Cover of Recollections of Rosings by Rebecca Ann CollinsRecollections of Rosings by Rebecca Ann Collins is book 8 of The Pemberley Chronicles. (Published by Sourcebooks, ISBN: 978-1-4022-2450-8, 336 pages, $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN/£7.99 UK)

While this is book 8, I found it fairly easy to get into. This is only the second book in the series that I’ve read. I reviewed Postscripts from Pemberly back in December 2009. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you’ve got an understanding of the major characters.  And while these characters have moved on, had children, had their children marry, lost loved ones — reading Collins’ work is like dropping in on a huge family reunion after being out of touch for a long while. The books, or at least the ones that I’ve read have an Appendix that lists the major characters and the relationships between them.

I’m starting by pointing this out because there’s a relaxed atmosphere about the stores in Postscripts… and now Recollections…. Collins has a way of presenting the stories partly through the type of narrative/interactive story you’d expect, but she also uses journal or diary entries and letters to help us get a deeper understanding of the characters that have a major part to play. This makes reading the books a lot like being asked to read someone’s personal journal when you know all the people involved (society pages without the cattiness).

Recollections of Rosings is, as you’ve probably guessed about Rosings, the major residence of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine has been gone for sometime and the estate is run by a board of trustees on which Fitzwilliam Darcy serves. The story opens with the terrible news that there has been a fire at Rosings that has caused considerable damage. The current Vicar, Mr. Harrison, suffers a heart attack and his continuing illness causes some drastic changes to his situation for himself and his family. His wife Catherine, one of Charlotte and Mr. Collins’ daughters, is now caring for her husband and dealing with her grief over the damage done to Rosings where she lived when Lady Catherine took her in as a young child to be a companion for Anne.

The Rosings estate has recently hired a curator to deal with the historic artwork and others treasures of Rosings. Luckily he had done much of the work to catalog what was in the house and it will be useful to the board in determining their loss and what can and should be done to rebuild. That he is also someone who had worked at Rosings while Catherine lived with Lady Catherine helps to bring back many memories and releasing many emotions of her childhood and early adulthood before her marriage.

Meanwhile, Catherine’s daughter seems to be falling in love with a young man in the neighborhood that few people know anything about other than he’s a gentleman and very good at his job. Beck Tate, Catherine’s sister, is at loose ends as her husband has gone to America on business, leaving her behind. Unfortunately for Catherine, Becky feels it is her duty to watch out for her supposedly more naive and unsophisticated sister.

That sets out the parameters of the book, but the journey and the experience of reading it yourself is the frosting on the cake. Collins is not flamboyant — the writing is very reminiscent of sitting about with a best friend talking about family, friends, what is happening with the neighbors, what’s going on, what can be done to make life better for those around you — and yourself, of course.

That’s not to say that you won’t shed tears, laugh out loud, try to get characters to look before they leap, get angry about how some are treated, wonder why other won’t mind their own business, and smile because sometimes love does conquer all. And best of all, for some people there are second chances and, while they don’t come often, when they happen you should not stand and watch them pass you by but reach out for new dreams and a new life.

There’s a very comfortable feel to The Pemberly Chronicles. These are people most of us have spent a lot of time with. Austen created characters that still resonant with us so many years after she wrote her books. That Austen often left her characters just as the leave they church after their wedding, it’s no wonder that so many of us want to know what happened next. Rebecca Ann Collins gives us one possible future — it’s a comfortable one that we can relate too that differs only in degree from the future we see around us for our friends and family.

These are wonderful books for a rainy day — or any day — when you want to believe that people are good at heart and that families stand together in times of trouble. These are books that continue the story of some well loved characters but they are also books of hope and of dreams of communities that many of us would like to live in.

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Lady in the Water DVDTonight we watched Lady in the Water directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan and starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Sarita Choudhury, along with many others.

I really enjoyed The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but Signs just left me wondering what the point was other than to be scary. Since Lady in the Water appeared to be marketed as horror, I decided to skip it. But, it popped up on Netflix as one of those “if you liked these you might want to try this” — so I did. Boy, am I glad I did.

Basically, the story takes place in an apartment building complex. Someone is swimming in the pool at night and the building/grounds manager, Cleveland Heep, keeps hoping to catch the swimmer. However, once he does, the swimmer submerges and doesn’t come up. He starts to run around the pool and slips and knocks himself out and falls into the pool. He comes to, to find the swimmer has carried him into his apartment — essentially saving his life. However, the swimmer is not who or what she seems. For the lady in the water is a narf named Story. It’s up the Heep to help her achieve her goal and to return to her world.

The entire movie is a story in a story in a story. The folk tale of the water people and the land people drives the film framing the entire narrative. But Heep must learn the story since Story can’t tell him anything about her world — it’s against the rules (as telling useful information so often is in these types of folk tales).

Most of us grew up listening to and then reading fairy tales and legends ourselves. Many of those stories teach morals or behaviors or lessons, a carry over from our oral traditions of years gone by. But the stories that resonant with us and that we remember vividly are those that touch our hearts. In Lady in the Water, Heep calls together a varied group that are touched by this story and want to believe. The film touches that part of us that wants to believe in good triumphing over evil, or at least breaking even. That each person can find their purpose and accept the responsibility of stepping up to be the person they were always meant to be.

