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  • Review of Home by Marilynne Robinson

    HomeHome by Marilynne Robinson
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson so much. The review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....

    But with Home, I had a different experience. I wasn't compelled through most of the book. At about the three-quarter mark, things started to happen and I felt my interest quicken. But here's a summary of my impressions, and my apologies to those who loved it so much they recommended it to me:

    1. I was disappointed to see this other, peevish, nasty side of Rev. Ames.
    2. I didn't like the Rev. Boughton very much at all.
    3. Jack is tedious and pathetic.
    4. Glory almost breaks free but then doesn't.

    Robinson really makes me wait for it, building my conflict between compassion and resentment for Jack. And just when I lose faith in him, there's a scene where the old misogynist/bigot Rev. Boughton asks to see Jack and his brother together in his room, and Jack insists Glory be included. As if he sees her as an equal to the men, rather than just the servant her father expects.

    In this, I felt Jack himself was a Rorschach test for the reader, in that while he seems almost feral, a man born without skin with which to hide himself from the world, easily wounded and always untrusting, you want to abandon him, but can you? If so, who are you? What are your values - what are your limits?

    So now Glory has decided to stop being codependent with her "fiancé", and switch her ministrations and self-sacrifice to her dying father and her feral brother. This is an arc? This is growth? What is Robinson's meaning, at the end of the story, when Glory decides to stay in a town she has said she hates, in a house she agrees to preserve as a monument/mausoleum to the family? It can only be read as failure to respect oneself in favor of service to others! This troubles me deeply.

    I apologize for the length of this next excerpt, but I have to reproduce it, because it's so telling:

    "(Glory) had tried to take care of (Jack), to help him, and from time to time he had let her believe she did. That old habit of hers, of making a kind of happiness for herself out of the thought that she could be his rescuer, when there was seldom much reason to believe that rescue would have any particular attraction for him. That old illusion that she could help her father with the grief Jack caused, the grief Jack was, when it was as far beyond her power to soothe or mitigate as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. She had been alone with her parents when Jack left, and she had been alone with her father when he returned. There was a symmetry in that that might have seemed like design to her and beguiled her with the implication that their fates were indeed intertwined. Or returning herself to that silent house might simply have returned her to a s state of mind more appropriate to her adolescence. A lonely schoolgirl at thirty-eight. Now, there was a painful thought.

    "She recalled certain moments in which she could see that Jack had withdrawn from her and was looking through or beyond her, making some new appraisal of her trustworthiness, perhaps, or her usefulness, or simply and abruptly losing interest in her together with whatever else happened just then...She found no consistency in these moments, nothing she could interpret. He was himself. That is what their father had always said, and by it he had meant that Jack was jostled along in the stream of (the family's) vigor and purpose and their good intentions, their habits and certitudes, and was never really a part of any of it. He had eaten their food and slept beneath their roof, wearing the clothes and speaking the dialect of their slightly self-enamored and distinctly clerical family..."

    God! Who hasn't known people like this - men like this, children like this - who take and take and take from an ever-hopeful spouse or family and yet never seem quite able to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or happy! When all the sacrificial loving family member ever wants is for that feral person to be happy. Or at least safe.

    Like I said, Rorschach.

    And in this, I have to admit, Robinson delivers again, most profoundly, in pulling back the curtains and showing us, right down to the faint beat of a pulse along a pale wrist, the impact on a family of such a lone wolf. Not that the wolf doesn't suffer. Not that we don't all feel empathy as we struggle to surface from this mire, gulping and gasping air, sorry for Glory who remains below, yet intent on saving ourselves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

    The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    After reading some of the reviews, I felt a bit off-kilter, as if I'm seeing something that wasn't intended by the author.

    Nevertheless, here's my impression: this story is about a man who, because of his physical limitations, resists closeness with other people, to the point that he marries a woman who seems certain to want the same, arm's length relationship. It's only after she dies that he begins to sense that he was wrong about that. During the grieving process, he comes to realize he's been living an arm's-length life.

