My mother suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for an unusually long time, and it took her away from us in small and large pieces that led up to a final physical departure from this earth. In the early stages her disease exhibited itself through a loss of organizational skills, often manifested by an obsessive re-arranging of her extensive wardrobe.
I’m going out of town today, to Blowing Rock for the month of July. This is thrilling for me, since the heat and humidity here have reached approximately the same temperature at which I bake lasagna.
I’ve recently begun the Catie-G’ma Bookclub, an attempt to keep connected with my long-distance 2-year-old granddaughter. It all began a couple months after my Christmas mailing and my son told me that the packages I sent wrapped arrived unwrapped. Standing in line at the post office several months later, I was thinking about a solution to better book sending and missing my little Catie like crazy when I spotted these wild looking festive mailers.
Selling your home is like a formal ball, where you accept an “invitation” from an interested “suitor,” wondering if he’s The One of whom you have dreamed.
I make a lot of fun of my family, telling hilarious stories about my visits to Ohio, about my parents, who are becoming more “seasoned” citizens every day (Dad is 87 now, and Mom turned 86 in March). And yes, hand to God, it is like “otherworldly” crazy up there, like being plunged into a family tornado ... or, maybe a family hurricane, which is not quite as destructive, but is much wider in scope, you know?
I recently inflated my bike tires near the barn and none of the horses took note of the loud whooshing sound that escaped when I pulled the pump off of the valve stem. The horses kept grazing, but Peter’s spotted mule lifted his head and snorted in fear. Cledus was certain that whatever this was, it was out to get him.
“I can’t stop my children from arguing in the car,” a friend told me recently. “But when I put in an audio, it works magic.” So began my journey into exploring recent audio books that might please her children. Her daughter at 3 loves fiction and her son, at 5, is a nonfiction fan. That’s quite a lot of disparity in terms of age and interest, but made a nice spectrum for young interests. She agreed to take some audios on “test drives,” to see if they could shift her children’s moods from squabbling to shared pleasure.
I used to love a good long read. Fat books almost ensured a setting that claimed me, a character I cared about, an intricate plot and full descriptions along the way. Becoming a book critic changed me. I succumbed to the power of deadlines and the reviewer’s curse, “too little time, too many books.” Length was no longer a delight, but an obstacle.
I’m up in Ohio visiting my parents, who are getting along in years. I normally come up at the end of the school year, but I was summoned by my sisters because in the past few weeks the family dynamic has sort of ... uh ... “collapsed” would be a good word.
This is the story of a woman named Cora. She was the only child in her family, and love and affection had been lavished on her by her parents. Her parents were not wealthy, yet they continued to support her, even after she graduated from college. She did not work for a living.
My sister -- who shall remain nameless due to her behavior on the occasion herein described, but let’s just call her Susan -- is celebrating her birthday today, and she doesn’t want anyone to know her age (which is 60) because she’s just sick about it. Not about having a birthday, but did I mention that she’s 60? Not that I want to keep bringing up her age ... which is 60 ... but that’s what she’s having a fit about.
The long holiday week provided us with plenty of opportunities to sit with others and talk without the usual time constraints. Our paths crossed with people young and old, the long-term loved as well as new friends with whom we assembled over meals. As we departed from the final gathering of the holiday, I pondered the art of conversation.
Atul Gawane wrote an article for the New Yorker about a man named Robert Felton who was imprisoned in solitary confinement for many years. Felton was considered to be impulsive, incorrigible, violent and dangerous.
It’s graduation time, and I know all of you in the Class of 2014 are eagerly awaiting the moment when you are thrust into the world on your own, ready to tackle your dreams, excited to take on the responsibility of making your own way, making your own choices, making your own mistakes, making your own bed ... or not ... it’s up to you! And, let me tell you, it’s a blast out here!
Of course, unless you’ve already gotten a job in your chosen field (snicker) you’ll be heading home to Mom and Dad’s for a while as you send out resumes and “weigh all your options.”
Every year I judge the Audies, 29 awards given by the Audio Publishers Association for distinctive audio books. I only judge four to six books in Round 2 and feel grateful to those who listened and sorted through 20 or more audios during Round 1. This year, I judged memoirs and noticed a range of styles, worlds, stories that I might not have heard without this opportunity. Here are three of my favorites.
My unexpected favorite was Lawrence Anthony’s “The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild,” written with Graham Spence, read by Simon Vance (Tantor, approximately 11 hours). Anthony, a conservationist owns a wildlife reserve in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and his story has all the elements that make for an engaging listen. The drama begins right away — if Anthony doesn’t take in an elephant herd known to be troublemakers from another game reserve, they will all be put down. Within days Anthony and his faithful co-workers put in miles of electric fencing to contain these elephants, deal with local Zulu politics, potential poachers and reintroducing elephants who have not been seen there for a hundred years. Despite the speedy accommodations, the elephants’ leader and her son are killed before their transport is arranged.