Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thoughts on a book: "A Distant Melody" by Sarah Sundin

Remember when i said "I'll say more on the book once I do more than just put it on my bedside table"? Yeh, back on that page. I just finished reading it today.

I have to admit I got hooked on the story. I'm not the greatest romantic, I don't tend to pick up books of couples gazing into each others eyes, and I definitely don't pick up books with a World War II airplane for background to previously mentioned adoring couple. Usually I'm the one hunting in corners for books about dysfunctional families, or books where if I could just once make it past chapter 5 might Change My Life Forever.

Let's face it: in the last few years mostly I'm looking for a home decorating magazine I haven't seen already.

But I loved it! Author Sarah Sundin is a new friend from the writers conference I recently attended at Mount Hermon near Santa Cruz, California. She was just so sweet and welcoming I decided that whatever she wrote I was buying and having her sign, like the little admiring newbie writer I am. (Imagine my relief on finding she wasn't writing a 12 part series called "Fun With Higher Mathematics." Phew.)

"A Distant Melody" has a great cast of characters. The story revolves around a wealthy young woman and the correspondence she carries on with a young pilot during World War II. As a young woman who has grown up under the weight of her parents expectations, how does she find the path to become the woman she would like to be?

I don't normally write book reviews, but I wanted to share what I appreciate about Sarah's writing: she writes approachable, imperfect characters, who have flaws, a sense of humor, and don't have all the answers. After all, aren't imperfections and struggles things we as humans can absolutely relate to?

If you're looking for a bodice ripper you won't find any heaving bosoms here. But if you're looking for a storyline you can sink your teeth into with characters like the flawed folks you probably know, you're in the right place. Sarah writes substance, not just hormones.

I'm a fan of substance and good storytelling, and Sarah gave me both. Thanks, Sarah!

By the way, "A Distant Melody" is Book One in her "Wings of Glory" series.

Skimmer's recap: Book, romance, history, I liked it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The surprises of the dirt in springtime.

It's so fun the first time i go dig in the backyard dirt. i glance at the flower beds and wonder, " many things have i not planted that are now growing?"

 Yes! The purple lantana! This was definitely the outcome of purposeful planting.

 But this? It looks healthy, but no, i don't remember planting it.

This is a decorative lavender, not the tea-making kind, but i did plant this--

but no, not this huge fall of ivy. It's a volunteer from the back neighbor's yard. At least it's pretty.

 Quite purposeful planting! This is a California native--the Carmel Creeper plant. Lovely blossoms, and it comes in two different types: the upright and the ground cover.  This one is the upright, i think. But yes, most purposefully planted.

This one, up close and personal with the Carmel Creeper? Don't know what this is--but i know i didn't plant it. And there are lots of these sprinkled around ...hmmm... well, it's kind of pretty.

 i really love this one! i can't remember what it's called, but it grows beautiful little blossoms. Purposeful little blossoms. And then-- 

my sweet geraniums with their cute little pink and white faces, purchased at the Half Moon Bay Nursery. i love geraniums, they just grow and grow, even when i plant them.

 But again with this one? Why? And scattered along the whole bed! Volunteer soldiers, standing up so straight and proud, ready to overthrow my plants.

 And i think i'm quite happy with this, because i'm fairly sure i did plant it, and it's a lilac bush that started out a teensy-tiny thing a few years ago. When it blooms i'll know if i'm right.

 But this??? OH it's the bane of my existence--oxalis. Impossible to kill, it covers every available dirt spot on our property after the first rains. At least the yellow flowers are pretty for a time.

 This is lovely--and it fits both the volunteer and purposeful status in my yard. When i planted it against the back fence it was a bulb i had dug up from the yard, and i thought it was a white calla lily. BUT! turns out it was a volunteer bulb with glorious orange flowers, and its bloomed twice this year already.

 And here is where i THOUGHT i dug out all the bulbs of that orange flower! Happy to volunteer. And i still don't know where they came from.

Here's an especially healthy volunteer Mongo dandelion. Some of the non-purposeful plants are the biggest thrivers. One more:

 Did i plant this? No. But it grows over the fence from the neighbor's yard, the hummingbirds love it, so i do too. Plus it's red. i love red.

