The Three "R's"

Ramblings, Reflections, Reviews … From the "Pen" of William Land

Living with Chronic Pain

chronic-pain-01Since 1994, I have lived with chronic pain due to physical issues. Since birth (1959), I have lived with pain issues.

I was born with cerebral palsy; fortunately, it is mild in comparison to what this disability could be. With this condition, I lived my life as fully and as richly as possible. I learned at a young age to do what activities I could do well, or with practice, and to accept those which I could not do easily or with practice.

I have always lived with pain due to emotional issues including depression. Sometimes I felt like I do not “fit in” with very well other people in society. I wasn’t “disabled enough” to fit into the disability community, or “normal enough” to fit in with non-disabled individuals. Where do I belong? It is like trying to insert a square peg into a round hole; it simply doesn’t fit.

My childhood was very difficult for many reasons. I realized in later life that my parents did the best they could do for me. They may not have given me all that I needed, but they did their best. I may never forget some of my painful moments, but I choose to let many of the unpleasant memories stay in the past where they belong. I have accepted it as being what it was.meditation-03

My adulthood has been difficult for many reasons. I struggled at finding and keeping meaningful and lasting employment, unsuccessfully searched for a lasting life partner, hoped for financial security and wanted an attractive, permanent home. Some difficulties came from my own mistakes and poor decisions; others came from Fate.

Luckily, I always had a job or an income while looking for work, a large circle of caring family and friends, some very close people who shared the deepest joy and challenges of my life with me and a roof over my head. Each job or place I lived many not have been exactly what I wanted, but they provided for my comfort at the time.

For eight years, I was very blessed to live in a large, spacious apartment that suited my soul. It saddened me to leave this lovely home, but I was so very lucky to move to GraceLand, the home I share with Wendy Grace (a dear friend who opened her heart and home to me in 2015 to help me manage my life more easily).

In 2003, I was diagnosed with dysthymia disorder, a consistent mild depression. I always thought it was normal to feel the negative thoughts and hopelessness I sometimes felt. I didn’t realize I was clinically depressed.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This “double whammy” of living with two physical disabilities has been extremely challenging. It is so unfair! Sometimes I am angry that I lost so much of my life to this new health issue. This loss of much of my independence is huge; I must depend on others to help with the activities of daily living and being mobile in my life.

Soon after my diagnosis, I told my family. Two of my brothers made similar comments: one said, “you’ve had a rough life;” the other said, “you’ve had a tough life.” My response to both was “in some ways.”

Prior to the Parkinson’s diagnosis, I described my body as having “the flexibility of cement.” Post-Parkinson’s, I have “the flexibility of stone.” Much of the stiffness in my body feels like a thick rubber band which has been stretched taut (almost to the breaking point), but cannot be stretched more because it will break. If the band breaks, it can be repaired, but the repairs will be noticeable and the band will not have the same flexibility it had in its original state.meditation-04.png

I must live with chronic pain due to my issues. To cope well with this challenge, I must deal effectively with chronic pain. I must remember to implement the lifestyle practices and habits that make me feel better.

These include daily meditation, eating better, regular exercise (which is so very difficult for me), practicing gratefulness, embracing my hobbies and passions, and living at GraceLand. I must remember my strong support network of family and friends who care about me and my well being.

I must remember that I may not have all that I want in life, but I have all that I need. I have a comfortable home, a strong, supportive network of family and friends, an adequate income for “the basics” and “some wants,” and my interests, hobbies and passions.

I must remember not to dwell on my pain. It is very acceptable for me to tell someone that I don’t feel well and why; it is not acceptable for me to talk about incessantly about chronic pain. I must always remember the wisdom of stress expert and humor consultant, Loretta LaRoche: “fake it until you make it.”chronic-pain-03.jpg

Other wisdom I must always remember came from:
• my grandmother who told me that I “could be anything I want to be in life.;”
• a long-time friend who reminded me recently that I am “determined and resourceful;”
• a close aunt (living with age related macular degeneration) who told me that her positive attitude about living with disability has been inspired by me;
• a close friend (living with physical disabilities) who revealed she uses sometimes me as inspiration when she is seeking answers to her own pain issues;
• a doctor (pre-Parkinson’s) who told me that he “uses me as an example to the parents of his child patients as someone who can live successfully and independently with a physical disability;”
• a doctor (post-Parkinson’s) who commented “you have successfully overcome many curve balls in life.”
• my own belief, which I learned from my mother, for when I am in extreme pain: “this, too, shall pass.”

