Wisdom of MY Words

Random Musings & Book Reviews

Archive for November, 2012

30 November
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I Can Scrapbook When I’m Dead.. Or My Kids Can Do it!

For over 18 years I have been MarthafreakingStewart. I scrapbooked all my photos before scrapbooking was cool, or endorsed by Precious Moments, I was corrected by a friend last week-end, it’s Creative Memories. My bad.

Back when I was scrapbooking old ladies at the Hallmark Store would ID me because I was too young to be buying those kind of supplies. I think you must, at minimum be 30, and that I was not, I was a young mum with a baby, my first born, my Prodigal Son, who I have suffered through eight stints in rehab with, two teen pregnancies I knew about, one I didn’t, and a whole host of other issues that I’m not going to belabour here.

Retaining four different scrapbooks and always searching for the right paper and the right photo corners took up an amazing amount of time. The people I love the most in the world are on a road-trip across the world. Two are in their 120s and one is pushing 100 now. Those people that mean so much to me will never see the scrapbook’s I had, they’ll never sit on my Verde velvet sofa with the turned legs and flip through the pages with me as I tell them stories of my three amazing children.

So, one day my husband said it’s time for me to clean, do a massive clean out Missy, he said. At the time I was writing my first fiction book since my MFA Thesis. I was doing a lot of reading about writing from other authors. One recommended that I take a bunch of photos and throw them in a box. Then pull one out at random and do some stream-of-consciousness writing about the events that led up to that moment in time. That captured moment on Kodachrome, before the age of the digital camera. A damn godsend I tell you, digital cameras.

I took all my photos out of their corners of black or gold, off their embossed, posh paper and threw them in a box a girlfriend made me. She took strips of paper and made a cool box with a handle from a cigar box and it doesn’t smell of glue, but does look and feel wonderful. It feels and smells of the love she had for that cigar box and in designing it for me, not her Etsy store. It reeks of our intimate friendship, when she confided her secrets to me and I was finally old enough to have secrets to share, but only wanted to share them with her.

This box is brimming with photos now. I also have two scrapbooks that I haven’t touched. One is my second, marvelous marriage to my husband of 14 years, whom I love more now than I did when I met him at 21. A second are the trips he and I took together sans children. Then I have several gorgeous Neimans silk exterior photo holders that tie with a ribbon and are jam packed too.

Last Saturday a bunch of us were at our house after the play, A Christmas Carol. A girlfriend is scrapbooking. I brought out my box. I laughed. I told stories. I felt joy. My GFs husband kept saying:

“Go digital.”
“She’ll only last 20 minutes.”

As his wife said, “Come over next week-end and scrapbook with me.”

My daughter was home from fresher life at University and she was pulling out pictures, asking, who is this, as she sipped on some Chard. I kept telling stories. Then I rashly agreed to come scrapbooking this week-end.

As I thought about it this week, I realized the people who are on that road trip, those people that mean so much to me because they raised me to be the amazing woman I am, I will never see again. They are beyond this mortal coil. I will never sit and turn scrapbook pages with them. All I have left is a mum who hasn’t given me a present in 33 years, and a father I met in my 30s who ignores me. I have no siblings, except half-brothers who don’t care for me, my husband or my children. My husband’s parents are slowly dying, they are shipping things to us from The Retirement State, and his brother has been dying for 30 odd years and lives in a Nursing Home. His half-siblings, again, don’t like him, and don’t know me or our children.

There is no one to share a scrapbook of memories with, so what’s the point? I think the point is wasted. I can scrapbook when I’m close to death. My pictures may have dates, but aren’t labeled, and as long as early onset Alzheimer’s doesn’t get me, the box will remain filled to the brim with photos, for me to shuffle about and recall those moments stuck in time, intransient.

He’s wrong, my male friend, the husband of the scrapbooking girlfriend. He’s known me since college and I could last 20 hours scrapbooking. I just don’t think it’s a good usage of my time, at my young age! If I end up with early onset Alzheimer’s the box will be a new and interesting memory trick and I’ll take up smoking, because I read Nicotine helps keep Alzheimer’s at bay.

