Thoughts on THE HUSBAND’S SECRET

Hi all. Hope all is well and that all the holiday ‘stuff’ crowding our already busy lives is getting done. Hubby and I knocked out about 60% of our gift-buying at the Walgreen’s gift card wall, lol. It’s a beautiful thing and (almost) zero stress.

tree 2014 My serenity space–when it’s uncluttered and clean, anyway. ;)

Feel as though I have been looking for my attention span for the better part of these past couple of years. Since I kind of gave up looking for it, I decided maybe I could cultivate a new one, especially when it comes to reading.

I’m sure I loved books prior to being able to read, and reading has been a passion since I learned how. IDK what’s happened these past years, but I have such a hard time getting into that next book, or even wanting to pick one up sometimes.

Lucky for me I have a friend who feeds me good fodder. She loaned me a copy of Liane Moriarty’s THE HUSBAND’S SECRET. I liked it enough to write about it.

This is an account of a happily married wife and mother of three girls who comes across a letter written by her husband. The script on the envelope instructs Cecilia to open it only in the event of her husband’s death.

Of course, Cecilia eventually opens the letter. (She held out, though. She really did.) Now she has to deal with what she’s learned. She also has to decide if she’s keeping her husband’s secret, and the ramifications of doing so as the story events unfold.

Of course, THE HUSBAND’S SECRET entails much more than I shared in that short paragraph. The writing is quite good, and the author kept me smiling with frequent parenthetical asides. She did well tying together the external and internal character journeys of her three point-of-view characters. I also feel the ending did the story justice overall.

I did find the opening chapters—which introduced each of the lead characters—a tad hard to follow at first. As the story progressed though, a definite rhythm kind of took over. I found it hard to not keep turning the pages, especially once the pace picked up. I could feel the author carrying me faster and faster to the climax.

Two things I liked:

(1)  The story’s ‘circular’ feel; it reminded me of the movie LOVE ACTUALLY, in which the seemingly separate sets of characters were all interrelated somehow, and the story brings it all together at the end. Having stated that, I’m still not completely sure that Tess’s story connected completely to the other lead characters’ external plots, nor do I fully get the metaphor of the Berlin Wall. (I did, however, look up images and information on the BW as a result. I love when fiction prompts me to do that, and that I have an internet that puts history in my hands.)

(2) The author’s take on marriage (relative to Tess, who had to decide whether or not to salvage hers): “Falling in love is easy. Anyone could fall. It was holding on that was tricky.”

Last thought: I don’t think the Epilogue added much. Where the story proper ended seemed pretty appropriate and fitting.

Have you read THE HUSBAND’S SECRET? If so, what did you think about it? Have you read any other of this author’s work? What are you reading now? Do you have to force yourself to read sometimes?

Have a wonderful week, folks. Don’t worry. It will all get done.

Joanna

When Your Gift Says “Love”

Hi all,

Hope the middle of the week finds all of you well, and that you’re not overwhelmed keeping up with all the extra to-do’s the holiday season brings. Hubby had surgery to his other shoulder last week. He’s hanging in there and dealing with the pain and discomfort like a champ. His wife-the-occupational-therapist-by-day gets to treat him with some stretching (and frequent reminders to put the cold pack on). So far, he’s been a pretty good patient.

Younger Son put the decorating-the-house wheels in motion; he’s got Christmas handled both indoors and out. At 16, he’s really into it, and getting better every year at making our home look (almost) better than I can. ;) As long as he helps pack it up after Little Christmas…

silver tinsel tree

So this past Sunday, Hubby and I met up with my mom. We did our annual trek to purchase grave covers and the Charlie Brown tree we always put up at the cemetery. (You can read about how that tradition started here.)

Because the day before had blessed us with at least three inches of rain, I decided boots—fashion of course ;) –would be the best choice of footwear. As I slid on and tied my knee-high, lace-up pair, I remembered that these were ‘special’.

Why? Well, I’ve got a small foot and a calf that’s larger than the average person with small feet probably has.

Translation: knee-high boots and I don’t see eye-to-eye on where the zipper should stop closing. :(

A few years back, I’d come across the pair I wore Sunday at a large retailer. The zip-and-lace-up design accommodated my legs well. Of course, they were out of the half-size-up I prefer when I buy boots. Guess I mentioned to Hubby I would have liked them as a Christmas present.

