HOW MY BLOGGING JOURNEY BEGAN….

On April 21, 2008, I created my very first blog.  It was on Blogger, and I called it Laurel-Rain Snow’s Creations.  I later changed its title to Story Corner.

When I started moving over to Word Press, creating blogs here, I still hung onto that first blog.  But eventually, I deleted it, having moved some of the content over to this blog and others.  This blog was my first on Word Press, launched on June 22, 2009.  Several name changes followed over the years (Explorations, Reflections, & Meditations), as I merged a few of my Blogger sites (after I had gone a little crazy creating so many).

Check out the story of my blogging journey here.

Rainy Days & Mondays was my last blog to come to Word Press, and while I didn’t move all the content when I recreated it here on December 3, 2014, I did bring over most of my reviews.

Because I have had so many blogs (now I have six), and because they have gone through so many incarnations, I seldom celebrate the blogoversaries.

But occasionally I do like to mention how my journey began.

Here are the blogoversaries of my current sites:

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An Interior Journey –  June 22, 2009

Potpourri – July 11, 2009

Curl up and Read – October 22, 2009

Snow Sparks – May 10, 2010

Serendipity – August 4, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays  – August 16, 2009 on Blogger

                                              December 3, 2014 on Word Press

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What do you remember (and celebrate) about your blogging journey? 

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FROM THE INTERIOR: BITTERSWEET MOMENTS – THE BERLINERS MOVE ON

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Today is a bittersweet day….my adventures with the Berliners are on hiatus, as they head up north.  We had a great month together, with lots of laughs.

To help me adjust to the silence in my home, I have moved back into my reconfigured office space, above—minus the large bookcase that jutted out before—and I have much more room for my current projects.

Here is another view of the changes:

 

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As I sort through some photos from the Berliners’ LA experiences, I grab some of my favorites, taken at my second son’s apartment in Hollywood.  Here is Gabi against an LA backdrop:

 

 

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Gabi expressing “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”:

 

 

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Craig, the photographer, taking a break:

 

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What’s next for me?  Well, I must catch up on my reading and blogging, watch some Netflix, and think about how much fun we will have when they return in September.

Meanwhile, they are headed to Sacramento…and then the Northern Coast, where my youngest son and his wife live.  Fiona will be attending college there, so while she waits to begin, she is exploring the cooler weather and the beach life.

 

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Today I plan to start reading Some Luck, by Jane Smiley.

 

 

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I am also excited that I downloaded a NetGalley review book I’ve been anticipating:  X (Kinsey Millhone Book 24), by Sue Grafton.

 

 

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What does your world look like this week?

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MY INTERIOR WORLD: ECHOES OF THE PAST

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Here I am, enjoying a cup of coffee and pondering what to write about on my trusty laptop, Louisa May.   I do name all of my devices, of course.

But that is a topic for another day.  Today I am pondering how one action can start a chain of events and lead to something totally unexpected…serendipitous, even.

Above my office desk was a basket on the wall that was stuffed with greeting cards and various mementos.  See below, I drew a square around the basket.

 

 

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I had decided that it needed a purge—you know how much I have been purging lately—and this was an untapped spot in need of some work.

When I took it down and started sorting, I was surprised to find some photos, too, so I had to scan one of them.  This one was taken in the winter of 1979, in the apartment I had rented after my divorce.  It was a place for starting over.

 

 

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And seeing the photo reminded me of the apartment, and the few things that I enjoyed about it.  So I grabbed a photo album from that time period, and scanned a few more.

BelowI remember enjoying the arched doorways and the slightly Mediterranean architecture…and in the background, to your left, you can see the wicker fan on the wall.  For those who were around during those times, back then, you could go into a Pier I or a Cost Plus store (now World Market) and see them everywhere.  I lived in this apartment from 1979-1980.

 

 

1979 - starting over

 

 

The rust colored chairs…and the similarly colored sofa (below) were also remnants from those times.

 

 

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I had this furniture for several years afterwards, until I was living in my townhouse a few years later (1988-94), when it became too worn and scruffy to be seen.

I love seeing it again, all bright and new, in these photos.

Note the table between the wing back chairs, in the second photo above:  that is the ice cream table that I still have. (See below)

 

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And here is the ice cream table (below) behind the rust-colored couch, circa 1980.  I lived in the apartment pictured below from 1980-1983.

