Have a Marlis Day!

Another year! Sharing the best titles I read in 2018. Hope my reading friends will share their favorites too. I have chosen my favorites, with the absolute best one first. After that, it’s random, all good books. Number one is THE THIRTEENTH TALE by D. Setterfield. Amazing story -0nly for true book lovers. For my one classic, I chose A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, not sure how I had missed this one. Very interesting time and place. The next one is a reread: MAMA MAKES UP HER MIND by Bailey White, a hilarious memoirs of a Florida teacher living with her mother. This is the book I take when I read to the blind or disabled. A collection of heart-warming adventures. I gave a copy to my girlfriends to share for Christmas. Cheap, I know, but maybe it will give them the incentive to read and pass it along. Still my favorite author, John Grisham rarely lets me down. A DAY OF RECKONING kept me turning pages and guessing. A real twist at the end!! GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW gave me a taste of Russian aristocracy. Sounds dreadful: an exiled count forced to live in an opulent hotel. Again, a surprise ending that pleased. THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE, a story of immigration, servitude, and love. STILLHOUSE LAKE, a thriller, by Rachel Caine,  also read the sequel. KILLMAN CREEK. Y IS FOR YESTERDAY, had to include Sue Grafton’s last novel. I met her in Louisville and was a huge fan. THE GOOD DAUGHTERS, by Joyce Maynard, a story of a two families and their daughters. Next, THE LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY, a huge, unattractive girl grows up and ends up being the winner. THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, a good mystery by A.J. Finn. A lonely woman has a phobia and can’t leave her fancy NYC apartment so she watches her neighbors. One day she witnesses a murder. Of course, the murderer gets after her and it’s hard to run away when you’re afraid to go outside. Since I’ve had a love affair with the ocean all my life, I can’t resist books set on the beach. Both THE BAREFOOT SUMMER by Carolyn Brown and SUMMER GIRLS by M.A. Munroe, satisfied my longing for the salty, sea breeze. Good family stories, love and adventure. Last, and most recent is WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, by Delia Owens, a story of a young girl abandoned by her drunk father and how she survives in the southern marshes. Happy Reading!!

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Gypsy is fifteen today! I gave her a bath, trimmed her nails, and fixed her favorite lunch. The vet cautions this may be her last birthday, but since he started her on Lasix, she is getting around better and lost the persistent cough that’s been bugging her. The bout with Lyme’s Disease last year stole most of her hearing, but she still appears to enjoy life. Although she’s slowed down considerably and often stumbles on steps, she still enjoys a leisurely walk.  I remember all the pet shows she’s won for best tricks, all the children she’s entertained at schools, libraries, and scout camps. She loved visiting nursing homes and youth groups and never failed to win the hearts of everyone present. She’s been my constant companion for almost fifteen years, never straying far from me in case I’d need her to kill a snake or bark at an intruder. Gypsy keeps us on schedule, reminding us when it’s time to get up, go to bed, and have meals. It’s hard to explain how she’s enlarged our lives. She has a bed near my bed, by my recliner in the living room, and this one in the sun room. How quickly the years did pass, since she found us as a pup. I guess we’ve grown old together.

The geese are gathering. Maybe they sense snow is coming tomorrow and are making travel plans.  I walk around the cold lake and contemplate the bleak season upon us. I find myself making enough stew and soup for several days, visiting the library for armloads of books, digging out the warmest coats and mittens, and getting a flu shot. Going to the YMCA on Tuesday and Thursday mornings has enlarged our lives. New faces, new schedules, hearty lunches at favorite restaurants. Then there’s volunteering on Wednesday afternoons at the elementary school and church on Sunday,  but that still leaves a lot of week. And the bitter truth is: winter is coming with its cold, dark days, and I’m such a summer person. Friends migrate to Florida but we stay home with our little Jack Russell, Gypsy, who will soon be fifteen. Her steps are slower now and our walks shorter. I wonder if this will be her last winter. We both get stiff after watching too much TV in the evening and wobble a bit. My hubby and I have taken to the crossword puzzles in the daily papers, hoping to keep our minds active. We are frequent fans at the local basketball games, girls and boys, cheering on kids from our church and friends of our grandchildren. Our children and grands plan to be here for Thanksgiving dinner and I look forward to that day, when we’ll feast on a turkey dinner, then walk over to the barn and visit the llamas. Hopefully, I’ll get a picture. I’m ordering Christmas gifts online and look forward to selling books at the South Knox Christmas Craft show. Christmas will be delightful, hoping we can negotiate dates to celebrate with all the other family groups involved. After that, it’s longer and darker days. We will hunker in and make the best of it, but I won’t like it; I’m such a summer person.

