CREATIVE SPARKS: SOME OLD & NEW THINGS — OCT. 13

 

Welcome to another creative opportunity to showcase photos, via our weekly Saturday Snapshot event, hosted by Alyce, At Home With Books.

I got a new scanner/printer/fax yesterday (to connect with my new laptop), so I was scrolling through photo albums for older pictures.  Here’s what I came up with.

Newborn Fiona – 1997

 

Siblings at Play – Dominic and Fiona – 1998

 

Snow Play – Big Bear fun for Alec, Aubrey, and Aaron – with cousins

 

Aubrey & Cousins at Big Bear

 

 

And here’s one that is new….my office space with the new addition.

 

New Office Changes

 

Now I’m eager to see what the rest of you are sharing today.  Enjoy the weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

CREATIVE SPARKS: SATURDAY SNAPSHOTS — MOMENTS IN TIME — SEPT. 15

Welcome to another creative opportunity to showcase photos, via our weekly Saturday Snapshot event, hosted by Alyce, At Home With Books.

This week I want to showcase collages.  Creations that show us relationships that are dear to us, like granddaughters, cousins, the generations, and a coming-of-age portrait.

First is one I created of my two granddaughters at different points in their lives.  The photo on the left was taken a few months ago, and the snow baby poses show them at age seven at the Big Bear Cabin.

Next I’m focusing in on the two cousins.

Left, Aubrey at the beach; bottom right, Fiona clowning around at school; and top right, more snow babies

 

Now for a spotlight on generations of women in my family.

Left to right: Laurel-Rain, my mom, two cousins again, and my daughter at age 17

 

And the final shot is of a collage hanging on the wall in my office, showing family moments.

Left to right:  me and my brother, ages five and eight; me with my first born son; my mother holding me as a baby; and my brother, in the 1980s.

Middle row, left to right:  There I am again as a slightly older baby; me, my grandmother, and my mom in the late 1950s; my parents with older brother as infant, with grandmother and aunt; and in the final group photo, my brother and me, our parents, grandmother, aunt and uncle and cousin.

Front Row:  Me as a babe in the buggy; me at sixteen; and me at fourth birthday.

 

More family moments than what you were expecting, I’m sure. 

Now I’m off to see what the rest of you are showing today.

 

CREATIVE SPARKS: SATURDAY SNAPSHOT — HOLIDAY MEMORIES — SEPT. 8

Welcome to another creative opportunity to showcase photos, via our weekly Saturday Snapshot event, hosted by Alyce, At Home With Books.

Now that fall is upon us—I always look at Labor Day as the defining moment—I would like to share some Labor Day shots.

My first photo is of granddaughter Fiona, who stayed part of the weekend with me, watching movies and playing her guitar.

Meanwhile, my daughter Heather and grandson Noah enjoyed a weekend traveling to Northern California and then to the Bay Area.

Here are some shots of Noah and his great-grandmother, followed by Heather and her grandmother.

Noah and Great-Grandmother Mary

Heather Maureen (means “Little Mary”) and her Grandmother Mary, for whom she was named

Heather and Noah had a fabulous visit…and then went to San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Heather and Noah in SF

 

 

Noah on the Ferry

Noah enjoying a taste treat

 

Noah is very adventurous with food….I can tell he was enjoying this meal.

A good time was had by all….and now for a visit around the blogosphere, to see what the rest of you have been up to….

 

 

 

 

FRAGILE CONNECTIONS: SECRETS BEHIND THE FACADES — A REVIEW

 

Mira and Max Zielinski are about to celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and the grown children will soon be descending upon the family home.

As Mira contemplates their descent, she reminisces about moments in the past and about how, despite her efforts, none of them seem to share her values. For Mira, a professor, is an aging flower child, while each of her children seems to represent the antithesis of her beliefs.

Katya, Ivan, and Irina–whose names were chosen from Mira’s “Russian novel phase”–have each distanced themselves with their own versions of those names: Kat, Van, and Reenie.

Real Life & Liars is told from the points of view of Mira and the three children, with Mira’s story in first person narrative while the rest are in third person voice.

As the family assembles, they each come to “the party” bearing secrets, disappointments, and resentments.

As Mira’s secrets are released, what will be the fall-out on the assembled family? What will each of them discover about the connections between them? Will the unleashing of their secrets reveal the fragility of their connections, or will they discover new strength in the ties between them?