With all the emphasis on nature and all things "green" the question arises: should i disturb the volunteer plants in the garden-y, forest-floor-y dirt? Apparently not--

If i do? The ants get all crazy and start running around with their little eggs

 and the bees get all buzzy around my head. And there was a snake--i swear there was a snake! And who am i to bother them, after all they are just doing garden-y, forest-floor-y things, and who am i to distract them from their content creeping, crawling, buzzing little lives? 

Especially the snake. i really want the snake to be happy. And i want all the livestock of nature to leave me alone.

Friday, April 23, 2010

On my efforts to have a pain medication "fast."

And who is our favorite Vicodin abusing TV doctor? Why, Dr. Gregory House, that's who! Clearly it makes HIM a happy camper.

So why would this fibromyalgic blogger decide to be UNhappy? Maybe she's tired of being tired and foggy. Maybe she thinks that if she can rid her body of the Aleve, Vicodin, Motrin and Percocet, she can ascertain which are fibro symptoms and which are pain reliever symptoms. And which is worse?

Don't get me wrong--i did not quit taking the Cymbalta my doctor prescribed. i'm not crazy. You've probably seen it advertised, that depressing depression commercial (think "Who does depression hurt? Everybody," and lots of pictures of sad looking people. They need an ad for "Who does fibromyalgia hurt? EVERYBODY ELSE," with at least one picture of me scowling.)

The premise of the moment for fibromyalgia is extra "Substance P" in the spinal column that in turn makes the person's central nervous system waaaay more sensitive than it should be. This makes the pain feel like it's screaming for attention when it should be only mildly grumpy.

i've not had the pleasure (?) of abusing my pain meds like House by taking them 4 at a time countless times a day. i've used the Vicodin at the same dose prescribed to me two years ago by the doctor at Kaiser's Pain Management Clinic. And i'm not gonna lie: when that pain reliever washes over, what a relief it is.

i've tried Motrin. Aleve. Percocet as well as Vicodin. And while they all lessen my pain level, they do bad things for all other levels in my life--my stomach goes to a dark place, my creative abilities follow. My emotions are even more touchy than before. None of these do i desire.

It's been, thus far, a 2 week fast. i'm making good friends with the hand-me-down hot-tub again. The only downside to it is my proactivity with the chemicals has made it smell like a public pool (minus the urine.)

We shall see how it goes.

Skimmer's recap: Will fewer pain meds lead to more pain or simply more sanity?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Knitting and driving adventures with Martha.

Martha, my husband's sister, stayed with us over the Christmas holiday. We decided to have our very own Local Yarn Store "hop." She's in a knitting guild, Creative H'Arts, in the Monterey area and does this sort of thing on a regular basis. i, the Self-Made Knitter of Easy Projects Only, live in my sheltered non-guild, non-hopping world. So we decided to have an adventure.

That Yarn Store in Dublin, CA. *happy sigh*

We started with my new favorite yarn store, That Yarn Store in Dublin, CA. Unfortunately they were closed. Bummer. But there's a great Chinese restaurant in the same shopping center, so all was not a loss. It's a friendly place with a welcoming atmosphere where generally someone is sitting at that big, black table as you enter, working on a knitting project. It just feels good to me, yunno?

On we went, armed with my iPhone's map capabilities--i love watching where we are on the map as we travel (but no, NOT when i am the driver!) So we headed to Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, CA, just blocks from where my daughter used to live. A street lined with small boutiques and several coffee shops, it's my perfect shopping zone. It's also the location of
Piedmont Yarn and Apparel, a small shop packed with yarn goodness--as soon as we walked in i was invited to feel the yarns. (Unlike a yarn shop Martha and i once went into where the lady said "don't touch it unless you're buying it." Hmm.) For we yarn folk, feeling it is a big part of the yarn experience, so i knew this place had to be good!

Piedmont Yarn and Apparel--small but mighty!

Gaylord's, where the coffee is tasty AND artistic!

We finished off the visit by crossing the street to Gaylord's coffee where the condiments counter is a glass enclosed organ. Plus the coffee is so good there--forget Starbucks, forget Peets, this place is great.

With our coffees in hand we returned to the car to find a parking ticket on the windshield. Hmmm--apparently even on the street you have to pay for parking. Good to know. Woulda been better to know sooner. Oh well, it was Martha's car. ;-) Sorry Martha!

i love this photo from "Cartoon Barry" on his blog--If it snowed in the East Bay of California, the Piedmont/Oakland police would totally do this.

