July 20, 2016

SCORE! I was FINALLY able to rope my husband into going to a play.

Yes, you can quit rubbing your eyes - you read that right.

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently attended a play.  (Well...really a musical, which you should know is something that usually isn't my cup of tea.  I find that it can be difficult to catch all the words if they are being sung - plus, how many of us actually break into song in the middle of a sentence?)  And, as usual, I found out about it right before the show closed by reading a rave review in the local paper last Thursday.

Considering the paper also lists local events well in advance, you'd think I'd notice these things earlier...but no.  Usually, I read a review that interests me, look up the schedule and discover there are only two or three more performances.

My usual partner in crime for these types of events was out of town.  So I began to look around to see if any of my other friends might be free for the Sunday matinee at the last minute.  And I struck out on every score.  One friend said she would check but knew that her son had an event that she had to attend and wasn't sure of the timing.

I was convinced I wouldn't get to see this one.

So when I got home, I looked at The Husband and declared that he needed to take me on a date.  He looked surprised but agreed.  Apparently, the element of surprise is what it took to swing this around in my favor as he agreed before he even knew what I had up my sleeve.

After securing his agreement, I informed him that we would be going to lunch downtown - this was meet with enthusiasm.  And then informed him that we would be going to the musical - this wasn't taken in with any enthusiasm...but he didn't refuse.

I explained that I had tried to find another date and that I really wanted to see this show and being the gentleman he is - he fell on the sword for me.  My hero.

Then he asked how long the program would be...

After a pause, I quickly spit out the fact that these shows usually run about two hours.  His response?  He gave a sigh and asked if alcohol would be available.  Not knowing if that would be true or not for a matinee, I fudged my answer and said that there usually is a cash bar available.

So when Sunday rolled around, he took it on the chin.  We had a lovely lunch at a local Irish pub.  Afterwards we strolled around downtown and checked out a quaint, quirky independent bookstore - where I was able to pick up a great book by a local author.

As a side note, it is great fun to be reading a book that highlights local towns and places that you know...since you live there.

Then it was time to head to the theater - because this particular theater is an intimate space, we were unable to choose our seats when we bought the tickets - we determined that in order for The Husband to get an aisle seat (his only real demand) we needed to get there as soon as the box office opened.  This strategy paid off AND there was a cash bar available, in The Husband's eyes things were beginning to look up...until he began to get fidgety while we waited for the show to start.

Eventually, the show started and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  When asked The Husband said that it wasn't bad.  Granted, he never laughed out loud, I did catch him grinning a few times throughout, so I know he was paying attention.  All in all, I would say we had a successful date - albeit one that he was not an enthusiastic about - which is what marriage is all about - sometimes you do something you really don't want to do just to make your partner happy.  And he made me very happy.

So, I suppose after all that I should tell you what we saw...

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  One of the fun aspects of this Tony-award winning play is that four members of the audience are invited on stage to participate in the spelling bee.  During our show, the majority of the four were given fairly easy words at first gradually getting a little harder as the play went on until three were eliminated.  The fourth one was pretty good with spelling and they kept calling her back until they came up with some wild word that stumped her.

Our cast consisted of people ranging in age from 13-21 - for such a young cast, they were stellar.  Truly.  Even The Husband was impressed with their ability.

Should this program show up at your community theater, I would recommend that you attend...even if you have to coerce your other half to attend.

July 19, 2016

Breaking Night...another book review.

Yeah, I wasn't kidding when I told you I'd been reading more lately.  Turns out when you read more, you find more books to love...who knew?  Also, it turns out when you realize you are down to the second to the last season of a show you love (Parenthood...seriously, even if you aren't a parent this is an AMAZING show - okay, Netflix...I'm done sending you all this love for free) you tend to slow down on the binge watching in order to "savor" it.  True story.

But back to the reason you are here....

Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray is a compelling read.

