On “The Notebook” and Books The Make Me Cry

A friend of mine suggested I read Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. I recoiled immediately. See, I don’t read books that make me cry. I read books that take me on fantastic adventures, epics and fantasies, science fiction and faerie tales, mysteries and historical fiction, biographies and non-fiction (occasionally) and classics. But I draw the line at books that cause tears.

But, there I was at the used bookstore in Caseville, a selection of reading options before notebookme, and I found myself browsing tales written by Nicholas Sparks. My father has read everything Sparks has written, which encouraged me a bit. Before I realized it, I reached out for the movie-covered paperback version of this book that was the New York Times bestseller for over a year.

It sat in my car for a while, teasing me and daring me to open it. So, this holiday season when my emotions and sentimentality were already flaring, I decided it was time. So, there I was on the day after Christmas settling into my chair with the book in hand.

I was drawn in quickly. The book quotes poetry … Whitman, Keats and others. I adore Whitman. I don’t memorize poetry often, with the exception of James Whitcomb Riley. But To A Stranger and Captain, My Captain have always moved me and inspired my spirit. Early in the story, Noah quotes him. A guy who reads and quotes poetry in a book written by a guy?  I was hooked.

This is thy hour, O Soul, the free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lessons done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,

Night, sleep, death and stars.

There is a lyrical quality to the writing, not sure if this is true of all Sparks’ books, but this one truly captivated my heart as the story is poetry in itself. There are beautifully crafted thoughts and images that take me to New Bern, NC and create a very vivid impression of the house and the porch. The words connected me to the characters in an artful way.

In terms of plot, the story begins towards the end: a man in love daily sharing words he preserved about a life led in a Notebook he has written that he reads daily to the woman he clearly adores. (Another turn on – a guy writing a journal with a love story in it too!) Anyway, as you turn the pages, you think you know who they are, but you aren’t quite sure.  You are hopeful though, so you keep reading. And you find out that this woman (Spoiler Alert Here as if there is anyone but me who hasn’t read this book or seen the movie) has been stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Though I anticipated it, I almost abandoned the book here. You see, I lost my Grandfather to this horrible disease nearly 20 years ago and it still affects me, the marks red as though struck only days ago. It’s an awful disease. However, I read on.

I immersed my sentimental, romantic spirit in a beautiful, timeless love story. I found myself dog-earring pages and notebook-soulsunderlining quotes that touched me, re-reading them over and over before moving on. Such love. Such passion. Such struggle. And there are details along with emotional content applied with brush strokes to a canvas in a way I rarely experience.

Then, as I drew nearer to the end of the story, it happened. The tears began to flow. Even as I think of the final pages, I get choked up. I guess Noah had it right when he said “Poets often describe love as an emotion we can’t control, one that overwhelms logic and common sense.” But in this book, something rare and beautiful was created. Something that can survive time, distance, separation and a horrible sickness simply because two souls connected.

In a time where connections and relationships of all types are difficult and challenged — when people are all charged up — this little book was a reminder that love is strong. That love is patient and understanding. That separation is not always goodbye forever but a farewell ’til souls meet again — or until the time is right to reunite those souls.  Friends, family members, children, acquaintances who live far away, loved ones … it doesn’t matter. Souls connected are just … Connected for always.

So, The Notebook made me cry. But, I’m glad I read it anyway.

If you haven’t read it and you can prepare yourself for surges of emotion and poetry, well, I challenge you to pick it up. It’s a classic tale of love and it won’t take you long to reach those final pages.

But it will take you on a wonderful adventure and remind you that passion is ageless AND timeless.

                                                                                                                               — Jenni


All That Glitters … December Musings Part Two

I get Sentimental and Reflective during the Holidays. It starts at Thankgiving, continuing thru Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I have Traditions during these “Holiday Seasons” that bring me Joy and Tears. There’s this Stephen Curtis Chapman Christmas song that touches me so deeply it makes me weep. And amidst all my crazy outings and web site searches for just the right present for everyone on my list, I think about Christmases past as well as friends and family members near and far — and those special people who’ve departed this earth for a new adventure.

For me, Christmas isn’t the brightly wrapped packages, though I do enjoy them. It’s about a greater Gift than something found under a Tree.  It’s about Love and Connecting to those dear to me. I think about the Swiss Cheese my Uncle David used to bring and the great hugs he gave, the Slippers my Gram made me, the smell of my Grandfather’s pipe and that personal Coconut Cream pie my Grandmother made. I think about the Ray Conniff Singers and sneaking downstairs to listen to the GrownUps play Tripoly. And I think about waiting on the stairs to come down and see what Santa brought.

Every Christmas for the past 17 years I’ve visited Santa at the Somerset Collection with at least one of my kids. Afterward, I write an email note and send it with that year’s photo. I have a dear friend — my Albion “big brother” — who tells me how much he looks forward to that letter. It’s truly the only time we Connect all year long. It’s a Special moment when I see his email pop up in my In Box … to hear how he’s doing — how is family is doing.

I have other Traditions like that … I’m sure we all do. And they aren’t about ribbons or packages. They are about the people I share Time with.

So many people come and go quickly. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same — a quote from Flavia I discovered during my Kappa Alpha Theta years at Albion College. But that quote has a part three. See, some of those people leave deep footprints, shape us, and perhaps … though we don’t want them to … eventually choose to move on down their path.

