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Some More Summer Reads

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 29, 2008 in Books I'm Reading

I must be a really quick reader – while we were away this week, I finished 2 complete novels and am 3/4 of the way through a third! – I have always been one to blow through books quickly – especially those that are well written and keep my interest. I had some time to read while we were on the beach and while the kids were at the waterpark and the pool…

By the way, Emily learned to swim underwater while we were on vacation! She’d been afraid to try, but she finally got her courage up and now she’s swimming like an old pro!

But back to the books – the first one I finished was Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston.

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I thought this was going to be a light, funny read. But instead, it was more of a portrait of the breakdown of a marriage. It follows the story of Elinor Mackey – a corporate lawyer and her husband Ted, a podiatrist. Elinor and Ted spend their thirties focused on their careers and then when they decide to try and start a family, they have to endure failed fertility treatments and face a life together without children.

After all the hormone treatments, Elinor becomes impossible to live with and Ted ends up having an affair with Gina, his personal trainer. I think the author tried to present the book in a such a way that you side with no individual character. The story is told from the point of view of each person and so you are able understand and sympathize with the feelings of Ted, Gina and Elinor.

The book was good – but not the lighthearted story I had hoped for. But it was a nice read that accurately reflects the difficulties faced by many people in their marriages – there are no ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ – just people trying to do the best they can.

The next book I read, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, was TOTALLY outside my normal type of book. I’m not even sure exactly why I picked it up – probably because it was previously an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

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Talk about the opposite of a light read! The Road follows a man and his son trying to continue to exist after some sort of an apocalypse that leaves the world lifeless, gray and hopeless. They are on the east coast headed south for more warmth after the sun is covered with nothing but dark, gray skies. All plants are dead – everything is covered with ash – and the remaining starving people are driven to do unthinkable things to survive.

The book is written in an odd style – small paragraphs, short dialogue (with no apostrophes) and poetic language. You never find out the name of the man or the boy – and you never find out exactly what caused the apocalypse. But you can almost feel the rain, the hopelessness, the fear and depression – the story is so well written.

I read this entire book from cover to cover in about 3 hours – in spite of its subject matter and frank images, you can’t help but keep reading. Again, this is not normally my kind of book, but I’m glad I read it. And I was VERY happy to look up and see bright blue skies and lots of happy people on the beach after I finished!

The third book that I have almost finished is The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold.

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I picked up this book after having read another book by Sebold, The Lovely Bones, and after having heard an interview with her on NPR about The Almost Moon.

This book follows the story of Helen Knightly, a woman who kills her mother in the opening chapter. Helen’s mother, Clair, is in her late 80s and is suffering from dementia. Helen helps to care for her mother and in a moment of panic, suffocates her mother while attempting to clean her up after a bowel accident.

The rest of the book goes on to describe Clair’s mental illness and Helen’s childhood growing up with a mother who is, in her words, ‘crazy’. Her mother reaches a point where she will no longer leave the house when Helen is just a young child. Her father tries to deal with her mother as best he can, but he himself commits suicide. And Helen has a failed marriage and two grown children of her own.

I still have a few more pages to go, but I think this is an interesting portrayal of a child growing up with a mother who is mentally ill. In some ways, I think anyone with a less-than-ideal childhood can relate to some of what Helen goes through. I am, however, having problems understanding how she handles herself after her mother’s death – she becomes intimate with her best friend’s son, calls her ex-husband for advice, cuts off her mother’s braid to keep in her purse and puts her mother in the basement freezer. Maybe the author’s intent is to show a bit of mental illness in Helen herself – I’ll have to read the remainder of the book and see how the story ends.

At this rate, I’m going to have to start getting my books from the library and not from the bookstore…not sure the library looks kindly upon sand and water on their books, though…

 
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Back From Vacation

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 28, 2008 in Family Stuff, Our Goldendoodle Puppies

We just returned from a week-long vacation at Frontier Town campground in Ocean City Maryland.  Unfortunately, Andrew wasn’t able to come with us this year – he opted to attend a baseball camp instead to help him get ready for the high school baseball team next year.

We had a great time camping, but why do I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation?

Is this how you feel as you get older?  Or is it just that I try to cram so much into each vacation that by the time I get home I’m exhausted and just want to vegetate in front of the TV for a day or two?

