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Preview: Castle in the Clouds

Castle in the Clouds

Updated: 2018-02-22T16:41:41.770-05:00


January 2018 Reading Wrap-Up


Reading is many things to me.  It's entertainment and education.  It's the broadening of mind and spirit.  It's escapism.  Looking the books I read in January, I can see how each of those elements is represented in my reading choices.Harry Potter was pure escapism.  Reading it was a chance to get reacquainted with old friends, to ride alongside in an adventure I could fully anticipate because it was well known and comfortable, even in its saddest moments.  And that last book is so very sad!Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists was meant to broaden the mind and spirit by exploring the challenges faced by women around the world.  I discovered that while we still have a ways to go here in America, Nigeria seems to have an even longer road ahead of it when it comes to equality for all.  Little slights or outright abuses need to be addressed and rectified whenever necessary.What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions was equally entertaining and educational.  The author's answers to those absurd questions were often laced with humor.  After attempting to explain a complex scientific fact or work through a compound math equation, he'd throw in a bit of welcome levity to make the dry science more palatable.Moonheart and Ricochet Joe were pure entertainment.  New to me stories that held the potential to delight.  It took me a bit to get into Moonheart but eventually the setup began to pay off and the tension built to a satisfying conclusion.  Ricochet Joe, which I would consider a novella or novelette, had an interesting premise but seemed too brief and underdeveloped for my tastes; I expect better from Koontz.The Bell Jar was terrible.  Just terrible.  I learned that I do not enjoy Plath's writing and will never pick up another one of her novels.  On the bright side, I've been meaning to read this for many years and can finally cross it off my list.As These Relate to My 2018 Book ChallengeThe Original Reading Goals ImageIn January I read:2 non-fiction titles.I read 3 Kindle books purchased prior to 2018.I read one modern classic.I read a total of six books toward my overall goal. As the Challenge Stands After January:Read 4 classics.Read 20 books from my physical TBR piles.Reread 1 series.  Read 17 Kindle books purchased prior to 2018. Read 3 non-fiction books.Read 69 books total.I also read three comic books in January but I do not intend to count them toward my goals as they are so quick and easy to read.  Counting them feels like cheating![...]

This Gets a Little Harder Every Time It Happens


Going back to regular programming here on the blog is difficult after writing a post like the one I wrote a few days ago.  I am still worked up.  Angry.  Tired of the ridiculous and ridiculing memes that are circulating on Facebook.  Tired of articles circulated as news when, in fact, they are mere opinion pieces lacking any nuance or thoughtfulness. 

I can't tell you how often I write up a pointed response only to delete it.   

So I scroll on by, biting my tongue.  Biting my tongue about the dismissive and patronizing comments about the generation that we're allowing to be murdered in math and English classes across this country.   

Then I come here and stare at the blank page wondering what in the world I should write about now.  How do I return to regular programming?  How can I switch from dead children to fluff and nonsense?  How abrupt is that?  How jarring? 

It's difficult.

That's why you get this post.  It's my sorry attempt at a transition from the serious to the seriously unimportant.  

I'm sorry I can't do better. 

School Shootings, Gun Control, and Mental Health


Yet another tragic school shooting occurred yesterday.According to this Guardian article, there have been eight school shootings resulting in death or injury in the United States since January 1, 2018.  This figure contrasts with the figures collected by Everytown for Gun Safety, which includes incidents where no loss of life or injury occurred but that a gun was present or possibly even discharged.  Excluding yesterday's horrific event, Everytown for Gun Safety has recorded seventeen (17!!) incidents.Seventeen gun-related incidents in seven weeks. It's appalling.Terrifying. Unacceptable. I know that talking about this subject is not easy.  I also understand that the topic of gun control is a red-button topic for many people because they see it as a direct and immediate assault on their 2nd Amendment Rights.  Frankly, I don't care.  I don't care about your butt hurt feelings if you hear about dead children and your first thought is for your precious firearms instead of those who were injured or even killed.  Maybe that attitude right there is part of the problem in this country.  When an inanimate object seems to be of more inherent worth than human lives...I find that troubling.And don't tell me this isn't the time to talk about this issue.  Don't tell me we should be praying and grieving alongside the families of the fallen instead of working toward a solution.  That's bullshit talk.  That's distraction and subversion.  Here's why.  When you average a deadly or injurious school shooting nearly once a week, there will never be a "good" time to address the problem.No, the time is now. Conversations need to happen not just among the citizens of this country, but among our legislators.  Serious conversations about the shootings, gun safety/control, and mental health issues should be ongoing.  The 2nd Amendment should not be overturned (bet you didn't see that coming!).  Guns don't need to be rounded up and collected - that's right, my dear paranoid right-wing friend, I don't want your guns.  I just want to put some reasonable safety measures in place.  And before you start crying about infringement, let's take a look at our beloved 2nd Amendment as it appears in our nation's founding documents. Amendment IIA well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.Source: National ArchivesThat's it, folks.  That's all it says.It doesn't say you have the right to bump-stocks, military grade weapons, extended ammo magazines.  Then again, it doesn't say you can't.Does our Amendment need amending to deal with modern weaponry?  Remember, this was added to the Constitution in 1791.Weird History put together a list of weaponry available in 1791.  As you can see, no assault rifles, bump stocks, or extended magazines in that list.  Do you think our Founding Fathers even considered a day when such marvels of death and destruction would be available so readily?  Do you think they envisioned a nation where its citizens would turn those weapons against each other not for purposes of defending the state or nation, feeding oneself, or for personal protection but for...God knows why?Also, can we consider words two and three in that sentence?  Well regulated.  Well.  Regulated.  To my mind, that implies oversight, rules, and laws.  So why can't we discuss ways in which to regulate the average citizen's access to some of the more commonly used mass murder accessories at the very least?  Yes, I'm picking on extended magazines, bump stocks, and even military grade weapons.  Are those fun to own?  I'll say yes.  Are they necessary?  I'm not quite so convinced.Also, if we're talking about having military grade weapons in order to fight against our government or an invading nation, I'd still put my money on the guy with [...]

