Damn! I Fell Asleep Again!

It’s not that I don’t like my current reading pile; it’s great. It’s not “study time,” it’s “story time.” I look forward to it each day.

But EVERY time I settle in lately, I fall asleep and don’t read a word. Many of them are adventure stories and historical fiction. I’m also reading Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. It’s worth every bit of the overdue fine. I ordered the audiobook on another title that sounds like a rollicking good time. I hope I finish it.

I guess I should read during the day, but I’m constantly doing other things. Maybe one day soon I’ll catch up. In the meantime, some inspiration….

 

Cute little girl fallen asleep on her book

Image result for free clip art reading adventures

Image result for free clip art reading adventures

 

Inspirational motivational quote. Always remember to fall asleep with a dream and wake up with a purpose. Vector simple design. Black text over yellow background

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Filed under Everyday Goings-On, Love of Reading

Chortle and Belt Out Lyrics along with Car Talk’s Disrespectful Car Songs, Volumes 1 and 2

Friends and family have by now figured out that once I really like an author, program, musician, or any topic that interests me, etc. that I try to find all information available about them. So it is with the NPR program Car Talk with Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers. Sadly, Tom passed away several years ago; however, the show continues in reruns. Even if you don’t know a thing about cars, you’ll enjoy the show. I tuned in every week just to hear the sound of the brothers’ laughter. (No, they never discussed wheelchair repair, motorized or otherwise, but I bet more than a few listeners would have been happy if they had.)

I was looking for a copy of Springsteen’s CD Born to Run in my library’s online audio selections and came up with Born Not to Run: More Disrespectful Car Songs, Volume 2. I was surprised to find it under Audiobooks. I checked it out…and then nearly fell on the floor laughing as I listened. The first song parodied how when women gather in a book group, they talk about everything. But when guys get together, they talk about–you guessed it–cars. However, this is not always the case. Another one I liked better was “If She Wasn’t on Blocks” (She’d Be a Great Car.) I felt for the narrator of “It’ll be me by the side of the road next to a pile of junk.”  “You Dance Like You Drive” tells the story of a guy, newly released from the hospital, who meets his current girlfriend as she nearly runs him over offering him a ride home. It contains the immortal line: “I guess this is where love and terror meet.”

And who hasn’t wondered “Who Taught These Idiots to Drive?”–another great song. I could also relate to the guy begging his car to last just one more year.  But the best was a fed-up guy in church (cue the organ music), praying, “O car, please don’t die on me….”

Then I discovered Disrespectful Car Songs, Volume 1–and laughed even harder. I played this one over and over for my aunt, who also thought they were funny. Here are my top favorites:

“Somebody Help Me Push My Car”–Very relatable, especially when remembering the times my wheelchair died–sometimes in the middle of the road–and people pushed

“You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Loose Wheel” — HILARIOUS!!  Sung to the tune of “Lucille.” When this Kenny Rogers hit was new, this was a family favorite to sing along with on the radio.

“Singin’ in My Car”–This is for everyone who wants to sing, and simply can’t.  But they do it anyway for the sheer joy of it. Who among us hasn’t had the rock star fantasy–with the most awesome guitar riffs ever– and loves to belt out favorite songs?

“Duct Tape”–This one is sung in a round. Not only is the duct tape missing, but the singer’s romantic partner has left, too. Listeners hope everything will work out all right.

“Under the Wrench”–For anyone with a beloved classic car that they don’t want to give up on.

I wonder if each of these groups and individual performers could nail the songs in one take without even cracking smiles. I’ll never know….

Happily, episodes of the actual show are available to enjoy in audio format and are organized around themes. I haven’t listened to these yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Click to view

On a more serious note, people really do get attached to their cars. I remember my uncle on the phone with the mechanic, asking about his light blue Ford,  “When should I bring her in?” he asked anxiously.At the age of 4, I remember my uncle lifting me up and sitting me on the front of the car at a rest stop during a family road trip. It felt very cool to be so high up–or at least it felt that way to me.

