"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

26 July 2015

2015 Book Review #25: Inside the O'Briens

I have now read all of Lisa Genova's novels.

And I have loved every.single.one.

My absolute fave was this one pictured above which is also her latest. Yup....Still Alice has slipped to 2nd place.  This one was just incredible from the opening line to the amazing ending.  She is a a very gifted author and if you haven't discovered her books yet, I highly recommend that you do, if you are a reader!

STORY SUMMARY

Living in Charlestown (a neighborhood in Boston) all of his life makes him a townie.  Joe O'Brien is married to Rosie, his high school sweetheart and they are good Irish Catholics.  Joe is a Boston police officer who is well respected, been with the force for years, a very devoted husband and father to 4 children.  JJ, his oldest, is married to Colleen and they are expecting their first baby.They have the flat above Joe and Rosie. JJ is a firefighter for the city of Boston. His son Patrick still lives at home and works in a local bar.  Meghan, is 22 and is part of the corps de ballet for the Boston Ballet and shares the upper flat with the baby of the family, 21 year old Katie who is a yoga teacher and dating a guy named Felix.  Felix is NOT Irish Catholic; in fact, he's Baptist, raised in Brooklyn and is considered a "toonie".  A person who lives in Charlestown but wasn't raised there.  Oh.  And he is also black.  Joe and Rosie do not yet know about Felix.

One day Joe has some movement issues.  He is unbalanced, is often forgetful and unorganized in his reports at work.  He also has begun to exhibit a very odd temper.....often very irritable, angry, and beginning to lash out physically and emotionally. He has moments of stumbling and even fell down while on the job.  For a little while, he thinks it is because of the stress of being a Boston cop and the aging process.  But he is only in his early 40's.  

He agrees to go with Rosie to see a neurologist.  And gets the diagnoses he does NOT suspect.  He has Huntington's Disease.  The cruelest disease known to mankind.

The disease is horrible.  It is a genetic,  neuro-degenerative disease with no effective treatment and no cure.  Every one of Joe's children has a 50% chance of having the mutant gene.  A simple blood test will determine their future.

JJ and Meghan get tested right away.  And yes...they both will acquire HD when they are anywhere between 35-45.  Sometimes symptoms begin earlier.  Because JJ has the gene, his unborn child has a 50% chance of inheriting HD as well.  Yet, he and Colleen choose to not abort the baby.  They will take the chance.

Patrick does not want to know if he has it or not.

And Katie?  She just can't decide.  In fact, she has the chance to move away from Charlestown and open up her own yoga studio, which is something she has always wanted to do. Yet...she is undecided about that, too.

Will she move to Portland, Oregon with Felix?  Will she decide to get the genetic test??

And what will happen with Joe and Rosie??

Read this incredibly moving story to find out.

MY THOUGHTS

Oh my goodness, I loved this.  I was a bit busy all week otherwise I would have finished this book in 2 days!

It is a wrenching, funny, sad, hilarious, thought-provoking, memorable story.

I fell in love with each and every character and Genova's character descriptions are perfect.  You feel like you know this family!

I love how Joe had to delve into this childhood AND come to terms with the disease to fully understand how his mother died.  

I love how he struggles with finding some kind of legacy to pass on to his children and grandchild other than the Huntington's.

I love how the author brought out the love of family and how love is more important than fear and that to embrace love and live in the moment is all that matters.

Although I am not a fan of Zen philosophy, I did enjoy all the quotes on Katie's bedroom wall and they fit in perfectly with her own struggles of whether or not to get tested.  I don't want to tell you the ending (or what she decides to do) as I don't want to be a spoiler.

The book did encourage me to look up some easy yoga exercises to add to my work-out routine and I love them!!

What was one of my favorite things was the description of Boston and Charlestown, Fenway, etc.  Because my own children and husband (and I!!) love the city of Boston and have been there so many times, it was fun to read about our beloved city.  And I could relate to the "townie" thing because that is how it is in the little central NY village I am from...AND how my husband's little village in Plymouth County MA is like.....you are a  townie if you are born and raised there.  But...like Katie, we wanted to move out. I totally understood her struggle to remain with family vs moving away.  Again, I won't tell you what she decides.

