December 26, 2012

A Floridian Christmas

Growing up, we didn't know Christmas without snow. And imagining such a Christmas was impossible. Christmas without snow?! That's no Christmas at all! And while I admit that there's no doubt something special about snow at Christmas, and being bundled up by the fire Christmas morning while you open your presents, I can also admit that I did not miss the snow one iota this Christmas. Floridians embrace the magic of Christmas just as much as us cold people up North. The only difference is, you can wear flip flops while out enjoying the Christmas festivities down here.

King's Gate Club goes all out at Christmas. The homes are decorated with lights. The pool is decked out  with lights. The draw bridge is dressed with lights (yes, there is a draw bridge!) and on Christmas Eve, the entire complex is lit up by luminaries. It was absolutely magical and never once did I think to myself, it doesn't feel like Christmas here. (Unfortunately, my photos do not do the magic justice).

Just hangin' out in the manger with baby Jesus.

The theme of this Christmas was definitely LIGHTS. We started out on Friday night by visiting a home open to the public that puts up hundreds of light displays. You walk through their large yard at your own leisure and admire all the different lights. Then just down the road, there's another home that has a HUGE, miniature winter village set up in their garage. (*Ahem*  - I LOVE all things miniature). It was absolutely amazing and I could have looked at it for hours.

The day before Christmas Eve, every home in the club was delivered luminaries to set out the next night. For anyone not spending Christmas in the club, their neighbours put out and lit their luminaries for them. The luminaries were white paper bags filled with a bit of sand and then a candle inside. This was probably my most favourite light related thing I've ever seen. It was a beautiful, calm night on Christmas Eve and it was so pretty walking the streets around the club amidst the path of lights. The luminaries burn well into the night and then they are gone by morning which adds even more magic to the whole event.

The luminaries - all 1200 of them - were lined up on both sides of the roads in the club.

We spent Christmas day with lots of family and we all enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner that everyone pitched in to make. Jim's aunt and uncle, Ethel and Keith also have a home in the club here, as do Keith's sister and family. While my family and Jim's sister, brother-in-law and nephews were all tremendously missed, it was a lovely day spent with people we love.

The beautiful table set by Jim's aunt, Ethel.

Jim and Ethel; me and my father-in-law, John; John and Jim's cousin, Laura.

Full bellies for everyone!

To all my family and friends: Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day! I hope your Christmases were wonderful, wherever they may have been spent! 

December 20, 2012

Hellooooo, Florida!

It's very easy to lose track of time in Florida. Especially when one is on vacation in Florida. I only today realized that the date is December 20th, and if the Mayans end up being right, this could be my last day to post on my blog. So I figured I should let me family and friends know what I've been up to since we left the cold, snow-ridden North, for sunny Florida.

In a lot of ways, this vacation resembles the one we took in Nova Scotia back in September. Except this time we are in Florida. And it's warmer outside. And the shopping is pretty awesome. We caught a red-eye to Tampa Bay, Florida on Saturday night, even though Jim swore he would never do another red-eye after our last one to Nova Scotia. But money talks and the price of the flight was right.

As much as I love visiting my in-laws in Nova Scotia, it's pretty awesome that they now also have a place down in Florida where we can visit them. Jim's parent's having only moved in a month ago, we wasted no time getting our butts down here to share in the Florida way of life. Since we've arrived, a good portion of our days have been spent by the pool. Today we switched it up and went to the beach first and then to the pool afterwards.

It's hard to believe that less than a week ago this is what greeted me out my back door:

This has been my view for a few good hours everyday since arriving in Florida:

Jim's parents bought a house in a retirement community down here, and while sometimes it reminds me of the book/movie, In Her Shoes, it's really a fun, outgoing place. There's always something going on and everyone is so friendly. So far, since we've arrived, we've attended a race boat regala at the pool, played BINGO, played pool, and witnessed a parade of Christmas decorated golf carts, followed by cookies and tea in the main club room. We've also made numerous trips out to the nearby stores. Everything always seems more exciting and better when you're shopping in the states. For example, for most of my life, we've only had (as far as I've been aware) regular M&M's and peanut M&M's, with more recently mint and coconut. BUT HERE, I've seen, regular, dark chocolate, white chocolate, white chocolate peppermint, mint, coconut, almond, and peanut. It's insane and I get way too excited over these little things!

