Friday, May 30, 2014

Remembrance and Inspiration

Thought for the day:  Freedom Is Not Free. [Korean War Memorial, Washington, D.C.]

It's that time again. (Cue the pounding of the gavel coffee mug. Careful, now... don't spill!) It's time for the monthly meeting of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, hosted by the Armchair Squid, and all book-lovers are cordially invited to belly up to the table to share reviews and info about the best book(s) they've read over the past month. If you'd like to read more reviews, or maybe join the gathering and add your own musings to the mix, pop on over to his blog.

In the meantime, in deference to those of you who don't give a good diddle about my reading habits, I'll save my review for the end of the post. But sorry, no silly billboards this month, because today is Memorial Day, and I take that pretty seriously. Yes, I know it was officially celebrated last Monday, but today... the 30th... was our traditional day of remembrance long before the date got changed to turn it into part of a convenient three-day weekend. So some part of me will always think of the 30th as Memorial Day. Just like it will always be my brother's birthday. Happy birthday, Ron! Semper fi.



Vietnam memorial
As an amateur radio operator, I had the privilege of serving as a member of  Army MARS. (Military Affiliate Radio Service) For Memorial Day one year, the Chief shared a story with us about a Captain who was stuck in traffic at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was pouring rain, and this captain was growing increasingly more agitated because he was running late, and knew he'd never make it to PT on time. Just as traffic was finally starting to move, the vehicle in front of him stopped, and a private jumped out into the pouring rain and ran into the Memorial Grove beside them.

What a bonehead! the captain thought.

Horns were honking, and the captain, as well as everyone else behind him, were fuming. Still, the private kept going, with his BDUs soaked and plastered to his skin. He ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground, and set it back up again. Then he came to attention and saluted, before running back to his car and driving off.

The captain later said, "That soldier, whose name I'll never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures. That simple salute - that simple act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag - encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will keep the mission. I am an American soldier."

We may not be soldiers, but the least we can do is remember them, a very small effort for those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.




To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace.  [Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial]

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Okay... let's talk books, shall we?

I've read a mess of them over the past couple months. At least twenty-five since I last participated in this bookish gathering, but I'll only review one... (You're welcome!) my top pick. However, here are some other top-notch books I highly recommend, as well:


*  Green Eggs and Weezie, by Cathy Oliffe-Webster. Funny, heartwarming, lovable, and quirky. Guaranteed to please.
*  Leverage, by Nancy Thompson. WOW! What a heart-stopping thriller, and a fabulous follow-up to her debut novel The Mistaken. 
*  The Eighth Day, by Dianne Salerni. Very cool tale about a secret eighth day of the week, only accessible to certain descendants from the days of King Arthur. Technically a YA book, but enjoyable for all ages.
* West of Paradise, by Marcy Hatch. An interesting mixture of history, adventure, romance, and fun. Oh, yeah, and time travel... to the Old West.
* Fiance by Fate, by Jennifer Shirk. Another winning sweet romance from this lovely lady, sprinkled with just the right amount of humor. Her stories never, ever disappoint.
* The Promise of Rain, by Rula Sinara. While reading this one, I could practically hear Baby Elephant Walk (from the movie Hatari) playing in my head, because the heroine runs an elephant research and rescue camp in Kenya. Magnificent setting... and a satisfying tale of friendship and love to go along with it.

Okay, I'd better stop now, or I'll be listing all twenty-five books, so let's move on to the top pick:


Of all the books I've read in recent months, this relatively short non-fiction book made the most indelible impression on me.

What did I think? Turn to the word "wonderful" in your thesaurus. See all those words there? THAT'S what I think of this book. And then some.

