The Mystery of #ThrowbackThursday

Assigned by the #ClassicsChallenge2017 to read a children’s book, I opted for my one of my preteen favs: Nancy Drew. I have a few if the yellow 1960s-70s editions in my personal library. I’d hoped my daughter would read them one day, along with the Bobbsey Twins who also delighted me for many years. She wasn’t really interested in the “classic versions” of either of these books. There are, apparently, more modern editions of the titian-haired sleuth’s detecting.


I chose The Mystery of The Lilac Inn, originally published — believe it or not — in 1931. And curled up under a blanket with a cup of tea in hand, this book was a delightful throwback to my foray into mysteries.

Nancy — as always — stumbles upon something that seems like a ghost and turns out to be nothing like what you think it might be when the adventure begins. Her canoe is overturned by a puzzling jostle, leaving her wet and bedraggled on a trip to visit her dear soon-to-be-married friend at Lilac Inn. No sooner does she arrive but, diamonds disappear, cabins mysteriously burn, a strange impersonator steals her charge-plate and secret rooms are discovered. Of course Lilac Inn seems to be Haunted and no one finds that at all surprising. Just the way things are in Nancy Drew’s world.

I think what I enjoyed most about Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twin books is the cliffhanger at the end of every chapter. For a long time, I know I transferred that strategy into my own writing (and wished — wish? — to twist it into my own life too). Chapters always wrapped up with crashes of thunder, flashes of lightning, wicked villains wrecking havoc, Nancy or a friend hit on the head or exciting discoveries that encouraged the reader to turn that next page.  I have to admit that I secretly longed for these kind of exclamation point, exciting occurrences in my own life.

Nancy Drew mysteries always wrap up in Scooby-style. The darn titian blond (just what IS that color and who in the 30s had it naturally?) solved the crime in classic style while sporting some pink sheath dress and wrapping the culprit up neatly for local authorities. I’m so glad local authorities honored the insight of a young woman in the 30s! And that her Dad encouraged her and never seemed to be too concerned that his daughter was always getting roped into danger. These were never a straight-forward crimes either. The mysteries somehow generated more loose-ends than a string bikini and more characters that popped in and out than I could keep track of neatly. But somehow Nancy figured it out. Kudos and Bravo, I say.

But back to that Cliffhanger Chapter Closer thing. I think that was my favorite aspect of any Nancy Drew mystery. That writing method certainly made Nancy’s adventures  more compelling. Can you just imagine your own life including a Gasp! or a Hidden Passage! or a Kidnapping! or a Criminal Mastermind closing in!

Our daily lives don’t often include an Exclamation Point! when we wrap up a chapter. There are times I wish it did though. I’m adventurous, like Nancy. And it sure would add a little more excitement to the day-to-day routine. Pretty sure Nancy never got bored or restless ….

Maybe that’s why after all these years, I still enjoy Nancy Drew.

 — Jenni



Dear Lady Chatterley … It’s Me Not You

First assignment of #ClassicsChallenge2017 was a banned book. Cool right? A chance to read something that once upon a time was forbidden. I selected DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, “privately published” in Italy in 1928 but denied to the masses. When Penguin Books tried to release it in 1960, it was subject to an obscenity trial. (Double coolness!) So, when it officially hit the shelves, the PR alone helped it sell 3 Million copies, billing it as a notorious story about a physical (and emotional) relationship between a working class man and an upper-class woman. Class integration and explicit descriptions of sex as well as the use of then “unprintable words” made it the Fifty Shades of its time.

Despite the hype, I was left unsatisfied. But it wasn’t you, Lady C. I’m sure it was me. I wanted a little faster pace. Perhaps the timing was off. I’ve heard it said the attitude of the reader affects the response to a book. We all bring our life and our current state of mind into our reads. And in the slower pace of this current season of my own life, I found myself impatient with you. All your moping and whining turned me off. Oh, I know you aren’t happy. But, when you meet Oliver, it takes you so long to reignite your flame that I stopped caring. Maybe I’m unfeeling, but by Chapter 10, I really wanted to smack you. Bring on the action and the sex already! (Um, maybe I should have given this an R rating.) Anyway, the foreplay in this book teased me but left me unsatisfied and bored.

reading-a-bookWith Fifty Shades, I got average writing, but there was action. I’m not demanding and I don’t require instant gratification. I like to exercise my imagination. Yet despite initially interesting characters and some well-crafted observations that resonated, the tedious writing desperately called for a good editor. It left me with a plot that plodded until the romance was gone. Hence the break-up. I returned you Lady C, unfinished, to the Library.