On another family road trip when I was 13, I rode part way with my cousin in her yellow car. It was a sunny day, and she had the windows open. We enjoyed the breeze and a blaring eight-track of the Styx album, Grand Illusion. Years later, needing a family car, she was very sad to sell it.

But it was hardest of all on my mom. She learned to drive late in life. Once she got the hang of it, she loved it and we all went everywhere. When she lost her eyesight, however, she had to give it up. She really missed driving–and her midnight blue Ford Torino station wagon. I think she was glad, though, that a nice couple with a family was able to use it.

And here is the best song about a favorite car. It’s “My Old Yellow Car,” by Dan Seals:

 

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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

Born Standing Up–A Hilarious and Heartfelt Memoir from Steve Martin

I like Steve Martin a lot better now than when I first started to hear about him in the late 1970s. I loathed “I’m a wild and crazy guy,” “King Tut,” “EXCUUUUSE ME!!!” and other well-known lines. I know that Gern Blanston was a character he made up, but I have no visuals to go along with the name. I still can’t stand SNL. And I remember being really annoyed with a guy named Steve in seventh grade who could imitate Steve Martin to a T. I just wanted him to shut up.

Reading Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life for one of my book groups was a joy and an education for me about what it is like to be a comic and develop an act, to perform, and to do a lot of creative things in one’s career. I feel as though I understand Steve Martin better after reading it. It’s an excellent memoir (written in 2007), and he’s an amazing writer.

This book led me to his films L.A. Story and Three Amigos! I was intrigued by the former because he said he was inspired by the Bothy Band’s “Maid of Coolmore” as he wrote it. His roadie would often play “sad Irish songs for the sad, lonely road.” I love Celtic music. Not all of it is sad or plum-pitiful, but there are times when you should just avoid it. Trust me.

Now that I’ve seen L.A. Story (very worth seeing again) and know the lyrics of the song, the connection is clear. Enjoy!

From sweet Londonderry to the fair London Town
There is no other like her anywhere to be found
Where the children are smiling and playing around the shore
And the joybells are ringing for the maid of Coolmore

The first time that I met her she passed me by
The next time that I met her she bade me goodbye
But the last time that I met her she grieved my heart so
For she sailed down off Ireland away from Coolmore

If I had the power or the strength to arise
I would blow the wind back here for to turn the blue skies
I would blow the wind back here to make the salt sea to rise
On the day that my love sailed away from Coolmore

I also grew to understand the method behind Steve Martin’s comedy madness. In college, he was enamored with the poetry of E.E. Cummings. A line from one of his lectures stayed with Martin because of the reference to comedy. When asked why he became a poet, Cummings replied, “Like the burlesque comedian, I am  abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement.” It took him ten years to work out, but I now understand some of his routines, including the impromptu ribbing (Mr. CLEANPANTS!!) he gave his friend Larry the doorman as he led his audience out into the lobby. Martin has great respect for Johnny Carson–as a person and a professional comic.

My interest in art grew by a few more artists and photographers while reading this book, but I do not share most of his favorites. Steve Martin is a serious art collector. Here’s a related article about the Diane Arbus Disneyland castle photo. Martin worked there as a young boy and as a teenager, and owns a copy of the photo. He also likes Winslow Homer, and I learned who Ed Kienholz is and John Everett Millais.

I enjoyed the understated humor in his writing, and some of the photos made me howl with laughter. I had always been curious about how and why he learned to play the banjo. (His recording, The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo, is excellent. In the play he wrote with Edie Brickell, Bright Star, he has at least a couple of opportunities to showcase his skills.)

To learn to play, he would slow down bluegrass records until he learned the notes. One of the recordings he listened to is below, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” It’s a wonder he didn’t drive himself insane in the process. In order to not agonize everyone else in the house, he would practice in his car. Fortunately, a good friend, an accomplished player, helped him out as well.