Do you consider yourself a seeker? I mean, have you consciously sought a better understanding of yourself, of life, spirituality, and ... death? Yes, death. I know; it isn't a topic many people feel comfortable discussing around the dinner table... or anywhere else, for that matter... but don't you sometimes wonder about it? After all, death is life's ultimate mystery and final challenge, and each of us is eventually gonna have to face it, so why not talk about it? Gee, wouldn't it be fantastic if someone older and wiser were willing to discuss old age and death with us? Maybe he could let us in on some of the spiritual wisdom and insights he's gained through a long life of both traditional, and non-traditional, seeking... and finding.

Guess what? Someone IS willing, and an amazing somebody he is. When in his mid-eighties, Reb Zalman, a beloved rabbi, reformer, innovator, and life-long seeker, teamed up with writer Sara Davidson with the intention of creating a book that could gently guide readers through the labyrinth of old age, and away from the usual "freak out" factor regarding death. Once a week for two years, they met and talked. This book... this wonderful book... is the product of those intimate interviews.

It doesn't matter what your religious background is. You will love this rabbi, and savor his honesty and down-to-earth humanity. I found his sense of humor, his joyful approach to life, and his genuine love of God and his fellow man irresistible. Thanks to Davidson's skillful writing, Reb Zalman now feels like a beloved friend, and one I will never forget. My bet is you'd feel exactly the same way.

It's been a long time since a book affected me so deeply. The rabbi is an extraordinary man who has lived an extraordinary life, and as he now approaches his ninetieth birthday, I'm deeply grateful that he cared so much about the rest of us to join forces with Davidson to create this book. For us. For you. For me. Extraordinary.

****

One last word about books... actually about my book. A very wonderful lady and fellow blogger recently read Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade, and much to my humbled amazement, she's going out of her way now to promote it through a review and giveaway on her blog. (If you don't already follow Rosey's blog, check it out... among other things, she offers a LOT of valuable product reviews and frequent giveaways.) She... and a bunch of her other terrific followers... have been tweeting about the giveaway every day. Honest, it's enough to make an old gal like me blush. I'm blown away by her kindness. If you're interested in taking part in her giveaway for a copy... either paperback or e-version... you can go here. Even if you don't want to participate in this giveaway, check out her blog, anyway. You won't be sorry. As for you, Rosey? Thank you. Thank you so very much.

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

96 comments:

  1. I love the snippet of your reading you shared with us, and my greedy self will probably track some of them down. My greedy self will DEFINITELY track down your featured book of the month.
    Thank you. I saw Rosey's post about Hot Flashes and have been thrilled with the reception it has been receiving. Karma coming to roost - and laying big fat eggs.

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    1. If you do read "The December Project", I'd love to know what you think of it.

      Thanks! I'm still in awe that Rosey and some of her followers have been doing so much to promote "Hot Flashes." (My book, that is, not those nasty sweat baths.)

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    2. It's a bloody good read, that's why :)

      Excellent post, Susan!

      Oh, and sorry for butting in :)

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    3. Thanks! And that's a bloody nice thing to say. You should know it isn't "butting in" when you're welcome... and you bloody well are.

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  2. What a great post today.
    Teared up at the memorial Day story.
    I have visited many Civil War Battlefields, Arlington and the Memorials in Washington. Tears your heart out.
    Your book of the month sounds interesting must look it up.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      I hope you do check out that book. If so, let me know what you think about it.

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  3. You are a prodigious reader! Thanks for a thoughtful and encouraging post. I had to look up when Memorial Day got moved from May 30 observance. It was 1971 --I was too busy to notice, I guess. But the memory of absent friends certainly never leaves, not ever.

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    1. Yeah, I am. I'd much much rather read than watch the boob tube.

      You're right. The memory of lost friends supersedes a date on the calendar, no matter what day Memorial Day is officially celebrated.

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  4. I started to read Hot Flashes over the weekend and saw, on the back cover I believe, that Pearl deals with death. I find the timing interesting with you profiling this book. I actually have long had an interest in death, not a morbid one, more because I've simply never believed that this incarnation is all there is to 'it!'

    Thank you for the recommendation, Susan. Quite appropriate for Memorial Day.

