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Friday, July 29, 2016

Book Review: My Heart Laid Bare by Joyce Carol Oates

I have read a number of Joyce Carol Oates' novels, and I marvel at her mastery of character development and storytelling.  This novel did not let me down.

It started very slow, and didn't make much sense.  It was more like a series of short stories--each time one got me enthralled, it would change to a different story.  Consequently, it took me a little while before I started to enjoy the book.  Some of the problem may have been caused by trying to read it during my lunch hour, so I would lose momentum.  Once I retired, the book improved.  I don't think it was a coincidence.

After about a hundred pages or so, the book started to come together.  It was about a con man and his family of con-people.  It spanned decades, and I love how the history of the times was woven into the story.

In fact, "woven" is the word that describes the book the best.  Oates carefully weaves the stories of the lives of her characters with each other's lives even when they are far apart.

I didn't like any of the characters; which often dooms a book in my mind, but that wasn't the case, here.  They were all so fascinating and complex, that though I didn't like them, I didn't dislike them, either.  Instead, I wanted to go along in the journey of their lives to see how it ended.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Of Blue Darners and Common Whitetails

Of Blue Darners and Common Whitetails

This summer, I was inspired to learn about and identify different dragonflies.  A few years ago, I got a handy brochure from ODNR on them, and I found it when I was cleaning.

Ohio has 164 different species of dragonflies and damselflies.  That’s a lot.  Kevin and I have been trying to learn the names of the ones we see.  

They are hard to identify because they don’t always want to stay still enough for us to get a good look at them.

At my house, the Ebony Jewelwing is very common.  They like creeks, and I find them in large groups along my creek.  They are easy to identify because of their bright green bodies with black  wings.  They are also very docile.  I can easily get them to land on my dog’s outstretched leash by just positioning it beneath one.

Another common one by my house and all over, really, is the Common Whitetail.  It is a super easy one to identify with it’s white body.  I see it even away from water.

Down at the swamp across the creek, I was able to identify a pretty red one called the Ruby Meadowhawk.

When we were at the Rocky River Nature Center the other day, we had a field day in dragonfly hunting.  There are several swamps there.  One of them had loads of Common Whitetails.  They were fun to watch.  They actually appeared to be defending their territories.  If another one came near, they would chase it away and then return to it’s spot.

THere was also a large light blue one with a green head that flew very fast.  Unfortunately, i already forgot its name.  We were able to identify it on a poster at the Nature Center, but we didn’t write it down.  It’s not in my brochure.

There were a lot of Widow Skimmers  They are black with one white spot on each wing.

When were were standing by some HIbiscus, we saw some small blue bodied ones with clear wings and blue heads.  This turned out to be the blue darner.  They will sit on a plant and wait for prey to come to it, rather than fly around like a bat looking for prey.

I’m glad Kevin is enjoying this endeavor, too.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Retirement Update

Retirement Update

This has been fantastic.  I highly recommend it to anyone who can afford it.  I haven’t done anything earth shattering, but that doesn’t make any difference.  

I have managed to get my first computer in years and Internet, too.  I have a handy, little Chromebook--perfect for my needs.  I really like it.  I can use it as a laptop or a tablet.  It has everything that a smart phone has without the phone.

I also got a new mattress for the first time, ever.  The stairs to my bedroom are circular, and it was a major endeavor to get the mattress and boxspring up them.  We had to take half of the stairs apart and hoist them up.  My brother and nieces helped out.  I can’t believe the difference it has made.

Every day, Maggie gets to go on a long walk.  With the park in my backyard and time on my hands, there is no excuse.  I bring a book along to read, and away we go.  Sometimes I even get to walk early in the morning, which is something I never did before.  The light is all different, and it is so pretty.  It is also cooler since we have been suffering through a heat wave.

I have no air conditioning, and neither does Kevin.  We have no reason to stay inside when it is hot, so we have still been going on fun hikes.  On the hot days, we just pace ourselves.  We went to the Ledges at Virginia Kendall this weekend.

Last weekend, we went to the RFC Convention.  It was a very unique experience. There were a lot of weird people, but there were even more police.  I certainly felt safe!  We saw John, Ellen’s boyfriend, there.  He was taking pictures.  He took the one of us standing in the fountain.  We were in dry spot.

The week before, we went downtown to see how it was renovated before the conventioneers destroyed it.  So glad that nothing got destroyed, after all.

I am currently riding 6 days a week.  I ride with my sister some mornings.  (And with Kevin if he joins us.)  And I ride with Kevin on the evenings that I feed.  It’s been fun, but I wish it wasn’t so hot.

The one that seems the happiest about my retirement seems to be my cat, Thunder.  He wants me with him all the time.  He certainly is a lot of fun to hang around with.

My garden is starting to take off.  I have picked so many green beans, already.  I have only picked 2 tomatoes and 1 cucumber, but at least they are starting.  My tomatillos are blooming.  My shell beans are thriving, and it looks like I will have loads of lima beans.

I sleep in, sometimes, until past 7:30.  Even better, I get to nap in the afternoon.  It is much nicer to sleep in my favorite chair than at work with my head on my desk during lunch hour.

My house is way cleaner, but I still need to do so much more.  It is amazing how much dust there was.  

And last but not least, Kevin and I are learning to identify the various different kinds of dragonflies,

Monday, July 18, 2016


That's what I have been doing in my spare time; cleaning.  It hasn't been much fun, but it is so necessary.  Things have just gotten out of control.  The house is looking so much better.  I never knew so much dust could exist all in one place.  It feels good to get it all done.

I have been picking green beans, and have already frozen 4 cups of them.  I also have a couple tomatoes that are turning red.

Kevin has been keeping me busy, too. We have been hiking, riding, went to the movies, went out to dinner, to a party and a fundraiser.  All through the week, we have been watching our new favorite TV show, "Justified."

Maggie has been getting long walks every day, and Thunder loves having me in the house more during the day--except he doesn't like when I clean.  I have to do it during his naps.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What I am Feeling Now

I am just a couple days away from my retirement.

I thought I would be bursting with excitement, and oddly, I'm not.  What I feel like is different.  It is like I am on a big roller coaster--going up the first hill.  I am nearing the very top.  I know that I am going to enjoy the trip on the other side--that's why I am doing it--but when you are at the top of the hill, and you don't know exactly what it is going to be like on the other side--it feels a bit odd.  Am I really doing a smart thing?  It's too late to turn back--there is only one way--forward.  I am committed, but what if it's not like I imagine?

I do know everything will be wonderful, but that feeling is still there.  I think it is just because it is such a big change in my life.

My first day of official retirement--I am sleeping in.  Well, I don't know how late I will be able to sleep.  I have been getting up at the same time everyday--whether to work or ride--for decades.  At least I won't have to get up to an alarm clock.