Photo Inspiration: Books & Little Boys


When I was pregnant with my boys I wanted what all mommies and daddies want: a healthy, happy baby.  Yet, if I'm being honest, I also wanted those babies to be just a little bit like me.  I wanted them to share my interests and enjoy the things I enjoy.  I wanted them to be readers.  I wanted them to love being read to and, when the time came, to find pleasure in reading for themselves.I wanted little readers, so I read to them.Well, I tried to read to them.Little boys can be difficult, especially hyperactive little boys like mine were.I remember trying to make reading at bedtime a routine.  KC was never the best listener.  Even when he was supposed to be winding down and relaxing, fresh from a bath and snug in his jammies, he was too busy to listen.  In between pages or even paragraphs, I remember tugging his monster trucks out of his hands and telling him to be still.KC never did still very well.He was busy.  Oh, so busy.Trying to read to KC - Cleveland Ave, Flint, MII think this picture pretty much embodies our nightly routine.  Here I am, attempting to read to KC, and he's completely inattentive to the book in my hand.  No fascination with the pictures or words.  No begging me for another book.  Instead, when I'd finally close the book and make to the leave the room, I'd get requests for more water or yet another visit to the potty.I'd usually make it through these small picture books, exasperated but satisfied that I'd read to my child.Fast forward to Gage's arrival.Another baby.  Another chance to nurture a reader into being.I even had some unexpected help!KC reading Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Suess to Gage.  Cleveland Ave, Flint, MI.This picture melts my heart.This gave me hope.  Perhaps KC had been paying attention!  He certainly knew that books were used as a means of entertainment where babies were concerned.  Never mind the book being upside and backwards.  He knew enough of the story to be able to recite a few passages here and there, mostly the "I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.  I do not like green eggs and ham!"You would think this would be a turning point, that my non-readers became readers.  I mean, look, here is proof positive that they have some affection for books.Well, friends, that was simply not the case.I remember trying to read Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians to the boys when Gage was perhaps five or six, making KC eight or nine.  We were in Gage's bedroom in the new house.  The boys had been listening for maybe - maybe - five minutes when all of a sudden they were busy pushing their monster trucks around the room.  I told them to stop.  They paused.  I read.  They started vroom-vrooming again.  After this happened a couple of times, I lost my patience and stopped reading.That was the last book I remember trying to read to my boys.I wish I wouldn't have gotten so aggravated and impatient.  I wish I would have tried again the next night or the night after that.Because neither of my boys are readers, not like their mom is, and I wonder if I simply gave up too soon.Sure, they'll read the occasional graphic novel or Manga, but rare is the novel that captures their attention.  In fact, Gage doesn't even read the novels his English teachers assign; he reads a chapter two in the beginning, a bit from the middle, and maybe the last chapter.  KC, on the other hand, will read a novel if it appeals, but few do.I still try, though.  Every Christmas they get a book from mom.Gage's 2017 Christmas Present - Age 17KC's 2017 Christmas Present - Age 19Someday, they will be readers![...]

What I'm Playing - January 2018


I like video games.I like playing them on my phone or tablet.I like playing them on the PS4.Liking something doesn't necessary mean you're very good at it, though.  If you were to compare my progress to more skillful players (like either one of my boys, for example), you would find that it takes me three to four times longer to finish a game than it does them.  I don't always make the best decisions.  Just like in real life, I am easily distracted by bright and shiny objects.  What this means is that I play the same games for months and months or even years and years because I am a sucker for side quests.This penchant for not completing the main storyline is only partly responsible for how long I've been playing the first game I'm going to highlight.  The fact of the matter is I'm not the best at fighting with anything that requires aiming.  I'm more of a melee fighter, which is probably why I die so often.  When you're in contact with the monsters you're fighting, you tend to take a lot of damage.  When those monsters happen to be robotic dinosaurs, you tend to get squashed a lot. At least, I do.I believe I am about 30% through the main storyline on Horizon Zero Dawn and I've been playing it for over a year.  I've got a lot left to unlock, including weapons, skills, and outfits.  This is somewhat amusing when you consider I eagerly paid for the DLC when I didn't need it.  Gage appreciate the purchase, though, as he had beat the game months ago and this unlocked a whole new storyline and additional areas on the map. Also, there's snow.  So much snow!Moving on to the other PS4 game that I'm playing...This game gets a lot less attention because it's new and I would really like to finish Horizon Zero Dawn before immersing myself in a new gaming world. However, when your kids get you a wishlist game for Christmas, you play it! This collection of Kingdom Heart games has been remastered for the PS4.  Because I only played one of them way back when the PS2 was our best gaming platform option, I didn't even manage to finish the storyline.  So, in reality, these remastered classics are going to be all new to me.  From what I've read on Amazon, there's over 150 hours of gameplay available.  It will take me years to make my way through all of the games contained on this disc.So, that's the PS4 games.  Moving on to mobile.There's one game I play all the time.  Daily.  For hours every day, mostly because you have to farm like mad.  Thank goodness for the auto feature!I've talked about this game before.  In fact, it was just about this time last year when I wrote that post.  Nothing has changed.  I'm still addicted.  I'm determined to master this game.  Eventually.  Somehow. Maybe I should take up voodoo.That was a joke, mom!  But seriously, am I ever going to be able to defeat DB10 (the hardest dragon's dungeon) on my main account?  I begin to doubt...Oh, did I mention I ended up with two accounts because of a login problem many, many months ago? I do.  Two accounts that require so much grinding. Luckily, both accounts have decent monsters and I'm able to help out our guild more often than not.  Although, I do believe I am one of the weaker links even though I'm at level 50, which is as high as you can level up in this game.  Funny thing about this game is that level 50 might mean that you're still in the beginner stages.  There's no real mechanism for telling if you're early-, mid-, or late-game.  Although, I suppose your ability to dominate in all the areas of the game is telling enough. The frustration that sometimes comes from playing Summoner's War can be relieved by a quick round or two in Trivia Crack.  I have two reliable opponents, my brother-in-law, Troy, and our friend, Jimmy. If you've never heard of this game, I think the[...]

