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Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Alice Network

The Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are a glut of novels out there covering the horrors of war. Some good, some not so good. Some are great. For me, this one was great.
The Alice Network was real. It was a group of 100 or so spies, mostly women, headed by Louise de Bettignies, "Alice Dubouis", in Lille, France that worked to save over a 1,000 British soldiers and fed information to the British for 9 months in 1915.
Having this basis in fact, the book "The Alice Network" checked all the boxes for me:
Good, solid characters - Check
Mesmerizing plot - Check
Satisfying completion - Check
It wasn't so much about the horrors of war, but the impact that war has on the lives and souls of the people involved. It is about the profound sadness, need, and psychological pain that are the aftermath of war. It is about the ruined lives, the unfinished lives, and shattered souls.
The Alice Network brings two women together at the end of World War II. Both sad, both in need of solace and closure, both in pain. They join forces, albeit reluctantly at first, to heal the wounds left by not just WWII, but WWI as well.
This unlikely pair stole my heart. Eve, with her stutter, wounded by her past, drinking herself into oblivion, wanting to die. Charlie, with her overpowering need to find and save her cousin, lost somewhere in France during the war. Their stories weave together in a way that is amazing, but believable. Their stories made me feel. I laughed, I cried, I was repulsed, and I rooted for the heroines through several close calls with capture and even death.
It made me question "What would I do?" "Would I have the wherewithal to stand up and fight?" "Would I have the strength and courage to give up everything?"
One woman did. One woman would.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Take The First Step

If you would have asked me two, three, or five years ago what I would be doing, living in Ecuador would not have been one of my answers.  Not because I didn't want to live in a foreign country. Not because I was afraid to travel. Not because I hadn't dreamed about living an unusual life. I just thought that it was a dream and was financially unobtainable; something only rich people do.

The second half of my life has been blessed with dreams. My BF has helped with that. Every dream I have had, he has helped make it happen.  

On my 30th birthday I was alone. Raising 2 daughters. Looking at a future of hard work. I lived in fear and I wasn't happy.

Then I met my BF.  I never dreamed of someone like him until he was "stalking" me at Torrejon AB in Spain (that was a dream too). I think I fell in love before he did, but it doesn't matter. We are together now, still best friends after 30 years of play and laughter.

Flash forward ten or so years. Ever since I was a child and I saw the Disney movie about the dancing horse, I had wanted a Paso Fino.  On my 40th birthday - I had one.  And not just any Paso, but a granddaughter of a world class Paso. She was amazing!  She was a dream come true. She won ribbons and even won a class at the Rocky Mountain Regionals.

I raised sheep, llamas, and had an organic egg business for about 10 years. Why?  Because I wanted to and the BF made sure I got to.

Then we moved to central New York state and another dream fell in my lap. With the help of my father and the BF, I was able to open a yarn shop. A yarn shop? Why? Same answer, I wanted to. It was fun. I made many good friends and miss them all so much.

But as with all good things, there comes a time when you have to let them go and focus on the next dream.  The next dream was the BFs rather than mine, but that is alright. It was something we had been tossing around for almost 20 years. We had looked at Costa Rica back in the early 90s. My fears stole that at that time. The fear of change, the fear of not having enough money. Oh, and don't forget the fear of having young children and "What would they do?" It was all crap and I robbed my entire family of what may have been the greatest adventure of their lives.

When my BF mentioned vacationing in Ecuador I was puzzled.  Why Ecuador? Well, he preyed on my love of all things Spanish. My love of the Spanish culture was the carrot he dangled in front of my nose. 
"It is less expensive than Spain." he said.
"They speak Spanish there." he said.
"The U.S. dollar is the currency, so no exchange rate." he said.
"Buy the tickets and book the hotels and I will go with you." I said.
He did. We went. We went again. We sold everything and came back. To stay.

Now, we are living not only his dream but mine as well.  I love the differences in the lifestyle, the ease of each day, the new sites and sounds and tastes. 