    I love stories about people who come out of a fog and change their lives, empowered by the realization that they've been missing something important - that their reasoning was flawed, but it doesn't have to remain that way. And Anne Tyler is such a great wordsmith, anything she writes is wonderful. This book is perhaps a bit too subtle to win the raving applause it deserves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

    Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    As I read Lean In, I was intrigued at being able to get inside the head of a dynamic, smart woman who is one generation younger than me, and see the corporate world through her eyes. One of the cultural questions she answered for me was this: why are younger women so averse to the terms "feminist" and "feminism"? Apparently, Sheryl Sandberg and her contemporaries believe(d) the following:

    1. Equality having arrived, there's no need for feminism anymore
    2. Feminists are man-haters who resist makeup and the shaving of one's legs

    Okay, #2 was a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, having observed conditions in the real world for a few years now, Sandberg has come to see that the playing field is not and will not be level until more women occupy positions of power in the corporate hierarchy. She doesn't suggest that this is due to any malicious intent on the part of men, but rather it's simply a matter of ignorance.

    To illustrate, she describes having to park far away from her office door when hugely and uncomfortably pregnant. When she designated preferred parking spots to accommodate pregnant workers, no one complained. It was seen as logical. But prior to her taking her place in the C-suite, the issue hadn't been raised.

    Sandberg talks about not slowing down out of consideration for what might happen in the nebulous future. The example she gives, now famous, is of a young woman confiding her fears of not wanting to accept a job with a lot of responsibility due to the impact it might have on her family. The woman was planning ahead - she didn't even have a boyfriend yet.

    With this example, Sandberg makes the point that women, having been highly trained and educated, are waving off promotional opportunities. The jury is still out as to why, but she suggests, and I agree, that part of the reason is this: in corporate America, a woman's decision to go through pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and child-rearing is viewed as a private matter that should not impact her ability to work long hours and irregular schedules, including lengthy and frequent travel as needed. Rightly fearing this may drive her insane, a woman who wants a family may leap off the corporate ladder at a very early stage.

    Sandberg argues that if a young woman stayed on it long enough to secure a more powerful position, she would be able to exert more control over her work life (a perspective the young woman must trust will happen, since at her current low place on the corporate ladder she can only see her lack of power and control.) After a few promotions, she will be able to delegate some of her work to subordinates, afford more help at home, and influence workplace policies that unfairly impact women and families. Who can find fault with this argument?

    Sandberg is honest about her own mistakes, and I found that charming. For example, I was amazed that, for all her intelligence and education, she didn't originally intend to negotiate her starting salary with Facebook. Luckily a nice man (her husband) set her straight, and she made a counter offer to Zuckerberg. Reams of guidance have been written about how this error could have impeded her in later years, both at Facebook and with future employers, yet she didn't know. For other women who have not yet made this horrifying discovery, please read Ask for It by Babcock and Laschever (http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Women-Power...) which in addition to being enlightening and entertaining, offers tons of strategies for preparing yourself to negotiate. And not just for salaries. After reading that book I saved $150 on furniture I was going to buy anyway, by asking one question.

    But back to Lean In.

    I was also surprised that she wasn't well informed about how women can sabotage other women in the workplace, particularly women in power. This is an unfortunate truth with roots in biology, and is brilliantly explained in the amazing book, In the Company of Women by Heim and Murphy (http://www.amazon.com/Company-Women-I...) which I reviewed here:
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... This also suggests the reasons Sandberg was hit with such a backlash for the well-intentioned Lean In.

    There is so much more to say about Lean In, but let me close with this: I enjoyed learning how this stellar corporate executive struggled, made mistakes, and ultimately learned some strategies that will enable her, her family, and the women (and men) in her corporation to thrive. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's not even pretty, but part of the lesson is to let go of the need for perfection.

    The other message, younger women, is to get as far and as fast as you can before starting your families. Don't opt out just because it looks too hard from where you're sitting now. The view improves with each rung on the ladder.

    View all my reviews

What Social Media Do You Use?

I listened to a podcast today about social media as a marketing tool for small business. The two young guys explained it all very well, but they kept snickering about how “even grandmas are using it now.” It being Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Skype, or YouTube, or Google+.

And it kind of pissed me off.

Because I’m a grandmother. Beyond that, I’m a former webmaster, I have two blogs, I’m active on eight social networking sites, I get my morning news online and I know my way around a Kindle. I teach a class for new bloggers and I was just asked by a national women’s organization to develop a webinar on social networking. Seems the membership wants to learn how to promote their artistic and literary works online. I’m pretty sure they’re all grandmas too.

