The Final two days of Class

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Last Two Days of ZoomText Fusion Training

Wednesday 21 July 2016

Kindness of strangers and a Dog Day evening

First of all, thank you all for your patience as I was delayed posting this. It will be a long update, to cover Wednesday and Thursday. Someone asked where this was all happening. I was taking a class in an adaptive technology software program called ZoomText fusion, a screen reader and magnifier combined, putting it simply. The class last three days and was held in Littleton Colorado.

I worried all Tuesday night about getting to class on Wednesday. Would it be another disastrous start to the day? And it could have been. I asked the front desk to call the taxi at ten to eight, and at 8:30, it still had not arrived. Crap, I thought, though I’m sure I thought worse than crap, I’m going to be late again! Suddenly, a guest in the hotel walked up to ask if I wanted any breakfast. I had been sitting there a while, waiting for the blasted cab, after all. I politely thanked him, told him no and that I was waiting for a cab. And out of nowhere, he offered to give me a ride! And what did I do? I did exactly what I would have warned any other single woman not to do. I got in a vehicle with a man I did not know and trusted him to take me where I needed to go. And he did! I don’t even know his name, think it was Walter, or something like that. I have good instincts, so I felt I could trust him, and the hotel people knew I’d left with him. He was a businessman, and he was very kind, and I got to class five minutes before start! Thank you sir for your act of generosity. And for being a good guy!

Class went well. We covered so much each day, and I only hope I retained a lot of it. I was getting to know the other members of the class and enjoying their company very much. We got lunch from this incredible place called Etai’s. I had a turkey avocado sandwich with a seasonable fruit salad, chips and carrot cake. The sandwich was so good, and the variety of offerings on the menu blew me away. Oh, Etai’s, please come to my neck of the woods, please. They deliver too, and it would be so nice to have something besides pizza to order for delivery on a Friday night, when I actually want dinner but will not cook.

Wednesday night, I’d arranged to get together with a few friends, guide dog puppy raisers and a former trainer. Dot picked us up from the class and we went directly to her house. She had three dogs there, her old career change guide dog puppy she’d raised, an eight-month old puppy she had, her own dog, and a retired guide she was dogsitting. Then we had Barb with the dog she’s raising, Melissa with the dog she’s raising, and Becky with her career change guide dog puppy, that she raised a few years ago. At one point, we had seven large dogs, Labradors and my golden, running and raising cane in the back yard. It’s a testament to the fine training all the dogs have received, that all seven got along. They had fun, and there were no fights or other problems. Seven well-trained dogs, five experienced dog handlers, great food, great friendship, a perfect evening. Dot made the best food, homemade chicken salad, with these amazing appetizers, and Sangria. It was lovely outside on the patio, just sharing time with friends and laughing at the antics of seven dogs. I never wanted the evening to end. Well, except for being tired.

Thursday, 22 July 2016

Last Day, saying Goodbyes, Coming Home!

If I’d been stressed about the morning situation on Wednesday, it was almost nothing to the stress I felt about it Wednesday night. I probably only slept about three hours. Okay, so yeah, I have insomnia anyway, and I don’t sleep well in a strange place. Add to that the fact that a hotel is never really quiet. Room doors opening and closing, people or luggage bumping walls, it all wakes me up. I knew I’d have to finish packing everything, and somehow get me, my dog and my luggage to the center for class, on time!

That morning, I call the front desk, even before heading over, at 7:30 and asked them to call the taxi. By the time I got Petunia relieved and got to the lobby, it was close to eight, and they had heard from the cab company that it would be another fifteen minutes for the cab. If they showed up, of course. Surprisingly, to me, anyway, they did. At first I thought the cab driver was going to try to refuse the ride. He kinda freaked out when he saw Petunia, but he didn’t object more than saying a few things about how nobody told him there’d be a dog. For those who don’t know, a person with a disability is legally allowed to be accompanied by a service dog in places or services of public accommodation. This definitely includes taxis. Anyway, he didn’t object, and he was reasonably friendly. We got to the center in plenty of time, in fact, I was the first one there. Go me.

Last day of class. I had such mixed feelings about it. I was eager to get home, brain and body tired, wanting desperately to sleep. Petunia doesn’t care much for traveling apparently, as she hadn’t eaten Wednesday night or Thursday morning. I needed to get her back home to her own environment. At the same time, I had enjoyed the class greatly, loved learning the new stuff, was becoming friends with classmates, and part of me hated to have it end and to go back to my quiet lifestyle. Hmmm, I guess there still is a social lady inside me.

