Friday, October 02, 2015

Fridays's Fave Five # 348

Good Morning!  It's Friday today and that means time to look, recognize and be thankful for the good things, the blessings, the things that uplifted us during the week.  Please join us even if you are having a hard week.  This week for me was super busy and a bit stressful and it was easy for me to get bogged down in negativity...but the FFF helps me to get past all that and take note that there was good in the midst of all that!  Please join in!

So in no particular order

1.  Jalepeno Cheese Bagels.  A silly one but seriously one of my favourite treats. And the Costco here and the Tim Horton's both make excellent ones.  Of course, it needs to be toasted and spread with garlic herb cream cheese!  Sometimes for breaky, sometimes for lunch.  Yum.  Better stop talking about it now 'cause I am out of them at the moment.

2.  Last batch of tomatoes from the garden.  This last week we enjoyed the last of the tomato crop from my 3 plants in my mom's garden.  It has been plentiful and so delicious.  It doesn't compare to the sad, unripe, tasteless ones in the store.  I will miss them, for sure.

3.  Movie night out with the ladies bible study.  We skipped out of the study and went and saw War Room on study night instead.  It may not have been in the Hollywood block buster category but it was a good film and provided for  much conversation afterwards.  I love when a movie does that.

4.  A gift from a friend.  Just when I needed some encouragement a friend (from study group) handed me a totally unexpected and most precious gift.  It was a real lifter upper, if there is such word, for me.  I don't know what I would do without good friendships in my life or my study group ladies.  Over and over I'm shown we cannot do this life alone and how important connections with others beyond surface aquaintance-ship is.

5.  Tea in the evening.  As the evenings get cooler, the tea pot calls my name.  I really enjoy a nice hot cup of tea in the evenings.  I've really gotten to love the loose leaf kind and have several varieties to choose from.  Organic Peppermint is a favourite stand by but I've also been enjoying Lemon Meringue and Bluberry Lagoon.  Pina Colada and Creamsicle is next on my list to try.  It's relaxing and fragrant and cozy.

What were your favourite blessings this week?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Inside the O'Briens - a novel by Lisa Genova ~ Book Review

  • Joe O'Brien is a career Boston PD Police Officer hailing from the Irish side of town.  He loves his wife Rosie and his four grown children and his identity is totally wrapped around being a good police officer and a proud husband and father.  In his 40's Joe is working towards his 25th year on the force and eventually the full retirement package in his 50's where he and Rosie can enjoy retirement together.  But when he starts to experience bouts of raging temper, dropping items, some involuntary movements and has difficulty writing out his reports at work Rosie talks the doctor avoiding Joe into getting checked by a doctor.  He finds himself seeing a neurologist and then being handed the horrible diagnosis of Huntington's disease.  As his family grapples with the hereditary significance of the disease Joe also has to face that his mother did not indeed die a drunk in a nursing home as he was told but that she had this horrible disease.  And now all those things that scared him about her he will be going through.  He also must face losing everything that defines, in his eyes, who he is.
After reading Still Alice (reviewed here) and learning so much about Alzheimer's disease, I was eager to read another of this author's novels.  I basically knew nothing about Huntington's disease before reading this book and I knew, again, that I would learn from it because of author's first hand knowledge of neuroscience (she has a degree from Harvard).  Huntington's Disease is a horrible hereditary neurological monster. It is passed on through families and if a parent has the disease, the children have a 50/50 chance of getting it.  Symptoms usually start in the 30's or 40's and progress over the next 10 -20 years until death.  It affects voluntary movements, walking, speech, temper and people not in the know assume the person is drunk.  It eventually makes it so that the victim is bedridden, unable to care for themselves and will affect swallowing and eating.  In the 90's a blood test was developed that reveals whether you have the gene pattern that will have Huntingtons in your future.  If you are tested positive, you will have the disease 100%.  There is no treatment and no cure.

This story really spelled out what the person and family that has Huntington's running in their family line deals with.  It is devastating.  My heart was torn for the O'Brien family as they each come to grips with it and each sibling must decide whether to have the test and know for sure before they start to develop symptoms.  As Joe is stripped of everything that is him...his health, his strength, his badge, his pride and even what him and Rosie have to face to provide for Rosie after his death is shocking and sad.  And then he has to deal with the guilt.  Guilt that he passed this onto his kids unknowingly, guilt of how treated his own mother even though he was mislead in what he was told was wrong with her.   As he fought within himself on how he wanted to deal with the disease and whether he had the courage to live it out before his family, the story really broke my heart.   As each adult child wrestled with whether to take the test and know for sure whether they had the disease, I felt myself  asking what I would do.  Would I be able to dig deep and find the courage to live a life of hope  in the midst of an essentially hopeless diagnosis.  The author really drew me into each and every character within the story as she described what they were battling inwardly.

