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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections



Like all years, this has been one of ups and downs.


Unlike most years, the ups and downs have hit higher and lower than usual.


It's been a year that I've spent more time reflecting on things.

I've spent more time making personal decisions about what I want out of life, what I want to do with my time left here in this world.


Laura Lippman, who does a lot of amazing things, writes a one word resolution column that I look forward to.  You can read this year's at her blog, The Memory Project.  http://www.journalscape.com/LauraLippman/2015-12-28-16:13/


It's hard to come up with just one word.  

It's especially hard if you're a wordy kinda person who has never in her life been able to share a single thing in, as my friend Michael Dean would always beg, "Oh, Dear God - the abbreviated version, please!"


But I did.  



But.  


Well.


Actually.


I admit it - I couldn't really just do one.

So I came up with two.


One is "do."

The other is "stretch."


Here's a confession.

I have not shared this with many people 'cause it's just silly.

And, it seems, I think - so unlike me.

I like to think of myself as an independent sort.

And I guess I am.

But it's only been up to a point.

It has not, for many years, included getting in a car and just driving myself some place.  

Not, of course, including around Boone, or areas fairly close.

But whenever I've wanted to go anywhere more than a couple hours away, Donald Scott Barley has always, always, said "sure, I'll take you."

And I had grown to count on that.

And it's lovely having a partner who will do that, and he's fun as all hell to travel with so I really hadn't given it a lot of thought.

Didn't even realize how I had caused my own world to shrink.

My Bouchercon friends had no idea that driving myself to Raleigh was as big a deal as it was.  Most of them had no idea that getting myself there was a very big deal to me.

And, after doing it, it was not the big deal I had been concerned about either.


I just did it.


With the help of Samantha.  

Samantha is our GPS lady.

And although she gets a little grumpy and will start berating me to "Make a U-Turn."  and to make it as soon as possible, she and I travel well together.

As a matter of fact, she's part of my "Do." 

In 2016 I intend to hop into my car and ask Miss Samantha to help me find my way to visit family in Knoxville.  A girlfriend in Nashville.  Hell's Bells, who knows what's next?  Watch out friends, I may just show up on your doorstep, knock on the door and demand a cup of coffee!


I know.


Silly, right?


But at least I'm getting myself outside of my little self-made borders of constriction.

And that's not all.

I've made some additional plans to "do."

I'm not going to sit at my computer and just bitch about the political situation here in North Carolina that makes me sad and angry and frustrated.

Nope.

I'm going to be working to help Sue Counts in her bid for the House against Jonathan Jordan.

I have NO idea what I'll be doing, but something.

Whatever Sue thinks I can do to help.  It's past time for me to be out there actually doing something.


What else?

I'm not sure, but this is my year to DO.


For awhile I was working with our literacy association.  I stopped doing that because I was working with an individual in attempts to improve reading and comprehension skills.  A person I grew to respect and care about.  A person who had a story that broke my heart.  It's not my story to tell, so I won't.  But, I learned more from the association than he did.  I have a problem with being able to remove my heart from situations that have caused people pain.  And from this experience I have learned that my skill sets do not include one-on-one assistance, but more in the way of administrative assistance.  Spending my entire working life as a secretary can be put back to use in my retirement in a way that I'll find fulfilling, I think.



My second one word resolution is "stretch."  


I hope to stretch myself creatively.  

My publishing, up until this past year, included personal memoir essays, my novel, and helping Harley write his book.

This year I had two short stories published, so my "stretch" has already begun.

We're going to continue that stretch in the year 2016 and see just how far we can take it.

It'll be a fun thing.


And tonight I'm going to sit myself down and do something that has become a part of my year-end routine.

I'm going to read this amazing book by Neil Gaiman.





Have you read it?

Do it.

You'll thank me.


And I wish you all a 2016 of good things.


Do the things you've been putting off, maybe.  


Or do more of the things you love doing.


I'll be thinking about you while Samantha helps me get out and discover a whole bunch of new places and things.







Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A few Christmas giggles



Spending time with my sister-in-law, Lee Ann Royal Barley, always involves a giggle or two.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Memory



I remember Christmas mornings with my mom and dad like they all happened yesterday.  I remember being SO excited.  I remember a lot of laughter, big meals and people dropping in all day.

I also remember that I was never a fan of dolls.

Never.

I just never "got" dolls.  They were cute, but mute.

I rather have a book - even back then.

But there was always a doll (or two, or more) under the tree.

When my parents moved from Cambridge to Atlanta, they brought all those dolls with them.

The had been living in the attic for all those many years, most of them still in the original boxes.


In this picture where I'm holding the doll, I'm pretty sure I'm thinking "Here, Dad, you hold the doll - I want to be in the band."


What I do remember clearly is that someone hit the drum pedal too hard and before Christmas Day was over the drum had a huge hole in it.


WHO hit the pedal that hard?  Well, that I don't rightly recall . . . 


MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPIEST OF HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!











Sunday, December 20, 2015

A much more interesting "locked in the bathroom" story!


My friend Janet Reid sent me this.


Makes my story from yesterday sound beyond puny!


I applaud this woman - 


http://www.suffolkgazette.com/news/pensioner-locked-in-loo/






Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday Meanderings

Saturday afternoon at home. 

I went back to see The Force Awakens again today.

And Donald went with me this time.

The movie was every bit as enjoyable the second time around as it was the first.

Donald thought it was terrific too.

Then we decided to have a late lunch at the little Mexican restaurant near the movie theater and it was very good - always is.

But then, I got locked in the ladies room stall and held captive by a malfunctioning lock for about 20 minutes.

Locksmith husband enjoying his after lunch coffee, slightly bewildered but apparently basically unconcerned by a missing wife.

Before giving in to the thought that I might have to drop to the floor and shimmy myself under the door which, really, just was NOT going to happen, I banged on the door. 

I kicked on the door. 

I yelled "Hello" more times than Adele says it in her new song.

Finally a waiter opened the door and said, "Hello?"

I said "Hello."

He said "Hello?" again

and I said, "The door won't open."

He said, "Have you turned the knob."

I lowered and shook my head.

Counted to 10 and said "Yes. The door won't open. You want to try from your side?"

He did. No luck.

So he went to get someone else and they came back with a key and were able to spring me.

When I got back to the table and told Donald I'd been locked in the bathroom stall his response was, "Oh! I was wondering where you might have gotten off to."

The restaurant manager happened by and I told him what happened thinking it might be something he'd want to know about 'cause I was pretty sure I wouldn't be the only person that was going to happen to.

And this is when our problems began.

He didn't believe me.

AND told me the stalls in the ladies' room did not even have any place a key would work.

Whoa.



Don't.


Just.



Don't do that.



Don't act like someone has just made something up without checking it out first.


I could feel my hair beginning to catch on fire when he said that.

My response was something like, "Fine, Follow me, bucko."

Imagine his surprise when we got to the bathroom and were able to reenact the locked stall story.


The stall which has a door which has a lock which uses a key from the outside.


Y'all - 



WHY WOULD SOMEONE LIE A BOUT BEING LOCKED IN A BATHROOM STALL FOR GOD'S SAKE?!



Anyhooooo -


It's been a nice day.  I'm sure there could have been worse bathrooms to be been locked up in.

Now, it's time for coffee and my book.

Happy Weekend, Everyone!  Be very careful in public bathroom stalls.





Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Shopping in Meat Camp, NC



Now, as you all know, I refer to our home community of Meat Camp, NC as the glorious edge of the wilderness.

So, shopping?

In Meat Camp?


Pfft.


Hardly.


There is a little family owned convenience store a few miles away by the name of Plan B where we stop to pick up milk, bread, ice cream and fresh veggies.





But "shopping" shopping?


nah.


EXCEPT


at a wonderful little pottery studio which just happens to be real close by.


And owned by our friends Keith and Willie Lambert.


Keith and Willie also have a place on the coast in Beaufort, NC by the name of Shipyard Earthworks.