It was very interesting to read about this horrible disease and the effect it has on not just the person dealing with it, but on how it impacts family members, friends, and co-workers.  I appreciate the author for giving us, the readers, a glimpse into this issue and how we can monetarily help. (she gives a website at the end of how to donate to finding a cure).

There were MANY quotes from the book that jumped out at me but one of them is this:

"Lotus flowers blossom while rooted in mud, a reminder that beauty and grace can rise above something ugly." (Katie's thoughts about her reasoning for getting a lotus flower tattoo) pg.333, Inside the O'Briens, c. 2015

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (due to some content and language)

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10. 





24 July 2015

Lazy Summer Days Faves

It's Friday and time to link up with other friends sharing Five Fave things from the past week.  We meet over at Susanne's site....how about joining us?

The week started out hazy, hot, and humid!!  But as I write this, the sun is shining in a deep blue sky and the temperatures are in the high 70s with NO humidity and a nice breeze coming through the open windows of my house.  I love it!

FIVE FAVES!

West Stony Creek Falls
north branch of the West Stony Creek
Northville/Placid Trail, Benson NY
Woods Lake
Benson, NY
  • REMOTE HIKE:  Sunday was hot and humid but a friend of mine and I decided to meet at the origin of the Northville/Placid trail and hike the first 1.4 miles in to the woods to the waterfalls on the West Stony Creek.  This is located in the Silver Lake Wilderness Region of the southern Adirondacks (about 80 min from my house) and is one of the most remote regions in the mountains.  We were the only people on the trail until we arrived at the falls and then 2 guys doing the entire trail (133 miles!!) passed us as we were eating a snack.  It was super humid and at 87 degrees I would have rather gone kayaking but I also wanted to hike this.  We put our feet into the creek to cool off and then after snapping some photos, hiked back to the cars, drove about a half mile south and then picked up a trail to Woods Lake.  The lake was gorgeous!  It's only a half mile in from the road.  Yet, because of all the pines, ceders and maples creating a dense forest, it felt as remote as where the waterfalls was.  A fun, but very hot, day!!


  • BRUNCH DATE:  One of the women from my Bible study small group met me for brunch on Tuesday.  What a great time of chatting and eating yummy omelettes.  It was just what I needed...she has 2 older boys and I wanted to get her perspective on a couple of things regarding parenting young adult children!  It's always good to have these close friends who come alongside you and encourage.  We pray for each other, too which is important.  I find it a huge blessing!


photo courtesy of the press reader/Troy Record
  • MOTHER-DAUGHTER DATE NIGHT:  I splurged on tickets for Claire and I to return to this place, located in Saratoga Spa State Park,  on Wednesday evening.  Each summer we splurge on one evening of amphitheater seating.  If we can't get tickets, we just use her free lawn pass (good until she graduates from hs).  It was fun to be going to see a ballet company we knew nothing about.  However, although the National Ballet of China had some simple, stark, beautiful sets, and elaborate costumes, the plot was very difficult to follow even with the synopsis.  And I've discovered I really don't care for modern ballet all that much...at least not the way the Chinese did it.  I do so love the Russian Ballet Companies and of course NYCB.  But Claire really enjoyed watching it and the place was packed.  During intermission there were fireworks to celebrate the 80th anniversary of this, which is also located in the Saratoga Spa State Park.  The weather was perfect because earlier in the day, the high humidity broke which was wonderful!  So all in all, it was a nice night out.
Good morning from my deck!

  • READING OUTSIDE:  I love to read about as much as I love to hike.  And I'm loving this lower humidity we've had since Wednesday morning!  All the windows of the house have been open and the breeze coming in is so nice. Our deck gets the morning sun so I enjoy sitting out there after my morning walk or in the afternoon when it's cool and shady.  I've been doing a lot of reading this summer.  There are so many good books in the town library!!

  • Smart Phone:  I finally joined the masses and have a smart phone.  I'm actually taking over my oldest daughter's as my husband got her a new upgrade for her birthday.  All hers needed was a new battery.  I won't use it for social media sites or games or any of that...I refuse!!  But I am sure going to like using it for the GPS because my old Garmin, in my car, needs an update and to update it is more than the cost of it!  How in the world did we all manage before all this technology??! :D
That wraps up my faves list......how about you? what are you enjoying about these lazy days of summer??