I'm going to eat all of you delicious M&M's.

So much like our trip to Nova Scotia, a good chunk of our mornings are spent reading. This is the first time I can remember flying and NOT reading a book. Not because I didn't want to, but because I was actually able to somewhat sleep on the plane. But as soon as we got here I started The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough. This book was originally on my Fall TBR list, but I never got around to reading it. Partly because I didn't think I would like it, but mostly because it's almost 700 pages and 700 PAGES! But I am absolutely loving it. It's been a long time since I've read such a long, exciting drama of a novel. The book follows the Cleary family starting in 1915 when they are living in New Zealand, barely making ends meet on their sheep farm, to their voyage and life in Australia. I'm only half way done and fully immersed in the life if the Cleary's. My mother-in-law (who originally gave me the book) told me yesterday that the book was made into a television mini-series so now I cannot wait to also watch that. If I can find it of course.

Nokomis Beach, Florida

P.S. Technically it is now 12:12 in Florida and the world has not ended. Although a torrential down-pour, complete with thunder and lightening did just start. Which is kind of creepy, no? But anyway. Still alive. So I'll be back soon with more pictures...and more book talk. Right, I should probably talk a bit more about books.

December 02, 2012

Saigon Sundays: New Shoes

Confession: Jim and I are totally those people who buy booties (mukluks) and coats for their dog. Saigon may be 80 pounds, but he's got little paws and a really short coat. He often can't get through a walk in the winter without favoring his paws, holding them up for a few seconds at a time to get them off the snow. Since he had his stroke last year, his bad leg has a hard time keeping grip on the slippery sidewalks, so booties really help his leg from sliding out all over the place. Not to mention, the booties prevent him from coming home and licking his paws like crazy after the walk, making them even more raw. And really, he just looks so darn cute in them!

This isn't the first winter he's worn boots, but you wouldn't know it from the way he walks when you first put them on him. It's really quite hilarious and Jim was able to catch a quick video of Saigon prancing around the house in them. Saigon also makes sure to let us know what he really thinks of his new boots at the end of the video. Priceless.

November 29, 2012

Thrift Store Treasures: I Heart Scrabble

I feel like a love of books and a love for scrabble go hand in hand. I don't think I've ever met someone who loves to read, but doesn't like to play Scrabble. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love all board games, but one of my top favourites is without a doubt, Scrabble. I will gladly play anyone willing - in person and on my phone. Actually, my lack of blogging as of late can be partly contributed to my obsessive playing of Words With Friends (Scrabble copy-cat) on my phone. In 3D life, my favourite person to play Scrabble with is my sister-in-law, Patty. We both share an equal passion for the game. It's hard to beat her and I love the challenge. Plus, she doesn't cheat to win. I hate cheaters. What's the point?

I've been playing some form of Scrabble for as long as I can remember. I started with Scrabble Junior until I was wise enough to start playing the adult version. Everytime I see a new or different version of Scrabble for sale, I want it. But I only own 3 versions: Scrabble deluxe which has a lazy-susan type board, travel Scrabble, and Book Lovers Scrabble. But then the other day I was at Value Village and I stumbled across these vintage beauties:

Scrabble Crossword/Dominoes circa 1975

Scrabble Sentence Cube Game circa 1971
It doesn't even look like it has ever been played!

When I saw these on the shelf I grabbed them so fast and held them to my chest, looking out the corner of my eye at the lady scanning the shelves next to me like, "THEY'RE MINE, THEY'RE MINE! I SAW THEM FIRST". Pretty sure she thought I was more than a little crazy. I actually don't know if these are considered *vintage*, but come on - I didn't even know such versions of my favourite game existed! The boxes are a little banged up, but the pieces don't look like they've ever been used. And they were just 3 dollars a piece!

