Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This Old House

Move in Day - 10/01/2000

02/19/2012 ~ My husband and I still drive by our old house occasionally to see if it is still standing. So far it is. I wonder what I will feel the day I creep up in my car and discover it's gone.

Two of the corner houses have been demolished already; empty dirt lots are all that remain. A couple of other houses across the street are gone too now as is another house that was just a couple doors down from ours. Just a couple of weeks ago, we noticed the mailbox was gone along with the roof top air conditioner. There were several holes in the roof, looking as if a giant had decided to punch holes into it. The life of the house is limited. A friend asked me why we bother visiting our old house; isn't it depressing?

My husband and I lived in our apartment for two and a half years when we decided to look into buying a house. We really couldn't afford one, but I wanted a dog, and we saw it as a worthwhile investment. What drew us most to the house was a room with two entry points--the perfect office, we decided. It was right off the main hallway with a doorway leading in and another on the other side, leading to the hallway with the other two bedrooms. The house's patio had been converted into a sun room, opening up the living room and making it seem bright and airy. We also liked the kitchen, which was a nice size, with it's little nook for a table and chairs. I never liked the bathrooms--but it was a compromise I figured I could live with. The master bathroom was especially small with only a toilet, sink and shower. Only one person could fit in the room at a time--two if someone stood in the shower.

It was an older home, built in the 1950's, boxy in shape with a huge flower box that ran the length of the front of it. The house needed a lot of work, work my husband and I thought we could handle but would soon learn we couldn't. We did what we could, even bought how to books. The truth is that neither of us is very handy and with work and little money, there was just too much for us to take on. We figured we had time though.

I didn't mind the trains. The tracks were several houses away, but close enough that when a train went by we not only heard the horn, but the house shook a little too. We got used to it quickly and most of the time didn't notice. I remember the first time I slept at my parents' house after having lived in our own house for awhile. I had trouble sleeping because it was so quiet. Of course, that changed when the city installed new horns at the railroad crossings throughout the city. Too many people were walking across the tracks and getting hit. The new horns were extremely loud. It was impossible not to hear them. Fortunately, I was able to sleep through it most nights.

When we got word that the land our house was on was part of a safety and transportation project, we were anxious to know exactly what that meant. We were told our house would be bought by the city sometime between then and the next ten years. That kind of put a damper on any future plans we had for the house. Why put money into it when it was only going to be torn down anyway? We waited. Our house grew older.

We lived in that house for 10 1/2 years. My dog, my cats, and my baby girl know that as our first home. I look back on that house fondly, but I don't miss it. Not really. I will always have the memories, and it is those I treasure most.

It does make me sad, however, to think that we will not be able to drive my daughter by the house someday and point it out, telling her that was her first house. Pointing out a road and underpass and calling it her once first home just isn't the same.

Yet, we drive by every now and then, waiting for the day the house will no longer be standing. Knowing that when it's gone, we'll still be surprised.

02/29/2012 ~ As has become my habit of late, I write my posts days in advance, polish them when I can and eventually post them on my blog. My computer time is so sparse as it is. I take what I can get when I can. I began writing the above back in January, finishing it finally last week with the necessary updates and scheduling it to post this week.

I drove by the house this weekend after my book club meeting. Those old walls are no longer standing, their voices silenced forever. I felt a lump in my throat and a few tears sprung to my eyes. Memories floated through my mind: move in day with family and friends helping carry boxes; wrestling with my dog Riley on the sun room floor; cuddling on the couch with my cat Parker on my lap; spending Saturday evenings in the office with my husband, both of us at our computers or catching up on television shows in the living room while cuddled up on the couch together; watching Anya curl up on my husband's foot to sleep; lazing in bed on a Sunday morning, with the birds chirping outside our window; trying to stay out of the way as the animals chased each other and raced around the house; walking the halls with our crying baby, calming her to sleep; remembering all the holiday celebrations, the illnesses, the break ins, and the joys. That house once held our laughter as well as our tears. It had become a part of us. A part of our family. And now . . .

Am I sad? Perhaps in those first moments when I realized the house was gone. Not so much anymore. Our time in that house had come to an end. Goodbyes were long ago said. I have moved on. My family has moved on. We are happy in our new home, making new memories.