Katya’s apparent self-confidence and perfection as the oldest has rendered her almost unapproachable at times. So much so that Van, struggling with his career choices, wants to know how she managed to achieve such perfection. She replies:

“There is no perfect. Only real life and liars.”

A perfect example of how each of them has constructed false images of the others. In reexamining these beliefs and reassessing their own choices, can they finally find a way to move on from their childhood roles?

From the first page, I loved the character of Mira. Her imperfections, about which she made no apologies, offered a real person to enjoy as she blundered along, dealing with her secret and with the confusing realities of her children’s lives.

To me, Katya seemed the most annoying, in her bossy, dramatic, and sarcastic way, while Irina’s whining made me want to slap her. And yet each of them suffered with their choices and hid their real selves behind the facades they had created. I loved this story: five stars from me.

“SNOW” STORIES — FEB. 24

This month, my two granddaughters (above and in the header) celebrated their fifteenth birthdays.

This photo shows them as snow bunnies (at age seven).

To find out more about this snow story, visit HERE.

Enjoying family moments in special places is what the “cabin in the woods” was all about.

Nowadays, we’ve moved on and the cabin is no longer “our place.”  But we still enjoy traditions, like our family get-togethers that inspire photos like these.

What special family moments do you enjoy?  Do you have special traditions?

FRIDAY SPARKS: CHILDHOOD MOMENTS — FEB. 3

When I think about the connections in my life, I often see a recurring and bonding theme in childhood moments.  Mine and the childhoods of my children and grandchildren.

The terrain of childhood is a starting point for us all, even though we have very different childhood experiences.  But talking about those experiences can bring us closer together.  Sharing photos that spotlight our experiences can do the same.

In the photo above, the centerpiece is one of my childhood pictures, and I’m bookended by pictures of two of my grandchildren at different phases of their livesMy snapshot captures me at about age three, apparently tossing a teddy bear into the bushes.

I remember the moment.  I had just spent more than a week (which seemed endless) in a darkened room, recovering from measles.  The disease that (thankfully) children can now be immunized against.

Hating those endless hours in the darkened room, I can still see myself pushing a miniature car about in the crib, feeling very bored.  I might have been scared, too, since nobody talked about what was going on.  Afterwards, I had to wear dark glasses to protect my eyes; at one point, I recall stomping on the glasses and breaking them.

Years later, I found those glasses in a bottom drawer of a cabinet, and the memories flooded back.

I suspect that the beloved teddy bear had to pay for my frustrations about being “contained” for what must have felt like an endless period of time.

Now, juxtaposed against my childhood moments, take a look at the photo on the left, of my grandchildren experiencing their own adventures in very different ways from mine.  They seem happy with the cat (Sebastian), enjoying each others’ company.  I wonder what their memories are of this moment.

On the right, the same two are enjoying preteen moments at our “family monument.”  Yes, at some point, my children dubbed this sculpture at the local university “ours,” because we often posed for photos there.  I have a couple shots to share:

The First "Family Monument" Shot

 

This second photo was taken several years later, in the early 1990s.

Why do we feel so connected to this particular spot in our family history?  Perhaps we feel the strength of our bonds when we share the common experience. 

Do you have family traditions that spotlight your connections?  Moments you share that bond you?

 

 

HENRY, THE HEART OF THE FAMILY — A REVIEW

Henry is the heart of the Bommarito family. During their early childhood, River, the mother, often sank into a deep depression that felled her for days and weeks; her daughters, Cecilia, Isabelle, and Janie tried to manage. Caring for themselves, each other, and mostly for Henry—who is mentally challenged and often needs their assistance, as well as their protection.

Cecilia and Isabelle are fraternal twins, but they often feel each other’s anger, pain, and sadness. Janie copes by counting, checking, and isolating herself; she also writes bestselling crime novels. Isabelle is a well-known photographer, now sidelined from that career due to the horror she has witnessed in troubled parts of the world and a secret pain she keeps to herself. She also deals with certain aspects of her history by “sleeping around.” Cecilia is the one who remained close to home, but copes by overeating and lashing out at those around her.

When River requires surgery, Isabelle and Janie come home to Trillium River, the small Oregon village where their grandmother has a house, and where River has been living for several years. They are needed to help care for Henry and their grandmother, who believes she is Amelia Earhart.

Coming home brings many of the childhood memories to the forefront, and as each of Henry’s sisters tries to deal with their mother and each other, they experience all over again the troubled and painful life brought about by their mother’s neglect, frequent verbal abuse, and the abandonment by their father.

