The In-Between Month & The Dreaded Orange Raincoat

Mom calls November the “in-between” month. Not quite winter. Not really full fall. Lots of trees have dumped their leaves. Temperatures are dropping. But not low enough for snow. Here on the Olympic Peninsula, the rains return. And return. And return.

When the weather turns wet, Mom insists on dragging out The Dreaded Orange Raincoat. Why does she do this? Is she averse to getting soaked to the collar, crashing through every puddle in sight, or galumphing around town up to her nose in rain water?

Me, I’m fine with all of the above. (I am part Lab, you know. As in water dog.)

Anyway, did I mention they closed the book place awhile back? For “renovations.” About a million dollars worth. I don’t know what that means. Can you eat it?

But it means we haven’t been able to walk over to the library lately. One of us really hates that.

Good news: The book place is supposed to re-open in about a week or so.

So you might call November the “in between month” for reasons not related to weather. Or seasons. It’s in between closures and re-openings of a favorite place in town.

At least for one of us.

The other just wants to shed her stupid rain coat.

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6 Great Authors for Midlife Readers

First things first. I haven’t moved houses or switched dog food brands. My humans are all fine. The neighborhood powder puff – that yappy little furball on four legs – is still around. So annoying. We’ve just been running around all over the place. Seems like we just wrapped up summer and now we’re halfway through fall!

Squirrel!

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah. Halfway through fall.

Speaking of “halves,” Mom and Dad have been thinking about midlife reading lately. Cuz two of us (who shall remain nameless) are right there. You know, that time in life where relationships change. So does work. Or so I’m told. Then there’s The Kid. At age 19, the dude actually thinks he’s an adult.

We need to talk, bro!

Well. Somebody recently posted a list of 10 Great Books to Read at Midlife. Yabba-dabba-gag-me. The powder puff could’ve come up with better choices.

Not to be outdone by ‘ole pp, Mom and I put together our own list of Top 10 Favorite Reads for Midlife. Then we got to thinking, what’s up with that? Why limit the list to “midlife”? A good read is a good read, right?

So rather than list titles, Mom and I decided to settle on some favorite authors. Because once sweater weather arrives and I get to roll around in mounds of nice, crackly leaves and jump in mud puddles, it’s also a great time to curl up with a hot mug of whatever and a good book. “Besides,” chirps Mom, “Midlife isn’t really the ‘fall’ of life. Seems more like spring to me!”

So if you’re looking to spring into some peppy, vivacious fall reads by some top-notch authors who deliver heaping helpings  of inspiration, hope, and grace and have some fun while you’re doing that midlife thing – or whatever – here ya go (in no particular order):

Jan Karon

We’re big Mitford fans. Jan does uplifting, inspirational reads about three-dimensional characters as eccentric as they are lovable and authentic. Besides. Who can resist a main character with a dog as big as a Buick?

Max Lucado

‘Max is a preacher with a storyteller’s gift — a pastor’s heart and a poet’s pen. Max’s message is simple: God loves you; let him.’

Richard Paul Evans

A master storyteller whose beautifully crafted, gentle love stories always include one essential element: Hope. He typically releases a new title every year in the fall. See my tail wagging?

Gary Paulsen

If you enjoy outdoors adventures, you’ll love this guy. What else would you expect from a dog lover and a one-time Iditarod competitor?

Anna Quindlen

Mom says she doesn’t agree with this author on anything politically. But that Anna’s a great “get real” writer with lots of insight. I don’t know what that means. But it sounds good. Does it come with milk bones?

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura published her first little house book at age 65. ‘Sides. I like her dog Jack. Bet we could’ve been buddies.

 

Who would you add?

 

CAUTION: Blue Book Funk Ahead

Kimber the Magnificent here. Holding down the fort while Her Momness is holding down a blue book funk. Frankly, I don’t get it. How can anyone be in a blue funk when they’ve got me? But I guess somethin’s goin’ down at The Book Place. Where Her Momness spends half her life.