Now I just need someone to play them with. Jim actually said he'd play them with me, but I think he just felt bad telling me no after I came home and proudly showed them to him, excitedly asking him "WILL YOU PLAY WITH ME, WILL YOU!?" Sadly, my Book Lovers Scrabble (which was a wedding present from my bookstore manager - an awesome present I might add), has never been played yet either. 

So, who wants to come over and play Scrabble?

November 28, 2012

Audio Books: Round 2

The Confession, by John Grisham


After I read Defending Jacob, my manager at the bookstore asked me if it was similar to any of John Grisham's books. I told her I couldn't answer that because I've never actually read anything by John Grisham before. His books have always seemed more like crime solving fluff to me. I swear, I'm not a book snob, and I won't judge you if you like his books, but that's just how I've always thought of them as being - you've read one, you've read them all type of books. But then I got thinking that maybe, for the sake of my bookstore customers, that I should read at least one Grisham novel. Because what if I try to sell someone Defending Jacob and they ask me if it's like John Grisham, who they just love? I can stretch the truth when talking about books to my customers, but I cannot flat out lie.

So, and I promise this is going somewhere, then one weekend shortly after I had the above conversation with my manager, I was heading out to Red Deer and decided I was ready to give another audio book a shot. (My first audio book experience was a total fail, but I am determined to find a place for audio books in my life.) I didn't have my library card yet, so I went to the nearest Chapters on the hunt for the cheapest audio book I could find, but that was also something I actually wanted to listen to. Well you know who's audio books are some of the most inexpensive? Yup, Mr. Grisham's. So, I decided on The Confession. Cheap audio book plus "work related research" equalled win, win.

Looking back, this really was a great choice for my second audio book. The plot was easy to follow and kept my attention. Did my mind still wander? Of course, but not nearly as often as during my first audio book. Audio books are hard! You really have to pay attention, and I naturally have a wandering mind. The Confession took me about 3 weeks to listen to (I only listened to it when I was in my car), and this was a HUGE improvement over the SIX MONTHS the first one took me!

In The Confession, the crime has already been committed, and the young man, Donté, who has been charged with murder is on death row, only four days away from his execution. Keith, a young minister, receives a visit from Travis Boyette who confesses to the murder that Donté has wrongfully been accused of. Travis claims he is dying of an inoperable brain tumour and has for once in his sorry life decided that he wants to do the "right thing" by confessing to the murder. The catch is, Travis doesn't want to go to the police because while he wants to do the "right thing", he also doesn't want to spend his last few living months in jail. (*eye roll*). For whatever reason, Travis has decided to trust in Keith in getting the truth to the right people. 

I have no sympathy for a murderer trying to do the "right thing".

So we have your whole "race against time" story. Is Travis too late? I mean, 4 days isn't much time to prove his confession and get Donté exonerated. Can we even trust Travis to follow through with his confession? Will Donté's fate be changed? Is the death penalty a fool-proof system? Hmmm, aren't you just dying to know all these answers?! 

I noticed after I was done listening to this book that I had purchased the abridged version! At first I was pissed because WELL WHAT DID I MISS? But then once I calmed down, I realized, for a book like this, it probably didn't make a difference in the overall experience of listening to a book like this.

Stupid unabridged books. Who reads you?!

Now, would I ever listen to or read another novel of Grisham's? Meh, Probably not. Or at least not anytime in the near future. Oh wait, that's a lie! I *might* read Skipping Christmas next month because I own it and I want to read something Christmassy this year. But that's it. I'm sorry you had to listen to me babble on, really about nothing, and not even get a recommendation out of this. Except! If crime thrillers (and I use that term veerrrry loosely for this book, because it wasn't really high on the thriller end), are your thing, then I totally do recommend Defending Jacob. I really quite enjoyed that one.

November 25, 2012

Saigon Sundays: I Love You, Couch

When we lived in BC, we had my old brown couch upstairs in the computer room. At some point, Saigon started sleeping on this couch at night. He would put himself to bed on it, but most early mornings, he would sneak into our room. When we moved back to Alberta last year, this couch ended up in storage for a few months and then in our garage for several months more. When Jim and I couldn't find a new couch to buy that we loved, we decided to clean the couch with a rug shampooer, get a slipcover for it and put it in our family room until we found the couch we really wanted.