Now and then, I still plan to drive by the old house--or where it once stood--to see how the city's plans come together. I can't help myself.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, February 27, 2012

From the Archives: August 2005

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here are several from August 2005:

Live Bait by P.J. Tracy (Puntam, 2004; Crime Fiction, 340 pgs)

Mother and daughter team, P.J. Tracy, bring us another hard to put down mystery novel that takes off from the very first page. In Live Bait, the Minneapolis Homicide detectives have had a dry spell in business when suddenly well-respected elderly people are being murdered in cold blood. As if that wasn't enough, an elderly man is tortured and left to die on the train tracks. It’s up to detectives Gino and Magozzi to try and stop the serial killer before he or she kills again, while detectives McLaren and Langer fight off the FBI to solve the murder of Mr. Fischer, the man on the train tracks. Secrets abound in Live Bait as does the humor. I felt that P.J. Tracy found the perfect balance between the serious and the humorous in this novel. Although I would classify Live Bait as a light and fun mystery, the authors did take on some very serious themes. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Dead Run.

The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman (Ballantine, 2003; Fiction, 322 pgs

I had the opportunity to hear Alice Hoffman speak at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April of this year [2005]. I had wanted to hear what she had to say after hearing so many wonderful things about her books. At the time, I had yet to even open one of her books for anything more than perusal. Thanks to Book Crossing and a member who was willing to share this book with others in a bookring, I took the opportunity to read The Probable Future, my first novel by Alice Hoffman. The Probable Future is the story of three generations of Sparrow women, each born with a special gift that emerges on their thirteenth birthdays just as the Sparrow women before them. Grandmother Elinor can sense a lie; mother Jenny dreams the dreams of others; and Stella, having just turned 13, finds she can see how other people will die. Ms. Hoffman weaves the history of the Sparrow women, the small New England town of Unity, the struggles of family relationships and love together to create a sweet, sad and intriguing novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and find myself wishing there was more of it. Ms. Hoffman is a gifted writer, creative, imaginative and able to blend fantasy into reality in such a way as to make it seem real.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult (Washington Square Press, 2005; Fiction, 418 pgs

Delia Hopkins discovers that life is not always what it seems in the novel Vanishing Acts. Who we think we are isn’t necessarily who we started out as or who we will become. Jodi Picoult takes the bull by the horns in Vanishing Acts, dealing with controversial issues evolving around the legal system, secrets, race and cultural issues, human nature, and memory. At times, this novel was surprisingly harsh in its portrayal of the events as they unfolded and yet the story was better for it. Vanishing Acts was thought provoking and emotionally charged. The tone of this novel was sad throughout and I often found myself with tears in my eyes as I read. Jodi Picoult has a gift when it comes to creating characters that are very real, multi-dimensional and empathetic, even at their worst. I like how she tells her story from multiple points of view. It makes for a more interesting story and allows readers to get a more full picture of the story being told. My only complaint about the book was that there seemed to be a lack of cohesiveness with the plot and the cultural aspects, with the exception of the jail scenes. There seemed to be a separateness there that I can’t quite put my finger on. Of the two novels I have read by Ms. Picoult so far, I have loved them both. She is a talented writer and I look forward to reading more by her. Her novels are not so easy to forget.

Reliquary by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (Tor, 1997; Horror, 464 pgs)

Reliquary is the sequel to The Relic. This time, readers are taken into the bowels underground Manhattan as the search begins for vicious murders. Could it be that another beast, like the Museum Beast, exists or is there more to it than that? The authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, have written another suspenseful thriller that was hard to put down. One of the comments I did make to my husband as I read this novel was that it seems as if most of those in the highest of authority are stupid, leading to one bungle after another.

In a note from the authors at the end of the novel, they recommend a book called The Mole People by Jennifer Toth, which discusses the population of people living in the tunnels underneath New York City. I plan to add it to my Wish List. Reliquary has wet my palate and I want to learn more about the “mole people.”

Dead Run by P.J. Tracy (Puntnam , 2005; Crime Fiction, 324 pgs)

After Live Bait, the second book by this pair of authors, my anticipation to read Dead Run was high and when I had the opportunity to dive right into the third book in the series, I was not disappointed. Dead Run is completely different from the first two books, this latest book being even more intense, more suspenseful, more thrilling and less of a mystery than the previous two books. All of the favorite characters return in Dead Run, as Grace, Sharon and Annie take a road trip to help Green Bay police find a possible serial killer. However, the women never make it that far. Instead, their car breaks down and they wander into a town where disaster has struck. From then on, they are on run for their lives. Back home, their friends are desperate to find them and they set out in search of them, running into obstacles of their own. This was a tightly put together novel filled with intensity and humor. Almost at every turn I was left at the edge of my seat, wishing I could read straight through (darn work!) and laughing out loud all the same. This mother/daughter team only get better and better with each book they write.