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Well, here I am back at the YMCA again! In my last post, I shared learning to swim at the local YMCA many years ago, as an eight-year-old. Now I find myself back at the local Y on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in a senior water/exercise class.

And I love it! The warm-water pool is shallow with ramps for easy, safe access. Instead of noisy, frisky kids I am surrounded by sweet senior ladies dipping, bending, rotating, and balancing for the instructor who calls out directives. In the battle against aging, we smile and lift those knees, stretch, and flex. We march and turn, lift weights and kick our legs in unison. When someone has a birthday, we clap and cheer to have existed another year. No one is judgmental and no one expects you to remember her name. My first friend there admitted she would never remember a name like Marlis, since she’d never heard it before. I told her to just call me Margo, my brothers’ nickname for me. Also, the protagonist in my  mysteries, but I didn’t mention that. I look forward to Tuesday!

I boarded a bus with several classmates after school twice a week for swimming lessons at the YMCA. I carried my swimsuit, towel, and rubber swimming cap in a little square overnight bag. Several mothers decided to take advantage of the once-a-year swim classes for beginners. I looked forward to the sessions and recall clutching a quarter in my fist on the bus – to pay for my lesson.  I think the bus ride was a dime. At the end of the hour class, our parents picked us up in the YMCA lobby. It was winter and too cold for little girls to stand outside with wet hair. (Good thing they didn’t ask my dad, or I’d been standing on the corner watching for him!)

Our instructor, Ray Beless, (who incidentally has a building named for him on the Vincennes University campus) never got into the pool. A plump, balding man in a white t-shirt, white pants, and white sneakers, he sat astraddle a chair and shouted directives at us, while a pretty teenage girl in the pool gave demonstrations. Chlorine hung heavy in the air as we watched and learned.

Girls from other schools joined us as we sat alongside the edges of the pool in silence hearing our names read from a clipboard. They never got mine right, so when I heard the reader struggling I shouted out, “Black, MARLIS, Black!” Usually this was met with a polite stare and thank you. The first day we got into the water, probably fifty of us, and learned how to duck our faces into the water, then to blow bubbles while doing it, then to open our eyes under water. Easy for me, since I’d always loved to play in the water, but painful for a few. Mr. Beless believed in no nonsense and blew his whistle often if we began to chat or have too much fun. Classes didn’t last long since we always started and ended with roll call, showering and dressing, rituals which consumed most of the hour allotted to the class. Our second lesson involved repeating the first day’s lesson and adding squatting and moving about slightly under water while holding our breaths. Some of us could swim underwater by then, but that wasn’t allowed yet. Day three was all about kicking. We held onto the edge of the pool and kicked as directed, while the assistant walked along us and adjusted our kicks. We lined up and took turns holding onto paddle boards and kicking our way across the pool. Things began to look up by the next session when we were taught to float. I loved it. After we mastered the front float, we learned the back float, and lastly, the dead man’s float. We kicked while doing the front float and propelled ourselves across the pool. Now, he told us, you are ready to learn how to swim. My heart soared.

It was all about stroking. Our teacher turned his chair sideways and demonstrated correct arm movements. Hands had to be cupped, elbows high. We watched the assistant do it from the sides of the pool. Finally, we got to try it. Easy-peasy, I thought, while some of my friends wanted to dog paddle, heads in air. This flustered our coach and caused him to blow mightily on his whistle. Heads must stay in the water, eyes open, feet kicking, arms flailing like windmills. Only when we mastered those skills could we learn how to breathe while we swam. This presented a bit more of a challenge to me, who thought popping my head up and catching a breath worked just fine. Nevertheless, I mastered the correct stroke-breathe-stroke pattern forcing me to take a breath when I really didn’t even need one. On the last day we had to pass the deep-water test by swimming the length of the pool using correct style and breathing technique. Only then could we use the deep end of the pool. Most of us passed the six-week course and went on to become life-long swimmers. However, when I swim in our lake, I pop my head up for air when I need some. Makes more sense to me. Sorry, Mr. Beless.