22 July 2015

2015 Book Review #24: You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity

I just finished a book I bought Dave for Christmas.  Yes, I started reading it over Winter Break.  No, I didn't finish it until this morning.  But I have also read novels, the Bible, a Bible study book, magazines, hiking books, etc.  And this book needed me to focus.  I did a lot of high lighting.  And nodding of the head.  And praying.  It's awesome.  I'm glad I savored each chapter.  In fact, I'm going to go back through the book and do some journaling about the parts I've highlighted!

SUMMARY
  The book is written by the author of Crazy Love (which I LOVED!) and his wife.  His wife takes part of the chapter for her thoughts.  Each chapter then has some questions for you to meditate on and perhaps journal about or discuss with your spouse or children.

The book talks about how we say in our marriage vows (many of us) "Until death do us part".  And that there are eternal rewards...or regrets...depending on how we actually conduct/spend our lives.

They talk about how it's great to not let things destroy your marriage but that we also can't let our marriage distract us from the greater things God has for us.  

When I first chose the book as a gift, I honestly thought it was going to be an actual marriage book to help your marriage or give you ideas on how to better communicate, serve God, etc.  I was NOT expecting that it is really about your marriage relationship with Christ.  We are the Bride!!  And I was so happy it was about this.  Because I needed the reminders in the book and I needed some of then new ways of thinking about my marriage that the authors point out.

God is a jealous God. He wants us to pursue Him first and most!  It is the first Great Commandment ("love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind")

The authors point out that love, laughter and intimacy were created for us to enjoy.  But that there is also a way to love our family in deeper ways without also ignoring heaven.  And that it comes down to our focus.

Here's a quote from the back of the book that I really like:

"Jesus was right.  We have it all backwards.  The way to have a great marriage is by not focusing on marriage."
Marriage is great.  But it is NOT forever. 

I learned something from every single chapter.  Here are the chapter titles:


  • The Secret to Happily Ever After
  • Marriage Isn't That Great
  • Pursue the Perfect Marriage
  • Learn to Fight Well
  • Don't Waste Your Marriage
  • Is There Hope for Us?
  • What's Really Best for the Kids?
  • The Amazing Race
and then a wonderful prayer that really spoke to me.  It brought tears to my eyes.

You will discover that the most important relationship we can ever have, is the one with God.  And that no marriage is complete with out God in it. You will learn the importance of serving God...together....and to have joy in your life....complete joy!  You will learn what is really what children need from their parents.  It isn't what you think!

Live out the gospel in your marriage.  It's the most important thing we can do for our family.

I firmly believe that this book should be required reading for any Christian engaged couple.  For any married couple, no matter how long you have been married or how long you have been a Believer/Christian.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.









NOTE:  this book can be downloaded for free by going to www.youandmeforever.org


21 July 2015

Standing Strong

It was hot.

And humid.  Unusual for the mountains.

But there we were.  Sunday morning at 9 a.m in one of the most remote sections of the Adirondacks.  

Silver Lake Wilderness Region.  Check it out here.

The goal?  to hike 1.3 miles into the woods, along the north branch of the West Stony Creek on the Northville/Placid trail to a 4 foot waterfalls.  Yeah..the falls is small.  But...it's the hiking that counts.

Here's one of the first things that caught my eye once I oohed and ahhed over the falls:





These are rock cairns.  Typically put there by hikers or forest rangers to guide or mark a spot.

The first word that popped into my mind when I saw the arrangement (it's unusual because most cairns are just one structure..this is 2 small ones) was "peace".  I felt like someone was marking the most peaceful spot along the creek....right near the falls on that rock ledge.

But after hiking further and stopping to pause and meditate while my hiking buddy was snapping photos, I started thinking about how strong those rocks actually are.  They haven't moved!  Someone balanced them and set them up on this outcropping over the creek, yet they haven't moved.  Rock is strong and signifies a solidity of whatever makes up the rock.  I'm no scientist.  But I am spiritual.  And I started thinking about strength. 

