Sunday, November 26, 2017
The Chalk Man pulled me into the story from the Prologue on Page 1 which begins "The girl's head rested on a small pile of orange -and-brown leaves." The narrative then shifts immediately from 1986 to 2016 when the narrator, Eddie "Munster", reflects on the series of horrific events in the small English village that would haunt him and his childhood friends [Hoppo, Metal Mickey, Fat Gav & Nicky] for the next 20 years.
I found the story creative with the characters at 12 years age using bits of colored chalk to send one another messages in code. Each member of the gang used a different color to identify who had written the code. Of course, someone discovered the code and began to create mayhem.
There were a couple of Twin Peaks moments that didn't quite ring true for me; and I did not find Eddie to be a sympathetic narrator. Instead he seems a bit of a creepy, dysfunctional alcoholic.
I also found the repeated reference of a Waltzer confusing since I was unfamiliar with the term. I figured out that is must be a carnival ride. But I had to Google the term for confirm that.
C.J.Tudor is an engaging writer. I found it hard to put down for the first 3/4 of the book. Towards the end, however, the story seemed to lose a bit of steam. Ultimately, the ending for me was a bit contrived and unconvincing.
The Chalk Man is one of the better mystery/thrillers that I have read in quite some time. Despite its flaws, the book is a solid read in the genre and I will happily look forward to reading the next book by Ms. Tudor.
This book will be published in January 2018. I was provided with a courtesy galley of the book through BookBrowse.com in exchange for an honest review. ****
Sunday, November 19, 2017
It has been on my mind for some time .Thanksgiving 2016 was the last time I saw my mom when she was purportedly healthy. Of course, none of us knew she was hiding knowledge of her true condition, that her cancer had resurfaced. But I didn’t suspect. Should I have had an inkling? Perhaps I should have noticed she didn’t have the same levity, spring in her step, fortitude, go with the flow type of attitude. She ambulated fine for someone who’d had some numbness in a foot and leg. Todd & I both commented on how well she appeared. But she seemed a bit off when the group of us went to Monk’s BBQ for lunch, followed by tastings at two wineries the day after Thanksgiving. She’d always loved our wine tasting expeditions. She seemed a bit tired, but I attributed that to the rounds of radiation she’d recently completed. She told all of us she was cured.
It was odd that she declined to buy a top she really liked at Talbots when we went shopping with my mother-in-law on Black Friday. She complimented me on my hair, encouraged me to buy a navy pin dot pantsuit and dissuaded me from a pair of houndstooth trousers. She tried on nothing.But it didn’t send a signal to my brain. It never occurred to me that within 5 weeks she would be gone.
I wish I’d taken more photographs. I wish I’d hugged her more and harder. I wish I had known this would be the last time we would celebrate a holiday together. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because of the focus on family and gratitude. The tears still spill from my eyes at odd moments. I grasp onto the belief that whenever I find a shiny penny in an odd place that it is a message from Mom, telling me she is with me in spirit as an angel looking over me. I wasn’t ready to lose her. I thought she would live to 100, like Todd’s grandmother, a stoic, midwestern women who could not be defeated by mere health issues. She never considered herself old. Neither did we.
The milestones throughout the year have passed with some sadness; but this holiday is the one that Todd and I always hosted for our extended families. We celebrated the opportunity to have our loved ones travel to Virginia and allow us to cook for them, coddle them, treat them, and thank them for all they have done for us. They raised us to be good people and we celebrate them for that.
This year it will be different. There will be a hole in our hearts. But my father, brother, father in law and mother in law will join us and we will celebrate that we still have one another. We have some other Indiana refugees that will join us to give thanks for our blessings. I am filled with gratitude for my incomparable husband, my ever thriving dad, my resilient brother, and my wonderfully loving in-laws. I know that with our friend and family joining us we will weather the storm.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Oprah recently released her list of 102 favorite things for gift giving in 2017, a list eagerly awaited by her millions of fans who would otherwise have no idea what to buy or where to buy it. Just as zillions of people would have no clue what to read without Oprah’s recommendations. Just by advocating reading, Oprah has done humankind a great service.