Have you read any of these novels? If so, what did you think?

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Snapshot: My Little Daredevil

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kid Konnection: The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill

To share your children's book related posts stop by Booking Mama’s feature,
Kid Konnection and leave a comment as well as a link to your posts!

The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill, Pictures by Elliott Gilbert
Scholastic Books, 1962

A few months ago, I opened a random box in the garage and discovered a treasure trove. I thought I had found and unpacked all my old children's books only to find I must have missed a box. And not just any box. I hadn't realized I had saved any of the books inside, many of them old favorites.

One book that jumped out at me immediately was The Best-Loved Doll. My heart just about melted on the spot! I've already read it to Mouse, although I have to say her attention and interest in books has never been great. She played around me, mostly, as I read to her. I imagine this particular book is a little too old for her anyway. At least right now. It's got a place among her books, however, just waiting its turn.

Betsy is invited to a party in which she is instructed to bring one doll. Prizes will be given for dolls in a variety of categories--whether it be for the oldest, best dressed, or the doll that can do the most things. Betsy considers each of her dolls, trying to decide which one she wants to take. She has a doll that fits just about any category imaginable--including a doll that most of us would think has seen better days.

It is the sweetest story and the illustrations are beautiful in their simplicity. I remember reading it over and over again as a child, knowing that I would make the same decision Betsy made each time. Although on the surface the story is about a girl and her dolls, underneath it is about so much more. And that ending . . . So perfect!

Source: I am not sure where this book came from. It was most likely a gift. It has been in my possession for over thirty years.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie
William Morrow, 2012
Crime Fiction; 384 pgs

I have read a number of enjoyable mysteries of late, but this one . . . Oh, how I love thee, Deborah Crombie! Where have you been all my life and why haven't I read anything by you before? No Mark Upon Her is the 14th book in the series, I believe, but my first one by the author. It didn't matter that I didn't know the history of the characters (although, I am infinitely curious now and must know all!). The author offers enough background story to give the reader a good feel for the characters and their situations while at the same time not introducing irrelevant information.

What is the book about, you ask? A detective who is a skilled rower is found dead on the Thames. Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is called back from vacation to investigate the matter. It's a particularly sensitive case, one in which people in high placed hope it will get resolved quickly, even if that means swept under the carpet. Duncan Kincaid, however, is not the kind of man to take the easy way out. He wants to find justice for the victim even if it means his job. His wife, a detective herself, helps on the sidelines while juggling the care of their three children.

Rowing isn't a particularly favorite sport of mine--I have nothing against it, mind you, just very little exposure to it--but I am not one to let something like that stand in my way of reading a book. I like learning about new things. That's part of what reading is all about, right?

I liked the way Crombie weaved the characters' personal stories in with the murder investigation. Seeing them at home, so to speak, made them all the more relatable. There was just enough of their personal life to give the reader a good idea of what kind of people the characters are and to understand their way of thinking.

I was quite taken with Duncan Kincaid. He is intelligent and open minded. He is also a good father. I especially liked how much he respects and loves his wife. Gemma James is just as strong a character as her husband, and I could appreciate her inner conflict--looking forward to getting back to work but at the same time not wanting to leave the children.

Two characters I wish I could get to know better but doubt I will see in future books are the K-9 rescue team, Keiran and Tavie and their dogs. Both seem like formidable people and it was impossible for me not to fall in love with a couple of rescue dogs. Keiran in particular won me over. He was a sad sort of character, dealing with a broken heart as well as quite a few health problems due to injuries incurred in war.

As for the investigation, the detectives did not have a lot to go on, and with pressures from above, they were faced with even more challenges. While I am not sure "sitting on the edge of my seat" is an apt description of the pacing of the book, I certainly had a hard time putting it down and couldn't wait to get back to it. The weekend everyone in the house was sick and I'd left the book at work was torture. I kept thinking of Becca and wondering what had happened to her.