Well. After Jim spent 2-3 hours cleaning the couch, we brought it inside and if Saigon could "jump for joy", he would have. The cushions were still a little damp and I didn't want him on the newly cleaned couch until I had gotten a slipcover for it, so we propped the cushions up against the couch so they could finish drying over night. Saigon is usually pretty scared of anything "in his path", so I assumed this would be deterrent enough for him. I was wrong. My back was only turned for mere minutes. Never underestimate the love a dog has for his couch.

 Even after being "caught", he hunkered down and stuck his ground:

The couch is brown and Saigon is more grey, but in pictures, he blends right in!

There's no way that was comfortable, so I let him have his "moment" before making him come upstairs with us. Also, HELLO! - CLEAN COUCH!

Don't worry, the next day I picked up a slipcover and Saigon got his ol' couch back. He honestly seems more at peace, more content, now that "his" couch is back. God love him.

November 22, 2012

If Procrastination Was a Game, I'd Be Winning.

So needless to say, I haven't been blogging lately. And I haven't even really been reading. I am in a rut you guys. I blog all the time in my head, but when I have the time to sit down at the computer, I just don't have the energy to type all those thoughts out. It's not necessarily that I have a lack of free time in which I could read or blog, it's that when my plate is full, I'm tired, so instead I read other people's blog, waste time on Facebook and Twitter and play games on my phone. Actually, I've played a lot of games on my phone this past month. A lot. I know many people have a ton on their plates and are able to find balance, but I am not one of those people. When I have a lot on my plate, things like blogging, reading, cooking and house-work get neglected, and sometimes I have a hard time digging myself out of the rut I've fallen into.

This is all I want to do when I get home from work most days.

Here's a quick break down (list of excuses) as to why I've been not-blogging and not-reading:

  • I've been working two jobs. And yes, I appreciate that lots of people work two jobs, but this is about me here. For the past year I've been working part-time at a bookstore. I started one casual nursing position back in August, but once orientation was over, it didn't amount to any actual shifts. So I started another casual nursing position in October which has me working lots of orientation shifts and attending lots of learning work shops AND has the potential for me to pick up lots of shifts once I'm done orientation. It's fantastic, but very overwhelming! And trying to juggle that schedule with working odd-hour shifts at the bookstore was just getting to be too much. Not to mention I have a husband who apparently would like to spend more time with me and a dog that appreciates being walked everyday.  I NEED STRUCTURE TO THRIVE. I like routine. Routine allows me to be productive. For some reason, when I have no routine, that is when I become the master of procrastination and wasting time. So, sadly, it was time to let the bookstore job go and focus on my nursing career again. I have one shift left next week. While I will miss the bookstore tremendously, I am excited to not have the stress of trying to juggle both jobs.
  • I've started to over think my blogging and as I have gained more readers, I have become more insecure in my writing abilities. I am NOT a writer, I know this! BUT, I love books, and I do really love blogging. I need to stop treating my posts like book reports - over analyzing every little word and punctuation mark.
  • I am so behind in writing about the books I've read in the past 2-3 months that I am overwhelmed just thinking about writing about them. When I'm overwhelmed, I procrastinate even more. I know I could just skip the books I've read and start anew from present day, but I want to talk about those books. 
  • Jim has been bringing home work to work on most nights lately, work which requires him to use our one and only computer.  Obviously work that brings home a pay check takes precedence over blogging.

But wait, I have a plan! And writing said plan down is the first step, right?

Brie's plan to dig out of laziness and procrastination rut (because really, don't laziness and procrastination go hand in hand?):

1. Start writing what pops into my head and no looking back. I enjoyed The Grapes of Wrath readalong so much because I just wrote. No over analyzing, not much proof-reading, just write and post. Which I would also think reflects the true me because I'm writing without thinking about it too much.


2. Catch up by writing mini posts on all the books I've read but haven't talked about on the blog. This is important to me to do because part of the reason behind starting this blog was to work on remembering the books I read.

3. Bring back Saigon Sundays. Mostly because my sister keeps asking about them, but also because I love doing them.

4. Invest in a second laptop.

5. Inform husband about step #4.

Now I just have to stick to said plain...

