Thursday, April 25, 2013

What's in Your Lineup?

The weather is getting nicer by the hour, the outside is calling me to leave the inside and I’m wondering – what good books will I be reading come summer? I’ll bet you’re wondering the same thing so maybe it’s time, once again, to share the bounty. Of what you’ve read and would recommend. Deal?

Currently I’m hooked on “Wool” by Hugh Howie. Here’s why. Three things happened all at once. My son asked me if I’d heard of some guy who was a big self pub hit, that same guy landed on the front cover of my just-delivered- fresh-to- the- door Writer’s Digest, and Bonus! The first book in the series was free on Amazon. So how could I not investigate? In the WD interview Howie states he was pulling down 15K a month from this little gem, so I had to find out what the fuss was all about. And now I’m hooked and wish it was me who wrote the thing. Anyway – the book is about a future dystopian society where everyone lives in silos - underground. I’m on book 5 and will read as far as I need to. And also try to dream up something as good and become a phenom myself. Yup, that'll happen.  

Before “Wool” I read the latest in the series by Alexander McCall Smith, “The #1 Ladies Detective Agency.”  This was #13 and oh how I hope it’s not the last. Titled “The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection” it continues with the adventures of Precious Ramotswe and her sidekick, Grace Makutsi as they handle situations brought to them by the citizens of Gabarone in Botswana, Africa. Charming, informative, funny, inspiring – all the things I love in a book. And, really, a guy from Scotland writing about women in Africa. Aren't you just curious about how that happens???

Before that one I read the first in another series by Harlan Coben, “Deal Breaker.” This book introduces his sports agent turned detective,  Myron Bolitar. Coben gives us a unique character in Bolitar and a scary, creepy, almost evil assistant in Windsor Lockwood III. And Win, as he’s called by Bolitar, is one of the reasons I probably won’t read another in the series. The charm and wisecracking ways of Bolitar almost offset the foul language and smutty sex, but Win puts it in the “more for guys than nice ladies,” category so I’m passing on future installments. I think.

After  I finish “Wool” I have “Saving Grace,” by Pamela Fagan Hutchins waiting in the Kindle. It’s a romantic mystery and it was free for a couple of days. It got good reviews and I’ll share mine when I’m done if anyone is interested. Will post on Amazon. 

Okay, how about you? What have you got lined up for your summer reads?

Image: adamr                                                                                Free Digital Photos

Monday, April 22, 2013

And Now For a Little Fashion

I’m hooked on Masterpiece Theater. You may have guessed that from some of my previous posts. But the story I’m watching now, Mr. Selfridge, dovetailed so perfectly with a charming scenario in the bedroom last evening that I just had to comment on it. Stay with me here.

The whole crew came over for a big pasta feed yesterday and the tradition is for Grandma to play with the kids after supper while the other adults clean up. After all, I Had made my famous garlic bread, so I deserved it. The kids know this and soon had me by the hand wanting to play something. So I asked them if they’d like to see Grandma’s new dress. Sam declined, but the girls were all for it. That’s the dress up in the corner there.

I pulled it out of the bedroom closet and waited for the praise. All of the judges sat on Grandma's bed and I breathed a sigh of relief when it passed muster.Then I hauled out the old jewelry and scarves so my three little dolls could drape themselves and pretend. I put my lacy, black fringed shawl over my head and showed them a few of my Flamenco dancer moves. I didn’t have a rose for my teeth but they appreciated my efforts. Next Anna put rhinestone earrings in her hair (clip earrings hurt her ears) and sang for us. Such fun.

So how does Mr. Selfridge, watched after they left, figure in? Well, it got me thinking about fashion through the ages – plenty of which is in my closet since I hardly throw anything away. Anyway, Harry Selfridge was a hurricane of a man who owned the fabulous department store bearing his name. On Oxford Street in 1909 London. The opening credits have those quick clips of people and places in the production to give you a taste of what  you’re in for. Oh, the dresses and hats! The Gibson Girl profile – hair piled high and tendrils dangling, the wasp waist dresses, parasols. Too elegant. It’s set at a time when people were eager for everything new and fashionable. Harry loved and profited from female fashion.  

So, as I sat sighing over the costumes in the show, I thought about my lifetime and the eras of fashion I loved. When I was in sixth grade I got my first crinoline which meant many yards of nylon net that made my skirt swirl all around me when I ran through the playground. I think it cost my Mom six dollars, an extravagance for us. But she got it for me and I loved the rainbow colors in the ribbon edging. My little dolls would have loved it, too.

In high school I had a mohair skirt – lavender. I felt like a fashion model in it. I had a sweater that perfectly matched. Skirts were for the most part A- line or straight; a far cry from the 50’s and much more Audrey Hepburn, that mighty fashion icon. Actually she covered two eras – her own and the glory days portrayed in My Fair Lady (in Selfridge's time frame). That black and white number with the gigantic hat? To die for! Okay, not to wear, but to die for.