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    1. I'm glad to hear you've started "Hot Flashes." It isn't exactly intellectual fodder, but I hope you find it entertaining, anyway.

      I'm not obsessed with death, but like you, have always had a healthy curiosity about it, even more so after a couple near-death experiences. I'm not afraid of dying, or even of getting old, (Good thing!) but it was a refreshing delight to read the rabbi's outlook on both. He's amazing, and maybe the farthest thing possible from my pre-conceived notion of what a rabbi's personality looked like. (Yeah, I know... dumb. I've known a wide range of ministers and priests, and they certainly didn't have cookie cutter personalities, so I have no idea why I thought rabbis were any different.)

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  5. Thanks for the recommendations. Off to check some out and add to my holiday reading pile :-)

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    1. My pleasure, Linda. I hope some of them float your boat.

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  6. I feel Memorial Day should remain as 30th and not be changed just to make a long weekend. We celebrate ANZAC day in Australia and it is always a public holiday on 25th April regardless of which day of the week it falls on. 11th November of course is Armistice Day which is not a public holiday and that is when we wear our red poppies and have 2 minutes silence at 11am.
    Other days can be used to make a long weekend but not one that commemorates the sacrifice so many made to keep our countries safe.
    Thank you for the list of books. Now I am old I tend to read well written fiction but I have a husband that still prefers non fiction so perhaps I could pass on some of the titles you listed to him.

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    1. I totally agree with you, Mimsie. I think the original intent of the holiday was diminished by changing its date to create a summer kick-off three-day weekend.

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  7. Hi Susan .. happy birthday to your brother and what a great reminder of the actual day originally designated .. your army private's story is such a great one ..

    Also all those books .. yea for reading ... and I'm pleased Hot Flashes is getting lots of interest .. it is sitting with others waiting for me!

    However your December Project book .. sounds amazing and what a great way to write a book .. definitely one that I will consider ...

    Great tie ins .. and I think Billboards would have been a bit out of order ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi, Hilary. Thanks for your remarks all the way around. Yeah, the billboards would've felt "off", wouldn't they?

      Cheers... and happy weekend!

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  8. I'd read that story about the soldier and the flag before and it still brings a tear.

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    1. Hi-ya! Welcome back. Trust me, you were missed.

      Good memory. I've posted that story about the soldier and the flag a couple times before.

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  9. What's wrong with listing all 25 books? I for one wouldn't mind. :) Thanks for the mini-reviews Some of those are on my list, the rest are going on it.

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    1. HA! I know what you mean, but I probably wouldn't give a super high recommendation to all of 'em.

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  10. Happy birthday to your brother Susan! And I had no idea that Memorial Day used to be on the 30th of May. Why did they change it in the first place?

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    1. Why did they change it? I wasn't kidding; it was done to create a three-day weekend.

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  11. This book sounds cool. I do enjoy those introspective reads now and then!

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    1. Yeah, it is pretty cool. That rabbi has gotta be the coolest almost-ninety-year old in the world.

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  12. I remember well when holidays were specific days, rather than being made into long sale shopping weekends. I am so glad the 4th of July stayed the same but I guess it would be harder to do as its name keeps it legitimate.

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    1. Well, don't be too sure about July 4... after all, an awful lot of people refer to it as Independence Day...

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  13. Did I read that correctly--25 books in a couple of months? I'm in awe!

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  14. Excellent post and boy, THAT book is getting moved up to the top of my list because those are the things I DO want to talk about - even if it makes me uncomfortable or freaks me out, which death has a tendency to do.

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  15. My son heads off to the Airforce Academy in a month to start college - your soldier story had me near tears. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You must be very proud of your son. Congratulations!

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  16. The December Project does sound intriguing! I'm not religious, but finding a healthy way to approach old age and dying is definitely a pan-humanist enterprise. Thanks for the tip! I know some people to recommend this to as well.

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    1. Exactly! The discussion isn't about religion... it's about old age and death, which concerns everyone, regardless of belief or non-belief.