October 30, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath The End: "And gradually the greatest terror of all came along."

It's been a month since we started The Grapes of Wrath readalong and sadly, today, it comes to an end. I'm not so much sad that the book is over, I'm really more sad that the readalong is over. And I'm really glad that I read this book with an awesome group of people, because it allows you to talk about all the WTF moments and depressing moments and the feeling sad moments. Really, if you haven't done a readalong before you, you really should.  Oh ya, and spoilers ahead. Obviously, because it's the end of the book! And WE MUST talk about the end of the book.

ANYWAY. The Grapes of Wrath has now been read in its entirety. And let me just get it out there - I DID NOT see that ending coming. But first, let's talk about the last 1/4 of the book!


When we last left off, the Joad's were still living in the government camp, enjoying the flushing toilets, hot water and daily baths. Well, they lived in said camp for about a month at which point there was no longer work for the men and food was pretty much scarce. Ma decides it's time to pack 'er up and hit the road to look for work:
Ma plunged the dish into the bucket. "We'll go in the mornin'," she said.

Pa sniffled. "Seems like times is changed," he said sarcastically. "Time was when a man said what we'd do. Seems like women is tellin' now. Seems like it's purty near time to get out a stick."
Silly Pa. We all know Ma is the boss. 

Rosasharn still hasn't given birth to her baby and she's craving dirt (most likely iron deficiency) and getting all snooty because she hasn't had milk in a long time, even though she was told by the "nurses" in the camp she should. Then she tells Ma that if Connie hadn't taken off, she'd be living in a house with all the milk she needs! (Delusional.) So Ma decides Rosasharn should have her ears pierced before she gives birth. Because that makes sense. 

So once Rosasharn's ears are pierced, the Joad's pack up and find a peach farm that is hiring pickers. It takes the poor family a whole day of picking just to earn one dollar which buys them just enough food for supper. The living conditions here are poor and the whole operation is run with strict enforcement - almost like a prison.  It was hard not to have a lump in my throat while reading this section - I just kept waiting for the bomb to drop.  WHERE IS THE BOMB, STEINBECK?


But then Tom decides to sneak out of the camp to explore and he runs into Casy! Yay, Casy! Except Casy has joined the strikers and while he's convincing Tom to convince his family to stop working, he gets his head bashed in. And then Tom get hit in the face, but manages to pick up the club and hit a guy on the head with it, killing him. It was all very sudden and a bit gory. And poor Casy. But luckily Tom is able to sneak back into the camp where he has to tell his family the truth. Now that his face is bashed up, he has to lie low and can't help his family pick peaches. When the Joad's realize how much trouble Tom is in if he gets caught, they decide to pack up again and sneak Tom out of the camp. 

Next stop: Cotton picking!  At this point, Tom decides he needs to hide in the brush until his face heals. And the rest of the Joad's get to pick cotton by day and live in a boxcar by night. Am I the only one that thought boxcar meant a little wooden car, and was thinking how the hell do entire families sleep in a boxcar? Are you on drugs, Steinbeck? Ya, me neither.

Boxcar in Brie's head

Boxcar like the Joad's would have lived in.
But then silly Ruthie gets in a fist fight with some kids and like typical kids, they start threatening to get their older brother's to beat them up at which point Ruthie blabs about her having a brother who's killed two people. Ma knows Tom can't come back now, even once his face his healed, so she gives him some money and we never hear of him again.

And then the RAIN comes. But it doesn't just rain, it pours. Literally. It rains so much that fields are wiped out, families living arrangements are threatened by flooding, and everybody and everything is soaking wet. And this means there are no jobs and therefore no food. And really, is there even hope anymore at this point?


Of course, this is when Rosasharn goes into labour. And while the men are outside in the pouring rain, trying to build up a bank to prevent the streams from flooding their boxcars, Rosasharn gives birth to a stillborn. WHICH, I think is a good thing, because I'm pretty sure raising a baby at a young age, all on your own back in those days wasn't easy (or acceptable in most people's eyes). Unless your a widow. Then I think most folks just pity you.

