Our Own Perspective

I read a blog not too long ago about how often in romance novels one character or the other winds up giving up his/her home, way of life and often job to go live happily-ever-after with the other character. (Usually it’s the heroines making the big change.)

Some of the commenters thought it was a strange thing not to be embraced; others found it perfectly normal. Count me among the last. Before anyone suggests that it’s my age (being raised in a time when men were men and women were helpmates, LOL), nope, that’s not it. Neither of my older sisters would have given up everything to move away for a man.

For me, it’s my husband. After I fell in love with him and married him, he went back on active duty in the Navy. There’s no naval base in landlocked Oklahoma, so I knew we’d be moving away. Sailors tend to get transferred every 3-4 years, so I knew any job I had would have to be either temporary or portable. Sailors also tend to go away for long periods of time, so I knew I’d be raising our son on my own during those times. And we had little to no say in where we went — big city, small town, expensive, cheap, high crime rate, bad schools, etc. The Navy said “Go” and we went. For sixteen years.

So the idea of leaving home and going off into a totally new environment (and trust me, the military is its own environment) for the love of a man doesn’t seem at all unusual to me. How happy would I have been staying here while he left? What kind of life would we have had if I’d refused?

And so when I read books (and write them, too) where the hero or heroine leaves the big city (or the small town) and gives up the high-powered career and the fuller (or slower-paced) life because s/he’s fallen in love with someone whose life is elsewhere, it makes perfect sense to me. I don’t see it as a sacrifice, as some of those blog commenters did, but rather as a commitment to the most important thing in their lives – love.

(Just for the record: near the end of his Navy career, my husband was offered a job that he really, really wanted in our most favorite city in the world – New Orleans – in exchange for a couple years’ extension. But we’d been moving around for sixteen years, and I wanted to come home. He didn’t argue, didn’t cajole or coerce or try to persuade me. He told them, “No, thanks,” and we came home.)

Our own life experiences affect our reading and what we find acceptable or see as too strange. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I cringe at characters who drink too heavily for fun (unless the drinking problem is a significant part of the story). I once talked to a woman whose husband had Alzheimer’s who found my Rachel Butler books, where his father’s Alzheimer’s is an ongoing issue for the hero, too difficult to read.

Do you have any hang-ups with fiction based on your own experiences? Do they affect your reading pleasure, or are you able to push them aside? Is there anything you absolutely can’t read about when you’re reading for pleasure?

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Home Sweet Home

By the time you read this, my family and I will be on our way back to Oklahoma. For the last six days, we’ve been on vacation, driving by car to a family reunion in Madison, Indiana just north of Louisville. If you’ve been to Disney World in Florida and walked down Main Street U.S.A., you’ve been to Madison. The folks at Disney used the main drag through Madison as inspiration. It’s Madison’s biggest claim to fame.

During the drive to Indiana, we’ve made stops in Memphis, Nashville, and Lexington, KY. On the way back, we’ll cut across Illinois then head south to Oklahoma through St. Louis. As we cut across country, we driven the Natchez Trace, we’ve made stops at various 18th century historic sites such as Mansker’s Station in Nashville, visited a couple of Revolutionary War era forts at Harrodsburg, and Boonsboro, and made a stop at the Shiloh Civil War Battlefield.

Along the way I’ve made a couple of random observations, I’d like to share. First, if you haven’t booked hotels through hotwire.com, you’ve missed out. We got great rates and stayed in some awesome four star hotels.
My kids never go anywhere without their guitars. I noted in Memphis and Nashville, you could tell the tourists from the locals by the way people reacted when my teenagers walked through the hotel lobby of those four star hotels. The locals just looked bored. The tourists craned their heads trying to figure out “Who’s that with the guitars?”

Broadway in Nashville has a lot of energy. Just walking up the street, listening to the bands playing in the bars, gets the blood pumping.