Looking back at my life I see a trail of dreams fulfilled. Some by chance and others because of the wonderful man that I married. He helped me overcome my fears (there were many) and truly live. He helped me live out loud and be joyous. He allowed me to dream and never told me that dreams don't come true, no matter what your age.

They do!  All you have to do is take the first step.  Oh, and don't forget to take the next one as well.

This post was inspired by Cindy Wood, and her FaceBook post this morning.  Thank you Cindy!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Little Ecuadorian Dog

Thought we had lost our little Ecuadorian dog this morning. We (the BF, my little Ecuadorian dog, Tessa, and I) were out walking near the mouth of the river as the tide was going out. Tessa loves playing in the water and fetching things that are tossed in. This morning, she saw a coconut floating on the current and jumped in to bring it to shore. The combination of the river current and the outgoing tide was so strong that she could not make it back. I thought about going in to help her and was thigh deep before my husband told me to stop.
"I would rather lose a dog than my wife." was his reasoning.
He was right. The current was so strong that we would both have been swept out to sea. All I could do was watch helplessly as she struggled to make it to shore. Then struggle to keep her head above water. Then I held my breath as I lost sight of her beneath the waves.
It was a horrible thing to contemplate - her drowning. I could not watch. But, as we turned to walk back up the river, my husband spied her on a wave, being washed ashore on the other side. A wave or two later and she was out of the water and running along the opposite bank looking for a way back.
Then, the silly girl, jumped into the water and began trying swim back! Again, as I watched, she was caught in the current and pulled toward the sea. Again, as I watched, she struggled to make it back to shore, to us. Again, I saw her, in my mind's eye, being pulled under as the tide joined with the river to produce a current so strong.
But, this time, she was closer to the sand bar so the current was pushing in her favor. I held my breath as she struggled toward the safety of the shallows. I watched as she appeared to be carried out into the main part of the river and out to sea once again. But this time she made it. Her little feet touched solid ground. She struggled with the current still, but she was almost home free. Then, she jumped and bounded across the shallows that were chest deep for her. She had made it!
I wanted to grab her and hold her close. She wanted to stay just out of reach but close enough to know safety.
She is downstairs now, lying in the warmth and safety of her yard. I am happy she is there. My little Ecuadorian dog.

Friday, January 5, 2018

White, Chocolate or Strawberry?

Hello.  My name is...and I am the child of a horrible parent.

My father, who shall remain unnamed, would lie to us.  Well, mostly my baby sister who was, in her youth, very gullible.  The stories he would tell were so far-fetched and so funny that I remember them to this day.  Among my favorites were the ones about the milk and the hot chocolate.

About once every couple of weeks, my family would drive from Sonoma down to either Pacheco or San Lorenzo to visit family.  The drive down took us over the Richmond Bridge and past the oil refineries of Richmond and Benecia.  It always smelled so bad that my sister and I would beg for clothespins to hold our noses shut.  I would laugh at the way we looked when, once, my mother came prepared.  My sister - I love you oh sister mine! - would whine about the smell, even while wearing her wooden clothespin.

Well, on one of these drives, my father became inspired.  As we drove by the tanks full of crude he began to spin his tale.  A tale that would make the whining stop, replaced with awe and wonder.

"Hey, M," he said. "See those white tanks over there?"
"Uh-huh," she replied while mouth breathing.
"You know what is in those?" he asked.
"Stinky stuff." she responded.
"Now, that is where you would be wrong." He said in a voice reserved for the imparting of wisdom. "
"Then what is it?" she asked.
At this point my brother and I were paying close attention because, being so much older the our sister, we knew that this was going to be a humdinger.
"Well, those white tanks are in the process of being filled with milk." He said sagely.
"Really? Really, Dad?" She was amazed!
"Yes, really. And, as soon as they are full, they are going to start running milk into the homes here."
"Nu-uh." She had grown skeptical.
"What?  You don't believe me?  It is true.  I swear it is true!"  he stated.  "And the pink ones, are for strawberry milk and the brown ones are for chocolate."
(at the time there were truly pink, brown and white tanks)
My sister's eyes got big. She loved strawberry Quick and was so excited by this thought.
Then, to put the proverbial icing on the cake, he pointed off into the distance to a smoking stack and served up his last bit of tall tale...
"And, see that smoke stack in over there?"
"I do!  I do!" my sister exclaimed, really excited by this point.
"They are heating up the chocolate milk so kids can have hot chocolate whenever they want!"