At the end of the day, we got to evaluate the class, and I gave it all the top marks I could. I’m very happy I was asked to take the class. I learned a lot and feel like I have the beginnings of a grasp on the program. Obviously, I won’t have a deep grasp until I get to play with it in real life time, but it was a good start.

My classmates and I shared email addresses, and I already heard from a couple of them. I do hope we keep in touch. We’re all scattered around the state, so we probably won’t see each other, but keeping in touch by email will be nice.

We all got a fun goodie bag for completing the training, with shirts, demos, thumb drives of materials we covered in class and a nice certificate of completion. I must admit I had some trouble concentrating in the latter half of the training day though.

Sandie picked us up at the end of the day, and we were finally homeward bound! Petunia got in the back seat and crashed. We made it home in good time, dumped my luggage, relieved all parties, and then we were off to dinner, for the humans anyway. We went to chili’s and had a good dinner, and I had a margarita too. But I was just tired and wanted to get home. Once we did get back, Petunia finally ate her dinner, and Sandie did some yard work for me.

When Sandie left, I thought Petunia and I would both fall upon the bed and sleep, but we didn’t. I unpacked a little, watched a bit of the RNC out of curiosity, and just unwound. Finally, I went to bed, called Doug to catch up and slept till time to get up for work.

I still feel exhausted and brain and body tired to the bone. I want to curl up with a good book or a movie and let the sound lull me off to dreamland for a few hours! But it’s Friday, and that means, the weekend is upon us, once five PM arrives!

Overall, the experience was fabulous. I have to say a huge thank you to the Residence Inn and all there staff. And I don’t even have words to express to the training people how much I enjoyed the class. Thanks, ZoomText University, Mark and all involved! Knowledge increasing is a glorious thing!

Two little comments, I believe I left my charm bracelets in the hotel. I’m kinda crushed about this and need to call them to see if they have been found and if the hotel can send them to me.

And what am I reading, a book called Coyote, about a trip to colonize another planet, but oh, there’s so so much more to it than that. Political intrigue, family dynamics, character development, survival, and all kinds of good stuff. Check it out!

the second day, not the most auspicious start

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The Second Day

Not exactly the way I expected the day to start! It was the day start from hell, sorta, kinda.

The hotel is actually very nice. The staff has helped me get around, helping me teach petunia the way. they’ve helped get Petunia out to do her business. Oh yeah, Petunia is my guide dog. grin.

I had a nice cup of coffee in the common area near the lobby, and felt the day was starting off fine.

Then came the fun. I was supposed to be taking the hotel shuttle to the Center for the Blind for this ZoomText Fusion class. Uh oh. The shuttle was so tall, that I could not step into it. I have a fused knee and an artificial knee, and it was too high for me. Definitely not a wheelchair accessible shuttle. Not that I need a wheel chair, but I need an accessible way to get in. lol. So, back to the lobby and the front desk we go. Yippee. The desk clerk, a very nice woman, called a taxi, and specifically told them that I needed a sedan, a vehicle I could get in. Did they send such a vehicle? Um, noooo. They sent a van, again, not something I could get into. Aaaaaaaahhhhh
111 So, the nice desk clerk called again, double emphasized the need for a sedan, and off I went to wait again. And wait, I did. And wait I did. And again, yes, indeed I waited. We called one more time, and finally, at last, as I was teetering on the edge of despair, rage, tears, anguishh, dramatic mood swings and tears, the cab arrived. And off to the center we went. Only a mere forty minutes late. Sigh. Ah well.

I’m what one might call a tiny bit anal about punctuality. Just a tiny bit. I don’t feak out when I’m late, no not me, never. Okay, so I do. I was ready to go by eight AM, class starting at nine, at a center a whole long five miles away Forty minutes late, when it isn’t my doing, makes me crazy! But at last I arrived, and the purpose of this whole adventure could begin.

Fortunately, nobody was upset that I was late, and I didn’t miss too much. The instructor, Mark, brushed it off, and just let me get seated and went on. There are four other people in the class, and I enjoyed getting to know them all, working with them, laughing with them.

ZoomText Fusion is an adaptive technology software package, combining the ZT screen magnifier with the window Eyes screen reader. I need to learn it for my job, because the program I know like I know my own name is a different program. And I’m not going to use this blog to talk about the program. This is just about my time here taking the class.