Life is not easy, nor do I expect it to be. Some people, like me, have higher hills and deeper valleys to travel than other people. It is what it is.

Many years ago, I promised myself that I would end my life when I felt the pain was too much to bear. I also promised myself that I would be certain it was time before I did anything to complete suicide. I recognize that any person considers suicide when the “pain of living is greater than that person’s ability to cope with the pain.”

Approximately five years ago, I was in such pain. I thought I couldn’t manage my life’s journey successfully any longer. I realized that I needed help from a higher power. I am a spiritual (not religious) person. I appealed to God for the strength to cope.

My prayers were answered. I learned that I could ask family, friends, co-workers and neighbours for help to manage the tasks that weren’t easy for me to complete. If everyone does a little, no one person must do a lot and people are happy to help when they can.friends-flying-01

My belief that suicide is a possible answer to ending chronic pain is a contradiction to what I believe will happen to my soul when I die. Only God must decide when I die. When I die, my soul will go to a better place; a place where I shall live without disabilities and pain. However, my soul will not be admitted to this welcome, needed, nurturing environment if I end my life at my own hand.

To reconcile these opposing viewpoints, I continue to pray to God for answers and help when necessary. I thought of not writing about suicide in this narrative, but realized it would not be a true expression of my strong feelings about living with chronic pain if it were omitted.

I cannot give up on living my life, especially during the all too frequent times when I am very fatigued or depressed. I must remember to be glad for what life offers. I must remember the people I can call any time of the day or night when I am hurting. I must remember that I do not have to look very far to find someone who is worse off and coping better than me.

For several weeks, earlier this year, I have struggled to describe how living with disabilities and chronic pain affect me. I am weary of this fight. Some people with whom I’ve talked about this feeling have suggested that “fight” is a negative word and this journey should not be described as such. Suggestions to replace “fight” included “determination,” “resourceful,” “walking with my pain.”

While these words are less negative, they do not resonate completely with me. I choose “fight” as being my accurate, but not necessarily a negative, expression of living with disabilities and chronic pain. I do not see anything positive about living with disability and chronic pain. I am not saying that those who have these challenges cannot be happy and enriched in life (the reverse is true), but owning disability and chronic pain is not positive to any person. I cannot think of anyone who has said, “I want to live with disabilities and chronic pain. Fate, pick me!”

For me, the words of “fight,” “battle,” and “war” are empowering to describe living with disability and chronic pain. It is a daily war to live with these conditions. I know I shall win many of the fights and battles and lose others. I shall continue until my last breath to participate as well as I can in the war against living with disabilities and chronic pain.fight-01

My disabilities do not define me. I am much more than my disabilities and my chronic pain.

I must remember when the pain feels greater than my ability to cope, I must withdraw into myself for short periods to heal. I must call upon God to help me along this challenging journey. At the same time, I also must remember to thank Him for the numerous blessings which enrich my life. chronic-pain-02
“With pain comes strength.” I never knew how strong I was until I encountered chronic pain. — J.B.G.
http://www.thedailymigraine.com/blog/2014/4/28/64-little-gifts-for-chronic-pain-patients
©2016
Revised: December 5, 2016
November 29, 2016

Here Comes the Bribe: A Review

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HERE COMES THE BRIBE
by Mary Dahiem
(Bed and Breakfast Mysteries; 5)
5 out of 5 stars
Read: January 20, 2017
Review: February 27, 2017

The latest guests at Hillside Manor, a popular bed and breakfast inn, are coming to town to visit family. Innkeeper Judith Flynn is shocked to learn that Rodney Schmuck has proof that she is his long-lost mother!

Judith has never even heard of Rodney, let alone given him life. But she’s has a larger problem when one of the guests is found dead in the backyard.

Judith’s second husband, Joe Flynn, her cousin and sleuthing partner, Renie Jones, and her outspoken and opinionated mother, Gertrude Grover, return in this entertaining and humorous mystery. The family must work quickly to solve the murder and the mystery of the long-lost son. Could they lose the beloved manor which has been the Grover home for generations and the site of Judith’s lucrative business?