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  17. I find non fiction books are always difficult to get around to reading but your review makes me wonder if I should look at this one and put it on my TBR list.

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    1. Depends on the non-fiction book. If it's well-written and about a subject I find interesting, I can gobble it up as quickly as a novel.

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  18. Never knew that at my sea
    I guess they wanted to change things for a spree
    And look at you go
    Books abound at your show

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    1. When long weekends became the trend,
      True meanings of holidays risked reaching an end.
      Indeed, books rule around here,
      And their weight may be sinking our house, I fear.

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  19. I have so much to comment on, I'm not sure where to start!! (1) Just got back from a Memorial Day trip to Washington DC. It's so important to me that my children understand where their freedoms come from. (2) My husband is a former Marine- Semper Fi. (3) December project is now on my TBR pile. (4) Green Eggs and Weezy, rocked. I love Cathy. Her writing style is just like her personality. So honest, fresh, full of fun and straight up hilarious.

    Great post. So glad I found you through the Coffeehouse- :)

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    1. (1) Wonderful! It's important for children to understand, so they don't take these things for granted. (2) Cool. My brother served for many years, and retired in the '80s. But you know what they say... once a Marine, always a Marine. (3) Terrific! I hope you like it. (4) Yes, I agree.

      Thanks. I'm glad we found each other, too. Thanks for signing on as a new follower. Welcome aboard!

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  20. Wow. You have put my reading to shame.

    The December Project. Noted. I look forward to reading it!

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  21. my brother was a vietnam veteran and another brother is a marine vet. i salute them and all our vets. touching story. i believe all sentient and insentient beings have eternal life. thanks for the many good reads. "green eggs and weezie" and "the eighth day" sound inviting. great post. cheers!!

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    1. My brother and hubby both did tours in Nam, too.

      I'm glad they sound inviting. Go ahead! Read 'em... you'll LIKE 'em!

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  22. And I thought reading a book a week was voracious! Lovely tribute to our device men and women.

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    1. A book a week is a good goal, I think. Sometimes I get a little carried away. Thanks. I'm glad you liked it.

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  23. Aww, Rosey sounds like a swell gal. My goodness, you certainly do devour the books! Thanks for highlightnig this one. Death is something I'm comfortable talking about and somethign I want to talk about, but it's hard to find someone to talk about it with, so what a great thing this rabbi has done!

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    1. She really is...

      Yep, I'm a real book piggie. But on the plus side, no calories!

      It's kinda strange that so few people feel comfortable talking about death, isn't it? It isn't as though anyone can escape it by pretending it isn't going to happen.

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  24. I love the story about the private. I used to go to the cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln's tomb is, to walk with Faulkner. I always stopped to salute at the grave of a man who was known as Mr. Accordion. He was a vet. I made him my representative vet to salute.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Yeah, me, too. It brings tears to my eyes every time.

      You're too sweet for words, kiddo.

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  25. excellent Memorial Day tribute. Gave me chills.
    As far as reading, that's a lot. The remembering is the hard part. Hmm. what did I read yesterday. Here lately Monuments Men has stuck with me, and I also liked Ann Patchett's nonfiction book - Secret of a Happy Marriage. Your mini reviews whetted my interest. Have a super weekend. Love the new pic on the blog. Gorgeous.

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    1. Thanks. Glad ya liked it.

      You seem to enjoy writing reviews, so maybe you should join the cephalopod gang next month. You'll get all kinds of ideas about other books to add to your TBR list, too. (Yeah, I know. Just what ya need, right? MORE books waiting in line...)

      You have a super weekend, too.

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  26. I like to read, but I'm a slow reader. I tend to only read at night in bed, and when I'm tired, that's the first thing to go... I gotta think of another reading plan, huh?

    I quite like our arrangement (as I call it): you read 25 books or so, review the best 10 of those, and I'll pick the one or two that sound the most interesting to me. Hah!

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    1. I usually read in the evening instead of watching TV, but it's been a long time since I read in bed. HA! Our arrangement works just dandy for me, too.