 

 

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I do love hanging onto things, and sometimes I forget the various incarnations  of each piece.  All of my interiors have showcased the old favorites, as well as a few new things along the way.

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What is the point of showcasing these moments from the past?  Well, in a sense, I am traveling backward in time and reminding myself of where I’ve been.

And this all happened today because I decided to clear out the basket of mementos in my office.

Do you ever find yourself traipsing through your past, studying and sometimes scanning the evidence of the many homes and belongings you have enjoyed?  Do you get there unexpectedly, just because you were clearing out a room, or a drawer, or a basket?

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REVIEW: TEARS & TEQUILA, BY LINDA SCHREYER & JO-ANN LAUTMAN

519eAHHAVVLWhen Joey Lerner lands in LA, she is on one more stop in a gypsy-like journey, a series of flights from the pain and loss in her life.

She has a temporary place to stay with an old friend, Kat Jenkins, and a job interview at a place called Oasis. Her resume looks like a reflection of her flights along the way, but it is varied enough to land her a job as a handyperson….and then, unexpectedly, Joey is assigned a task of substituting as the grief counselor for a grief group. A gig that turns into something more or less regular. She has become a person who can fix broken things, even as she helps fix broken people.

The owner of the place, Daniel Wyndham, is a gorgeous hunk from Australia, and soon Joey finds herself more and more drawn to him.

But behind the scenes, someone is plotting her own brand of revenge, centering it on Oasis, Daniel, and Joey.

Will Joey realize that her new gig and the new people in her life are just what she needs to help with her own grief? Will she finally find a home, or will someone set on revenge destroy it all before she can settle into this new life?

The characters felt like real people that became a kind of family to Joey, and their stories made Tears and Tequila: A Novel a wonderfully rich tale of how people can work through their grief and find a support system along the way. I loved learning more about them all: Tamara and her daughter Maya; Maggie; Alli; Sam and his newborn Andrew; Dave, who is carrying a huge secret; and even Del, the doctor with a deep problem he is hiding. Best of all was lovely Berta, a mentor to Joey, and a guide in her own grief work. In the end, there were some triumphant moments that made me want to celebrate. A lovely 5 star read.

REVIEW: THE BOOK OF YOU, BY CLAIRE KENDAL

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A terrifying and gut-wrenching journey, The Book of You: A Novel leads the reader through the harrowing world of one woman…and the man who persistently and obsessively follows her into every corner of that world.

Clarissa is a young woman who met Rafe one night after a book event at the university. A night she does not remember afterwards, but she knows that somehow she and Rafe were together.

Now he believes he owns her and will not let her escape.

Narrated from Clarissa’s viewpoint and partially through her notebook entries, we learn what it feels like to be pursued relentlessly. She is keeping the notes and all the weird gifts he sends her, because she has researched stalking and knows that she must have a lot of evidence.

But her nightmare does not end when the police finally come into the case. No, it is almost as if nothing or nobody can stop him.

 
The story is set in the English town of Bath, and the author drew the characters and settings with such realism that I felt as though I were there with them.

What must happen to finally end the nightmare? And afterwards, how will Clarissa pick up the pieces of her life again? How does her time spent as a juror in a trial about a woman victimized somehow save her? And how does her growing friendship with one of the jurors lend a brightness to her world?

An intense story that I could not put down, I hoped for a final resolution. And there is a partial resolution, but unanswered questions remain. Definitely a memorable story that earned five stars.

REVIEW: WHO ASKED YOU?, BY TERRY MCMILLAN

81yhWWgYv9L._SL1500_Three sisters with very different lives form the core of Who Asked You? Venetia, Arlene, and Betty Jean are each pursuing their own lives, but somehow manage to stay connected with one another. Until some issues divide them.

Narrated alternately between the sisters and a few other characters, we learn what it feels like to be struggling with racial issues, poverty, and the difficulties of raising children in LA in the Twenty-First Century.

Betty Jean has seen one child go to prison, another one lose herself to drugs, and another one who sets himself apart from the family, as if he is superior. When BJ ends up raising her two grandsons, her sisters and adult children have a thing or two to say about it.

Arlene has the most to say. Critical and judgmental, her behavior causes a rift between her and BJ. But her own son has some unexpected issues of his own.

Venetia is not as openly critical of BJ, but she still seems to feel superior. Until something happens in her own life to bring her down to earth.