But what of those curious people out there who stumble upon my blog and wonder what appeals to a literate, red wine loving, 58 year old blissfully married woman employed as an AVP in insurance claims with a mortgage, car payment, a passion for plants and a posse of outdoor cats that keep the rodent population at bay on three rocky acres in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia?
Cable Crew Neck Cashmere sweaters from Talbots
Garnet Hill Cashmere Shawl
Fry Jordan Strappy Tall Boots
Marc Joseph Mocs
Thursday, November 16, 2017
As I’ve gained wisdom through the years through life’s experiences I’ve found the first lines of this soliloquy by William Shakespeare in As You Like It truly resonates with me.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
This quote seems as insightful today, perhaps even more so, than it was during the late 16th Century when the play was first performed. We have such a greater knowledge of the world stage and our morphing roles within in it. We are all actors within our family dramas, local communities, work environments, states, countries, continents and members of the human race. The passage of time makes the different roles seem as we have lived multiple lives - at least that is my perspective. Sometimes it hardly seems possible that I’ve played some of the roles in my past.
One of my first memories is from the age of 4. I recall being a happy child looking out the window of my brother’s bedroom, seeing a school bus at St. Bridget elementary, and looking with excitement to the time that I could join those grown up kids at school.
The next stage I recall my student days feeling awkward, aspiring to a perfection that could not be achieved, worried that I would never measure up and would disappoint myself and my parents. In high school I developed anorexia and tried to starve myself. Thinness meant beauty, fitting in, an indicator of future success. But all I achieved was additional insecurity.
My university years passed by in a blur. I had the good fortune to spend a year in England; to travel through Europe with a backpack while staying at bed & breakfasts, exploring places that I’d dreamed of seeing during my childhood, meeting fascinating people, and exulting in independence. I also became involved in my first dysfunctional relationship with a college professor. Fortunately, he dumped me long distance.
I then stumbled into the insurance industry. French majors had few potential employers calling. In the days before cell phones, computers, the internet, etc. we relied on college recruiters, paper resumes, and the newspaper want ads. I accepted a job as a trainee claims adjuster with the now defunct Commercial Union Assurance Company in Indianapolis. I had no idea what a claims adjuster actually did. But… I took the job anyway, learned the business, and ultimately cultivated a rewarding career out of the accidental job. I’ve yet to meet anybody that dreamed of working in insurance claims.
Quite by accident I met for first husband. I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Dallas. My Uncle Clyde introduced me to a family friend hoping we would hit if off. We didn’t. But he suggested I call his best friend who as just moved to Indianapolis. I called. We had one date. He had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving so out of pity I invited him to my parents’ for the holiday. Four years later my mother commented that it was his 5th Thanksgiving. My parents loved him. I liked him and thought marriage to this individual would make sense. There was no passion. No great love. Just easy companionship. It was a mistake. I tried to change him. After some years I succeeded to some extent, but I truly disliked my creation. The most wonderful result of our marriage, however, was the role I was next able to play - that of an American expatriate in Asia for five years. I’ll save that role for the next post.
But I’ve come to believe that by the time I was 28 I had already acted in 5 separate and distinct plays portraying different roles during each phase.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Over the years I’ve shared that I learned valuable lessons regarding reinvention and self-healing in Al-Anon. While I’ve shared my story with various Al-Anon family groups I hesitated to tell part of the tale publicly because of how it would affect others - particularly my mother who was an adult child & niece of alcoholics.
Most of us learn coping mechanisms in childhood that we don’t associate with anything in particular. We accept our loved ones for who they are - even when they cause us pain. I had often wondered why my siblings and I had initially chosen damaged partners. My first husband was an alcoholic. My interim relationship was with an alcoholic that I thought I could change. Fortunately, through recovery programs, some therapy, and personal spiritual development I was able to break the bonds of insanity and embrace a healthy life and marriage based upon mutual respect, love and humor. It was in Al Anon that I realized some of my behaviors were inherited.
It took some years before I completely understood that I had married an addict and was spiraling into total dysfunction, despair, and the inability to trust my own judgment. Addicts are adept at disguising, lying, misrepresentation, and manipulation. At the time I discovered the extent of the deception I was living in a foreign country, had no access to my passport or money, had not been employed for five years, and was completely dependent on my alcoholic spouse. This was not the life I would have chosen for myself. However, I was seduced by the opportunity to experience life in Asia as an American expatriate subsidized by a corporation seeking to expand in a vibrant world market.
The house of cards came crashing down like an avalanche. My then husband, a former international salesman of the year for a multinational company, was terminated. He didn’t tell me he was no longer employed; however, I knew something was wrong. I felt adrift. He pretended to continue to go to the office in Hong Kong. It was only by happenstance that I discovered, through the intelligence gathering of a Canadian friend, what had happened.
My then husband continued to lie to me. I became so enraged that I frightened myself. All of a sudden I knew that I had the potential for violence within me. I sought help. I found an Al Anon meeting at a church on the island. When I was asked what brought me to Al Anon, I confessed that I was afraid I could have strangled my spouse. The only thing preventing me was fear of incarceration in a foreign prison. They others laughed and said that was normal. I was in the right place. I would find help, healing, peace and serenity. It was a long and winding road that took years; but eventually I found recovery.
When I finally started to emerged from my cocoon, I found myself transformed, completely changed. My very being transitioned from negative to positive, from fear to fearless, from dependence to independence, from false bravado to self confidence, from neediness to contentment, from insecurity to empowerment, from judgment to acceptance, and from denial to reality.
The journey has been a rollercoaster. But I am filled with gratitude for every experience that taught me the lessons that have brought me to where I am today. Were it not for the extreme challenges that cause pain, heartache, and discontent, I would not be able to fully appreciate how far I’ve come and how blessed I am today with a wonderful eccentric husband, I job that gives me fulfillment and flexibility, a home with acreage and peacefulness, some true blue supportive and loving friends, and our posse of abandoned cats. Oh, and really tasty red wine. Wine, cheese, olives, garlic…….
Friday, November 10, 2017
As a woman who began her career at a time when it was a man’s world and the men in my department made bets on how quickly they could get me to quit, I can state unequivocally that I have grit, determination, an open mind, an understanding of the learning curve, and an appreciation of progress not perfection.
The recent press disclosures that have identified numerous powerful men of all political affiliations as hound dogs that allegedly propositioned, offended, groped, discriminated against, held back, threatened, manipulated, coerced, investigated, tormented, denigrated, defamed, or generally disregard women within their sphere of influence has satin motion a witch hunt that could entrap innocent individuals who are tainted by association.
I believe in due process, the proposition that in America an individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. One only need look at history to see examples of people who were tarred & feathered, subjected to vigilanteism, wrongfully accused, inappropriately convicted, sentenced and executed, or just plain destroyed by “evidence” that later was discovered to be maliciously manufactured, flawed,or mistaken. I have been raised to believe in justice. I refuse to let go of that belief in fairness - not a reallocation justice based upon passed collective wrongs, nor a redistribution of wealth based upon socialist theory, or giving unfair advantage to any individual or group.
America was founded on the principle, no matter how flawed during its infancy, that we are all created equal under the law. While the practice as not evenly applied during the formative years of the country, that is the ultimate intent of our Constitution. Providing restitution for the sins of the fathers does not eradicate the wrongs committed either individually or institutionally in the past. However, we have come a long way and it is no more fair to suppress the opportunity of a class of citizens today than it was 25, 50, 100, 150 or 200 years ago.
The rush to judge has resulted in restaurants, media productions, and other small businesses to shut down because one of the figureheads has been accused of malfeasance. In most instances the individual under scrutiny is a wealthy individual who can withstand the financial impact. However, few consider the collateral damage to the assistants, subordinates, peers, worker bees, or general public from the backlash. As an example, Kevin Spacey can easily absorb the loss of income from his firing from House of Cards. But what about the production assistants, other actors, drivers, engineers, walk ons, or support personnel that have lost an opportunity for income, recognition, or residuals from rebroadcast. If a restaurant is closed down because a civil rights activists accuses the owners of discrimination, the lessor loses rent, the serving staff loses a job, the chef and kitchen workers have no income, the business managers lose income, and those suffering discrimination lose their underpaid jobs and may have problems finding another. That is why I have disdain for self righteous do-gooders who hang photos on the walls of their law offices and NGOs praising their accomplishments while blithely ignoring the harm they do. Collateral damage is a consideration that should not be ignored!
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Despite our inhospitable terrain Todd and I are slowly transforming our rocky ridge into a place of beauty. Of course our 5 year landscaping plan has morphed into a 20-25 year plan. By trial and error we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. The learning curve has been harsh at times because we didn’t know what we did not know. We both grew up in the Midwest where the soil was rich, planting was easy, grass was ubiquitous, one could use a shovel to dig a hole, and a little fertilizer created lushness.
Not so in our neck of the woods.Landscape experts and nurseries advise to amend the soil, test for PH levels, and then add nutrients needed for the type of plant. That is all well and good if one actually has soil. Our land is so rocky that we have to rent a bobcat with a 28 inch auger to dig holes large enough to plant trees or larger shrubs; buy soil, peat moss, fertilizer and Biotone to give the plants a chance; mulch, amend, mulch again; and hope the plant gods are with us.
Despite the misjudgments and foolhardy experiments it appears we’ve finally made progress and are on the verge of creating the nirvana that we seek. Within 5 years the area surrounding our deck should be the lush garden filled with mature Japanese maple trees, shade loving perennials, grasses,rhododendrons, day lilies, hostas, ornamental trees, shade loving ground cover and bulbs of every kind. It has been and continues to be worth the effort.
We fend off evil deer that munch on our plants and attack our trees. Our bird feeders and bird houses attract gorgeous songbirds; we’ve expanded our deck to include our grill, wood burning pizza oven and Weber smoker; vines are finally enveloping our pergolas; and our fountain provides a zen ambiance as we sip coffee or wine on the screened in porch or deck.
As of today we still need to purchase and plant 18 more trees [12 fruit, 1 pecan, 4 white pine, and 1 fir], 8 rhododendrons, 1 rose bush, 200 bulbs, at least 250 ground cover, and the raised vegetable garden that we plan to establish next spring. This is progress. Of course the plan depends upon the success of what we have recently planted. But I am ever optimistic and in any event the time I spend landscaping is therapeutic. It is not possible to think about my day job when I am digging, hauling, transforming or embracing the land. And I am ever filled with gratitude that my father shared his love of gardening and landscaping with me. This is where I see God. The beauty of nature, the miracle of cultivation and the results from my physical labor fill me with the wonder of the Universe and the acceptance that there is a higher power. I could not do this alone.
Friday, November 3, 2017
The world has changed significantly for the better over the past 37years with regard to sexual harassment in the workplace. Those of us who broke through barriers to fill positions previously open only to white men developed thick skins and strong backbones. We laughed at off color jokes, tried to fit in, dealt with wives or girlfriends who hated the fact we were working and drinking with our male coworkers and bosses, deflected obnoxious or stupid comments, worked harder than our male counterparts, prepared responses to those who asked if we planned to quit when we got married or had children, and navigated the challenges of working with support staff who were not accustomed to having women delegate work to them.
I survived, thrived and succeeded in such an environment because my manager was evolved and my determination to rise to the top compelled me to achieve. Furthermore, I made the decision that I would not allow the establishment to force me out!
Those of use who endured, persevered, insisted on change and stayed the course despite challenges paved the way for women who came after us. We made the decision to fit in, work harder, smarter and better. We exploited the opportunities, embraced every challenge, and paved the way for today’s woman.
We do not excoriate, criticize, denigrate, castigate, denunciate, denounce, ostracize, vilify or smear those men who were faced with a transformation of the world, workplace, or environment they understood. This movement that transformed opportunities for women phased out advantages for men that they had become accustomed to embracing. My brother was once told during the late 1980’s that his chances for promotion were non-existent because he was a middle aged white male.
Because I was part of the changes that transformed the workplace, I have a greater understanding of how far we’ve come. 35 years is not a long time in the history of the world which was dominated by men for millennia. To expect a miraculous transformation is short sighted.
Yes, there are predators that continue to exploit power. These individuals should be excoriated or prosecuted if the facts support such. However, there are also individuals who have not progressed, continue to live in a past that no longer exists, and do not understand how the world had changed. If the individual committed a transgression 30 years ago that today would be considered a travesty, we should give some credence to the defense of time and place. It is a different world today than it was in 1980. I, personally, would hate to be judged on my actions of 30 years ago.
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Social media brings out the worst in some sanctimonious, self-righteous individuals that get all riled up posting about one issue or another spouting “facts” that cannot be supported by empirical data. I can’t help myself - but I do feel compelled to respond appropriately that just because one has a strong opinion does not make one correct. This often generates a vitriolic response from the self-righteous twit, which I must confess causes me endless amusements.
Perhaps that is unfair since the public is regularly led astray by left-wing and right-wing news reporters, talking heads, alleged experts, political commentators, faux scientists, biased politicians or special interest lobbyists trying to court political favor. And it is human nature to grasp onto the opinions of those historians or experts that agree with one’s existing opinion.
Those of us who work in the legal world of tort litigation see several times per day reports drafted by experts paid by one side or the other in hotly contested lawsuits that offer diametrically opposed conclusions based on the same objective or subjective criteria. Civil litigation is a game in which one or more individuals or businesses allege negligence or wrongdoing against one or more other individuals or businesses with the winners either convincing a jury that it should award the parties filing the lawsuit lots of money or in the alternative convincing a judge or jury that there was no negligence or wrongdoing and no money should be paid based on “the facts”. The dictionary defines a “fact” as “a matter of objective reality.” However, for most of us perception is reality. Perception is not fact.
The lawyers pay alleged experts to provide opinions based upon facts that support their positions. Many of these medical professionals, economist, forensic engineers, metallurgists, psychologists, vocational experts, life care planners, biomechanics, forensic accountants, security or parking lot designers, biologists, pathologists, accident reconstructionists, arborists, building management consultants, building code experts, intellectual property actual confusion or reverse confusion experts, advertising experts and chemists provide an analysis that supports the side paying them. A great deal of these litigation experts are charlatans. Our legal system supports this cottage industry that uses “facts” to come to whatever conclusion is wanted.
It is also common knowledge that an eye witness is the least reliable “fact witness” in any criminal or civil procedure. The human eye is unreliable because our brains reconstruct memory that can be altered by stress, suggestion, or time.
What happens in tort litigation also happens in our political conversations. Every political debate relies upon an expert analysis that supports an agenda. Politicians and lobbyists pay for experts to reach certain conclusions about voting, racism, taxes, statues, food safety, emissions, global warming, immigration, security, trade, GMOs, explorers, abortion, arms control, hunting, safe speed limits, or the impact of the revitalized wolf packs in Yellowstone National Park.
Moral of the story: even DNA evidence is not correct within a 100% certainty. Let go of the sanctimonious anger against those with whom you disagree. Your opinion is not fact!