We dealt with a lot of interesting topics, somethings very familiar much like the program I know, but other things were different, and I was fascinated, interested and 100 percent engaged in the class. I love learning new things, giving my brain new fodder to chew on, trying unfamiliar stuff. So, if today was any indication, I’m going to have a marvelous time.

For lunch, we all ordered pizza, and we got to know each other a little bit more. I know each of my fellow students and Mark are people I would enjoy socializing with, as colleagues or friends.

The afternoon was more training, where I learned some cool new techniques, and where I had to remember not to use the techniques from my other program. I love the challenge!

I shared a classmate’s Uber ride and didn’t have a problem at all with them accepting Petunia. I got back to the hotel, and Kayla, the very nice evening desk person, helped me get Petunia relieved. I was going to go down to the happy hour social hour but I’m pretty tired, and we’re in the midst of a big thunder storm, and I didn’t want to take Petunia, my thunder fearful girl, didn’t want to make her guide in that situation.

I’m now kicking back with a glass of red wine, some turkey, cheddar and crackers, a couple yummy home made cookies, watching CNN’s coverage of the Republican convention.

Tomorrow, another day of class, a night with friends, and most likely more wine and cookies!

So, though the day didn’t start off, giving me a great impression of this adventure, the day ended up being fantastic, wiping away all the stress and anxiety from the morning.

Let’s keep our fingers and paws crossed for a better start tomorrow!

Oh, and if anyone cares, I’m reading, the Ivy Crown, by mary Luke, an historical fiction novel about Katherine Par, sixth wife of Henry VIII, a woman I admire greatly!

the first day

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Well, here I am, down by Denver in a Residence Inn. My oomtext fuson class starts tomorrow. It’s been a long long day, and I’m too tired to write this all in Word first, so please forgive typos and brevity. I worked today, and we were quite busy. I shut down and 2:30 and finished packig while waiting for Sandie to arrive. We loaded up me and Petunia and our things and went to Sandie’s house first’ We hung out there, had some pizza and relaxed before driving down here to the hotel Their career changed guide dog, golden retriever Olima is absolutely adorable. She took to me, ad I to her I do love those goldens!

The hotel is nice enough. the room is adorable. The staff are incredibly nice and helpful. We brought a few groceries, but as the class will be providing lunch, and I’m going out to dinner Wednesday. I didn’t bring much. We taught Petunia the way around and she picked it up so fast. This dog is top notch. I’m so blessed in her.

Now, i’m sitting here at the desk in the room, drinking some wine and catching up on email. I’m tired I’ve been stressing and agonizing over this trip for days. Now that I’m here, I’m calm, but I’m exhausted i’m going to call the desk in a minute and ask for assistance finding where to relieve Petunia, and then I’m going to bed.

Just a weird thing about the hotel, there are no little bars of soap. Hmmm.
don’t Hotels always have those little bars? I guess I’m washing with shampoo tomorrow. weird. Also, I asked specifically for a disability room with a roll/walk in shower, and I didn’t get one. Wish me luck and keep me in your prayers, getting in and out of the shower.

And tomorrow, the class starst.

Superman, Thoughts and Memories

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Memories of Superman

I spent the evening watching movies. The last one for the night is Superman, the Christopher Reeve version from 1978. I love the movie, and I get the urge to watch it every few years. Chris Reeve was wonderful in that movie, and I always feel nostalgic and sort of sad, thinking what happened to him.

But tonight, I was thinking of different things, different memories, only sparing a stray thought or two for the real life Superman Chris became, and the sad end of his life. Tonight, I sat here remembering how my ex-husband and I saw this movie together back when it was first in the theaters. There we were, young and silly, barely scraping by, but taking a few dollars to go to the theater and smile, laugh and thrill to the story of Superman. I snuck my old cassette recorder in my purse and got a shaky, sometimes unclear audio recording of the movie. We’d listen to it again and again, till we could quote it, he quoting all the guys’ lines, I quoting the girls. Oh, it was fun.

“Swell? You know, Clark, there are very few people left in the world it feel comfortable saying that word.”

“What word?”

“Swell.”

“Oh really? I always kinda liked it.”

I haven’t heard from or heard of my ex in about thirty years. I never had any hard feelings toward him, and I hope he’s happy and well, wherever he is. I rarely think of him after all this time, but I remember fondly all the things he brought into my life, great music, great movies, great fun quoting those old movies! If he still watches Superman, does he remember those days? I hope he remembers them as fondly as I do.