These characters were so real and sometimes even funny. I enjoyed the dialogue and how the author painted a picture of their lives that I could relate to, even though my own life is different. It takes a unique talent to make the characters relatable to those who have not experienced the same things. A major theme was single mothers of all races and walks of life doing the best they can to achieve their dreams. And in the end, finding out how to fashion their own futures, even when most of their lives are behind them. Four stars.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: A GOODBYE, SOME NOSTALGIA, & READING

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Do you feel nostalgic during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas?  Do your thoughts carry you back in time, highlighting your favorite memories?

Today I was writing a brief article about my journey as one member of a group blog entitled Dames of Dialogue.  Due to my numerous other responsibilities, I am bowing out of the group…and when looking back at some of my contributions, I found this article entitled Home for the Holidays, in which I wax nostalgic about my memories of those moments.  Here are some of my opening remarks in the article.  Click the link for the full story.

When we think about home, we are immediately swept away by all kinds of images—emotional ones, to be sure—and they range from nostalgic to other, less positive images.

There are many clichés about home, from “home is where the heart is” to “you can’t go home again.”  We each have a wide range of memories about home, starting with our own childhoods.  Probably the ones that are most familiar are those associated with special events and holidays.

Right now, with Christmas looming, “home for the holiday” themes abound, from the ads we see to the TV movies that strike a nostalgic chord about home.  Those “Norman Rockwell” images used to grace the covers of popular magazines.

My childhood was full of TV families in their homes that came into our own homes, creating an image of home and family— from “Ozzie and Harriet” to less conventional ones, like “The Beverly Hillbillies.”  One such TV family’s existence owed its life to a holiday special about home, which then expanded into a TV series.  Remember the voices calling out in the evening?  “Good-night, John-Boy!”  Of course, you say, “The Waltons”—they became almost an institution, with those homey scenes.  Those poignant tones calling out at the end of the day conjured up nostalgic images.  Even if you never had “home-like” experiences like those.

Some of you missed out on those particular scenes, growing up after shows like that faded away.  But for us “Baby Boomers,” our younger days were replete with these shows.

In my own life, my homes have been varied.  Growing up in a farmhouse surrounded by fields and country roads, I had a different kind of experience from my own children, who lived in all kinds of houses, including apartments and townhouses, as well as suburban ranch style or English Tudor ones.  We even lived for awhile in an A-frame cottage in the foothills.  But in each “home,” their fathers and I brought our own little piece of home into the physical dwellings, and encircled our families with our traditions. (Continue reading).

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My holidays this year will be as a guest in my daughter’s home, where her Christmas tree is the kind I remember from earlier years.

Heather, Steven, & Noah's tree

Other favorite holiday moments will center around reading.  I have a pile of books that I hope to enjoy over the next couple of weeks.

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And a little mystery is good, too.

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Today I’m reading Hush Little Baby, a terrifying story of what happens when a woman finds her life in danger.

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If you come back here on January 1, you will discover what my first book of the New Year will be, as part of a challenge created by Book Journey.

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REVIEW: WHAT I HAD BEFORE I HAD YOU, BY SARAH CORNWELL

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It is summer when Olivia, newly single mom to Carrie and Daniel, takes them on a road trip to Ocean Vista, the place on the Jersey Shore where she grew up. A place where she is hoping to find something…she knows not what. But it might be the very thing that helps her understand and make sense of her world.

They are enroute to their new home In New York, a home that is half hers, and where she spent some of her teen years. It is where the moving pod awaits them.

In back and forth moments, Olivia’s past and present weave themselves around her, in a dreamlike manner. We see her as a teenager here at this very shore, exploring her independence and rebelling against her mother’s strangeness. Her mother’s psychic “otherness,” her disappearances, the very essence of her illness. Something that Olivia would not come to understand for many years. A thing that is part of her, and now is in Daniel.

He was diagnosed with his bipolar disorder the year before. Olivia blames the end of her marriage to Sam on his inability to cope. But she knows there is more to it.

So when Daniel disappears one day at the shore, Olivia’s search takes her into all the remote places of her life as she looks for her missing son. It is almost like a remembering and an exploration…a quest for herself, her mother, and now her son.

What is the meaning of Olivia’s flashes at the shore long ago? Those “sisters” she keeps seeing, who are fleeing from her? Are they her mother’s lost “twins,” the ones she described to Olivia? Are they ghosts? Or has she conjured them in her imagination? What will Olivia find when she goes to New York that summer as a teen? What unanswered questions will lead to even more?

