our book club reads happy books!

Say it with flowers!

                  It was April book club this past week, and we got our May flowers a couple of days early, because our book was “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

As I began reading the book, I was afraid the subject matter was going to be too serious for our cheerful book club, but I quickly became engrossed in the book. I loved it, and so did everyone else at book club.

It was not filled with this :

Gerbera Daisies

Gerbera Daisies - Cheerfulness (Photo credit: carolynconner)

   But  with this:

Peony close-up

Peony - anger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Lavendar flower

Lavender - mistrust (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But also:

Mistletoe berries in Wye Valley

Mistletoe - I surmount all obstacles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Tionesta, Allegheny National Forest.

Moss- maternal love, which grows without roots. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading through the Dictionary of Flowers at the end of the book, it would be pretty easy to make a case that all the feelings & emotions represented by the flowers in the dictionary are present in the book also.

This was such a lovely book and I think many of us were curious about Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a first time author, who seems like a pretty amazing person too. Here’s a video clip of her talking about the book. And here’s another link to a story about how she came to write the book. 

The book has been optioned as a movie, but not cast yet. The names mentioned online for the role of Victoria Jones are Mia Wasikowsa or Emma Stone, but I think Rooney Mara would be great. She certainly has the look of someone who could be ravenously hungry all the time, but more than that, I think she gave a very moving portrayal of an  emotionally withdrawn young woman  in “The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo”.

Thanks to Pat for another fun book club night with lots of yummy treats & flowery surprises. Here’s a big cyber bouquet of: 

Lisianthus aka Eustoma from Lalbagh Garden, Ba...

Lisianthus - Thanks Pat! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The OK Corral

  No, I’m not talking about a gunfight here – I’m talking about this corral:

start line

It does look (and feel) like a herd of cattle sometimes in the corral! (Photo credit: B.T. Indrelunas)

To be more specific, the starting corrals of the 2012 Broad Street Run!

But before I tell you about that, let me tell you a funny story about my first experience of race corrals. It was at the 2008 Philadelphia Marathon, and my daughter was running her first marathon. I went as her chauffeur and cheerleader, but my secret reason for going was to be there at the ready for any emergency trips to the hospital, or to pick her limp & battered body  up off the finish line . I mean, 26.2 miles! Who does that?

I found a spot along the Parkway where I could see her as she ran by at the midpoint of the race. As I was waiting, I struck up a conversation with another spectator, and she asked me what corral my daughter was in.

Now at the time, my son was very involved in a choir, and when this woman asked her question, I heard, “what chorale is your daughter in?” My first thought was to say, “oh, she isn’t here with a singing group.” Luckily, I stopped myself, and gave the far more intelligent reply, “I don’t know”.  Then I added the equally intelligent: “I don’t know what that is.” So the woman explained it to me.

In theory, here’s how it works:

All the elite athletes start in the front. Everyone who registers puts down an approximate guess of how long they think it will take them to finish the race. Everyone is then put into corrals, according to their predicted paces and the race starts  in waves, with the faster runners starting near the front and the slower runners starting near the back.

In reality, here’s how it worked at Broad Street last year:

All the elite athletes start in the front.  Everyone who registers puts down an approximate guess of how long they think it will take them to finish the race. Everyone gets to the race and is enveloped in a crowd so large that they can barely move. They find a spot in the closest corral and wait for the race to start. And everything is OK. No one is trampled.

And here is something else that is OK with the corrals. I was standing there last year amid 30,000 other runners last year, and I’m going to be there again this year.  Every year there is news footage of the colorful sea of runners starting off on the race and I had always thought it looked so exciting, and so crazy too. Every time I find myself in a race corral, I’m a amazed to be a part of that sea of people. And here is what you can’t see or feel from the television. From the outside, it may look like a herd of cattle being led to slaughter, but inside the corral, no one is being forced to go anywhere. Everyone is happy, and excited, and yes, sometimes nervous. They have worked hard for this day, and they are glad it’s here. It’s a celebration – people are throwing clothes, tying shoes, looking for friends, and looking forward to a good run through the cheering crowds lining Broad Street..

How I got here is a story for another day, but the seed was planted at that Philadelphia Marathon in 2008. And my daughter? No picking her up off the finish line. She finished looking exhilarated, and like she had a few more miles left in her. She has run several marathons since then.  And in a little over a week, we’ll both be running Broad Street. And that’s more than OK with me.


Hoping to add to my bling this year!


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Taking the Plunge

   I recently read a book for another book club and the discussion was canceled. And I had really liked the book! I had even made notes about what I had liked. (I never do that!). So… here’s what I thought…

The book was “The Dive from Clausen’s Pier” by Ann Packer.

Cover of "The Dive From Clausen's Pier"

Cover of The Dive From Clausen's Pier

  I had suggested the book, about an engaged couple, Carrie & Mike, whose lives are changed permanently by “the dive from Clausen’s pier”, because I thought it would present good topics for a thought-provoking discussion. However, I found myself procrastinating whenever I thought of reading it. It sounded too heart breaking. I was right about both. It was heart breaking and thought-provoking.

The central dilemma of the book  is the question Carrie asks herself, “How much do we owe the people we love?”

What points would I have made at book club?

1.I thought the book beautifully illustrated what it was like to be 23 and feeling as if  you should have your life figured out, but not really having the first clue. At 23, you are nowhere near having your life figured out. Does anyone ever figure it out? I think we gradually learn, as Carrie does, that those things we simply love to do, so much that we often dismiss them as not important because they are so fun, are very often the keys to finding contentment in our lives.

2 . In my opinion, serious illness, does not change a relationship. It pares it down so you see only what it essential and true in the relationship – how much do you really love this person, and how much do they love you?  Much more accurate than a daisy.

daisy from below

he loves me, he loves me not - (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. And  what about those two guys? I personally wanted her to run like heck from both of them. And I was kind of mad at her mother for not saying so!

4. I loved the descriptions of Carrie and her sewing. I could totally relate to the feeling of escape that Carrie felt as she sewed. And it made me want to go fabric shopping!

Well, I didn’t get to say all that at book club, but at least I got to say it here.  I also dusted off my sewing machine and started a new project. Well ok, I re-started a project I started a year ago. I’m liking it better now! 

And I got to practise adding images to my blog!

Nederlands: Singer naaimachine - 31K32 (detail...

This is a pretty sewing machine, but I'm glad mine's a little more modern. Not a Bernina like Carrie's though! Maybe someday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

A couple of weeks ago I read “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” by Aron Ralston. The movie “127 Hours” is based  on this book, which is the true story of Aron Ralston’s experience of being trapped in the canyons of Utah and having to cut off his arm to free himself. Try to stay with me here!

I have yet to convince anyone to see the movie “127 Hours”. I tell them what it’s about and they immediately stop listening. So at least let me tell you this: it is one of the most life affirming movies I have ever seen. And the cinematography is gorgeous. At the very least, you come away with an understanding of why someone would want to go canyoneering in the Utah desert. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. I watched it because it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in 2011.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it either, so I watched it on DVD while sewing. I admit, during the amputation scene I was sewing furiously and not looking at the TV, but the rest of the time I was riveted to the screen. Whenever I am flipping through the TV channels and it is on, it sucks me in once again. (I have yet to make it entirely through the amputation scene, though!)

I finally read Aron’s book because I wanted to see how accurate the movie was. The answer is “pretty darn”. This was one case when I was glad I had seen the movie first. It helped to picture his surroundings, how exactly he was trapped, and the mechanics he used to free himself.

Did I enjoy the book? It was pretty good – I liked the movie better. It does go into more detail about Aron’s climbing life.  Aron has an engineering degree and he get’s into a lot of technical detail about his climbs. Since I don’t see myself ever mountain climbing, I began to skim those sections.  However, I could relate to the book in a way I wouldn’t have been able to a few years ago. To tell the truth, I never really understood people’s desire to push themselves to the limit. I will never be an athletic person (My favorite sport is reading, and when I’m looking for something more strenuous, I sew). But when I started training for a half marathon a little over 3 years ago, I learned how gratifying it is to attain physical goals that you thought were beyond you. And one of the very first benefits I realized from running was how nice it is to be outdoors and appreciating nature. (The fact that I was diagnosed with skin cancer 3 years later? Purely coincidental I hope – I blame that on all my childhood sun poisoning!). And he voiced something that I had a hard time articulating when people have asked me in the past if I had fun at a race. “Fun isn’t always fun”.

And what about the amputation scene in the book? I actually found myself squinting my eyes at that part. It is hard to read with your eyes closed, though! I did manage to get through it (very quickly).

This story, when it happened, really captured the attention of the world. I think everyone asked themselves, “would I be able to do that?”. I guess the answer depends on the person, and hopefully we never have to find out.  But in our own lives, we are sometimes called on to do things that we think are  beyond our capabilities. Successfully accomplishing these tasks often brings the greatest reward. The key is to accept the challenge – and it wouldn’t hurt to let someone know where you are going, and bring a pocket knife!


Read Anything Good Lately?

To be honest, I haven’t read anything that has really blown me away lately. (I’m not counting “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” because that was a re-read.) So instead, I’ll tell you about a book I read that I didn’t like, because I mentioned it in this post . The book is “Girlchild” by Tupelo Hassman. I had high hopes for this book – the cover had a picture of an old-fashioned library due date card pocket on it and the inside jacket has this intriguing synopsis:

“Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own.  But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Disposal of Outgrown Uniforms; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle.”

Libraries, Girl Scouts, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps to build a better life.  This sounded like a book that I would love. But that old saying about not judging a  book by its cover sometimes actually applies to books. There  was very little about libraries, or Girl Scouts, or boot straps in this book. It was a very sad book about a very unfortunate girl. It reminded me very much of ” House on Mango Street”  by Sandra Cisneros which we read for our June meeting. In subject matter, theme, and even in the ending, the two books were very similar. I preferred Mango Street a little more because it was shorter! Not even sure why I finished “Girlchild”, it depressed me so much. I guess I was waiting for the Girl Scouts to come in and save the day! If I had to answer the question. “why do you bother to read depressing books?” I would reply “I always believe there will be a happy ending.” Like Harold Hill in the “Music Man”,  “I always believe there’s a band, kid”

Speaking of “Mango Street”, this is a good opportunity to catch up on another month of Book Club. (I do eventually hope to do a recap of all our previous meetings.) June was Mango Street and “a Short Guide to a Happy Life” by Anna Quindlen. We met at Lauren’s house and I seem to remember a delicious cake (almond pound cake? My memory for good cake is a little disturbing!) Because it was June and many members were busy with graduations, we picked two very short books to read.

I picked Anna Quindlen ‘s book because it fit in with the graduation theme and because she is one of my favorite authors. And I knew none of her novels would ever fit the criteria for our “happy” book club. (Years ago, when my daughter was making fun of my depressing taste in books, she suggested: “Mom, you should write your own book about a girl who becomes an orphan, gets a disease, and then dies. That will be depressing enough for you”.  Well, too late! Anna Quindlen has written all those books – and I love them! I think her novel “Every Last One” is the most  recent book I read that really blew me away.)

But a couple of her non-fiction books to consider: She has a memoir coming out titled “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”.  I will definitely check that out. It might even be a good book club selection. And I liked “How Reading Changed My Life” (Yes, I am such a reading nerd, I read books about reading! Also, I am such a reading nerd, when my soon to be husband and I bought our first house, a fixer-upper, he gave me the task of taping off the hardwood floors with masking tape and newspapers so we could paint. He scolded me because I wasn’t going fast enough. I kept stopping because I found interesting articles to read in the newspapers!  Big bonus: I found out an important secret about my husband. If you do not do a job quickly enough or up to his standards, he will take over. This has gotten me out of a lot of sanding, painting, wallpaper scraping,etc. Even cooking.  Now I basically stand around, listen (or at least pretend!) to him talk and hand him tools. And he thinks I’m a great helper! It only get annoying when he tries to take over one of my sewing projects. And yes – his ideas are usually great. Even more annoying!)

How about you – have you read anything great (or not so great) lately?