Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Long Time No See

I should have known this would happen. I haven't posted anything here for a while and I could have predicted it. You see, it's bowl season which annually sees me glued to the tube for the duration. I love college football (basketball too so don't expect much during the Big Dance in March) and bowl games used to be manageable. There were only four back in the day; now there are 31! I don't watch all of them, but probably too many.

I'll also have a problem during the Olympics in February. Being a sports fan does have its drawbacks these days. We went to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and I'll never forget the feeling of family we fans had. We met people from all over the states, sometimes seeing them at several events - everyone seemed to feel like we were all good friends. We won't go to the Olympics again because the ticket situation has gotten out of hand, but I do enjoy watching on television.

The odd thing is that both my mother and my mother-in-law were huge sports fans, rabid actually, but my father and my father-in-law as well as my husband can sort of take sports or leave them. So, while I watch all these games, Dave gets plenty of sleep in front of the TV set. Occasionally he wakes up, asks who's winning or who's playing for that matter, and then settles in for another nap. Life of the party, my husband.

All of this means sports is dominating my life at the moment, but I'm not so far gone that I don't know about the new would-be terrorist with the makings of a bomb in his underwear. I think we should all be patient with screening at airports, but I don't really believe we can be safe from this type of person. We're all in danger all the time, from various threats, but we can't let fear rule our lives. All we can do is watch for danger but enjoy every moment of our lives because you never know how long your life will be.

Having said that, maybe a good New Year's Resolution would be to live life to the fullest and keep nagging worries out of our heads. Life is too short to just throw it away. Happy New Year to everyone. I'll be back in January.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Review: The Widow of the South

This book has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while patiently awaiting the day when my mood would dictate reading it. Jeez Louise, what was I waiting for? This is the best novel I've read in years.

I love novels based on real people and real events. The Widow of the South was a real person, Carrie McGavock of Franklin, Tennessee whose large home was near the scene of the battle of Franklin. I knew quite a bit about the battle because Confederate General Patrick Cleburne died there and I had read his biography several years ago. Since I'm a Civil War buff, this was right up my alley.

Apparently this was author Robert Hicks' first novel. I certainly hope it isn't his last. He tells the story through the viewpoint of several characters, one to a chapter. That makes it sound messy and disconnected, but it isn't, and actually I can't think of a better way than to see it through each person's eyes and thoughts.

The day of the battle the McGavock house was commandeered as a hospital and for the next few days and weeks life was a blur of caring for horribly wounded Confederate soldiers. The household linens and even underwear were ripped up for bandages. Carrie's husband John organized hauling water to the house and carrying dead men and amputated limbs outside. There they were stacked like so much lumber awaiting burial or removal. The survivors later referred to Carrie as an angel for the way she comforted and cared for them; they in turn changed her life forever.

Each character is drawn so beautifully that when I came to the final chapter where there were pictures of them, I knew who they were without the captions. Carrie is the main character of course, but we also get to know Mariah, her slave since childhood and lifelong best friend. I'm not sure whether one character in the story is real or not. Carrie is fascinated by him and falls in love. As a respectable southern woman she remains true to her husband, but she spends many hours with Zachariah Cashwell and through their talks, they both learn much about themselves and life.

I won't tell more of the story because I don't want to ruin it for you if you haven't read it, but I do urge you to read this book if you haven't already discovered it. This is a treasure.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

To my followers and all of the other people who read my blog from time to time, I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. If you're traveling, this will require much patience but I hope you don't have to cancel your plans because of the weather. If you're staying at home like we are, be thankful to stay in a warm, cozy house by the tree and maybe a fireplace.

We used to go away to someplace sunny and warm for the holidays. I remember our last holiday trip to Panama City Beach, FL. It was chilly (only one day warm enough for swimsuits) but we had a great time. New Year's Eve everyone appeared on the beach or their balconies at midnight to blow horns, set off fireworks, and generally celebrate. We saw weddings on the beach on that trip, and a plane went by trailing a marriage proposal for a couple in our hotel. So much fun.

Too often though a holiday trip consisted of dodging storms and paying higher prices. Now we stay home. I have no family and Dave's family lives far away, so we have a special meal and just enjoy a whole day at home doing whatever we like. It appears we'll have freezing rain turning to rain here - good day to stay inside by the stove.

Whatever you do, enjoy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Medicare Drug Plan's Donut Hole

A headline caught my attention this morning. It said that Democrats are committed to filling in the donut hole in the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Oh to think it could happen! Then I see they are discussing filling in $500 worth now and the rest by 2019.

My husband and I fall into the donut hole every year. By the end of the year Dave has crawled back out of it, but I haven't. Thus, when I ordered an inhaler I need to stay alive, the cost for a 90 day supply would have been nearly $800. I put a hold on it since I have just enough to get by until Jan. 1 when I will lift the hold. Thankfully we don't have a deductible so as we begin a new year I can get what I need.