Henry’s Sisters is narrated in the first-person voice of Isabelle, but we soon come to understand and know each of the sisters and feel their emotional connections; despite their pain and anger, sometimes directed at one another, they clearly love and need each other.

So when one crisis after another challenges them, what will they do to get through? How will the family bakery begin to inspire their creativity and feed their souls? And when an unexpected reappearance from the past brings up unwelcome feelings, how will they cope?

As one final sad blow brandishes its fierceness, bringing out the best and worst in them, what will ultimately remind them again of the strength of their love for one another?

I enjoyed meeting and connecting with the characters in this book, all flawed, somewhat quirky, and totally human. I was sad to close the final page on this family. I could relate to aspects in each of them, but felt especially connected to Isabelle, trying to make a life on her terms, even as she struggled with the demons of her past. Five stars.


SPARKING NEW BONDS AT LONG LAST — A REVIEW

In her newest memoir, Carrie Fisher pierces through the façade and zeroes in on the main issues about life, love, celebrity, and mental illness. And she does it with that famous humor that certainly speaks to the healthy benefits of laughter.

From her drug-imbibing days to her recent journey into ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), Fisher manages to make everything about what might be considered a disastrous kind of life, with all the side-effects of fame, parental abandonment, and well, mental illness, and turn it into a joyous celebration of the nuggets of wisdom one can gain while traveling the dark side.

She shares thoughts, memories, and laughs about the dearth of her short-term memory after her ECT; and just when you start to feel a little sad for her, she segues into the wonders of her relationship with her father, at long last. During his dying years, and when she actually parented him, she discovered that giving him what she wished he’d given her led to a rich and wonderfully blessed reunion. I like how she phrases it in this excerpt:

“To parent my parent was the pathway to my relationship with Eddie Fisher, my old Pa-pa. Enough of a relationship to where I miss him now. A lot. And I miss him in a very different way than how I missed him throughout my childhood.

“Then I missed the idea of him. Now I miss the man—my dad.”

Shockaholic is a wonderful foray into Fisher’s interior world, for which I’m giving five stars.

MEETING THE WORLD WITH HOPE IN HER HEART — A REVIEW

Deeply hidden secrets spark the storyline in Heather Gudenkauf’s second book, and we only gradually come to know them, as they are revealed in snippets throughout the novel.

Told in alternating points of view, we meet each character, one by one, and come to understand their connections to one another and to a little boy named Joshua.

Allison’s horrific crime strikes a chord with anyone who has ever given birth and felt the need for secrecy. What we learn later is shocking and somewhat understandable, given the nature of the other characters and their backstory.

Charm plays a role, as does Claire; Brynn’s role seems more like a supporting one…at least in the beginning.

I loved the pace that gradually defined who the characters were and their relationship to the core plot of These Things Hidden. In short chapters devoted to each character, there is a subtle unfolding in dramatic bursts that leads finally to a satisfying conclusion. Five stars! I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves dramatic stories of family, secrets, and the connections that bind people to one another.

EMPATHY: A STEPPING STONE TO CONNECTING — A REVIEW

Three female members of a family at different stages of their lives are trying to coexist.

Sandwiched between her seventy-six-year-old mother, Ivy, and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Caroline, Joanie Pilcher (approaching fifty) feels overwhelmed at times, emotionally bankrupt, and definitely misunderstood. She is so “done” with men that she has vowed never to have sex again. Caroline is at a point of fearing that she will never find anyone to love her, much less to have sex with her. And Ivy is flailing about, trying to discover who she is in this new life in which she has no real place of her own, and in her attempt to define who she is, she makes some risky choices.

In the voices of each female, we come to understand their dilemmas as we peek inside each one in turn; and then we have the opportunity to root for each of them as this story unfolds to yield a very satisfying meeting of the minds.

Along the way, we meet the women in Joanie’s support group; Caroline’s only friend Sondra; and observe Ivy’s somewhat unusual friendship with a waitress named Lupe.

We also see glimpses of the young woman B. J., whom Joanie’s ex-husband is now planning to marry. She is at an entirely different place in her life, but each character has a chance to see her at a time of crisis, and in this moment, Ivy and Caroline each see a side of Joanie they had never acknowledged.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough is a story that can resonate with any woman who has ever been a mother, a daughter, or a displaced elderly person, and reminds us that empathy is the stepping stone to connecting with those we love.

Five stars.