Category Archives: Hope

Giving thanks, 2016

I just wanted to send Thanksgiving wishes. Enjoy! The card is from JacquieLawson.com. The song and Thanksgiving prayer are from Louisa May Alcott. Read “About This Card” after viewing, and enjoy the scene.

The quote below kept going through my head, so I thought I would post it as well:

 

Image result for a single grateful thought turned heavenward

Really, Thanksgiving should be every day.

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Filed under Hope, inspiration, Songs

A Good Year for the Roses–I Finally Finished It!

If you heard shouts of “Hallelujah!”  “Yay!” and “Great!  Thank heavens!” from my house the morning of September 15, it was me and my assistants celebrating that I reached the end of Gil McNeil’s 2014 novel, A Good Year for the Roses. The author is best known for a series of British mysteries about knitting, and other romances. I discovered the book when my local library featured a large display of fiction and nonfiction about gardening. Since I love roses of all kinds (although yellow ones are my special favorite) I was immediately hooked.

It became something of a running joke at home, because it took me FOREVER to finish it.  One of my helpers started asking, with a grin, “Are you ever going to return this? I’m sick of seeing it!”  My to-be-read pile, always humongous, often prevented me from going back to it regularly. But I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s a great story, very funny and touching. When you are not feeling all that fabulous and need to relax and enjoy yourself, this is the read to choose. Here’s a bit of the story.

Molly Taylor hasn’t been having a wonderful time lately. Newly divorced and living in London with three growing sons–Dan, Ben, and Alfie–she feels at loose ends, even though she enjoys her teaching job. Molly has primary custody of the boys, and their jerk of a dad is mostly absent. She would like to move for a new start, but is having a hard time finding the right place. To make matters worse, Molly’s beloved Aunt Helena dies. So as the story opens, the family is traveling to the Devon coast for the funeral. Molly isn’t sure how she feels about being back with her eccentric family and in the place where she grew up. But she misses Helena and enjoys seeing her Uncle Bertie, Helena’s widower, again.

Imagine Molly’s shock (and the rest of the family, who owns a hotel in the area) when Helena’s will is read. Her aunt has left her the house that she and Bertie shared–Harrington Hall–complete with massive, well-loved, and well-tended gardens. But what is she going to do with it?

Ultimately, Molly decides to quit her job and move the family (and their dog, Tess) to Devon and make Harrington Hall into a bed-and-breakfast inn. I really admire this character for her spirit and spunk. From the get-go, Molly realizes how much work it will be, but she is determined. She wants the B&B to be a place of safety, restoration, and healing. Still, there are days when she hides in the linen closet awhile to regroup.

Bertie will continue to live in the house. A former British Navy man, Bertie’s pride and joy is his pet parrot, Betty, who swears a lot. Bertie also does nightly safety patrols of the property. Often without warning, he sets off an ancient cannon, which makes everyone in the house feel like they’re experiencing an earthquake. The noise is also the cause of many a household accident. Ivy and Dennis, a husband-wife team, are the housekeeping and gardening staff, respectively. Lola is Molly’s best friend who calls and visits occasionally and shakes things up. Molly and the boys have to get used to tending the chickens every day and helping Dennis keep the wild rabbits out of the vegetable garden. Bubble and Squeak, the piglets Alfie won in a local raffle, join the menagerie later. A subsequent guest brings her dog along…to Betty’s chagrin. And always–always–everybody tracks in mud.

The book moves at a delightfully leisurely pace with tons of British charm. I did learn a new slang word. And I did catch myself saying “bloody hell!” a bit too much when I got irritated with situations in my own life. At its heart, it’s a family story–a single mom raising her sons and being part of an extended family and community.  Readers also see the B&B and the characters grow and change.A Good Year for the Roses is also unique in the way it is structured–each section is organized into seasons of the year. At the beginning of each section, descriptions of various roses are included.

A beautiful read!

 

Free Rose Clipart

Yellow Rose Clipart

 

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Free Rose Clipart

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Filed under Everyday Goings-On, Hope, Humor, journeys

Walk to Beautiful–The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way

READ THIS BOOK!!  I found it through my library’s Wowbrary newsletter. I was attracted to the inspiring story by its summary and the title, reproduced above. It was lying on my dining room table, so I decided it should be my next read. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down! Jimmy Wayne’s life story shows us that anyone can get through anything–surviving no matter what your challenges are.

Working with a co-writer, Wayne looks back unflinchingly on his difficult childhood, which was often spent moving around a lot. That kind of life was more than a little unstable–even dangerous–for him and his sister, Patricia, as their mom tried to build a life that she’d be happy with. Many times, they were hungry, and he’s never forgotten the feeling of an empty stomach for days on end. It took him years to fully realize that his mom had been hurt a lot, and that she had bipolar disorder, which played a significant role in a lot of her bad choices. Forgiving her and letting go of pain took a long time, too. But she never lost the title of “Mama.”