We can’t all be princes or princesses in disguise and that wasn’t the point of those tales of orphans finding out they were special. It’s that each of us is special and not in the way we seem to have now, of everybody being special so that no one is. No, everyone is special, but were not all equally gifted — someone may be a gifted dancer and the rest of us can barely walk and talk at the same time without falling over. That’s doesn’t make us klutzy ones less, it just means that physical coordination is not our gift. Everyone, no matter how common and ordinary, has a purpose in life. Some of us might find that purpose and some of us may never make the effort to examine our own skills and abilities to find that uniqueness that makes us special.

In Lady in the Water, a group of ordinary people come together to help someone. They are told that only they can help, and that they have a role to play in saving Story. They may not totally believe in her story but they are willing to help. Nevertheless, they take a stand to help someone in need. A person they don’t know in a situation that is frankly unbelievable.

Should the human race be saved? Some days when I watch the news I wonder if maybe we should just give the Earth a break. On other days, I can see the spark that makes humanity definitely worth saving. It seems that crises and upheaval bring us together to help others in a way that peace and prosperity don’t.

Lady in the Water makes a clear case for the inherent goodness within the heart of man. It’s a movie that definitely will be bought and added to our watch many more times collection. I hope, if you haven’t seen it yet you’ll give it a try.

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Cemetery Markers with flagsMy father was in the Army during WWII. My grandfather was in the Navy. One of my uncles was in the Marines and I think the other was in the Army but he didn’t live in the same state and I hardly know him, so I’m not sure. When I lived in Mexico, Maine we’d go to the cemetery on Memorial Day or the day before to make sure there were flowers and a flag on my father’s grave, and later also on my grandfather’s. I spoke with my mother yesterday and she put a wreath on each of the graves of our family members.

Memorial Day was once called Decoration Day and it was a time to reflect on those who had been lost with an emphasis on those who’d lost their lives protecting their country — a day to remember Veterans. Time passes and now it seems with hardly anyone staying in one place anymore that the graveside laying of wreaths and flowers and leaving a flag have past. My mother was complaining that when she was at the cemetery that there were hardly any flowers on any of the graves. I reminded her that most of the youth have had to move away for jobs, and graves are now handled by the groundskeepers.

I’m in Maryland and my son is in Rhode Island. When my mother moves down here, in the sometime future, there will be little family left in the town I was born in — an aunt,  a niece,  a nephew, a sister-in-law once removed, and their families. The graves will probably then just get the usual groundskeeping and maybe a veterans group will remember to place a flag by the headstones of veterans.

Memorial Day has changed. It seems to me now that it’s a celebration of family. The living — with picnics and bbqs. And, as is usual at family gatherings, remembrances of those who are no longer with us except in our memories and our stories. The newspapers are filled with stories about how the holiday has lost its significance. I don’t think so, I think it has broadened its scope to include remembrances of all the fallen no matter how or when they past from present tense to loving memory.

Each of us, whether a veteran of a war (current or past), must do our part to preserve our nation’s heritage and now to restore our country to one that is looked up to as a beacon of hope and freedom — from oppression, from tyranny, from the misuse of power, and from torture and the abuse of human rights. Over the last few years, those “froms” have becomes “fors” and we, as a nation, need to stand up and put our country back on track. We’ve lost, as a nation, credibility in the eyes of the world and each of us must do our part to see that we never lose sight of the rights and freedoms guaranteed for all in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. Those documents have always applied to all citizens of this country and anyone under its jurisdiction and we need to reaffirm our commitment to the principles that our founding fathers saw as the underpinning for our government.

In this fight to regain our status and credibility, we may not all risk our lives but we all have a duty to do our part to watch our elected officials and stay informed of their actions on our behalf and to make sure that we once again become a “shining beacon of freedom” for the world.

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Those that gave their lives to defend this country did so because they held that freedom and those principles to be more important than their own lives.  When we remember them on this one day of the year, shouldn’t we also think of the kind of country that held such meaning for them?  Doing the right thing can be hard.  It’s far easier to just let things go and say that there was nothing that you could do.  I think the generations of Americans who have fought to the death against those that would currupt our country deserve a little more.  They gave their lives … is a letter or e-mail to your congress critter really that much of an inconvience?

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ForsythiaToday it was in the mid-30’s and it snowed a bit. It melted as soon as it touched the ground and later turned to rain.  But, cold and rain means it felt even colder. What makes it weird is that just two days ago on Wednesday the temp was near 80 and I was outside without a sweater or a jacket.

I noticed then that our forsythia bushes are all budded up and a there’s some bright yellow showing. These are the harbingers of spring that I really love — they just flash their brilliant yellow flowers — shouting to all who listen that it is spring.

The azaleas have got some leaves and buds too. The tulips and irises have shot up their leaves. No sign of flowers yet, but the promise is there.

I’m starting to think of gardening and ran about pulling all the gardening catalogs out along with the one or two seed catalogs that I got. I’ve got the pots and the soil to get the seeds started in the house. Once they get growing they’ll be transferred to the garden area.

I love spring; it’s such a time of promise and hope. What about you? What do you look forward to when you recognize the signs of the coming spring and summer months?

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President Barack Obama

I’ve had a dream for at least eight years now that I’d get my country back. That our Constitution and Bill of Rights and the concepts and ideal upon which this country was founded would once again become important to the holder of the most important office our country has — The Presidency.

Today I watched the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. That dream became hope during his campaign and his speech today confirmed my hope and belief that finally America will be on the right track. That those hard decisions necessary to move our country forward and to maintain our ideals would be made. I now have more than a dream, I have hope for the future. Today, I am again proud to be an American. (Here’s Obama’s inaugural speech.)

We are what we imagine ourselves to be. (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

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