The Gifts these people give us may come in glittery wrapping paper and become treasures of the heart. I have at least three bracelets made up of black and creme plastic beads. My son gave them to me when he was four or five. He cashed in prize tokens at GameWorks for them. Pretty sure they were made in Japan … the lettering on the beads gives me that impression.

I have other items like those bracelets … a sparkly ring my daughter bought at her school Santa’s Workshop  a now tarnished charm I added to a silver chain given to me by a friend after a play we did together, a “cruise director” Boyd’s Bear my brother and sister-in law gave me — guess that means I’m their favorite social director, letters from girls I performed with and a doll their mom made me, a play which a friend wrote and gave me, and a very out of date ski sweater given to me by my husband.

I still wear the bracelets. And the ring and necklace. Heck, I still wear that sweater — it’s super warm and looks good with leggings now that I removed the mega shoulder pads. The Cruise Director sits on my desk while the Maria doll has a place on my dresser. I read the play and the letters from time to time. Each of these items reminds me of times past and special people who’ve made a difference in my life.

Each of these items means something to me. Each of them tells a story and has value. I have gifts that come with “stories,” making them all the more relevant to me years later. They may not arrive in sparkly packages or boast ribbons and bows, but they brighten my heart and I treasure them.

When it comes to Christmas shopping, I work from lists.  I have the lists that were given to me. But, I prefer to select on my own, honestly. I like to come up with creative ways to show those dear to me how well I know them … Selecting something not specifically asked for is my way of shopping without a net! Dangerous, yes. But very rewarding when you see that look in their eye as they open something chosen just for them.

Only a few days remain before Christmas. My mind drifts to the people who’ve left Footprints on my heart. Some remain near and I enjoy them today. Some I see only rarely. Some have moved out of my life and I miss them. But … They are no less a part of me today than they were during those days we hung out together.

If you have people like that, take time to remind them that they give Meaning to your life. That they Gave Meaning once. Remind them that though you may not spend Time together anytime soon, that does negate the impact they have had on your life. And, because of their very Simple Gift of Self, you will never, ever be the same again.

All that Glitters is not wrapping paper.

Huh … now that I think of it, that IS the Meaning of Christmas …

Merry Christmas to All … God Bless Us Every One ………….. Jenni


All That Glitters is not just Silver & Gold: December Musings

It’s December. There is snow on the ground and flakes falling from the sky. I have a list a mile long and my shoulders are tense as I contemplate the things left to do. It’s chilly outside. My toes are more than a little cold. But more significantly, today is the day I am ringing the bells for the Salvation Army outside the Royal Oak Post Office.

This day is very special to me. I do this every December. It’s a day that reminds me that others are not so fortunate as I … it’s a day I set aside to work to give those individuals a little bit of holiday joy. It’s a day I try and offer that same cheer to people I’ve never met and will most likely never see again. As I ring the bell, I offer a bit of healing light to those who pass by me … a little bit of Christmas spirit to brighten their day.

I ring the bell constantly as I stand there. I want others to hear the call. And I smile. I have my Christmas Playlist shuffling on my iPhone with earbuds in. It’s playing just loud enough to entertain me through the constant jingle of that brass bell, occasionally adding to my rhythm. But it’s not loud enough that I can’t speak to the people who walk up those steps to mail their cards, letters and packages.

Many who enter the post office have long faces. The rush of the season gets to them like it gets to me. I swear I have an Anxiety attack for the first week or so of December every year. The pressure, shopping, traffic, decorating, baking, lists of projects, hassle and stress of selecting just the right thing for everyone on my list gets to me. And I lose focus on what is truly significant about this time of year.

People … Love … and the Redeeming Gift of Grace.

I can’t offer Grace. But, as I ring the bell, I offer a bit of myself and the love, light and healing energy that is a part of me. I bestow it like a shield around them. How do I do that? I smile. I speak gentle, hopeful, welcoming words to all — even if they don’t put loose change or dollars in the red bucket. I try to remind them that there is a merry, healing Sparkle around them when I wear my Disney Princess Santa Hat with his silver glittery snowflakes and hot pink glow.

One more thing … I say Merry Christmas to everyone who passes by me. Some utter it in return. Some nod. Some say nothing. But, I reach out … and that is my Gift.

There’s a lot of Darkness in the world … especially after the grueling election that polarized this nation in 2016. Enough of that. Now is a time of healing. I don’t care who you voted for or what your politics are. This season is about Hope and a Promise.

The Present wrapped in shiny paper is not the Gift I seek … it’s Time with the people important to me. What Glitters in my Heart is the Laughter we’ve shared, the Conversations I replay in my mind, the Touch of a Hand or a Hug, the Smile you gave me as we left each other. The Gift I long for most comes not with a bow but with Moments and Memories … in the Message that reminds me that we are important to each other no matter how far away or how limited our Moments Together might be.

The bell glitters off the sunlight as I ring it. The change falling into the Red Bucket is brighter than the decorations hung around the town. The smiles — when they come my way — give me something back. And today, I found more joy than I can say when a nice gentleman bought me a Peppermint Mocha. This gesture warmed me to my frozen toes … a reminder of selfless acts of kindness.

Yes, I still have a list and many things to do. But today I work for those who I don’t know and who will never know me.  The Bell I hold isn’t Silver or Gold. But it has value to me. And it will bring Joy to the World.

— Jenni