By the time he was 14, his mom and stepfather left him at a bus station to fend for himself. On his fifteenth birthday–which he almost forgot about–he spent the night in jail. When he couldn’t find his way to friends and relatives, he spent time in various foster homes. Eventually he told his caseworker he wasn’t going back. So he became homeless.

Many times when telling his story, Wayne talks about an inner voice guiding him. Early on, he learned to always trust that voice. One of those times was during his wanderings. He came upon an elderly couple who operated a woodworking shop. The voice told him to ask if they had any work to do. He offered to cut their grass. They accepted his offer and gave him something to eat. Over several weeks, they formed a friendship. Eventually, the couple felt comfortable enough to invite him to live with them. He stayed for six years. Bea and Russell Costner became the parents he never had. With their expectations–that he would go to church, school, and cut his hair–their love and support, he completed high school and college, eventually earning an associates degree in criminal justice, and a job in his field.

Jimmy Wayne’s other love is music. For many years he played the guitar and sang. Bea encouraged these gifts as well, with her love of gospel music. He found a professional voice teacher, and Bea attended all of his gigs. Sadly, she didn’t live to see his country music success, both in songwriting and performing.

And there were other “angels unawares” in his life–a sixth grade teacher who taught him for two years. Even though she was a strict disciplinarian, she was firmly in his corner. She encouraged his writing ability and taught him the habit of daily journaling, which he still does. And they are friends to this day. The parents of some of his friends were supportive. An art teacher praised his painting and drawing. A guidance counselor never gave up on him. Even the police officer who took him to the jail that night tried to help him. They too have remained friends. The police officer is now a professional counselor and pastor.

I didn’t know who Jimmy Wayne was before this book. I enjoyed learning about his career and his songs. I’m not sure if he records much these days, but he’s probably still writing songs. He has become an advocate and speaker for foster kids who automatically age out of the system at age 18–often with no place to go and no resources. He has pushed for legislation to help them in Tennessee and elsewhere. He also felt like he wasn’t giving back in the way that he wanted–one reason for the walk he completed to raise awareness about foster kids and how to help. Here is a TED Talk he gave on the subject:

Here are two songs he recorded. Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile” earned him a record deal.

The song “Paper Angels” (now a book and TV movie) was inspired by the Salvation Army Angel Tree.

I hope this book inspires and moves you.

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Filed under Helping, Helping People, Hope, inspiration, journeys, Nonfiction

Olive Kitteridge: The Novel/Short Story Collection that Always Inspires Mixed Feelings

I watched the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge last weekend on video. Or I did once I settled down and came back into the living room once the opening that showed Olive walking in the woods was over. Once I saw the gun, I fled. Other scenes later on were equally difficult.

As events in the story unfolded and resolved themselves, i was pleased that the producers stuck as closely as possible to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Elizabeth Strout–actually an interwoven, previously published short story collection about the people in a small town in Maine. Olive appears in each story, either as a critical character or a minor one. Strout’s roots are in Maine, and I believe that all her books are set there.

Frances McDormand was the perfect choice for the lead, and the rest of the cast was equally strong. I thought the landscape pretty. The overall mood, however, matches how I feel about the book–extremely somber and painful, with terrible struggles. That’s life, I know. Even though there was some light to balance the darkness, I didn’t feel there was enough. I have read the book twice, and I probably will not do so again. I read it once on my own after reading a newspaper review. The second time, I read it for book group.

Overall, I like Olive. For some strange reason, I liked that she was a math teacher. But she can be very prickly even as she is extremely caring. It’s easy to see that her life experiences made her the way she is. Some of her attitudes are generational. And family life can be very tough and messy. You don’t always know the right things to say and do.

My favorite story from both readings is “Incoming Tide,” because ultimately, the message there is hope. Here, as with the stories where she is caring for her husband Henry after his stroke also show the different facets of her personality.

Hopefully, each of us has an effect on the people around us, and in the wider world. Some of them are big; others, not so much. Maybe sometimes you don’t realize how you are memorable to others. Certainly Olive has no idea that she has inspired several students that she isn’t close to.

Before anyone reading this thinks Maine is depressing, here’s proof that it is not. I used to follow another writer’s blog. Olivia Tejeda spent childhood summers in Maine with her family. She wrote about it here. I kept this entry for a long time just because I love the pictures.

A friend of mine also enjoys Maine vacations, and has been back several times. She has graciously allowed me to share some pictures from a trip taken in the fall of 2010. Aren’t they gorgeous?

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This one reminds me of a painting one of my former co-workers completed. It hung in his office for several years.

