Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When It Rains

…and the water runs through my backyard like a small tributary heading down the path of least resistance to the stream in the woods a half mile from house, I get A LOT of water in my basement! Usually, when water comes up in my basement, it only rises a few inches before being removed by my sump pump. When A LOT of water flows through my local watershed in a short period of time (like the past two days), the water apparently comes right through my stone foundation and onto the dirt, skipping the sump pump entirely. Yes, you read that correctly; my basement is about 75% dirt/sand/gravel and 25% concrete. The concrete portion has a retaining wall and a slab upon which sits my furnace and my clothes washer. Beyond/behind the retaining wall is fill and a huge boulder, hence the reason my basement is not completely dug out and finished. In the twenty years that my husband and I have owned this house, we have never had water come through our foundation wall and onto the dirt. We have also never had so much water in our yard.

Current status: a small amount of water is still coming up in the sump pump/concrete portion of my basement. The dirt is wet but not taking on new water.

Current strategy: continue to pump any water that comes up in the concrete portion of the basement and install fans to dry out the dirt.

So how’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

RC: January 2010

After debating with myself about whether I should make the commitment to write about my holiday planning attempts this year, I decided to take it one month at a time. So, even though it is now March, here are my accomplishments for January 2010.

The Christmas Quilt
by Jennifer Chiaverini

I have booklovers on my Christmas list, a fact that simultaneously makes gift giving a breeze and a challenge. Ordering books from Amazon and having them delivered direct to the gift recipients reduces an amazing amount of stress during the holiday season. On the other hand, finding a fresh story for these seasoned readers is tough. In an effort to meet the latter challenge (and dispense with some Christmas shopping early in 2010), I am proactively reading of late. My latest yarn: The Christmas Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini.

A heartwarming tale of family, memory, and reconciliation, The Christmas Quilt shifts between past and present as it recounts the continuing saga of the Bergstrom clan, wealthy Pennsylvania kinsfolk whose financial empire was built on the breeding of world-class thoroughbred racehorses. Beginning two years after the death of Claudia Bergstrom and the return of her sole surviving sibling, Sylvia, the story picks up where The Quilter’s Apprentice ended. Sylvia Bergstrom has resurrected the family estate, Elm Creek Manor, and turned it into a retreat for quilt enthusiasts with the help of a young couple, Matt and Sarah McClure. As the elder Bergstrom prepares for the holidays, Sarah discovers the Christmas Quilt, a multigenerational project, worked on by four eras of Bergstrom women. Left unfinished for decades, Sarah asks if she can complete the coverlet, a process that sparks some reminiscing about family traditions, some retelling of family history, and some re-examination of long-held grudges on the part of both Sylvia and Sarah. In the end, pieces of the past are joined to the present just as the pieces of the quilt are intricately stitched together.

Favorite quotes from the book:

- “Her heart filled with joy and gratitude as she sung the traditional carols she loved so dearly. How the Lord must have loved the people of the world to send them His only Son! And how He must love them still, despite their sin, despite their weakness, despite the shadow of the Cross that fell upon the Manger even on this most joyous of days. At that moment Sylvia felt touched by the light of grace, and she knew that if she could remember that feeling after she left that gathering, even in her darkest hours, she would never be alone.”

- "At last she understood the true lesson of the Christmas Quilt, that a family was an act of creation, the piecing together of disparate fragments into one cloth --- often harmonious, occasionally clashing and discordant, but sometimes unexpectedly beautiful and strong. Without contrast there was not pattern…and each piece, whether finest silk or faded cotton, would endure if sewn fast to the others with strong seams --- bonds of love and loyalty, tradition and faith.

Publication date: 2005. Highly recommended.
Plush Duck rating: *****

“Surviving Christmas” (2004)
starring Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate

Wealthy marketing executive Drew Latham is alone at Christmas. Dumped by his girlfriend, he desperately tries to find a friend that will take him in for the holidays. Unsuccessful in this quest, Drew seeks the counsel of a psychiatrist. His advice:

- Write down all your grievances about family on a single sheet of paper
- Go somewhere that reminds you of your childhood
- Light the paper on fire
- As the paper burns, repeat the phrase, ”I forgive you.”

Somewhat skeptical that this ritual will restore familial relationships to his life, Mr. Latham makes his way to Lincolnwood, Illinois, the site of his childhood home. Standing on the front steps of his ancestral abode with the burning paper in his hand, Drew is suddenly ambushed and knocked unconscious by the shovel-wielding current homeowner. Feeling a bit remorseful that he treated him badly, the father of the resident family gives the wealthy businessman a tour of his former home, feeds him dinner…and gets stuck with him for Christmas as part of a financial deal. Yep, that’s right. Desperate Drew pays the current residents of his childhood home $250,000 to take him in for the holidays. Naturally, this arrangement comes complete with a legally binding contract drawn up by an attorney and signed by all parties involved. How touching.

Of course, this heartwarming experiment is an attempt by Drew to recreate the childhood memories he wants and never had. Unfortunately for all involved, the charade quickly disintegrates into an unmitigated disaster, and goes further awry with the arrival of Alicia, the family daughter who was absent when the contract was signed. To cope with this development, Drew assigns Alicia the role of the household maid in this bizarre Christmas scenario. Later, he adds a grandpa as well, played by a local actor hired to do the job.

Eventually, through mishaps and mayhem, Mr. Latham realizes that he has imposed on everyone and decides to cancel the charade but, by then, Drew’s wealthy ex-girlfriend and her family have unexpectedly arrived, so the show must go on. Try as they may to maintain the illusion that Drew puts family first, the truth comes out: all is fiction, as are the businessman’s feelings for his girlfriend. Mr. Latham really loves Alicia. Of course, it takes a few plot twists for him to reach that conclusion, but he gets there. In the end, the man who began the Christmas holiday in search of a family actually finds one that is willing to take him in.

As wonderful as that sounds, it does not translate into a high rating. Sadly, I must actually rate the film rather low. Yes, the overarching tale was positive; yet, the producers chose to pepper the storyline with a subplot involving pornographic websites. For me, that really took away from the quality of the film and put it more in the category of gross slapstick comedy rather than family-friendly holiday fare. I certainly wouldn’t watch it with younger children who still embrace the magic of Christmas.

Release date: 2004. Not recommended.
Plush Duck rating: *****

- Wrote an evaluation of Christmas 2009