Tag Archive | family

Book review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

The Essex SerpentThe Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not your usual love story. Not your usual happy ending.

Cora, recently widowed — and frankly, quite pleased to be free of her marriage — decamps to the Essex countryside with her companion Martha and her son Frances for a change of scenery after her abusive husband is laid to rest. There she meets Will Ransome, the local vicar, and his angelic wife, Stella. Cora and Will immediately take to each other in an intellectual sense, debating matters of biology, naturalism, and faith with vigor and passion; Stella looks on in bemusement and a secret delight that Will has met someone his intellectual equal. Stella is ill, although she hasn’t told anyone; as the novel wears on, one suspects she doesn’t object to Will’s friendship with Cora because she expects Will to turn to Cora after Stella passes on.

In the meantime, Aldwinter (the village) is roiled by the rumor that the Essex Serpent of the title has resurfaced after an absence of some 200 years. Cora is thrilled at the story and believes the Serpent may be a prehistoric creature. Will believes the story is stuff and nonsense but is pleased church attendance is up. Still, he is unsettled by the reason: many in town believe the End Times may be at hand, or at the very least, God is unhappy with the town and is punishing them with this beast. The townsfolk are skittish and superstitious; they keep their children in and their livestock tied, and hold vigil at the edge of the river, watching for any sign of the creature so Aldwinter can be warned and ready.

As the year rolls by, passions rise and fall; quarrels come and go; people leave and return; letters are written and exchanged; the Serpent lurks; death stalks; love awaits; and peace, while elusive, is eventually found.

Lovely writing, lovely story.

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Book review: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

A Column of Fire (Kingsbridge)A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This third installment of Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series covers the Elizabethan era of England’s history, with its attendant political intrigues, religious persecutions, and assassination plots. While our chief protagonist, Ned Willard, and his family are fictional, famous historical personages inhabit the plot: William Cecil; Mary, Queen of Scots; Francis Walsingham; Francis Drake; and of course Elizabeth Tudor.

Ned Willard goes to court as a young man, after having been disappointed in love, and is promptly taken under the wing of William Cecil, Elizabeth Tudor’s chief advisor. Together they oversee a network of informants and spies, rooting out planned rebellions and foiling attempts on the Queen’s life. The majority of the political story concerns the tension between staunch Catholics and Protestants, each believing they follow the One True Faith; and the accompanying efforts to sway England, France, and Spain toward one religious tradition or the other.

I liked this book. It’s well-written and steeped in historical detail. But I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the first of the line (The Pillars of the Earth, set in the 12th century), or even the second (World Without End, set in the 14th century). That may be because I am utterly fascinated by the Middle Ages — far more than with any other period in history — and thus novels set in other historical eras don’t engage me as much. Still, Elizabethan England is a dramatic setting, and the dramatic plotline delivers one punch of excitement after another.

Given that the three books in this series each take place approximately 200 years apart, I venture to guess that the next installment, should there be one, will cover the American Revolution, and will take place in both England and the New World. We’ll see.

View all my reviews

Double book review: In Memoriam; The Borrower

In MemoriamIn Memoriam by Nathan Burgoine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s nearly impossible to review this novella without spoilers, so let me just say this: James Daniels found a unique way to deal with the memory loss that accompanies his brain cancer, and said method is lovely and satisfying and heartwarming and sweet.

A beautiful piece of writing.

The BorrowerThe Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucy Hull has a favorite library patron, young Ian Drake. Unfortunately, Ian’s mother doesn’t approve of Ian’s reading tastes, nor of Ian himself, apparently. Early one morning, Lucy opens the library to find Ian camped out in the stacks, having run away from home. He convinces Lucy to take him somewhere else, and she obliges.

What follows is a haphazard road trip from somewhere in Missouri to Chicago and Pittsburgh and points northeastward, all directed more or less by the boy in the passenger seat, with Lucy’s passive acquiescence masking her inner turmoil at being led around by the nose by a 10-year-old. But this journey isn’t about Ian, really; it’s about Lucy coming to terms with her passive acquiescence of everything except her family legacy; and how family shapes who we are whether we like it or not; and how blood will out, regardless.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The short chapters written in the style of various children’s books were amusing and poignant and sharply aimed.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Book review: The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

The Map of True PlacesThe Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After the suicide of a client, Zee Finch leaves her fiancé and her Boston psychology practice to care for her ailing father in their Salem family home. Very little drama ensues. Really.

