What to read: “Life After Life”

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

This question is asked on the dust cover of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

It’s the story of Ursula Todd, born during a snowstorm on 11 February 1910 … repeatedly.

Although I’ve been an avid fan of Kate Atkinson’s novels, I was reluctant to read this book. It sounded like science fiction or fantasy and I’m not keen on either genre. Curiosity won out and I’m happy it did. Life After Life is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.


Ursula is born into a wealthy English family, dies, is reborn (as herself), lives, dies, is reborn, etc. Each time she is born her life is altered, sometimes in small ways, sometimes considerably. The novel calls to mind the “butterfly effect”, how a seemingly minor circumstance or decision can have profound consequences.

Ursula’s lives span the decades between the World Wars and into the sixties. I think the best part of the book is Ursula’s career in London during the Blitz. Atkinson’s descriptions are moving and dramatic. She skillfully weaves normality into chaos, the ordinary into the nightmarish, humor into tragedy.

I didn’t want this book to end.  I wanted more of Ursula’s lives and Atkinson’s storytelling.

What are you reading?

Give me some of that broom action

I’ve been casually following the Winter Olympics. I thought the lack of comprehensive coverage in the US would bother me but, aside from the constant advertising interruptions, the nightly highlights on the network have been adequate for my interest. I like to watch figure skating, downhill skiing and ski jumping. Luge, skeleton, and bobsled get repetitive so I’m happy with watching just the medal heats. I guess I’m just not that into the rest of the events.


I have discovered a new passion.

Wait for it…

I kid you not.


photo:  iStockphoto/© wfnc_educ

photo: iStockphoto/© wfnc_educ

It snuck up on me. I think I was waiting for figure skating so was flipping through a magazine with the Olympics on television in the background. Women’s Team GB was competing against Team Canada and I slowly became transfixed. I’ve never played and don’t pretend to know the rules or scoring but there’s skill, finesse, strategy and brawn. I’ve been practicing the sweepers’ moves on what’s left of my kitchen floor and it’s a workout. This is not your grandparent’s shuffleboard on ice.

And you have to love a sport that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Just look at Team Norway’s uniform.

It’s been a long time …

My last post was almost six months ago. 2013 was a year of upheavals. Just as I would come up for air, there would be another crisis flying at me from a different direction. By mid-year it felt like I was being pelted from all sides. I often wanted to unload in this space but that would have compromised the privacy of others. Some things aren’t mine alone to share. 2014 could only be better.

Husband, Son, Daughter and I spent a week in Carmel (CA) over Christmas, a holiday with its own set of complications. I was looking forward to getting home, turning the page on the old year and starting the new. We walked through the front door to a blast of cold air. Someone had smashed a window and burgled our house. Cabinet doors were flung open, drawers and their contents strewn on the floors. 2013 wasn’t going to go quietly.

2014 isn’t going to be easy; there are some unresolved issues carried over from last year. But it will be better. My New Year’s resolutions are simple but firm.


So on New Year’s Day, when the pipes burst and the kitchen ceiling caved in, I saw the bright side. I wouldn’t have to make that trip to the grocery because dinner was going to be take-out.

When the remediation people came, started knocking holes in the walls and left us with industrial fans running at the decibel level of a 747 taking off, I could tune it out.

Now that repairs are well under way, the kitchen is gutted, the cabinets are in the dining room, the dining room is in the den, my “kitchen” consists of a kettle and a microwave on the foyer table and the power to the appliances had to be turned off indefinitely which has taken the electricity for half the house with it. With four adults and three dogs in the house it’s getting a little challenging.


and keep the fixings for a restorative cup of tea close at hand.


Temporary Tea Box

Temporary Tea Box

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs …

Rudyard Kipling

Be the Match


It’s an annoying and pervasive consequence of any online presence. Recently I’ve received a string of spammy e-mails. By one strategy or another they all ask me to click on some link or provide my personal details. Some come through the hacked e-mail addresses of friends asking me to wire money to help them out of a crisis in some remote part of the world. Some have seemingly come from my bank (complete with logo) claiming that it needs to verify my account information for security reasons. My favorite came last month from Mrs. Hosni Mubarak (yes, that Mubarak) asking me to manage her $50,000,000 (!?!) and would I please supply my name, address, social security number and bank account information.  Oh, and a scanned copy of my passport would be useful.


Last week I got one asking me to “click on the link below” because I was a possible match for a patient who needs a bone marrow transplant. How low can they go?


Not so fast!

Yesterday, I received a letter from the National Marrow Donor Program restating that I had been identified as a potential match for a needed bone marrow transplant.

About twenty years ago, after the toddler daughter of a friend had  been diagnosed with leukemia, I had participated in and registered at a bone marrow donor drive. Registering is a quick and painless matter of giving a blood sample and filling out a few forms. Most people treat it like stating they’re an organ donor on their driver’s license – tick the box and forget about it. The odds of being asked are relatively low. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, only one in 540 registered donors will be identified as a potential match.

Though I’ve been contacted, the process is still in the initial stages and more screening needs to be done. Perhaps another donor would be a better match. Maybe I’m too old. There are a myriad of conditions that could rule me out.

I’m ambivalent about being a donor. I’ve known only one person who has had a bone marrow transplant. Because someone registered as a donor and followed through with the process, ten years on he’s healthy and free of the disease that almost took his life. I hope this patient finds the perfect match and the transplant is successful. But, and I’m not proud of this, I also hope the perfect match is someone other than me. In the online forms I filled out I agreed to donate but can change my mind at any time. Will I donate? yes. A very small and quiet “yes” because I’m not a hero and, frankly, the process scares me.

Be the Match - visit http://bethematch.org/Home.aspx

Be the Match – visit http://bethematch.org/Home.aspx

To learn more about the National Marrow Donor Program visit: http://bethematch.org/Home.aspx

Sunday Rituals

For more years than I care to admit to, my Sunday morning ritual has been to get up early, pour myself a strong cup of coffee and attempt the New York Times crossword puzzle. It’s one reason I still subscribe to the paper edition. Even now that it come on Saturday, I set it aside for Sunday’s ritual. The house is quiet. For an hour or two I have nowhere I have to go, nothing I have to do. It’s the one day my brain has a chance to wake up leisurely. Woe betide he (usually Husband) who recycles the paper before I’m done.

NYT Crossword

Even in England, I would print out the crossword from the NY Times website every Sunday. I simply couldn’t get my head around the London Times crossword – too much effort for my sleep dulled synapses to cope with.

NYT Crossword Done

Time for a second cup and the Book Review.

Do you have a Sunday ritual?