What I Did Last Saturday Night…. Spoiler: I Organized!

messy bookshelfOk, that doesn’t sound so exciting. But it really, really had to be done. I love my den, it’s such a cozy, comfy spot where you can just curl up and read, watch TV, eat, take your shoes off, throw junk around. You get the idea. I didn’t get a picture of it, but I found many, MANY pairs of shoes under the coffee table.

How did it this happen? It was like I woke up on Saturday night and finally saw the disaster area my comfy little nest had become.  I decided to tackle the really bad corner, where my bookshelves are.

messy shelvesWhat a mess! Oh, and that light on the left isn’t turned off for effect, the lightbulb had burned out and I just ignored it for I don’t know how long.

So we got started. My husband, cheerfully (!) took out the printer, chair, and all the big junky stuff. Oh yes, and he put a new lightbulb in the lamp. Then I started cleaning. Truthfully, and surprisingly, it wasn’t dirty, just a clutter trap. I decided to prettify the bookshelves somewhat. This is whaat I ended up with. If not beautiful, at least more organized.

clean bookshelf

Much better! Now I tackled the bigger shelves. I really tried hard on this one, you know, putting authors and subjects together. Or at least size of books. I realized that it could take a very long time to get it done perfectly, and I was running out of gas, so I called it a wrap. It looks ok, I think.

messy bookshelvesNot too bad for an evening’s work. The little dish on the table is to hold my scissors for cross stitch. I will be making a stitching nest for my next organization project. Stay tuned!

A Walk to the Rose Garden

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I am fortunate to live in a beautiful area, where every walk is an experience. Every season has it’s own beauty, but nothing matches spring and early summer in Oregon. I have been walking the 4 mile loop to the rose garden to check things out, and was finally rewarded with this…

rosesAnd how about these white roses. It looks like a rose waterfall!

snowy roses

These are the ultimate climbing roses. They climbed right into a tree!

trees with rosesIt was a beautiful stroll. I kept going back and forth, trying to get the best shot, or simply just talking in the beauty of it all.

roses everywhere

The weather has turned mean again, but supposedly it will be nice this weekend. Maybe I’ll meander back to see what’s what.

 

I’m Going to Try Camping!

me and Jim

I have to admit, I love my comfort. A soft bed, heat and air conditioning, the absence of critters. I still can’t believe that I am the one that brought up camping!

Background: I work in a stressful job. I love being a nurse, and the added responsibilities of clinical care manager stretch my critical thinking skills, and allows me to bring high standards of care to my residents. But it takes its toll. Vacation is one of those things that have gone by the wayside.

But we need it. I was checking out some cabin vacation rentals, and wow are they expensive! I don’t want to spend over 1000.00 for 4 days! And getting a travel trailer is another huge expense.

Finally I just said to Jim, “Screw it, let’s just get a tent and go camping.” He turned to me so fast, I though his head would swivel off his head. “You mean it? You would go camping?”  Sure. Why not? Uh, can I back out of this?

Jim started listing things we need, and looked up tents on the internet. That night and all day yesterday, we were running around to different stores, checking stuff out, comparing prices, and the like. And yes, he started an excel spreadsheet for what we need to buy at what store!

I have to say, Jim is totally concerned about me being comfortable. It kind of makes me feel bad, but I had no idea how much he wanted to camp.  He found a very nice tent, then found it cheaper on Amazon, and lots of little goodies that will make a camping trip a pleasant experience for both of us. I’m actually kind of excited.

Necklace

In other news, Zach made me a necklace. Or should I say, He found a green bead, wanted to make me a necklace, Elizabeth did the actual beadwork, but Zach supervised production. Either way I love it! Here’s a picture of us on the way to church.

 

 

Sunday Salon: I Know It’s May, But Can We Talk About Ghost Stories?

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Last week my Nook shopping feature listed a haunted house book for only .99 which got pretty good reviews. I decided that despite the May flowers and sunshine, it was time to scare myself silly. It’s fun, isn’t it?

I don’t like to criticize authors so I won’t mention their name. The book was awful, terrible, very badly conceived and written. Finally giving up in disgust, I realized that most of the ghost stories I read over the years either fell into the category of fantastic or a complete dog. Why is this?

