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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Time To Step It Up

Stepping Forward

I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions.  In fact, I gave up on that practice a long time ago. I never kept my resolutions, and who wants to feel like a failure all the time?

But, I do like setting goals and trying to achieve them, because then, even if you don't reach your goals, there is progress forward in trying to achieve them. Giving yourself a goal line to shoot for gives your life direction and purpose.

So, in that spirit, I am setting a goal for myself. Just one. To walk 10,000 steps a day. Years ago, my doctor started a side business on this very principal.  Apparently, science discovered that you don't really need an expensive gym membership to get fit. All you really need is what God gave you...your two feet! 



I was inspired initially when my doctor mentioned this simple fact, but my enthusiasm soon waned when I discovered I didn't walk anything  close to 10,000 steps a day. I was still working (at a sedentary job) and was too tired to do much else. Using that lame excuse, my step-counting days soon fell by the wayside.

Now as I SIT here in retirement, watching my body implode (aging really SUCKS) I feel like it's time (Biggest Understatement Ever) to take charge. Set a goal. Do something.  That something will be to walk, and walk, and walk.  (Please dear knees don't let me down yet). 



I've dug out my Fitbit, charged it up, and strapped it on.  I've written this post, to hold myself accountable.  Wish me luck.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reading Goals for 2018

Reading Goals For 2018


Last year my goal for reading was very general: read more than the year before.
I barely accomplished this. I read 41 books in 2017, which was only two books more than the year before.

In 2018, I want to be more specific with my reading goals. Not only do I want to increase the number of books I read by at least 1, but I would also like to read specifically and with purpose.  So here is a list of the types of books I am going to attempt to read.  Maybe you would like to follow along?




Here is my list (to be read in no particular order):


  • A book published in 2018
  • A book that is considered a classic that I have not read
  • A non-fiction book about an American historical figure
  • A book for spiritual enlightenment
  • A play by William Shakespeare that I have not yet read
  • A book by a British author
  • A book that has won a prize for excellence
  • A book of poetry
  • A mystery by Louise Penny
  • A book set in a bookshop/library
  • A book that is hot on the YA reading list
  • A book published the year I was born
There are twelve categories.  I plan to tackle one a month.  I will keep you posted about what I've chosen and review the book. 

I think I will start by browsing my own home library and making some selections from books I have not yet read.  That way, I can begin one of my other New Year's resolutions - be more financially responsible!

          



 I hope you make your own reading resolutions for 2018.  Use some, or all of my categories, if you like. I'd love to hear from you, and what you are reading.  Whatever your goals, whatever your choices - Enjoy a wonderful year of reading!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

You're Gonna Win The Snow Globe Award!

Here's to my hometown...Erie PA!!! You are famous yet again.  Yes, you have wonderful people. Yes, you have a beautiful Great Lake with a beautiful recreational peninsula which draws thousands every summer.  But what you are best at is SNOW!!!!!

This holiday is one for the record books as you all know as you look out your windows dreading the moment you have to once again shovel out.  The average snowfall for Erie, in a year, is 101 inches and Erieland has received more than that just in the month of December...and most of that has fallen since Christmas Day.  I remember when I was five we had a record breaking snow like this...it was such fun as a kid.  I know it is a beautiful winter wonderland right now, so try to enjoy the beautiful sight, grab a blankie and a hot cup of cocoa and wait it out.

Scenes from 1956 Erie Blizzard


Our little house on Parade Blvd.  That's Dad digging out the driveway.

A neighboring house.  Can you see the hood of the car in foreground?


Our street.  That large truck is the National Guard to the rescue!!




Meanwhile, enjoy this little poem I wrote a while back not knowing a record-breaker was on its way to you.  Sending love a good wishes to all of my family and friends back home in Erie. Miss you!


Lake Effect Snow Sonnet

You who do not live on a lake
Will never understand snow.
You may have seen a soft white flake,
But you can’t begin to know,

The blinding white that will not stop,
The drifts that pile miles high,
Cars that lie covered to the top,
The roads one can’t get by.

This snow topples lines and trees,
It can even crush a roof.
Plows give up and let things freeze.
Do you need any more proof?

This snow’s a snow that will leave you wheezing.
This snow’s a snow that grows unceasing.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Regarding Reading

What To Do On Cold Wintry Days

There is something about winter that makes the reader in me content.  When the thermometer dips below freezing (heck even when it goes below 45 degrees) I long to stay indoors and find my fun with a book, a blanket and a mug of rich coffee. Reading seldom fails to lift my spirits, even when the skies are so gray and the trees so bare you feel like you just want to hide until spring.



Stephen King once wrote: Books are a uniquely portable magic. I couldn't agree more. Within the pages of a book, I can live for awhile in a place I've only imagined, ( a family-owned vineyard in California, for example as in Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave) or be the person I often wished to be, ( a confident, enthusiastic, motivating writer such as Claire Cook in her self-improvement book Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention), or lead a life I've only dreamed about  ( as Sara does when she opens a bookstore and introduces a community to the joys of reading in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald) .

So during these next few wintry months...Indulge. Go places. Try on new identities. Live a dream or two. Browse your bookshelves, download a new title on your Kindle, run to the library if you dare; but for goodness sake...get a book  and cuddle up.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Book Club Survives and Thrives

Book Club Year-End Review

The Maple Glen Book Club, my neighborhood group, has survived another year of reading and discussion.  This may sound trivial, but I know that many book clubs do not last for very long. Our group is well into its second year and membership has grown rather than diminished!

In fact, I think having a neighborhood book club has helped us to understand our neighbors better and to feel more a part of the community.  One of the new members was new to the neighborhood, so the book club was a good way for her to meet new people and network with others about the community. Another member, moved to a different neighborhood but continued attending our book club.  It provided her with a way to stay connected to a place she had lived in for decades.  What a nice feeling it is to see the book club help people navigate life changes.

The year wasn't without its struggles!  The most difficult thing for us is to choose a book we all want to read.  After several depressing reads that provoked tons of moaning and groaning, we decided we needed to come up with a few new parameters for choosing books.

The culprits that created our turmoil:

January's Choice - Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


This story of generations of Africans sweeps through 300 years of struggle from Ghana to America.  Though beginning chapters were detailed and well researched, we found latter parts very thin and at times relying on stereotypes.





February's Choice - They May Not Mean To But They Do by Cathleen Schine

The group chose this book because it was touted as funny and full of family antics.  Ha! It was so depressing to see the suffering and loneliness of aging parents. We found nothing to laugh about.

March's Choice - Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Again this book came with great reviews but our group found this tale of two families blended by divorce even more depressing than Schine's book. Replete with adultery and borderline child neglect, we just couldn't see why the reviews were so glowing.

April's Choice - Emma by Jane Austen

So, in desperation we decided to do a classic.  Bomb big time!  However, there were maybe a couple members (I mean me) who enjoyed the book. To make up to the group for forcing Emma on them, we discussed the book over an English tea compete with lavender bread, scones (with jams and clotted cream) and of course two types of perfectly brewed tea.  My hubby graciously played butler and served our tea hot from the pot.

May's Choice - any book by self-help author Andrew Mathews

As I look back on our choices this one seems kind of prophetic. Were we searching for help?  Many in the group chose the title Being Happy. Well... all I can say is we hadn't found yet how to be happy with our selections.





June's Choice - Crimes Against the Book Club by Kathy Cooperman

You just have to love our Freudian choice!!! I think we chose this in a desperate, sarcastic attempt to save the group from mass suicide.  But this was a turning point for our selection process.  It marked the one-year anniversary of the organization of our group, so we took the occasion to re-visit ways to improve book selection. This is what we came up with:

  • no self-help books
  • nothing political in nature
  • no misery porn
  • no celebrity autobiographies   

Additionally, we came up with a new way of selecting the next book.  We would decide on four titles as a group.  Then we would vote for our favorite on our group Facebook page, assigning a 4 for our favorite choice, down to a 1 for our least favorite choice.  Points would be tallied and the title with the most points would be our next read. This gave everyone a chance to look at summaries and reviews and decide which one they liked best.  Plus, there was no peer pressure applied because you didn't have to vote with the whole group sitting in front of you.  This seemed to work quite well...most of the group enjoyed the remaining reads for the year.

July's Choice - Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

An apocalyptic sci-fi novel.

August's Choice - Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

An historical novel set in WW II, that follows the story of three women ( a socialite in America drumming up support for war victims in France, a Polish concentration camp prisoner who endured medical experiments, and a German doctor who conducted those experiments).





September's Choice- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Lot's of great discussion about this classic

October's Choice - The Dream Life of Astronauts by Patrick Ryan

This was probably the one bomb of our post-revised selection era.  The characters were deplorable people with few redeeming qualities...the plot was not what the reviews hyped it to be.  Good attempt by us to try different genres and topics ... we'll keep plugging away.

November's Choice - At Home In Mitford, Jan Karon

Determined to enter the holiday season with a feel-good read, this book, the first in a series about Mitford, NC, was a sure winner.  We had a great time reading it and lots of fun at our discussion meeting.  Here are a few pics of the Mitford "goodies" shared at our November meeting.


Esther Bollick's famous orange marmalade cake that sent Fr. Tim into a diabetic swoon.

Puny's cornbread that she made for Fr. Tim.








December/January's Choice - What Alice Forgot, Lian Moriarity

We are looking forward to reading this over the holiday!

Final thoughts...Maple Glen Book Club had quite a reading year. We read quite a diverse group of books, lots of different genres. We overcame a flagging selection process. Made new friends.  Kept the old. And celebrated the joy of reading with friends and neighbors.

Have a great reading year in 2018 everyone!



Monday, April 3, 2017

Quarterly Book Report

Say It Isn't So

It's April.  That means we are officially one fourth of the way through 2017!  Three months gone!!  How can that be?  I haven't even clearly defined my New Year's Resolutions!!! I know one of my resolutions was to write more blog posts. Yikes. I promise to get going with that one. So, before any more time goes by, I'd like to share with you the books I have read so far in 2017.  Since there are a number of them (another resolution - read more) I will not bore you and review them all, just present titles from the best to the worst and give a quick thumbs up or down.

Great Reads

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh
👍👍👍👍👍 ( You gotta read this one)


The Book That Matters Most, Ann Hood
👍👍👍👍👍

Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (Without Getting Lost Along the Way), Claire Cook
👍👍👍👍

Nine Women, One Dress, Jane L. Rosen
👍👍👍👍

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, Amy Reichert
👍👍👍👍

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living, Louise Miller  👍👍

Not So Great Reads

Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
👎👎

Homegoing,Yaa Gyasi
👎👎 

They May Not Mean To But They Do, Colleen Schine
👎👎👎👎

May you have a fabulous remainder of 2017.  Hope this list gives you some food for thought.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Responsibility to Remember

The Responsibility to Remember


A while back I wrote a post about my neighborhood book club, and how we discussed the topic of everlasting life.  One of the things we concluded was that we live on in the lives of our loved ones.  I told you in that post, that it made me think of my Aunt Marie, my mom's sister who died very young.  I feel we have an obligation to share with the next generation, the stories of the family and friends who have populated our lives, the people who we hold dear, the ones who need to be remembered.  And so, this post is dedicated to my Aunt Marie.  I write of her because I want my children to know her, to know she was special to the people in her life.  She played a big role in my growing up, even though I never met her.  Her memory was very much alive in my family.


I've decided to share my aunt's story in a poem I wrote for her.  As a retired person (YAY!!) I am pursuing some of the things I love to do but never had the time, and one of those things is writing.  To that end, I joined a poetry group at the Senior Center and have met some very wonderful people.  The group is led by a very capable and inspiring poet who is very gracious in sharing her expertise and in encouraging us to write (more about this group in a later post). The following is one of the poem's I wrote for this poetry seminar:

Dear Aunt Marie

I never met you, 
Yet I know you well.

I know of your gentle spirit,
That so washed over a family
It left them lost and wailing
In the cold hospital corridor
When they heard the news
You were gone.

I know of the fierce love you inspired.
Of the mother who carried
You for blocks to see the latest picture show.
How she endured the scorn of passers-by,
Who spat their disapproval such a big girl,
Wouldn't walk.

I know of your unwavering faith,
Revealed in posies written to the Lord,
In pretty prayers beseeching saints,
In dozens of parochial girls
Who wept beside your coffin,
Knowing an angel was born.

I never met you,
Yet I know you well.

I see you in the sprinkle of freckles
On my sister's face,
In the eyes that blink back at me
From the mirror,
In the family line of sweet-hearted girls.

I see you in the cherished vase
That once belonged to you,
In the tender way it is handled,
For the precious story it can tell.

I never met you,
Yet
I know you well.

Love,
Karen



This Roseville vase was given to my aunt Marie when she was confined to bed after complications as a result of measles.  Her Aunt Thelma gave it to her and it was originally filled with a bouquet of Tootsie Roll Pops.  After her death the vase became the symbol of Marie's sweetness and goodness and became a cherished family heirloom.