I mean, we just wrapped up a whole summer reading program. Yeah, 156 books in three months. We practically lived at The Book Place. But it’s going to be inaccessible for awhile. Hence the blue book funk. It goes like this:

Our book place was built in 1911. What’s that in dog years?  Not sure. But the place is lookin’ a little long in the tooth. So our local library (aka: The Book Place) is getting lots of fixes to its masonry, floor, drywall and plaster, and insulation work. New lighting fixtures and windows. Also new paint and carpeting. That kind of stuff.

Why they’re not putting in a doggie door with auto-treats, I don’t know. But this renov thing? They’re talking a closure of about six weeks. Starting October 1.

Mom? Hello, Mom? No fair fainting. Can you get off the floor now? We can always skip over to The Book Place ahead of the closure and stock up, right? I’ll help. You know I’m a helper. It’s what I do.

You can help, too. What access to books do you recommend as an alternative to libraries? I’m hearing about this critter named “Audible.” Is that a thing? Askin’ for a friend.

Meanwhile, don’t worry about Her Momness. I got this.

Who’s Up for a Party?

Someone say “party”? Like with cake? Lots of noise? Celebratin? Ice cream? (My favorite is French vanilla. Just sayin’.)

Mom says we just achieved a ‘milestone.’ I’m not exactly sure what that is. But she seems pretty pumped about it. So it must be party-worthy. Here it is:

Okay, okay. I’m finding this “11 thing” a bit hard to swallow, seeing as how I just turned two. I mean, creepy crawly cat whiskers! I only took over this gig about a year ago. But I love anything Mom loves. Reading. Writing. Books. My favorite is, ‘rural life with a border collie.’ For obvious reasons.

So we just wanna say a big ole THANK YOU to you, our loyal readers. You make it all worthwhile. Well, that and beef jerky.

Meanwhile, what would you like see on the blog? Topics? Ideas? Suggestions?

I got this. Soon as I score some of that frozen vanilla stuff…

The Big Summer Stretch: 150+ in 90

It was a stretch. A BIG one. But summer reading programs have been a seasonal staple since before I could walk. (Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, according to my kids.) So when it came to summer reading 2018, I decided to aim high. My goal was to exceed last summer’s achievement: 136 books in about 90 days.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Neither did anyone else. Except my good dog Kimber. She thinks I can do anything. Everyone else just sort of smiled and shook their heads.

But once the school year winds down, I love how one long, sun-gilded day can glide into another, peppered with good reads. Grand adventures in books. (I’ve also slogged through more than one imbecelic political shill thinly disguised as a YA “novel.” Gag me.)

Anyway, this summer’s reading program ended August 31. My final tally: 156 books in about 90 days. Whew. In the past three months-ish I’ve read:

Biogs on: Rosa Parks, Jean Laffite, and Mark Twain. John Merrick and Harriet Tubman. Queen Victoria. Nelson Mandela. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Marco Polo. Ted Geisel. Lewis and Clark. A bunch more.

I’ve traveled by book to: China, Bolivia, Ecuador, Africa, Alaska, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Great Britain. Germany. Colombia. Russia. A motorcycle race across Europe. A deep-sea oceanographic research station. Many more.

I’ve chugged through a kaleidoscopic collection of genres, all colorful, creative, and remarkable in their own right: Dystopian. Magical realism. Creative non-fiction. Humor. Drama. Historical narrative.

Pressing toward my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 365 books in one year, I read or listened to many memorable books this summer. Short. Medium. Long.

Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy – Rae Carson

Time for Andrew – Mary Downing Hahn

The Jimmy Vega Detective series – Suzanne Chazin. Here’s my review of Chazin’s A Blossom of Bright Light.

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

Thunder Rolling in the Mountains – Scott O’Dell

The Journey Back – Priscilla Cummings. Read my review.

My Family for the War – Anne Voorhoeve. See my review.

Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story – Mary Downing Hahn. Read my review.

The Wood – Chelsea Bobluski. Here’s my review.

Streams to the River, River to the Sea – Scott O’Dell

‘NEW’ AUTHORS OF NOTE (In no particular order. List not exhaustive.)

