my problem with fiction; and the solution

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I bought a book recently based on the recommendation of an author I thought I could trust.  She raved about the book Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett, and consequentially, as soon as it came out, I bought it and read it.  It was terrible.  The best thing about it was the cover and that’s saying something.

This is just one example of what usually happens to me:  I pick up a fiction book because it says “bestseller!!!” on it and then wonder why I can’t get into it.  I thought maybe I wasn’t intelligent enough to understand the deep and hidden meanings/ideas that made a book a bestseller.  (this still could be the case, I suppose)

When I read I want to get lost in the book.   I want to get that feeling like “I cannot put this book down.”

If I get the sense that a book is trying too hard to be a book, I can’t read it.

The book has to be a book!!

My mistake was made when I subconsciously lumped *all of fiction* into one category…decided I wasn’t cut out for fiction….abandoned it….. and resorted to reading mainly memoirs.  I have the best time with memoirs.  I’ll always love memoirs.  (For a while I thought I had a problem with fiction because it was “made up”….after all, memoirs are for the most part true, or based on, truth.)

I watched the movie “The Age of Innocence” and watching the movie provoked me to read the book (free with kindle).  Ahhh, here was fiction to respect!  The Hunger Games?  Bah!  Yawn!  Sneeze!  (actually, truth be told, I did like the first book, it was the 2nd and 3rd I couldn’t read.)

But why?  Why did I enjoy The Age of Innocence and not Catching Fire?   And how?  How could I find these books, the fiction books, that I could read and respect?  Certainly not by walking aimlessly around the fiction section at the library!

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The answer came to me just the other day when I was in the depths of reading a most wonderful book which I had selected at random from a used bookstore.  How on earth can I be enjoying this fiction story, I asked myself.  It was written in 1942, perhaps that was the answer.  Perhaps I have a problem with modern fiction.  After all, I hated Commonwealth (for example) and that JUST came out.  Perhaps the internet/online world destroyed the creativity and seriousness of the written word so that fiction works are no longer respectable?  How very depressing!

Not at all.  As I thought and thought about this problem, I finally realized and came to the conclusion that I was wandering around in the wrong type of fiction……

I realized that fiction isn’t just “fiction”. It’s divided up into different categories within the genre.  HELLO!  Now we’re getting somewhere……..

(I’m sure I should have realized this years ago, but whatever, I was too busy having babies.) I’m excited! what’s the point, you ask?

Look to the Mountain, as I researched it online, was a Pulitzer prize nominated book, and that was my light bulb moment.  What could be more literary than a Pulitzer prize book?  I quickly searched for the Pulitzer prize winners list and realized I had only read a few of them.  Right then and there, in front of the fire place, I realized I had a lot of reading to look forward to.

The point is this;  I am going to read all the Pulitzer prize fiction winners and not in any specific order because I’m going to search and find them all in second hand bookshops.

(insert squeals of joy here!)

I may even read all the runners up, as well!!

There is an awesome little used bookstore in Rutland, VT.  My son Ethan’s college is nearby and when we drove him back on Sunday I went inside to look for my books.  My Pulitzer books.  I quickly found two: The Good Earth, by Pearl S Buck, and Ironweed, by William Kennedy.

But first I had to finish Look to the Mountain.  Which I did, last night.

I just want to say….I highly recommend this book.  It was the best book I’ve read in a long time, and it was reminiscent of another long time favorite, Hannah Fowler, by Janice Holt Giles.  There is a special place in my heart for early American pioneer stories.  Reading them makes me want to make stew over an open fire and put on a long full skirt.  I often sighed to think, “I wish I could find another book like Hannah Fowler.” And I did!  This one is even better!

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410 pages of wonderful words…..woven together into a meaty, rich, beautiful book.

She stood at the top of the rise and she watched to the eastward….guessing between which two treetops would be the place where the sun would come.  Then the sky grew too bright there to see the tree branches.  
     The true gleam of the sun, it the first instant she saw it, was of the sun itself—and a long ways away from her.
     Then across all that distance it came into her eyes…and her eyes had to turn from it.
     She threw back her hood, and on her face was the morning.  pg. 107

******

 

the day of thanksgiving

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My brother Dave got some great pictures on Thanksgiving day.  I thought I would post the ones he sent to me, along with the few that I was able to take on that day, as well.  It’s funny as I look at them I feel peace…but in actuality the day was quite busy with lots and lots to do and think about (and I never did get the pumpkin pie out of the fridge to serve!  totally forgot about it).  I had lots of help from my Mom and everyone.  It truly came together wonderfully.

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Seth was determined to peel potatoes.  I let Jacob help me peel when he was four years old and he peeled his finger so it’s always been an emphatic “no” from me to Seth.  He took matters into his own hands and found a peeler in the drawer for himself.  And yes, he did just fine, after all HE is almost eight.  Thank you, Seth!

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His look of intense concentration was just the dearest.

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We turned all the heat off in the house but it was still too warm to start a fire in the fireplace.  But I love this room….(we added it to the house a few years ago)

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I played a few hymns for the potato peelers.

