Saturday, October 14, 2017

If We Were Having Coffee... (Vol. 14 - One Last Look)



If we were having coffee on this beautiful Saturday morning in mid-October, I'd definitely recommend sitting outside on the deck.  The weather has been warmer than normal, we haven't had our first frost yet, so the leaves haven't turned much.  Most are still green, although they are starting to look rather dull. It's obvious that the lush greenness of summer has faded away.

I'd uncover the patio furniture and we'd settle in.  You'd ask about my fall break and I'd share that I just got back from West Virginia.  "I went in to see my family and the fall foliage.  The leaves are already turning there."  It was a quick, but much needed respite.  There's just something about the mountains that rejuvenates my soul.

Remembering that I usually do something active like ride ATVs or white water raft when I go to West Virginia, you'd ask what I did while I was in.  I'd say that I wasn't really there long enough to do anything other than visit the family.  "I did drop by the Wyoming County Historical Museum to pick up the prize I won from back in the summer."  You'd look at me quizzically and then I'd realize that you don't know what I'm talking about.  "Back in the summer, I participated in a photo scavenger hunt sponsored by the museum.  I won the second chance drawing for $50.  My aunt accompanied me as we traveled throughout the county taking selfies of ourselves in front of designated points of interest.  I promised her if I won, we'd use the money next year to do something fun."


We'd sit, enjoying the brisk morning air.  In a month or so, it will be too cold to sit out here this early in the morning.  I'd take a sip of my soda and I'd let out a long sigh.  Staring out into the yard at nothing in particular I'd say, "I also made a quick visit to a place that I haven't been to in at least 7 or 8 years."  You'd ask where I went and I'd reply, "To my grandparents' house."

My paternal grandparents' house is located a few miles southwest of my tiny hometown in an even tinier incorporated community.  They lived from the early 1950s until their deaths in 2006 and 2008.  After my grandpa died, my uncle and his wife, who lived next door, moved into my grandparents' house.  "I wasn't really close with my uncle and aunt once I became an adult, we just didn't have much in common anymore, and that's why I hadn't been over there in so many years," I'd share.

A couple years ago, all the houses in "the bottom," as it is called, became structurally unsound.  The property owners may have owned the land, but, they didn't own the mineral and gas rights.  So, for many years, coal, located deep, down in the ground underneath those houses, has been removed.   Support beams are put in place to hold up the "ceiling" after a coal seam has been removed, but something happened and the ceiling collapsed.  When this happened, it caused some of the foundations of the houses to  collapse as well, including that of my grandparents'.


"Basically," I'd continue, "the houses were completely jacked up.  The home owners sued the coal company for damages and sometime this year the buyout deal was complete.  My uncle and aunt took the buyout and moved out sometime in late summer."


"Because empty houses are huge liabilities," I'd explain, "especially in an area dealing with poverty and addiction, I suspect the coal company will level all the houses soon.  So, I drove over to have one last look before that happens."


I had mentally prepared myself for the reality that the condition of the house might be significantly different from how it was the last time I saw it.  I knew that my uncle had put on a metal roof, put on some beige aluminum siding, so the house was no longer gray, and had replaced the windows.  "But, I tell ya what, nothing could've prepared me for what I encountered when I pulled off the main road and drove across the bridge towards the once little gray house with the tidy yard and apple tree and grape arbor in the back."


I parked the car and got out.  For a few minutes I stood there, my feet firmly planted on the asphalt, and I couldn't will them to move.  I stared at the house and property in utter disbelief.  The lawn was overrun with weeds, miscellaneous objects littered the front and side porches, and it looked so sad.  "I've never seen a ghost town before but I feel fairly certain what I was looking at had to be very similar."


After a few minutes of stunned silence and being unable to move, I finally regained control over my body and walked to the front porch. I immediately noticed that the wooden sign proclaiming my grandparents' names, undoubtedly a Christmas gift from a family member years and years ago, still hung from the porch. I gingerly walked up the concrete steps after noticing the cinder block foundation underneath had given way in some spots and peered in the window. Random belongings were scattered on the floor and a few stray pieces of furniture remained.  "It honestly reminded me of those scenes in movies where a moving van backs up to the front of house in the middle of the night and by dawn the occupants and most of their belongings are long gone," I'd say and then I'd continue.


I exited the porch and made my way around the side of the house to the back yard.  The grape arbor, which had been in a certain spot for as long as I could remember was gone.  "My granny always made grape jelly and grape wine," I'd share, "up until Alzheimer's had robbed her of the ability to remember how to make them."  I'd fall silent for moment, lost in thought.  After a little while I'd let out a soft chuckle and I'd continue. "Those grapes were a pain in my ass for many years.  I used to mow Granny and Grandpa's lawn and those sweet grapes attracted bees like crazy.  I hated mowing under and around that arbor because I inevitably got stung."  I'd smile and say, "I loved her jelly, though.  All those stings were worth it just for that jelly."