But I had other thoughts while watching Superman tonight. Superman must be terribly lonely. This version of the movie has a lot of deleted scenes incorporated into the movie itself, not separate tracks on the DVD. While watching a scene in which Superman goes to his Fortress of Solitude to confer with his father, after the evening when he first revealed himself. Daddy tells him that he shouldn’t beat himself up over the fact that he enjoyed being superman, warns him to watch out for vanity, and then solemnly tells him that though he can enjoy being who and what he is, he can never reveal himself to anyone on earth. My heart kinda broke at that moment. His father talks again about the danger of vanity, stating that if not for the vanity of the leaders of Krypton the planet and its people would have survived, and he would be able to hold his son in his arms.

It made me think, how would it feel never to be able to tell anyone who you are, where you’re from, why you do what you do, not even your real name? Yeah, lonely.

And you know that scene when Superman takes Lois for a little flight around New York City at night? Okay, fun I’m sure, romantic and lovely. But damn, he takes her up into the clouds. Not only would it be flipping cold, but seriously, how the hell did she breathe up there? Ah, well, so much for romance.

If I had the power, would I want to spin the world backward to undo whatever has gone before? No, I guess not. But it sure is a blast watching Superman do it!

So, a few random thoughts and memories. Memories of a fun time in life. Thoughts of a super hero who must have had a sad life amidst all the adulation. Who knew I could get so philosophical over superman? Not me. Just some of the weird things passing through my mind on a quiet Friday night.

book review, The Contract, by Melanie Moreland

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The Contract

By Melanie Moreland

 

Richard, an high-flying advertising exec, an unrepentant tyrant to everyone around him, a man who despises everyone, especially his personal assistant, Katy. Katy, an all-suffering assistant, perfect at her job but unable to put her far too demanding boss in his place. She puts up with behavior that would have me telling my boss where to stuff it and send me running to Human Resources. But she has a reason for tolerating Richard’s attitude, an aunt with Alzheimer’s Disease, whose care Katy pays for. She can’t afford to be fired or to quit. Who’d ever dream these two opposites could ever fall in love?

 

When he doesn’t receive a coveted promotion, Richard decides to try to get a job at the only other major firm in the area. The problem is that the firm’s owner is family-oriented and would never hire Richard, due to his lack of stable personal relationships. Richard has to come up with a plan. Find a fiancé, a fake fiancé, and make the owner of the new firm believe it’s real. Who does he know who can fill the role? A woman who is loved by all who meet her, who can charm everyone, and is just the type to make anyone believe the romance is real? Katy, of course.

 

For Katy, this contract will help her support her aunt and improve the care her aunt receives. It will lighten the heavy burden of always trying to find the money to pay for the care. She despises Richard, but she can tolerate anything for a year, right?

 

So begins this wonderful story. Enemies, become friends, and then, maybe more. This sort of plot may have been done before, but never so well as in this delightful book by Melanie Moreland. The character development is believable in such a way, that I went from disliking Richard to adoring him, and from sort of sneering at Katy for putting up with him, to applauding the way she can take him on outside the job front, and put him in his place. The gradual change in their relationship took the exact right amount of time, not too fast, not too drawn out. We see it happen in ways that work absolutely, in ways I could see it happening with real people.

 

I love lots of characters in books, never content with just the two main protagonists, and this book has plenty of fun characters to satisfy me. The big engaging family who runs the new firm are delightful, people I’d love to know. They make the story better, as they interact with Richard and Katy. They help make this lovely romance richer and deeper with extra little details that, for me, take a story from good to great.

 

I’ve been reading Melanie’s work for a number of years now, and the contract is absolutely my favorite so far. She makes me want to smack Richard, then hug him. She makes me want to tell Katy to stand up to him, then applaud when she does. She makes me laugh, makes me angry, makes me smile. Everything a great story should make you feel. And she reminds me, as I’ve become cynical and scorn most romances, that love stories can still be wonderful things to read. I give my highest recommendation to The Contract. I only wish it could have gone on longer, because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters.