At this point, we only have a few pages left. And I'm thinking, how can this all end in a few pages?! Is Steinbeck going to have everyone DROWN!?

Spoiler: No one drowns. But the water keeps coming and the boxcars are flooding, so the Joad's wade out to find dry ground. They come across a barn on the other side of the road, but they quickly realize they aren't alone in the barn. In the corner is a young boy with his starving, dying father. But no one has any food, let alone milk (milk seems to be the answer for sickly people in this book) and so Ma and Rosasharn share a knowing look and Ma ushers everyone out to the tool shed. AND THEN ROSASHARN BREASTFEEDS THE DYING MAN. And she strokes his hair, whispers "there, there", and smiles mysteriously. Mysteriously? Why mysteriously? THE END.

Ok, ok, I get there's some underlying symbolism here that I'm failing to grasp, like there's still hope even though life is shit, but COME ON. Well, Steinbeck, if you were going for shock factor, mission accomplished!


I'm not sure what I was expecting to happen (see first gif), but I was hoping for a little more closure at the end of the book - like some epilogue of the Joad's finding steady work, renting a small home, having enough food to eat, etc, etc. But I guess that would be too neat and tidy and hope is always the best ending, right? Well at least everyone's still alive (minus the people that previously died I mean). Although, if we're going to be all honest here, I am a little disappointed that Tom never got caught breaking his parole. I felt like there was so much foreshadowing for this, but I guess him having to leave his family and fend for himself at the end was punishment of itself.

In conclusion, I WILL MISS YOU READALONG peeps. Let's do this again real soon!

The women watched the men, watched to see whether the break had come at last. The women stood silently and watched. And where a number of men gathered together, the fear went from their faces, and anger took its place. And the women sighed with relief, for they knew it was all right-the break had come; and the break would never come as long as fear could turn to wrath. 

October 23, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath Part III: "Our people are good people; our people are kind people"

Well. It's Tuesday again. Which means we're 3/4 of the way through The Grapes of Wrath readalong! I'm sorry to those of you who haven't been able to follow along because of the spoilers and I swear I didn't plan on only posting about the wrathful grapes this month. Lucky for you, we only have one week left of these Steinbeckian shenanigans.

So last time we left off, poor Granma had died and The Joad's had just crossed over into California. Here's what's been going on since then:

First of all: NO HUMAN OR ANIMAL DIED OR WAS KILLED in this part!! High five, Steinbeck!


So, Steinbeck paints us a pretty bleak picture of California. One in which there are more people than jobs and more mouths to feed than there is food. The people out West are basically threatened by the folks from out East. The more hungry men looking for work, the less money said man is willing to work for. Which pretty much fucks everyone over because then no worker can bargain for more money once those standards have been lowered. The fruit trees bear more fruit than can be eaten before everything spoils. People are starving but charity is not an option. It's a freakin' losing battle.
"There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificates-died of malnutrition-because the food must rot, must be forced to rot."

No one can eat this here food.

Then we have the LONGEST.CHAPTER.EVER: Chapter 20.  But lot's of things happen. The Joad's get their first real taste of Cali. They're starting to get it - that there aren't jobs-a-plenty afterall. Life in the camps is sketchy. No one has any food, everyone is starving and the police are scaring everyone. Then Steinbeck decides it's time to whittle down the character-load again.  So we see Connie wander off when he realizes he made a big mistake coming to California and just needs to "get on his feet", and leaves his pregnant girlfriend behind. No one goes after Connie. A scuffle breaks out in the camp, the police show up, and Tom forgets (FORGETS?!) that he's on parole so Casy takes the fall for him and gets hauled off to jail.

Connie gets the hell outta dodge.

The Joad's know they can't stay in their current camp and when they catch wind of a government camp they quickly head out. This camp is too good to be true, guys. It's clean and orderly. There's running water, flushing toilets, hot water, committee's, Saturday night dances. And as luck would have it, there was ONE available spot when the Joad's showed up. How's that for convenience?


There's only about a hundred pages left in the book...I'm nervous to see how Steinbeck is going to wrap things up. Everything seems to be going along ok right now. I mean, besides the lack of jobs. Who'll wander off next? Will we see Casy again? What about Alfred the turtle? Noah? Connie?