I got them. He made his way to a branch of that store about 40 minutes away in one of the worst downpours that year to insure I got what I wanted for Christmas.

That says, “I love you,” in my book anyway.

How about you and/or yours? How have you shown—or been shown—love when it comes to gift giving? Do you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Do you have a favorite? What makes it so?

Okay, folks. I’m supposed to be doing paperwork and trying to figure out why I’m having technical issues elsewhere that need attention.

Enjoy your day,

Joanna

And Into the Holiday Season We Go!

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, friends! Hope all of you who celebrate and/or acknowledge this wonderful holiday got to do so in the way you enjoy most. Between family and friends, we hosted about 20 folks total. We lacked for space and maybe some order, but not for food, and we always have a wonderful time. I am truly blessed with a wonderful crew.

Keeping life simple today and making sure to check in. Last week got away from me. Between the finale of Dancing with the Stars and preparing for the big meal–well, you know.

The weekend wasn’t any less busy–two birthdays too, Younger Son’s among them. (My “baby” turned 16! Another one looking to get behind the driver’s wheel soon. Help…). He asked to have a few friends over, so his ma made pizzas and a cake. Throw in a couple of reports–no Black Friday or Thanksgiving weekend shopping for this writer-girl. No. Way.

So, how did you and yours spend the holiday? Did you host or cook? Are you a Black Friday shopper? Are you a Cyber Monday-er instead? Have you started your gift-shopping?

Have a wonderful day and week, friends,

Joanna

 

Post-A-Day Inspired–Handmade Gifts

Happy Wednesday and week before Thanksgiving, reader-friends. This year, the holiday is so late, the season will be right up our heels in no time at all.

Very special thanks to my new followers–I am humbled, grateful and truly appreciative of all of you! And to those of you who have been around a while and always faithful and kind enough to leave those comments–well, you know. (Hugs.)

This post is in response to WordPress editor Ben Huberman’s Post-A-Day.

The prompt: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store bought?

Coincidentally enough, this prompt originally aired on November 14, which just happens to be the EIGHTEENTH anniversary of Older Son’s birth, and ties into the homemade gift referred to here.

Long story short: At the baby shower my mom hosted when Older Son had yet to make his debut, I received a blue-and-white crocheted, zigzag pattern blanket. (Hubby, who somehow had managed to keep from me the results of my ultrasound, shared his knowledge with everyone else he knew. That, however, is beside the point.)

The blanket, given to me by Hubby’s stepmother, gave away that “secret.”

About ten (?) years later, Hubby’s stepmom asked us to pick up something from her cousin, a shut-in who lived alone less than a mile from my home, in a senior housing building.

At that time, we were busy working, caring for two young boys, keeping up with their sports schedules—you know: typical parent stuff. We didn’t mind doing Hubby’s stepmother a favor, but Hubby voiced some initial concerns about ‘getting involved’ and ‘winding up’ caregivers to this woman. Due to a horrid car (?) accident that had occurred a long while before we met, she was blind in one eye and lived with a colostomy. She also had fairly severe arthritis. Her support system consisted of a few friends and a brother she often complained about. She couldn’t drive, and her ability to walk was limited to her tiny, two-room apartment, and only with a walker for support.

Over the next few years, this lovely lady and I developed a strong friendship. She, who had every reason to be depressed, angry and/or bitter about how life had treated her and the confinement of her days, was always upbeat. Physically impaired as she was, she often cared for her health-aide’s 10-year-old daughter, with whom she shared a very strong bond. This woman offered to sit with my boys so that I could have time to myself. And when I felt down, or overwhelmed or frustrated beyond reason, I called her. She never failed to put things in perspective and remind me how “the good Lord this” or “the good Lord that.” I always hung up the phone inspired.

Among the ways she kept herself busy, she crocheted, mostly zigzag-pattern afghans of varied sizes. Gifts of love she gave to those who asked, or to whom she offered. She offered to make each of my boys one for their beds. She made a green-and-white lap-sized/crib-sized one, which I treasure.

afghan--Barb G

For some reason, I remembered the blue-and-white one I received at my baby shower. (It’s in the garage, in a container of baby things.) The connections came together in my head, and I realized she had crafted that one too, for Hubby’s stepmom to give as her gift.