Honestly, I didn’t see any point in this novel. I didn’t particularly like Zee (although I loved the fact that her given name was Hepzibah) or her eventual love interest, Hawk; the emphasis on navigating by the stars was weird and contrived; in fact, the whole of the story felt contrived and weird and and incoherent, like a series of set pieces linked together only because they involved the same characters. Zee traveled some small distance as a character, but in the end I felt she was little different from the wishy-washy human being that began the story.

Sophomore novels are often a let down after brilliant debuts. The Lace Reader was brilliant. This? Not so much.

View all my reviews

Book review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“She breathed deeply of the scent of decaying fiction, disintegrating history, and forgotten verse, and she observed for the first time that a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue, and cleverness.”
~~~
Pause for a moment and ponder that quote.
.
.
.
.
I’d substitute cardamom for vanilla (because I’m not overly fond of vanilla), but otherwise, yes. This is what books smell like. Imminently satisfactory, is it not?

Charles Manx loves children. He wants children to be happy all the time. He seeks out special children so he can take them to Christmasland where, as you may have guessed, it’s always Christmas and children are always happy. Taking these children to Christmasland and leaving them there has the side effect of keeping Manx young and vigorous, but that’s merely an inconsequential bonus to Manx’s generosity of spirit.

Victoria McQueen, usually called Vic, rides her bicycle as an escape from her tense home atmosphere and warring parents. One day when she is still quite young, she discovers her bicycle gives her the ability to travel across a non-existent bridge and find things. She finds jewelry, and scarves, and photographs, and all manner of lost things. She tells the grownups cover stories about where she finds these items, and as she grows older, eventually comes to believe these stories herself. Because riding a bicycle across a non-existent bridge and coming out miles or even whole states away would be crazy, right?

On one of these excursions, Vic encounters Charles Manx. Manx recognizes Vic’s special talent and wants to take her to Christmasland. Of course, her talent will fuel his continued youth, but that’s not his primary motivation, of course. He has true compassion for Vic’s unhappy life and wants to alleviate her pain and suffering. Really, he means nothing but the best for these special children.

Vic manages to escape Manx. She grows up, grows older, has a child, endures multiple hospitalizations and medications (both doctor-ordered and self-prescribed) to deal with the trauma of her kidnapping and the constant murmur of voices in her head.

Then Charles Manx takes her son. And Vic must summon all her courage to go after him.

That’s the story. But this book is really about love. Vic’s love for her son and for Lou, the father of her son; Lou’s love for Vic and their child; Vic’s parents’ love for her, although she didn’t recognize such love until nearly too late; the sacrifices all parents make to keep their children safe; even Manx’s twisted version of love for the children he “saves”: all of it, every word of this novel turns on love in its many-splendoured and sometimes malformed manifestations.

NOS4A2 isn’t the best book ever, but it’s well worthy of the multiple award nominations it received and it’s certainly worth the time one spends delving into its nearly 700 pages.

Hint: Make sure you read to the very last page. Really. The VERY last page. Otherwise, you miss out.

View all my reviews

This book was read as part of the 2017 Award-Winning Science Fiction/Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Click that badge on the right to see what other participants have read.

A blanket for Liam

Stripes and Hearts 10I have a new grand-nephew on the way. And, of course, I made him a blanket.

Pattern:  I Got You Babe-y by Marty Miller, from the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of the now-defunct Crochet Today.

Yarn:  Bernat Gloucester Sport, 2.8 skeins (308 yds), colorway “French Blue”; Mirasol T’ika, 4 skeins (364 yds), colorway 502 “Light Blue”.

Hook:  H for body, I for borders.

Mods: Did not do the lacy attach-as-you-go border between panels. Rather, did single crochet edging around each panel and sewed them together. Three rounds of single crochet in alternating colors around entire blanket for the edging.

84df2-knit-your-library_2016Satisfaction with end product:  I think it’s lovely.  The 100% cotton yarn makes it soft and absorbent, besides making it an easy-care baby item; I’m sure my niece-in-law will appreciate that.

You can see more project pics at the Ravelry project page.

Still “knitting” my library.  Please join us!

Book review: Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, #6)Song of Susannah by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

2016 Re-read

The sixth volume in The Dark Tower series begins moments after the events that end the fifth volume. Our heroes and the townfolk of Calla Bryn Sturgis are weary, shell-shocked, and uncertain of their future. Susannah has disappeared, Eddie is frantic, Jake is grieving, and Roland is desperate to discern their next steps.