But I’m here in front of the computer for now and thought I’d post a few photos from our trip…let’s see – we tried our hand at crabbing from the pier inside the campground:

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We used some crab nets that I found at a yard sale last fall.  We did catch some crabs…two were too small and one escaped from the net and did a very funny sideways walk across the width of the dock (right back into the water).

After not having much luck at the crabbing pier, we gave up and left our nets with the Raup family (who just happened to be camping at the same campground last week too).  The Raup girls managed to catch almost a dozen crabs!  Not being big crab fans, they left them at our campsite in a bucket of water for us to eat…

Meanwhile, we spent the rest of the day at the beach on Assateague Island trying to convince our two goldendoodles that they are indeed ‘water dogs’:

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They weren’t buying it.  It was like a scene from the TV show, The Monkees – whenever a wave came up to the dogs, they scrambled away from the water as quickly as they could.  But for a little excitement, they did manage to escape from their leashes and ran down the beach at one point, kicking sand on everyone as they went.  Luckily, Matt was able to catch them as they paused to wrestle in the soft sand (no, they still didn’t go anywhere NEAR the water).

And speaking of dogs, the reason that we took them to the beach with us is that the previous day, Geddy proceeded to get sick in the camper while we were out.  And I mean SICK.  On every single piece of upholstery in the camper.   I was absolutely in tears cleaning up after him while Mike went out and bought a steam cleaner and mop.  Before our trip, I went over the entire camper with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (LOVE those things!) to get rid of little marks here and there – I was so proud of how clean the camper was.  As I was cleaning up after the dog, I kept thinking to myself, “What a waste of time THAT was!”

Anyway…by the time we returned to our campsite and found the crabs that the Raups had left for us, the crabs were no longer moving.  I shook the bucket.  No movement.  I picked one up by his big blue claw.  No movement.  Apparently, the crabs had died while waiting for our return!  Frantically, I called the campground store and asked if it was safe to cook dead crabs – all I could think of was the delicious dinner that was in jeopardy!  But it seems that is it not safe to cook and eat crabs that are already dead.  What a waste…we had to have our originally planned hamburgers instead.

We also visited the Frontier Town western theme park while we were there – something we’ve never done before.

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We watched gunfight re-enactments (which the kids weren’t crazy about), the kids panned for gold, we rode in paddleboats, Emily went on a pony ride and we also watched some traditional Indian dances – Emily got up and danced with them onstage – hers was more of an Irish jig than a Native American dance, but it was still fun to watch:

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Matt also learned to shoot a bow and arrow – he was surprisingly accurate:

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We also went on a stagecoach ride:

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During which we were ‘robbed’ by some bandits…again, as you can see by the look on Emily’s face in this photo, she wasn’t crazy about the whole thing…

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After that, she refused to go on the train ride since rumor had it that there may be some bandits there too…

But all-in-all, we had a great time – in spite of the dog illness, stagecoach robbery and even the dead crabs.

We’ve been to this campground twice before and it’s still one of our favorites.  In fact, while we were there, we made reservations to go back again next year.

Oh – and we also wandered over to the Ocean City boardwalk on our last day.  It was HOT – 100 degrees – and we were looking for any place that was air conditioned.  We came upon the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum and paid it a visit:

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Boy, is that a bizarre place!  Here’s Mike and Matt next to a replica of the world’s tallest man:

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They advertise the museum as “fun for the whole family”…and it was interesting enough…once we got past the room with the shrunken head, torture implements and photos of an actual beheading!  Not sure if that is actually fun for the whole family…

We managed to divert the kids’ attention until we got to the more appropriate optical illusions and other weird – but less gruesome – stuff.

Hopefully, my kids aren’t scarred for life after being ‘robbed’ at gunpoint, seeing a bucket full of dead crabs and viewing (albeit quickly) an actual shrunken human head…just another typical Torrence family camping trip for ya’!

 
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Dance Teacher Gift

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 16, 2008 in Crafts, Soldered Art

I just realized that tomorrow is Emily’s last dance class and I had no gift for her dance teacher!

So I took the chance to use a little creativity…

I used a vintage postcard image of some young girls dancing on the beach and made this:

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I added some Dazzling Diamonds to the water and put it behind beveled glass, taping the edges with some scallped-edge tape and soldering over the tape.