Quick overview: Good opening paragraph (check it out!) Story begins with a woman raised to understand and appreciate her own sexuality. Dad wants his two daughters to enjoy a forward-thinking view of love, sex and womanhood. Then, the war happens and Constance, (the eventual Lady C) who has been sowing her wild oats in Germany, comes home and marries Sir Clifford Chatterley. He’s then shipped off to the War and comes home in pieces.

Fortunately — or unfortunately for Constance — they put the pieces back together but he is paralyzed from the waist down and … impotent. Newlyweds Constance and Clifford move North — away from the beauty of Yorkshire to his estate located in an industrial area. Clifford is full of himself and decides he will become a great writer, surrounding himself with people who give him props. Due to his injury, Constance struggles with his physical neglect. But it’s his emotional unavailability that breaks her further. Constance is bored and completely unstimulated. She meanders through her days, loses weight, and falls into depression.

Enter blue-collar guy Gamekeeper Oliver Mellors and we find out why the book was banned. The two breach that segregation of classes with a frank, never before so graphically presented sexual relationship. Constance violates class barriers AND further shocks readers by discovering she cannot live a satisfying life with the mind alone. She must also be alive physically. DH Lawrence flaunts the dangerous idea that real love can only be forged with a physical relationship — not simply one of the mind.

I recognize our generation prefers a fast-paced story. But I’m not typically like that demanding. And I didn’t mean to rush you, Lady C. I needed less moping and angst to connect with your story. Maybe, I should take you out again and try you as a Beach Read. Perhaps lounging and soaking in the warm rays of the sun in my bathing suit would make you more intriguing then you are in the dreary mid-Winter. Perhaps we will meet again. After all, you satisfied 3 Million readers in the ’60s, so there must be more to you than I discovered during our month together.

Because I could get no satisfaction and we just didn’t connect, I left you. My fault, clearly. Me, not you. I wish you the best.

                                                                                                                        — Jenni







The Lush Life

A response to a writing challenge:

During the transitional moments of our days, the moments where our thoughts stray or drift away from the mundane routine, we ponder and reflect on days past where it was simpler, easier, perhaps even better. We daydream and fantasize and glorify times and relationships that have drifted away.

It was better then, we say, during our Lush Life. The Magic of Christmas was always present. The rush of shopping was fun and done in lavishly decorated shops with the help of knowledgeable sales clerks. The gatherings with family and friends were rosy and full of great conversation. Our social outings were spontaneous and exciting. The good old days hold a golden glow in our minds.

Was it ever that way? Was it ever that good? When we only had 5 TV Channels and a record player — or AM/FM Radio — to entertain us, was life better? When our phone wasn’t a life-line to the world, did we have enough information? When we weren’t conditioned to post and check Facebook, Twitter, Messaging, Instagram and SnapChat every few minutes, did we have true friends?

When every news story didn’t begin with Trump said/Trump did/Trump tweeted, was our quality of life sweeter?

When we played outdoors more on swing-sets with neighborhood friends, disappearing after school and only returning for meals, did we live more fully? When the only way we could find our friends was to speak to them on a phone or face to face, were relationships easier to manage? Were we more connected? Did we nurture our friendships with greater respect and care?

Were we kinder to each other when we didn’t have texts, messaging or emails to  make us anonymous and make meanness easier?

Before social media made us unsocial and disconnected us with the people who matter most, condensing conversations and thoughts to a 140 character tweet, was that the Lush Life?


via Daily Prompt: Lush

Hope Shines Brightest in the Darkness

A friend of mine has an annual tradition of selecting a Word each January 1 as the theme of her “new year.” Now, I don’t believe in resolutions. I believe in setting intentions and working to realize goals. But, she inspired me — as she often does. And this year, I felt moved to do the same.