Snowcoming 2018


Last night was the Snowcoming Dance at my son's high school.  I think other schools may refer to it as the Winter Formal or some such thing, but in our little town it's called Snowcoming.  No, I don't know why..Lucky for us, Gage had most of his outfit already in his closet.  He had gotten new shoes, pants, and a reversible belt for Homecoming.  The shirt was also hanging in his closet as he had worn it to a wedding last summer.  The only thing he really needed?  The tie.Things were a little chaotic around the time I would normally have taken him shopping.  I was spending a lot of time up at the hospital keeping my dad company before his big surgery.  Luckily, his girlfriend's mom was kind enough to let him tag along on one of their shopping trips and she helped pick out his tie.  He was supposed to pay for it and have me reimburse him.  Well, because we always pick up the flowers and they pay us for his boutonniere, she offered to cover the tie and have us just cover all of the flower costs.  Perfect!  I so appreciated her helping me out that I would have paid for all of it, but I know that wouldn't have been okay with her; that's just how she is.I think their shopping together paid off, though, because look how amazing they looked the night of the dance.Gage & AddiBe still my heart.  They are a gorgeous couple.  Yes, I'm biased, but it makes it no less true!Of course, his cousins cleaned up pretty well, too.Keagan, Mikey, Kierrah, Jack, and GageThis picture of the five kids is pretty reflective of our small town life.  These weren't the only cousins in the gym that night posing for moms, dads, aunts, and uncles.  A lot of families tend to stay in the community and raise their children together.  I'm the oldest of five and four of us have families in this school district; only Chrissy, the baby sister, lives a town away. I should note that one of our kids was missing.  There should be one more junior standing there.  My nephew, Trevor, couldn't attend.  He had had surgery earlier that week and hadn't yet returned to school.Of course, we had to a group picture with the dates.  One problem...I didn't know Mikey had come with a date and didn't have him snag her for the photo.  Oops![...]

Photo Inspiration: Is it a birthday party?


I love preserving old photos, especially those from my childhood.If you're wondering, I'm the short girl in front wearing the blue bibs and the pink shirt.  My hair is curly and short.  Not a good look for me.  Thank goodness the picture is mostly blurry and you can't see how truly horrible I looked in that particular hairdo.I'm standing with my cousins and my little brother, Jason; he's the baby that's being held up by my cousin, Lee Ann. Next to me, standing a few inches taller, is my cousin Michael Todd.  I have to put both names down because to many of us he's always been Todd.  Yet, there are a fair number of people that call him Mike now.  One of the perks of being a grown-up, I guess.  Todd (fine, Mike) is six months older than me.Me & Michael Todd in our younger years.Back to the original photo...Standing behind me is my cousin Tina.  In the very back, hidden by her big sister, is my cousin Angie. On the end, in the purple shorts jumpsuit, is my cousin Tonya.In the background I can see my Great-Grandma Spencer's curly white hair.  On the cement porch area next to the house, I can see my Aunt Lorraine (Tonya and Tina's mom); she's the one sitting with the crossed legs.  Behind her, my Aunt Linda and Uncle Mike (LeeAnn, Angie, and Todd's parents).Underneath the table with the skirting and presents is the first dog I really remember.  His name was Bipper.  I posted a picture of him with my mom and brother awhile back.Now, if I'm honest, I don't remember this day.  I look at this photo and I imagine it was my birthday party.  Yet, it's just as likely it was my brother BJ's party.  My birthday is in July; his is in August.  One pertinent observation (to my mind at least) is that the group photo was taken with me and not him.  Therefore, I'm going to assume it was my birthday party...I have one more picture from that event.  Let's see if we can spot him wandering around somewhere...Man, this photo is blurry, too.  Here goes some guessing...The woman in the pink tank top and jean shorts standing next to Grandma Spencer must be my Grandma Sherman (my dad's mom).  Dad is the bare-bellied fellow standing with his arm on the back of the motorcycle.  My Uncle Terri has joined his wife, my Aunt Lorraine.Still no sign of my brother, BJ.Also, whose dog was that sitting next to my Grandma Spencer?  See him there between the lawn chairs?  That's not Bipper.  The colors are all wrong. Let's just assume it was this curly haired girl's birthday...That hair.  Oh, my!![...]

Photo Inspiration Series


I'm really trying to come up with regular content for this place.  Looking through old photos, it occurred to me that they are a great source of inspiration, each picture holding a fragmented memory of emotional significance.  Sharing those memories, as unreliable as they may be, is something I really think I'd like to do.

So, with that in mind, I think I'm going to try to schedule a weekly Photo Inspiration Post.  I don't want to put any restrictions on this journey, so I'm not going to put any restrictions on how these posts will work.  If I want to include more than one photo, so be it.  If I want to create a slideshow or video, that's cool.  If the photos are older than me, that's okay, too, because I still have a lot of people in my life that might be able to provide some context.  If the photos are from that day or earlier in the week, that's not a problem either. 

The only hard and fast rule that I'm going to follow is tagging the posts in this series with the photo inspiration series label.

Book Clubs - January 2018 Book Selections


Ladies & Gents, I've somehow managed to get myself into three book clubs. Let me explain...The most enduring book club was started by a friend of mine a few years back.  In Under the Covers Book Club we try to select one book a month.  We read the book and then meet up at the end of the month, or the beginning of the next, to discuss.  I think the original intention to was select easy, fun, romance novels.  While we still do occasionally read a romance novel, our monthly selections are as varied as the reading tastes of our members. This month we picked Moonheart by Charles de Lint.This book is, so far as I can tell at a mere 6% read, an urban fantasy novel.  The protagonist is part-owner of a thrift/antique shop.  While de-cluttering the back room, she discovers a beautiful painting and a medicine bag with an eclectic collection of items still locked inside.  Instead of marking them for sale, she decides to keep them for her own.  I assume things are about to get interesting, but right now that's as far as I've read.  Luckily, we don't yet have a meet up date scheduled.  I have time to finish.  I'd really not even be concerned about finding the time to read this book if I hadn't started another book club.I had reasons!  While I love my friend's book club, the books we read there are rarely classics.  And I want to read more classics.  Mostly just so I can say I have... we've discussed I have a book-related psychosis, right?So, after I created this List Challenge, my mom, me, and my cousin, Vanna, all decided we'd like to knock a few of these classic titles off our "some day I'm going to read that" list.  Thus, the Friends & Family Book Club was born.  I've since added one friend, so the name fits.Our first classic is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.I'm happy to report I can now cross this one off my Classics TBR.  I managed to start and finish this book earlier this month.  Thank goodness.  It was not a joy to read, but at least now I can say I've read it. Yes, I have thoughts on this book, but no spoilers for our Google Hang Out meet up in the beginning of February!  Mom can hear my thoughts then instead of reading them here. Now, two book clubs a month for me really shouldn't be a big deal.  I read often and relatively fast.  However, if you read my last post, you'll know the month of January has been a bit unusual.  My dad's unexpected bypass surgery threw my reading patterns completely out of whack!Even with The Bell Jar behind me, I still have most of Moonheart to get through, so adding one more must read book to the pile for January is adding some stress to my reading life.  Luckily, it's a little book with big ideas. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is, according to Amazon, a mere 65 pages long.  This is a book I should be able to read in one sitting.  Because I believe I can read it quickly and easily, I'm postponing starting this book until the last week of the month.  (Holy cow, that's next week!) I have to have read the book by noon on Friday, January 26, 2018 as that is when the Women's Commission Book Club meeting for university employees and students is scheduled to meet.  No problem.  I've got this.Really.  I've got this.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.[...]