I've discussed the problem with my pulmonologist and he said my only option is to take a chance on not using my inhalers. Since I'd like to live many years yet, I don't see that as an option. Meanwhile our total drug costs are soaring because we both have chronic diseases that require daily medication.

I see so many articles about health care reform that turn out to be speculation about what will happen that I've actually stopped reading them. All I can do is cross my fingers that a reform plan passes that will help not only us but all the people who can't afford health insurance at all. I've written to senators, congressmen, and the president and called too. Now I sit and wait and hope.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Malice in the Highlands by Graham Thomas

At this time of year many of us like to read what other bloggers have called "comfort reads." Some go back to old favorites; I am drawn to books that are set in places I love. That's why I picked up Malice in the Highlands, a mystery set in my beloved Scottish Highlands.

The hero is a New Scotland Yard detective who occasionally retreats to an inn in the highlands for salmon fishing and an ongoing contest with a Scottish detective as to who will catch the largest fish. His wife stays in London, unable to understand that he gets burned out sometimes and that this restores him. No sooner does he arrive for this particular vacation, though, than a body is found in the river. The inn sits at the edge of an estate owned by an American who has an agreement with the innkeeper that guests can fish in the river on the estate. However, the body turns out to be that American.

Detective-Chief Superintendent Erskine Powell has brought along a friend who recently had been despondent hoping to restore his spirits as well. The friend appears to have a wonderful time fishing, while Powell spends his time trying to solve the murder, frustrated that the whole thing seems to have been dumped on him.
There are several suspects, twists and turns of plot, and a surprising end. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery and Thomas' descriptions of the area. I could almost feel I was there.

This is an old book, from 1998, but perhaps your library has a copy. If you love Scotland as I do, it's worth the time to look for it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Celebrities with Feet of Clay

The huge media hoo-ha over Tiger Woods' car accident and subsequently many women crawling out of the woodwork to say they had affairs with him is a cautionary tale for all of us (including myself) about attributing some kind of super-human qualities to celebrities.

I like to think I'm realistic enough to know famous people are just as human as the rest of us, and that they're subject to a horde of temptations most of us aren't - or can't afford. Yet I'm occasionally disappointed to find that someone I admire has a tendency to think with the wrong part of his anatomy.

The thing that doesn't ring true in this case, as more and more women look for their moment in the spotlight, is why did it take this accident to bring Tiger's "transgressions" to light? If he was having affairs, wouldn't someone have gone to the media before now? I mean Tiger has tons of money and the only reason I can think of for someone to publicly claim an affair with him would be for momentary notoriety and money.

Speaking of which, why has "notoriety" become something to be admired in the past few years? I know I'm a frustrated English teacher or something, but misuse of words like this really annoys me. Is it a reluctance to say, "Hey, I'm famous!" Since when have celebrities been reluctant to say that?

Anyway, back to celebrities and their feet of clay, I do wish the media would find something else to write about and talk about. Tiger is probably wishing someone else would do something to divert their attention as much as I am. Let Tiger and Elin sort this out on their own, please, so we can have some media coverage of important stuff - like football. :-)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Charles Kuralt's Life on the Road

I've just read another of my booksale finds. I think we all remember Charles Kuralt either from his "On the Road" series on CBS or from his 15 years as host of "Sunday Morning" also on CBS, or hopefully not for the scandal after his death in 1997 when it was revealed that although married, he had had a long-term affair with another woman. I really don't care about the affair; I care that for many years he educated and entertained us with the fascinating stories of Mr. and Mrs. Average American.

This book is amusing, as expected, but also relates moving stories from his coverage of the Vietnam War, and there is a story about a Russian dentist who was a POW in WWII befriended by American POW's that brought me to tears.

One great story near the end relates his trip hundreds up miles up in the Andes in Peru to meet a CBS producer. He was late and couldn't contact the man so he drove all the pitch black night on a narrow curving dirt road in a rental car. At 2 a.m. a cable broke to the accelerator and he had no way to fix it so he tied it in a knot. His dilemna then was that the car went at about 55 mph around sharp curves with horrifying drop-offs. I won't tell anymore; I'd much rather you'd find the book and read it the way he wrote it.

My mother always loved the nature piece at the end of the Sunday morning show and I loved watching it with her. Now I know how they found those places and made the films.

I was surprised to discover that Kuralt and the crew hated traveling in the motor home for "On the Road." They had tire problems, engine problems, and couldn't sleep in the RV so after two months they always stayed in motels and ate in restaurants. The only reason they kept the RV was that it was a good place to keep their equipment.

His pet peeves about travel are funny and so true. For instance, he traveled with a 100 watt light bulb because, as I've learned, in about 98% of motel rooms the lighting is abysmal, but he needed to read and/or work. Hear, hear! You'll love the story of the night he had to stay in a flea bag hotel because everyplace else was full, and then the fire trucks came.

Well, I could go on and on but he tells these stories as only Charles Kuralt could and I recommend you try to find a copy of this 1990 book.