Wordless Wednesday: How I Spent My Florida Vacation

For this week’s post, I’ve decided to try out #WordlessWednesday and tell the story of our recent Florida home exchange as wordlessly as possible. Photo captions seriously don’t count, right?!
Enjoy!!

Our trip began in Orlando where we had a serendipitous catch-up with two life-long friends (and two brand new ones). Loved it!!
Then it was off to our home exchange in Cocoa Beach. We were thrilled with this amazing find and our very generous hosts!
Most mornings began with us paddling on a lagoon that jutted against our exchange property.
Okay, before Richard jumps into the comment section…I confess! It was Richard who paddle boarded, kayaked and canoed each morning…while I, in firmly strapped life-jacket, held on tight to the side of the canoe. (Hey, you can never be too sure what’s swimming underneath!)
Much of our time was spent on the beach. We lounged, read, slept, walked, rode, swam, ate, drank and played there. (The featured sandcastle was not made by us…ours was not photo-worthy!)
Even when not on the beach, we tried to have as much outdoor time as possible. This included picnics in parks and on the dock!
At Kennedy Space Centre, I watched my husband relive his childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut. We missed the launch of Delta IV Rocket by just one day…. aarrghh!
We even wandered into an Open House…purely for fun. (It never hurts to dream!) This was the backyard view.
We saw alligators (from afar) and glimpses of jumping dolphins and manatees. Sadly, as my iPhone is the only camera that I had with me, the best shot that I can show you is of these common beach terns. (My husband and I called them “Kramer Birds” due to their spiked caps, prominent beaks and… a look that inexplicably made us smile!)
Our Home Exchange Hosts asked us which Cocoa Beach experience we liked best. It was hard to choose, but bike riding along Florida’s expansive beaches was hard to beat!
One for each Book Club!!
And I read two novels…
We are now at the Orlando Airport awaiting our return trip home. While the scenery on Vancouver Island is also spectacular…we are bracing ourselves for the snow, rain, slush and COLD!

But, in compensation…Richard and I just received a complimentary $400USD flight coupon (each!) for giving up our seats on this flight, and taking a different one (35 minutes later). A great trip all-around!

#FridayBookShare: Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story By Daphne Sheldrick

I’ve previously mentioned that I am a member of two book clubs. The clubs meet two weeks apart from each other which, for me, spaces out the timing of the readings perfectly. In an earlier post, I used the link-up #FridayBookShare to comment on my previous novel read. I was happy with the easy review format, while still allowing me ample reflection on my core experiences with the story. So, here I am again with a quick review of my most recent book read, Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Sheldrick.

First line of the book:

To give you the best sense of this memoir, I took the middle paragraph from the opening prologue. Upon reading this, I was totally hooked and had great difficulty putting the book down after that.

“The elephant took a pace backwards, swung her giant head and, using her trunk to lift my body, threw me like a piece of weightless flotsam high through the air with such force that I smashed down onto a giant clump of boulders some twenty paces away. I knew at once that the impact had shattered my right leg, for I could hear and feel the bones crunch as I struggled to sit up. I could see too that I was already bleeding copiously from an open wound in my thigh. Astonishingly there was no pain — not yet anyway.”

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb:

Daphne Sheldrick (nee Jenkins) was born in Kenya, in 1934, to British parents. There began her deep affinity with the wildlife that surrounded her. From an early age, Daphne began to care for orphaned wild animals. This culminated, years later, in Sheldrick being the first to discover a successful milk-substitute for orphaned elephants.

Sheldrick has done a remarkable job bringing her characters (both humans and wild/domestic animals) to life. Her story documents joy and sorrow, wonder and tragedy, deep love and devastating heart-break. This memoir is simultaneously inspirational, beautiful and gut-wrenching.

Introduce the main character (3 key words):

Daphne Sheldrick is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished (against all odds) when extreme empathy, tenacity and passion combine. The results are truly inspirational.

In 2006, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Daphne Sheldrick “‘Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ for services to the conservation of wildlife, especially elephants, and to the local community in Kenya” (source). Although this title does not fit neatly into three words…wouldn’t you just love to be introduced in this way?


Delightful design (add the cover image of the book):



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Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?):

Sheldrick’s story is well-suited to animal lovers, conservationists and those drawn to well-told non-fiction tilted towards igniting action. In fact, at several points I felt as I was having tea in Daphne’s living room, listening to her tales with awe, sincere admiration…and much discomfort.