Until I retire in 30 some odd years, my life will continue to be in a box, it travels light. It’s all in my head anyway. I have a memory like an elephant! I am good with this solution to scrapbooking because I am lucky enough to not live in a hovel in Poland where I could only afford one picture to be taken my entire life, the one of my husband and I on our wedding day. I am lucky to have this box my girlfriend lovingly made for me. I am blessed to have my three children alive, well, and my youngest bursting with energy every day of my life, since he’s still in grade school.

I am so blessed I don’t need a scrapbook to remind me of my memories.

28 November
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Decluttering

Much to my chagrin, I just found my last post, which was 29 Mat 2012, about decluttering. That’s a long time since I posted about this vital issue.

To summarize quickly, I discovered #Poshmark and have been posting items on eBay and Poshmark with enormous regularity. I’ve inherited or purchased about 50 items since May, sold 150 more items, cleaned out Zack’s and Mimi’s closets and am still on the declutter the house path.

Furniture on Craiglist is next. There are several rooms that don’t need the furniture they have, for example, Mimi’s second bedroom, aka “her office.” The twin Euro back chairs fall in to that list.

There’s also a rug in her office, free weights, extra blankets, sheesh, I could keep going on, but the point is made, we still have too much stuff.

We also had three cars, but with a kid off to Uni. we sold two and bought a sweet 335i, which is a beauty and has been very well maintained.

My last count was 730 or so items donated, sold, or given to Church for either 1) the School’s Silent Auction or 2) the Annual Church/School Rummage Sale. And then there is, of course, the pantry clean out twice a year. Once for Thanksgiving and once again at Easter and the food given to Church/School; depending on where we happen to be when our car is packed with three to four bags of stuff I haven’t used and therefore they better be used before the expiry date. Prior to Thanksgiving, that was about 49 items. I rarely include the food stuffs.

I prowl my house looking for items to sell or donate. I gave my neighbors these cool pink polka dot containers that were Mimi’s and she no longer wanted, and they have two girls and I only have one boy at home and him, nor his brother in Portland, would want pink containers. It seems I’ll never be done.

I can’t imagine hoarders! Gasp!

17 November
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Dumbass Sightings, In the Wild, Number Three

My daughter and I went to the McDonald’s drive through check-out window to pay our bill and I gave the assistant a £5 note.

Our total bill was £4.20, so I also handed her a 20 pence piece.

She said, “You gave me too much money.

I said, “Yes I know, but this way you can just give me £1 back.”

She sighed and went to get the Manager, who asked me to repeat my request.

I did so, and he handed me back the 20 pence and said: “We’re sorry but we do not do that kind of thing.”

The assistant then proceeded to give me back 80 pence in change.

Do not confuse the assistants at MacDonald’s.

17 November
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Dumbass Sightings, In the Wild, Number Two

Found on Twitter: “Reason number 420 why I married my wife: She weighs up weed and sells it for me when I’m out of town. Takin care of business.” Ha.

Jon said, “I’d move to Colorado so I can celebrate 419.”

I was like, “WTF you dumbass, it’s 420. How can you screw that up?”

He’d be the worst pot smoker EVER!

17 November
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Dumbass Sightings, In the Wild, Number One

I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked: “Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?”

To which I replied, “If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?”

He smiled knowingly and nodded, “That’s why we ask.”

This happened at Luton Airport. SMH.

14 November
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God Has Better Things To Do Than My Laundry by Heather Nestleroad

I found this book on Twitter, where I find all my Indie published books. I’m a published author, adjunct Professor, have three children, am from the Midwest and still live in the Midwest (but not the same state) and have survived two (well, technically the middle one is 18, so she’s still a teen) teens and am starting on my third.

This book is a hoot. I was laughing until my stomach ached, I had to run to the bathroom, and TaB flew out of my nose (because I really despise Starbucks.)