October 16, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath Part II: "That's 'cause you know better. They don't know any better."

Another week has flown by and we should all be half-way through The Grapes of Wrath now. Which means, since my last update, we've read chapters 11 through 18. This also means that spoilers are inevitable. And that my thoughts are all over the place. So proceed with caution.

I like to think of this part of the book as the "travelling caravan adventures", or "'em people's, they's a dyin'" chapters. Is this where Steinbeck starts picking people off? First, Granpa dies of a stroke. Then the dog dies a horrible death! Why, Steinbeck, WHY?


Then Noah goes all weird on us and decides to stay behind and live by the river. And Tom doesn't really try that hard to stop him.  Then Mr and Mrs Wilson stay behind when they reckon they can't continue on. And then, and THEN, Granma dies. Poor ol' Granpa and Granma. Never got to see what California had in store for them. But Tom reassures the family that "They was too old", and "They wouldn't of saw nothin' that's here."

But let's talk about Granma's death for a second. Granma dies sometime before the Joad's get to the Agricultural inspection which is shortly before they're at the California border. But Ma doesn't tell anyone that Granma is actually dead until after the Joad's get to California. Which means, she laid up on the mattress on top of the truck next to Granma's dead body for hours.

"The family looked at Ma with a little terror at her strength." 

Ma, she's a tough one all right - but we already knew that. Unfortunately, the nurse in me can't just read about something like this without thinking "but what about the mess and stench that would have been emitted from the last of the bodily fluids that would flush out of Granma's dead body?" And then I feel even worse for poor Ma.

And then we learn that Connie (I keep forgetting that Connie's a dude!) and Rose of Sharon "do it" in the back of the truck while poor Ma is laying up there with dead Granma. OH THE WRONGNESS. 


Ok, so this part of the book is full of death. The Joad's are down 3 people and a dog. And a rattlesnake was run over and I think a rabbit.

The in between chapters are growing on me. Dare I say I'm appreciating their existence? Even if I still have WTF moments while reading them. In the second paragraph of Chapter 15, there's a list of all the different signs hanging in the diner. The last one is IITYWYBAD. I think I stopped reading and spent like 20 minutes trying to come up with something that made sense: I intend to yell while you be all dining? If I take you way yonder, be a dear? I was too lazy to get out of bed to google it, but a quick google search now, informs me said acronym stands for 'If I tell you, will you buy another drink?'  Well, huh. Did anyone else know what this meant without googling it?

Moving on.

I feel like there's so much uncertainty and impending doom building up. The Joad's are naive and so hopeful that as soon as they get to California they will find jobs and have money all will be right. But there cannot be good things waiting for the Joad's in the second half of the book. The families they meet coming back from California already aren't a good sign. And the fact that thousands upon thousands of families are also hoping to fulfill their dreams in California can only mean that there will definitely not be plenty of jobs for everyone. But ignorance is bliss and maybe it's better that they just don't know any better.

"It don't take no nerve to do somepin when there ain't nothin' else you can do."

October 09, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath Part I: "Every moving thing lifts the dust into the air."

The Grapes of Wrath readalong has begun. Chapters 1 through 11 have been read. And my thoughts are all over the place. I don't think I'm feeling smart enough today ever to write eloquent paragraphs so I present to you my rambling thoughts and reactions thus far. Remember, I'm going into this blind so I have no idea where the story is going to go...

-Dust. So, so much dust. The first chapter set the stage so well for a land so dry and dusty. We take so much for granted nowadays. I couldn't imagine not having water - we use water for everything.

-Amidst the dust, we meet Tom Joad. Are we supposed to like this man named Joad? He seems weasel-like and come on, he committed homicide!  I don't like him.

-The turtle. I love you turtle. I'm not sure I get your symbolism, but I hope we see you again.

-Then we meet The Preacher. Except he's not really a "preacher" by trade anymore. Which in some ways makes him more insightful and less judgy now that he's sort of an atheist. And he seems trustworthy.