On the surface, writing a ghost story doesn’t seem tremendously difficult. They all follow certain patterns and many use the same stereotypes. So what makes one story spine-tingling and another completely ridiculous? How can one allow the reader to suspend disbelief while another causes the reader say, yeah right?

What makes a good ghost story work?

First, it is all about escalation. The writer must build suspense. Apart from the popular use of the appetizer prologue, throwing spooks at people too soon ruins the tension. It is far scarier to think you are safe and slowly realize that something ain’t right in Denmark.

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Stereotyping works up to a point in a scary story. You know the one where Mom/girlfriend and the kids see weird stuff while Dad/boyfriend is totally clueless. But if the character’s experience remains one-dimensional, the story quickly becomes tiresome. And this is important: unless the female character is intentionally being driven insane by her husband, ease up on anything approaching gaslighting. These stories with “Honey, it’s all in your imagination” husbands drive me crazy. You want to see something scary? Tell me I’m imagining things. No ghost can compete with my wrath.

Ghosts have a purpose or a reason for their hauntings. Traditionally they are:

  • To exact revenge on an evildoer
  • To send a message
  • Get out of my house! Or, join us here.
  • Acting out because they are ticked off/opportunistic at being woken or called up via occult or other means.
  • Random hauntings that are associated with a particular place, time, or thing.

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The human element needs to be believable. In fact, the more plausible the character’s responses, the more the reader can suspend disbelief towards supernatural events. In ghost stories, identification with the characters is crucial. You can’t get scared if you can’t put yourself in their position. Dysfunction or addiction in other characters can intensify the drama. For example, the mom’s religious mania in Carrie or Jack’s alcoholism in The Shining. Ok, Carrie isn’t technically a ghost story, but you see what I mean?

Death in ghost stories is a natural by-product.  However, knocking off people right and left will sometimes weaken, rather than strengthen the effect. Why is this? Because it is the threat of harm that builds terror.

Some people just have a gift for storytelling. I once read a short story called The Haunted Saucepan. Really, a pot? But seriously, it was creepy! My husband thought so also. In fact, while I was writing this post, he mentioned that story specifically.

A good storyteller can make the ordinary super scary. Remember in the movie Paranormal Activity when the sheet blew up just a little bit? Or when the bedroom door moved just slightly? Bleeding walls couldn’t compare to the start those gave me.

Here are some of my all time scary ghost story faves:

2c6f1ccb8c52d565934514a53774141414d6741The Shining by Stephen King

Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

It by Stephen King (more a monster than a ghost)

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

The Virago Book of Ghost Stories edited by Richard Dalby (has The Haunted Saucepan)

What are your favorite ghost stories? What makes them scary to you?

I’m a Free Woman!… Sort of…

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Yesterday was my last night at work! After working full time and going to nursing school full time, I finally took the plunge and quit to focus on school. It is both super scary and a tremendous relief. So here I am, up at 6:00 am, typing on my computer. I couldn’t even sleep in the first day! I figure it may take some time to sink in.

So what have I been reading lately? Uh….nursing books. Does that count? I found the underlying themes for the Gastrointestinal Disorders chapter quite riveting. Sorry, I’m feeling a little punchy. Did I mention I just quit my job?

One of my goals is to post every week in Sunday Salon. And a super-duper goal is to do two regular blog posts a week, one for cross stitch, one for books.  Which of course means I need to find time to read and do cross stitch every week.

I have other goals too. One is to get my health back. I am run down. I used to kid around that I had chronic fatigue syndrome, but in the last month, it was no joke.

I’m thinking about making some coffee and watching the sunrise. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

Pride and Prejudice: A Visit in Film History

Pride_and_Prrejudice

Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.

I was thinking about writing a post on the first time I saw the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. But as much as I loved it, it didn’t have the impact like when I actually saw P&P on the screen for the very first time. It was the 1940 version with Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier. Mmmmm, Lawrence Olivier.

And yes, I know. To Austen purists, it is fraught with holes and odd interpretations. I noticed that the last time I watched. But the essence of the story is there. To those who have not watched it, I included a few stills to show the lovely sets and costumes.

