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.

 

 

1979-lrs starting over

 

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.

 

 

1980-ice cream table

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.

***

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?

***

A JOURNEY THROUGH TRAGEDY…AND BEYOND — A REVIEW

DayAfterYesterday_coverAlong a stretch of Hwy. 101 in California, a straggling collection of people linger in a diner, while the rains pound ruthlessly and the few customers are reluctant to breach the torrents of the outside world. A rain-drenched and soaked man enters, looking battered and beaten by much more than the rains….

Thus begins our story, and as the prologue reveals, life has changed dramatically for this man; we soon learn that his name is Daniel Whitman, and that horrific things have happened to him.

Flash back five months, and we see his life before. And what tragedy led Daniel to this place. We know before the story begins that his family is taken away from him: a wife and a son. What we learn now, slowly, is what his journey will look like now. And how he, inexplicably, or so it seemed to those he left behind, walked out of his life.

The Day After Yesterday is the tale of that journey, but it reveals much more: after the events of Daniel’s life following his tragedy, people and events reshape his life view and even his choices. And eventually he does go home, but everything is different.

The story alternates between Daniel’s journey and what happens to those he seemingly abandoned.

Then later, the story moves ahead and shows us what this newly reshaped life looks like. We meet new characters, we see miraculous events unfold…and in the end, we are left filled with a wide range of emotions.

At least that’s what I felt for the first 300 or so pages. But then the pace quickened and moved ahead years and suddenly it wasn’t just about Daniel anymore, but a metaphorical discovery of life and how we are pummeled by it at times…and how we can choose to let it batter us. Or we can accept it and move on.

A very philosophical story that had moments of sheer joy mixed with the darkest angst. The story took a lot out of me; and in the end, I knew I would think of it for a long while. My only issue with it was the pace and the pages and pages that felt unnecessary. However, they did skewer the point about life and how it gives us a beating sometimes. For me, however, this one earned four stars.

THOUGHTS FROM THE INTERIOR OF MY BLOGGING JOURNEY — JAN. 16

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Sometimes our blogging journey takes us to intriguing places.  And when one has a penchant for blog makeovers (yes, I’m guilty of that!), one must acknowledge that it sometimes surprises us.

Like when, out of curiosity, I explored the new themes available and found this one!  I had seen it already over at Should Be Reading, where Miz B also likes to change things up.  I’m always curious about what she will show us next.

What I love about this theme:  the wide space for a header; the misty look that seems so relaxing and restful; and the fact that the changeover happened without “deleting” my widgets.

Yes, sometimes I have to recreate the widgets in my sidebar(s) when I change over to a new theme.  And it’s annoying.  But this one left everything in place (except the header); but no worries.  I just uploaded my same header (a new one for the beginning of 2013).

I like showing images that symbolize or subtly portray my bookish journey.  A few months ago, I added my Coca Cola coffee cup with text that seems to epitomize what is going on here.

What do you consider when (or even if) you are making blog changes?  Do you have special needs that such a change must satisfy?

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FINDING HAPPINESS IN THE NOW: AN INTERIOR JOURNEY — A REVIEW — NOV. 6

How does one person explore the core of family, home, and the life around her to discover the hidden treasures that are there, right in front of her? In Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life, Gretchen Rubin systematically takes a closer look at her vow to “Be Gretchen,” and thus extend the truths she discovered in her book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun to the interior and exterior world right in front of her.

She takes the project a month at a time: in September, she looks at Possessions and finding a true simplicity. In October, she examines Marriage and finding ways to prove her love. November is the month to discover Parenthood aspects, like paying attention.

Moving outward from the interior world of her apartment to the neighborhood; finding treasures around her; and creating secret places, while also discovering her own causes, the author inspired me to take another look at my own world. Seeing it through fresh eyes.

I love that we can find our own happiness by examining our true desires, wishes, and passions.

I enjoyed this passage:

“My home was a reflection of myself, so the work I did to make my home more homey was actually an extended exercise in self-knowledge. To be more at home at home, I had to know myself, and face myself. This was the way to true simplicity: to be myself, free from affectation, posturing, or defensiveness.”

I recommend this book for those who enjoyed The Happiness Project, as well as for anyone who loves finding their true passion and the joy it brings. Five stars.