No Mark Upon Her has it all: characters who get under your skin, an idyllic English setting, betrayal, ethical issues, family, suspense, and an itch to read more. Deborah Crombie has won me over with this one novel and is sure to become among my favorite mystery authors.

To learn more about Deborah Crombie and her books please visit the author's website.

Source: Book provided by the publisher through the BookBrowse First Impressions Program.

This book counts towards The Eclectic Reading Challenge.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Weekly meme where we discuss the books you've read
and those you plan to read in the coming week.

In a whirlwind reading spree, I managed to finish all five of the Independent Literary Awards Short List Nominees in the Mystery category recently. I am unable to share my opinions of the books until after the votes have been cast and the winners announced, but I think it's safe to say, at least, I enjoyed them all.

I am now reading Michel Faber's Under the Skin, which is about a woman who picks up hitchhikers. The description of the book leaves the classification of it rather up in the air. Now that I have read quite a bit of it, it'd say literary science fiction maybe. I read Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White, a historical fiction novel, several years ago and enjoyed it. So, when I saw that my book club's February book selection was Under the Skin (and that I had a copy in my TBR collection--well, in my husband's TBR collection), I decided why not? It's . . . interesting. I'll give it that. I hope to have it finished by the time the group meets next Saturday.

Which reminds me. I don't think I told you that I finally joined a local book club! I had been considering joining one recommended by My Friend Amy early on in my pregnancy, but then I talked myself out of it, not sure how my reading would take shape once the baby was here. Now that my life has settled down somewhat and in an effort to make friends and give myself some much needed me time, I re-evaluated my decision and found a group a bit closer to my new home to try. This coming Saturday will be my first meeting. I am going in completely blind, not knowing any of the women in the group or what to expect. Reserved introverted me is feeling a bit anxious about walking into this new situation, but it's something I really want to give a chance. So, wish me luck!

Next up on the reading front? It's still up in the air. I think I will be ready for something lighthearted and fluffy . . .

What have you been reading lately?

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Salon: Confessions of a Mother

Before my daughter was born, I daydreamed about all the reading we would do together. I would hold her in my lap and read to her as she sat there, interested to hear more. I imagined that she would eagerly anticipate story time. All of the parenting experts say to start reading (and singing) to your child right away. Read to her in the womb even! Early exposure helps with language development later on as well as establishes a routine and habit--maybe even a joy of reading. And so I dreamed.

When Mouse was born, I was too consumed by every other detail of her care to think about reading to her. I was exhausted. She slept and nursed mostly. She cried a lot. I occasionally would read to during tummy time during those early weeks, but it wasn't every day. Sometimes I read whatever book I was trying to get through at the time to her, but, admittedly, that wasn't too often since my own reading had taken a nose dive. I found it much easier to sing to her--something I still do regularly. Reading wasn't my highest priority.

Eventually, my husband and I worked reading to Mouse into our daily routines, but it has yet to be how I first imagined all those months ago. You see, my daughter is extremely active. She doesn't sit still for long. She could not care less about books unless she's pulling them off the shelves, ripping covers (of my mass market paperbacks) or eating them. When on my husband's lap for her bedtime stories, she will often squirm her way down to the floor so she can go exploring or to play with something that's caught her eye. Or she will pull the book out of his hands and throw it on the floor. Repeatedly.

In the beginning, I fretted over this. Was I doing something wrong? Had I doomed her to a non-reader life because I didn't read to her every day from day one? Then I came back to earth. Mouse is just being true to her nature. She is a baby, after all, and she's acting like many babies do. It's too early to know whether Mouse will enjoy reading. She may not and that's okay. In the meantime, we do the best we can.

One of my favorite places to read to Mouse is in the bath. Who would have thought? It's the one place she can't get away! Seriously though, she seems to enjoy her bath books, whether it's listening to me read to her or taking a more active role and playing with the books, dunking them under the water and chewing on them.

I often read to her as she plays--sometimes from her books and sometimes from mine. I don't always read the words on the pages of her books, but rather point out the pictures to her and ask her questions as she flips the pages back and forth, chomping on a corner now and then, before she wanders away to something she finds more interesting.

Whatever we read or however we do it, we have fun. As far as I'm concerned, that's the most important thing. Now where did she drag that mirror book off too this time . . .

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday Snapshot: Caption This!

Hosted by Alice of At Home With Books

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.