 

 

book review, The Mercy of the Sky

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The Mercy of the sky
By Holly Bailey

Journalist and native of Moore, Oklahoma, chronicles the May 20, 2013, EF-5 tornado that killed twenty-five people, including ten children. Discusses the path of the storm, which hit two elementary schools and a hospital among other sites, reactions on the ground, and the aftermath. 2015

I wonder if you, like me, found yourself glued to your TV, watching CNN or some other news channel, on May 20, 2013, unable to tear yourself away from the coverage of the disastrous tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma that day. I work from home, and I remember turning off my work computer and turning on my TV to hear about the storm, already in progress. It was a night of tragedy. Twenty-four people lost their lives, ten of whom were children, and seven of those children, third-graders at a local elementary school. The tornado demolished two elementary schools that day. In one, all the children and staff survived, but in the other, seven children died.

This book follows a group of characters, Oklahoma’s famous meteorologist, Gary English, a few families, the principals of the two schools, city officials, and here and there a random person, whose stories must have touched her heart as they did mine while I read. She doesn’t go much into the nature or history of tornados, but she goes into great depth into the history and lives of the people of Moore. She grew up in the area, so this book was deeply personal to her.

It seems that Moore Oklahoma has a weird history of being more often slammed by monster tornadoes than any other city in the state. They used to talk about what they call, May 3rd, like the rest of the country talks about September 11. May 3, 1999 was the date of another killer tornado that struck the area, and after surviving that, the town was hit multiple times over the next fourteen years, culminating in the horrific events of May 20 2013. Bailey brings this to life in such a strong and personal way, that you almost feel as if you could have experienced it. Not quite, unless you’ve lived through a tornado, but she makes you know the people, the town, the spirit, and the strength to pick up and go on after disaster.

As I read, I often felt amazed that people experienced tornado after tornado, lost everything, lost loved ones, and yet, they still continue to rebuild, right in the same place. Why don’t they leave, move away, I found myself asking, over and over. Then I had to remind myself that I grew up in California, and there’s a whole state full of people who haven’t run away from earthquakes either. Shaking my head, I’d think, well, guess there’s no place completely safe when Mother Nature decides to get tough.

I was in awe of the spirit of the residents of Moore during the storm. One weatherman, who knew the tornado was heading right toward his own home, continued to do his job, staying on air, trying to get people to get into shelters, get underground, get off the roads and be safe. He didn’t know if his wife and their two dogs would survive, but he stuck by his post. Then there were the teachers at the elementary schools. Time after time, Bailey told how teachers threw their bodies over those of the children in their care, desperate to protect their charges, not thinking of their own danger. One of those teachers was in the area where the children died, but the three children she was able to cover with her body survived. And yet, after it was over, months later, she still felt she had failed. I wondered, would I be that brave and unselfish. Would I throw my body across a child to protect it? I hope I would, but here were examples of real people, not actors in a movie, who did this. Not just one teacher but all the teachers. They deserve medals of Honor.

There was even some fun trivia, such as the fact that Gary English was quoted in the movie twister, and he and other meteorologists from the area had bit parts in the movie. I need to get hold of that movie I think. It was fascinating to me, how some people develop such a passion for storms, like English, who grew up wildly interested in storms and doing everything he could to get into the field, to the point of practically obsession. And I know storm chasers have provided valuable information about tornados, but I kept thinking to myself that they were just plain idiots. But then, some people are obsessed with earthquakes! But I ran away from California rather than live through any more of them. There’s no accounting for taste.

This was an amazing book, riveting, exciting, tragic, victorious and absolutely fascinating. With all the tragedy and sorrow of this book, it was a story of triumph in many ways. Yes, it was heartbreaking. I wept for the children, terrified, crouching in hallways that gave pitifully little protection. I ached for the people who didn’t have shelters so crawled into their bathtubs and still were blown away by the storm and lost everything, some losing their lives or their children’s lives. My heart broke over the animals that died, on one Horse farm, dozens of beautiful horses in the area for some kind of show.

But the people of Oklahoma don’t sit around and dwell on it all. Yes, they grieve, but they get up, brush themselves off and start putting their town and their individual lives back together. I’d like to go hug them all, shake their hands, bring them cookies. but I never want to go near Moore, Oklahoma, just in case, you know.

book review, Wedding Cake Murder

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Book review

Wedding Cake Murder, by Joanne Fluke
Hannah Swensen #19

Warning, spoilers ahead perhaps

If you’ve been following this series, you might know that this book is the one in which Hannah gets married. However, as I know people reading the series who have not reached the getting engaged part yet, I’ll try not to mention the name of the groom.