Roland, Eddie, and Jake eventually figure out they must separate: with the aid of the Manni, Roland and Eddie will go through the door in the Cave of Voices to 1977 Maine, contact Calvin Tower and Aaron Deepneau, and make arrangements to protect The Rose; Jake and Father Callahan (and Oy) will use the same door to journey to 1999 New York in search of Susannah.

In New York, Susannah and Mia struggle for control of their shared body while Mia’s pregnancy advances at an accelerated pace.

Also in New York, Jake, Oy, and Father Callahan are hot on the trail of the combined Susannah-Mio, hoping to find them before the baby is born.

In Maine, Roland and Eddie encounter good guys, bad guys, bullets, and Stephen King.

Even though its subject matter may be more suited for a melancholy folk ballad, Song of Susannah is a techno dancetrack that unfolds at a breakneck hellbent-for-leather pace. In the end, new life and more than one death follow our heroes into the final volume.

Again, I’m glad to have re-read this, because once more I had forgotten not only the details but the main events of this novel, including the extended metafictional encounter with Stephen King. For reasons that spoilers prohibit me from revealing, King wrote himself into his own novel, not as a measure of vanity but as a unique plot twist that won’t make sense until much much later. (EDITORIAL NOTE: This review was written after finishing Book VII. So trust me on this.)

Author King views Character King with the dispassion of distance, and does not shy away from a frank discussion of his younger self’s shortcomings. In truth, I found this section of the book weirdly therapeutic. How many of us now in late middle age would NOT jump at the opportunity to speak to our younger selves with the benefit of experience and 20/20 hindsight? Metafictional therapy aside, Character King’s presence serves rather than detracts from the plot and sets up critical events for the final volume.

2016SFFChallengeNicely done, Author King.

View all my reviews

This review was written for the Award Winning SF/Fantasy Challenge, hosted by Shaunesay at The Space Between. Click the badge to learn more about this challenge, and maybe even join in! There’s still plenty of time left to read some award winners of your own.

FO Friday: Kayson’s Blankie

100_4662-2By the time this post appears online, my family will have increased by one.  My niece expects to deliver her second son sometime between September 7 and September 14.  All new babies in my family get a special blanket made just for them, and Kayson is no exception.

Pattern:  My design, and it doesn’t have a name yet.

Yarn:  Bernat Handicrafter Cotton in Caramel, a discontinued colorway; 1.1 skeins for a total of 767 yards.

Needle:  US 9; I used Addi Turbos Circular.

Size:  34″ x 24″, after a machine wash and dry.

Satisfaction with end product:  It’s soft and absorbent and can be thrown in the washer and dryer.  That’s the perfect baby blanket as far as I’m concerned.  I hope my niece likes it.

The pattern came about because I couldn’t find a blanket that I liked among all the blanket patterns that I already have.  Let me rephrase:  I couldn’t find a blanket pattern that I liked that suited this particular yarn, and I was determined to use this yarn because of its easy care.  And so I fiddled around for a while with stitch patterns and finally settled on a classic basketweave, but with a twist: the small basketweave sections that bookend the center portion of the blanket.

This time as I made the blanket, I remembered to make pattern notes.  I’ll get the pattern written up and made available eventually.  I have to figure out how to upload PDFs to Ravelry someday, don’t I?

Here are a couple more pictures of the blanket, for good measure.  Click the pic to see it larger.  And you can click that large picture up top to go to the Ravelry project page.

FO Friday Avantaknits Badge (2)Do you have a finished project to show off? Please share it with us by linking up here. You’ll be glad you did!

Sweet dreams, Jacquenetta

With heavy hearts, my husband and I announce the loss of our beloved and beautiful Jacquenetta, age 20 years, 10 months, and two weeks.

Jacquenetta entered my life as a six-week-old kitten in late March 1994. She was one of two kittens that came home with me from the Garland County (Arkansas) Animal Shelter (the other kitten, Puck, was sadly lost in the woods several months later). She was quiet and affectionate and loved sitting Baby Q 1behind me on the back of the sofa so she could groom my hair.

She was a mighty hunter in her day, a terror to the local rodent and bird population. Many’s the day I came home from work to find an offering on the front porch: a field mouse, a vole, the occasional sparrow, once even a baby rabbit. Then came the day she hopped in through the hole in the screen door and dropped a bluejay at my feet. A live bluejay, which promptly flew about my kitchen in a panic while I chased it around with a dishtowel until I managed to herd it out the back door.