I'd explain that I continued around the back of the house and immediately noticed that the apple tree was also gone.  The backyard looked completely foreign and I actually found myself looking around for it, as if someone had moved it.  "In all my memories of events that took place in the backyard, whether it's playing wiffleball with my cousins and the other neighborhood kids or me pulling two of my aunts apart when they got into a squabble one year at Thanksgiving or me sitting on the back porch steps with Granny drinking lemonade after I had finished mowing, that apple tree is there, serving not only as a background but also as a witness of my childhood."  


I stood there for a long time, looking at the spot where the tree once stood, remembering its fragrant spring blossoms, all the apples that filled the it in summer, and all the fun times I had climbing its branches with my cousins.  "We spent hours and hours playing in and around that tree," I'd say, "Even my Dad spent some time in there, too."  As the story has been told to me, he liked to hide in the tree and smoke. Grandpa caught him smoking in the tree once. Startled by being discovered, Dad fell out of the tree knocked out a tooth or two. I'd grimace and then chuckle.  "Apparently that tree had been a witness to a lot of childhoods."


The last place I visited was my grandfather's garden.  During every spring and summer, once he retired from the coal mines, that's where my grandfather could be found. "He absolutely loved his garden," I'd say, "and he was definitely good at gardening.  I really don't think there was anything, vegetable-wise, that he couldn't raise."  


I'd share how I walked up to the dilapidated gate that still precariously clung to its hinges.  I looked into the garden and gone were the neat tidy rows of corn and tomatoes and beans that I remember so vividly. The land was completely overgrown, having not been tended to in a decade or more, and it was hard to tell by it's current state that a garden had ever existed there.  

"Before too long," I'd continue, "everything over there will be reclaimed by the earth, not just the garden, erasing over half a century's worth of proof that a family once lived there.  That's why I had to go over for one last look."

With that, I'd sink deeper into the outdoor sofa, rest my head back against the cushion, and close my eyes remembering the bronze-skinned tomboy of yesteryear who mowed grass, swore at the bees, played wiffleball, climbed trees, and loved her grandmother's grape jelly.  


~~~

Thank you for joining me for my latest installment of IWWHC.  Have a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tuesday Topics (Not on Tuesday) - Seven Films on My To Be Watched List


Some of the movies on my list have not been released yet.  Will I see them in the theater?  Doubtful.  Why?  I have a hard time justifying the price of a movie ticket these days when I have a hellacious satellite bill and all the movie channels known to man.  Some of the movies have already been in theaters and are now gone. None-the-less, they're all movies that I'd like to see sometime in the future.


Why?  It just looks like a movie that is endearing and will make me feel hopeful about the state of mankind.


Why?  Because I am a sucker for animated movies.


Why?  Because I'm a glutton for punishment.


Why?  I'm not sure.  It was described as fun and tragic.  I'm just intrigued. 


Why?  Because I enjoyed the first two Pitch Perfect movies, so why not finish the trilogy?


Why?  Because it looks like a thinking movie and I like those from time to time.


Why?  David Edelstein spoke very highly of  this movie last month during a segment on CBS Sunday Morning.  It's definitely not mainstream and I like movies like that from time to time. 




What are some movies on your To-Be-Watched list?  As always, thanks for stopping by!


Linking up with Jenn @ Quirky Pickings

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Recently Read - Vol. 21 (Aug. & Sept. '17)


I missed the September Show Us Your Books linkup because...  Well, because I forgot.  Work was crazy at the time, crazier than normal, and I was putting in some long-ass days.  Once I got home, I was usually down for the count. Anyway, this month's installment includes not only the books I read last month, but also the books I read in August.

Overall, I would consider the past two months very good in terms of reading. There were only a few duds, in my opinion.


The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
Read August 19-25 | Format: Audiobook | My Rating: 4/5

Think:  A tragedy brings together people at a time when they all need the human connection the most.

This is a story about a unique boy; his grief stricken mother; his distant father who never understood him; Miss Ona Vitkus, an elderly lady whom the boy befriended; and the profound impact he made on them while he was alive and after his death.

Final Verdict: Recommend


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Read August 27 - September 5 | Format: Audiobook | My Rating: 4/5

Think:  A family struggles to cope with a tragedy that has long, deep roots.

Everything I Never Told You turned out to be such an unexpected surprise for me.  It deals with a very tragic event, but the story in itself is so beautifully written and pieced together like a tapestry.  I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

Final Verdict: Recommend


I Found My Heart in West Virginia by Chelsea Falin
Read September 5-14 | Format: Kindle | My Rating: 2.5/5

Think:  A second-chance romance story reminiscent of a Lifetime movie.

I wanted to like this book because it is set in my home state of West Virginia.  But, it fell short.  The writing, in my opinion, was very basic and several aspects of the story, from minor details to more important plot elements, were simply not plausible.

Final Verdict: I say skip it.


Rewinder by Brett Battles
Read September 6-12 | Format: Audiobook | My Rating: 4/5

Think:  What if the world as we knew it was all because of a young man we've never heard of before?

I'm not typically one to read science fiction, but the story line of this one was just too intriguing to pass up.  Rewinder is the story of Denny, a young man born into one of the lowest rungs of society, who is offered a unique job offer that allows him to travel back in time to verify history.  But, with this job comes great responsibility because one small error can change everything. 

Final Verdict: Recommend, especially if you are looking for something a little different.


Sold by Patricia McCormick
Read September 14-16 | Format: Audiobook |  My Rating: 4.5/5

Think:  Story of a young girl sold into prostitution.

Sold is a quick read and is written in short, but very evocative vignettes.  It is told from the perspective of Lakshmi, a young girl from Nepal whose stepfather sells her into the unimaginable world of prostitution.  It is an eye opening and powerful read.

Final Verdict:  Recommend  


Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Read September 16-30 | Format: Audiobook | My Rating: 3/5

Think: Children's Classic

I so wanted to love Peter Pan, I really did.  But, when it was all said and done, my feelings on it were merely "meh."  I think I expected more action, more magic, more ... something.  I think it was anticlimactic because for nearly all my life, I've been exposed to Peter Pan either through cartoons, Little Golden Books, or movies.  So, when it came time to actually read the book, the book just didn't do it for me.

Final Verdict:  I didn't care for it, but that may just be me.  If you're interested, I'd just say proceed with caution.


Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Read September 16-24 | Format: Audiobook | My Rating: 4/5

Think:  A small rural town in decline, where hockey is king, is counting on hockey to save it.  How does the town react when something happens to threaten this plan?

It's hard to talk about this book without revealing too much and I think not knowing what's coming is an essential part of the reading experience.  So, I will just say this - Beartown will make you laugh; Beartown will make you cheer; Beartown will make you angry; and Beartown will break your heart.  Most importantly, though, Beartown will give you hope.  

Final Verdict: Recommend.  (Keep this in mind, however.  There are many, many characters and relationships to keep up with, but all of them are essential, in my opinion, to the greater tapestry of the story.) 


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Read September 24 - October  6| Format: Audiobook | My Rating: 4.5/5

Think:  A classic, coming of age story set in the deep south during the Great Depression as told by a young tomboy.

Somehow I managed to get through 4 years of high school and 4 years of college without ever having to read this American classic.  I'm not sure how, but I did.  Now that I've read it, I wish I would have read it sooner.  But, I seriously doubt I would have liked it or appreciated it had I read it as a teenager.

Final Verdict:  I rarely recommend classics, because my experience with them is really hit or miss and often goes against the general consensus.  I recommend this one, though.  Just keep in mind that TKaM is more of an experience to be enjoyed as a whole rather than to merely see what happens.