Ever since I read the very last sentence of Double Fudge Brownie Murder last year, the moment when Hannah tells her sister she is going to marry someone, I’ve been anticipating this newest book in the Hannah Swensen series. I preordered it from Audible and read it in a day from the moment I got it downloaded yesterday. I went to bed Monday night thinking, when I get up tomorrow, the book will be in my audible library! I loved it in many ways, but I was also disappointed in many ways.

The book opens with Hannah talking to someone about her upcoming wedding plans. We had learned in the previous book, that Hannah’s youngest sister, Michelle, had entered Hannah into a cooking contest with a fictional food channel, and Hannah had won and been invited to participate in a televised cooking show contest. At the beginning of this new book, Hannah is getting ready, planning to get married, and then spend her honeymoon in New York participating in the contest. All her plans fall apart, when a rep from the contest calls to tell her they are moving up the dates of the contest, and whichever contestant wins the first round in the competition will have the home advantage, because the contest will be moved to their home town. But this also means that it might affect Hannah’s wedding plans. She tells the producer about the wedding, and he assures her the contest will end before that date, and the food channel will stick around and film her wedding.

All this to set the scene, so most of the book can take place back in Lake Eden and around the friends and townspeople we’ve all come to know and love.

I enjoyed the parts of the book about the cooking contest very much. Michelle is Hannah’s assistant, and I always enjoy their interaction as sisters. The recipes, the judges, the other contestants, it was all fun and interesting. My only negative thought on that part of the book was that for one of Hannah’s desserts she made apple pie, and I happen to hate apple pie. Good thing I wasn’t her judge, isn’t it?

Hannah wins the first round and the contest moves to Lake Eden and continues on. In the midst of that, Hannah is still preparing for her wedding, but it seems to be the least important thing on her list of too many things to do. In the midst of the contest, one of the judges is murdered, and of course Hannah adds sleuthing and solving mysteries to her already too full agenda. Okay, it’s Hannah Swensen, and there has to be a murder and Hannah has to try to solve it. But this is where the book started breaking down for me.

Hannah is so focused on trying to solve the mystery that her excitement over her wedding seems so far back in her mind and heart that it might as well not be there. I’ve always loved that these books are not heavy on the romance, but it would have been nice to see more of Hannah and her intended. It seemed she saw more of one of the people she didn’t marry than she does of her fiancé.

There’s a scene where Hannah is asked to go next door to Clair’s dress shop to pick out her wedding dress, and Hannah balks and tries to get out of it. She has no interest, excitement or concern about what she’ll wear to her wedding. This was extremely off-putting to me. I know plenty of women like Hannah who aren’t much interested in fashion and clothes, makeup and the whole bit, but I’ve never known any woman who wasn’t the least bit interested in getting her wedding dress. That scene fell flat and I wanted to give her a good shake and say, “don’t you want to make his eyes pop when he sees you come down the aisle?”

But here’s the clincher, the worst moment for me, the most unrealistic thing I’ve ever read in one of these novels, a moment that might have been meant to be funny or humorous in some way but came off to me as slapstick. It’s Hannah’s wedding day. She’s alone. Her mother and sisters are already at the church, and she’s going to drive herself to the church to get ready. On the way, she stops into the Lake Eden Inn to arrange for a special bottle of wine for her groom, and through conversation with one of the owners, she realizes who the murderer is. Cool. Sure, this is what Hannah does. But it’s getting late, and she barely has enough time to get to the church to get dressed and marry her sweetheart, but what does she do? She goes off to the inn’s kitchen, where the contest cooking happened, and waits to confront the killer. Now, if you’ve read earlier books, you know, Hannah knows at least four or five men in the sheriff’s office. Under those circumstances, if it was my wedding day and I was already nearly late, I’d be making a quick call with my handy cell phone, letting one of those nice sheriff guys know the scoop and off to my wedding I’d go. I wouldn’t be hanging around waiting to confront the murderer when I was supposed to be getting married!

Of course, there’s a big confrontation scene, Hannah is nearly killed and has to do something extreme and crazy to save herself. She jumps into the Inn’s dumpster and is carted off by the garbage guy who handles the dumpsters! Of course her cell phone battery is dead and she can only, finally get off part of a message to one of the sheriff guys in order to get rescued. She’s nearly an hour late to her own wedding, rushes into the church screaming “I’m here” all while being covered head to toe in gunk, gross nasty food garbage from the dumpster! I didn’t find it funny or entertaining at all.

