what did I miss?" 
Well I wasn't really gone that long, and I still was reading and commenting on blogs, so I don't feel I missed  too much.  And I can't sing. 
So, here I am with a small amount of stuff to kick off November. 

Food for thought  for, no doubt, a nutso week ahead. 
We did go to Marble Falls in Ray's RZR - zoom zoom. Lovely  weather and some rocky scenery. 
Yes, I am queen of this hill


And I enjoyed a pop-up art event in Arlington. We took off our masks for two seconds for this picture. This is my friend Stacy, a poet, and artist, and all around cool chick. And yes, she LOVES Poe. 

So, nothing too profound on this post. Just a toe back in the water. I'll be doing book reviews again - I've kept reading.  Still going to work.  Ray's back working from home and he did test negative after a co-worker was idiot enough to let his family go to El Paso (duh, hotspot) and then they ended up positive.  But, yea for Ray - he's fine! And he's glad to not have the drive again. 

I'll close with a quote I read in a magazine - possibly attributed to Lenin - 

There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks, where decades happen

Strap yourselves in, the ride's going to be bumpy.