Ah, well. I’m not going to fret over the young guys. I have a more important mission, and I’m hoping you can help me. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably from the middle-aged-and-older demographic I so cherish. Would you do me a favor and tell me what social media do you use? I would appreciate it, and it will help me develop my class for that same demographic.

Thanks so very much.

My mom on the computer with Bill.
Leave a comment


  1. Rae

     /  December 2, 2011

    Facebook & LinkedIn are the two I use. I also enjoy creating websites for friends.

  2. Rae

     /  December 2, 2011

    I am going to be 69 years old in March 2012. I am busier and more focused than ever. Say Hi to those “young boys”~

  3. Linda Fox

     /  December 2, 2011

    I’m not a grandma yet but I’ve been learning and using technology since those boys were in their Huggies. And they kind of piss me off too. Today I read the NY Times, did some shopping, set up a flight and sent off a few messages to friends – and it’s just 7 am. So they can eat my dust! Social tools I use include Facebook, LinkedIn, and GoodReads. I also use LivingSocial and Groupon when I find good deals in my area that I would actually use.

    • Linda, you sound like my kind of person. I had a laptop before Windows was invented. It was all DOS. Looked like a metal suitcase!

  4. First off, I think the photo of your mom is completely adorable. While I do I use Facebook and Twitter, but at a very basic level. I have a blog, but I don’t do anything fancy with it (like manipulating photos or sjping videos), as I see some bloggers do. I created a LinkdIn account, but I have no idea what to do with it. I use a Kindle. I text (only to respond to someone else’s text). So the answer is that while I use social media, I don’t feel that I am using anything it as productively as I should be. I think classes like your will be invaluable for people.

  5. Whoops, the second sentence should read “While I do use Facebook and Twitter, I do so at a very basic level.”

  6. I’m not a grandma, mostly because I have no kids. But I could be if I did. I actively use Facebook and occasionally LinkedIn. Plus I’m a beginning blogger mostly because I want to write and engage creatively. For which national women’s organization will you be teaching a webinar?

  7. I’m not a grandmother yet, but I could be, so I know what you mean. I’m a relatively new blogger who will celebrate her one year anniversary of blogging at the end of December. In the first months of blogging I reached out to other bloggers for advice. One established blogger, in our demographic, told me I needed to come to grips with the fact that I was “too old” to be successful as a blogger and no would would care what I had to say. Wow! In spite of her comments I persevere. I use Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, LinkediIn and Pinterest.

    • Donna, that’s appalling! And the blogger was IN that demographic in the first place. Talk about protecting territory.
      I’ll have to check out Pinterest. I’m seeing more and more about it.

  8. So, we have become our parents. I thought I knew so much more than them once upon a time and did my share of snickering. Wonderful Mom photo. I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, my blog, and that ancient standby — email.

    • Thanks, Linda. She’s as sweet as her picture, too. Re your comments about becoming our parents, I feel that way when I see boys with their pants too low (in my high school the mark of “individuality” was to expose about the top three inches of your boxer shorts) or hear rap/hip hop. I don’t like it, but then I remember how much Mom and Dad HATED Led Zeppelin, etc.

  9. here goes: twitter, facebook-personal and professional pages-linkedIn, Squido.com, Stumble on, triiibes.com & one or 2 more but these are the one’s i use with some regularly—
    as for the ‘grandma’ reference-young adults have been saying that forever–
    someone’s got to be old in their eyes and we’re it—-in our eyes, our moms are old…and so it goes…:)
    plus, youngsters are competing with us for jobs-a FIRST! and some of them resent it—historically, by the time you reach our age group, the need for jobs is nil—not any longer so in that way, i kinda do understand their bias…

  10. I laugh because when I was those boys age I was just as shocked and skeptical when I met someone over 30 who knew about Ziggy Stardust or how to use a Walkman! Kids will be kids, and when I get peeved with them I remember it’s payback for my arrogant youth, but best of all, they’ll be “old” someday too, which is the best payback!

    My most regular SM outlets are Facebook and Twitter. Goodreads, Shelfari, too, if they count.