From Heart Cath to Quadruple Bypass


It was a long eleven days. On January 3, 2018, my dad went into the hospital to undergo a heart catheterization. This was in follow up to a stress test he had completed in late 2017.  He could have had the procedure done before the holidays but opted to wait.  Frankly, he felt fine and thought the heart cath would perhaps reveal the need for a stint or two, if that.Well, the heart cath showed that there was a significant amount of blockage and narrowing of the veins. While he sat in recovery, my sisters and I followed his cardiologist to a monitor where we could see the ink pumping - or not pumping as some of blockages were causing 90% occlusion - through his arteries and veins.  The cardiologist was very thorough, counting off the number of stints that would be required to fix the many, many problematic areas.  My sister stopped counting at fifteen, and we hadn't even looked at the third major vessel yet.  Suffice it to say, dad was termed "high risk" and informed that he would need to undergo a bypass procedure.This was on a Wednesday.  Because dad has some major anxiety issues, my sister, Megan, and I decided to spend the night in his hospital room with him.  Luckily, he had a private room and this was not a problem, unless you count the stiff neck and lack of sleep my sister and I got that night.  I should mention had we driven separate, we probably would not have both stayed. After almost a day and a half of waiting on the surgeon, we found out his surgery wouldn't be scheduled until the following Tuesday.  Dad wasn't allowed to go home, though.  He was so high risk that had he opted to have the surgery done elsewhere, it would have required a hospital to hospital transfer.  This prolonged stay meant they had plenty of time to perform all the pre-op tests necessary.  He was poked and prodded from Thursday to Monday. Surgery took place on Tuesday morning at 8 AM.  Megan and I had been afraid of him being taken back without us seeing him first, so we had once again opted to sleep in his hospital room with him. Our brothers drove in well before the sun was up in order to see him.  They had just about perfect timing, walking into his room about the same time transport showed up.  All four of us kids headed down to the surgical floor with him.  Of course, he had to undergo some last minute pre-op measures, so we waited in the Surgical Waiting Room until they called us back that final time before surgery.  Dad was pretty well out of it, his voice slurred and his eyes closed as he said he loved us.Megan and I knew it would be a long day but we were determined to stay on site; our brothers left, promising to return near the four hour mark.  Our baby sister, Christina, wasn't able to be there because it her first day of the new semester.  So, while it was just the two us, Megan and I went in search of coffee, tea, and breakfast.  A while later, Ken showed up for moral support.Waiting to hear how surgery went can be stressful.  Time seems to slow to a mind-numbing crawl.  Luckily, I had come prepared.  I always travel with a book, but I had also brought several decks of cards for double-handed solitaire, as well as a new card game called Exploding Kittens.  We used them all that day.  Ken, Megan, and I played double- (or would it be triple-) handed solitaire for almost two hours. We had just packed up the cards when we found out Dad was out of surgery and headed for the Cardiac Care Unit.  Once again, my brothers had perfect timing and ended up arriving at the hospital as we were in transit to the CCU.   When we got up to that floor, we discovered the waiting game wasn't over yet.  He was being settled into his CCU ro[...]

2018 Reading Challenge


I like setting reading goals, even if I usually fall short of meeting them.  Take last year's goals, for instance.  I wanted to read 75 books total and I did.  So, yay, a win!  What I didn't manage to do was to read the list of re-reads I wanted to tackle.  I also didn't manage to read the exact number of titles off my Kindle and physical TBR piles.  

Still...I like challenges. 

So, I created this one for 2018.

I want to read at least 75 books again.  That's the big, overarching goal.  Within that goal I want to accomplish the following: 

1.  Read at least five classics. 
2.  Reread one series. 
3.  Read at least five non-fiction titles.
4.  Read twenty books from my Kindle TBR shelf. 
5.  Read twenty books from my physical TBR piles. 

Seems easy enough!  The biggest challenge will be the five non-fiction titles and the five classics.  Those are typically not fast reads for me.

2017 Reading Challenge - How Did I Do?


Not well.Oh, sure, I read 76 books and that's impressive.  At least, most people think it's impressive.  For my reading friends, perhaps not, especially if you're a voracious reader that has loftier goals in the 100-150 range.  Me?  Trying to read 75 books a year seems doable without being terribly stressful, so I am perfectly happy to say I met that particular goal.However, I did not do a very good job in meeting the 2017 reading goals I shared on here last year.  Let's start with the re-read challenge.I stated I would re-read the following books:1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster2. A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin (GRRM hereafter)3. A Clash of Kings by GRRM4. A Storm of Swords by GRRM5. A Feast of Crows by GRRM6. A Dance of Dragons by GRRM7. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood8. Scar Night by Alan Campbell 9. Through Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold10. 1984 by George OrwellHere's what I ended up reading instead (bold = yes / strike-through = no):1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster2. A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin (GRRM hereafter)3. A Clash of Kings by GRRM4. A Storm of Swords by GRRM5. A Feast of Crows by GRRM6. A Dance of Dragons by GRRM7. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood8. Scar Night by Alan Campbell 9. Through Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold10. 1984 by George OrwellInstead of reading the Song of Ice and Fire series as I had intended to do, I decided to join the Harry Potter re-read.  Although I technically finished the series on January 5th, most of the reading was done in 2017, so I'm counting it as a 2017 win!I also stated in my 2017 reading goals that I was going to read at least 20 books from my physical TBR and 20 books from my Kindle TBR.  Figuring this one out was hard, but this is what I came up with...Of the 76 books read in 2017...Physical TBR -                16Kindle TBR -                  16Purchased in 2017 -        25Borrowed in 2017 -        10Re-read from Shelves -    9I must admit I'm surprised I read 25 books in 2017 that I purchased in 2017.   I'm also disappointed that I didn't do a better job of reading down my Kindle and physical TBR shelves.  I really want to put a dent in the physical TBR shelf because it's crazy out of control and interfering with leg room in my scrapbooking space.Now that I have taken a look at my reading patterns for the last year, though, I know what changes I want to see in 2018.  More off those TBR piles!![...]