Your favorite line/scene:

This book has much to say, with messages that refuse to be ignored. Although not my favorite paragraph in terms of delight, one section that continued to haunt me was:

“The death of this great elephant evoked in us a lament for all the wild creatures of Africa and the vanishing wilderness that had protected and sheltered them for so long. It was symbolic of the tenuous future all wildlife faced in a continent where poverty bred corruption and greedy people in faraway lands created the demand the fueled the killing. The bull’s very size and magnificence heightened the sense of tragedy, for there is nothing so profoundly dead as a five-ton elephant with the allotted lifespan of a human, who has died before his time simply to supply some unthinking Westerner with a trinket.”

As the Boston Globe so astutely warns, “(readers) may be tempted, after turning the last page, to sell all possessions and join the cause.” (Source) After finishing the book, I may not have been seduced to that extreme…but I did become insatiably restless about meaning and purpose.

One could easily argue the flaws in this book. Still, this heartfelt memoir, by a truly remarkable woman, earns five solid stars from me. Not only do I recommend it highly…I also recommend having tissues handy!

#FridayBookShare: Cutting for Stone

One of my favorite aspects of blogging is the connection and interaction with others. I love finding new blogs that share similar interests. I also love how one site often leads you to other great sites on related topics. Comment sections have provided me with engaging exchanges, provocative ideas, and new/renewed friendships.

Through the Australian blog, Deb’s World, I discovered British author/blogger, Shelley Wilson, and her #FridayBookShare. This link-up provides a simple format (spelling out FRIDAY) that allows bloggers to share what they are reading and offers readers a quick peek at a wide range of books.

I’ve just finished reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone and thought that I’d give Shelley’s format a try. Here goes!

First line of the book:

“After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.” Okay…so there are arguably better lines in this novel, but this one is effective at introducing us to the main character’s unique voice…and chatty style!

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb:

Being a ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of gal, I decided to write my own blurb instead of presenting the one from the book’s jacket (as I believe we were intended to do). If my words below don’t convince you, please check out the blurbs on Amazon or Goodreads. The reviews, although mixed, are predominantly glowing.

Set in India, Ethiopia and inner city New York, this moving tale of twin brothers vividly unfolds its landscapes, histories, and characters with unforgettable humanity and compassion. I became so absorbed in the story that I could taste the injera (spongy Ethiopian bread) and smell the incense that was lit each morning. There are many aphorisms woven throughout the layers of the novel, most notably “The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.” I do recommend this book to others, but caution that it can be exhausting at times.


Introduce the main character using only three words:

Narrator, Conjoined, Betrayals

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book):



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Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?):

Written in 2009 by an Ethiopian-born medical doctor, by 2012 this fictional novel had been on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years and had sold over one million copies. (Source) As this novel contains numerous stories within stories, including key themes of family, identity, betrayal, suffering, political unrest, medicine, compassion and forgiveness…this book would likely appeal to a wide range of readers. I believe that it is also an excellent choice for many book clubs. I read this novel with one of my book clubs (shout out to Seaside Sirens). Once again the reviews were mixed, but the discussion was very stimulating.

Your favorite line/scene:

Throughout the novel I found myself underlying small sections of text that spoke so meaningfully, and often uncannily, to our current times.

After struggling to find my absolute favorite marked section, I decided to quit torturing myself and narrowed it down to three. Okay, okay…the final quote is really my favorite, but I thought that you would get a better sense of the wisdom of this book if I included additional excerpts.

Favorite Quote #3:
“The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

Favorite Quote #2: “My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts. They realize that no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.”

Favorite Quote #1: “The uneventful day is a precious gift.” What a brilliant reframing of “ordinariness” and a great reminder that our days do not need to be “a nirvana of extraordinary adventure” to be a blessing.

As I finished copying down these quotes, I could hear the television in the other room blare out the non-stop ‘Reality-TV-Syndrome’ of our current times. That made these quotes even more meaningful to me…and made me grateful for this sleepy, snowy February afternoon.

If you’ve read Cutting for Stone, what were your thoughts? Let’s talk!

Why not join in the fun? Use the above format to share your favorite novel. Be sure to add #FridayBookShare. Always in search of a good book, I look forward to reading your review.