There’s a scene nearly an hour into the book, when Hannah meets individually with people she needs to clear the air with. I can’t say who because it will reveal who isn’t her groom. But in these scenes, it seems Hannah cares more for their feelings than for the feelings of her groom. And this brings up other issues I had with the story that I can’t say because of trying not to reveal the groom. But it felt as if everyone else was more important to her than the man she was planning to marry.

Other things I didn’t like were:
Not enough Moisha, and no particular funny Moisha mischief.
No Tracy, Hannah’s sweet and too adult seven-year-old niece. She’s mentioned but has no air time.
Hardly any Lisa and hardly any time in the Cookie Jar, Hannah’s bakery.
Not enough time, as I said earlier, with Hannah and her groom.

Things I loved:
I loved the overall contest.
I enjoyed the interaction with Hannah and Michelle, and with the three sisters, when it happened. There were some lovely moving scenes between Hannah’s mother, Dolores, and the three sisters, Hannah, Andrea and Michelle.
Loved what time we had between Hannah and what’s his name.
The mystery was fun as always and took me time to figure out who and why.
And I loved that Hannah finally did get married to the one I’d been hoping she would for several books.

I’d give this book four out of five stars. It wasn’t what I was hoping for in many ways. I was wanting to see the reactions of everyone when Hannah announced her engagement: how did her sisters react after her big reveal at the end of the last book? How did Dolores? What about the ones not chosen? What about Lisa and the rest of the town? Did Lisa “tell the story” of how Hannah got engaged to the wide-eyed audience in the coffee shop?

But the book was also full of much of what I enjoy in this series. Hannah is entertaining. I love Lake Eden and wish I could visit, have cookie and coffee at the Cookie Jar and meet the colorful characters I’ve come to know after nineteen books. I thoroughly enjoyed what time we did have with Hannah and her groom. He’s always been the most supportive of her, accepting her for who she is. There were the recipes, the mystery, a fun contest, great sisterly interaction and a wedding. So of course, I loved it. I just wanted more of some things and less of others. I’m already waiting for the next book! And though Wedding Cake murder might not be my favorite in the series, it certainly is not my least favorite. It was fun, and that’s a pretty good thing to find in a book.

1375 words

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Okay, so it’s not a great start. I did 1375 words yesterday. and I forgot to update my stats on http://www.nanowrimo.org. boo. I just did it. To be fair to myself, I did a lot of editing yesterday of previously written material for this story. man, once upon a time, I really thought I was a great writer, but when I read what I’d done on this six years ago, I cringe. The story was great, but in the technical sense, I’ve improved a hell of a lot since then. Thank the Lord for fan fiction and learning my craft in that environment. And for writing Haven which is still my labor of love. So, it’s all good. If I finish the editing today, I’ll count those words in my word count because it’s like rewriting everything, from a complete change in character names, to all the dialog and narrative. Yikes. Damn this is fun!

NaNoWriMo 2015!