The strength to use my 2 feet on a hot, humid day in the deep woods with swarms of mosquitoes and deer flies buzzing around me (and thankfully never landing on me to bite due to some awesome all natural spray I have!) and that I do this because of the sport of hiking.  It's my passion.  And I thank God I get to do it often.  He gives me the physical strength to do it.

But more than that...God is my Rock.  He gives me spiritual strength to stand and walk through whatever life dishes out on the journey.  

"I will love You, O Lord (God) my Strength.  The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."~Psalm 18:2~ 

Those rocks aren't going to move unless someone comes along and re-arranges them.  Hopefully no one will do that (most hikers are respectful) and those cairns will point the way to the falls for future hikers.

God can point me in the direction I should go on life's journey.  All I need to do is focus on Him and ask for direction.  He will give it. I can hear a still small Voice deep in the heart and recesses of my mind when I sit and pause.....and listen............

Standing strong in the midst of the mundane, the boring, the trials, the triumphs...whatever God brings your way, requires us to stand on the Rock....Stand firm on Him.  He will guide us.


and it will be refreshing..........
West Stony Creek falls/North branch
Northville/Placid Trail
Benson, NY
19 July 2015



















































17 July 2015

SIMPLE SUMMER FAVES

I love summer!!  It's been a glorious one so far.  Not too much rain or high humidity.  I am in heaven....so I'm looking back over the past TWO weeks (I missed last week's FFF due to no internet service where we were) to share with you some of the blessings that make my FIVE FAVES list.  A huge thank you to Susanne for hosting this each week!

FIVE FAVES

  • CAPE COD VACATION!  Dave and I alone for 3 days!  Then our daughters joined us for the last 4 days.....it was heaven on Cape Cod. We biked out to Monomoy Wildlife Refuge and then hiked the main loop.  What a thrill.  We hiked on 4 different types of terrain!  And we biked on about 6 miles of the Cape Cod Rail Trail for a total of 12 miles.  And we ate good food.  And drank  good wine. And laughed.  And read good books. And studied Scripture.  And walked in the ocean.  And felt the breeze.  And explored Chatham.  And P-Town and Sundae School. Yummy cocktails.  Dinners out.  A wonderful, quaint cottage.  The smell of the ocean.  Beach walks. Strolling downtown. Meeting a fave author (Lisa Genova!!!) Eating fresh seafood. Glorious sunsets over the Atlantic. Perfect week.
on the Hardings Beach trail

Dave loving Nantucket Sound and Hardings Beach

Hardings Beach at Sunset
Chatham, MA 2015



  • BREAKFAST OUTDOORS  Oh how I love my deck.  What a blessing to me.  I still remember when my husband finished building it, back in 1996.  Our house was 2 years old and I was longing for one.  I was so happy because I love eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out there! This past week was especially nice in the mornings for outside dining.


  • NYCBALLET!  Because we were away all last week, we missed the first week of the NYC Ballet being in town.  So, this past week, Claire and I headed up here to see their Wednesday evening performance.  We met my sister Joy and another friend of mine joined us with her 2 girls and another high school girl.  What a beautiful evening for the ballet!  It has become an annual outing for Claire and I and typically we see at least 3-4 shows. We are blessed because we have a free lawn pass that gets us into any classical event until 2017 when she graduates.  We got the pass when she first started playing violin back in 5th grade.  And yup...we use it every summer!    Next week we will be going to the National Ballet of China performance. And I splurged on inside tickets!  That should be fun!

Claire and I at the ballet in Saratoga
15 July 
  • BALLET CLASS!  I was super excited for Claire, my ballerina girl.  She was able to take a "drop in" pointe class at this place on Tuesday evening.  And the instructor is a former member of the NYCBallet!!  How fun it was to watch her take this class.  She was very happy!  She is going to take another one in a couple of weeks.  It's a blessing to live this close to Saratoga.


  • FRIENDS!  I had time Thursday afternoon, as did my good friend Lynn, to meet over at the local $tarbucks. We sat outdoors as it was perfect summer weather...temps in low 70s and sunny with blue sky.  It had been a LONG time since we had a good chat.  I ordered a yummy iced peach green tea and we chatted for well over an hour.  It felt great to catch up on our lives and share what God has been doing.  I love these summer days of being able to connect with friends.
That pretty much sums up my week.

I hope you all have a refreshing weekend enjoying the awesome summer weather!



16 July 2015

2015 Book Review #23: Left Neglected

I got this book signed by the author!!

I actually had her sign it for my sister Joy as an early birthday gift (she has a Dec bday like me).....or just because I like giving gifts and I know Joy likes this authors' books.  But, because I met Lisa Genova in downtown Chatham (Cape Cod) while we were there on vacation last week, I decided to also read this novel before giving it to my sister last night. I had read her first one (Still Alice) about a month or so ago, and I read Love Anthony (my fave so far) sometime last year.  AND.....I didn't buy her latest....I happened to see it on the town library shelf a couple days ago so am just now starting that one.  (Inside the O'Briens)   No matter which novel of Lisa's you pick up, you will be hooked!  She is a phenomenal writer who touches on various neurological conditions/disabilities.  She actually has a PhD in neuroscience!  And she was the sweetest, personable woman.  It was a pleasure to chat with her briefly.  I think it's fun to meet a favorite author, especially when she/he is as brilliant as Lisa is.

STORY SUMMARY

The story takes place in a suburb west of Boston and in the mountains of Vermont.  Sarah Nickerson is a 37 yr old mother of 3 who also happens to be a high powered executive in a very fast-paced firm in downtown Boston.  She is married to Bob who is also extremely busy working for a start-up company in Boston.  They own both houses (one in the burbs and the one in a small Vermont village).  All 3 children are under the age of 8 and are also very active. Their oldest son, Charlie, has been diagnosed with ADHD and is a handful.  Lucy, is a typical 5 year old who loves mommy's attention and bedtime stories.  And baby Linus is....well....a baby.  Who goes to daycare and rarely sees Mommy or Daddy.  In fact, they have a nanny, who helps to manage the children after school and daycare in the early evening hours.  Bob and Sarah are lucky if they make it home to the burbs by dessert and bedtime for the children. They are highly educated, extremely wealthy, and always busy.

One day, Sarah is super busy and is trying to multi-task on her way to work.  As she sits on the Mass Pike, she searches for her cell.  And then she gets in a horrible accident which leaves her with the condition known as "left neglect".

But.....don't let the title fool you.  (at first glance, I thought the book was going to be about the struggles of leaving your children with nannies/daycares, etc)

There are also underlying themes of emotional abandonment she faced as a little girl and teen from her mother.  And there is always the struggle between career and family/home life. 

Left Neglect is a real diagnoses and is somewhat rare from what I've read.  Bascially, Sarah has no awareness of her left side.  She isn't paralyzed..she just has no awareness that she has a left hand/foot, etc.  So she begins a few months of occupational and physical therapies in a rehab center.  After 10 weeks, she must go home to face the thought that she might never be fully "normal" again.

And...she has the difficult decision to make about whether to return to her career.

Read the book to find out what happens to this precious family!

MY THOUGHTS

Wow.  Another excellent book from this author!  I read it in 3 days and loved it.  I  enjoy the humor in it as well as the more serious aspects.

I found my self cheering for her to accomplish simple tasks.

I was very interested in how the author approached the various techniques with helping Charlie  to complete his own tasks.  All of the methods used in the book are methods we do in the special education classrooms I teach in.

I always love her setting descriptions.  They really help you conjure up the various places and it's fun to read about places you have been to, or that you can imagine based on your own experiences in those cities/states.

This book is real.....the characters jump out at you and you feel like you want to meet them!  I love that about her writing.  It's like every day stuff.  It's like real life.  And I appreciate that the author brings out the dangers of texting and using a cell phone while driving.  Kudos to her for that!!  (and people wonder why NYS has strict cell phone policies! Now..if we can just get the state of MA to make talking on a cell illegal......!!)

From Sarah's tragedy, she learns empathy.  She learns to deal with her past and to forgive.  She learns to embrace the simple pleasures/moments in life. And she learns what really is important.

And nothing is impossible.  A big theme that comes out in this story.

(and that was the message she wrote on the title page to my sister!)

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.