Favorite Books of 2017


I read 76 books in 2017.  Not bad!  In fact, it was one more than I had hoped to read.  Of course, as I read a wide variety of things, some of those books were rather small and some were rather lengthy.  For a more thorough breakdown of all the books I read, you can go visit my Goodread's Year in Review.This blog post will be dedicated to the books that stick out most in my memory and that either touched my heart or made me really stop and think.Starting at #10....This was pretty funny, as in I literally laughed out loud more than once as I was reading.  It was ridiculous, perhaps even ludicrous.  Every year an angel is sent down to earth to grant one special child a Christmas miracle.  When Archangel Raziel is sent to tend to this duty someone Upstairs should have known things were about to go sideways.  Raziel really is the stupidest angel.   He has little understanding of humans or the world in which they live, so when this year's special child ask him to bring a murdered Santa back to life, Raziel raises a full graveyard of intelligent but brain-hungry zombies to life.  Yes, this Christmas story has zombies in it. Told in typical Christopher Moore fashion, this story is full of weird and wacky characters that say what they think.  In addition to zombies and a stupid angel, there's a certifiable B-rated movie star, a dopey Constable, an always hungry dog that just wants his human and his human's friends to remember to feed him, a talking bat, and a few other memorable secondary characters that keep things off-kilter.I'll probably reread this next Christmas.  #9This book had a lot of hype, which is probably the main reason I picked it up.  After reading it, I can appreciate why it got the attention it did.  It was really good, if that can be said about a book filled with such horror and suffering.  I will admit, though, that it did sometimes confuse me.  I read the ending more than once because it felt very much like I had to read between the lines in order to figure out what the future held in store for Cora. Despite being a bit thrown by the ending, I admire Whitehead's inventiveness.  Set in the era of unabashed and unapologetic slavery, this narrative highlights the brutality of its practitioners and the suffering of those enslaved.  However, Whitehead goes one step further by re-envisioning the South in such a way that he can give a nod to the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, Henrietta Lack, and the post-Civil War KKK.  His slave narrative expands to include the indignities African Americans have been subject to since they were brought to America.Of course, it should be mentioned that this Underground Railroad is not a metaphor but a true, physical train that runs through tunnels dug beneath the southern states.  Escaped slaves ride the rails in hopes of finding freedom and reconnecting with lost loved ones that may have preceded them.  That the tunnels sometimes end before reaching that elusive goal, which means the runaway slave must rely on the goodwill and silence of others if they are to reach the end of the line. #8This graphic novel, done in black and white, was a quick, entertaining, and educational read.  The author shares her coming of age story as it is framed and influenced by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Although it's been several months since I've read this, I believe the author starts her autobiographical novel when she's eleven years old.  As a young girl under a new regime, she talks about her dislike of the new rules she and other girls and women must abide by in order to avoid unwanted attention or even punishment.  As she grows, [...]

Happy New Years!


Just us girls!Happy New Years!  I hope you had a safe and enjoyable New Years Eve.  We certainly did.While Ken and I attended a party in Sandusky with our friends, our boys each went off with their girlfriends to celebrate the end of 2017 and welcome in 2018.  KC and Allie went to a friend's house where they watched movies with other couples. Gage went to Addi's and spent the evening with her family and, funny enough, his aunt and cousins.  KC & AllieGage & AddiBoth boys made it home well before the bars closed down, just as mom had requested.  I was nervous about them being out on the roads at all on New Year's Eve, but they did just fine.While the kids were hanging out with their girlfriends, we were dancing and playing games at the VFW hall.  Had we had any idea how much food was going to be there, we would not have opted to go out to eat before we arrived at the hall.  Not that our early dinner stopped me from picking at the dessert table!Group photo of our crew.Tippy Cup RaceAnother group photo after I changed into comfy clothes.Terri & me wishing you a happy 2018![...]

Merry Christmas!


You never know who will be the first person out of bed on Christmas morning.  It might be me or it might be one of the boys.  It's never Ken.  Except this year it was!He got up early to start making homemade chocolate chip cinnamon for our Christmas breakfast.  I turned on the Christmas tree and banister lights before making my morning chai tea latte.  Gage, who had heard cupboards opening and dishes clanking together, came down and sat on the love seat.  Last to get up this year was KC, who definitely got up on the wrong side of the bed.How can anyone get up on the wrong side of the bed on Christmas morning!?Eventually, the dough was set aside to rise and we were ready to open presents.  As always, we start with stockings.  It usually takes two people to get them down - one to untie the ribbons holding them in place and one to hold the stockings so that gravity doesn't win.  Gravity usually wins at least once.  Also, as per usual, not all the stocking stuffers could fit into the stockings.  Ken had a small pile of little gifts sitting next to his chair and was told to pretend he had taken them out of his stocking, which holds frustratingly little. I would replace our stockings but we've had them since we first got married and I just can't bring myself to set them aside despite their small stature.Once the stockings are done we moved on to the presents under the tree.  Usually the kids' big presents are in the back so they can be opened last.  This year we changed things up a bit and put their "big" (read most expensive) gift in the very front.  Because KC had gotten a new TV and I didn't want to wrap it, we had a clue wrapped up for him in a much smaller box.We had quite the Christmas haul this year but Ken was pleasantly surprised that, for once, I did not overdo it.  In addition to the stuff I bought for the kids, I got Ken an new coffee pot that lets the user make either a full pot or single cup.  I also got him a new and improved Fitbit to replace the one that stopped working awhile back.Ken got me a few things off my wishlist, including a new sewing machine and the light kit for indoor photography.  I still need to experiment with that last gift.  I got it out of the box and set up but didn't get much further.Now, because pictures make me happy, here are some snapshots of our holiday season.P.S.  I love Snapchat filters.  I have so much fun putting funny faces on people, including myself![...]