Saving it until last, I will share the absolute BEST part of the whole experience. The SHOWERS! Oh, those blessed showers! Most of us had tubs at home and had never experienced the glory of the hot shower until that cold, winter at the YMCA in Vincennes, Indiana. Helpers ran us through the showers in our swim suits on the way to the pool. A gentle shock. But afterwards, we shed our suits and stood in mass under steaming shower heads in a large white room. We were all naked but no one cared; we all looked alike. I still remember standing glassy-eyed, enthralled with the hot, pelting water on my back and thinking it was the best feeling in the world. The leaders would have to drive us out to get dressed and meet our rides. Some of the girls had to wait for working mothers and sat in the lobby playing checkers and nibbling candy bars, but I always went straight home. Mama had supper ready.

 

booksOkay, I’m retired and have time to read. I also have time to keep lists, so I made one and kept track of the books I read during 2017. Looks like I read over 50; I may not have finished a few boring ones. I know, I know,  it’s a book a week but for some reason it seemed just right. I always have a book going; when I finish one I start the next one. Only one was a reread: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, read the first time many years ago. I reread it every few years, absolutely classic. If you’ve missed this one, visit your library soon. 

Not to bore you with details, I will share the titles of the BEST of the year, not in any order. News of the World by Paula Jiles (awesome story of men who traveled in frontier towns and read the news) Beartown by Frederick Backman (about ice hockey team in Alaska) Camino Island by John Grisham (good as always) Allie and Bea by CR Hyde (delightful story of runaway teen and homeless senior heading for CA in RV) The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (mystery, kidnapping, surprising twists) The Precious Ones (delightful story of family dynamics) Hillbilly Elegy ( Yale lawyer raised by Midwestern Hillbillies, true story) Maude by Donna Mabry (Biography of an amazing woman’s life told by her granddaughter) Woman of God by James Patterson, (woman doctor in Aftica) Turbo 23 by Janet Evanovich (typical Stephanie Plum, kept me laughing) The Hand Maid’s Tale (Movie out soon! Futuristic story of women’s role in society – scary) The Children of Men by P.D. James ( futuristic story of worldwide infertility and declining population)

I hope this will help you find some good reads during 2018 and especially hope you will comment with your favorite titles of the year. I’m off to start my new list. Happy New Year!

When I was teaching, I always spent the last week of summer vacation cleaning my house. It felt good to know my house was in order when I entered a new school year. A creature of habit, I have continued this practice in my retirement. Now I wait until the day school starts to begin my annual chores. It seems like I should be doing something on those last dog-days of summer when the kids are in school and so many friends are going back to work. However, things have changed over the years. I no longer complete the job in a week. Now I work for four hours a day, usually from nine until one with a short lunch break. I think of Charlotte La Rue, Barbara Colley’s protaganist who cleans historic homes in New Orleans’ Garden District and usually stumbles over a body or a clue to a recent murder. Of course, none of this occurs for me, as I go from room to room, dragging my equipment and cleaning each room from top to bottom. But I think and imagine scenarios as I wash windows, curtains, and blinds, wipe woodworks, empty kitchen cabinets, vacuum carpets and furniture, clean light fixtures, and polish furniture. When I abandon all ideas for a plot, I listen to Blue Grass music, so loud it takes me far away from crime.  I’m finished now. It took two weeks but the house is so clean. Now I can spend the upcoming chilly days taking walks, making soup, and reading novels with only light cleaning on Fridays. Yes, I knew you’d ask: Do I hire out? Surpisingly, the answer is YES! I will come and clean your house. Here are my conditions: I work four hours a day, nine until one with a short lunch break…..and my fee is one thousand dollars a day. Let me know if you are interested.

Cheers and happy …ber months!

Marlis Day

Hi! I'm Marlis.

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