While I’m not particularly fond of corn stalks in my backyard, I do like backyard pools, stay in maillots and not bikini’s, and look at my middle child, whom is a girl, and often say, “You may not leave the house wearing that, go change into something else. Unless it’s for the beach, don’t show that much skin!” I suffered through three kids passion for Barney and cut that to the quick, as well as that darn Big Comfy Coach, which drove me insane! I could say something about Romney and PBS now because it’s election day as I write this, but I will refrain. I switched my two youngest kids to Gumby and Wallace & Grommit as much as possible, although there was that bad Spice Girls phase for my daughter and the Olsen Twins (did Heather’s daughters not watch Full House?), whom I despised, but we HAD to rent every movie, and then my youngest son’s utter fascination with OLD PBS: The Avengers, Number One, and even Bond and then Jack Bauer in 24. So, I get it, mostly. I understand the bathroom. My husband fixed ours, because we live in a house built in 1938, so that I have a lock. I used to HAVE to lock the bathroom door for a minute of privacy! There is also a no shoes allowed rules in our house, because I do not get on my hands and knees and scrub my hard wood floors twice a year or send my Persians to be cleaned every year! But no, my kids have stomped in cleats through the house waiting for someone to pick them up for soccer or lacrosse, and then the muddy and/or snowy winter boots, for the love of pete! Heather is me on steroids (I think it’s the Starbucks), but there is an issue with layout.

The cover is horrid, it was most likely designed by someone with remedial artistic ability. Heather also thinks her children are perfect little creatures. Let’s say this “G-dly” woman struggles pretty much with Vanity, or the sin of being Vain, Greed and really most of the Seven Deadly Sins. She’d never admit it though because she’s just too blessed.

Or perhaps it’s Indiana. Look at that state. Gary is the pit of all cities in the States, Benton Harbor is scary and that town is either Whirlpool (and old Maytag) employees or summer tourists ONLY, La Porte is renowned for having the first American female serial killer, Purdue can be a  good school if you rush for the Greek system and slut around like some of my friends did, but other than that I’d take Notre Dame any day. Purdue has only won seven Big 10 Conference Championships since 1918, the last in 2000. Whereas Notre Dame has 13 recognized national championships. Seven Notre Dame players have won the Heisman trophy and they’ve produced an NCAA record of 96 consensus All-Americans, and 32 unanimous All-Americans. But my kids went/attend Catholic Schools so I may be biased.

Oh, and they LOVE that thing they call a sport, NASCAR. If NASCAR is a sport, so is painting my nails. I’ve all ready tweeted it, you can’t steal that quote!

Indianapolis is the ugliest city I’ve ever seen that has moderately tall buildings. From Chicago to Louisville is hellacious because driving through the entire state of Indiana is worse than North Dakota and Nebraska combined, and I am being serious. Lastly, anything we sell on eBay to someone from Indiana is cursed! We have excellent feedback, but once it goes into the time-space continuum of Indiana, the eBay buyer must know that my husband is an Agnostic and the Bible-bangers don’t like anyone they can’t mission to, so our packages are cursed by proxy.

Heather’s blog, http://www.nestledinsuburbia.com/, has the same problem. She has a tremendous issue with focus. One minute she’s recanting a conversation, the next minute she’s talking about boys and no dating. One reason I gave the book four stars instead of five was that I believe all her writing should have been organized better in the book. A vignette is one story, not six different stories that all over-lap, and one minute her son is a baby, the next eight years old, the next six years old and then the vignette is complete. It was difficult to stay FOCUSED on the story when we were shuttled, as readers, hither and thither on one page! But really, she’s an excellent writer.

I get it, Heather states she has a FOCUS problem, but that is what a GOOD editor is for, to make the book flow better and for all the stories to flow in to one another. It could have been done thematically, instead of Christmas all over the place, then Thanksgiving later, with Easter in the middle, it could have been organized by the time of the year, instead of time sequentially. I could give a million ways this book would have read better.

After about 50% I stopped laughing. Heather stopped being funny, this is the other reason I only gave the book four stars. The book began to repeat itself so much that it wasn’t funny anymore. I get it, no boys until they are 16, and then you want to give them a quiz. The redundancy became too much for me. I felt like I was being pounded and pounded over and over again with the same information.

@krautgrrl says a pretty good read, but be near a bathroom in case you become incontinent while reading. If you have focus problems, this will be a five star read for you!

14 November
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An Unexpected Romance by Donna Fitts

A Generational Epic… That Needs a Triple Bypass, why, you might ask? Well, I will tell you!

