Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Unspoken Thoughts

I sit in the gazebo of the nursing home with my 98yo mother and 15 other residents. Each has half of a swimming pool noodle. Teenagers from a nearby day camp are playing Noodle Ball with them, tossing balloons to them to bat back with their noodles.

Mother's mind is still in great shape. She beat me at Scrabble last night, and will probably do so again tonight As I rolled her out here, she said, "It's hard to believe I'm a resident here."

As she sits waiting for one of the teenagers to toss her the balloon, I wonder what she thinks of all this. How does life get to the point where one is trapped inside a body that doesn't work as it should?

Mother has never been one to share her thoughts and feelings. Anytime I have ever tried to tell her how I feel about anything in our shared life, her chin starts to quiver and tears fill her eyes.

Visiting her now is a challenge of filling the time. I tell her things about my life and the lives of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She smiles a smile of acknowledgement, but asks no questions and offers no observations. She tells me nothing about her day or her life in this (hopefully temporary) prison. But carry on a conversation? Nope. Not happening.

There are moments of interest in her eyes—the spark we occasionally saw when we and she were young. But now it's a life of biding time until (according to her understanding of the world), God says it's time to go.

In the meantime, Noodle Ball caught her interest for half an hour this morning.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Secret Vices

Okay, I like romance novels. So report me to the literature police. When I've got a nine-hour drive ahead (two-per-week every other week for the past six weeks or so), I want something that will capture my interest and keep my mind from wandering.

I was searching Audible.com before my last trip to find something suitable for the trip, and I happened across Sherryl Woods's "Chesapeake Shores" series. Having lived in the D.C. area for roughly a third of my life, I love the Chesapeake Bay and all the little inlets that define its shore. I read and enjoyed the first book—and it met my distraction goals—so downloaded the next, and the next, and so on. I'm now on the most recent one, and I'm annoyed at my addiction.

I must say that Ms. Woods has found a formula that works for her. But sometimes it's just a tad too formulaic.

I actually wrote to her a week ago and asked, wryly, "Do you know how many times you use the adjectives 'wry' and 'wryly'?" And I received a charming response from her. Not all authors would have done that.

Here's the thing about audiobooks, at least for me: I notice patterns in writing much more when I'm listening to the book than when I'm turning the physical pages. I don't know if that is caused by the way I read—I speak the text in my mind as I'm reading. My years of working as an editor have made this bad habit hard to break. But if an author uses the same phrase repeatedly, I'm going to notice. And at some point I'm going to get annoyed.

I don't believe I've ever noticed someone speak "wryly." What sort of statement would that encompass? And, upon reflection, I don't believe she uses other adjectives for speech in the same way she uses "wryly." All of her characters are wry. No one is exempt.

And I don't think I've read one of her books that did not include that phrase. Repeatedly.

The other phrase is "more's the pity." I have never heard anyone use that phrase. I've lived in the Florida, Wisconsin, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Arizona, and Ohio. I've known octogenarians and agrarians and vegetarians. No one uses "more's the pity." I had to google it to figure out what it meant, and I still don't think I get it. When I mentioned this annoyance to Ms. Woods, she said she hears it "all the time." So there you go. Writers write what they hear.

I do have to talk a moment about her characters. Never—in the pages and pages of books of all genres that I've read—have I read so many characters prone to jump to erroneous conclusions. And to hold grudges. And to make assumptions that will bite them in the ass. And to refuse to communicate. One of her main characters in the series is a psychoanalyst. Can't he just please get these people into his office and tell them to grow up?!

The greatest example of this conclusion-jumping was when a young woman appeared on the family's doorstep during Thanksgiving dinner. She handed a baby to the mother of the family and told her the baby's name was the same name as the father of the family. The mother immediately assumed her husband bedded the young woman and produced another child. And she was in a snit about it for an interminable number of pages.

Just talk! Ask the question. Get the answer. Don't run off in a huff based on an assumption!

Communication is vastly underrated!!

Okay, so even with all those complaints and negative-sounding comments, I have enjoyed these books. I'm less than two hours from finishing the last book. I will read all the rest of the books she releases in this series.