Suzanne Chazin

Khaled Hosseini

Toni Morrison – Here’s my review of her novel, A Mercy.

Erin Hunter

Andrew Fukuda – here’s my review of his first novel, The Hunt.

Rae Carson

Chelsea Bobulski

‘OLD FAITHFUL FAVES’:

Max Lucado, Scott O’Dell, Gary Paulsen and Sarah Sund. Also Ingrid Paulson and Richard Paul Evans. Karen Kingsbury. Debbie Macomber. And I don’t think I’ve ever met a book I didn’t like by C.W. Anderson, Walt Morey, or Maurice Sendak.

As you may know, I’ve long maintained that some of the finest stories and most gifted authors in all bookdom can be found in Children’s Literature. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some favorites along these lines from this summer.

Like:

The Pilot and the Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Boy from Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew up to Become Dr. Seuss. Also Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White.

Noteable ‘Sleepers’

These are books that took me by surprise. I usually scooped them up on a lark, looking for a quick, light read. These titles turned out to be engrossing and intriguing:

Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May. A touching story of how a young girl deals with the loss of her eldery aunt and foster mom, May. A Newbery Award Winner.

Captive of the Mountains, by Arthur D. Stapp. Hiking, mountaineering and a survival story. Young Chris must use his wits to survive following a hiking injury in the remote Olympic Mountains. Lots of recognizable sites for those familiar with Washington state and the Olympic Mountains. First published in 1952. Grabbed it off the free table at the library.

Run Far, Run Fast, by Walt Morey. A recently orphaned 16 y.o. from the wrong side of Chicago decides to ride the rails to California rather than get stuck in foster care or an orphanage. Nick Lyons meets up with “Knight of the road” “Idaho” Jamieson inside a west bound train. Trouble intervenes and Nick winds up stranded in the Pacific Northwest. Beautifully written by a master storyteller.

And…

If you keep a sharp lookout, every once in awhile you dig up an uber gem. Like a copy of a book published in 1974, signed by the author. Woo hoo!

Long story short (pun intended), I’m now at over 300 books read since January 1. (Yes, I read fast. ☺) So I’m within spitting distance of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge: 365 books in one year. Still aiming high, I’m aiming to get there by Thanksgiving. With a little room to spare. I’ll keep you posted.

How’d your summer reading go?

Screen shot – Summer Reading Log, 31 August 2018

They Done Him Wrong: ‘Christopher Robin’ Falls Flat

Have I mentioned that Her Mom-ness is sometimes a bit of a mutterer? Especially when it comes to making a movie out of a well-loved book?

Her Mom-ness and The Kid went to see a movie last week. It had the unmitigated gall to pretend it was based on an A.A. Milne classic. (“Unmitigated gall.” Isn’t that a great mutter? Learned it from Mom.)

Anyway, this Disney release pretends to be about Christopher Robin and his boyhood buds from the Hundred Acre Wood. Or something. Except that now Christopher is all grown up. Living in London. He gets a surprise visit from his old buddy Winnie-the-Pooh. There’s a train. Lots of trees. Fog. A return to London.

The rest of the meandering, strained storyline has to do with Christopher’s return to the Hundred Acre Wood, fighting Heffalumps and Woozles and a sneering, shifty boss. Also Christopher’s guilt over reneging on a promise to spend a weekend at the cottage with his wife and daughter due to a work deadline.

“Moves with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth” Mom opined. She literally fell asleep during the first hour of this “snooze-fest.” Nodded off right there in the theater for a couple minutes. Woke up. Hadn’t missed a bloomin’ thing.

The movie can’t decide whether it’s a nostalgic look back or a “silly explanation” of present time. With honey. In the end, it just doesn’t work. And what’s up with that creepy neighbor dude and Gin Rummy?

“Virtually incoherent” Mom muttered. Is there a point here? Cuz now would be good.”

“Stick with the books,” Mom concluded, shaking her head. “You can’t go wrong with The Real Deal.” We both like Pooh better on the printed page. Way better.