Sadly, family reunions are becoming a thing of the past. This is the first annual Somerville Family Reunion. The idea was born out of death. A couple of years ago my husband’s aunt, who lived to be 105, passed away. She was the glue that held the family together. Our members live as far east as New York, as far south as Florida, and as far west as Oklahoma. While we mourned her passing, many also lamented the fact that we would have no reason to gather together as group anymore. A pilgrimage to Aunt Janet’s house for Thanksgiving was tradition. Even if you couldn’t go every year, we all tried to make it at least once every five years. So at her funeral, my husband’s cousin and I got the bright idea to hold a family reunion once every two years. I have no idea how long the “tradition” will last, but we’ve also decided to make use of technology to keep the family from drifting apart. A family Facebook page helps us stay in touch and stay current.

The Natchez Trace is a lovely drive. In Oklahoma, we live on a road designated as a “scenic route.” Every weekend tourists, mostly bikers, travel down the two-lane highway that runs in front of our house taking in the rural scenery, hoping for a glimpse of a deer, a wild turkey or an eagle – the stuff I see every day, and the reason I live where I live. The Natchez Trace reminded me of why I love my thirty acres in the boonies.

I can’t wait to get home.

The Power of reading

Last Monday was the 40th anniversary of man walking on the moon.  I’m sure you all saw some of the news coverage about it, but I got to see the actual event.  Oh, I wasn’t on the moon, watching from an armchair; I saw it on TV and toasted it with a Pepsi and cheers.  It was a happening I’d been waiting for since the early 1950’s.

At the age of eight or nine, I discovered the world of science fiction…Heinlein, Azimov, Clarke…all the wonderful writers whose rich imaginagion built great worlds to visit.  From that moment on, I wanted to visit the moon.  I wanted to colonize Mars.  I wanted to fly in the thermal caves of a planet’s whose name I don’t remember, but their citizens’ favorite weekend sport was to strap on wings and fly around where the updrafts kept them aloft.  What fantastic wonders those books showed me.

And not just a school-girl in Oklahoma.  These books also triggered the dreams of youngsters who grew up to be engineers, pilots, and the Everyman who put their imaginations to work in practical manners.  Most of the people involved in the early days of NASA were also SF readers, sparked by the books they read as kids.

Somehow, America’s space dream got off track.  When Neil first stepped foot on the moon, though I knew I would never be an astronaut, I did have a hope that in the foreseeable future, I would be able to at least visit the moon as a vacationeer.  Alas,  that hope died about 20 years ago.  For a brief period, I even though about a burial in space; still might do that one.

Thanks to younger minds, travel to other worlds will happen.  I just won’t be here to toast the event with Pepsi.   So to all those early writers…thank you for your imagination.  Thank you for giving us a goal.  And when we get there, your names will go with us.

As Seen On TV

You’ve all seen the hyped ads…the late Billy Mayes and now Vince, hawking the latest greatest products.  My father, bless his heart, ordered stuff quite frequently from both TV and mail order. Some things were okay, most were junk. It was his money, his joy or gripe to talk to me about, and supported someone–the marketer not the inventor unfortunately. Then one day I saw an ad that made sense to me. I wanted this product to work, but I didn’t order it rather found it at a local chain drugstore for the same price, less shipping and handling! The Point and Paint worked well and what I saved by not purchasing the painter’s tape plus the time to tape the areas, the purchase was well worth it.  As much as I paint… nuf said.

The other point of my rambling post is that ‘as seen on TV’ has been educational for me. I had lunch with a friend last week and she asked me if I knew about Asperger’s Syndrome. I don’t the minutia of the disease, but I had heard of it thanks to Boston Legal and America’s Next Top Model. (I know, I know, my reality TV addiction is showing) If I hadn’t watched those shows I probably would still be clueless.

Share any ‘As Seen On TV’ moments.

Thank God for Lye Soap

A cool spell has hit Oklahoma, so I’ve been catching up on yard work. Yesterday  it was tree-trimming. Now, I have very lax standards for trees. If I can ride the mower under one and can lean far enough one way or another and clear a low-hanging branch, we’re pretty much good to go. Scratches and scrapes don’t bother me; my exposed skin is always shades of pale, bloody, black and blue in summer.