That wonderful woman wound up with a severe infection that took her life about five years ago. I still miss her and wish I could call her. I’m teary-eyed as I draft this post. But I am ridiculously grateful to know that her handmade gifts will be part of us always, and that my sons have a connection to her too through those blankets. (Younger Son gets the green-and-white one someday.)

So…I know ask you Ben Huberman’s question: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store bought?

Thanks to all of you for your time! Have a great day.

Joanna

Keeping It Simple–Kid Memories

Hi all. My weekend was busy; good thing it was long! It included a trip to the ER with my mom, two shorter reports for work and a wake on Sunday afternoon. And….the November paperwork from school keeps piling up. (Bleh. I HATE paperwork.)

All this also means the blog will be VERY simple this week.

Fall at Lenape pond 2014 Took this on Columbus Day–gives me a quick serenity fix in a pinch. 

One huge shout-out: Heartfelt gratitude goes out to our veterans. I could thank you to the limits of the Milky Way and back and still not thank each of you enough for your sacrifice. And active-duty military personnel? Ditto.

Okay: Favorite kid memory (or when you knew your child was a genius—every parent thinks so, right? ;) ):

Older Son was about 12 months and sitting in his high chair. With a water-based marker, I drew a smiley-face on the chair’s tray, figuring I’d do the eyes, ears, mouth, etc thing. I was capping the marker when he looked at my sketch and said, “Hi.” What are the odds he was way ahead of me, lol?

Doodle by Nic or Kev I’m pretty sure Older Son is the artist. I referred to this a few posts ago: the kid-art on the louver door in the bathroom I will NEVER paint over. If this sketch is an inch big, I’m overestimating, lol.  

Of course I could go on and on, but I’ll share one episode that really had me flumgubbered. Same kid was anywhere from three to four years old. I was getting him into his car seat and noticed the container of wipes I normally kept in the car was face down, flip-lid open and flat on the carpet. I picked it up and was pleased to note (and comment) that the wipes hadn’t dried out.

Older Son didn’t miss a beat. “That’s because no air got under there.”

What???

Somehow, he’s always gotten how things relate to one another.

Your turn, and yes, you may share about any child (niece, neighbor, student, etc) who has left you slack-jawed with their ability to infer!

Have a great day, everyone!

Joanna

This Reader’s Pet Peeves

Welcome to November, folks. How does every year seem to go faster and faster?

Hope those who celebrate enjoyed a fun Halloween. ‘Trunk or Treat’ delayed our candy-seekers, but we wound up with a good turnout nonetheless. I was also thrilled when a former co-worker rang the bell; she wound up informing me she and a neighbor—a widower whose wife unexpectedly passed of an undetected aneurysm late last year—were ‘together.’ I’ve been praying for that man since September, 2013. So grateful and happy for him and his very young boys, and for her. Far as I know, he’s a great guy, a firefighter who writes–or has written–on the sly. That’s got to be good, right? ;)

To everyone taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge, I applaud you and wish you all the best. As much as I can churn out a report or a blog post under pressure, I can’t seem to generate the heart that kind of undertaking warrants. You’re an amazing group who inspire me.

NaNoWriMo--persistandwin

Image credit: From CommuniCATE Resources For Writers 

Lately, I feel my attention span is more and more compromised. Even reading, a life-long passion that helped spur me into the writer-world, has been suffering. Maybe it’s age, too much to do, life, internet-spawned attention deficit—all of the above. My tolerance isn’t what it was, either. Having learned first-hand some of the tricks of this trade messed with my reader side. I can rarely push myself to swallow content that doesn’t grab me right away or gets my pet peeves coming out in full force.

I’m not pointing at only indie works either. A few years ago, a well-established author released a long-awaited new work. I’d read at least two of her previous compositions and thoroughly loved them. The Big-Five publisher that backed her put out a LOT of fan-fare (and $$$) to promote her book.

Hate to admit it, but I never downloaded more than the sample. The style of writing was dated. Exposition went on and on. (Very 80s, I guess?) Don’t think I made it past page 20. So there’s pet peeve #1.