The good news: I got a long walk and a game of frisbee in, post theatrical dud. With ‘nary a Mom Mutter along the way.

Is this place great, or what?

Have you ever been turned off by the movie adaptation or extension of a favorite story or book? Why?

 

 

 

Image credit

Book Bridges: When Moms Get Dewy-Eyed & Sparkly

It looked like this here yesterday. And like:

So Mom and I decided a soggy Saturday’s a good day to clean out the attic. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Now, you may not know this about me. But I’m a Great Attic Clean-Up Supervisor. I found a comfy rug. Laid down. Watched Mom cart stuff up and down the stairs. Dust. Categorize. Box. Un-box. Re-box.

Supervisin’s a tough job. But somebody’s gotta do it.

Anyway, Mom opened this one box. And sat down. “Oh my!” says she. “Kimmi, look at this!”

What? Did you unearth new doggie treats? A secret stash of gourmet dog food? The neighbor’s cat?

Lemme tell ya. I rolled over and I listened up right quick! Especially since she had The Look. The one Moms get when they’re remembering. All dewy-eyed and nostalgic. Looking all sparkly.

What kind of buried treasure did we just unearth?

Mom starts pulling books out of the box. Title after title. From when my brothers were little. Like:

And:

Some more:

“Does this ever take me back,” murmurs Mom. Twenty years of homeschooling. Preschool storytime at the library every Friday. Summer reading programs. Weekly trips to the library. Reading forts.

Mom was doing that sparkly, shimmery thing again. Maybe because my bros are all grown up now. But Mom says they used to spend hours reading aloud together every day. When my four bros were little. I don’t know why. But if remembering makes her do that dewy-sparkly-shimmery thing, it must be good.

Later, my 19 y.o big bro was looking at some of the books. He pulled one out. “I remember this!” he crows. “I got this for my birthday!” (A milk bone? Naw. Some other treasure.) Here it is:

 

Josiah was four years old. My bro is one amazing dude, eh?

Then Mom said something about good books. How they never get old.

“You never outgrow a good story” says she. “A good book lives forever. Is always waiting for you to come back. Pick up where you left off. A good book can create a lifetime of shared memories. Build bridges linking the past, present, and future. Diving into a book that’s an old favorite? It feels like coming home.”

Who’d a hunk one soggy Saturday could turn out to be so sparkly?

Ya gonna eat that? (Askin’ for a friend.)

‘Beyond Bob’: Why I’m Doing Christmas Music in August

Ever been ripped off by someone you trusted? Remember how it felt? How do you respond? What’s next?

I ran into that recently when working on a Friend-Of-A-Friend project. It’s a long story. I’ll spare you the gory details. Nutshell version: the project/client came highly recommended from long-time mutual friends. Let’s call him “Bob.”

FOAF Bob heard I was a freelance writer via mutual friends. “Would you be interested in writing my memoirs?” asked Bob.  “Depends,” I said. “What do you have in mind?” He outlined some ideas, possibilities. I said I’d take a look.

Bob has, shall we say, quite a story. I agreed to take on the project, noting that I might consider offering Bob the FOAF discount off my writing services. But “I don’t work for free” I wrote. As in, I expect to get paid. Kinda like most people who work.

Thought we had that settled. In writing.

Bob lives in another state. So conversations were by email or phone. Following some requisite preliminaries, I dove into the project with both feet. Interviewing. Researching. Basic legwork. Writing. Editing. A few months later, Draft I was born. I emailed the new arrival to Bob. After some corrections and updates, Draft II was en route via cyberspace stork shortly thereafter.

At this point I’d spent about six months on the project. Hadn’t yet seen a dime for my time and effort. So I contacted Bob by email, saying that X amount was due before proceeding to Draft III.

Long story short:

Continue reading

Libraries and The ‘Dog Days’ of Summer

What do humans mean when they say ‘dog days of summer’? That I can better hang my nose out the car window on warmish days? That it’s too hot to do anything except lie in the shade and dream about kibble and surfing? Something related to Sirius, the ‘dog star’?

‘Dog star,’ huh? I kinda like the sound of that.

Wait. Kid on a bicycle going by.

Now. Where was I? Oh, yeah ‘Dog days.’ We’ve had several this summer. Temperatures ticked up to the mid and upper nineties. That may not sound like much to you Phoenix or Las Vegas types. But in  western Washington, that’s as rare as a smart cat. It’s so rare in fact, that most houses don’t have air conditioning. Pontoons, maybe. But not A/C.

Thankfully, the library does. Have A/C, that is.  So Mom went there a lot, especially during the ‘dog days of summer.’ I’m not crazy about the place. Only service animals are allowed inside. So whenever we walked there – the book place is about 10 minutes away by paw – I’d have to sit outside with one of my brothers or…

Is that the neighbor’s cat?

… or they’d take me for a walk while Mom scooped up some new books. I don’t know why she has to take so long.

Anyway, here’s what I learned about libraries during the ‘dog days of summer’:

  •  The front lawn has lots of nice shade.
  • People say ‘hi’ to me when they go in or out. I cannot jump on them. Cannot, cannot, canno… ugh!
  • The library manager, Mary, has a Cairn Terrier. His name is Max.
  • Libraries have ‘computers’ inside that my humans can use for free.
  • It’s okay to talk in the library. Just don’t bark.
  • Writers are readers.
  • ‘Stacks’ mean ‘books.’ Books are things some humans love. They say they can’t live without them. That reading is like breathing. Like eating. I don’t quite understand this.
  • Some people don’t do this reading thing enough. If they did, they would be better people, says Mom. Smarter. More well-rounded. Creative and thoughtful. They’d probably throw a Frisbee better, too.

I may like libraries after all. Even during the ‘dog days of summer.’

How I Was Struck By a Random Act of Kindness

Her Mom-ness says kindness can be hard to find these days. Elusive. Rare. So when you find it – or it finds you – be thankful. And reciprocate.

I’m not sure what that means. But it makes Mom smile. So it must be good. Like the other day.

We were out for a looong walk. Miles from home, her Mom-ness and I met up with another dog in a school playground. We played chase the ball for a while. Then the other dog went home with her Mom.

After the last ball toss, I came back limping. Mom noticed. We were a long way from my nice, soft doggie bed. Our water was almost gone. I could barely walk. How were we going to get home?

Mom tried to carry me.  She managed about 12 steps before buckling under my 65 pounds.

We were tired. We were thirsty. I was hurt.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

“We could sure use a random act of kindness right now,” Mom said, nursing sore arms.

I’m not sure what that means either. Something about being friendly. Generous. Considerate. And nice. Just because you can. With no strings attached.

Kind of like the way I am every day.

Anyway, Mom gets out her phone thingy. Starts dialing. Every person she called trying to get us a ride home was either at work or across the state line.

Phooey.

Mom finally managed to get ahold of my big bro, Sam. He’s 22. He “just happened” to be off work that day. He was out at the beach with his girlfriend. Over an hour away.

Know what? They dropped everything. Raced to the car. Whizzed over to the school. Brought water. Picked us up. Drove us home.

Just because we asked.

How cool is that?

Turns out my peds were a bit sunburnt from the heat radiating off the school yard blacktop. I’m fine now. Back to my  adorable self. Whizzing around the place at my usual 90 mph. Trying to be kind to everyone. Like my big bro Sam. I’m also trying to get the hang of kind-ing the mail carrier. (That takes extra practice. Nobody’s perfect.)

Speaking of kindness, here are some of Her Mom-ness’s favorite books or stories on the subject.

If you’re looking for the word “kindness” in the title, keep looking. These books are more subtle than that. They feature stories and/or characters who demonstrate generosity. Courage. Compassion. Grace. Kindness. If you know any of these, you’ll understand:

What would you add?

Meanwhile, I’m liking this random act of kindness thing. It’s kind of contagious. Unless it hits a cat. Then all bets are off.

Anyway, how ’bout you? Have you been struck by a random act of kindness this week? Or have you been the giver of a random act of kindness? Tell us about it. We love hearing from our peeps!