Most of the trees that needed trimming are scrub oaks — great shade trees, but the gnarliest, toughest old trees you’d ever hate to cut. I cleaned up as much as I could from them and just about doubled my brush pile (this fall I’m having one heck of a bonfire!), then I headed for a couple of old pear trees.

I love Bartlett pear trees. They’re so pretty all the time, and in spring, covered in blossoms, they’re breathtaking. But one was dead, and the other needed pruning. Before I bought my first chain saw, I did all my pruning with a hand saw. That was only about five years ago; how hard could it be now?

I’ll save you the ugly details just to say that I cut one branch enough to break it, got through two all the way, and barely managed a crooked gash in the last one. And then I looked down and saw the pretty green vine growing in the weeds I was tramping through at the base of the tree.

My first thought was that the dratted Virginia creeper had finally crept from the back yard all the way to the edge of the front yard. But wait. Virginia creeper has five leaves. And this had one, two, three . . .

Leaves of three, let it be. Ever heard that before? Me, too. I’ve had poison ivy only once, but I thought I was going to die. It took multiple courses of multiple medications to get it under control, and I still have the marks it left behind. So I rushed into the house, stripped off the gloves and got on the computer to find pictures. No doubt about it: it was poison ivy, and I’d been standing in/on/around it for 15-20 minutes.

First thing I did was call DH. (He’s not a doctor but he knows more than most of ’em.)  Clothes in the washer, then into the shower for a repeated scrub with lye soap. Lye soap, I’m convinced, can neutralize anything. After I had poison ivy once before, it’s always taken care of various rashes I’ve picked up in the wilds that pass for my yard. All evening I waited for an itch or the first sign of an ugly rash, but nothing, nada, zip.

God, I love lye soap!

County Fairs and Funnel Cakes

It’s county fair time, and I can almost taste the funnel cakes.

The daughter is getting all of her projects ready, dusting off her ‘show clothes’ and polishing the silver on her saddle. Grandma is rifling through her recipes, trying to decide which version of her famous peach pie to bring. And we are all laying in our supplies of bug spray, sunscreen and bottled water.

We are fool enough to camp at the fair, meaning that for days on end we will consider a corndog and a snocone a well-rounded-meal. We will be sticky and sweaty and will forgo wearing make-up for almost a week. We will bathe in the nearest water hose and spend endless hours watching important-looking men with clipboards strut about in the middle of showrings, passing judgement on every form of livestock known to man. The teenagers will flirt and giggle and wiggle, and the young’uns eyes will glow as they take in the rodeo/demo derby/country music show.  We will fall asleep at night to the sound of the carnival rides, and we will wake in the morning to the sound of feed pans rattling and cattle mooing.

At the end of the week, we will head for home, sunburned and exhausted, (hopefully) clutching at least one blue ribbon for our troubles. Grandma will gripe and complain about the pie that beat hers, and the daughter will no doubt be in deep, meaningful, heartfelt love with some lanky, hairy-legged creature that I can barely stand…

Ah, yes.

County fair.

I can almost taste the funnel cakes. *smiles*

Tribute

My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller. She wasn’t a very good housekeeper. She couldn’t bake to save her life. And her cooking was so bad her sons put Tabasco sauce or ketchup on everything…even her mashed potatoes.

But she could spin a yarn.

Most of the stories she told me when I was kid were Cherokee stories like How the Creator Gave the Strawberry to the Cherokee, Where the Dog Ran, or How the Turtle Got His Broken Shell. My favorites were ghost stories that she swore were true. Since I was born on Halloween, I have a natural love of all things spooky.

When I became a mom and my children grew old enough for bedtime stories, I passed on her stories to my kids. Each time I told one of those tales, I felt I was passing on a piece of her. Sadly she died before any of my children were born. But in a sense, they know her through the tales she told that I pass along.

A month ago, I became a grandma for the first time. I can’t wait until my DGS is old enough to listen his grandma tell him why the Milky Way is called Where the Dog Ran. And I can’t wait until he asks, “Nana, how’d the turtle get his broken shell?”

Do you have a favorite story you want to pass on to your kids and grandkids?