This author is extremely adept in bringing to light what it is like to be diagnosed and to live with these devastating diseases from both the victim's standpoint and also the family's and to give the reader knowledge and compassion.  Both of the books I have read by her have really done that in my heart.  I recommend her novels for that very reason.  Because they are fiction they teach without the dryness of textbooks and draw out your compassion for what the people with these diseases face in their everyday.  They really knock out a lot of my assumptions.  That being said I must say that this particular story just about didn't get finished by myself.  The proliferation of f-bombs right from the first pages of the book had me wanting to put it aside from about page 5.  They are over the top plentiful as are other swears.  I usually don't bother with a novel that relies on that amount of swearing.  But because I knew I would learn from the story I pressed on.  But in reality by the end of the book I was so done with it because of the language.  It really did make it hard for me to press through.

I give this a 9/10 for writing of the devastation and feelings of facing this disease and the knowledge and compassion it brings out of the reader but took a point away for the crazy amount of f-bombs that I had to struggle through.

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  A book set somewhere I've always wanted to visit (Boston); A book that made me cry; A book published this year; A book by a female author; A book a friend recommended; A book that scares me.

Linked with Saturday Review of Books 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #347

Good morning everyone!  It's an absolutely gorgeous couple of days here!  Today is supposed to reach 28*C, that would be a smokin' 82.4*F! We are right smack dab in the middle of what they call Indian Summer.  We don't quite know how to dress because the mornings are still cold.  The other day when I got up it was in only about 7*C which is about the mid '40's F.  Lots of layering we can peel off I guess is the fashion of Southern Alberta right now.  But on to the recording of our favourite blessings of the week!

1.  Show home tour with my dear friend.  It's our tradition!  Every September we block off the Sunday afternoon, grab a Starbucks and hit up the "Parade of Homes".  We've been doing it for years and both of us loves it. We have so many laughs. We always start with the fancy dancy ones and have lots of fun imagining ourselves in these along with a maid that would clean the huge things.  The great big things that are waaaay beyond us.  There was actually a 4000 sq. foot home this year, here in little ol' Southern Alberta.  But my very favourite was the one that had this in a hall by it's front door!  

Oh my goodness!!  Can you imagine this as a hall between the front and garage/house entry door?  Be still my heart.  But that's not all.  See those little legs dangling in the middle right of the photo?  Well that was by the garage entry and it was this...

Be still my heart!  Its a dog wash!  It must be fate...this home was designed for me!  Now all I need is a job that will support the 900,000 dollar price tag!

2.  Warm days, cool nights.  As mentioned above, it's been a lovely week of weather here.  And we've enjoyed going outside and playing in this lovely warmth.  Last week was windy and colder and rainy but this week was fall perfection.

3.  Fiction books that also teach something in the midst of their stories.  A couple months ago I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova and reviewed it here.   I learned so much about alzheimer's disease.  I'm now reading another by this author and again learning lots.  A review will come soon.

4.  A great massage.  I do not take these for granted.  They really help my tight shoulder blades so it's a "need" type massage rather than just a relax one but I still get the benefits of being relaxed as those darn knots are worked out!  And I am blessed to have a lady who really knows what she's doing!

5.  The weekend coming up is on my fave list because there is more fun stuff going on in the city, it's supposed to be lovely so I feel a bike ride on the list and lots of relaxing and reading time!

Bonus Fave:  We had to make a quick trip to Calgary for business.  We were in a neighborhood called Inglewood.  I'd never explored this neighborhood before.  It's an older section close to downtown that looks like it's becoming a popular place to buy new condos in.  What a cool business area they had with lots of local, cool little shops and wonderful restaurants.  We ate at another on our list of You Gotta Eat Here restaurants.  The Fine Diner was fine, for sure.   A very small intimate little restaurant with friendly staff and great food.   We had a featured item on the show, Spicy Meatball Subs and it was soooo good!  

And a bonus picture just for Willow , Sandra and all you knitters and crocheters out there.  We saw this in front of cute little yarn shop called Stash.

What are your favourites this week?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #346

Hello and Welcome!  So sorry I am up late with the FFF linky.  I am so mixed up on my days this week!  It didn't hit me until I was waking up this morning that today is Friday and not Thursday as I was thinking it was going to be. But with all the time in the world to reflect...or not... it is still a good thing to look for the good things, the blessings in our lives from the past week.  Thanks for being so faithful with me!  I'll give it a start and put up the Linky but will probably have to come back a little later this morning to finish my own post.