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  27. As a Brit, I didn't know that the original memorial day had moved from the 30th. See, I learn something new every time I come here.

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    1. I'm glad you learned something new, but don't feel bad about not knowing the date had been changed. Lots of younger Americans didn't know it had ever been on the 30th, so you're one step ahead of them.

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  28. Coffee mug gavel? I like that idea!

    The book sounds lovely. I agree, people need to be able to talk about death and aging with frankness and - why not? - humor.

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    1. Sure, why not? Just don't fill it too full.

      It is. I agree. Humor has a place in all parts of life... even death.

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    2. Death is also the ultimate universal experience. We better talk about it beforehand because it probably won't do us much good to talk about it after!

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    3. Yep. Probably not. Then again, we'd be better informed.

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  29. I loved this Memorial Day tribute. The day also as a special meaning for me…it is the anniversary of my father's death (6 years now). He also served in the army when he was young.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. I'm sorry about your dad. I'll bet you were thinking about him a lot today.

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  30. Happy belated to your brother. :) Memorial Day is an important day to show respect, I agree. I found myself crying for the second year in a row at the town parade (when the military guys came out and got their standing ovation). I think it's because my oldest is serving that I get all teared up now (it's definitely NOT old age making me soft ;) ).

    Thanks for the book recommendation.

    Thank you too for the kind words! It's a pleasure telling folks about your book because I loved reading it!! I hope someone (or several someones) pick it up for a summer book club, that would be rocking awesome. :)

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    1. Days like Memorial Day have a way of becoming even more personal when someone you love is in the Service. (Old age? NAH... perish the thought!)

      I kinda think YOU'RE rocking awesome... (Thanks again.)

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  31. Wow, you have some many comments that I had to scroll all the way down to China to get here! I think I'll order some chop suey while I'm here.
    (okay, it probably wasn't funny).

    The story about the soldier and the flag is wonderful and so appropriate for Memorial Day. We should keep the memory of those who died for our country in our hearts all year long.

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    1. I, of course, meant to say "so many" instead of "some many". You can blame it on all the scrolling that I had to do (or possibly old age).

      And I wish your brother a belated happy birthday!

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    2. You sure know how to exaggerate,cowboy... and yeah, it WAS funny.

      You're younger than I am, so you can't possibly be old. Must be all that scrolling.

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  32. Thanks for the warm thoughts and birthday wishes from you and your readers.

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  33. I think we should never forget the men and women who risk their lives for our freedom... definitely something to stand up for Susan...

    I hope you have a really great weekend, so far mine has been pretty great... :)

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    1. Absolutely. I agree.

      So far, so good! Glad to hear yours has been pretty great, too, and I hope it gets even better.

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  34. I dropped by to say hello! I have been absent from blogging for a while, and I did miss your posts. It’s good to be back. You are so right. freedom is not free!

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    1. Hi-ya, JJ! Welome back. It's good to hear from you again.

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  35. Of course I give a good diddle about your reading habits.
    That is one fantastic header, my dear friend. That must be man-arranged and i wish I had that skill. Rocks, rocks, rocks.... my favorite. Didn't you once say you always brought back home a rock when you went on a trip?
    Rosey is a sweetheart and an interesting blogger.

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad you like that header picture. I took it at a little park at the town we visited over our anniversary weekend. (I'll post about it next Friday.)

      No, we don't bring home a rock from every place we visit, but my father-in-law did.

      Yeah, she is.

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  36. Sear Susan,
    thank you for your reading list! Now I know what I will do on my holiday! (Isn't it fantastic that we can put them now into a kindle and travel lightly? Of course your book is on my Kindle too - and it is very good of Rosey to write about it.

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    1. Dear Britta,

      You're welcome! I hope you find some books on it that appeal to you. And I agree about the kindle. I never thought I'd be happy with reading books on an electronic device, but I love it! (Still have to have my "real" books, though.)