MY MANY JOURNEYS: RECONFIGURING, RELOCATING, AND PONDERING — NOV. 6

 

Welcome to my “interior world,” where I enjoy reading, sipping coffee in the morning—in this newly configured morning space—and then watching a little TV between more reading.

On the weekend, I decided to revamp my dining area…again.  And now the Baker’s Rack holds pride of place, front and center (so to speak).

It was a lot of work, since I had to remove all the items from the rack, as well as the green cupboard (now on the left side of the space); I felt a little virtuous, since everything got thoroughly dusted in the process.

The Baker’s Rack sat in its former place ever since I bought it.

This version shows it in the space I reconfigured awhile ago when I moved the red cupboard into the corner.

I have always had a yen for Baker’s Racks.  I noticed them on TV shows or movies, and drooled a bit.  But I could never find just the one.  They were always too fragile looking; or had too many mirrors or surfaces that needed polishing.  I wanted one with shelves I could fill with books and trinkets, but I also wanted drawers.  And space below for more stuff.

Finally, while wandering around in the furniture stores near my neighborhood, I found this one!  And it was discounted, because the store was going out of business.  Mixed feelings all around…I hate when stores go out of business.  But I love discounts.

And they delivered it the next day, at minimal cost.

I had made room for it near the patio door…and thought it would stay there forever.

But my restless spirit kept seeing it elsewhere, while my dread of big chores like this would be kept me from acting.  Until Sunday.

What is it about Sunday that brings out this part of me?  Does it feel like a day for recreating things?  Often my urges for upheaval are satisfied on a Sunday….And then again, it could have been because I was watching the DVD collection of Lipstick Jungle.…where my love of Baker’s Racks was refueled years ago.  The character Nico has a lovely one in her dining area.  Of course, hers is not filled with all the stuff mine has…

But I do love looking at it now, in the newly reconfigured space.  You can see it as you come in the front door.  And it seems like an icon standing there in such a prominent place…

Hmm…Should I move that “Chez Raine” sign, so it reads like a caption? (You can barely see the sign in the second photo).

 

Here it is!  This sign (see above) was one I had made for me when I was living in the foothills.  There it welcomed guests, as it “lived” on the front door.

You can scarcely glimpse it in this photo above.

The sign, like me, has been on many journeys.  But should I move it again?  That would mean rearranging the other pictures and spackling the nail holes again…lol.  What do you think?

A GRITTY, REVELATORY EXPLORATION — A REVIEW

The relationship between a mother and a daughter can be conflicted and tenuous at best. Sometimes the ties that bind are slippery slopes that, upon closer scrutiny, reveal how much the mother’s disappointments are reflected back to her when she gazes at her daughter.

When the author of Unraveling Anne begins her story, she jolts the reader with the fact of her mother’s tragic end immediately. She describes how others react to the word. She says:

“My mother was murdered.

“It’s a shocking word, murdered. I don’t like to use it. But it is the truth. Murder is the only word that honestly describes her death. So sometimes, when someone asks what happened to my mother, instead of holding onto this word, toying with the small pain of it as if it were a loose tooth, I go ahead and spit it out. No matter how many times I do, no matter how many people I tell, the raw strangeness of the fact of my mother’s death never changes….”

Thus begins the chronicling of a life, by first reenacting her death. Years before, when the author first learned of the tragedy, she was living on the opposite coast; her journey to deconstruct her mother’s life and death begins twenty years later with a visit to LA and an examination of the murder book.

Saville’s descriptions of growing up in LA in the sixties and seventies and the ongoing party that was her mother’s life are interspersed with tales of her mother’s beauty, her art, and how the daughter felt proud of her in those moments. But as the party guests morph from artists, musicians, and celebrities to street people, and as Anne’s drinking consumes her life, there now remains an eerie and gritty detritus that shows little resemblance to what once was. The beautiful model, designer, and golden girl has toppled into disarray.

The moments of pride fade away, and the author recalls “taking care of herself,” but she adds that this necessity helped her develop self-reliance. There was also a supportive presence of a grandmother nearby, along with the libraries where she found comfort after school, and even teachers who built up her self-esteem.