1.  A ladies evening out.  My friend and I went to a local decor design store which also carries an awesome little section full of scarves, jewellry, stylin' rubber boots and purses.  They were having a ladies event and had a scarf stylist there to teach how to wear some of the different scarves.  Plaid is really in the thing this fall and winter apparently.  Lots of fun.  I went to get a plaid scarf, love plaid, but ended up with something totally different but lovely all the same.  And the prices were reasonable, not something I was expecting from a design store.  And even though I drooled over several of the purses, you will be so proud of me that I walked out of there with nary a one.  But the blessing was in the time spent with my friend and the chat over tea afterwards.

2.  A last hurrah day trip to Waterton.  The mountains are my happy place as I've mentioned several times before on the blog.  But shock of all shocks, I have never been there in the fall.  I know it's the very beginning of fall right now but there was still some lovely turning of the leaves.  It was a perfect day with perfect weather.  Did some walking of trails we've never tried before though it was a tiny bit nerve wracking because it is bear season where bears are bolder looking for berries to gorge on stocking up for their hibernation.  One path we took, Cameron Lake,  even has a grizzly area sign at the beginning of the path.  We were fairly confident though, that we wouldn't run into one as the path was soooo busy.

Look, Faith, how would you love to kayak here?!
Cameron Lake - Wateron Lakes National Park

I can never get enough of the gorgeous scenery at Waterton Lakes National Park!

3.  Ladies Group kick off.  My ladies bible study group takes a break over the summer so it was really nice to get back with these ladies.  They are so much fun and it's a great privilege getting to lead this group.  We had a potluck dinner which is always delicious.   I'm looking forward to all we'll learn and explore this year out of the Word of God.

4.  Cool nights and sunny days.  This is the way I love it.  The nights cool off, though, it has been quite crisp this last week.  All of Alberta had a frost warning out the other night, but I don't mind.  The days warm right back up.  It's definitely layered dressing time.  Fall is my favourite season.

5.  And speaking of fall season, the fall scents,  are definitely a fave with me.  Everything from the smell of the air, the falling leaves, and of course fall scented candles.  My current fave that I'm burning is Pumpkin Apple from Bath and Body Works.  

What are your favourites from the last week?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman ~ Book Review

  Kelli Huddleston grew up an only child with her father and stepmother. She was very close to her father and so when he and her stepmother died in a car accident she felt the loss deeply. All her growing up years, Kelli's father would never allow her into his home office, it was out of bounds and Kelli knew it. But now that he is gone she has no choice but to go in there and clear it out and wrap up his business files. But what she finds causes her to question who she is and everything she knew about herself and she'll also find she never really knew her beloved father at all. Needing to find the truth about herself and what her dad did and with only a few pictures to go by, she heads back to Tennessee where she'd always been told her mother and 2 siblings had died in a house fire that took everything. What she finds there will further complicate her once seemingly peaceful life and she must make a decision that will affect not only her but the lives of others.

 Well, this was a story that was hard to put down. I, as the reader, got very caught up in what was happening to Kelli. In the midst of opening up a new restaurant with her best friends her father and stepmother die tragically. While dealing with the grief of that and realizing she is alone in the world, she is trying to wrap up his business and files and discovers that she is not who she thought she was and her whole life has been a lie. In shock and drawn by the deep desire to discover who the persons in the hidden photographs are and ultimately who she is and against the advice of her best friend, she goes in search of the unknown persons. But once she finds them, it is hard not to be drawn into their lives and now she is faced with continuing the lie or telling the truth and devastating more lives.

 This story was so believable and I really felt Kelli's pain and confusion. It was easy to understand her choices and reasoning for her decisions. Her character was very well written. I had a hard time putting the book down because I just had to find out what was going to happen. I felt for her as she struggled not only with the death of her dad but at understanding and forgiving his deception and what he had done. And then her inner struggles as she finds herself being caught up and befriended by those in the photograph and the choice of whether to tell them who she really is. It's an emotional story, for sure, and engaged me right through out. I must admit, the character of Beth drove me nuts. She was soooo pushy and just wouldn't take no for an answer. It was at times hard not to really dislike her even though her intentions were written as good.  I also really like the exploration into the topic of  turning from biblical truth and believing lies because that is what you want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:3-5).  A really engrossing read.

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  A book I own but haven't read yet, A book published this year, A book by a female author, a book from author I love

An thoroughly engaging story that I read in a few days I gave it a 9.5/10.

Linked with Saturday Review of Books

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #345

It's Friday and that means it's time to look at the blessings and good things in our last week.  Find your five favourites and then share them with us.  It is truly fall like around here.  Routines are back in full swing, Our labour day long weekend is over and the days are getting shorter very quickly. And one of my favourite routines just happens to be FFF!