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  37. You've read 25 books in the last month?
    I've managed three.....clearly I'm on the computer too much. Or playing with my kitten. Or sleeping.

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    1. You're probably like me. Sometimes, I binge read like an obsessed madwoman, and other times, I back off for a while to do other things. It's impossible to play too much with your kitten. Ask her... she'll tell you the same thing.

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    2. Oops... NO! In TWO months! Feel better...?

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  38. This was a wonderful Memorial Day tribute! Thanks for the excellent review of the december project! Now I'll definitely remember to get a copy for my hubby. Speaking of reviews, Rosey wrote a fabulous one for Hot Flashes & Cold Lemonade! I think she enjoyed it as much as I did! You probably read a book in the time it takes me to write an email! Wish your brother a happy belated birthday for me!

    Julie

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    1. Thanks. Glad ya liked it.

      I hope you do get a copy of that book for your hubby. I'd be interested in hearing what he has to say about it. Someone with a yeshiva background might have an entirely different impression of it from an old shiksa like me. (HA! Is that even spelled right...?)

      She sure did. Completely caught me by surprise, too.

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  39. Lovely tribute. And I love that thought for the day: freedom is relative, as I always say.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. Thanks. Glad ya like it.

      Greetings back atcha.

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  40. I loved this Memorial Day tribute.

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  41. Happy birthday to your brother. Wonderful Memorial Day post on the actual day, rather than the long weekend. You have me interested in The December Project.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. And I'm also glad I've piqued your interest in "The December Project." It's a wonderful book.

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  42. Wonderful Memorial Day tribute. I'm probably alone, but I wish we didn't shift holidays around the calendar. IMO, we get so fixated on the prospect of a three day weekend, we often neglect to reflect on the meaning of the day. I keep waiting for TPTB to move the Fourth of July.:)

    Book sold! How could I say no after a review like that? If I were you, I'd expect a call from Sara Davidson & Reb Zalman inviting you to join their promotional team.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Thanks. Nope, you're not alone. I will probably always think of May 30 as Memorial Day. Changing the date of meaningful holidays simply to accomodate a three-day weekend diminishes the original meaning. Sure, many people do something meaningful over the three-day weekend to properly honor the meaning of Memorial Day, but far too many use it to take advantage of sales, have a summer kick-off BBQ, etc.

      Great! I hope you like it. If they call... I'd be happy to join 'em.

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  43. I'm not religious, but this sounds like a fascinating and uplifting book. Thanks for the review. :)

    I actually did radio (volunteer) for a short while - but didn't operate the panel, just co-hosted with other panel operator(s).

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    1. Religious belief or non-belief doesn't matter. It IS fascinating and uplifting.

      Interesting on the radio volunteering. I'd be real curious as to what that entailed. Kinda sounds like broadcast radio, which sounds like fun. Amateur radio operators (AKA hams) are tested and licensed, and a whole different kinda operator altogether. Lots of round-the-world chatting with other operators, and providing emergency communications during big events and after disasters, among other things.

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  44. I didn't watch your video because TAPS always makes me cry. But I did go to YouTube and listen to Baby Elephant Walk :)

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    1. "Taps" always gets to me, too. It's too bad you didn't watch that video, though, because it's one of the most beautiful renditions I've ever heard. It's played on two bugles in a kind a echoing effect. Talk about haunting!

      HA! Cool. I love "Baby Elephant Walk."

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  45. If I gave the actual number of e-book on my Kindle, real books on my nightstand, and the pile of magazines I have yet to read you would think I was making the number up. I find myself chasing my own tail more and more with no end in sight.

    I have this simple dream of being on a beach with a comfortable chair and some type of shade and just spend all day reading. Oh yeah, I forgot the cooler full of beer, that's important.

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    1. I know what you mean. No matter how many books I read, the number waiting to be read never ever seems to diminish. So many books, so little time.

      With a moniker like Beach Bum, you owe it to yourself to fulfill that dream. Now would be the perfect time of year to do it, too, dontcha think?

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