~~~

What have you read lately?  Anything that you'd recommend?

Linking up with:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Currently... (Vol. 21)


Ready...  for Fall Break.

Finishing...  sixty speech therapy report cards that will go home tomorrow.

Believing...  this:


Dealing...  with tennis elbow.  Funny thing - I don't play tennis.  I guess a more accurate description would be "kayaking/rafting/paddler's elbow."

Putting away...  my kayak and all my kayaking gear, for I think, between my paddler's elbow and the cooler water temperatures, my kayaking season has come to an end.  Although I was late in joining the fun, it was a great season.

Eating...  Honeycrisp apples!  My favorite!

Celebrating...  my school's victory in the most recent step challenge! 


Reading...  well, listening to Destroyer by Brett Battles.


Feeling...  happy to have finished the first round in Erin's latest book challenge!  

Doubting...  I'll finish the bonus round before the end of the month (when the challenge ends).  But, that's ok.

Embracing...  an opportunity that has presented itself, an opportunity I've been waiting on for several years, but didn't expect to happen until 2018 (more on this later this month).  

Wishing...  three of my coworkers a very Happy Retirement!

Seeking...  answers for some nagging health symptoms that I've been experiencing for several months.

Preparing...  to say farewell to a constant that I've had in my life for nearly 18 years.

Cleaning out... the closet.  Yes, I'm always cleaning out the closet.

Donating...  bags and bags and bags of stuff.  I swear, I feel like I just did this.

Loving...  the cooler, crisp weather.  It finally feels like fall here.

Praying...  for Mexico, for Florida, for various islands of the Caribbean, for Puerto Rico, for Las Vegas, for the country, and for the world.  I think we need it. 



~~~

What have you been up to lately?  As always, thanks for stopping by!



Linking up with:



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday Topics - Eight Books on My To Be Read List





The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen 
Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rose
Destroyer by Brett Battles
Chasing Claire by Paula Marinaro
The Humans by Matt Haig
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid


What are some books on your To-Be-Read List?  Please feel free to share!  I love audience participation.


Linking up with Jenn @ Quirky Pickings


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