1.  My first favourite is a road trip on the long weekend to see K, my oldest child, who is no longer a child but you know what I mean.  It's a 6 -7 hour trip, depending on how many stops one makes.  We always have a good laugh because going there is like heading on a little holiday so we stop for bagels, and stop for Starbucks and stop to let the dog do his thing, stop for a burger, stop for gas.  It inevitably takes longer.  But coming home we are tired and we just want to get back to home sweet home.  We stop for gas and a burger.  Period.  LOL.  But it's always nice to see my oldest and this time was extra fun because we got to see her pictures from her summer trip to London, Paris and Scotland...all 1600 of them.  The weather was cold, so cold we didn't do a whole lot of any outdoor activities but curled up and visited, talked trips and books,   It was a lovely visit.

2.  Road trip reading!  Hubby is the main driver with me just taking over when he gets tired.  Which makes for lots of good reading time.  And because my daughter is a reader too, after hubby went to bed we sat up reading in between chatting.  I finished one book and got about 3/4 through the second.  
3.  Warmer quilt on the bed.  Though it's not our great big winter quilt, it is thicker than the summer  coverlet we have.  I so prefer the puffier blankets that go into a duvet cover.  It's so comfy and cozy.  And it makes making the bed a snap!

4.  Fall decor.  I love the colors of fall decor and I know I'm a couple weeks early but hey the weather is suiting it, so out it came.  

5.  Quirky sense of humour of my youngest daughter.  Oh how she makes me laugh at times.  I'm so thankful for this girl.

And in the midst of remembering things from the week I want to take a pause and remember 9/11 and all those affected and all that that day meant.

What are your favourite blessing from the last week?

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Invisible Ellen by Shari Shattuck ~ Book Review

Ellen has spent her whole life trying to be invisible.  Scarred both emotionally and physically since childhood she is now a very overweight, insecure and awkward adult living a very self-secluded life.  Though she tries to keep herself from being noticed she is a great observer of people and records what she observes in those around her in journals.  Having buried her emotions long ago, her writings involve no feelings, emotion or judgement but are simply a recording of what she has observed.  But one day as Ellen catches her usual bus to her night shift job cleaning Costco, Ellen comes across a blind girl named Temerity and her whole life changes.  Temerity boards Ellen's bus and due to her exuberant personality, Ellen feels compelled to get off at her stop and follow her.  But then she finds herself observing Temerity being mugged and before she realizes what she is doing Ellen steps in to help her, which is totally out of character for Ellen.  Temerity and her brother immediately and unconditionally befriend Ellen and step by step Ellen finds herself being swept along in Temerity's whirlwind way of helping others out.  Ellen soon discovers herself not quite so invisible anymore and actually having someone she can call her friend for the first time in her life. And through that acceptance Ellen starts to see that she does have some things to offer if she would dare to step out of her invisibility.  

This story turned out to be an enjoyable surprise!  One of the components on my Reading Challenge 2015 was to read a book written by an author with the same initials as me.  Well, I couldn't think of any off the top of my head and after some extensive searching I found this site that listed a bazillion authors alphabetically.  And after scrolling through and clicking on what seemed like a million books written by authors with the initials SS, I found this one that seemed like something I might possibly get into.   

The story grabbed me right away.  The concept of a friendship between a person who was emotionally handicapped and trying to hide and a person who was physically handicapped with a exuberant personality and how they connected was fun.  I was invested in the main characters and cared what happened to Ellen.  My heart broke for her as her story was revealed and cheered her on as she started to break out of the walls and shells she had placed around heart in order to protect herself.  I cried and I laughed throughout the book.  The way that Temerity seemed to push Ellen out of her comfort zones, always without knowing that that is what she was doing, led to some pretty humorous reactions and situations.  There is a natural humor in the story that I really enjoyed.  While the situations were a little crazy they lent a craziness and silliness that was refreshing in the midst of the issues that the book was reflecting on.  There was a few mentions of marijuana used for recreational purposes as a positive thing but they were for the most part just mentions and not really dwelt upon. 

A couple quotes that really stood out to me:

"She'd spent her whole life living day to day, hoping for nothing more than to get through each one unnoticed and unscathed.
...It was so much easier to expect nothing and be all right than to expect something and be disappointed."  pg 232

That one really got me thinking how many people I come across who are feeling this way and we tend to just walk right by them not even noticing them or thinking they are unfriendly or unapproachable or we judge them.  

and then:

"Besides, I always find that focusing on helping other people makes my problems much more insignificant, don't you?"    pg. 245

Sorta sums up the book in a lovely way as Temerity shows Ellen just that.

I gave this uplifting read a  9.5/10

Reading Challenge 2015 Goals Met:  A book by an author with your same initials, A book by a female author, a funny book, a book by an author I've never read before, a book that made me cry