#2: A poorly-developed, contrite or dragged-out story. I’m not implying every story should have block-buster style action pouring off every page. Readers who’ve been around a while know every story has been done. PLEASE, authors! Give me a story I want to believe, and move it along at a forward pace that feels like it’s on some kind of continuum.

#3: Repetition: I’m forcing myself to read a romance that somehow found its way onto my Nook app. It’s okay, but if one more person ‘snorts’ I might decide how the author got to the HEA isn’t worth knowing.

#4: Crappy editing: Good service is pricey. I’ve looked into it (and hoping this post, or a future release, doesn’t haunt me one day). Heck, I’ve heard authors mention their editor this, or their editor that.

I hate when a book starts out decently edited, then slides down a steady decline. (Kind of dealing in that with those ‘snorting’ characters, among other complaints.)  I once read a supposedly edited book where love scenes were repeated for 5-page stretches every time they occurred. IDK, but that’s overkill and cause to skip the scenes or even give up on the story. And don’t get me started on head-hopping. (BTW, I have no problem with POV shifts within a scene and use them myself. But those authors whose books sell simply b/c their names grace the covers, while POVs shift from head to head within the same paragraph??? Nah, I’ll read someone else’s stories, thank you very much.)

There are beta readers, critique groups, online and in-person workshops. Translation: We shouldn’t be lacking for a way—via use of cash, barter or someone’s kind-hearted donation of services—that any book should be lacking in quality.

Any thoughts on this? How patient are (or were) you as reader? Do you have pet peeves about the stories that come your way? I’d love to read about them. Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Residents of the USA, if you can, get out there and vote. (MHO: it’s become far too important to do so.)

Have a great day,

Joanna

Name Your Poison!

Happy last days of October, friends! Halloween is upon us. Scary how fast a year goes–yes?

Nic 1st Halloween (Elvis) 1997 Older Son as Elvis (first Halloween 1996)

Nic n Kevin Halloween 2000 “Da boys” (Halloween 2000)

Addictions.

Some are not the kind one makes public knowledge.

Some are illegal and, in the long haul, can impact quality of life or worse, life itself.

That’s serious stuff. (If you believe yourself to have that kind, please, seek help.)

BTW, we all have them. (Does blogging count? This is my 361st post! :D)

Disclaimer: By choosing this topic, I am by no means making light of the types of addictions that need true attention, twelve-step program(s) or other type of intervention(s).

Truth is, we’re all hooked on something. Try wrestling my cup of coffee—half-caffed as it may be—from my eager li’l hands every morning. My brew-baby is set to go on timer; happiness is hearing the triple-beep that tells me java is ready before I make my way down the stairs daily. Then there is tennis. Makes me crazy. I always lose—and frequently wind up MAD and FRUSTRATED on the court, yet I keep going back. I can’t not watch, and I can’t not play.

(Check out my favorite tennis image of the week.  Diehard fans know what preceded this, too. ;) Please try to remember to come back, lol.)

Back to addictions. Years ago I attended a New Year’s Eve party and stayed overnight. Until that night, I had heard the term, but never internalized ‘chain smoking.’ I watched a guy pull a cigarette out of the pack just in time to light it with the end of the one hanging from his mouth. He spent the next five hours doing that over and over, to the tune of five packs or more. (At some point, I went to sleep. Chances are, he lit the next cigarette.)

That’s how I feel when I’m watching my go-to channel, USA. (Come on, ‘Characters Welcome’ is the ultimate writer’s by-line! ;) ) At least twice a week, Law & Order SVU and NCIS run marathon-style, often until the late hours. (That’s when Modern Family kicks in, 2-4-episode line-ups.)

TV powers-that-be did away with commercials between the end of one show and the beginning of the next for a reason, people. That’s one way they get your eyeballs on the show that’s new to the scene. And for an SVU/NCIS junkie like me, that’s all it takes to get roped into that next episode—even if I have watched it twelve times. As soon as those credits roll, you’ll hear me begging hubby for the remote. “Quick! Go to black before I’m sucked into the next one!”

So what’s your poison?

Here’s to a happy and safe Halloween to all who celebrate. Residents of the USA, don’t forget to turn back your clocks.

Have a great weekend,

Joanna