Now to Article Pract, a yarn store on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Strange name, yes, but i just read on their website that it is a "spoonerism" where the beginnings of two words are switched. So i still don't get it. If i actually knew what "hip" meant, i'd say this yarn store is.

Cool logo, eh?

Again, friendly service was obvious. i eavesdropped on a worker helping a 20-something guy pick a gift for his girlfriend "to show I'm aware of and interested in what she likes." i was impressed by both the staff person but by this gift buying guy. i had to ask--"how old are you?" "Twenty-eight," he said, managing to hide whatever he might be feeling about some random strange woman asking him personal questions. "Ah!" i said, "then there is hope for my son--" The staff person piped in, "Yeh, about 28 is when they start getting human," (she looked to be about his age herself.) The guy looked back at me and said, "Yep, you should have seen what I got her last year--a bowling ball and a refrigerator." See why i eavesdrop and talk to strangers? Most of my family and friends don't get it, but i love it.

Names have a "feel" for me. While there i bought two skeins of Aztec Turquoise Lamb's Pride Bulky made by Brown Sheep Company, Inc. My mind hears that whole name and sees a couple of solid and sturdy sheep standing proudly on a hilltop--one is brown (obviously,) and one is an extra chubby turquoise sheep. It's a yarn that brings a comfortable and practical feeling.


Next stop, off Solano Avenue in Berkeley to a cute little yarn shop named Stash. Immediately a young lady greeted us at the door to explain their method of organization. All yarn was shelved counter-clockwise around the store starting with the skinny little lace weights and sock weights that people (with more patience than me) use, to the heaviest of yarns that looked more to me like pretty rope.

i bought some bright lime green yarn and watched it go from a hank of yarn (a loosely twisted oblong) to a neat center pull ball. From swift to ball winder, all words i am learning these days. "Non-returnable when wound," they all say, but it could be worth it just to see it done. i am easily fascinated.

Two women sat behind the counter working on projects of tiny yarns on tiny needles that i avoid, chatting pleasantly with the shoppers. i watched in awe as one young woman deftly knit a thread-like yarn into a lace patterned shawl, talking and walking at the same time. There is no way to know what i would end up with if i attempted that level of multi-tasking.

It was now pouring rain, but we were still able to find the next yarn store-- K2Tog. (Knit two together, in knit-speak.) Less than a mile down the road, it was in Albany, not Berkeley. i don't know why that makes me laugh, but it does. (Again with the "easily amused.") By this time we were tired, so i took a quick trip around the store and bought a nubby olive green yarn for a hat pattern.

Seriously, if you're not into knitting or crocheting, this is a big *yawn* of a post. But for the fiber-addicts like Martha and me? A beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Skimmer's recap: Does yarn make you yawn? Skip this and take a nap instead.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Seasonal thoughts on change.

Something happens over the winter. And it happens in my back yard.

i call it "nastification." All the remains of the wet season lay around like so many Thanksgiving leftovers. Weeds crop up in even the tiniest crack.

Everywhere i look something needs to be cleaned.

And who left the tools outside? If this was somebody else's moss-growing garage and somebody else's ruined tools, i'd think the photo was charming.

But then i look up to see new leaves on the poplar tree, bathing in the sun, doing that cool light-play i love so much.

And i notice my orange rosebush has amazing blooms, and even more amazingly, is still alive (no green-thumbs here, just California weather)

and my crawling, spreading white rose is crazy with new leaves and buds!

Color is returning as the geraniums are beginning to grow over the wall, making even the winter-mossed stones beautiful

and i realize that nastification is simply the result of the death it took to get to this place of new life.And i realize that all my striving to be good enough for spring requires death.

Death to my own struggle to be loveable and good enough in my Creator's eyes, and open-ness to the beauty and love and worth He's given me before i did anything to be loveable, to be good enough.

Why do i worry so much about being shiny enough? i can work and fall, work and fall. But my true worth doesn't come from the things i try to do to be lovable, or to be perfect. As i learn to turn my words of pain to God first--rather than griping to people--i'm taking steps to see myself through His eyes. The newness comes in its season. i just need to stop grumbling about the weeds on the ground and look up.

1 John 4:10: It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Skimmer's recap: Look at the pictures, read the verses, ponder.

Friday, April 16, 2010

An interesting study on cleaning in which i learn things about myself.

i decided to do some cleaning of all the stuff by my bed. This is what was on the bedside table top. A little fantasy reading--and i don't mean the novel,

i mean the magazines with articles on losing weight (easily, of course!) and getting organized.

"A Distant Melody" is Sarah Sundin's first book. She was one of the first people i met at Mount Hermon, and she put me at ease immediately with her welcoming smile. It's my next-to-read, and has gotten amazing reviews. i'm sure i'll love it as much as everyone else has, and can look forward to the next two books coming in the series. i'll write again once i've done more than simply place it on my bedside table. :-)

The lovely spread of it all? Totally and absolutely for your viewing pleasure--since you wouldn't be able to see them in their normal jumble.

The process of cleaning rarely leaves me happy (unless it's cleaning in the "Will work for praise" style.) But books! i found more books! i've been stashing them in a basket under the night table as i've collected them. My friend Melanie reads a lot and loans the ones to me she thinks i'll like. It's kind of like having the library just drop by my house with fun surprises.

Anyway, she brings them, i pick them up at thrift stores and garage sales, and i get some in the mail because i support New Life Ministries.

Unfortunately, 2009 was not the happiest and best year in the Elder household due to job changes and layoffs and job searches and rehires, not to mention my constant companion fibromyalgia. So i didn't read much. Now i have not only the books i bought from writers at Mount Hermon and other places, but i have these to add to the Collection Of the Unread But Not Unloved.

Looking over the titles i'd say i have a pretty wide range of tastes, again the usual mix of fiction, fantasy and hope. By "hope" i mean all the titles i pick up because i hope they'll give me some edge on life or organization or becoming fabulously fit by 50 (oops! too late. Make that 60.) These books usually fit under the "fantasy" heading as well.

Of course the odd title just appeals to me, as in Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking." i'm looking forward to it since i love and own the movie "Postcards From the Edge," based on her life.

i now have 42 books to read. Better get myself started. This was a happy cleaning moment.

Skimmer's recap: Yep, i got a lotta books.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Busy April!!

April is a busy birthday month for our family. We started out celebrating Dean's birthday at Pyzano's, a local and excellent pizza place. Various among us tried to channel the birthday boy's mustache--although we should have added some pizza flour to make the color more realistic.

i think i look totally natural, personally--

though grandson Trevor looks pretty darn Mario-like in it. (i can hear the music playing now!)

Granddaughter Haley definitely gets the "cutest girl in a 'stache" vote.

Below is Cori and Luis' place--i love it! (Plus they're much tidier than i have ever been.) It's a Craftsman bungalow with built-ins, like the china cabinet you can see behind the table. The tablecloth is an old one from my side of the family and looks perfect in their place on the antique table they bought when they moved in.

Why the photos? This lovely meal was cooked by Cori and Luis for Luis' 30th birthday celebration. And have i mentioned (a million times, maybe?) that he's the executive chef for Mamacita, an upscale Mexican restaurant in San Francisco?

It was great--chicken breasts (from quite well-endowed chickens,) asparagus risotto, and an arugula and strawberry salad. Mmmmm. Topped off by a chocolate cake. And good wine. Here's to many more of their birthdays where they cook!!

Then we moved onto Jarel's 22nd birthday--

This is Jarel with friend David, horsing around at his birthday breakfast. He had a great party with a lot of his friends at the house, and an adorable dinosaur cake from Costco that his mommy picked out. :-)

Somewhere in the midst of all this, the Danville Grandgirls took me on a whirlwind shopping and bowling tour. i was consistently 6 steps behind--Cassidy almost left the shoe store with two different size shoes (way to go Grandma!) but we were saved by the observant clerk.

Grandma again experienced being more steps behind as i was beat by Haley in two consecutive games, topped off by a boy about Haley's age who was there with his family, asking my 12 year old granddaughter for her phone number without me noticing. Let's just say Grandma is out of practice!

skimmer's recap: Just look at the pictures. Close enough.

OH! How could i have forgotten to mention the birthday of GrandBrit Elias tomorrow? He's 7!