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The family. Like many other versions, the mom is hilarious. Ringlets are a popular hairstyle for them, although you can see the forties style given to Elizabeth. Jane is played by Maureen O’Sullivan.

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At the dance, when Elizabeth overhears some very uncharming things about herself. Yes, the location makes one wonder why the Bennet family is in any way concerned about money, but, what the hey. The style costumes that the men are wearing are probably (not 100% sure) more authentic for the time period.

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Elizabeth, Jane, and Kitty. Kitty is played by Heather Angel.  She is really funny in this adaptation. The scene where she plays the piano and sings is priceless.

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Elizabeth and Lady Catherine de Bourgh played by Edna May Oliver. Check out that hat!

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Sigh, true love. The sets are so lovely. The roses in the background are just beautiful as are these two. This is what happily ever after looked like to me when I was young.

I love watching all the versions of P&P, depending on what mood I am in. I had lots of fun looking up all these stills and remembering how enchanted I was as a little girl when I first saw this wonderful. Little was I to know what a lasting positive impact it made to my life, and the literature I was inspired to read and enjoy.

But I digress……

dt.common.streams.StreamServerThis blog is for the very personal part of what makes me happy. I love reading books, talking about them, and yes, even getting a little nerdy about them. I have met many people, including my husband, who are voracious readers also. Through the internet, I have expanded that circle of book lovers and they in turn have expanded my literary knowledge and brought fresh joy to that experience.

I love cross stitch too, and I have joined groups, exchanges, and roundabouts. I have met people all over the world who share my love for this incredible and addictive art form. Readers and cross stitchers alike, most whom I will never meet in this life, after in some cases years of knowing you online, I call you friends. I love you all.

But I digress….

Most of you know I work at a rehab/long term care facility. Last week, a husband of one of our residents called up the facility and said that he was going to come in and shoot everyone in the building. The threat was repeated a second time. I can’t say everything that happened because of HIPPA regulations, but suffice it to say, it was pretty heavy stuff. May I also say that no one went home because of it; no one left our residents vulnerable.

The police arrested the man last night and in his home found a loaded AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, the same type of weapon used in many of the recent mass shootings. It made front page news here in Eugene. The picture above is that very rifle, the last thing a beloved resident, a treasured co-worker, or myself might have ever seen.

What else do I want to say about it? No rants, no debates, just that I am glad to be here.

May all beings live in peace, free from greed and hatred.

Summing Up 2011 Books – My Favorites

With all that has been going on this year I managed to read 36 books in their entirety. Usually it is about twice as much but my tiny list is here.  Another difference this year is how few I actually reviewed, which is a disappointment, but there just wasn’t time. Several good books were started but put down for one reason or the other. They sit on my nightstand mocking me nightly but I have learned to ignore them. I will add them into my 2012 book list as soon as they are finished. New Years Resolutions would like a review for each book but will stick to a more realistic percentage of say, two thirds, with mentions of the others in Sunday Salon.

Five runners-up for best books of the year:

 

The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King

Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

Gentleman and Players by Joanne Harris

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Plainsong by  Kent Haruf

Top five books in no particular order:

 

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland – Artemisia Gentileschi was a painter in the 1600’s who led a fascinating life after being raped by her painting teacher and almost lost her fingers in the torture that followed. She rubbed shoulders with many interesting characters including Galileo.

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI – Tired of Pharisees, Puritans, or Patriarchy? How about those who equate faith with dumb yokel ignorance or the oh so tiresome Christian pop psychology? Where is Jesus in all that malarkey? If you guessed nowhere you are absolutely right. I invite you to meet or reacquaint yourself with Jesus. This unforgettable book will sweep away all the bs and allow you a clear, beautifully insightful picture of who He is.

The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman – I love Goodman and her use of atmosphere is like no one else. She highlights her classical education in her stories by her use of Latin, mythology, and fairy tales. The setting for Ghost Orchid is based on a fantasy for me and many other would be writers and artists. Go to a beautiful estate that is dedicated to encouraging these pursuits by giving them a place to work undisturbed for long periods of time. Sit on the veranda and be inspired by the beauty and quiet. But there’s a catch. It’s haunted.

