• A midlife coming-of-age story. You'll laugh, you'll cry. You'll quit your job and buy an RV. At Amazon.com.

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • 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

Facebook Erases Me, and I Feel Liberated

A couple days ago my Timeline and Activity Log on Facebook disappeared. Three years of posts, links, and interaction erased! All that remained of me on FB were my About page and photos. I was outraged! I was in despair! So much of my life history zapped into nothingness. How dare they! (Ha ha. Like Facebook owes me anything. A good wake-up call.)

Silver Lining #1

Soon, I got my brains back. I remembered that as a Boomer, I grew up without any of this electronic crap. How important was it, really? Sure, if the photos were ever lost, that would be a bummer, but with digital photography, I’ve got so many photos on my hard drive right now, would I even notice?

Silver Lining #2

But all that Internet history erased, lost as a historical record. I would never be able to back and access it again. And then I thought – Really? Would I ever have done that, seriously? And don’t I feel better to have that big chunk of data scrubbed from their data base? Kind of a relief, even though I’m not one to post topless photos of myself smoking a bong. But still. Clean slate!

Silver Lining #3

Have you ever wondered what you’d do if one of your networks became unusable, say they started charging or went belly-up or redesigned the site in a way that you hated?

When I thought FB erased me, I quickly made an alternate plan. I would leave my page intact, but add a referral to my profile on Google+, LinkedIn, or somewhere else. Who cares where? There’ll always be a place to “live” on the Internet.

Because here’s another stupid situation that suddenly provides a brilliant solution: Have you ever felt frustrated that you’re connecting with the same people on multiple networks? (i.e. Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google+, etc.)? Doesn’t it seem like overkill? What good is all that duplication?

However, it could be useful, because if you left one platform, you could go somewhere else and most of your friends would still be in touch with you. (If you’re one of those people with 20,000 Twitter followers, I’m sorry. I guess.)

Maybe that’s how this saturation of social networking is going to end up. The people who really like what we have to say, or want to keep up with what we’re doing, will always be with us. The rest? They’ll churn and reattach, to us somehow, or to someone else.

The upside of all this crazy profusion of platforms is we’re all cross-networking. And the result of that? I think we become our own presence, our own brand. If one platform is sold or shuts down or becomes a corporate asshole, we pivot to another. Our followers follow, because we’ve made it a point to be WORTH following. And life goes on. This, I think, is the future, and the only path to true independence as a web-reliant entrepreneur.

For what it’s worth, Facebook restored my life. And I just really don’t care.

Leave a comment


  1. Great perspective! It’s amazing how quickly we decide the news feed, updates and history are necessary…when we’ve lived our entire lives without that source. Thanks!

    • Cindy, our age gives us an amazing gift of perspective that the younger peeps don’t have, doesn’t it? I remember party lines and black rotary-dial phones, for example.

  2. Snoring Dog Studio

     /  February 15, 2013

    On Facebook, I’m definitely not worth following. I’m surprised they haven’t removed my profile for lack of a social life. I considered making one up, but I can’t even manage that. I quit LinkedIn because I had nothing to say. Sometimes I wonder why I even use these social media sites. Blogging is the only one of them all that I can sustain.

  3. I am one of those who love all this Internet stuff. Losing what you did would be right up there with the Patriots losing in the playoffs. I commend you for you fast recovery. Maybe you have the makings of a new counseling website.

  4. Ha! Hilarious, Lynn, and so true. I long for a week (at least) away from the E-monster to write, think, read, play (gasp) offline. Then again, I love being in touch, however remotely, with people I might otherwise lose track of. The important thing, I think, is to retain balance, and, as you so eloquently point out, to know that there are many options. Who knows what we’ll have in 5 years, or 10?

    • Sheila (and Bob “Fitz”) I love the toys. When my babysitting gig lightens up a bit, I look forward to creating a robust channel on YouTube, even. But we get wedded to any one network at our peril. Better to be light on our feet.

  5. Lynne,
    After taking workshops and webinars on Social Media, I’m still clueless. The other night, I discovered that I had 38 views on Jan. 27 on a blog I haven’t used in two years! That’s more than I get on my current blog. WTF? Just a couple of years ago, I felt like a technical whiz, but today, it’s like staring into a black hole of the unknown.

    As long as you still have your pics saved on your hard drive, you’re good. To be honest, I’m thinking of clearing out my own FB. It’s time to reinvent myself…for like the 17th time. Teehee.

    • Reinvention is great, Vonnie! You’re always on top of life that way.

    • Vonnie, I have the same thing! A blog I abandoned still gets more hits than my current one.

      • Reminds of my traveling days-Marriott points and the United Gold card. Kept me traveling in the style I was accustomed to, but followers? Followers are for my writings, whether 140 digits or novels, and of course eventually followers are my gold card, for they too will keep me in the style I am accustomed to. I used to worry if heaven included books, but now I also wish for Twitter, Amazon, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and Any Shiny Thing. Do you think this is asking for too much? Oh, and one more thing shining thing, cats and dogs. Maybe that is two. Amen?

  6. Pennie

     /  February 15, 2013

    I love the way you always find the positive in a negative situation.

    • I’m a happy girl at heart. But the dark side is this: I hate being played, and I WILL find a way to prevent it in future. PS babysitting ends June 1. Hope to see you more then!!!

