Warning – Catch Up Blogs A’Coming

It’s WAY past time that I did some catch up blogging. I’ve been very careful to take a picture every single day this year. I think I only forgot one day and, thankfully, Rachel had taken a picture, so I’m counting hers. Whew. Of course, not all of those pictures were meaningful or even very good, ha, but they’re ours!

Now, that doesn’t mean to say I’ve had the energy or time or care to blog daily (obviously). I can see we’re missing all sorts of days from August on. Whoops. Sometimes you just run out of things to say. Or you worry that your audience (such as it is) will care if you aren’t brilliant or witty.

Well, forget that. Who has time to be brilliant or witty right now? We’ve got a wedding in a few weeks. Holiday craziness all around, and lots of life to live.

But, I do like to blog so my sweet family (far and wide) can keep up with our silly daily/weekly goings-on.

All of which is to say that I think I will start writing out a collection of blogs, so I can post the Project 365 pictures and finish the year strong!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


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Grace Space by Robin Merrill [Review]

A Novella

A Novella

When I was in college a sweet friend of mine sold Tupperware. I was engaged to be married, eager to finish school and happily dreaming of starting life as Mrs E. So, of course I HAD to fill my (future) kitchen cabinets with the latest fun containers and gadgets. Even then, a poor college student though he was, Tim spoiled me. He would encourage me to visit my friend and see the newest pieces in her collection. And he always told me to buy a little something.

Now, to be fair, some of those Tupperware containers have lasted since my college days (no need to mention how long that has been). And I STILL love the little orange peeler that came as a giveaway. Thankfully my friend never pressured me to join the Tupperware team. I had all the fun of going to the occasional party, buying a few things, and spending time with friends without any of the negatives that can often plague multi-level marketing opportunities.

In Grace Space, on the other hand, 24 year old Darcy has a slightly different experience. Author Robin Merrill takes Darcy on a crazy journey of direct sales marketing “family” meetings, high pressure selling parties coined as “celebrations,” and a whole sea of purple clad women out to bring in new recruits.

Poor Darcy – 24 years old and living back at home with her parents. She doesn’t quite understand how she’s arrived at this place – student loans, a waitress job, and no potential relationships in sight. It isn’t surprising that she is enticed by the promise of financial success by selling just a little bit of make-up and jewelry. The next thing she knows, Darcy has signed on the dotted line and finds herself launched on an adventure full of embarrassing blunders, kooky characters, and self-discovery. It isn’t long before she begins to wonder if the purple dream is too good to be true.

Grace Space is an amusing novella that left me smiling as I finished the last chapter. The author captures the casual, breezy voice of the twenty-something main character. There were some poignant moments of faith, but mostly the story was light and fun, with an over-the-top caricature of multi-level marketing saleswomen. I would have enjoyed the novella even more had the author drawn the tale out a little more.

A friend invited me to read Grace Space, and it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon as our family drove through the mountains of Washington.

Author Robin Merill

Author Robin Merill

About the author:
Robin Merrill is the author of several books, including two collections of poetry from Moon Pie Press and five Scholastic Book Fair books. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared in hundreds of publications, including The Cafe Review, Ledge Magazine, Yankee Magazine, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Stolen Island Review. Three of her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She is a 2013 recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from St. Botolph Club Foundation of Boston. Visit her at robinmerrill.com


[Disclosure - I did receive a sample of this product in exchange for this review and post.]

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Blue Platoon Honor Man

This Fall has offered many exciting opportunities for David, as he embarks on his High School career. One such opportunity has been to follow in his older brothers’ footsteps, participating in the Naval Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) program at a nearby high school.

"Sir, yes sir!"

“Cadet Recruit Recruit reporting for duty, Sir!”

It has been fascinating for me to watch him learning to march, how to wear a uniform, and to memorize the Orders of the Sentry. Even learning how to dress in ‘business casual’ attire (as they do sometimes when they don’t wear their uniform) is such a valuable skill for a young man. We are very proud of how David is excelling in the program.

Participating in NJROTC  and running Cross Country in the same semester has been rather grueling for David.