I found this book on Twitter, where I discover 90% of my Indie publications. I was tragically disappointed. I don’t read reviews until after I read the book, which is bad, and I’m going to change that, even though I’m learning people lie re: book reviews. I really should KNOW this all ready because a book of mine that has been out for five years and I still get royalties on received some bad reviews. As a published author I blame Donna Fitts (because she has a website littered with typos, so she is incapable of editing her own writing), but I also blame her publisher, ELLECHOR PUBLISHING HOUSE, LLC. They state on their website that they are “providers of top quality publications.” I think they need to re-think *that* statement, because if this book, An Unexpected Romance, is indicative of their top quality, it’s pretty sub-par with massive amounts of typos, grammatical errors, misplaced commas, lack of punctuation, and plot basics!

[Ripping out my hair now] If I never see a cup of coffee with a milk heart again in my life I will be thrilled. It’s on the book cover, and on every chapter heading.

That being said, that is only one of the myriad reasons I rated this book a two star. At 22% I started to despise this book. There is a lot of telling and not showing (Writing 1101, or basics from a writing book), plus Fitts TELLS us how her characters are feeling and what they are thinking, even though the sentence easily demonstrated what they were thinking and/or feeling. Which, as a reader, we could then extrapolate. For example, at 22% Mark is described as, “The look of concern on Mark’s face deepened. … More money. More time. Not good. Not good at all!” Fitts does this ALL the time throughout the entire book. Obviously from the look of concern on Mark’s face and the rest of the paragraph, the reader gathered that the situation wasn’t good. Fitts didn’t need to tell us, TWICE! The writer’s chronic shoving information in our faces as if she was Napoleon is annoying. At 24% Mark brings bottled water to his mother’s old house for him and Elizabeth. Fitts writes, “They were covered with condensation, indicating that they were cold and refreshing.” I am just a lowly published author and adjunct Professor, but I know my words and I know condensation does not mean “refreshing” by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps this is PMS, but I wanted to throw my Kindle when I read that line! Again, one could EXTRAPOLATE that condensation meant “refreshing,” but the reader didn’t need to be told, especially when the word doesn’t technically indicate refreshing at all, ever! It’s like a Coke ad. I mean is she marketing bottled water?!

“Playing like a child could sometimes help a person feel younger, she reasoned, as long as they didn’t go so far with it that they ended up hurting themselves, straining a muscle, or something like that.” WHERE WAS THE EDITOR? This little nugget of reason was at 28%, I skipped my bookmarks from 22-28% because I felt I’d be redundant. But this writing is pointless. It means nothing. It’s almost as if, along with you need a permit to work on your own house (which is incorrect, homeowners in most states can work on their own homes doing electrical, duct work, etc., without pulling a permit), going on ad nauseam about how the interior of homes shouldn’t be painted white or off-white, but some weird brown that is so much more appealing; that Donna Fitts should write a book called “How to Live Your Life… MY WAY!” Not a generational romance that doesn’t fit together. Her oldest son is somewhere over 30, her daughter somewhere over 30, and her youngest son is age 29 (she gives us his age.) Elizabeth is 62, never discovers Mark’s age, or his daughters’, and both of their spouses are deceased.

Fitts is a perfect last name for the author as she writes in fits and starts, there is a complete lack of continuity. Oh, that was kind of bitchy.

In their little world you can make-out, press your body against the opposite sex until a reaction is produced, but then you have to stop. You also must feel guilty that your spouse is dead and you feel incapable of moving on with another person. Elizabeth’s guilt over the fact that she felt like she was cheating on her dead husband made me think, G-d she must be Catholic! But she’s not, she’s one of those weird religions that don’t baptize at birth, but she never names her religion, which would have helped me immensely, because I would have liked to read up on it. I know almost everything about Judaism, Catholicism and Lutheranism, along with having read The Pearl of Great Price (LDS Church), and the Qu’ran, so if Fitts had stated she was, say, Baptist, I could have looked it up and done some research. I would have done research, because Fitts’ book is written for about a Fourth grade level, which was very boring for me.