From that day on, whenever we would drive down to the south bay area, rather than whine about the smell, she would ask if Aunt Elsie and Uncle Jim had strawberry milk yet.  

Then, one day, the questions stopped.  I think she caught on.  Our father was a horrible parent that lied to his children.

I think I took after him.  One day I will have to tell you all about Janice and the salt mines.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Dreams For The New Year

I am sure that everyone is looking back at the past year; thinking about the changes, the successes, the losses, the happiness, the sadness.  All of that is a part of life.  And, being human, I will do the same.

The past year was a gentle one for me - sort of.  I lost my father shortly before the beginning of 2017. We are always told not to make big changes after the loss of a loved one.  But, I didn't take heed.  The BF and I sold everything (except the house my father left me), packed what clothing we needed, grabbed the dogs and moved.  We didn't just move a little.  We moved a lot!  To Ecuador.  Do I regret it?  No.  It is different.  Although it is far from my children, it is alright.  It is quiet.  It is relaxing. It is liberating.

After that, not much more happened.  Every day has been just like the last.  The tide comes in, the tide goes out.  Life is simple.  We want for nothing as we don't need much.  We have a few friends and each other.  We eat well on fresh seafood and veggies taken from the earth that very day.  I feel as though I am living in a movie - I just don't know what the plot is yet.

We got our Visas without a hitch.  Then, the next milestone occurred when we headed to Guayaquil for our Cedulas - Ecuadorian I.D.  Now is is just a waiting game until we have our residency.  We cannot leave the country for more than 90 days a year for the next 2 years.  But, that isn't difficult.

What are the plans for the next year?  Not much.  Exploring our new country is the top of my list.  There is so much to see that I don't know where to start.

The top of my list is visiting Mindo. It is one of Ecuador's most visited locations; very touristy, pay for everything, must see.

Then, I want to take a train tour  to the last stop on the line, wherever that may be. 
Seeing the countryside from the train will make it fun to choose the next trip, the next adventure.  We will see the volcanoes, the lakes, rivers, valleys, villages - all that cannot be seen from main roads. We will see the country from a wonderful vantage point.
I want to swim in the ocean every day that I am home.  I want to walk the beach every morning and evening and enjoy the tranquility. I want to savor fresh seafood daily - until I tire of it and want nothing more.  

Yes, 2018. A year of tranquil living.  A year of stress free existence. A year to look forward to.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

"Year One", The Book She Was Born To Write

Year One (Chronicles of The One, #1)Year One by Nora Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to start? I have been reading Nora Roberts since I picked up an advanced reader's copy of Montana Skies. I fell in love with her prose and her ability to paint a picture with words. And, yes, I also enjoyed the brain candy provided with her romance and family relationships held between the covers of each of her books I have since read. But, with this new novel, I feel that Ms. Roberts is truly flexing her muscles and delving into new territory. I LOVE it!
In the opening chapter she begins setting the stage for a new world order. She builds the tension. She introduces characters. She weaves a spell. Then, as the book progresses, the battle lines begin to form.
I also feel that this book is a statement. It illustrates the lines between those that are "different" and those that "discriminate". It paints a picture of the trodden upon and those that trod upon them. It weaves a tapestry of a polarized world, in which there is more than one side - good and evil and everything in between.
Yes, this book did contain Ms. Roberts signature leanings toward all that is magical, both dark and light. However it didn't have the main character with the typical romantic struggle. The struggle contained was that of life and death; the struggle of light over dark.
I cannot go into much more without giving spoilers. But, it is well worth the read.
When is the 2nd in the series? I want it NOW!

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