They're both internationally known for their work in pottery, stoneware, marble and paint. Their sculptures can be found in public as well as private collections in the US and abroad.


So, having them share their work with us here in the NC mountains makes us as proud as you can imagine.


Jill picked me up this morning in her limo and we spent a couple hours with Keith and Willie.
























After we shopped, touched and admired everything in the studio, we wandered around outside the studio for awhile and admired another kind of beauty.

The natural beauty of these wondrous and magical mountains.







I love our neighborhood.


And I have now finished my Christmas shopping.


But I can't show you what I bought 'cause . . .  well, Christmas!  you know!  It's all about the surprise!















Monday, December 14, 2015

Books Read in 2015 (Revised)






I've been diligently keeping a list of books I've read since 2010.


It's one of those things I used to always say I was going to do, but would somehow forget to keep up with fairly early on.


Keeping up with it here on Meanderings and Muses, for some reason, made it an easier and more fun thing to do.


If you're interested in past reading lists - they're here:


You can see my 2010 list here -







And, you can see my 2011 list here -










And, my 2013 list -






And, my 2014 list -






If a book is on my list, it means I liked it.  

I am not one to finish a book I don't care for, or am even feeling lukewarm about.  I know there are people out there who feel like they can't put a book down once they've invested some time in it, and that's fine.  That's just not me.  



So I'm posting my entire list and simply including my most memorable reads of the year within that list. 


Truth be told, I'm terrible at remembering a lot about most books once I've read it and moved on.  A lot of people can remember books, the plots, even quote passages from their favorites well after they've been read.

I wish I could do that.












The best I can do, however, is remember when a particular book made enough of an impression that it actually still brings on a bit of a physical reaction when I see the title.

A nudge of remembrance.





So. 


That's what I'm going with here.


My own unorthodox gut-reaction list of most memorable books of 2015, which I've highlighted in bold letters.


And, those very few you see in red.  They're my "wow" reads.  

And, because it's only the 14th of December, there will be more added right up until the end of the year, so check back from time to time to see what's new (and what's good).



There are two series I discovered this year by new or, at least, "new to me" authors that I want to share.


Neely Tucker and Anne Cleeland.  I look forward to reading more from both.




For those who aren't familiar with the "(ARC)" you see on some of these titles, it means "Advance Reading Copy."  Some of those titles were "ARCs" when I read them, but have now been released.  Some, however, are not due to be released until next year, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait.  



Happy Reading, Everyone!!







Books Read in 2015



Reading now, but not finished:

CAROLINA WRITERS AT HOME edited by Meg Reid, Photos by Rob McDonald



Finished -


A NIGHT WITHOUT ARMOR by Jewell

DEEP SOUTH by Paul Theroux


BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert

MILLER'S VALLEY by Anna Quindlen (ARC)

THE GIRLS by Lisa Jewell (ARC)

THE WEDDING TREE by Robin Wells

THE WITCHES OF CAMBRIDGE by Menna Van Praag (ARC)


A PRISONER IN MALTA by Phillip DePoy (ARC)


DAY SHIFT by Charlaine Harris


PRETENDING TO DANCE by Diane Chamberlain


MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD by Charlaine Harris


SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY by Sylvia Beach


WRITING ALL WRONGS by Ellery Adams


STARS OF FORTUNE by Nora Roberts


THE EX by Alafair Burke (ARC)


THE PASSENGER by Lisa Lutz (ARC)


WHERE IT HURTS by Reed Farrel Coleman (ARC)


GRANT PARK by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

THE SUMMER WE ALL RAN AWAY by Cassandra Parkin


THE SEA KEEPER'S DAUGHTERS by Lisa Wingate


IN THE DARK PLACES by Peter Robinson


MY SOUTHERN JOURNEY by Rick Braggs


SAFE HARBOR by Judith Arnold


A WALK ON THE BEACH by Joan Anderson


THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE! by Jonathan Evison


PARIS TIME CAPSULE by Ella Carey


THE PARIS KEY by Juliet Blackwell


HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL: A NOVEL by Melanie Sumner


THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME by Sandra Block (ARC)


SOUTHERN SOLSTICE by Sarah Sadler


THE GUEST ROOM by Chris Bohjalian (ARC)


CHARLESTON by Margaret Bradham Thornton


KEEPER'S REACH by Carla Neggers


ACADEMY GIRLS by Nora Carroll (ARC)


THE HOUSE ON SEVENTH STREET by Karen Vorbeck Williams (ARC)


EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES by Laura Dave


THE SECOND SISTER by Marie Bostwick


THE RACE TO PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton


THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton (ARC)


LONG UPON THE LAND by Margaret Maron



AS NIGHT FALLS by Jenny Milchman


TOUCHING THE MOON by Lisa M. Airey


CRIMSON SHORE by Preston & Child (ARC)

SUMMER AT HIDEAWAY KEY by Barbara Davis


THE LITTLE MEN by Megan Abbott


WHAT YOU SEE by Hank Phillippi Ryan (ARC)


THE HOME PLACE by Carrie La Seur


HEARTBROKEN by Lisa Unger


GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee


VORACIOUS by Cara Nicoletti (ARC)


THE BOOK OF LOST AND FOUND by Lucy Foley (ARC)


COME RAIN OR COME SHINE by Jan Karon (ARC)


IN THE BLOOD by Lisa Unger


DARKNESS, BY OLD FRIEND by Lisa Unger


FRAGILE by Lisa Unger


THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP by Nina George


NANTUCKET by Nan Rossiter (ARC)


NAMED OF THE DRAGON by Susanna Kearsley (ARC)


THE CAKE THERAPIST by Judith Fertig


DEVIL'S BRIDGE by Linda Fairstein (ARC)


MY VERY BEST FRIEND by Cathy Lamb (ARC)


ALL THE SINGLE LADIES by Dorothea Benton Frank


THE SISTERS CLUB by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (ARC)


SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW by David Bell (ARC)


THE WAYS OF THE DEAD by Neely Tucker


MURDER, D.C. by Neely Tucker (ARC)



A SPECTER OF JUSTICE by Mark de Castrique (ARC)


PINES by Blake Crouch


SEASON OF SALT & HONEY by Hannah Tunnicliffe (ARC)


STREET JUSTICE by Kris Nelscott


THE SECRETS WE KEEP by Stephanie Butland (ARC)


LAND OF SHADOWS by Rachel Howzell Hall


SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK by Robert Beatty (ARC)


OLIVAY by Deborah Reed (ARC)


THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF THE RELUCTANT BOOK FAIRY by Elizabeth George (ARC)


THE NATURE OF THE BEAST by Louise Penny (ARC)

THE WITCH OF BOURBON STREET by Suzanne Palmieri (ARC)


UNDERSTANDING PAT CONROY by Catherine Seltzer


GHOST IMAGE by Ellen Crosby


NEVER DIE ALONE by Lisa Jackson (ARC)


MULTIPLE EXPOSURE by Ellen Crosby


A DIFFERENT REFLECTION by Jane L. Gibson (ARC)


MEMORY MAN by David Baldacci


DESOLATION ROW by Kay Kendall


THE FORGOTTEN ROOM by Lincoln Child (ARC)


THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US by Annie Barrows (ARC)


THE OTHER DAUGHTER by Lauren Willig (ARC)


WYLDING HALL by Elizabeth Hand (ARC)


THE TRAVELLING TEASHOP by Belinda Jones


NOWHERE BUT HOME by Liza Palmer


LIAR'S BENCH by Kim Michele Richardson (ARC)


STEALING MARILYN MONROE by Sophie Warren


THE WEDDING CAKE TREE by Melanie Hudson (ARC)


THE SOUND OF GLASS by Karen White (ARC)


THE FAERIE TREE by Jane Cable (ARC)


BEING AUDREY HEPBURN by Mitchell Kriegman


THE THIRD WIFE by Lisa Jewell (ARC)