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Rich, Jacob, and Ethan watching something on a phone….

I like how Dave took wide photos to get the details of the rooms.

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my husband and his boys (plus Michael, Jacob’s best friend) watching TV

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Sarah started eating the homemade rolls as soon as they were done.  They are obviously her favorite thanksgiving food.

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Grace and her Aunt Maria made the corn casserole.

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Mom, sister Amanda, sisters in law Cassandra, Maria, and Melissa, daughter Grace, myself, and my niece Abigail (who turned 16 yesterday!)  surrounded by lovely fiestware.  ;)

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Caleb and Dad having a chat.

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kitchen help🙂

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Dad played football with his grandsons.  Seriously, he’s the best.

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quick family photo before we ate dinner

LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!

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My sister Amanda took these during Dad’s prayer of thanksgiving to God for all His numerous blessings to our family and the world……..

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and then we served up our plates of food and ate all over the place….yes indeedy it was delicious

(I had no appetite which is the only downfall for being the hostess….I get so busy and distracted that I can’t enjoy my food! LOL)  the leftovers have been delicious, though.

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and then there was time for a few goofy sibling photos…….

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so thankful…whenever we can all be together in the same house….there’s just nothing like that feeling.  I never want to take it for granted.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

PS.  and now on to Christmas.  :)

 

day after thanksgiving

The dryer is humming.  An orange cat is at my feet, busily cleaning his fur.  The bed is made and I’m sitting on top of the blankets with blue jeans, a flannel, and brown moccasins on.

I can hear Sarah’s movie from the other room, I can hear the cat licking itself, I can hear the dryer, but as I look around the room, everything is quiet and still.  Motionless.  The trees outside are like statues.  If I wasn’t typing, I would be motionless as well.  My eyes would stare; at the shiny doorknob of my bedroom door, at the curtains, the fan on the floor, the patterns of the wood grain of the dresser.

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday at this time the kitchen and dining room were swarming with family, everyone talking, gesturing, laughing, working, eating, cleaning up, taking photos.

Everyone has gone.

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It’s almost a lonely feeling.  To make so many plans and then have a holiday over.

Caleb is loudly whistling.  Rich is at the school setting up for wrestling season.  I can hear the boys digging through the lego bin.  Seth is singing a silly song.

I’m tired.  I’m wearing the day after thanksgiving like a cozy blanket.

preparations for Thanksgiving

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Wow what a nice sunny day it is here in good ol’ *hometown* USA.  As soon as I got the kids to school and took my shower I made my way to the grocery store for thanksgiving groceries trip #1.  Trip #2 is tomorrow because my husband has the day off and he loves Costco.  (We’re getting the turkey at Costco…….)

And lest you think I was going to bring all the groceries inside the house myself:

..and yes, he did get up and do it.  :)

So, for preparations today, I am slowly getting organized to make sure I have all the things I need for the dishes I will be preparing on Thursday.

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~Disposable turkey roaster because who wants to scrub out a turkey roaster?
~Bread for stuffing.
~Poultry seasoning, of which I have plenty because it’s one of those things that I never want to run out of so I end up getting more of it than I need.
~Turkey bags to roast the turkey in.

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~wheat pilaf

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~punch (sherbet in the freezer)….I will be putting the juice and soda on the porch to cool.

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~pickles and olives (tray which used to belong to Rich’s grandmother)

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~chips and dip

~I could make deviled eggs but haven’t committed yet.

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~Orange jello salad (cool whip in freezer)

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~crackers and cheese tray

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~miscellaneous– more serving pieces

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~corn casserole (sour cream and butter will be added, and eggs)

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~more trays, plates, and dishes if needed

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this along with the dishes that are in the kitchen (plates, bowls, and mugs)

These are the wonderful people attending our meal on Thursday, Lord willing:

Myself
Rich
Jacob-going to VT today to get Ethan, thank you J!
Ethan
David
Grace
Caleb
Seth
Sarah Joy
Michael
Mom-will be helping me in the kitchen
Dad
Dave
Maria-bringing pies, baklava, and wine
Amanda-bringing sweet potatoes, coleslaw, wine, and homemade cranberry sauce
Jason
Abigail
Naomi
Weston
Nate
Melissa-bringing a vegetable tray and a birthday cake
Makayla-birthday girl!
Gregory
Isaac
Cassandra-bringing salad
a guest invited by my sister

Now that I’m done with the groceries I am going to watch a movie, fold laundry and do some cleaning.  Seth and Sarah will be home in an hour.

xo

thanksgiving preparations

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We are hosting thanksgiving dinner for our family on Thursday and this morning I began preparations.

I made the rolls…….

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let in a kitty

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kept making rolls….

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including a round pan of cinnamon rolls to be baked on Thursday morning for breakfast.

(for you, E)

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At this point, everything went into the freezer.  On thursday morning I will take the rolls out and put them in pans to rise and then bake them so they are nice and fresh for our feast day.