I also added some rub-ons right on the glass for the sentiment.  This took longer than I thought – the first ones I used looked awful because they had a clear border around them – I had to remove them with clear tape.  These were not my first font choice, but the Making Memories rub-ons look SO much better on glass (there’s no border – just clean letters). 

I added a velvet ribbon, a piece of filigree and some beads.  This could be a sweet Christmas ornament or just something to hang on a hook.

I only used one piece of glass – the back is patterned paper:

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This makes the ornament much lighter (but is a little harder to tape).

Not bad for last-minute – I hope she likes it!

 
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My First Book of the Summer

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 15, 2008 in Books I'm Reading

Now that summer’s here, I’ll finally have a chance to catch up on some reading. I have a stack of books that have been calling my name, waiting to be read while sitting in a beach chair by the lake and pool.

And I just finished my first summer book – Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

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This is one of those books that is extremely disturbing but that you can’t stop reading all at the same time.

The book follows the life of Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman in Afghanistan. As a child, Amir lives in a peaceful Afghanistan and spends his days playing with Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. I loved reading about Afghanistan during this time period – in my eyes, I’ve always associated the country with war and destruction, not with persimmon trees and kite tournaments. After reading the first half of the book, I could vision Afghanistan as the beautiful place that it was.

The wonderful thing about this book is that the author not only describes the political situation in Afghanistan in a very graphic, eye-opening way, but he also gets you emotionally connected with these characters at the same time. You feel invested in Amir and Hassan’s future and can feel their pain and struggles.

Amir considers himself a coward and when tested, he is unable to stand up for his friend as his friend did for him. This haunts him for years and affects the rest of his life – the guilt and shame of what he did (and didn’t do) when he was just a teenager.

As an adult, he has a chance to make things right and comes face-to-face with some demons from the past – and what demons they are. Hosseini described the Taliban’s ferocious methods of punishing those who oppose them in a detail that chilled me to the bone.

I have to say that I was just a little disappointed in the ending. I had hoped that after reading through all the horrible scenes of rape and murder that the author could just throw us a bone and give us a happy end to the story. But I guess that’s how real life works – happy endings are not guaranteed – especially for those living in that part of the world.

Still, I would recommend this book – just be prepared for a story that will challenge you.

 
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Church Scrapbook

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 14, 2008 in Crafts, Scrapbooks, Today's Photo

One of my largest and most overwhelming projects this month was to make a scrapbook for our pastor, Dr. Rev. Lanie Price, who is leaving us in a few weeks to go to another church.

Our church has been through a lot in the last few years including a church fire and rebuilding project, so there was a lot to include in the scrapbook.

In order to get the book completed, I had to let go of my OCD side and keep the pages simple – if I agonized over each embellishment on every single page, I never would have finished. Instead of traditional journaling, I included one more scripture verses on each page that reflected the subject.

Still, this book was an enormous amount of work in a small period of time – and my messy house proves where all of my attention has been focused lately!

I will be presenting Lanie with the book tonight – and will also be making a speech to the 200+ people who will be attending the Celebration Service – yikes! But I think I have a good little speech and I’m happy with the book turned out – I’ll just be relieved when the speech is over and the book is out of my hands.

I thought I’d include photos of the pages of the book here on my blog for members of the church to view (since she’ll be taking the book with her). There were also a few additional pages not included here that contained letters and cards given by members of the congregation.

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Just as a point of reference, I started the book at our last Scrapbooking Ministry meeting on May 31st and completed the book yesterday. Can you see why I haven’t had time to post in a while? :)

I did make it a bit easier on myself by purchasing coordinating products from the K&Co K-Ology “Hannah” collection. I bought one of the “Scrap Pad to Go” paper pads and actually used the whole thing and had to buy another.

I think the result was well worth it – I hope that this book will help Lanie to remember her years at PUMC.

 
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Congratulations, Andrew the Graduate!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 14, 2008 in Family Stuff

It’s been a busy few weeks at the Torrence household! Lots of endings, goodbyes and celebrations.

Andrew graduated from eighth grade this week – we’re so proud of him!

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His was the last class to graduate from St. Bridget School in Glassboro – the school is merging with another next year.

He also attended his eighth grade dance last weekend – what a handsome boy!

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I can’t believe he’ll be going to high school next year!

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