I mulled over it for several days. I mean, this was the word for my year. And once selected, it had to have staying power. A couple ideas popped into my mind. But there was one Word that showed up more than others.


So, I set my word. And as part of my 2017 Theme, I wore something white (or winter white since I consider cream to be white) every day in January. Just my way of wiping the slate clean and shining in what I consider to be the darkest month of the year.

For the first week or so, my spirits were high. After all, I had Hope. In every situation, I was able to find a hopeful element, something to hold onto. Now, don’t mistake this as my saying I had it all together, nothing went wacky or every aspect of my life was perfect blah blah blah. But, I was able to cultivate Hope in something and nurture it deep inside myself.

But, tossing out a word like Hope to the universe is like daring it to thwart you. It’s like asking for Patience and realizing the only way you develop Patience is by managing a lot of crap and negative stuff to find your strength and calm amidst it all. Hope is like that. Pretty soon I realized this might be trickier than I originally thought. Stuff started flying my way and I began to feel ill-equipped to handle it. My Hope started to waver.

But I held on because I recognized that Hope is like that. It attracts gloom and despair.  Then, Hope sheds light on those shadows in the corner … the doubts, fears, struggles and losses you’d prefer to ignore because they cause discomfort. But you know what I’ve discovered during the past 39 days? Hope shines brightest in the darkness.

A little candle flame cannot be seen in the light of day. Its strength reveals itself in the blackest hours of the night or in those times you are in the corner struggling with your personal shadows. The light of Hope shines the most brilliant on sad days, amidst lonely rainy moments where you feel abandoned, scared, uncertain, weary or alone and during the times you experience frustration, loss, fear, self-doubt and anxiety.

It’s easy to hold on to Hope when everything is going your way. But when it doesn’t … when you read about injustice in a local jail, when the Senate approves a nomination you dread, when a friend suffers from a terrible illness or worries about the future of their family in today’s precarious international environment, when you see unkindness all around you … or in those personal moments of gloom when you struggle with day-to-day “stuff,” when you feel rejected, restless and unfocused or when you just can’t seem to find your joy, that’s when the flame of Hope shines brightest. Hope gives you the strength to believe in something beyond your own self.

Hope does not promise me a rose garden or guarantee that there won’t be shadows along my path this year. It doesn’t say I will have an easy go of it in 2017. It doesn’t mean my little flame of Hope won’t struggle on windy, rainy, cold or difficult days. But, it provides me a focal point that helps me cultivate strength to deal with challenging, difficult people and times, as well as the emotions they stir in me. Hope sparks and rises in the darkness.

Of course, there are still those moments when I question everything. When my own personal shadows threaten to rise up and drown my little light. I’m shaken to my core and wonder what difference it makes if I throw in the towel and allow despair and doubt to take me down the river.After all, what can my little light do anyway?

And that’s when I hear it … A still small voice whispering in my ear.

Ah, my child … but that’s the point.  That’s why we chose Hope as your word. Now … let’s get on with it.                                                                                                                                      – Jenni


Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words  –

And never stops  – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird –

That kept so many warm – .

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity

It asked a crumb – of me.

– Emily Dickinson #314

Why the Fascination with La La Land?

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the film and hope to remain surprised, do not read further. Return (please) after you too have experienced this hit sensation … your feedback is encouraged. 

It begins with a song and dance sequence. 150 dancers braving 110 degree Hollywood Heat on a sun-drenched concrete ramp between the 105 and 110 freeways, leaping and spinning from their traffic-jammed cars in joyful ecstacy. They don carefree smiles, abandoning their vehicles for a spin with strangers without a backward glance.

That’s how my morning begins … with a musical number. How about you? And in LA? Really? Bumper to bumper traffic, yes. A happy song and dance on a swelteringly hot day in a traffic jam, um, not so much.

But … the first hook was thrown. Something just different enough to be Intriguing. One Point for La La Land.