THE SUMMER OF GOOD INTENTIONS by Wendy Francis (ARC)


THE STRANGER by Harlan Coben


CREATURE COMFORTS by Trisha Ashley (ARC)


BRADSTREET GATE by Robin Kirman (ARC)


PLANTATION SHUDDERS by Ellen Byron (ARC)


THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH by Dana Gynther (ARC)


PLAY ON: NOW, THEN, AND FLEETWOOD MAC: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Mick Fleetwood and Anthony Bozza


BEFORE I WAKE by Anne Frasier


HUGO AND ROSE by Bridgette Foley ( ARC)


SOMEONE IS WATCHING by Joy Fielding (ARC)


PERMANENT SPRING SHOWERS by Scott D. Southard (ARC)


TRIGGER WARNING by Neil Gaiman


NIGHTBIRD by Alice Hoffman (ARC)


THE IDEA OF LOVE by Patti Callahan Henry (ARC)


PLEASANT DAY by Vera Jane Cook (ARC)


PARIS, HE SAID by Christine Sneed (ARC)


THE GHOSTS OF PEPPERNELL MANOR by Amy M. Reade (ARC)


HUSH HUSH by Laura Lippman

MURDER IN HINDSIGHT by Anne Cleeland (ARC)


MURDER IN RETRIBUTION by Anne Cleeland


MURDER IN THRALL by Anne Cleeland


THE ART OF BAKING BLIND by Sarah Vaughn (ARC)


LITTLE BLACK LIES by Sandra Block (ARC)


BLUEPRINTS by Barbara Delinsky (ARC)


THE GUEST COTTAGE by Nancy Thayer (ARC)


LAVINA by Mary Marcus (ARC)


IN WILDERNESS: A NOVEL by Diane Thomas (ARC)



WHAT HAPPENS IN TUSCANY by T.A. Williams (ARC)


IT STARTED AT SUNSET COTTAGE by Bella Osborne (ARC)


THE WOMAN IN THE MOVIE STAR DRESS by Praveen Asthana


THE DWELLING PLACE by Elizabeth Musser


THE BODY AT WRAPP'S MILL: A Grist Mill Mystery with Marcy Dehanne by Celia H. Miles


WOMEN IN CLOTHES by Sheila Heti and Heidi Julavits


THE CATALAIN BOOK OF SECRETS by Jessica Lourey


WINTER AT THE DOOR by Sarah Graves


WEST OF SUNSET by Stewart O'Nan


THE MAGNIFICENT SPINSTER by May Sarton


THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins


A FRENCH PIROUETTE by Jennifer Bohnet


SEASON OF THE DRAGONFLIES by Sarah Creech


LAND OF ENCHANTMENT by Liza Wieland (ARC)


WALKING ON TRAMPOLINES by Frances Whiting (ARC)












Sunday, December 13, 2015

Annual Neighborhood Christmas Party - 2015



This year's neighborhood Christmas Party may have been the best ever.


(and I may say that every single year)



Donald and I moved here in 1996 which is, I think, the first year the parties started because many of us seemed to find our way to Meat Camp at about the same time.


We've had some new folks come since then, and we've had some folks leave.


And there are some years not everyone is able to make it.


Larry and Marie weren't able to be here this year.
Mike and Franza are back in Florida for the winter.
Bruce and Georgia were also missed this year.



The rest of us gathered, as we have for the past several years, at Judy and Fred's.  Prior to Fred and Judy taking over Christmas Party duties, it was held in a house now empty that we referred to as the Meat Camp Community Center.

Back in those days the game consisted of gag gifts with a price limit of about $5.00.  

Lordy, but are we happy to have moved away from the $5.00 gag gift days.

For real.


And here's where I want to say how very much I love Fred and Judy.  They are two of the kindest, most giving people I've ever met.

And Fred is also one of the funniest people I've ever met.

And y'all know how much I love funny people.










Although a tight knit neighborhood group, we don't get together as a whole group too often.


And when we do we are genuinely happy to be together again.


Lots of smiles.