Christmas Through The Years


I thought it might be fun to pull together some old Christmas pictures.An old scanned photo from when Ken and his sister, Ronnie, were little.  That's their dad in the front. I'd say thisone was taken in the mid- to late 70s.Me and my dad.  Mid-70s. Am I crying or laughing?  I bet I'm crying.  Early 80s.  Pictured here are my mom and dad, my two brothers, and me. I have noidea where this picture was taken.   This one makes me laugh!  Let's see.  My Uncle Steve and Aunt Monicawith a few of their kids, my siblings and me, and another random nephew (David).My grandma is walking into the frame.  I don't recognize the house.  What I do find funny,though, are the poses my cousin, Jessica, and I are modeling.  She's in the red dress and I'min way too much pink. From the mid 1980s, if I had to guess, which I do.  Holding the fire truck is  my youngest brother, Jason.  This picture was taken at our step-grandmother's house.In the background is Uncle David, my step-mom's brother.Ken and I were still dating when this picture was taken.This is our nephew, Andrew, sitting with Santa.KC in our first house (Cleveland Avenue in Flint, MI).The first Christmas with all four of us.  Gage was probably only a couple of weeksold at this time.  KC would be three in just a couple of months. This was truly a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  We were days away from moving outof our first home and into our new house.  There was just too much going on to worryabout getting a traditional Christmas tree that year.  Gage and KC didn't seem to mind.Gage sitting on Grandpa Heiser's lap while they both admire the Christmas train. My boys with their first cousins on my side of the family.  Pictured here with theirGrandpa and Grandma Clifford (my mom and step-dad).My boys with the Bronners' Santa.  If you're not familiar with Bronners, Google Bronnersin Frankenmuth, Michigan.  The place is Christmas 24/7/365. Christmas tree hunting at Windy Hills Tree Farm.  Ken and the boys enjoying thewarmth of a bonfire after chopping down our tree. A guitar for Christmas.  I think he played it that day and never touched it again. My brothers, sister, and me at the Sherman Family Christmas party.  Yes, I'm the oldest.My boys posing for a Christmas card photo.  They're such good sports!The boys and their Heiser cousins.  Yep, there's only the four boys on Ken's side of the family. The year we took my dad to see a live production of the Christmas Carol at the Flint Youth Theatre.  Grandma and Grandpa Heiser (Ken's parents) posing with us in front of our Christmas tree.The boys with Dexter.  It's crazy how fast these kids grow!!!Decorating the tree.  It looks like it just needs a bit more garlandand some bulbs.  P.S.  No one enjoys decorating the tree at my house.Bunch of spoil sports. For the last few years we've ventured out on Christmas night to go play games at Ken'ssister and brother-in-law's house.  The kids usually stay home playing their new video games,but they're welcome to come hang out with their older cousins for a couple of hours.Christmas 2016.  My dad with all of his grandkids.  Tomorrow, I'll post a recap of Christmas 2017!  I hope you enjoyed this little walk down Christmas Memory Lane. [...]

Today's Quote: On Failure


Our society places a great deal of emphasis on success.  We are told in so many different ways that our value as a person is in may ways dependent upon our successes.  Failure, on the other hand, is a shameful act that highlights our ineptitude and diminishes us.

Failure is shameful.

To fail is to feel shame.

This programming begins early.  I would dare say it begins before we even start attending school.  Parents compare notes, measuring their children's milestones against siblings, cousins, and peers.  Oh, your two year old daughter still isn't potty trained?  Mine's being using the big potty since she was 1 1/2.  This type of comparison puts the pressure on parent and child alike, and failure to perform to whatever arbitrary standard results in feelings of frustration and shame.  Why can't little Suzie just go to the potty like her little friend?  Is it Suzie's failure or mine?, the mother wonders. What's wrong with Suzie?  What's wrong with me?

These instances play out a thousand times over but they become even more pronounced as we enter school.  Letter grades become a permanent record of successes and failures, ultimately categorizing students into academic tiers.  Those are the smart kids, those are not.  I think there's something important to consider when contemplating the effect of letter grades on a developing psyche.

From an article in NEA, Alfie Kohn says, "The research quite clearly shows that kids who are graded - and have been encouraged to try to improve their grades - tend to lose interest in the learning itself, avoid challenging tasks whenever possible (in order to maximize the chance of getting an A), and think less deeply than kids who aren't graded.  The problem isn't with how we grade, nor is it limited to students who do especially well or poorly in school, it's inherent to grading."

I think one of the most insightful things Kohn says there is about how kids avoid challenging tasks whenever possible.  Why?  Because the kids fear to fail.  It's as simple and as complex as that.  Fear inhibits them and makes them risk-adverse.

This reality pains me, not because I am immune to the stigma of failure but because I know there's value in trying something even I may not get the results I want.  One of the biggest benefits of failure is in what we learn.   

Let me say that again: one of the biggest benefits of failure is in what we learn. 

So you tried something and didn't work.  Why not?  What went wrong?  Can you do anything to change the outcome should you try again?  If we approached our failures with a more positive attitude, would we succeed more often?

I would like to think so, but sometimes I'm too afraid of failure to find out.

Weekends in Baldwin


A few days ago I wrote about how Ken and I met.  It was on a rafting trip down the Pere Marquette River in Baldwin, Michigan.  In that post I mentioned that my family owned a lot on a little two track dirt road.  On that parcel of land sat a couple of trailers.  Well, I found some old pictures from when we were either dating or just married.  In either case, these are from the 1990s, either early or mid-decade.This was at a time in our lives when money was tight and our vacation options were limited.  Often, we'd drive up to the trailer and stay for the weekend because it was the cheapest getaway we could manage.  The only thing we had to worry about other than food and gas money was refilling the propane tank before we left and, perhaps once or twice a year, handing over a small amount of money to help cover the electricity bill. It was vacationing on a budget for sure!At the time this picture was taken I'm fairly confident the trailer had a working bathroom in it.  However, if you look in the woods to the far right, you'll see a small wooden structure.  That's the old outhouse I used to have to use as a kid.  Furthermore, through those woods, behind the outhouse and just a little more to the right there was an old red house with a pump-handle well where we used to wash our hair.  It was like dunking your head in Lake Superior.  Ice cold!  I'd get a headache within seconds and by the time the suds were rinsed out of my hair, I was in a great deal of pain. Brain freeze on a whole different level!This picture tells me that the old silver camper was long gone.  The shed had been built by this time, which I take as further proof this was taken in the 90s.Also, can you see the sandy two-track road running through the background?  I can't tell you how many times I traversed that path with my cousins when I was younger.  We'd often go off in search of broken glass we could paint with nail polish.  Yes, kids, that's how mom entertained herself as a child.  I painted pieces of broken glass found along abandoned foundations embedded at the edges of the encroaching woods with nail polish.  What can I say?  It was something to do...When these pictures were taken I was more likely to be found with a book in my hand instead of one of my aunt's nail polish bottles. Also, who just leaves a door wide open?  Hello, mosquitoes!  Come on in and prepare yourself for a midnight feast.  We'll be along eventually.In true Ken and Krista fashion, I'm reading and Ken is cooking.  As I look at the stuff on the table before him, I'm wondering if he wasn't getting prepping goose roll-ups.  That could be goose or duck meat in the dish.  There's a box of toothpicks.  Bacon.  Seasoned salt.  Yep, I'm thinking goose roll ups for sure.That structure in the background belonged to a neighbor if you're wondering.  That's not the shed.  The shed is more or less in front of Ken, just out of the shot.I don't see anyone else in these pictures so I have to think that Ken and I were alone for the weekend.  It seems strange now that we were so often alone, just the two of us.  We don't do a lot by ourselves anymore.  There's always the kids to think of and, if they don't want to join us, we're often with friends or family members.  Alone time is something we don't indulge in the way we used to, at least not very often.  As I think back on this summer's camping trips, I think we camped by ourselves, truly by ourselves with no f[...]