But now I'm about 36 hours from my next nine-hour drive to NC. I need something to make the time fly.

Guess I'll spend a little time on Audible tomorrow and see what else pops up.

And what are you reading?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Growth Spurts

Little Miss Long-Legs Ridley is growing about an inch a week. Yesterday I took the babes to the playground. When she was climbing up a metal structure she'd climbed on many times before (as a much shorter child), she whacked her skull on a metal bar and came crying to me.

She's eight years old, trapped in the body of a 15-year-old. It's a steep price to pay for what a long, cool drink of water she's going to be in her teens!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Driving on the Left

The Jazzman and I are planning a week-long vacation in Ireland. I've traveled in Europe quite a bit, but only once without the aid of an itinerary planned by a travel professional.

In 2002, I met my then-fiancé in Paris. We spent a day in Paris, a few days in Lyon, a few days in Geneva, a week roaming around Switzerland, two days in Germany on tour with my chorus from Washington, then a few more days in Paris — a total of three unstructured weeks. Traveling on Eurailpasses, we would just hit a city and decide what we wanted to see and where we wanted to eat each day. We found hotels as we were on our way into each city. I have lots of memories of that trip and the horrible heat that had settled over the region during that time, but also of the footloose nature of the trip.

This Ireland trip will only be eight or nine days. We're staying in a timeshare golf community (no, he's not schleppin' his sticks across the ocean!) in County Clare, about 45 minutes from Shannon airport. We'll fly into Shannon and return from Dublin.

I'm spending lots of time reading guidebooks and exploring travel websites, trying to determine which sights are must-sees, and which are can-misses. I've thought a lot about how to structure the trip so I don't inadvertently put pressure on both of us.

My thought is to have a list of all the wanna-see sights, including the duration of the drive or walk and the time required to travel to the location. Then each night when we arrive home from that day's travel, or in the morning when we rise, we can study the list and decide what we feel like doing that day.

I think this is a far better plan than my earlier thought to lay out a complete itinerary, a la Julie McCoy, so we'd have a feel of the whole trip before leaving the States. Now, upon thinking it through further (and not wanting to force the Jazzman to cede all control!), this menu of daytrips sounds like the best solution.

Now if I can just find and book airfare for under $2,500 for both of us! Damn the price of oil, anyway!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Melancholia - or not!

If "melancholy" means long-lasting sadness, what is the word for long-lasting happiness? Contentment? Bliss?

Whatever that word is, it describes my mood today. I was noticing the date was July 1, and wondering where on earth June went. Then I realized that since May 29, my mother's life has turned upside down in a most disastrous manner, and I've traveled to North Carolina three times.

But now I get a little respite. Tomorrow morning we'll be off to the lake cottage for a relaxation-filled week with our circle of friends. The DearGrandChildren will accompany us for the first two days, and their parents will join us on the 4th. Lots of eating; lots of golf (for the friends - knitting and reading for me!); lots of sun; lots of smiles and laughter.

Today I'm trying to finish up all my work for the coming week so I don't have to spend much time in the Madison Public Library accessing their wifi. I'm listening to an old favorite Sergio Mendes album - "Ye-Le-Me". The song "Look Who's Mine" came on. Whenever I hear it, it takes my breath away.

So as I'm winding things up, I'll share those lyrics with you:

Sleepy sun, it's time to rise and shine
Just take a look who's mine
See who's in love with me
Gentle wind, his smile will make your day
He'll take your breath away
And he's in love with me

Weeping willow, you can dry your tears now
When he passes by you wouldn't want to cry
You won't believe your eyes
What a sweet surprise

Oh, just look who's mine
Can you believe who's mine
That he's in love with me
He's in love with me

Listen sun,
I know you're leaving soon
Be sure to warn the moon
He's got a treat in store
In my arms are all my wildest dreams
And crazy as it seems
He's here in love with me

Oh look who's mine
Can you believe who's mine
Look who's mine
I can't believe he's mine
Look who's mine
Can you believe he's mine
Look who's mine
I can't believe he's mine

Hope you have a great week. You might read new posts here during the week, but don't count on it!

And if you want to hear the song, here's the Amazon link: "Look Who's Mine".