Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What I'm reading...

Recently finished two books: Maine and Summer Rental. Both dealt with relationships among a group of women. Both were good summer reads and I would recommend them.

Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan description: In her best-selling debut, Commencement, J. Courtney Sullivan explored the complicated and contradictory landscape of female friendship. Now, in her highly anticipated second novel, Sullivan takes us into even richer territory, introducing four unforgettable women who have nothing in common but the fact that, like it or not, they’re family.

For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.

Summer Rental, by Mary Kay Andrews description: Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction….

Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she's made over the past decade of her life. Julia—whose caustic wit covers up her wounds--has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can't hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life. And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world…though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina's Outer Banks is just what they each of them needs.

Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he's hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he's ever cared about.

Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity. Show More

Five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness. Five people who each need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them.

Next up: some more serious fare... I just downloaded Pride and Prejudice to my iPad. I've never read it. And I downloaded The Scarlet Letter, which I've read several times, but it's one of my favorites.


I lied... one more post about Grandpa. :-)

My youngest cousin wrote and delivered the following eulogy in honor of my grandfather on the day of funeral. I asked her to send me a copy because I thought it was great. She and her brother called him Poppop; my other three cousins called him Grandpop. My brother and I called him Grandpa. But no matter what we all called him, we shared him as our grandfather.

How Do!?

Ninety-seven years is a long time and we could sit here for hours talking about Poppop and everything he did for his family and friends, but we would be here forever. Instead I am going to keep it just like him, short and sweet.

I would like to share a few things about him ~things that if you knew Poppop at all you already knew about him:

He had an eternal acceptance of everyone ~ he never judged anyone, except maybe the Phillies when they were losing ~ then they were “Bums.” He always put his family first and had an overwhelming sense of pride in his children and grandchildren and made sure he attended every single high school and college graduation. He also never once hesitated to take care of Am when she got sick.

Other than his family, his other passions included making wine and pickles, boating and fishing, classical music, history, reading, and learning. He seemed to know how to do or fix anything and everything ~ and had the tools to do it ALL. Even in his 80s he could water-ski better than most of us. And, until the age of 95, he dove into and swam in the bay every day.

We will also always remember all of the things he taught us:

How to bait a hook, how to dig for clams and mussels, drive a boat, pick crabs, use a ringer washer, a push mower, and rotary phones, and most importantly that “crabgrass is the enemy!”

Poppop was the definition of a gentleman. He put everyone’s needs before his own always making sure everyone was at ease; never complaining or wanting to make a fuss, even throughout his final days. The evening before he passed when mom and I walked into his room he said “Hi Mert!” The last sentence he said to us was “Everything is quite pleasant, Julia, thank you.”

Right now I know he is happy he is finally able to be with his wife again after twenty-six years. He is no longer weak and is looking down on all of us ~ most likely drinking his gin and riding his bicycle.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Recap

Somehow, I find myself a week and a half away from the end of the summer (i.e., the first day of school), and I'm not sure where it went!

We started off the summer with a bang, leaving for our Hawaiian vacation on the last day of school. I already covered the Hawaii trip in detail, so I won't say anything else about that here. Suffice it to say, it was awesome. :)

We also spent a week at Smith Mountain Lake again this summer with BFF and her kids, as well her her boyfriend and his kids. Everyone got along great, the house was in a perfect location and worked well for our group, AND BFF's boyfriend has a boat, so we got to do a lot more water skiing and tubing this year. With the kids all getting older, we're not sure how many more years we're going to be able to do the week at the lake, but we're going to try our hardest to keep it up!

Keeper Boy had dry land training for the team he was supposed to be playing for both right before we left for Hawaii and the morning after we returned. Other than that, he hasn't done much this summer as he strained his chest wall right before he was supposed to be in hockey camp for a week and had to pull out. We found out a few weeks ago that a goalie from the Bantam Upper A team (Silver) had left the club, and as a result, Keeper Boy was asked to join the Lower A team (Black) as one of the Black goalies moved up to take the vacated slot on Silver. So we've been figuring out the new schedule and getting used to the idea of a different team. It's all good though. He's played with more than half of his teammates on other teams, and we really like the coach. Keeper boy also gets along really well with the other goalie on the team as they were the goalie team on Pee Wee Silver last year. So all-in-all, it's a good move.