    • BCT, I like Goodreads too but can’t do it justice. And here you are on TWO book-discussion sites. I hadn’t heard of Shelfari.com but I checked out their site and it looks interesting.

    • BCT, re: arrogance, ‘Aint’ that the truth–!!! i remember that time in my life when i really did think i knew just a little bit more than most—seriously, i remember….

  11. lol! This Grandma uses Facebook for social netowrking, Linkedin for professional networking, wordpress for blogging, and when I can find the time (in my “semi-retired” boring (yeah right) old folks life) will explore others! Methinks your “young podcasters” picked on the wrong group! lol!

  12. You go granny!!! Sounds like you could show those young whipper snappers a thing or too. I attempt to use Blogger, Twitter & Facebook when those blasted teenagers I teach don’t get in the way!! ha ha But unlike you, I am a social media klutz!

  13. Lynne, there for a bit, I thought you were going to get your rant on. We Grannies can do that, you know. This Grannie uses Facebook, twitter and Google plus. I have to keep it simple since I am still learning. You inspire me!

  14. Pat and Ann, and to all my friends who answered my question, I’m so grateful, but also proud! You guys rock! We are definitely are moving into the 21st century with minds afire. What an exciting time to be alive.

  15. Hey,Lynne, remember me, the one who raised her hand in Cincinnati and questioned(naively!) why on earth I would ever need to be on twitter or facebook, and waht is this social media stuff anyway~blah,blah,blah. Well, I’m eating those words and this granny/boomer/retiree is twittering/blogging/google+-ing, StumblingOn, and to a lesser degree Facebooking,LinkingIn,Good Reading. And watch out for my first You Tube video on an upcoming blogpost. We grannies can do anything we set our minds to and those two younguns need to watch out! 🙂

    • Kathy, do you ever find yourself spending more time social netting than actually writing? I do, all the time. It’s more fun, quicker and response is instantaneous! But therein lies the danger. It’s addictive.

    • re: you tube, I forgot to mention that i live there…:)…which brings me to this—ladies, if you want to add video to your social media presence, please consider posting a 3 minute video on my vlog for women over 45 called Me Quiet? You’re Kidding, Right? it’s fun, it’s free and gives you another outlet to PROMOTE what you do or how you feel about an issue or…check out the site for suggested topics–
      http://www.womenover45SPEAK.com…Our Any shiny thing hostess already has!

  16. Oh yes, Lynne,it’s a constant battle. I blogged about this very thing a while back “Taming the Social Media Beast” It is addictive( and more fun) and has taken a concerted effort on my part to keep myself focused. Some days are better than others. Carving out actual writing time is always a challenge. Dan Blank has an excellent post this week on this very topic: “Should Writer’s Focus on the Craft of Writing or Building an Audience” that I just forwarded to you http://wegrowmedia.com/should-writers-focus-on-the-craft-of-writing-or-building-their-audience/. Takeaway for me: “You don’t build a legacy based on intentions,but rather on actions” Amen!

  17. Thanks Kathy! I need to take a few of his classes. Thanks for the link!

  18. Lynne-you’ve got a ‘hot’ blog here—-have you set up a google alert so that others blogging about this kind of content can find you? …and you can find them–? if not, i encourage you to set one up–just google ‘Google alerts’–it’s easy to set up-
    good stuff here–fun to visit and that’s KEY!

    • Marla, I have alerts set up for my blog, my name, and the word Boomers. But I can’t seem to track back when I get an alert on the first two. I’ll have to get under the hood again. Thanks for the reminder and the nice compliments! (My head’s getting so big you can probably see it from Montecito. Say hi to your neighbor Oprah from me!)

  19. PS to everybody: I’ve found that YouTube has about every tutorial you could ever need or want. For ex. my shower door leaks. That thingy on the bottom that’s supposed to catch the water is loose. I searched on YouTube and found out that not only does the thingy have a name (drip rail) but there’s a guy telling you how to replace it. Have you used YouTube this way yet? (My 33-yr-old son gave me the idea. He’s a budding handyman and finds a lot there.)