But what I loved most about the memoir were the parts about his family. His growing-up years were not all that happy at times, but he still has some fond memories. But as he grew up, he distanced himself from them. But through it all, his mother and sister kept tabs on his career, collecting articles and clippings and cheering him on from a distance. His sister came to see his act. One of my favorite lines in the book is a phone call his sister, Melinda, made. “I want to get to know my brother,” she told him. Their connection has continued. Martin was also able to reconcile with his father before his father passed away. Some things you only understand more fully with the passage of time.

To me, Steve Martin is a true Renaissance man. It will be interesting to explore his other work.

 

 

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Filed under Humor, memoir, Nonfiction, Uncategorized

Pat Summitt: An Appreciation

I was very sad to learn of Pat Summitt’s death this morning at the age of 64. I  knew that she was a legendary women’s basketball coach for the University of Tennessee.But I got to know who she was through the 2014 memoir she wrote with Washington Post sports reporter and columnist, Sally Jenkins. The book is Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories,a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective. In it, one of the things she talked about was her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Advocacy and awareness became Summitt’s next mission. I saw on news clips that the University of Tennessee is opening the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic will open later this year.

Reading the memoir, I recognized that she and my aunt, who is older than Summitt, experienced similar things as their respective memories began to decline. Simmitt was also in complete denial for a while.. This was also familiar, as I pushed my aunt to go to the doctor and she wouldn’t go. Mostly, I cried along with her son, Tyler, as he adjusted to being a caregiver.

But the disease is not the person, and no one experiences it in identical ways. I am so  happy and grateful that my aunt is still with me. She has lost a lot of her abilities, but she hasn’t lost her sense of humor, her stubbornness, or her love of music. She still sings some. I don’t like to think about later–when she’s not here anymore.

As I read the tributes to Pat Summitt, I was especially moved by this article by Sally Jenkins. She includes a letter that Summitt wrote in 1982 to a freshman player on the Lady Vols.

 

 

 

 

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Reviving a Family Tradition

I discovered Stuart Srevens’s memoir, The Last Season: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime of College Football last September at the library.  I enjoyed it so much that I recommended it to others. I gave it to a friend for Christmas because he, too, loves college football–the Carolina Gamecocks as opposed to the Ole Miss Rebels. But he still liked it a lot.

On this Father’s Day, I reflected how many dads (or uncles) connect with their kids through sports. But that’s not the only way, obviously.  The Last Season moved me because Ole Miss games–and his parents’ parties to celebrate them–were part of Stevens’s growing-up years. His mom and sister were fans as well, but Stuart and his dad always made the journey to the stadiums themselves.

Alas, this father-son bonding time ended when Stevens went to boarding school, then college, then embarked on a fast-paced career as a journalist, political writer, and presidential campaign manager. Stevens describes himself as “a man who doesn’t like losing.”

However, when his candidate lost, Stevens had reached a crossroads in his life. Celebrating a birthday also didn’t help. As he took time off to plan his next steps, he thought more and more about going to those games with his dad, who was now in his nineties. He longed for one last road trip before one wasn’t possible anymore.

When he pitched the idea to his parents, they were skeptical, but agreed. The stories, memories, epiphanies, and a season’s Ole Miss games are poignant, insightful, and often very funny. Best of all, traders don’t need to be avid sports fans to respond to the book. The author’s family photos are also a joy.

Most of all. The Last Season reminds us to treasure the important people in our lives while we can. Browse the author’s website for his novels and other works.

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Filed under journeys, memoir, Nonfiction, Sports, Women's Fiction

I Never Realized Silhouette Art Could Be So Cool!

When I logged on to Google today, I discovered a beautiful Google Doodle about Lotte Reiniger, an early pioneer of stop-motion animation using silhouette cutouts. I never heard of her, and I was really taken with her art. A cursory search didn’t turn up any books on her life, Anyway, I thought it was pretty.  Today’s Google Doodle follows, along with a video of how it was made. I also chose a clip from one of the films she worked on: “The Adventures of Prince Achmed.” Here’s the website listed on YouTube: http://www.moviemartyr.com/blog/?p=313.