Q and Teenage MoteWhen Jacquenetta was about three years old, I brought another rescued kitten home and Miss Q immediately began mothering him. She and Mote became bosom companions, and could be found snuggled up together most evenings.

Snuggle KittiesAfter my husband and I met, moved in together, then married, Jacquenetta became a well-traveled kitty, because that’s when we started moving around a lot. She became an indoor kitty, as well, because when we moved, it was out of the country and into town. She never lost her sense of adventure despite her confinement to well-defined square footage. Bill and Miss Q on the LedgeIn fact, she scared me nearly to death when we lived in a condominium with a 20-foot vaulted ceiling and a plant shelf at about the 12-foot mark. I looked up one fine day and saw her on that plant shelf, shrieked, and sent spouse upstairs to coax her off the shelf. She cooperated, and we blocked the pass-through to deny her future access.

Due to either my work or spouse’s work, we moved from that condo in South Arkansas to another condo in Little Rock and then to a house in the Quapaw Quarter; from there we went to California for a few years; returned to the South in 2010, and finally we landed in the Atlanta metro in early 2013. During those years we added two Pomeranians to the household. All animals handled the moves well, including being driven across country twice.

Playkitty1And somewhere during all these moves, Jacquenetta found time to pose for Kitty Hustler. Okay, not really, but that’s what we called it whenever she sprawled out on the sofa like she was waiting for someone to hand her a beer and the TV remote.

It was shortly after we moved to Atlanta that I noticed Jacquenetta wasn’t her usual self. She spent most of her day upstairs, away from the exuberance of the dogs and the noise of the television. She would come downstairs to eat and use her box and for the occasional snuggle with me or Mote, but generally she could be found in the dimness of the upstairs hall just outside the door to the guest bedroom. I put it down to her age but I watched her. We started getting more concerned when she could no longer groom Warm Noses 3herself as usual and became matted in her hindquarters. She also couldn’t tolerate being brushed for long, so keeping the matting under control became difficult. Then one day last April, she had a horrific seizure. Spouse and I rushed her to the vet, who kept her several days for observation and testing, and then delivered the diagnosis: end stage renal failure. This condition could be managed for a while, but in the end, it would be fatal.

“Is she hurting?” I asked. “No,” said the vet. “It’s painless.”

Spouse and I chose to manage Jacquenetta’s condition at home, with medication to prevent seizures and twice-weekly subcutaneous fluids. We ground the Valium and calcium into a fine powder and mixed it into soft foods; we hung the IV bag from the dining room light fixture while we pumped saline solution under the skin between her shoulders. Mote recognized his life-long companion was desperately ill, and spent as much time snuggled up with her as he could. We also let her outside now and then to bask in the sunshine on sun-warmed concrete.

Miss Q in the Sunshine

Jacquenetta 12-30-14
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I noticed Jacquenetta no longer climbed upstairs; instead, she lay across one of the floor vents downstairs for the warm air rising through the register. I laid a towel across the vent so her paws wouldn’t get caught in the grating and told spouse it wouldn’t be long now. A couple of weeks later, we put up the Christmas tree and spread the skirt out in such a way that her preferred floor vent was covered and she could still rest on top of the warm air. She stopped eating the Sunday or Monday after Christmas; when I came home from work Tuesday, spouse said she was passing blood in her urine. We called the vet and we all agreed it was time.

I left work early Wednesday and we took Jacquenetta to the clinic. They wrapped her in a soft fleece blanket and let me hold her while they administered the medicine that would let her rest. Spouse and I both petted her and loved her and talked to her while she went to sleep for the last time.

Sweet dreams, baby. You were loved so very very much.

Jacquenetta

Jacquenetta, 2/15/1994-12/31/2014

23

AisleShotNormally, I don’t get overly personal on this blog because it’s public. But today I’m breaking that self-imposed rule.

Why today?

Because it’s an anniversary.

23 years ago today, I walked into a treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction in Northern California, clutching a pillow and the few shreds of dignity I had left. I walked out four weeks later, clean, sober, and free.

I hear a lot of people say they were born alcoholic. I don’t know about that. I just know that from the first time I drank at about age 15, I liked it. I didn’t drink very often, at least not then, but always enjoyed it when I did. I liked the fuzzy headed feeling. I liked how alcohol changed my perception of myself, turned my short ordinary plain-Jane self into someone tall, beautiful and dazzling.