  20. Hi Lynne. Unlike the majority of your polling friends, I don’t do Twitter or Facebook. I run my own Web Design business and write (when I can); I also maintain two blogs (one personal, one professional). I’m sandwiched between a college–aged son and an 85-year-old parent (both of whom still need me). It’s not that I’m 100% opposed to doing more socially — it’s just that there are only 24 hours in a day and try as I have, I can’t stretch that any more! As it is, I fear that too often, I let my “hobbies” and housework slide in favor of blogging!

  21. Hey Lynne,

    I use Facebook to connect with friends and family. Twitter and Linkedin I use as a marketing tool and for ‘gig’ searching. I have NY times on my iphone and can text with the best of them. I’ve become less tech savvy than I was a few years ago, but I tend to pick and choice more carefully about what I want learn about and not waste precious energy on. 🙂


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  • Lynne Spreen

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  • my read shelf:
    Lynne Spreen's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
  • Review of Private Life by Jane Smiley

    Private LifePrivate Life by Jane Smiley
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Maybe this book is better than my capacity to appreciate. I don't tend toward writing that is obscure, or dense (or makes me feel dense). However, sometimes it's better to roll along with the storytelling and let the deeper meaning work its way up from subconscious to conscious.

    The ending of this book is extremely powerful. Margaret, due to the traumatic incident that happened when she was five, lived in a fog her entire life, married to a wacko genius, and not waking up until she was in her sixties and everything/everyone is sad and tired. Yet she seems to catch fire, fueled by bitterness, in the very last 3 sentences of the epilogue. It was a long time to wait for the enlightenment.

    I gave the book 3 stars because there's too much backstory too soon, making it hard for me to develop an interest. Once there, I felt frustrated at the repetitious nature of Margaret's obtuseness, even though she's a bright woman, and her deferring to Andrew, even though this is what people - women especially - do.

    It went on for her whole life! That she was living in a cloud due to, I believe, the trauma of the childhood incident, and that she was ill served by those around her, didn't make it any easier to like this story. I know Smiley is a master writer, and I feel like a goof not giving her a better rating, but this is my honest reaction.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Up At The Villa by Somerset Maugham

    Up at the VillaUp at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Very much enjoyed this short book, which I read in one night. The settings are lush, dialogue snappy, and the characters realistic and strong. The plot and writing are compelling. I enjoyed it because a theme might be, "people are not what they appear to be." A character acts one way and you think, okay, he's good and upstanding. And maybe he IS, but the "why" of it is enlightening. Maugham is a respected author for a reason. What talent! A very good story.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Benediction by Kent Haruf

    BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Ever in search of stories about midlife and beyond, I set up a page on facebook (www.Facebook.com/midlife.fiction) and asked for suggestions. I got 38 great recommendations, and I hope to read and review every one of them. Herewith, then: Benediction by Kent Haruf. What a masterpiece.

    Benediction centers around an elderly man who is dying, but the story encompasses many rich characters, and their small stories touched me. In fact, I think this is what made the book so special for me: I saw a little bit of myself in each of them. Each one resonated. I felt again what it was like to be a lost little girl, a lonely divorcee, a misunderstood introspective, a grieving wife, a person who is coping with serious illness. I longed for the small-town atmosphere described here (the Fourth of July fireworks over the high school football field is a stellar short story all by itself.)

    Although the central character is dying, the book is not negative. Far from it - Benediction reflects on the everyday goodness (and tawdriness) of people. His characters are beset by the normal difficulties of life yet buoyed by simple beauties and kindnesses.

    Yet, nothing in Haruf's writing is overly dramatic or in the least saccharine. In fact, that's one of the aspects of Benediction I enjoyed the most: being surprised by tears on the completion of a plainly-written paragraph, phrase or description.

    I couldn't stop reading excerpts to my husband, since he also loves beautifully crafted writing. This book put me in mind of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. If I could describe it in one word, it would be "elegiac."

    View all my reviews

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Still the Lucky Few

Reflections on Life as a Senior

Writing Contemplative life Essays

Examining experiences and exploring possibilities

Live & Learn

David Kanigan


Helping each other master the art of a senior life.

How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks

self-publishing tips for authors

Waiting for the Karma Truck

thoughts on the spaces in between

Writing Out Loud

A Place of Observation

Guerrilla Aging

Navigating the Third Half of Life

Memoir Writer's Journey

Sharing hope one story at a time


Life in the Boomer Lane

Musings of a former hula hoop champion

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