My 2017 Christmas Reads


I know a lot of readers like to set aside the month of December for holiday-themed books.  I'm not really one of those readers.  If you were to look at the books I'm currently tracking on Goodread's, you'd find that I'm in the middle of an epic fantasy novel, a literary short story collection, a non-fiction title, and a vampire short story collection.  You would also spot a holiday book on the shelf because I'm definitely not immune to the sentimental pull of Christmas books.My husband thinks my goal is to cry at least once a day.  It's not a goal, but I'm not opposed to having my heart strings plucked on a regular basis.  Earlier in December I read The Stupidest Angel Vol. 2 by Christopher Moore and Christmas with Book Club by Heather Woodhaven.  One was funny, one was quaintly heartwarming.  The Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport is yet another type of Christmas read. Sure, it's heartwarming, but it also touches on some of the less explored holiday emotions of loss and regret. In the first story, Astrid sits in an old folk's home recalling the Christmases of her youth during World War II.  In the second, Angela is tasked with organizing a Christmas extravaganza while still struggling with the loss of her dearest friend. My full reviews are down below if you're curious to know more. Christmas Book Reviews 2017The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher MooreMy rating: 5 of 5 starsIf you're looking for a sweet, heartwarming holiday tale, this is not it. With his typical irreverent approach, Christopher Moore delivers a delightfully wacky Christmas story complete with zombies raised by a very inept angel. I can't tell you the number of times I literally laughed out loud while reading this. I love a story with memorable characters. In this book, there's a dopey constable, a mentally ill b-rated actress, a talking bat, a bad dog, a slightly unbalanced biologist, and a stupid angel. The language is often inappropriate, so this is definitely not for the easily offended. Let's just say there are people I'd recommend it to and people I would not. Christmas with Book Club by Heather WoodhavenMy rating: 4 of 5 starsThis little book was the perfect feel-good Christmas read I was looking for when I picked it up. As the month of December looms with all its holiday obligations, the ladies of the Best Ever Book Club decide they want to anonymously do something generous and good-spirited for someone. While juggling kids, husbands, and jobs, the ladies manage to find the perfect candidate for their Secret Santa Challenge. This challenge is a minor part of the plot, though. The story really revolves around the relationships between the ladies and their men, culminating in a magical Christmas morning for all. Colors of Christmas: Two Contemporary Stories Celebrate the Hope of Christmas by Olivia NewportMy rating: 5 of 5 starsI liked these two novella-length stories more than I expected to and would recommend them to anyone looking for a Christmas read. The first story, Christmas in Gold, chronicles Astrid's first Christmas at an assisted living community. Having been forced to downsize from a house to an small apartment, Astrid had to say goodbye to a good number of her things. The few things she kept held great sentimental value and perhaps none quite so much as the gold Christmas ornaments she and her father had saved from the rubble left behind by bombs dropped from World War II planes. When Astrid can't seem to find the box containing these precious heirlooms, s[...]

December 2017 Book Club Meeting


Our book club struggles when it comes to our monthly meetups.  Some months we meet, most months we do not.  Life often gets in the way and people have to beg off in order to attend to their family or their jobs.  I'm no exception, either!  There are times I would love to attend, but the day and time proposed just doesn't work in my schedule.This month I volunteered to host. I wasn't sure how many of the ladies would actually show considering Christmas was a mere eight days away.  Some had family parties to attend, others likely had shopping or baking or decorating to do.  Honestly, I half expected those who had said they were coming to call or text and tell me it just wouldn't work out.  I mean...eight days.I should probably admit right here and now I was getting some baking in myself before the ladies showed up.  I made chocolate chip cookies, gingersnaps, peanut butter cookies, and white chocolate Macadamia nut cookies.  I was pulling the last tray out of the oven as my first guest walked through the door.The house smelled amazing. Although many were missing, a few of the ladies did make the meeting to discuss our November read, Truth or Beard by Penny Reid.  Mostly, though, we caught up on each other's lives, checking in with each other about kids, spouses, and jobs.  We laughed a lot, especially after the wine got flowing.I think we all pretty much agreed the book was cute, but predictable.  I appreciated the fact that this particular heroine had dreams and aspirations that made settling down with someone with such deep ties to the community a problem.  Did it perhaps take them too long to figure out how to make both of them happy?  Was the big family secret not really any kind of secret at all?  Yes to both. Still.  It was an entertaining and easy read, entertaining enough I'd read more in the series for the right price. In fact, I already picked up book #4, which focuses on Duane's twin brother, Beau, because it was on sale for $1.99 in the Kindle store.Some book club enticements.[...]

When Your Amazon Music is Set on Random


I thought I'd share with you the first ten songs my Amazon player picks when I tell it to surprise me with random picks.