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple – the breakdown of a marriage by an unfaithful husband is usually more of a cliché than a story. But Whipple weaves an unforgettable tale that I couldn’t put down.

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman – Harper Collins sent me this book to review just out of the blue. It was outstanding. A man’s appeals are up and he is going to be executed for the murders of several girls. How does this affect his only survivor, now years later?

I have a feeling that next year will be an outstanding reading year. I have put my many unread books together and am excited to see so many excellent ones waiting for me. I have also decided to get some sort of reading device such as the Nook. Jim loves his Kindle and wants to upgrade to the Kindle Fire.

I hope everyone has a safe and blessed New Year. Happy reading to all!!

A Beautiful Day for Cymbeline

Last Sunday Jim and I went to see our local Shakespeare in the Park’s presentation of Cymbeline. Though I studied the play, I have never seen an actual performance and was very excited to finally experience it. We had a great time. The evening weather was perfect and we brought a picnic dinner of crusty bread,  meats, brie, and salad. For dessert we had biscotti.

I got this fabulous salami and prosciutto which I rolled up. It was absolutely delicious and perfect for our little picnic. We ate all that bread!

Jim took a picture of me in my “wench dress”. Hey at least I didn’t wear something Elizabethan. That would be too much. But this dress makes me look fatter than I really am and that is tough to do!

So anyhoo, the play. Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known and rarely performed works. Why I don’t know because it is fab. Cymbeline was an actual historical figure, the king of ancient Britain at the same time Christ was born. Appropriately this play has themes of sin, repentance, and redemption. It is interesting because it hurls headlong into disaster and yet does not end up as a tragedy. Providence brings it all together with mercy, forgiveness, and a happy ending. This is Shakespeare’s most Christian play.

But don’t think that makes it boring for a lot of exciting things go on throughout. Shakespeare borrows some goodies from his more famous works. For instance Imogen wakes up next to a headless corpse that she thinks is the body of her beloved husband who is trying to kill her. Awkward! But it reminds us of Romeo and Juliet.

It’s a terrific scene. Also there is a King Lear aspect with Cymbeline’s anger and rejection of his good daughter who married her love Posthumous Leonatus instead of the wicked Cloten, rhymes with rotten. The one it reminds me most is Othello with the “friend” giving false information that the wife is unchaste.

Here is Cloten yelling at the Roman who is trying to get Britain to pay tribute. Knowing Rome’s power, it seems the height of foolishness.

The guy who played Cloten was very good, making the character humorous as well as rotten. We really enjoyed Cymbeline and decided to see it once more in a couple of weeks.

Sunday Salon – Colds, Coffee, and Conundrums

What a week it has been! I am having terrible allergies and with this heat, it’s miserable. I can’t stitch or read with these watery eyes. One morning at 5:00 am while checking my email I dumped a full, hot cup of coffee all over my lap, the desk with my latest book, and the carpet. I changed my scrubs and left for work in a total huff. Can this week be better? Please?

The only thing I wrote last week was a letter to our DNS (Director of Nursing Services). They are offering a free CMA (Certified Med Aid) class to a CNA and to be considered we had to write a letter describing why we wanted to take the class. Though a serious longshot, I decided to give it a go. Distributing meds is a highly responsible position and the requirements to take the class is six months as a full-time CNA. Most of our CNAs have way more experience than I do. But what the hey. By the way, at the time of my letter writing, I had worked six months and one day. So there.

 A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons is my coffee soaked, stiffened book. I like Gibbons’ straightforward characters and writing. I have read several of her books and have been impressed with her unique voice. A Virtuous Woman is about a marriage between an unremarkable forty-year old man and a pretty twenty-year old woman. After her death from cancer, flashbacks reveal the start of their unusual yet loving relationship. It was touching and genuine.

One exciting thing happened this week. I won a copy of The Dolls: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier for Librarything Early Reviewers. She is one of my favorite authors and I am very excited to review this book. Hopefully I will get it soon. Or when I can actually read it!

Sorry I don’t have more to bring to our Sunday Salon table this week. Vacation is coming up fast and this cold, allergy, whatever should be gone by then. God willing. We have a couple of low key things planned but mostly I will just be relaxing, reading and stitching.

I hope everyone has a great week!