J-Mav did a week of power skating camp in July and wow! We went to a public skating session soon after and were amazed at the difference. Of course, he hasn't been on the ice since, so we'll see how he is when the season starts. He will be playing Mite House again this year.

Keeper Boy participated in the Capitals Shootout competition a few weeks ago, though he hadn't been in his pads in about two months. He did really well, and looked good; however, he didn't advance out of the preliminary round. It was weird, he was the shortest goalie out there! There's a big difference between Pee Wee and Bantam/Midget!

Oh, and Keeper Boy got new leg pads last week. Cha-ching! :-( Hopefully he won't outgrow these anytime soon!

For my birthday, Hubby, Keeper Boy, and I went to see Rock of Ages at National Theatre. What a great show! J-Mav would've LOVED the music, but I'm glad we didn't take him. It was a little risque for him. Actually, it was a little risque for Keeper Boy, but we thought he could handle it.

J-Mav did power skating camp for a week (full days) and tennis camp for a week (half days). Not a camp, but Keeper Boy spent a week in Annapolis with his best bud. Both of the boys went to VA Tech for sleep away camp for a week (Keeper Boy's fifth time; J-Mav's first as an overnight camper). They both had a great time, and weren't even phased by the five-hour lock-down they had while there because of a possible gunman reported on campus. I can't say it was as fun for Hubby and I. Anyway, Keeper Boy studied Rocketry and Digital Music for a week, and J-Mav studied Lego Robotics and took the Dangerous Class for Boys. Last week, J-Mav did Treks and Tours camp. They went somewhere different every day: The Air & Space Museum, a water park, a reptile/amphibian place, a park... And Keeper Boy did Water Adventure camp. They also did something different every day: white water rafting, white water kayaking, tubing, Kings Dominion, and a water park. This week they are at "Camp Grandma and Grandpa." J-Mav has one more day camp next week: Basketball and Flag Football at the rec center.

We hired a contractor and had the upstairs hall bathroom gutted and re-done. It's beautiful. Hopefully the boys won't trash it. :) We are in the process of picking out tile to have just the shower in the master bath redone by the same contractor.

We spent lots of time with family this summer, some for good reasons; some not. Either way it was a blessing.

Overall, it was a wonderful summer. As always, it went by too quickly. I am not quite ready to deal with the stress of getting the kids to do their homework before they have to leave for hockey practice in the evenings, needing to plan dinners and actually eat by 5:30 or 6, and keeping a more rigid schedule. Things are much more loose in the summer, which leads to a lot fewer arguments with Thing 1 and Thing 2. The first couple weeks of school will be a rough transition to earlier bedtimes and earlier wake times, wearing real shoes, and going back to the no TV/Wii on weekdays rule. But we'll get through it. We always do.

And hey... there's only 310 days until the last day of school!

Monday, August 22, 2011


Coincidence that Tropical Storm Irene (now Hurricane Irene) formed on August 20, the day of my grandfather's funeral? You make the call...

(Irene was my grandmother's name.)

Interesting side note... the very first named storm of this season was Tropical Storm Arlene... my other grandmother's name.

Weird, no?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


My grandfather died yesterday.

We, or at least I, had high hopes for some improvement when he entered the assisted living place in March 2010. However, it soon became apparent that it would simply be his last address before he went to be reunited with my grandmother. No one knew the time frame, and ultimately it didn't really matter. I just hoped that he was comfortable and that as the dementia creeped further in, that he wasn't aware of its presence.

Very soon after he moved into the home, he had to move to the locked memory unit for those with Alzheimer's and dementia. He had his own room and free reign of that unit, but the exit door to the rest of the facility was locked. Of course, I heard that his engineer-trained mind figured out the code to the door by observing others coming and going and that he either tried to or did let himself out on at least one occasion. Ornery... not hard to see where my dad gets it!

As time passed, he spent more and more time in a wheelchair; his walker used less and less. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and started wearing oxygen. Recently, he battled Shingles. And he celebrated his 97th birthday.

I saw him several times over the year and a half he lived there. Each time he was a little thinner and a little less in the present. But Grandpa was still in there somewhere. He knew me up until the last time I visited over Memorial Day weekend of this year, although I'm not sure that last time that he knew me until I told him who I was. He did know his three children right up to the end, and I was told he knew my brother when he went to visit last month. He had a bookshelf that my aunt kept stocked full of family photos. And there were beautiful photos of my grandmother on the walls that I had never seen before. I always asked him about some of the photos he had in his room when I visited... it was somewhat of a meter of how he was doing on that day, depending on who he knew in the pictures and what he said about them.