So the story continues, as the author resurrects her childhood and those memories, and then goes deeper into an examination of her mother’s life. She is startled to discover at some point that the grandparents who were the stopgap caretakers were also the two who first helped “create” the fears, insecurities, and demons that taunted her mother. And the generation before them had its own role in the damage inflicted. In understanding those who came before, the author begins to understand and accept who she is, in spite of, and because of, her mother.

In the haunting cover photo, in which the photographer is carrying out the mother’s wish to create “income-producing models or actors,” we see the tattered theater seats set up by the photographer who displayed, along with the author (as a child), the “detritus of my mother’s modeling days—dresses with beads falling off, bright boas that left feathers floating in the air, floppy hats with bent flowers on the brims—”

A gritty, revelatory exploration that was occasionally difficult to follow, as it jumped around chronologically, I still could not put it down. I am awarding this memorable memoir four stars.

MEANDERING INTERIOR JOURNEYS — A REVIEW

In the early 1980s, life for young college graduates in The Marriage Plot: A Novel seemed to spread out before them with infinite possibilities. We first meet them while still at Brown University as they are enjoying philosophical issues and endless mating.

Our main focus throughout the story centers around three of these graduates: Leonard Bankhead, a “charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy”; Madeleine Hanna, an English major, writing on Jane Austen and George Eliot, “purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels”; and Mitchell Grammaticus, intrigued with Christian mysticism and obsessed with Madeleine.

But college is not the real world, and these three discover that uncertainty more than anything else will define their lives over the next year.

Leonard and Madeleine have an on-again, off-again romance complicated by secret issues that gradually are revealed, while Mitchell’s journey in Europe and the Far East distracts him just a bit from his angst over Madeleine.

Each very long section of the book tells the story from different perspectives, winding to and fro in much the way that young people full of restless energy meander when money is not an object and when their own narcissistic pursuits govern their lives.

I really wanted to love this book, and on an intellectual level, I liked the concepts. But I didn’t like the characters. Yes, I felt sympathy for their plights, especially for the melodrama of the Leonard-Madeleine duo when his emotional state and catastrophic mood swings seemed to control everything about their lives. Mitchell’s unwavering obsession with Madeleine seemed a bit pathological, but perhaps understandable, considering his background.

I didn’t get the feeling that the author cared much for these characters, either, and this was exemplified by the author’s somewhat detached writing style. Too bad, since I would have enjoyed “feeling” their pain and really delving into their interior lives with something resembling emotion. Three stars.

WEEKEND THOUGHTS FROM THE INTERIOR — NOV. 4

GRAB A CUP OF COFFEE!

As the weekend approaches, I am once again reminded of how wonderful the weeks are for me these days.

Back in my old workaday world, weeks were something to trudge through, moving toward the weekend.

Nowadays I’m just as excited about Monday as I am Friday.

Sometimes the days seem to blur together, and the next thing I know, it’s the weekend.

Finding joy and creativity in each day is a gift.  A hard-earned reward, perhaps, for all the years of trudging.

Not to put down the trudging years.  Those life moments gave me a lot of material to write about.  And now my days give me the time to turn those moments into creations.

I’m just about finished with two WIPs, which I’ve mentioned in my writing blogs.  On Snow Chronicles, I have excerpted from each of them, as well as from my published works.

At Creative Moments, I have separate pages for each of my published novels.  There I also document my writing challenges.

Interior Designs will be published first, since it has already gone through several Beta reads and I’ve tweaked and polished it until it is now shrieking for mercy.

My MC sprang from one of my published books, Embrace the Whirlwind, in which she portrays a rather manipulative character named Martha Scott Cummings.  As I thought about this character afterwards, I realized that there had to be more to her story.  So ID is an exploration of what made that character who she was and offers the opportunity for her to reinvent herself.

In Defining Moments, which will come out in the spring of 2012 (hopefully), my MC, Jillian McAvoy, is a writer/blogger who loses her way in the World of the Web.

She is unlike any character in my other books.  In some ways, she reminds me of my own obsession with blogging and social networking, taken to an extreme, and some days, as I travel the web, I think about what could happen if….

I like to write about people in situations that are familiar to me, but whose lives take them out on a limb or two.  Even if they veer dramatically away from the paths I’ve traveled, there are similarities that I hope will make readers connect to them.

