Wow — Jasmine in Bloom!

As much as I look forward to my camellias blooming in February for their pink beauty in winter, I look forward to my jasmine blooming in March for its amazingly fragrant scent!

I wish your computer had a scratch-and-sniff that I could send you this fragrance. It’s so strong you can smell it all the way down our street.

We first planted this jasmine (it’s right off our back patio) almost immediately after we moved in. I’d always wanted my own jasmine plant. Mostly because we rented a condo (when we were young marrieds) where the owner had planted jasmine that wrapped itself up an orange tree, and the combo of that fragrance always stayed with me. I vowed that as soon as we had our own place, I would plant jasmine myself. I started out with a little 5-gallon plant, and — in no time — the little thing spread all along our fence.  It blooms in late February and early March, starting out as a narrow bright-pink bloom, then bursting into a tiny white flower and sending out that glorious scent. As you can see from the photo, we’re only about halfway through the blooming season, so I get to enjoy that fragrance for quite some time.

The scent of jasmine will always remind me of the beginning of spring. …

Living a Full Life

A wrapup:

My grandma’s 90th birthday was a big success! She loved the album my parents and I put together for her:

And she blew out all her candles:

And a lot of extended family (including a niece, grand-niece, and great-grandniece) came in from Texas and Florida and Ohio. …

Then my parents, my aunts, uncle and Grandma all took off for Vegas the next day, where they met with even more family from Texas and Washington, D.C. and gambled together for days! (I, unfortunately, didn’t get to go to Vegas, but I heard it was fun!)

At the birthday party, I was struck (as I was with my other grandma, when we celebrated her 100th birthday!) with what wonderful and full lives these women have lived — through the depression, through WWII, in their little houses with their large families. I loved looking at the old pictures of them, with their kids and family gatherings, drinking punch in the living room with loads of cousins, or (in Grandma H’s case) camping and catching fish in kerchiefs with sisters, and laughing in all the pictures.

It’s the simplicity of their lives (and sometimes difficulty of their lives), combined with that joy, that always gets me.

It reminds me what a full life really looks like.

Having Trouble Watching Charlie Sheen

Well, first it just seemed arrogant and Hollywoodish — Charlie Sheen’s behavior, that is — but as the week has worn on, and he’s doing all these interviews (after his publicist quit, of course — what publicist would recommend these interviews?), I’m having more and more trouble watching him, because it feels like we’re watching a man self destruct on national television, and no one is stepping in to stop him. Specifically, it looks like we’re watching a man with manic depression (a.k.a. bipolar disorder), and no one is helping. In fact, the media is fueling him on.

The reason this all looks so familiar to me is my brother is bipolar. He went through depressive and manic phases when he was young, beginning when he was about 14 (depressive phase that went misdiagnosed and was chalked up to “being a teenager”), then he was finally diagnosed when he was 16ish (manic phase that was much like Charlie Sheen’s — delusional, feelings of grandioseness, paranoia, rapid talking, hyper-sexual, use of big words, irritability with everyone, zero sleep). My brother, in the manic phase, also became terribly creative — writing songs and “plays” in the middle of the night, which we found out later was a common characterist for creative manic-depressives caught in the throes of mania. Another common characteristic is shedding all your clothes — often in public or at any inappropriate time. My brother’s swings are about every two years — manic, then two years later depressive, then two years later manic, etc. — but every bipolar patient is different. The swings can vary wildly. And the manic phase feels very good to them — it feels like you’re high, my brother told me later. He said you feel so incredibly creative and smart and like you can write music/screenplays/lyrics/whatever forever. Because the manic phase feels so good, and they feel so productive, it’s hard to talk them into seeing someone to “help” (they don’t want, or feel they need, any “help” when they’re in the middle of the good-feeling mania). Continue reading

AAR’s New Top 100 Romances List Is Out!

Did I mention that AAR came out with their new Top 100 Romance List a few months ago? I’ve been working off a very old list — I think from 2005 — and carefully working my way down, reading as many of the books as I can to get a true sense of what’s popular in the romance world. I’ve almost covered the top 13 books on that old list, plus a smattering of about 15 books lower on the list from authors I fell in love with.

I must say, the list is outstanding. And following it is great fun. I’ve never been disappointed or stunned by any of the books in the top tiers. Since the list is compiled by masses of readers, I guess public opinion really shines through, and I find that all the recommendations are terrific. Since I only started reading romances about 7 years ago, I needed some direction (there are so many to choose from!), and that list really became an excellent road map for me, introducing me to several fun writers.

When the 2007 list came out, I rather ignored it, because I wanted to keep working down my old list in my methodical way, but now I think I’ll switch to the 2010 list. Many of the same books are on there, but also it includes many recent books that I’ve read or have wanted to read. (Nalini Singh, for instance, is on this newer list, and I’ve been wanting to read her for some time.)

So, without further ado, here’s the 2010 list. Continue reading

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