Lots of laughs.





There is a lot of good will and a lot of love shared.


We've been through a lot together - good times and bad.  We've learned that we can count on one another when we need to reach out.


When better than Christmas to remember, hug and let friends and neighbors know just how much they mean to you.








And, oh yes - we eat.

We eat quite well.




































We might have a drink or two






and we take a few pictures














did I mention that we laugh ?





and maybe get a wee bit silly?






There are non-stop conversations - we are a talky group, for sure









AND, we play a Santa game.

I know you're all familiar with it.

Draw a number and as your turn comes up you can choose a gift from under the tree


OR


if someone has a gift you really like, well, you can take their gift.


Since our neighborhood is home to a lot of talented people, you can guess there are a lot of wonderful gifts.


Someone made the comment last night that we had enough nice handmade items under that tree to open our own gallery.


Suffice to say, we've learned not to fall in love with the first gift we get 'cause chances are we're not going to end up with it. 


Although, some strange things happen along the way.


We have several artists and artisans and craftsmen.   Artists in watercolor, oils, acrylics, collage artists, potters, sculptors, knitters, basket weavers, woodworkers, photographers, writers, stained glass artists, seamstresses, leather workers, weavers, blacksmiths.  And, what's remarkable to me, is that many have developed new interests and are honing new talents from year to year.  










Now, I want you to keep an eye on this painting.


It's one by our own Jill Smith (who is also, I'm proud to say, the artist of the cover of my "Whimsey").   Jill doesn't have one of her paintings in the Santa drawing every year, but when she does it is what's probably known as a "hot ticket" item.

I have long lusted over one of Jill's paintings - as has everyone else on who hasn't been lucky enough to go home with one over the years.


Ingrid is looking pretty happy here isn't she?  Well, I guess!  It's a Jill Smith original.




And this is one of Danny's wonderful pieces






Here's our Danny with the long hair and beard.  Mountain man or hippie?  You decide.  Renaissance Man, truth be told.  Alongside him is his much adored Lady Mary Anne





Well,  gee.  Ingrid lost her painting  (to me!). 




 But.  She now has one of Jill's sculptures, so not too upset by any means.




Judy has pottery "sipping glasses" made by our Keith.








Well, well, well.  I lost Jill's painting to Jeff.  harumph.





Judy lost her sipping glasses, but ended up with a photograph taken by me.





Lookie here!  Jeff lost Jill's painting to Donald!








But ended up with this absolutely unbelievably beautiful chopping block that no one would ever chop on.  It's a piece of art, I think, meant to be looked at and touched. Touched often - it's smooth as silk.  I don't remember the exotic woods Paul used to make this, but it is exquisite.  (Jeff didn't keep this for long either, bless his heart).






Jill had the best time going through this basket full of goodies - many of which were homemade by our Ingrid.  (um, Jill didn't get to keep it though, sadly).







Look what I have!  One of Keith & Willies pieces of pottery.  It is SCRUMPTIOUS!  (Did I come home with it?  Well.  No)










Donald had this (for awhile).  And I could not stop caressing it.









Dean's holding a chopping block made by Fred (he didn't get to hold it for long).





Oops. Donald lost his gorgeous piece of wood and is now, I think, praying over unwrapped gifts under the tree (or maybe he's just got the giggles).




I'm not sure what Melba got (but I'm guessing she didn't get to keep it anyway).





Paul playing dress-up in a hand knitted scarf by Ingrid  (I think Jeff's coveting it).




Well, well, well.

GUESS WHO ENDED UP WITH JILLS PAINTING!?!









This piece is especially meaningful since it's a scene here in our neighborhood.  

Isn't it wonderful?



And after the gifts have been opened, loved, lost, returned, and lost again - we're back to eating, laughing, and socializing.



Donald gets to meet and play with May.  WHAT a sweetie she is!








And I wasn't the only gal there sporting cowboy boots.  Loving Ingrid's boots!









  


  
me, Willie, Mary Anne and Jill















A couple more piece of Jill's work





And a good time was had by all