My aunt, uncle, and cousins live very close to the home and I believe at least one of them saw him every single day he was there. They stayed on top of his healthcare, and made sure he was getting what he needed. For that, I am pretty sure I am safe in saying our entire family is grateful.

Recently, he wasn't eating or drinking, and he was sleeping a lot. Three things that are not good signs when you are 97 years old and already under hospice care. Friday or Saturday of last week, the hospice people told my aunt that it wouldn't be long... I believe the timeframe was two weeks, give or take. Sunday, my dad, aunt, and uncle (Grandpa's children) and their spouses visited him for about four hours. I don't think he was awake at all, but I'm sure he knew they were there. I'm sure they all talked to him, and I would guess that he heard them and knew they were there to say their goodbyes. Perhaps that's what he was waiting for; he died the next morning in his sleep.

He's been gone now for about 24 hours. I am enormously sad, but I know it was for the best. And it makes me happy to imagine the joyous reunion going on with my grandmother right now. She's been patiently waiting 25 years for her love.

Saturday we will gather to say goodbye. It will be good to see all of my cousins. I don't think we've all been together since... well, I don't even know. Maybe my wedding, which was 17 years ago! I just wish it wasn't only at weddings and funerals. We will celebrate 97 years of life... more than 90 of which were of excellent quality. We will cry; we will laugh. We will be thankful for the family he built and for his giant presence in all of our lives.

But in the end, even giants fall.

“The sense of death is most in apprehension;
And the poor beetle, that we tread upon,
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies.”

~ William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act III, Scene I

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Camp update

Well, the boys are half done with camp. More than half done, really. We've seen them in photos and videos on the Internet and it appears they are both having fun. Perhaps we needn't have worried so much about J-Mav. He appears to have participated in his colony's karyoke last night, and Keeper Boy appears to have had the lead singing part with his colony. I don't think we need to worry about him being shy anymore.

We've seen pictures of both of the kids in their classes (Legos and Dangerous Class for Boys for J-Mav; Rocketry and Digital Music for Keeper Boy), and they appear to be enjoying themselves. So I think it's all good.

Hubby and I head down tomorrow night after work so that we are there for the 9am parade/closing program on Friday morning. And that'll be it for sleepaway camp for this summer (unless you count them going to Camp Grandma and Grandpa in a few weeks). We will all stay in a hotel on Friday night and then head to our lake vacation for a week on Saturday. Woo hoo!

What I'm reading...

Well, what I've recently read, really...

Two excellent books... both on eReaders. I'm so relevant. Ha!

ESPN: Those Guys Have all the Fun
by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

This is a really long book, told in an oral narrative style. Thousands of hours of interviews must've been conducted with all levels of people associated with ESPN -- both past and present. I found it absolutely fascinating. Hubby is reading it now.

Here's a description from
ESPN began as an outrageous gamble with a lineup that included Australian Rules Football, rodeo, and a rinky-dinky clip show called Sports Center. Today the empire stretches far beyond television into radio, magazines, mobile phones,the internet, video games and more, while ESPN's personalities have become global superstars to rival the sports icons they cover. Chris Berman, Robin Roberts, Keith Olbermann, Hannah Storm, Bill Simmons, Tony Kornheiser, Stuart Scott, Erin Andrews, Mike Ditka, Bob Knight, and scores of others speak openly about the games, shows, scandals, gambling addictions, bitter rivalries, and sudden suspensions that make up the network's soaring and stormy history. The result is a wild, smart, effervescent story of triumph, genius, ego, and the rise of an empire unlike any television had ever seen.

Before I Go to Sleep
by S. J. Watson

This book, too, was fascinating, but on a completely different level. A woman who has suffered trauma has amnesia. Each morning she wakes up and has no idea where she is, who the man in bed next to her is, and why she's 20+ years older than she should be. Her husband explains everything, and she can retain any information she gathers during the day; however, she loses it all as she sleeps each night. So she starts keeping a journal... and then she has no idea who she can trust in her life. I couldn't put it down.

Here's the description from
Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he's obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis--all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac. With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she's written three unexpected and terrifying words: "Don't trust Ben." Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? And, for the reader: Can Christine’s story be trusted?