  7. Ah, Lynne, this is quite thought-provoking. While we writers need social media (for the “social” aspect of being in touch with people in our otherwise-solitary existence, as well as to build our “platform”), putting ourselves out there definitely takes time away from what we say we want to do, WRITE. I’m finding it especially hard because I’m still working and running my own business (meaning I’m duplicating social networks, for my writing and for my biz). So no, I don’t do FB, but I still meet myself coming and going, ha!

    • Oh, I know, Sis! I wrote this on my whiteboard the other day, but I have not yet adhered to it: 3Xday: check email. 2Xday: social netting. 1Xday: write. And the writing was supposed to be a giant chunk. Bummer.

  8. Love your perspective. I don’t know if I would notice if they erased my personal things, but I use it for business for others…so maybe I would…hmmm….if they erased me would I not be able to post for them? Conundrum. And, I spelled that right! Wow!

    • Lee, since they only removed Timeline and Activity Log, I still had my About page, so figured I’d use it as a billboard, referring all viewers to my blog. And then I thought, cripes, I could do that with ANY network. Long as I have a place to refer them to. It was so freeing! As they say, a paradigm shift.

  9. Like how someone used to feel if their home burned down. All their history. Journals, hand written letters, pictures…there are advantages to being on line and yet, as you’ve noted here, our history can be erased in a flash on line too.

    But it often leads to, as you’ve so positively spoken to here, a realization that it’s not all necessary.

    Reminds me of Mazuta Mazahide’s line, “Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.”

  10. It’s easy to get caught up in it all, but you’re right. The people who are genuinely interested in you will follow you where they can.

  11. The same thing happened to me on Facebook, and it made me angry–especially since the little box on my page asked “What’s going on, Sandy?” Gee, if they didn’t know, we were all in trouble! Eventually everything was restored, but it sure made me realize how much I rely on Facebook to keep in touch with some people.

  12. I’m with you, Lynne. While I do use FB, it is not my main platform though I do enjoy the social connections and photos. I use LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter and that keeps me busy enough. It is a huge challenge to minimize distractions enough to get the actual writing done. And you are right. It’s not the end of the world.

    • Kathy, you are the tech queen. There was a time in my young adulthood wherein my brother and I “competed” re salaries. When I’d get a raise, I’d tell him and vice versa, and we happily kept neck-and-neck for years. You and I are that way with author-tech. I love that you surprise me with new ideas and new tech accomplishments. Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Dawn Kohler

     /  February 15, 2013

    Hey Lynn

    Are you going to the conference this weekend.?

    Sent from my iPhone

  14. OMG Lynne…this is a great post! My brain wires are so scrambled trying to keep track of all the social media that I can barely function in the real world. I think you are right, once we find the links we like, we never lose them even if the platform collapses due to technical difficulties. I love Any Shiny Thing and will track you down, not matter what happens out in cyberspace!

    • Thanks, Pat. Ditto! And sorry about introducing you to GenFab. Now you’re even busier than before – but what a dynamic bunch, eh?

  15. Lynne, I also miss snail mail, rotary phones, phone calls (where are my nickels?) – those were the days! I am curious why FB did they to you – do you know?

    I admit I am addicted to FB because I have a huge learning curve for gather information on the tech side of widening my audience for my blog. I read comments, read blogs, leave comments, share blogs. I need to WRITE more. Agh!

    I love your attitude and wisdom. Great post.

    • Cathy, I don’t know why they did that but have since learned that it’s not unheard of! Kind of like a brown-out with home electricity. It flickers and then is restored. And I too am addicted to FB, for this reason: sometimes you just need to say something to a bunch of buddies, and hear back. Like yesterday, watching that cruise ship limp into port, my husband said, “They should load Congress onto it and tow it back out into the Gulf and leave it there until they solve the budget problem.” I just HAD to shoot that into the universe, and FB complied. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. I appreciate this. I thought I lost four years of blog history and was devastated to think such a record of life experiences and relationships had vanished. Connection through social media is another story. I respect it, but I have to manage it. It can take over.

  17. I have been surprised lately by my children (in their 30’s) leaving FB and deleting their profiles. My daughter got tired of her friends knowing her business- and my son had a funny picture of himself posted on a restaurant blog and voted the best picture. He was embarrassed. It’s funny because they got me on FB, and now they’re gone. i miss seeing their photos updates so much- it was an easy way to stay connected.

    • Virginia, that is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard in months. Your kids are really smart. And your last sentence proves how this “new” tech stuff really does get under our skin. When my data was deleted, my first thought was, “I am bereft.” As if my cabin in Big Bear had burned with all the memories. And then I realized how dependent I had become on something over which I have no control, and the part of my brain that craves independence started working. Now I’m tempted to start deleting things, too.

  18. I secretly hope the same thing happens to me….

  19. I want to take a break from Facebook, just for like a month or two. I read somewhere that if you still have it deactivated after 30 days, all of your stuff will be erased. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but I wanted to make sure before I did it. I have years of pictures, notes, and messages that I really don’t want to be deleted. And when I reactivate it, will everything be there like nothing happened? Thanks in advance!

    • Mike, I don’t know, but you might check the help tab on FB. Meanwhile, I’ll ask and if I learn anything, I’ll send you an email.

  20. I’m a keeper, notes, letters, cards, all stuffed in crumbling boxes. I figure my “digital” life is a lot safer online, especially with the cloud access from anywhere. Looks like I’m odd man out here, because I would seriously mourn the loss of my collective electrons!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

  • Lynne Spreen

  • Follow LynneSpreen on Twitter
  • 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

  • Blogs I Follow

  • This Blog Got Five Stars!

Still the Lucky Few

Reflections on Life ...

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

%d bloggers like this: