Friday, May 28, 2010

The Leisure Seeker

paperback_leisure seeker jacket On Mother’s Day, my one true wish was to go to our new bookstore in town and spend the afternoon by myself, perusing, reading, and purchasing a few items.  I had probably close to 30 books stacked around me at one point, but I made notes of a few titles and put most of them back.  One book I could not leave behind, however, was Michael Zadoorian’s The Leisure Seeker.  It tells the tale of John and Ella, a couple of octogenarians facing the end of life’s road.  John is afflicted with Alzheimer’s and Ella has terminal cancer.  They are being pressured by doctors and their children to accept certain treatments and living situations which are unacceptable to them.

Thus, John and Ella pack up and sneak off in their old camper, The Leisure Seeker.  John still holds a valid driver’s license and has not lost the ability to get into the driving groove.  They head to Chicago and decide to follow the old Route 66 as much as possible and to head to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.  Along the way, they encounter lots of different and interesting people, reminisce about the old days, and see the sites the road had to offer. 

Driving the old Route 66 is something I have long thought of doing.  I think it would be a lot of fun to drive “the Mother Road” across country someday and have some of those memories to share with my daughter when she is old enough.  So this was a great book to read just because I enjoyed hearing about John and Ella’s experiences during the actual travel portion of their stay.

But it was also a great story in general, a story of love, the failings on the human body, family, friendship, memories, and time.  I deeply loved both John and Ella.  Ella was a no-nonsense kind of broad who kept her husband well in hand when his condition made him seemingly unmanageable.  While you never know the pre-Alzheimer’s John, the glimpses you get of him make you love him anyway, and his “addledness” was deftly described to give you a real picture of life with Alzheimer’s.

I’m thrilled I bought this book.  I gave it 4 stars on GoodReads and I know it’ll be on my shelf for some time to come.  It also counts towards the Twenty-Ten Book Challenge under the “Who Are You Again?” category, which I believe fulfills my requirements for that category.  Here’s what I’ve accomplished on that challenge so far:

Young Adult:
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnston

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Shiny and New:
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Someday My Prince Will Come by Jerramy Fine

Bad Bloggers
(None yet)

(None yet)

Older Than You:
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susanne

Win! Win!
(None Yet)

“Who Are You Again?”
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Riegler
The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

Up to You!
Crackhouse by Terry Williams

Almost half-way done with this challenge.  I need to get moving on some others!

I Thought Someone Was Playing a Trick On Me!

So yesterday, I loaded Leah into the car and we were backing out of the driveway on our way to the berry patch when I spied a package on the front porch.  I was so excited—I figured my DVD’s had arrived extremely promptly from Amazon and I’d have something to do with my afternoon.  I hopped out of the car and went bounding up to the box, and stopped dead in my tracks.

A bright green sticker on the box declared, “Live hermit crabs!  Do not delay!”

Now, I knew damned good and well I hadn’t ordered any hermit crabs.  I went through a phase where every time I went to Myrtle Beach, I wanted a hermit crab, but I was always talked out of it, so I am still hermit crab-less.  However, this last trip, though I enjoyed watching them, I had no desire to actually have one.  It was the first time I had thought, “Gee, I might just buy on this time!” and then thought, “No, I really don’t want one.”

So I thought for sure this was someone’s idea of a sick joke.  Someone who knew me well enough to know that I had wanted one at some point had then decided to ship me one.  I nearly opened the box, but decided to check the label to see who it was I was going to have to kill.

Well, surprise, surprise!  The package was shipped to the wrong address!  It was supposed to go to the same street address, but in Colonial Beach, not in Fredericksburg.  I called FedEx immediately and said, “Someone dropped live animals on my door step and they are not for me!”  The guy on the phone was cracking up.  I explained how we had just gotten back from the beach and I was sure someone had been playing a practical joke, but the only joke was on the part of the FedEx delivery man, who had to come retrieve the crabs and bring them to their rightful owner.

I suppose it’s nice to know that if I ever change my mind about getting a hermit crab, I need only drive about 30 minutes down the road and I can get one!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Week At the Beach

So last week was our amazing trip to Myrtle Beach.  We had talked and talked about where to go on vacation this year, but really, nowhere else would do.  I have heard California calling my name for some time now—I am dying to go out there—but ultimately we decided on a relaxing week at the beach.

I could go into great detail about everything that we did and the places we went and the grand debacle of the people we went with, but there’s no point.  Because what you need to know about my experience in South Carolina is this:

It makes me feel alive.

The minute we hit Myrtle Beach’s city limits, I felt a bubbling, childlike excitement stirring within me.  I couldn’t wait to take my child on the beach and take her pictures.  I couldn’t wait to go beachcombing for shells.  I couldn’t wait to check into the condo and get settled and hear the ocean while I slept.  There were a million things I wanted to do and we did them and more.

Life at the beach agrees with me.  I eat less, I exercise more, I sleep better.  There was only one night when the rains really descended that I didn’t walk for more than an hour on the beach.  Leah really blossomed in the sun and sand and fresh air.  Michael was able to lounge by the pool and relax.  We started seriously talking about him finding a job in Charleston, about retiring to the beach, about how much both of us miss the water.  Even the amount of stress we were under from things not going well with “friends” and Michael’s carpool situation being unresolved, that stress was far more manageable than I would have found it otherwise.

We had a wonderful time reliving old memories too.  We went up to Calabash, where we had stayed several years ago with Brian and Lara, and I did a little souvenir shopping and reminiscing.  We went to the Sea Captain’s House for lunch—we never go to MB without stopping there.  We drove past the places we’d stayed before, and talked a lot about the things we had done before.  I’ve now been to MB 7 times, Michael’s been there 6, and it’s funny how all the visits and all the stuff we did blends together after a while and we couldn’t remember what we did with whom.  We also met some other wonderful families staying at the same complex as we were—notably people from Saratoga Springs, NY and another family from North Carolina.  There was also a group from Canada of 20 or more, all from the Toronto area, and did those folks ever know how to party!  Leah totally fell in love with them and one of the little ones they had with them, Jacob.  All she had to do was flash him a sweet smile, and he’d feed her goldfish.  It was a good deal.

We also made new memories, most notably the dolphin cruise, which I would do again in a heartbeat.  Apart from taking a cruise with my family in the 90’s, I had never been out on the high seas and certainly never in a “small” boat like that (it sat 150 comfortably).  The crew was amazing—they let us pre-board and helped us on and off the boat no problem.  It was a fun day full of laughter and dolphins and the ocean!

I’m also pleased to say that the new outlets are pretty nice.  I went into the Crocs outlet store and got two pairs for $23!!!!  How amazing is that?!   My last pair alone cost $30.  I practically haven’t taken off the one pair since I bought them.  I love the Croc-y goodness.

The only surprising thing that I was not able to do was that I did not read one single page of one single book.  I was too busy!  I didn’t really get much down time—travel with Michael has always meant a little bit of extra work on my part, but traveling with Leah was a whole new ballgame.  Suddenly I had to haul toys and snacks and sunscreen and hats and drinks and, and, and!  The stroller didn’t make it in the soft sand, so I’m thinking we need to get a wagon or something for our next trip, but how we’d haul it, I do not know!

The night before we left, I literally sat down and cried.  Neither one of us wanted to go.  Maybe we’ll be able to squeeze in another weekend somewhere, but I doubt it.  Fortunately it’s close, and as my mom reminded me, “Myrtle Beach ain’t going anywhere!”  So we are marking time until we can go back—hopefully next spring sometime.  Until then, I am attempting to keep that peaceful feeling in my heart despite whatever curveballs life throws my way.  And I’ve got an “I *heart* Myrtle Beach” keychain and an MB magnet on the car as little reminders of oneof my favorite places on Eart. :-)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Valley of the Dolls

valley-of-the-dolls1 I am somewhat breaking my cardinal rule of not discussing book club books before book club on account of I just finished this month’s selection, Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls, and I simply must write a (brief) review now!  Valley of the Dolls is the perfect summer beach read.  In fact, I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t save it for my upcoming trip to Myrtle Beach.  While I probably won’t have a whole lot of time to read while I’m chasing Leah around the beach, it’s just the kind of book that makes you think “beach read!”.  I suppose now I’ll have to go buy some cheap but trashy romance novels somewhere!!!

Valley of the Dolls is the story of Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, three unknowns who arrive in New York City and climb the show biz ladder to fame and fortune.  Neely arrives with a traveling vaudeville act and becomes a Broadway star which leads to movie stardom, Jennifer starts on Broadway and moves to European art films before returning to the US to become a major star, and Jennifer works as a secretary for a talent agency and eventually is discovered and becomes a TV star in her own right.  All three women find out it’s not so much fun at the top, their paths littered with broken hearts and bottles of pills, which they call “dolls”.

I must say, I enjoyed the hell out of this book, probably to an embarrassing degree.  I was sure I would hate it, it seemed from the description rather superficial and uninspired, but it was compelling and interesting.  It was a bit voyeuristic, and I could only imagine the headlines today if these women and their men had been real people.  No doubt we’d see them splashed across the cover of People and Us and OK with alarming regularity.

I rated it 4 stars on GoodReads, although I based that on my enjoyment of the book rather than on its merits.  It also counts for the TwentyTen Book Challenge, in the “Older Than You” category, since it came out in the lat 60’s, and I am of mid-70’s vintage.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Word from Thailand

Hope this message finds you well. Penny and her family would like to say "they feel very happy with this good news and there is no other answer except " YES". They are ok with the placement. And please share the family's letter to Susan. Penny's mother just sent it to me.


Dear Michael, Susan and little Leah

Thank you very much for your interest in hosting Penny. We have read Michael’s wonderful and great profile. Penny has spent a lot of time reading and is busy searching the meaning of words in her English-Thai dictionary. She is happy to receive this good news and look forward to seeing both of you.

I hope Penny would be able to learn from Michael how to overcome hard time and when frustrated and that she would be a helpful student to your family.

I admired Michael is a young successor. There are many things I would like to write. But it is not convenience because I am at work. I have to send out this short Message now to get things moving. We have just receive this news yesterday late evening.

Susan, I would like to thank you again for your great support. Please don’t hesitate to advise Penny if she is out of order. We have to make it a “Cheerful Family”.


This sounds like a fun match!!

We do not yet know where in Thailand she is from. We have to complete our official interview and get final approval from the school here before we can officially exchange identifying information and communicate freely. Still, it is nice to hear from these people, whose daughter will change our lives and we will change hers! The world just got a wee bit smaller. :-)

Friday night update: We got approval from the school TODAY!!! Woo hoo! All that's left is the interview on 5/23. Unfortunately that is the soonest the rep is able to interview us.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Quickie Update on the Exchange Student

Thailand approved us to be our prospective AFS'ers new family. Our package was delivered to her and her family today and they were going to discuss it tonight and send back an answer tomorrow. This is nearly as good as adopting again! I'm really excited and hope to have a yes answer!

Good night everyone!

Ready for the Beach!

Well, in just a little over a week, we will hit the sandy shores of North Myrtle Beach.  I am unspeakably excited.  We have plans for some days and no plans for other days.  I bought Leah a floaty thing for the pool and some sand toys.  I hope she winds up loving the beach as much as her father and I do.  I am really looking forward to building a sandcastle with her and putting her in her new bathing suit, and I’m praying she doesn’t eat sand. :-D

We have still been busy around here. Choir practiced started right back up the week after our big Hollywood concert.  I wasn’t able to sing a whole lot on account of the fact that I was still not feeling well.  We are singing a bunch of patriotic songs, and I am really excited about it.  Although I’m not so sure “Give My Regards to Broadway” is all that patriotic, but what the hell!  I think it’ll be a great show.  If you have nothing else to do on July 3rd, come on out to Colonial Forge HS in Stafford and hear us sing!

I have been SO sick, even Michael agreed that this was a bad one.  I usually do get sick every summer, but my gosh, this one will not let go!  My present opinion on the matter was that I had a cold AND allergies.  The cold part seems to be gone—no more sore throat or headache, but my nose is still running like crazy.  I think I’m up to a ridiculous 6 or 7 boxes of tissues used.  Fortunately my nose is healing.  I invented my own “fix my nose” remedy a few years ago that helps when your nose gets all chapped and yucky from all that blowing.  It is to use a combination of Neosporin and Blistex and rub it on there.  It works wonders.  My nose is still crusty, but not half as bad as it was.  I am also now devoted to Zicam tablets.  I was sick for over a week and finally in desperation, since I did not want to drive up and see the doctor, I started taking Zicam, and within 24 hours, I was feeling tons better.  I think today I’m going to get some Claritin at the grocery store and see how that does me.  If it works, I’ll know I’ve developed allergies.  I knew I was sick when I only went out like 2 days last week! haha

Sunday I went and got gas for our grill.  I had not been able to grill since Leah’s birthday party.  I made the best barbeque chicken on Sunday for dinner and then last night I grilled up some kebabs that I had gotten at Wegman’s.  YUM!  Everything is so good grilled, and I tend to make healthier meals when I grill, which is an added bonus.  I seem to focus more on all the food groups and making a balanced choice.  In fact, since dropping my WW subscription yet again, I feel like I’ve been obsessing about food a whole lot less and hopefully this will help for when I do get back on the horse.  My neighbor and I started walking again this week, but with the heat, I know I won’t be walking outside a whole lot more.  I am such a wimp about being hot, but I can’t stand sweating and all that crap.  I’d much rather be comfortable, so I may take up mall walking for the summer.  We’ll see.

We were matched with an AFS student from Thailand earlier this week.  Our paperwork was submitted to the AFS’ers in Thailand to approve us and for her and her parents to decide if she wants to live with us for the coming school year.  We had considered a short term summer exchange, but having talked to the AFS volunteer and thinking about where our match might come from, we decided to accept any student they threw our way.  This girl sounds like a perfect match—she volunteers in an orphanage and LOVES babies, is self-motivated, her family sounds very similar to ours, and she is extremely determined to get things done.  We were told we might hear something yesterday, but we didn’t so maybe today we will get some good news, and I’ll be able to post more.  I’ve been very impressed with AFS so far.  I never had dealings with them as an adult; obviously my parents took charge when we hosted when I was in high school.  They have already contacted the school here, done our background checks, scheduled our family interview, matched us, and call to check on us regularly.  It’s pretty awesome.  I’m already thinking about what wonderful parts of the United States we can show this girl while she is here and I’ll be interested to see what she would like to do while she is here.  Her letter and paperwork were full of sweet little grammar things that I would no doubt make when writing or speaking in a foreign language.  In one picture, she wrote “I like being outdoors but there should not be wild animals.”  That really tickled me!

For anyone who didn’t read the 80 Plates blog, I have been in touch with my dad’s cousin lately.  She emailed me via and has been working diligently to learn more about the Cherepon side of the family.  Through her, I was able to find out my great-grandparents’ names (Michael and Helen), the ships they sailed on to come to the US (he came first and sent for her later), and that they listed themselves as Hungarian, not Russian!!!  They also listed themselves in some way shape or form as Austrian and in one case Slovakian.  So I guess we are a mélange of Eastern European happiness.  Lucas was pleased, since he is Hungarian, that his wife is too.  Sunday afternoon, we called our great-aunt and did a little interview with her over the phone.  She would tell us things in one or two sentences, not a lot of details, but I had a blast hearing from her and hope to go visit her in June.  I mainly wanted to know what she remembered of my grandfather, and she said he was ‘all boy, very rough and tumble”.  It was pretty cool to hear the couple memories of him she did share.  I also hooked up with the cousin’s two daughters on Facebook and am now in contact with family I didn’t even know I had!!!  Man is that ever cool!  I am totally loving this.

I have been able to chat with Lesley a little bit this week via Facebook, which has made me SO happy!  It’s been a while since we’ve been able to connect there, so it’s been nice to sit and chit chat.  I’m determined to get her to watch Billy the Exterminator. :-D  She watched it a bit while we chatted last week, but didn’t turn it on this week.  She’ll be won over.  I know. haha

Melissa and Emily both started book club this month, which was pretty cool.  Melissa’s been wanting to join for a long time and Emily only recently expressed an interest, and I happened to be at the end of the waiting list and two people dropped out, so in they came.  We had a great discussion and meal on Monday—we discussed Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (see previous post for my review) and our dinner theme was Axis versus Allies.  I know who won the war, but I’m not sure who won the culinary battle—I think we had a lot more Axis foods though, so it might have won by default :-)  My potato salad and Linzertorte went over like a house on fire.

Well, even though I am back on Facebook, I am determined not to let the blog die.  So check back occasionally and leave me a comment that doesn’t end in a string of periods.  I love getting ‘em!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Couple Quick Reviews

I have not been reading terribly prolifically since Lent ended and I’ve been able to go back to gaming and Facebooking, plus my wee one is ever more on the move and more and more to keep up with.  Add that to new activities, and I’m probably pretty lucky I’ve done any reading at all!

I did finish one challenge book and wanted to comment on this month’s book club book as well!

0140232516_01__SX140_SY225_SCLZZZZZZZ_ For my Twenty-Ten challenge “pick your own category”, I chose books on addiction.  I decided to start out reading Terry Williams’s Crackhouse: Notes from the End of the Line, since it was pretty short.  Well, short it may have been, but man did it take me FOREVER to read.  Terry Williams apparently had already written a book about the dealers in NYC and what their lives were like, so he decided to go to the demand side and see what it was like in a crack house, looking at the lives of the users.  The house he selected was run by a guy named Headache, who at some point was quite successful as a businessman, and whose friends in the business world were still attempting to pull him out of the crackhouse, get him clean and sober, and help him get back to work and being a respectable business and family man.  In addition, Williams profiles several other members of the crackhouse “family” and what they do to get high, including unsafe sex.

I really did not care for this book at all.  I thought it was just totally boring.  It was dry and dull and hard to read from my perspective.  I didn’t care a thing about any of the “characters” in the book, and I just wanted to get to the end as quickly as possible.  I gave it 1 star on Goodreads.

those-who-save-us-jenna-blum-paperback-cover-art On the other hand, this month my book club read Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.  This is a book that has been languishing on my “to be read” shelf for at least a year and a half, if not longer.  I was really excited to be able to get to it, especially when I started it.  Now, I was sick all last week, I’ve been sick now for 10 days.  But the first day I wasn’t feeling well happened to be the day I started reading this book.  My excuse the next day for staying up till 2AM was that I wasn’t able to breathe when I laid down, but in actuality, this book was so compelling, I read until I literally could not keep my eyes open any longer.

The story details Anna and Trudy. Anna is a young woman living outside a concentration camp in Germany, who does what she needs to do to survive and provide for her daughter during WWII, namely taking up with a high ranking SS officer whose eye she has caught when he comes to the bakery where she works one day.  After the war, she marries an American GI and leaves Germany for good, refusing to answer any of Trudy’s questions, despite the fact that Trudy has a good many questions about her past.  Trudy, who is now a college professor, begins interviewing German citizens to find out what their experience of the war was, and eventually is able to get some answers about who she is, who her mother is and what she did, and help her mother come to grips with her own fears and guilt about the past.

In book club, I think everyone liked the book, although with varying degrees of liking it.  I found it compelling and exciting and interesting and horrifying by turns, and while I have no desire to read it or any other Holocaust-related books for quite some time now, I have to say that this is one of very few five star reads from the past year.  I’m going to count it as one of my TBR selections so that I can get another one off the list.  That has me having read 6 out of 20 books on that challenge for the year.  Hooray!  I’m getting there for sure.