So the film begins with a carefree “opening number.” And, they have something in common, these drivers. Dreams and Hope.

Enter our two protagonists, driving the only two unaffected cars. These two characters behave like normal, annoyed, California drivers … there’s a pulsing honk and a middle finger flipped as the harried driver Sebastian (aka Ryan Gossling) revs by the distracted driver  Mia (aka Emma Stone).

There’s the second hook, and we didn’t even see it coming. Fantasy and reality mixed artfully together to catch us off guard and draw us in. The Hollywood Hopeful and the Jazz Purist with a Dream. And they aren’t perfect heroes. They each have an edge to their personality. It’s a well-used plot in a theatrical setting, so, again I ask, why does this film have so many in its thrall?

Perphaps its the blend … Amidst the traditionally, popular classic Hollywood musical design, Damien Chazelle weaves a believable story with two genuine individuals. Note: This isn’t a commentary on acting or singing or who deserves the Oscar. It’s simply recognition that zany unrealism and two real people create a diverting film experience.

La La Land is all glittery and sparkle and fake. But Mia and Sebastian — their Hopes and Dreams and the frustrations they encounter — they are real!

Mia auditions and auditions (been there/done that/I can relate). She is thwarted, ignored, dismissed and declined. Seb dreams of opening a true jazz club. He has a specific location in mind but no cash flow — and an attitude. Being true to his art isn’t enough to pay the bills. Feeling like a failure in not only his eyes but Mia’s as well, he surrenders his Dream for a regular paycheck. He compromises. Meanwhile, Mia supports him as best she can but keeps fighting for her Dream to Act.

Many of us can relate to one or both of these “characters.” We put ourselves out there and get shown the door. We open our hearts and get rejected. We adjust our dreams and settle instead of continuing to fight toward our true aspirations. We reach for the stars, dancing among them for a time, but must descend back to earth when the sun rises.

In an elegant effort to be true to her self, Mia writes and stages her own play. It’s her dream moment and despite seemingly endless touring commitments, Seb promises to be there for her. Oh, we all know what’s bound to happen. We see it coming. Seb gets roped into (or … allows himself to be ropped into??) a photo shoot and is unable to reach the theatre on time. He misses her performance. He breaks Mia’s heart. She’s done. Done with La La Land and him. She leaves and goes home.

Seb stays. I mean for all intents and purposes, he made it. He got the “golden apple,” his name on the record and a place on tour before thousands of fans. But the sacrifice of his Dream, and the fact that he lost his love along the way, gives it a bitter taste. So when the call comes in with an opportunity for Mia, he gets excited! He sets their differences aside and brings her back. And, we’re all drawn in for Mia’s final audition.

Sebastian and Mia love each other. That much is clear. But, this is La La Land where idealized images, music and real life are blended together. We’ve seen that from the beginning. And even with a score underlying it, real life doesn’t always live up to the drama in the movies.

The ending of La La Land is much disputed. Some like it. Some get it. Some hate it. But as Mia says in her audition song, life is messy. When you jump in the Seine, sometimes you catch a cold. But, despite that, the question you have to ask yourself is … would you do it again?

La La Land delivers lovely imagery is grounded in truth. That’s the final hook. See, the story is timeless … it’s about giving and taking, winning and losing, sacrificing and growing. It’s about Dreaming, Hoping and Loving. And, in the end, sometimes Love isn’t strong enough. Sometimes the happily ever after you get isn’t the one you expect. But when the film ends, both seem happy with their lives. Mia became a film actress with a handsome husband and beautiful daughter while Seb opened that pure jazz bistro.

La La Land gives us Hope for our Dreams and Escape from the Dramas of the day and the world. It’s clever and pretty. But in the end, life in La La Land is not all glitter and sparkle. The film reminds us that we may have to adjust and make sacrifices. We might lose the people we love along the way. We are all fools but Life is messy.

And that closing dream song and dance sequence which highlights the Might Have Been Moment — the one people debate as they exit the theatre — that’s the final Hook.


“Here’s to the ones who dream. Foolish as they may seem. Here’s the hearts that ache. Here’s to the mess we make.”