Three PeasI was a good kid, the oldest of three, brought up by parents who were married to each other — they’re still married, in fact. I went to church, sang in the choir, joined in youth group activities, went on mission trips. I made mostly As in school, twirled a flag on the pep squad, competed on the varsity gymnastics team, graduated near the top of my high school class, and was accepted at an exclusive private college in southern California.

This isn’t to say our family life was untroubled. Far from it. My sister and I fought constantly. Money was always tight. My parents did their best, but they didn’t know what to do with a kid like me, one who liked science and art and books and history, one who was filled with the need to be noticed. All I wanted was a little of their attention. I knew they loved me, but they, especially my father, were distant and unsupportive of the things I was most interested in, impractical things like music and singing and dance. And we had secrets that we didn’t talk about.

Spouse and PhoebeAt any rate, I was in the final weeks of my senior year, more than ready to leave home and attend that exclusive private college, when my perfectly-planned life derailed. The financial aid everyone told me I would get did not come through, and my parents couldn’t afford to foot the extra tuition costs. I allowed myself to be talked out of taking student loans and decided to delay college for a year and work instead. To save money, you know. Oh, the stupid choices we make when we’re 17.

So. I went to work full time at a local department store. And I started dating. I rarely dated in high school — too busy with the books and the pep squad and church activities — but after graduation was a different story. A few months after my 18th birthday, I fell in love. With a bad boy. Who drank and smoked dope and drove a fast car. My parents hated him. I thought he was the most handsome fellow in the world. Unfortunately, he had a live-in girlfriend, so we had to sneak around. I moved out of my parents’ home and became roommates with two of his friends. We turned our little coastal town into our own Peyton Place, at least among a certain age group.

Mom and Steph Easter 2011Two broken engagements (only one of them mine) and a broken heart later, I gave up on the idea of that southern California college — I had never managed to save the money, anyway — and moved north to the Bay Area. I was 19. It was there I discovered I had a talent for theater. I started acting and working backstage at every community theater within a reasonable driving distance. I learned how to party and smoke dope and put powder up my nose with a bunch of other theater folk. But it was still under control. I still got up and went to work every day. I couldn’t manage to fit classes at the local junior college into the work and party schedule though.

It’s funny how, starting at about this point in my life, many of my major decisions or courses of action were connected in some fashion to a man. I moved to the Bay Area to get away from my first love. I switched shifts at my job to avoid the next fellow after we broke up. And I started drinking heavily after the end of a two-plus year relationship with someone I had thought would become my husband. I was 23. This time, the drinking affected my work. I called in sick a lot. I was late. I was grouchy and rude to customers. I quit before I could get fired.

Mom and DadBy this time, my folks had moved north as well. I moved in with them because I couldn’t afford to live on my own. And for the next six years I moved in and out, in and out. I’d get a decent job, save some money, get my own place, get evicted because buying booze was more important than paying the rent, move back home, and start the cycle over. I got drunk every single day for those six years. I lost a car, I lost friends, I lost jobs. One night, while babysitting my infant nephew, I passed out with a lit cigarette in my hand. If the couch had not been fairly new with the flame-retardant self-snuffing cushions, the house would have gone up in flames, taking me and my sister’s son with it. I never knew it happened until late the next day when my mother dragged me out of bed to show me the charred arm of the sofa.

I could tell you story after story about poor choices: stupid decisions, countless men, near-brushes with death, humiliating experience after humiliating experience. I could tell you about the day I finally remembered that secret we didn’t discuss: the one about my grandfather who liked little girls. It all comes down to one fact: I did anything necessary for me to get that next drink.

C70 open 1In July of 1991 I was back living with my folks again. I was 29 years old. I had a part time job as assistant manager at a little bookstore, working for a friend. Every night when I left work, I stopped at a gas station, a different one each time, and picked up two sixpacks of beer, a fresh pack of cigarettes and a bag of ice. I had a little plastic tub in my car. I put the ice in the tub, the beer in the ice, and set off for one of the numerous back country roads near my parents’ home. Once there, I’d find a dark place to park, pull out the flashlight and my trashy historical romance, and sit there, drinking, reading and smoking until all the beer was gone, usually about 1:00 AM. Then I’d drive home and let myself in and go to bed. This way, my folks wouldn’t know how much I drank.