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next I will make a couple of

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pies, but first some

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coffee.  With

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Jake.

 

super long but I promise you will enjoy it

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On Tuesday I had to take Grace to the doctors because she was awake half the night in agony.  Turns out she had a full blown ear infection.  She stayed home from school for two days in a row because of it and is on antibiotics.

On Wednesday, Rich and I drove to Vermont to watch the very first wrestling event at Ethan’s college.  We watched him wrestle in the exhibition matches before the main event.  He lost to his opponent and then by the end of the night the varsity team ended up losing by a distant tie breaker. It was such a close competition.  The gym was packed and I loved how the refs encouraged all the young kids in the stands to come down and sit right by the mat to watch.  So, this was my favorite photo of the whole night, just because of this dear little boy who reminded me so much of Seth:

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After the meet Ethan was about to faint from hunger (slight exaggeration) and all he could do was think about food, so we took him to the college cafe and ordered two pizzas.  He wolfed down three pieces and then we got him a Ben and Jerry’s frozen yogurt to take back to his dorm room to eat in bed while watching Netflix.  Rich and I drove back home and were in bed by 1:15 in the morning.

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Moving on…..this post is actually about my son Caleb, who is rarely featured on my blog anymore because he is a little camera shy.  My early posts were pretty much all about him because he was my baby at the time.  Always a mama’s boy, always with a tender heart toward others.  Of course he has his silly side, and has made a name for himself at school and at football as “the boy who can make realistic chicken sounds.”  I’ll record it for you one of these days.

I LOVE KING ARTHUR FLOUR!!!!!!!  Caleb is in 6th grade and King Arthur FLOUR came to his school and taught the children HOW TO BAKE BREAD!!!!!  Can you even imagine?  What a blessed change from assemblies about “bullying” and “whatever social issue needs to be discussed” –not that there is anything wrong with that but you know what I mean.  They learned to bake bread!

Each child was given a fabric bag filled with goodies to take home.  Inside, there were two little bags of flour (so cute!) a flexible plastic scraper (I never knew how convenient they were!), yeast, and an instruction booklet written on a level for children to learn and understand (amusing!)

UNFORTUNATELY for Caleb, he was bit on Wednesday night on the hand.  By Thursday it had become infected and was pink and somewhat swollen.  He told me it was a scratch and as I am a “oh you’ll be fine” sort of mom, we set to work baking the bread together.

After he washed his hands with powerful soap over and over under my watchful eye.

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“Mom, the dough is like pancake batter.”

We kept adding the flour.

One cup at a time.  No mixer, just a bowl and a spoon.

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He learned at school how to use the edge of the scraper to level off the cup.

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The bag of flour was too small to fit a measuring cup inside of it so we dumped each bag into a mixing bowl.

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“Mom the dough is like cake batter now.”

He was very observant.  And you can tell he is experienced in all kinds of batter, too.  Comes from years in the kitchen with Mom.  :)

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“Mom you stir it now, my hand hurts.”

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Here is the entire free download of recipes if you would like to try Caleb’s bread:

CALEB’s BREAD (King Arthur Flour booklet of recipes for kids)

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Naturally, because of *infection-hand* I did the kneading as well.  (Caleb didn’t touch the dough)

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The finished dough ball.

Truth be told, as I spent time with my son, I realized that his hand was worse than my original diagnosis.  So, I called the doctors and took him in to get it checked while the dough was rising in the fridge.

I was sort of apologetic at first that I didn’t wait to see if it would clear up on its own but the doctor said, “No. I am so glad you didn’t wait on this.  Always trust your gut.  I know you and you have a good gut.”  

Thanks to the mother’s gut, it was antibiotics and an excuse note to miss Football practice for Mr. C.

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For those of you who do not know yet (young moms) if you see a red streak (like what is on Caleb’s wrist) coming from the wound, you should take your child to the doctors sooner rather than later.

It was at the doctors that I learned that his “scratch” was truly a “bite”.  He didn’t want to tell me that he was bitten.

Guess who bit him?

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Therefore, hours later, after the doctors, after football practice (during which Caleb sat out), we finally baked the bread.

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Second rise, right before popping it into the oven (after removing plastic wrap, of course).

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Half the dough was used to make a loaf, the other half to make cinnamon rolls.

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This loaf was taken to school today to be donated to someone in need.

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While the rolls cooled, we naturally watched a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED show full of bready goodness for all ages: Wallis and Gromit’s of A Matter of Loaf and Death.  (it’s on amazon prime I believe)

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The cinnamon rolls were soooooooooo good!  Oh it was a gift, to “snuggie” (that’s what I say, I say, “Seth come snuggie with me.”) on the couch with Caleb and Seth to watch a nice show and then eat cinnamon rolls together right before bed.

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tired mama, but happy mama, & precious boy o’mine

By the way, I rubbed pressed garlic on his infection twice last night and by this morning it was looking much better.  Of course it could have been from the one dose of antibiotics that he had after his appointment, too.  He’ll be on it for 10 days.

Aren’t you glad it’s Friday?  I sure am!