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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Yes, I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I tried this two years ago, and though I did write a lot, I was so burned out and trying this only made it worse. But I’m in a fairly good place this year and excited to get started today.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is national novel writing month. The idea is to write 50,000 words in thirty days. It feels overwhelming when you think of it that way, fifty thousand, yeah fifty thousand words in one month. But I went to the trusty windows calculator and determined that breaks down to approximately 1667 words a day. I can do that! In fact, knowing how I usually write for hours without stopping, on weekends I can do much more and get ahead, for those days when it’s hard to write 100 words, let alone over ten times that much in one day.
My story this year will be loosely based on the journal I kept during the first time I went to GDB to get my first guide dog in August 1975. I’ve hesitated about this for many years, even though I think I have a great story to tell. I don’t want to write for a limited market. Books about guide dogs are pretty common and generally appeal to only a limited few. But my first time through training ended up being about so much more than getting a guide dog. I was seventeen, just out of high school. I was shy, so terribly shy that I was nearly helpless around strangers and afraid of the sound of my own voice. Other than camp or an overnight at a friend’s, I’d never been away from home for such a long period of time, twenty-eight days. I would be in a class with fifteen other people, of all ages, walks of life, experience. My roommate was eight years older than me, and to me, she was wise in ways that awed me. She smoked pot, was sexually experienced and was unlike anyone I had ever known. I took my first steps in learning how to break out of my debilitating shyness. I gained confidence in myself in ways I had not expected. I developed a huge crush and found myself experiencing the first fumblings into sexuality. In short, I began to come of age, to move from that little girl into the woman I so desperately wanted to be. Of course, it was only the beginning of that journey, but that first time through guide dog training was when it began.
And this, I think, is the hook for the story, the thing that can make the story reach out to far more people than the limited disability or service dog market. Hasn’t every adult had those moments, those first times, those exciting and terrifying times, when we step into the first phase of adulthood? Wasn’t it glorious to meet people outside our bubble, to begin to discover sex, to feel that confusion about it? Didn’t we all have to come of age?
I think, and I hope, this story can touch hearts of people who’ve been through it, who are going through it and help people see that in all the way that matter, we are so very much alike. People with disabilities are not really that different at all. I know that at age seventeen, when I walked into that dorm for the first time, ready to get the dog I’d been dreaming of and waiting for ten long years, I never imagined I’d experience all the other things that came my way. It was an adventure, a romp, a thrill every minute. Well, for the most part.
I’ll be researching music of the era, movies, TV, slang and fashion. I remember the music well. I had a piece of luggage full of cassettes, many of which had been recorded by me putting my tape recorder up to the radio. I had a Perkins brailer and a binder of paper to keep my journal. I was not much into TV so can’t remember what we watched, but I well remember rushing to the theater to see Jaws several times that summer. I don’t remember what clothes I wore, but I was always nuts about clothes, so I’m sure I was wearing whatever teenage girls were wearing. The research will be fun, though I usually don’t enjoy research too much. It will be like stepping into a time machine. I wonder what I’ll find when I get there.
If anyone reading this is doing NaNo this year, feel free to buddy me on their site. My name there is sherriola. It’s going to be a fabulous month! Check back here for progress reports. It’s going to be a blast, or should I say, in keeping with the era, it’s gonna be Far Out!

Woo hoo, and according to the word count, I’ve already written 818 words, just writing this. I’m halfway to my goal for today! Can you dig it?

An Event, If/Then with Idina Menzel

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AN EVENT!
IF/THEN, starring Idina Menzel

Last Saturday, October 17th, I experienced a truly amazing event. My friend Sandie took me to see the musical If/Then. And joy of joys, the stars who performed in this show on Broadway decided to open the national tour, performing in six cities I think. I’ve never gotten to Broadway yet, so there I was, sitting in the Buell Theater in Denver and listening to the great Idina Menzel sing her heart and soul out! If you’re not familiar with Idina, she was Elphaba in the original cast of Wicked, and she sings the song Letting Go from Frozen, among other things. The woman has a voice that can move you to tears or to joy and laughter. I was blown away and so thrilled to be there.

Sandie picked us up a little before noon, and we drove down to Denver, just like the day we went to Wicked back in June. Again, we had lunch at the Limelight restaurant, across from the theater. I had the hamburger and a mimosa. We were a little late, so we didn’t have time to finish our lunches, but you can bet I finished the mimosa! For the record, the burger was every bit as delicious as last time.

Sandie had ordered a braille program for me, and we got settled in our seats, and I began to read the program aloud. That’s when I discovered that the three other main cast members had Joined Idina in the national tour, so now we had not one but four Broadway stars performing right here!!

I don’t know what to say about the show. How can I express the humor, the tears, the way it moved me deep down? If you haven’t heard of it, If/Then tells the story of a woman, Elizabeth, who arrives in New York, meets a new friend right away and is reunited with an old friend. In the park, she thinks about two different paths her life could take. In one, she is Liz, and in another, she is Beth. At the end, we meet her back at the beginning in the park, and she takes the path, I at least, hoped she would. The changes from Liz to Beth happened so quickly, jumping from one life to another in the blink of an eye. But I found it easy to follow. Once I got to know the characters, and how Elizabeth’s life was going in each path, it was simple to follow. There is heartbreak and triumph in each path. And Idina told the story in song with so much passion I ached for the character and just wanted her to find happiness and peace. It was beautiful; it was moving; it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

After the show, we drove partway home and met Keven at an Italian restaurant called Caraba’s. I had a dish with corkscrew pasta and tons of different cheeses, plus a bowl of the best minestrone soup I’ve ever put in my mouth. It was just this side of almost too peppery, but it was so delicious I just wanted to keep on eating.

And then we came home. I had a thoroughly wonderful time. I still sometimes just sit and think about the show and ponder the different choices Liz and Beth made and the way those choices affected her and those around her. How many times have we all thought, if only I’d known I might have made different choices? And that’s what the story was all about. If you ever have the chance to see If/Then, don’t hesitate. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget. I know I won’t.