The 80’s brought us away from the horrors of the pantsuits, hot pants, mini skirts, and bell bottoms so popular in the 70’s. Enter the peasant skirt. Oh, I loved those. And peplums. And patterned socks. Little pink roses climbing up your legs. Soft blouses and elegant boots. Nice.

What I love about current fashion is represented in the little shrug that goes with my polka dot dress. A throwback to the 50’s that I adore (my Mom wore them, too). And the pretty sheer tops that you must wear a pretty tank under. So feminine. Unlike those midriff baring teeny tiny shirts of the 90’s. Ugh. Never could wear those.

So – tell me - what fashion era do you love? I’ll tell my granddaughters and maybe we’ll come to your town and do a fashion show. It could be the ghost of Harry Selfridge will tag along. How cool would that be?

PS: Some of my memories of certain eras may not be spot on. Feel free to correct me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why We Need Pollyanna

I remember the day exactly. Two years ago on December 26th all I could do was sit in my recliner, exhausted. It had been our turn to do Christmas dinner (for 19) and I’d gone the extra two miles to make it perfect, but it took a toll. The next day was the most tired I can ever remember being. And that’s why we watched the movie – Pollyanna – starring a very young Haley Mills and based on the book written by Eleanor Porter in 1913.

I didn’t really want to watch it, but nothing else seemed any better so there I sat. If you don’t know the story, it’s about an eleven year old orphaned girl who goes to live with her rich, tyrannical Aunt Polly in the small town of Harrington. This was in the days of long dresses, early motor cars, and idyllic small town America.  

Pollyanna is full of good cheer, sass, and a very clear sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. She also plays the Glad Game that she learned from her missionary father explained in the following quote.

Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about--no matter what 'twas," rejoined Pollyanna, earnestly. "And we began right then--on the crutches."

"Well, goodness me! I can't see anythin' ter be glad about--gettin' a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll!"

Pollyanna clapped her hands.

"There is--there is," she crowed. "But I couldn't see it, either, Nancy, at first," she added, with quick honesty. "Father had to tell it to me."

"Well, then, suppose YOU tell ME," almost snapped Nancy.

"Goosey! Why, just be glad because you don't--NEED--'EM!" exulted Pollyanna, triumphantly. "You see it's just as easy--when you know how!"

Pollyanna alternately charms and shocks the townspeople and even makes inroads with the sourpuss, Mrs. Snow (played so well by Agnes Morehead), who is bedridden.

About halfway through the movie I was a little sick of Pollyanna’s solution to everything. Sort of like listening to yet another little girl screeching out, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom . . .”  Sorry, but that song brings on the gag reflex in me. Because, you know, sometimes the sun Doesn’t come out tomorrow or for days even.

But my state of tiredness kept me in the chair weakly sipping my coffee and watching. I was being pulled in. Finally the whole crux of the matter was presented in the form of a fund raising bazaar that Aunt Polly was against. Pollyanna in her eternal optimism sides against her aunt. When things are finally at their worst, we find Pollyanna sneaking back into her attic bedroom via an old tree on that side of the house. Just as she’s reaching for the window sill, she loses her balance and plunges to the ground. And lays still.

My heart almost stopped. I began to tear up. Because it could have been one of my granddaughters laying face down in the dirt. A little girl whose buoyant innocence only wanted to see the glad in things. Someone who looks at you and sees through whatever mask you’re wearing and gets to the heart of the matter. The wide open soul who listens to your story of woe and hugs your arm saying, “Don’t be afraid, Grandma. I will be with you.” So said our little Melodi after I told her how frightened I was one day as a child when I got lost coming home from school.

I also realized that the world would be that much more miserable if we let Pollyanna die. We can’t leave her there on the ground to perish. We can’t let the crushing forces that so often intrude keep her down. For if Pollyanna dies, Despair wins, corruption triumphs and evil will slowly become the norm. We can’t have that, can we?

Those few tears I shed in my exhaustion were cleansing. And Pollyanna did get up and was healed along with her Aunt Polly and the little town of Harrington. A little town that just might be like our whole nation is right now.

Please, please, look for the Pollyanna in your life. She is a gift from God. She may even be you.

Thanks for reading.

Image: sattra                                                                 Free Digital Photos

Friday, April 12, 2013

Little Women

So here they are – the fab five – in all their youthful glory. My granddaughters; frozen in time but already two weeks older than when I took this picture. I’m so glad they were willing to pose and so upset that they have no intention of obeying the one directive I’ve seriously given them. Stop growing!