And by "compelling" I mean this should be required reading for every high school across the land.  I almost think it should be required reading for every middle school but some of the content would be hard for most middle schoolers to comprehend unless they were living a parallel existence...and the fact that there ARE middle schoolers out there (or younger) who ARE living a parallel existence breaks my heart.

Generally, I don't do memoirs...I don't know why, but I don't.  I'm more of a fiction kind of girl.  But this story caught my interest when a co-worker mentioned she was reading it after seeing the author speak at a luncheon she attended.  She gave me a brief synopsis of the book and I was intrigued.  The coworker offered to lend me the book after she finished - although she had promised it to another first - because she knew I was a fast reader.

And let me tell you, once you pick this one up you won't be able to put it down!  I started the first chapter Friday night and by Sunday afternoon with only about 40 or so pages to go, I was reluctant to put it down to attend a play I had actually talked my husband into attending with me!

Yes, I know.  You are absolutely shocked that he agreed to go to a play with me...I was too!!  I'll try to post about that next time.

Here's the synopsis that Amazon has on their website:

Breaking night: (Urban slang) staying up through the night, until the sun rises.

Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard.

Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx.  In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls' home.  At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled.  She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep.

When Liz's mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept.  Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League.  Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman's indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds.

This blurb doesn't begin to do this book justice.  What this woman/child went through is heart wrenching.  But what amazed me the most?  Was the child's ability (because she WAS a child when this all began) to see things as they were and her will to try to change them.

*mini spoiler alert - but really if the sub-title didn't give away the ending to you then we have bigger things to talk about...*

As a mere child, she tried to will the safety of her parents as they scavenged for drugs in the middle of the night...figuring if she could stay up until they got home they would be okay.

It was also frightening to think that, up until she was shown a different lifestyle, she thought this was normal behavior for most families.

This little girl figured out ways to make money in order to eat when she was hungry.

What this child/woman has accomplished, in spite of all the obstacles standing in her way, leave me in awe.

This book is a testament to what we can do - if we put our minds, hearts and souls into the endeavor - when we seek a goal to achieve.

I would definitely, without reservation, say that if you only read ONE book - ever... (which honestly?  I can't even finish that sentence because...who can only read ONE book in their lifetime?! It would be a crime to limit oneself to one book)...

Okay, let me re-phrase that...

If you are looking for a book to inspire you...one to remind you of what kind of good mankind has to offer (and aren't we all looking for that right now, with all that is going on?) and one to remind you that forgiveness and love really does conquer all...then this is a book you need to read.

July 12, 2016

Honesty and Kindness...

After work today, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up an item or two.  As I stepped into the checkout line, I looked down to rummage for my wallet and happened to notice a lone dollar bill sitting on the floor.

I bent down and picked it up and then said to the customer at the front of the line, "Sir, I believe this is yours."  The startled man turned around, with a handful of bills, and accepted the money saying, "Yes, it probably is.  I'm always losing money.  My wife keeps telling me to use a wallet."

Apparently, he just shoves the cash in his front pocket and bills keep tumbling from his pocket when he tries to pull it out.

He thanked me, paid for his groceries and walked away.  I proceeded to have my groceries scanned and paid for them.  At this point, I had completely forgotten about the exchange.  I thanked the cashier, picked up my bag and headed toward the exit.

It was there the man met me and handed me a slip of paper.  It was a lottery ticket.  He informed me that as often as he lost money, it was very rare that he ever got it back.

I was touched.  As, apparently, so was he.

As I'm sure you are aware, honesty and kind gestures are rare in the world we live in today.  But they are there - we just have to look for them.  And we have to create them. Can you imagine how much nicer life would be if everyone was honest and kind?

Now, if I actually hit the $15,0000 jackpot tonight, I'm going to have to hang out at that grocery store, until he shows up again - so I can repay him for his small kind gesture.

July 6, 2016

What are some of your favorite blogs?

I am in need of some different blogs to check out.  Chances are you do too.