Wrong.

FrontOne day, my mother told me she knew I was drinking. And she told me I had two choices: go to treatment or find somewhere else to live. I wasn’t prepared to live in my car, so I told her I’d go to treatment. But ooooh, I did not want to do that. I didn’t want to face myself. And the truth is, if I’d had even one person left that I could call who I thought would take me in, I’d have gone there instead. But there was no one.

And so, on July 26, 1991, I took my own pillow with me to the treatment center. I must have been a sight, standing there in the lobby, clutching my pillow and looking around with wild, scared eyes, like I’d been brought to the seventh circle of hell. How the staff must have laughed at me later. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep on one of those institutional pillows, so I had my own. That was a comfort.

AA Symbol BlueI was not unaware of the existence of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had even been to a meeting once, about three or four years prior. The people there scared the crap out of me; they were so happy about being alcoholic! I decided I didn’t have a problem after all, and vowed I was never going back. And naturally, the first place I was taken after entering treatment was an AA meeting.

Funny thing, though. This time, I listened instead of judging. I empathized instead of looking for the ways I was different. And I found out a lot of people drank like I did, secretly, ashamedly, telling themselves this was normal behavior and everyone behaved this way when they drank. Those people at the meetings were friendly, and concerned, and genuinely wanted to help. They told me the truth in a language I recognized. They understood me. And they paid attention to me. I felt — validated. And wanted. And welcomed. I can’t remember ever really feeling like that before walking through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. They loved me, and they didn’t even know me.

Angela and Phoebe 2It’s been like that throughout the years I’ve been sober. I’ve done stupid stupid things in sobriety — again, mostly man-oriented — and come closer to suicide than I ever had in my drinking days. Without the numbness that self-medicating with alcohol provided, I had to face my demons. I had to talk about being molested as a child. I had to talk about that catastrophically detrimental year-long affair with Mr.Married. I had to break down and bawl in meetings. But the love of the fellowship always picked me up, sometimes literally. I remember sitting in a meeting one night, five-plus years sober and at my lowest emotional ebb, talking about making the decision NOT to kill myself the previous night and breaking down in the middle of a sentence. A man at the meeting left his chair, crossed the room, sat down next to me on the couch and put me on his lap, and rocked me like I was a child. That’s love.

No one told me staying sober would be easy. And, at first, it wasn’t. I struggled. I didn’t drink, but I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to. Still, slowly, gradually, incrementally, that desire decreased; the thought came less and less often…and for the last several years, when trouble has arisen, getting drunk hasn’t crossed my mind. Although that option is always available, I have so many other choices to make, so many other directions to go, so many other steps to follow — drinking is so far down the list it’s not even a contender.

Church RotundaThe best thing about being sober? It led me back to God. I had abandoned the church at about age 19. During those ten years of drinking, I would attend church occasionally, but never felt like I belonged. I was too dirty, too sinful, too horrible a person for God to ever love or forgive. AA taught me my God was too small. I came to understand a different concept of God, a truer concept, and this concept has become the rock solid foundation of my life: Nothing in the world will ever make God stop loving me. Nothing. Not ever. I learned that forgiveness comes when I let go of the hurt or the shame. I learned to love and accept love. And that lesson brought me my beloved husband.

My brother's kidsThe youngest members of my family have never known their Auntie as a drunk. My husband has never known me as a drunk — in fact, sometimes I think he doesn’t quite believe my drinking was ever really that bad. My parents and sister don’t watch me out of the corners of their eyes; my brother has no qualms about leaving me in charge of his children. I’ve had the same employer for almost 20 years, the same husband for more than 12 years; we live in a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood; I drive a convertible (!); we have no debt other than the house and car notes; I wake up each day clearheaded, bright-eyed, and ready to face the world.

Best of all, deep in my heart lies the rock-solid certainty that God loves me. He always had, even when I had convinced myself otherwise. That gift alone makes the journey worthwhile. With the gift of sobriety as well, I am truly blessed and eternally grateful.

~~~~

The photographs scattered throughout this blog entry are the gifts that sobriety brought.