Reading several books a week is another gift in my new life.  Sometimes I read mysteries, while at other times, I am drawn to the books about people in troubled relationships, or families caught up in one or another tragedy.  Dysfunction calls to me.

Right now I’m reading a book set in the sixties about a troubled child whose mother is in prison, and how the only family available to him (aside from strangers) is comprised of a motley crew of quirky individuals living in Humboldt County, California.  My cup of tea!

Wrecker, by Summer Wood, is the abandoned child for whom life turns around in most unexpected ways. It’s June of 1965 when Wrecker enters the world. The war is raging in Vietnam, San Francisco is tripping toward flower power, and Lisa Fay, Wrecker’s birth mother, is knocked nearly sideways by life as a single parent in a city she can barely manage to navigate on her own. Three years later, she’s in prison, and Wrecker is left to bounce around in the system before he’s shipped off to live with distant relatives in the wilds of Humboldt County, California. When he arrives he’s scared and angry, exploding at the least thing, and quick to flee. Wrecker is the story of this boy and the motley group of isolated eccentrics who come together to raise him and become a family along the way.

What kinds of things do you enjoy during the week, as well as on the weekend?  What books do you enjoy most?

THOUGHTS FROM THE INTERIOR — HUMP DAY — SEPT. 28

Let's Chat with Coffee!

 

Last night was one of those restless ones…I kept thinking about what I wanted to do today.  Planning, making lists…it’s hard to sleep when that’s going on.

So now it’s Hump Day, and we’re nearing the end of September.  It’s officially Fall, which is my favorite season—and not just because my birthday is coming up in October.

I love the new TV shows unfurling themselves for us to enjoy.  A new season of Castle; another season of Parenthood, which I feared would not return, since the shows I love are often cancelled; and a really exciting new show called Ringer, on the CW.

And one of my all-time favorites that didn’t return this season is enjoying a new life of reruns on Soap Net (Brothers and Sisters).

These are just a few favorites, and I’m very happy to have a DVR, since I’m often too wiped out to watch them all at night.

This week is Banned Books Week, and we’re reflecting on those books that have been banned/challenged over the years, and telling those folks (whoever and wherever they are!) that we’re not going to stop reading them!

I’m rereading The Handmaid’s Tale, which is on the list…and I just finished Cat’s Eye (review), another book by this author.  Fabulous!

Today I’m reading something entirely different (and not banned) about the New York real estate market (Hot Property).

Later on, I should go to the gym, since I missed yesterday…sigh.  But I’m feeling lazy.  Maybe I should just put in a round on my exercise bike while watching Castle and Parenthood.  What do you think?

What are you planning for the day?  I’d love to have you stop by and chat…bring some coffee (or a Mimosa!).

 

THOUGHTS FROM THE INTERIOR — SEPT. 20

Good morning, Blog World!

After BBAW wrapped this past week, I felt reflective, and while I was musing about all that I’d learned, I wrote a post about branding.

What is our unique voice and presence on our blog(s), and what does it convey?

Since this blog is An Interior Journey—which started out as Explorations and then morphed into Explorations, Reflections, and Meditations—I decided that the answer to that question lay in the title and what it conveys.

An inner journey, if you will.  Recently I took one of my characters from Embrace the Whirlwind and launched an interior journey in a new book called Interior Designs.  A play on her career as an interior designer, but also a symbol of the inner explorations she would have to pursue as she tried to understand the mistakes she’d made…and change the direction of her life.

Do you ever do that?  Wonder about why you did what you did in the past?  I’m sure that most of us do at one time or another.  Obviously, we can’t change the past, but maybe we can figure out our feelings and behavior and change the present.

So, in embarking on this interior journey with Martha Scott Cummings, the abandoned wife from ETW, we learn that there is a lot more to this character than we saw in the first book.

Yes, she came across in ETW as a b…h, but she, like everyone in this world, has some redeeming qualities.  At least I believe that most people do have those qualities.  Sometimes they’re hard to find, and we might have to dig deep to find them.  But maybe it’s worth the exploration.

What, if any, unique experiences have led to your blog presence?  I hope you’ll share.