Ranging in age from fifteen down to two years, each has her charms. How delighted was I when the oldest, Elaina, grinned through her braces and told me, “You’re the Grandma who feeds me!” I was mixing funnel cake batter. On our walk the day before she told me one of her very first memories was of me giving her a taste of my homemade barbeque sauce. First from the back of a spoon and then a piece of bread. She slurped it up. I was so glad she told me.

Her nine-year-old sister, Lillian, has beautiful long, golden curls and somehow remembers my mother’s own dictate when she’d comb out my hair (equally as curly as Lillie’s). “Beauty must suffer,” she’d say as she dragged the comb through my snarls. I hated that saying, but it didn’t sound so bad coming from Lille.

Anna is the cartwheel queen and daring fashionista. At seven she feels qualified to pass judgment on whatever it is I happen to climb into each day. Most of the time it’s my “grandma clothes.” You know, the ones you wear ‘cuz you don’t care if the Ovaltine or Capri Sun gets all over them? So I don’t take her seriously until I’ve chosen something that really matters. Then I hold my breath.

Melodi inherited the clean gene. She’s four and knows exactly where the vacuum cleaner goes, when the floor needs to be swept and how to fill the little cup with dishwasher powder. She’s also careful. Doesn’t rush into anything whole hog until all quarters have been examined and found worthy – and safe. Good for her.

And Sierra – at two the youngest – is the dead opposite of her sister, sometimes. A real little rascal. The other day when my son dropped her off for me to babysit, he warned me. “It’s a full moon.” And he laughed. But I embraced our little “lunatic” and as long as we did what she wanted, she was happy. She’s just learning to talk, but more goes on in that little head than you’d suspect. She doesn’t really like jelly beans, but hounded me for one anyway. About a minute later she said, “’Ere ya doe, damma,” and handed me the soggy thing she’d only sucked the coating off of.

I’m glad there’s a goodly number of years between them. There’s always a younger one in reserve, so to speak. I want to hold them and keep them from harm. I want them to know they can come to me with their anger, joy, sorrow, disappointments and dreams. I think of them as my little women in the very bright, beginning stages of life. I desperately want to be a good example to them so that one day there will be another picture with all of them grown to beautiful womanhood, happy that they had, and have, a place to go called “Grandma’s” and the memories forged there will sustain them all their lives.

PS: We have one grandson, Sam, you can read about him here

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

First Walk of Spring

I took the first walk of the season last night out on the back road. After supper. The smell of the hamburgers and caramelized onions I’d made clung to me as I clipped along. But the air was fresh and the birds, especially the robins, twittered alongside me and it was delightful.

Of course very little is green yet. But there are other things to see like the Poof! of a fluffy white rabbit tail that disappeared behind some low brush and leaves as I approached. Shy little guy. Not so the chickadee. Nope. She bebopped down from a birch tree branch and landed directly across from me on the other side of the road. “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee”, I said, so happy to see her. Her little black cap was on straight and I’ll betcha she was thinking about finding a fella and setting up house.  

Just over the rise I was greeted by a chocolate lab and his buddy yard guarding. Rowf! Rowf!! Deep throated critters and bound by an invisible fence that I’m sure made them feel safe from this person who dared set foot on their road. I cooed at them glad for that the invisible fence. I’m not afraid of dogs at all, especially labs, the big softies. I’m more afraid they’ll follow me than anything else. That’s happened. Maybe I shouldn’t coo so much and call them “baby” and “buddy” and say things like, “You’re a big tough teddy bear, aren’t you?” Hmm.  

Over the rise, around the corner and up another incline. The newest home on this quiet road has huge boulders guarding the driveway that goes a ways back into the property. In addition there are some plantings, a rock wall and solar lights to guide the way. There are no street lights on this back road. All the wiring is underground. Nothing to obscure the skyline. I love it but I don’t walk the road after dark. Of course not.

Then, just when I thought there was nothing else to experience, I saw them. Four young lads careening down the asphalt on skateboards. Heard them, too, chatting and scooting. They turned into a driveway long before I got to them, but I wanted to tell them how much fun that skateboarding seemed. Zipping along, shirt flying, cool evening air. Young fun.

Almost out to the main road now. I approached the house on the corner, the one with the huge pine trees lining the property, and two robins greeting me. One had landed on a low branch; the other swooped in a few seconds later. They have an amazing cheep, cheep. Very certain, robins are. They know what they’re about and it reminded me of a song my dad sang to us when we were little. So for the rest of the way home I did the best I could with it.

When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin’ along, along
There’ll be no more sobbin’ when he starts throbbin’ his old sweet song
Get up, get up, you sleepy head
C’mon on, c’mon, get outta bed . . .

I miss my dad bellowing out the lyrics to old songs and cheering us all up. 

The song ends . . . Live, love, laugh and be happy.

And how could it be any other way on a walk where spring wraps herself around me like a comfortable old sweater, shows me the resurrecting earth, and puts a song in my heart?