If you are anything like me you have noticed a new trend in blogging.  Most of the blogs I come across nowadays seem to involve "lists" and "how to (insert whatever here)" - which is fine.  I mean sure; I am always up for learning new ways to keep my house clean or to learn the fool proof way to hang a gallery wall or the 5 things I need to do to FINALLY get organized or how to get my laundry to fold itself - but it seems like a large majority of blogs are doing this now - along with these "Pinnable" images and flat lay pictures

I guess this comes from the influence of Pinterest and possibly, Instagram.  That's all well and good but...they ALL look the same; with the very rare exception.  And?  Even worse?

There are some blogs that exist solely to provide links to other blogs, which I really don't understand.  No real content at all!  Sure, I completely agree we need to support the blogs we love by sharing them.  But to have absolutely no fresh content; just links?  I'm thinking these blogs must exist solely to provide revenue somehow.

Where have all the personal blogs gone?  The ones that talk about life?  

Sure, most of the blogs I follow are personal - but it seems that any newer blogs that I've stumbled across aren't.  I suppose that's where blogging is now.  Who knows, maybe it will swing back.  We shall have to wait and see.

So while we are waiting for the pendulum to swing back, please share.  What are some of your favorites that aren't completely commercialized?  The ones that are personal.  Or insightful?  Or funny?  

A few of my favorites can be found over there on the right side of the page (thank goodness I checked before I hit publish!  Apparently, the little widget thing doesn't automatically update when I follow a new blog - so it was seriously out of date.  Like YEARS out of date - yikes!  All fixed now).  There are a few that I will admit, I tend to skip unless the headline is intriguing, but for the most part of the ones still active, I read every time they post something.

So what about you...what are some of your favorites? 

July 5, 2016

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty / Accidents of Marriage....book reviews

I just looked - the last book review I did was in August 2015!  I've surely been slacking around here.  I have read many, many books since then and mostly likely read a couple that should have merited a mention here.

When we were living without the Internet like Luddites for, oh so, long I found myself reading actual books more than I have in a while.  Oh sure, pre-Internet loss, I read books - but generally a page or two - a chapter if I was lucky before I went to bed (that's what binge watching Parenthood on Netflix will do to you - I'm only up to Season Four, so no spoilers please!).  During and after the Internet loss, I have found myself ensconced on the back porch with a couple of very good books (and, if the current one continues on its current trajectory we can add it to the list).

But I finished A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson a few days ago and my first thought was to come tell you about it.

When I first picked up this book, I assumed it was a quick, easy read.  You know the kind that doesn't require that the reader actually pay attention.  Until I turned it over and read the summary,

"A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family.  Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there.  Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager.  But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past--and will stop at nothing to defend their future."

Interesting...the Amazon review that I pulled has spelled Ginny wrong.

At any rate, it seemed like an interesting read so it came home with me.  I cracked it open the other day and was hooked.  In fact, I believe I spent about a day and a half on the back porch with my nose stuck in it.  This is the kind of story that pulls you back to it every chance you get because you need to find out what happens next - it's a ""the laundry can wait" kind of book.

I enjoyed this one so much, I will be seeking out other books by this author.

Next up we have Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers.  This one really captured my attention.  Other than the title, the thing that piqued my interest was the blurb on the front cover:

"One of those rare novels that is both unputdownable and unforgettable."  - Liane Moriarty, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Husband's Secret

Although I can't remember off the top of my head, I know I have read some Liane Moriarty's books and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I was ready to buy this one before I even read the summary on the back...

"Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children.  Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he's lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies.  She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids - which works to keep a fragile peace - until the rainy day when they're together in the car and Ben's volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.  Accidents of Marriage is a provocative and stunning novel that will resonate deeply with women from all walks of life, ultimately revealing the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness."

The only nit I had with this book is that the ending was ambiguous...which isn't a bad thing; I just really wanted to know how this one ended, not be left wondering - but other than that, yes, I enjoyed it so much, I spent a little over a day on the back porch with this one.