Because the children’s and grand-children’s ages didn’t align with Elizabeth’s very well, it was difficult to believe she was 62. Another quirk in the book is all the writing about real estate that makes no sense. As an estate agent one has not SOLD a property if it still needs to be inspected and appraised; yet, it appears Elizabeth has a Purchase Agreement and runs around all excited saying she sold a house, when it has yet to be appraised for value or inspected for livability.

Seth and his relationship with his mother, Elizabeth, is how the book starts out. But besides a few mentions, and a pat ending where Seth and Elizabeth are reconciled and he goes to Christian rehab, it seems like the initial premise (plot!) to her book is shot, so she switched tactics and moved on to Mark and a romance.

@krautgrrl says please don’t bother. There are plenty of better G-dly books out there, and I would stay away from this publisher since their team obviously can’t edit worth a darn.

14 November
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Love is a Wounded Soldier by Blaine Reimer

I found this book on Twitter where I find almost all of my Indie published writing. It was the second book last week that I read where G-d was a factor. Admittedly, I was confused in the beginning of the book and had to put it down and start all over. That was a bit frustrating, but once I started keeping up with the pace and logic, it moved along smoothly. This book was harder to comprehend for me, initially, because I’ve been reading REALLY BAD Indie books recently that I’m giving one or two stars to, so this book was a delight in that Reimer didn’t dumb the book down, and used big words assuming his reader could handle them.

This is the book’s cover, which is an OK cover but not spectacular.

Robbie’s plight is poignant. At 8% we get the death of his mum and his father “voiding his liver” at the local pub. At 30% Captain Jefferson Ross is too much of a parody of the Senior Drill Instructor from the film FULL METAL JACKET, that I couldn’t help but laugh. A lot of what Reimer wrote about Normandy and WWII from D-Day on doesn’t match at all to the descriptions of my now dead, Grandma, who was a nurse there, or many of the people I’ve interviewed that were working there as medics and nurses; the ones that survived, obviously. But, a novel is about suspension of disbelief, so I went with it and it was a jolly good thing to read.

I found it humourous that Robbie states that British rations were horrible, yet Germans I knew, who I’ve interviewed about WWII, have stated resoundingly that the British rations were much better and more plentiful than the Germans had; but history has shown us they were running on drugs instead of real food. [Partial joke here]

The letters home to Ellen were a bit much, and I can’t believe that he could even say where he was in them, or be as descriptive about certain environments as he was, but his letters could also have been redacted. The military state that was America during that time period really didn’t want soldiers saying much of anything to people back in the States. His undying love for Ellen was impressive, but incredibly naive. I honestly wish Reimer would have written a couple of Ellen’s letters in the book as it was too one-sided on Robbie, yet he kept her letters in his breast pocket and she put perfume on them. The dichotomy would have been nice.

At 50% Robbie runs into his first German face-to-face and doesn’t kill him. He talks about G-d and forgiveness and such. When Johnny points out later that it’s all about killing a man in cold blood while looking in his eyes and that you have to be dead inside to do that, it’s really an excellent summation of war in general.

When Robbie comes back, finds out Ellen has cheated on him and is pregnant, and then follows in the footsteps of his father, it is no surprise. But when Moses shows up in his life and is basically Robbie’s ticket back to G-dliness and freedom from his own persecution it’s an interesting twist. Then Robbie, after meeting Ellen’s son Joshua, decides to find Maggie, his best friend Johnny’s widow, to give her an M1 shell and they hitch up, well, it’s all just a little too convenient.

That being said, it is also poignant and beautiful and seems appropriate, given how Johnny died, how alone Robbie and Maggie both were, and out of the blue, Robbie gets to move to Virginia. Maggie insists it’s prayer, but I also think it’s part of that time period of the 1940s-1950s.

Life was “simpler” then, on a micro-level (one-wage earner household, people not needing everything they see, people helping people out), but way more complicated on a macro-level (Cold War, Korea, less GDP than 2012 per person, etc.)

@krautgrrl has given this five stars because, while there were typos and you’d know if you’ve read my other reviews that bugs the daylights out of me, this was an exceptionally well written book and I hope the best for Blaine Reimer. This is an amazing first attempt at a book, so, pick it up. G-d isn’t shoved down your throat and there is minimal swearing. I’d honestly let my newly minted 13 year old son, who attends a religious-based private school, read it. So you should too!