Participating in NJROTC and running Cross Country (at two different high schools) in the same semester has been rather grueling for David.

Whenever they can get the local military bases to cooperate, the Junior ROTC program sends all the new recruits away to a Basic Leadership Training (BLT) weekend, where they are given the chance to learn some simple soldiering skills and to be shouted at by Marine instructors. This last weekend was BLT for David and the other recruits of his class; of course, it rained hard the entire weekend.

"These are the future leaders of the Cadet Corps," predicted the Colonel, as David and a few others were promoted to E-2.

“These are the future leaders of the Cadet Corps,” predicted the Colonel, as David and a few others were promoted to E-2.

Cadet families were invited to attend an award ceremony when the kids returned from BLT — David received a participation award, a swim qualification, and (most prestigious) Honor Man for his platoon. As a result of his exceptional conduct and achievement, David was promoted to Seaman Apprentice (E-2), skipping over the E-1 rank. Next time he wears his uniform, he’ll have two new ribbons and a shiny medal pinned to his chest, in addition to the ribbon for being Cadet of the Month.

This photo was taken even before David got his first ribbon.

This photo was taken even before David got his first ribbon.

It is remarkable to see how quickly David has acquired military bearing, and it warms my heart to hear him address other adults respectfully as “Sir” and “Ma’am”. I am excited to see how military skills and disciplines will open doors of opportunity in David’s life.

David's signature thumbs-up, waiting for the BLT ceremony to begin.

David’s signature thumbs-up, waiting for the BLT ceremony to begin.

Great job winning the coveted Honor Man award, David! We are so proud of you!

Project 365, Day 320

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Let the Rains Begin

When you live in Western Washington, there comes a time in the Fall when you need to brace yourself.

I suppose this is true nearly anywhere that has swings in the weather — certainly, when we lived in Michigan, there was a time when you needed to brace yourself for the winter ice and snow. (And break out the shovel, snow-blower, rock salt, pick-axe, and any other heavy machinery you might need.)

But here we brace ourselves against the Rains of November™. And so I dove into the hall closet and brought out (with great reverence) the awesome raincoat that Kathy’s Mom gave me back in 1999 when we first moved here.

“You’re moving to Washington, you’ll need a good raincoat,” she told me. Never have truer words been spoken.

The raincoat she gave me is an exceptionally waterproof garment — it makes a duck’s back look positively porous. It is made by L. L. Bean, Stowaway model, very light-weight and with special Velcro closures at the wrist. It also has lots of waterproof pockets, always to be desired in a good raincoat.

When the rains settle in, it is possible for them to stay for months at a time. When we first moved to Washington in March of 1999, people were talking about ’90 consecutive days of rain’. They tended to look a little wild when they talked about it.

We have a new rule in our household: if we want to have ice cream and if we want to watch any kind of video or show after supper, we must go for a walk. As you may know, I will do nearly anything for ice cream, and so Sarah and I pulled ourselves together with appropriate rain gear.

Neither snow nor rain nor dark of night ...

Neither snow nor rain nor dark of night …

When you raise children in Washington, there are certain deleterious side effects which are not immediately obvious. Contrary to popular opinion, people from Western Washington do not actually have moss growing on the backs of their necks and behind their ears. But there are definitely some internal chemistry changes which occur, and it is possible there is also some unfortunate neurological damage.

David and I were driving a few blocks from our home for a sandwich at Subway, and he looked out the windshield at the rain and clouds, and sighed happily.

“Don’t you just love a good, rainy Sunday?” he asked. I returned his gaze rather blankly, not being Washington-bred.

Later during our meal, when the sun broke through some clouds, he became visibly annoyed. “It just won’t be as fun, playing Ultimate, without the rain,” he grumbled.

Some people who move from California to Washington can experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). They buy special sun lamps to fight against the depression that the cloudy skies brings. What will happen to my children if they grow up and move to Phoenix or San Diego? Will they buy special cloud generators for their homes and offices? Time will tell, I guess.

The increasingly-innacurately-named Project 365 — Day 305

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