So if you are on the hunt for something new to read, I would definitely recommend both of these books.

July 1, 2016

SIX days without internet...we survived...barely.

When I woke up last Friday, The Husband informed me that we didn't have internet...lovely.  After twenty-five years of marriage, I was aware that this meant that I needed to fix it.

So I bought a new router.  Because surely our router had been taken out by the storm we'd experienced the Thursday night before.

But then I  brought the router home and was unable to connect.  I called the manufacturer, they were unable to help.  In fact, they recited, verbatim, what the screen was telling me  So basically, they were reading from an instruction manual.  Next, I returned to the store, along with the computer AND the router.

After going through three technicians, they advised me to confer with my provider, as there seemed to be nothing wrong with my computer OR the router.

OH MY GOD!  They expected ME to deal with AT&T...my sworn enemy?!

Yes, they apparently did.  In fact, they flat out refused to call them for me and asked me to leave the store immediately.

So I went back home and called.  After much swearing at the automated system (which claimed it "could understand and respond to any questions" - which it obviously couldn't since I had to scream yes or no in response to its questions...after telling me that I needed to speak up or it would tell me that it didn't understand) eventually I made it to an actual person.

Now, despite previous rants about AT&T (and my obvious disdain for automated systems - come on AT&T...would it really be that onerous to have an actual human answer the phone and route the call?) I have to say that AT&T has stepped up its customer service game.  Yes, I actually said that (AND put it in writing).

The rep I spoke to explained that she did see a problem with our line...but didn't think it was the router.  She set up an appointment to send a technician out - the earliest time she could offer was Monday.  I wasn't happy that no one could come out over the weekend, but agreed.  Then she gave me a telephone number, along with a PIN number, and informed me that it went directly to voicemail.  And that any message left would be responded to within the hour.  I was doubtful...because look at who I was dealing with here.

Monday comes along and the technician actually showed up in the earlier end of the 8-12 block they gave me.  He poked around outside for a bit and then informed me that the outside box wasn't receiving power and, unfortunately, he couldn't fix the problem but would escalate the ticket.  I asked if it would be dealt with that day.  He seemed to think it would since it was so early in the day.

As you are probably (rightly) assuming, it was not fixed on Monday.  I called the magic voicemail number, left a message and you can imagine my immense shock when I actually received a call back.  They informed me that the technician was working until 9 pm (so apparently, AT&T has no problem making their techs work late - why not have them work staggered shifts which would cover weekends?) and our ticket was next.  She swore that she would call me with an update.

I ended up going to bed because, hello?!  I have a job.

Lo and behold I actually had a voicemail from her when I woke up - imagine my shock.  This message informed me that the tech was unable to get to our ticket on Monday but we would be first on the list for Tuesday.  YAY!

I went to work with a hopeful heart...until I received a text from The Husband around lunch time.  He had come home for lunch and discovered that we still didn't have internet.  And upon returning home that evening we STILL didn't have internet.  So I called the magical number again.  They informed me that they would "monitor" the situation and let me know what was going on.

Yesterday, I finally received another voicemail...it still wasn't fixed and they couldn't tell me when it would be done; again promising to follow up.  I can honestly tell you that by this time I was BEYOND fed up.

Until I arrived home and we had internet service!  We both did a happy dance!

And then the phone rang...guess who?

Yes, it was AT&T informing me that we were back online and, after I inquired about a credit for being without for six days, was told that we would receive a credit.  But considering our past bad blood, I made a point of calling the billing office today to confirm - yes, we are getting a credit.

So while AT&T is still not on my "Favorite" list they have removed themselves from my "I HATE You So Much - I Wish You Were Not In Existence" list (yes, I really have such a list for companies that drive me insane) - all because they put forth the extra effort in the customer service department.  Kudos, AT&T.

If they want to be catapulted  to the "Favorite" list I would suggest that they rid themselves of the automated phone system and figure out a work schedule that includes having people available to work on weekends, because living without internet makes people twitchy.