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This picture was the local library, We both agreed that it would be a great place to work. I like the one of the boat, below:

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Filed under Fiction, Film, Hope, journeys, Libraries, Marriage and family, Short Stories

The Red Balloon

I know this entry isn’t directly literary, but I thought I would include it anyway. I happened to look at the TV listings last night, and noticed that Turner Classic Movies was running the 1956 short film, The Red Balloon, as part of its “31 Days of Oscar.”

I tuned in, very excited, because it has been years since I’ve seen it. I saw it several times in school and always liked it. I loved the story, but I was also intrigued by Paris, France. At the time, I didn’t know anything about its background or many awards.

When I watched it again last night, I thought about how much kids love balloons, how colorful they are, and how, for a time, they are like friends. Those filled with helium, especially, spark the imagination. If I’m outside and I let go, where will it travel to? Balloons are also something to enjoy as much as you can, because most of the time they last only for a short while. To this day, I become overly startled when a balloon pops.

In the film, the balloons give color and brightness to a city that was still faded and shell-shocked from World War II. Knowing now that most of the section of Paris depicted in the film was eventually torn down, the film is a powerful commemoration.

Here is the full, original movie from YouTube. Enjoy!

I also recalled reading a poem as a kid by E.E. Cummings about a balloon man and enjoying the illustrations. I remember wondering why the lines looked funny. Now I know that it’s called “in Just spring.” Here is the author reading the poem, which is really great because I never knew what Cummings sounded like:

Here’s another favorite by him–“i thank You God for most this amazing.”

Most days may in fact not be that remarkable. Feeling gratitude anyway is a wonderful gift to have, and with it you can see the extraordinary.

 

 

 

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Filed under Children's Books, Classics, Film, Hope, Poetry, Uncategorized

A Second Journey with Harold Fry

When I first heard about Rachel Joyce’s debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I was curious about it and even checked it out. But I let it go because I thought it might be too sad.  With so many things to do, I let a few months pass. Something wouldn’t let me let go; I’m not sure what led me back to it.

So I tried again, downloading it to my NOOK. One evening, I decided to give it a try, and I couldn’t put it down! Even if I had something else going on that day, the first spare minute I had, I went back to the book until I finished.

The story begins simply enough. Kind and unassuming Harold Fry, 65, of Kingsbridge, England, has been retired from his brewery job for six months. Home life, with his wife Maureen, is very quiet. Too quiet.

One spring morning, Harold receives an unexpected letter from an old friend–his former co-worker,  Queenie Hennessy, whom he hasn’t seen in more than twenty years. She has cancer, and is writing to  say good-bye.

This affects Harold very deeply, and he is moved to tears.. A long time ago,Queenie helped him out, and he never took the time to thank her. Never good with words, he writes a reply, putting his last name in parentheses just in case people have forgotten who he is. He goes for a walk to post the letter.  And keeps right on walking. “Queenie must live,” Harold says. “I won’t let her down.” Before he reaches a mailbox that is farther away, he opens the letter to add a postscript: “Please wait for me.”

 

In Harold’s case, he’s walking from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where Queenie’s hospice is. A map is included in the front of the book. Basically, he is walking the entire length of England.

As the story opens, readers see that Harold and Maureen are estranged, and there is some rift between them and their son, David. As the story develops, traders discover more details.

As Harold embarks upon his totally spur-of-the-moment journey, he learns, observes, cheers for, and cares about the quirky people he meets along the way–who may or may not have the greatest of motives. He is looking for faith, hope, and forgiveness. Along the way, he realizes that other people carry unseen burdens too. He also learns that the greatest gift he can give to people is to listen. Ultimately, he sees that it’s better to join life than to shrink away from it. The road gives him a lot of time for reflection. The other characters–and readers–also cheer for him.

Walking, he sees so many things that he forgot about or missed entirely while in a car. I have found the same thing.

Soon I will read the prequel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and Joyce’s additional novel, Perfect. Have a look at the U.S. and British versions of Rachel Joyce’s websites, and enjoy!

 

Happy man walking in countryside

 

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Filed under Fiction, Hope, inspiration, journeys, Marriage and family, Uncategorized

The Juggler of Notre Dame

As you can tell, I’ve been reminiscing about favorite Christmas stories. “The Juggler of Notre Dame” is another favorite. The following film was made in the early 1980s, but it only aired once. I was thrilled to find it on YouTube. Enjoy!

And here’s the original story that inspired it.

 

 

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Filed under Classics, Favorite Essays, Hope

Poppies–In Remembrance

Today is Veterans Day. The news had a lot of coverage about Britain marking the centenary of WWI through the poppies art exhibition at the Tower of London. Here is an early August skip from the BBC:

And of course, it brings to mind the poem by John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields.”

Today, many programs and nonprofits exist to serve vets and their families, including those who have disabilities. Employment is a major issue, as well as many others. If you have time, find a vets’ organization in your area and help out in some way.

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Filed under Helping People, History, Hope, Poetry