A story about fractured families, mental illness, and one woman’s desire to know herself, while also rediscovering who her mother was, What I Had Before I Had You: A Novel is a disturbing, sometimes mystical, and oftentimes illusory tale about finding oneself. I loved some of the lyrical writing, although I was also lost at times; the shifting perspectives and scenes, going back and forth in time, were hard to follow. But I felt I had a complete grasp of Olivia’s first person voice, and really enjoyed this passage near the end, as she talks about her mother’s untreated illness:

“Here is what I would say to those people who would judge her, what I would say to myself on some days: What if all the transcendent moments of your life, the sound-track moments, the radiant detail, the gleaming thing at the center of life that loves you, that loves beauty–God or whatever you call it–what if all this were part of your illness? Would you seek treatment? I have, and sometimes I wonder if the greatest passions are just out of my reach. And sometimes I am so grateful….”

An unforgettable story….4 stars.

A JOURNEY THROUGH LOSS, DEATH-DUTIES, & SINKHOLES — A REVIEW

widow's storyOn an early morning in February 2008, Joyce Carol Oates took her husband to the ER at the Princeton Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He would recover and be released in just a few days, they were told. But then unexpectedly, he developed a secondary infection and died, just a couple days before he was due to be discharged.

What an astounding loss! And in A Widow’s Story: A Memoir, we follow the author, known for her prolific literary fiction and who reveals little of her personal life or feelings in those tomes, into a part of her world that is now open to us. Showing us her interior life, from the struggling first moments afterwards, when she must take her husband’s “personal belongings” home to the “death-duties” that overwhelm her in the early days, weeks, and months. Back to a world (her home) full of empty spaces that now seemingly define her life.

And then there are the numerous deliveries and phone calls; bags and bags of letters; intrusions from well-meaning friends and acquaintances. And next come the first tentative efforts to rejoin the world and discovering the vast number of emotional “sinkholes” that seek to pull her into a hell of loss and hopelessness. Insomnia and depression accompany her on her journey, even as she reflects about the life that “was.”

Throughout her story, the author shares moments from the past, revealing bits and pieces of the partnership that was “Raymond and Joyce Smith,” and what it was like to be conjoined with such a supportive person for nearly half a century. Reading this story created an ache within, as I could only imagine such a loss, never having lived in the Land of Widowhood. It does seem to be a universe all on its own, and the people who were most helpful to the author during that first year were those who had been in that very Land.

I very much enjoyed reading about friends of the author’s whose work I’ve also admired, like Gail Godwin, Philip Roth, Margaret Drabble…and more. In such a charmed literary circle, there should be some kind of sheen that surrounds these folks and protects them. But we learn that nobody is immune to this kind of pain.

The writing reveals the depth of the love between these two individuals: Ray and Joyce Smith. We see it in the pain of loss and in how the treasured moments between them are lovingly revealed. And in the end, the widow can proudly say: “I kept myself alive.” Five stars.

A JOURNEY THROUGH ADDICTION & RECOVERY — A REVIEW

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THE LIVES OF THREE UTTERLY HOPELESS ADDICTS CONVERGE FOLLOWING AN ACCIDENTAL AND HORRIFIC DEATH.

Monty Miller, a self-destructive, codependent alcoholic, is wracked by an obsession to drink himself to death as punishment for a fatal car accident he didn’t cause.

Dave Bell, a former all-American track star turned washed-up high school volleyball coach, routinely chauffeurs his bus full of teens on a belly full of liquor and head full of crack.

Angie Mallard, a recently divorced housewife with three estranged children, is willing to go to any lengths to restore the family she lost to crystal meth.

All three are court-mandated to a drug & alcohol rehab high in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. There, they learn the universal truth among alcoholics and addicts:

Though they may all be sick…Some Are Sicker Than Others.

As the story unfolds, one character at a time, the reader is pulled right into the darkness and intensity of the sickness known as addiction. In many ways, I could hardly keep reading, as each one spiraled downward into the illness, full of denial and caught up in the delusions that control was just around the corner. Like an accident you are watching, you want to see, but you also want to look away. The horror was almost too much.

The author obviously knows his subject matter and portrays the cycle of addiction in an honest manner. His characters are composites of his own experiences and those of others he has known. This quality brings an authenticity to the story. Some punctuation errors were distracting, but the story itself kept me reading.

Recommended for those who want to understand addiction and its consequences, as well as the hope of recovery. 3.5 stars.