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The Hunt for a Tree


Finding the perfect Christmas tree kick-starts our holiday season.  While some families like to have the tree in place and decorated before Thanksgiving, we always wait until December to go on the hunt.  If we go on the first weekend of December, which is my preference, it can sometimes coincide with our youngest boy's birthday.  Luckily, he doesn't seem to mind.When the boys were little we used to take them to a tree farm complete with Santa, reindeer, hayrides, and a maze made out of hay bails.  We'd hitch a ride to one of the back fields and traipse through the rows and rows of pretty spruces in search of one that wouldn't be too thin, too fat, too tall, or too short.  After Ken finished sawing the tree down, we'd sit by the bonfire and wait for the wagon's eventual return.  After we got back to the big barn/store, the boys would run through the maze, climb on the fence to get a better look at the reindeer, drink hot cocoa, and help us pick out a wreath.  The trip wouldn't be complete though without getting a picture with Santa.As they do, kids grow up.  Eventually, pictures with Santa are rejected out of hand.  The fascination with the reindeer lessens and the maze loses some of its magic when the children can see over the bails of hay.  The trip to the tree farm becomes more of a chore than an adventure.While I will always hold those memories of that first tree farm close to my heart, we no longer visit its many acres in search of our Christmas tree.  We've found someplace that is much more reasonably priced.  Instead of paying $60-100 for a tree, we pay only $25.  There aren't as many trees to choose from and there's no cultivated Christmastime ambiance, but this new place suits our needs just fine.We pull into a driveway and then follow a little two-track path up to a hill where everyone parks.  The owner's dog is often up by the house, but sometimes she comes out to visit the families.  This year she saw Dexter in my lap and jumped on Ken's truck, leaving faint scratches in the paint.  Oops!The parking area on top of the hill. On the hunt for the perfect tree.We found it!  Of course there's an obligatory picture with mom, boys!This year we went on a day that was unseasonably warm for a Michigan winter. Snow had yet to fall, which meant there was no need for snow pants or heavy boots.  Hats and gloves weren't even necessary, although most of us did opt to wear gloves.Forget the hand saw!  Ken remembered to bring his chainsaw.He's got this.Mission accomplished!I am never a good judge of size.  I thought the tree looked a little on the short side when it was still standing in the lot.  However, when we got it home and Ken got it into the tree stand, I discovered that I had to actually trim off several inches of its pointy top.  A few more snips were required to help shape the uppermost branches.After fixing the angel atop the tree and recruiting my hubby to help me decorate it - both boys were off with their girlfriends by this time - we finally had our Christmas tree in place.  I think it's beautiful.Christmas tree and some treats. Life is good.[...]

It's Recipe Time!!


Sugar Cookie Recipe
1 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
4 cups flour

Melted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and milk.

Sift together:
Salt, soda, and flour.

Stir dry ingredients into the wet.

The recipe says to chill for at least one hour but I have the best results when it chills overnight in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a rolling pin and pastry mat, roll out the dough until it's about 1/8th inch thick.  Cut into shapes.

Place shapes onto an ungreased cookie sheet. 

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes.

Frosting Recipe
Unlike the cookie recipe, this is done more by taste and texture than by exact measurements.  Mix the following, separate into bowls, and add food coloring.

Powered sugar, melted butter, milk, and vanilla.

An Afternoon with My Dad


For the first time in a long time, Dad is single this Christmas. I point this out only because for the past few years he's had a girlfriend to help him Christmas shop for his kids and grandkids.  Knowing that he would probably find shopping for thirteen grandchildren, five children, two daughters-in-law, and one son-in-law rather daunting, I volunteered to help him pick out some gifts.For the record, I tried talking him into only buying for the grandkids.  My siblings and I are well aware that he's on a fixed income and that buying for us is a burden he shouldn't have to worry about.  But he insisted on getting each of us something small.I also want it to be known that buying for that many people is not an inexpensive venture even if you're trying to be frugal.  Christmas is so expensive!!After we finished shopping, we decided to get some lunch.  Instead of hitting up Burger King or Arby's, both of which he had coupons for, I treated him to some Applebee's.  He tried the Wonton Chicken Tacos for the first time and seemed to enjoy them quite a bit.While we were there, I snapped these. Oh, Snapchat, you delight me. On the way home, I decided to do some recording, too.  If you listen, you'll find out what my dad's most memorable Christmas gift was that he received from his mom and dad. width="320" height="266" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>I enjoy these little excursions and am so grateful that I have access to technology that enables me to capture these precious memories as they are being made.[...]

Christmas Wishes


According to Google, Cabbage Patch Kids toys had hit the shelves in early 1983.  By the end of the year almost three million had been "adopted" by an eager child. They were in high demand and cost somewhere around $30.And I wanted one. At ten years old I was too old to believe in Santa.  I knew any hope of receiving one of these coveted toys would be dependent upon my parents' ability to find one when they were continually sold out.  I also knew that even if they could find one, they might not be able to afford to buy it for me; our family of seven relied on one paycheck and money was always tight. So I hoped and hoped, but prepared myself for disappointment.  To be frank, I had convinced myself that no adorable little yarn-haired, chubby-cheeked, baby doll would be wrapped and waiting for me on Christmas morning. Money was tight.  The dolls were impossible to find.Strike One. Strike Two. Maybe I'd get another Barbie or some books.  Either would be a welcome treat. The weeks leading up to Christmas were filled with wishful thinking and fanciful daydreams of me showing my cousin, Jessica, my lovely new Cabbage Patch doll while I got to admire hers.  She was my closest playmate and we often wished for the same toys.  Yet, deep down, I knew, just knew, that I would not be getting a Cabbage Patch doll. Christmas morning came in due time.  I imagine it started like a lot of Christmas mornings did back then.  Either my brother, BJ, or I would be the first to rise.  We'd make hot cocoa for our step-mom and coffee for my dad.  Maybe we'd even throw together a little bit of a pre-breakfast treat.  Someone would make sure the tree was plugged in and then we'd wake everyone up.  Sometimes, this script would change and the little ones would help us prepare for the magical unwrapping awaiting us, but mostly I just remember me and BJ whispering in the kitchen as we got things around.I couldn't tell you want else waited for us under the tree that year.  I can only tell you how I cried when I opened up a Cabbage Patch doll that wasn't really a Cabbage Patch doll.  She didn't come in the branded box and she didn't have adoption papers.  But she looked like a Cabbage Patch doll!  She had the same cute face, the same squeezable body, and the same yarn-for-hair.  She was adorable in her blue dress, and I loved her immediately.Yet, it wasn't my affection for the doll that I recall most vividly.  What I remember most is that moment when I realized that my parents' desire to make my dreams come true had moved them to find a creative solution.  I felt so loved in that moment.  I wonder now if they knew the emotion behind the tears I shed that magical morning.  I imagine not.  I bet they thought it was just about a doll.[...]