Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December Books of the Month

Hypothermia by Annadur Indribason. Scandinavian mysteries have really become popular since Steig Larson's "Girl" books came out. This one is an Icelandic mystery, part of a series, featuring a rather gloomy cop. He's suspicious about a suicide (Might it be murder?) and begins investigating on his own time, meanwhile also looking into some missing persons cases from long ago. This was a book club choice. I enjoyed it but don't think I'd read another of his books. Grade B

The Lazarus Child by Robert Mawson. Picked this up on a whim at Half Price Books. It's about a family whose child is comatose after being hit by a car. They seek an unorthodox treatment. I give it a B.

The Spire by Richard North Patterson. His books are good airplane reads. For me, they are what my book club members call "guilty pleasures." I must admit that all of his heroes are interchangeable, but I still enjoy the stories. This one is about a man who returns to his alma mater to take over the presidency after a scandal involving the former president. He's haunted by a murder during his senior year for which his best friend went to prison. Quick read, fun. A-

Solar by Ian McEwan. An unlikeable hero who is at the end of his fifth marriage because he's been sleeping around. It's hard to believe he's a Nobel laureate; however, he's never accomplished anything since and just lives on his reputation, until... Well, I won't give it away. This isn't my favorite McEwan book. Another B.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gadgets that Should have been on the List but Weren't, IMHO

Here are my choices of gadgets that should have been among the 101 but weren't. What do you think?

Post it notes
Panty hose
Scotch tape
Turn signals for cars
Seat belts
Burglar alarms

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gadgets that Changed the World

Last week I watched the History Channel's 101 Gadgets that Changed the World, so here's a gadget quiz. Answers are in the comments section.

1. With this, you can fix anything.
2. This gadget helped the Sun Belt grow.
3. You’ve felt the sting of this since infancy
4. Back in the day, it was cool to have one of these.
5. This was invented after the tin can.
6. Remember the game “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?” Now we know.
7. Away from home? Away from the office? No problem if you have one of these.
8. Indispensible for women (except during the heyday of the Women’s Liberation Movement).
9. So many tools in one gadget.
10. #1 gadget—combines all the other techie things.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Memories of Grandma Z

Ralph's mother died a few days ago. Tomorrow I will leave for Iowa for her funeral.

She was a small lady with twinkling eyes and a bright smile. She bore five children and had a huge flock of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of the great-grandkids called her Grandma Grape because she always offered him grapes when he came to visit. She taught kindergarten, was active in her small community in eastern Iowa, and never met a stranger. When she came for her last visit to Ralph, within hours she knew all the nurses on his hospital floor by name.

After Susan, her third child was born, she came down with rheumatic fever. The doctor told her she couldn't have any more children, but after a few years of good health, he agreed she could get pregnant again and she had two babies in rapid succession. Carol was the older of the last two children, she was Ralph's stem cell donor, and I fully believed she was born to save her brother's life. She would have, too, for the transplant was successful, but other medical accidents depleted whatever reserves of strength he had.

Ralph's favorite story about his mother concerned the summer he, his sister, and some neighborhood kids formed a secret club. They had a clubhouse in the back yard. Suddenly they began finding anonymous notes in the clubhouse. They couldn't figure out who left them. After a couple of weeks, the culprit confessed--it was Mom.

She was a feisty lady, very independent. When her daughters decided it was time for her to stop driving, they knew they were in for a battle, so they insisted that Ralph, who was then in the hospital, call and tell her she had to give up her driver's license. They figured since he was ill, she wouldn't be able to argue with him. They were right.

After she lost her driving privileges, she acquired a little scooter and would zip around town on it. That's how I like to remember her. She will be missed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Story

I posted this story last year. It's my very favorite. Enjoy, and if you've read it before, enjoy it again.

A guy named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty

apartment window into the chilly December night. His 4-year-old

daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bobs wife, Evelyn,

was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy

could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked,

"Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?" Bob's jaw tightened and his

eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief but also of anger. It

was the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Being small

when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the

time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember.

From childhood Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete

college and married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter

at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little

girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all

their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room

apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a

Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one--a


Bob had created the animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to

little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story,

embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story

about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The

character he created was an outcast like he was. The name of the character? A

little reindeer named Rudolph with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.

But the story doesn't end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind

of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to

print the book. Wards went on to print the book and distribute it to children

visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed

more than six million copies of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. That same year a

major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version

of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all

rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing

deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from

the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn't end there. Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song

adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as

Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by Gene Autrey. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed

Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records

than any other Christmas song with the exception of "White Christmas." The gift of

love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless

him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend

Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a


Sunday, December 4, 2011


If you'd like to sign up for a chance at one of two copies I'm giving away of a new anthology: Coping with Transition: Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic, please leave your name and your blog if you have one in the Comments section. You'll find a memoir here that speaks to your own transitons. We chronicle everything from menopause to second chances at love to loss to dealing with a husband's retirement. I'll post the two winners next Monday, December 12.

Template by: Bright Sunshine Designs by Mary - Affordable Custom Blog Design © 2011