-When Joad is describing prison to The Preacher (Jim Casy), you realize nothing has changed in like 70 years! It's still a better place for most men who have been on the inside to be. Warm bed, 3 square meals a day, clean clothes and a shower. It's more than most families during this time had. 

-I'm confused: Tom got 7 years in prison for what was technically self-defense? Or is there more to this story then we will ever know....hmm.

-I love Steinbeck's language. The words he uses - they're just so great. "And the women went on with the work, but all the time they watched the men squatting in the dust - perplexed and figuring."  Perplexed and figuring. I love these words. 

-"How can we live without our lives? How will we know it's us without our past? No. Leave it. Burn it." Oh Steinbeck, you're so deep. 

-I don't like the rambling chapters - the one about the car salesmen most specially. All I wrote after that one: WTF.

-I don't know how I feel about Tom Joad yet, but I sure like his family once we meet them. But my heart feels tight for them - I know their life isn't going to be this easy. They aren't just gonna pack up their truck and make a life in California picking oranges. And what about Tom? Everyone looks up to him and I thought for sure he was going to break his ma's heart when he tells his family about his parole and what that means exactly (ie. you can't leave Tom!), but then he just goes?! And how the hell does that truck not bottom out once it's all packed up? Can't we just end the story here with the whole family driving off into the sunset and assume they made it to California and are now happily living in some orchard?

-Well at least there hasn't been any crying yet. Heavy hearts, yes. But no tears. Yet.


October 08, 2012

Farewell, Nova Scotia

So we've been back home for a little under a week now. Vacations always fly by way too fast, and I always find myself wishing we had "just one more day". I easily could spend a month at my in-laws place, except I'd probably gain 15 lbs from all the relaxing, book reading and eating that occurs. I know this is where I'm supposed to talk about books, but I thought I'd share how we spent the rest of our trip from where I left off. Really, I'm just stalling in writing about all the books I've read lately.

We spent another evening at Melmerby Beach. We literally had the beach all to ourselves and walked the entire length of it. It was peaceful, calm and like something out of a movie.

Jim's parents. How cute are they?

We ate some more seafood - my favorite: Mussels!

We spent a day and night in Halifax with Jim's folks. It was chilly but we walked along the harbour downtown.

Then we spent the night at Casino Nova Scotia! In honour of the 100th anniversary since the sinking of the Titanic, they had a replica of the Titanic Grand Staircase, which was obviously a photo opportunity just waiting to happen:

We went to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia for the re-launching of the Bluenose II. Unfortunately, it was a dreary, rainy day which really put a damper on the festivities that had been planned, but we dressed prepared and managed to enjoy the day. Lunenburg is full of history and charm and I'd love to spend a weekend there in one of it's many B&B's and pop into all the little shops.

We met up in Lunenburg with Jim's aunt and uncle, Ethel and Keith and explored the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic with them.

Keith and Ethel have a cottage in Greenfield, Nova Scotia, which is about a 45 minute drive from Lunenburg. They live in Nova Scotia during the summers and then Florida in the winters. These two know how to retire! We spent a night at their lovely cottage on the lake, but this is the only photo I took:

This was our view from the room Jim and I slept in. Doesn't get much better than that!

Many a round of Scat and Pass the Ace were played. Luckily for me, Jim's family loves card games as much as I do! As long as I can stay in the game past John, I'm happy. Jim's cousin Jennifer had a baby last year and we got to celebrate Wyatt's first birthday with him. Here's the whole family playing cards (after Wyatt went to bed of course):

Our last few days we made our rounds, saying hello and goodbye to family and friends and just enjoying being with Jim's parents. I feel truly blessed to have in-laws that I love spending time with.

As for the reading I accomplished while on vacation, I managed to read three out of the four books I brought with me. Summer Sisters took waaaaay longer to read than I had anticipated. I just didn't have that "must devour now" feeling with it as I did with On the Island and Love Anthony. Unfortunately, I didn't get to The Thorn Birds, and while it's on the back burner while I read The Grapes of Wrath, I still hope to get to it this fall.

And as hard as it is to say good-bye to Jim's parents, it's made a bit easier knowing you are coming home to this face: