I interrupt my regularly scheduled programming to wish this sweet baby the happiest of birthdays! I couldn’t resist the opportunity to tell my girl, now an adult, how very proud I am of the young lady she’s become.
Happy 18th Birthday Julia!
Today, she will don this apropos graphic tee as she begins this new and very exciting phase of life.
Personally, I feel 18 is one of the most momentous of birthdays. Yet, my visit to CVS, to find just the right 18th birthday card, left me empty handed. Sweet sixteen, 21 and 50 were all available, but not 18. Hey Hallmark! Let’s get some smart 18th birthday cards on the shelves. You’re missing out on a big milestone moment!
Forgive me, I digress.
Welcome to adulthood Julia. You may now vote, you may legally enjoy a cocktail with your cousins when we go to Aruba and you can be selected for jury duty (that might be interesting seeing your latest obsession with Criminal Minds.)
Here are a bunch of other things you can also do, but I hope you won’t do most of them!
My last book club post revealed Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens as our next selection. I shared that the popularity of this book left me at #260 on the library hold list. Thankfully, a fellow book clubber breezed through this beautiful read in plenty of time to pass it off to me. I can’t imagine how amazing it must be for author Delia Owens to be a first-time novelist with such a critically acclaimed book. Kudos to Delia and thank you Lisa for sharing your copy with me.
I also noted in my last book club post that I was trying my first audio book. Well, that didn’t turn out well. The book expired before I could even get halfway through and Americanah didn’t hold my interest enough to re-download. I haven’t tried the audio book route again. It’s just too easy to get distracted when listening vs. reading.
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.
Book club enjoyed many things about this book and number one may be that everyone read it. I think that was a first. This allowed for some lively discussion. We all agreed that the story was well written. There was a captivating artistry to the way Owens wrote this story. Her telling of a part of our country that we were all unfamiliar with was interesting and colorful. The imagery of the marsh and small town of Barkley Cove was vivid and expertly written. The beautiful scenes in my mind made me feel this would make a great movie. I could envision the picturesque North Carolina marsh backdrop coming alive on screen.
The story itself had intrigue, mystery, romance and touching emotion that shaped the main character, Kya, in a compelling way. As the dramatic details unfolded, the reader was left wanting more. This is true even at the end, when book club concurred there were a lot of unanswered questions and plenty of room for a sequel.
Interestingly, I spoke with some people who had a hard time getting into the book. The author is very, if not overly, descriptive in her writing. While, for many, that added to the reading experience, I see where it might be a road block. I, personally, struggled early on with the premise – a child abandoned by her family to fend for herself. Had I not been committed to reading this through, I may have put it down merely for the fact that I couldn’t relate, whatsoever, to a mother leaving her child with an abusive father.
The insertion of poetry throughout the chapters also gave me pause. While it may have elevated the story for some, it didn’t add for the many readers who skipped past those bits all together.
All in All
There was a lot of depth to Where the Crawdads Sing with some surprises and twists. The ending was conclusive and, at the end of the day, everyone liked the book. It was unique and beautifully written.
I’m on to teen driver #2! While embracing this milestone moment has been a bit easier the second time around, it has conjured up a new set of worries. Back when Julia got her driver’s license in 2017, I was overwhelmed with the idea of letting go.
This time, I’m more emotionally prepared. The one thing I’ve struggled with, however, is the on-roads. These are the lessons when an instructor picks up the teen driver, either from home or school, and tests their on-road abilities.
Now, as I’m guessing any parent of a teen would agree, I’m eternally grateful to these instructors. They take time and care honing our children’ skills behind the wheel. The problem is, I have no idea who these instructors are.
Who Are You and Where Are You Going with My Child?
When Julia first entered a Driver’s Ed vehicle, I helicoptered my way out to the driveway and introduced myself to her first instructor. Tony did the same for Ally – only because I begged him to. From then on, I have put blind faith in their future instructors.
This became increasingly unnerving with Ally because many of her lessons were at night. Julia’s were over the summer and all during the day. I suddenly realized that I had sent my precious baby off with a complete stranger, in the dark, driving to God knows where.
I couldn’t text her to see if everything was OK because, assuming all was going as planned, she was either observing another teen driver or she herself was driving.
It was a strange feeling considering I had never set eyes on most of her instructors and there is no way to reach anyone. The instructors don’t typically text the students to let them know they have arrived (some do, but not all). It’s up to the student to look out the window and head out when they see the car outside.
So, here’s my thought – the folks at Driver’s Ed are doing great things. They take a whole lot of pressure off parents whose worst nightmare is to drive alongside their inexperienced teen. But, it would be nice to have instructor names, photos and qualifications available on the Driver’s Ed website. Additionally, when your child’s on-road schedule is set, it would be nice to know who is taking them out and how to contact them.
Yes, I know I sound like a total smother, but in this day and age a little extra information is not only nice, but necessary.
When a door opens, go through it and make an art gallery. That’s what Lisa Schiavone, owner of Helen Thomas in Andover, did when the space formerly occupied by Circles of Wisdom became available.
Lisa has always had a love of art. Over the years, her gift and home décor store has shown more and more original artwork by local artists. Stephanie Mobbs-Deady’s signature cow creations and glitzy ladies cheerfully adorn the walls. The keen craftsmanship of Michele Boshar’s mixed media collages delight as onlookers discover the intricate details of her designs.
But, when the Circle of Wisdom space became available, Lisa wanted to do more. She had come to know a young artist by the name of Josh Hilty through Stephanie. Both Lisa and Stephanie admired his work and wanted to foster it. Together, Lisa, Josh, Stephanie and a team of artists transformed the space behind her retail store into a charming art gallery. It oozes with passion, creative energy and a shared love for original works of art.
On February 7th, the artists of Helen Thomas’s pop-up art gallery came together for a Valentine’s inspired reception…For the LOVE of ART & WINE. Toss in a little chocolate and it was a perfect night!
Step & Repeat
Upon entering, Emily O’Brien snapped photos of attendees in a fun photo booth/step & repeat. Delicious chocolates by Sweet Mimi’s were on hand to tempt and sample. Representatives from Scout & Cellar wine shared sips of their tasty organic blends.
Be My Valentine!
The adorable Love Note wall simply made me smile as visitors were given the opportunity to tack up their own expressions of love.
The Pop-Up Art Gallery
The art gallery is a beautiful space to gather, be inspired and appreciate art in a fun and welcoming space. Be sure to check it out while the space is still full of amazing artwork. You may even get a glimpse of Josh working in the active studio space.
Don’t miss this wonderful art experience. Stop in anytime and follow Helen Thomas on Facebook to learn about the next gallery event. They are so much fun – I can’t wait!
My latest book club read took me by surprise, in a good way. I never would have imagined liking a Russian finance and murder thriller. Yet Red Notice by Bill Browder turned out to be a very interesting story. Even when the author delved too deeply into financial, legal and illegal nitty gritty, it was still a page turner.
A real-life political thriller about an American financier in the Wild East of Russia, the murder of his principled young tax attorney, and his dangerous mission to expose the Kremlin’s corruption.
Bill Browder’s journey started on the South Side of Chicago and moved through Stanford Business School to the dog-eat-dog world of hedge fund investing in the 1990s. It continued in Moscow, where Browder made his fortune heading the largest investment fund in Russia after the Soviet Union’s collapse. But when he exposed the corrupt oligarchs who were robbing the companies in which he was investing, Vladimir Putin turned on him and, in 2005, had him expelled from Russia.
In 2007, a group of law enforcement officers raided Browder’s offices in Moscow and stole $230 million of taxes that his fund’s companies had paid to the Russian government. Browder’s attorney Sergei Magnitsky investigated the incident and uncovered a sprawling criminal enterprise. A month after Sergei testified against the officials involved, he was arrested and thrown into pre-trial detention, where he was tortured for a year. On November 16, 2009, he was led to an isolation chamber, handcuffed to a bedrail, and beaten to death by eight guards in full riot gear…
The reason this book worked for me is because Browder’s manner of writing was straightforward. While some of the more business heavy content went over my head, I found myself very wrapped up in Browder’s voice and personal account of this crazy situation.
His early experiences as a young financier right through to his ongoing mission as a human rights activist were gripping. It was hard, at times, to believe that this was a true story being told by the protagonist himself. The corruption in Russia, as detailed by Browder, is unfathomable.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were times I thought Browder was a narcissistic workaholic. His family must have suffered such frustration at his hyper focus on anything but them. Not to mention the dangers Browder brought upon himself and his family coming up against an angered Putin.
Red Notice was however compelling, enlightening and scarily current as Browder and his continued efforts were featured in my local newspaper less than two months ago.
The book not only held my interest, but I passed it off to Tony and he read it in record time.
Despite my initial reservations, I would definitely say this was a book worth reading.
Side Note 1
Red Notice is not the only unexpected thing I’ve found myself into recently. Stranger Things is now on my watch list and I can’t stop! Science fiction-horror? Definitely not my usual thing. But hey, maybe my taste in entertainment is finally evolving!
Side Note 2
In addition to reading Red Notice, I began my first audio book. I never read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie two book clubs ago, so decided I’d give it a try on audio. Not sure I’m the best person for audio books or that this book was a good one to start with, but I’m willing to see how it goes until the end.
Where the Crawdads Singby Delia Owens. Everyone is raving about this book. It is so popular, I am #260 on the library hold list!