My own experience with silhouettes happened when I was 4. A lady came to our preschool and drew our portraits in silhouette. I wore a light blue dress with a pink tie, and my hair was in a ponytail. I remember holding  very still as the artist worked, and the lights shining around me. It turned out really well, and my mom framed it. I think I still have it somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Hear It for Librarians!

I like this recent story about a Washington, DC librarian in the WashingtonPost Magazine. The MLK branch is also very cool. Alas, I have not been there in quite a while.

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Filed under Helping People, Libraries, Love of Reading, Uncategorized

The Lake House–An Edge-of-your-seat Tale of a Cold Case

First of all, don’t mix up Kate Morton’s  2015 novel The Lake House with the Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves movie drama of some years ago. They’re not the same at all. But let me tell you–I couldn’t put the book down! At just over 400 pages, it was well worth the late nights I spent enjoying the ups and downs of the book. And the chapters move fast.

If it’s possible to love a place that you’ve never been to in person, that place, for me at least, is Cornwall, England. The setting alone was enough to attract me. I only learned the story as I began reading. For once, I skipped the complete synopsis.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the plot centers on DC Sophie Sparrow, who is on enforced “holiday” in Cornwall, visiting her grandfather. She has gotten too close to a case she is investigating. At the suggestion of Donald, her partner on the force, she is advised to “take her time.”

At loose ends, she runs every morning with her grandfather’s dogs. On one jaunt, she discovers Loeanneth, a secluded, abandoned estate of the Edevane family. Without knowing exactly why, Sophie believes something horrible happened there. As always, she asks questions, and they lead her to a tragic cold case. Just before a Midsummer party in 1933, eighteen-month-old Theodore Edevane disappears, and is never seen again. Was he murdered? Kidnapped? There’s only been speculation for years.

As she uncovers the facts of the case, Sophie’s search brings her to famous mystery writer A. C. Edevane. Theo is her youngest brother. But she has no desire to dredge up the past. Has Sophie hit another dead end?

As the story unfolds. time shifts between the years of the two world wars and the early twenty-first century. The characters are richly drawn and real, with many sides, There are many surprises. Don’t assume this is an easy one to figure out. Whatever you, do, don’t read ahead!

And if you like this story, you will enjoy her other books.

Visit the author’s website for gorgeous pictures of Cornwall.  Here are some of my favorite free clip art images of the place:

 

Image result for Cornwall England free clip art

 

Image result for Cornwall England free clip art

 

 

Image result for Cornwall England free clip art

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery, Uncategorized, World War I, World War II

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Erik Larson is a favorite author in my book group. We have read nearly all of his work. Several people have been lucky enough to hear him speak. He has a reputation for being enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and gracious.  What I have also learned in conversation with other readers is how everyone has his or her own  favorite, for a variety of reasons.

There was immediate interest in Dead Wake from its release, and so many people raved about how good it is. I first tried the print version, but for my book group I decided to try the audio version. I was not disappointed. Although I have forgotten the name of the gentleman reading it, I was immediately drawn into the time period. Readers and listeners can’t help but think of the sinking of the Titanic, which happened just three years earlier. But in 1915, it was wartime. From history class, everyone remembers  that things don’t end well for the Lusitania. 

However, through Larson’s meticulous research –another of his trademarks as an author–he makes the time period, the people, and the politics come to life. You’ll learn much more than you did in school. Suspense is maintained so strongly throughout that you can’t put it down, and you are somehow hoping for a different outcome until the very end.

Unlike Larson’s previous books, no photos accompany the print text. Perhaps Larson would prefer that readers see events in their minds in this case. The book also makes readers think about what choices they would make in certain situations.

The Acknowledgments and Source Notes are also interesting and worthwhile reading.

 

 

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Filed under Audiobooks, History, journeys, New Titles, Nonfiction, World War I