A visit to Hillside Manor is exactly like returning to see long-lost relatives! This reader is glad to be home again!

Assault & Beret: A Review

assault-beret-01ASSAULT & BERET
by Jenn McKinlay
(Hat Shop Mystery; 5)
5 out of 5 stars
Read: January 17, 2017
Review: February 27, 2017

Talented milliner Vivian Tremont and her American cousin and partner, Scarlett Parker, leave their beloved shop in London, England behind to travel to Paris, France. Viv is scheduled to teach a hat-making class. But she has perhaps another more compelling reason to travel be in Paris. She must find William Graham, the man she impulsively eloped with years earlier. Their marriage must be annulled.

The two cousins, who couldn’t be any more different, return with their usual entertaining dynamic and set out to accomplish Viv’s goals. The European backdrop and the hat-making business make this series unique.

As a reader, I was immediately captivated by the exciting adventures of these two likeable heroines visiting Paris, the new mystery to investigate, the secrets from Viv’s past, and the secrets from William’s present!

As a huge fan of Jenn McKinlay’s various series, I truly enjoyed this entertaining book from my very favourite series of this talented author.

The Strange Likeness: A Review

strange_likeness1Long-time Judy Bolton fans have been waiting for the publication of this book for many years. This beloved series was cancelled in 1967, following the publication of volume #38 in the series. “The Strange Likeness” was a phantom title until 2012.

This best-loved mystery series was written and created by Margaret Sutton. In this first decade of the twenty-first century, two long-time series fans, writing under pseudonyms, were appointed to write the long anticipated book to conclude many of the events of the original series. This new book, published by Applewood Books, was done with the permission of Margaret Sutton’s estate. One of Sutton’s daughters, Marjorie Sutton Eckstein, has created original illustrations for this new book. The cover painting is particularly appealing and charming.

This story covers two of my favourite themes in children’s juvenile series: look-alikes and impersonators and takes place during the Christmas holiday. Judy and her sister-in-law, Honey Dobbs, are shopping at Brandt’s Department Store on Christmas Eve. At one point, a distraught Honey confesses to Judy that she’s worried about her lost brother.

As the girls continue shopping, they spot Judy’s husband, Peter, at a jewelry counter examining a shimmering necklace. Moments later, following a commotion, the valuable necklace, and Peter, are discovered missing!

Judy strongly believes in her husband’s innocence and remembers that a month previously a man who resembled Peter was driving too fast near her home. Peter told her that this man was under investigation. Very likely it was Peter’s double who was the store thief!

Peter’s work as an FBI agent is, as usual, secretive and he is absent for much of Christmas. Following a break-in at her home, Judy agrees to accompany Honey to Bradford to look for her sibling, the missing Mike Vincenzo. As the investigation continues, the girls discover sightings of Peter … or is the man really Peter, or his sinister double?

The story unfolds with exciting mysteries and the return of many long-time characters from the Judy Bolton series; friends Pauline Faulkner, Sylvia Weiss, and Irene Lang Meredith have prominent roles. The mysteries are solved and the story reaches a most satisfying conclusion as Judy and Peter and Honey and Horace make life changing announcements to their families.

This book would rate five stars for me except for one reason. The mysteries were engaging, but at no time was Judy in real danger. This reader was hoping that Judy’s investigation of the Vincenzo neighbourhood and home would have been more exciting. The action in this book pales when compared to the danger Judy faced during her adventures at the Zoller home in “The Secret of the Musical Tree.”

Still, this is a minor criticism of this very satisfying conclusion of the Judy Bolton mystery series.

Kudos to everyone involved in making this wonderful book available to Judy Bolton fans.

The Silence in the Library: A Review

THE SILENCE IN THE LIBRARYsilence-library-01
by Miranda James
(The Cat in the Stacks; 5)
5 out of 5 stars
Read: December 14, 2014
Review: February 27, 2017

This review is from a lifetime fan and collector of children’s series books including Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden and their contemporaries. I eagerly devoured this novel because a fictional teen sleuth series plays a huge part in this novel.

This story is a very well-plotted murder mystery surrounding an author who wrote girl sleuth mysteries featuring Veronica Thane. The series author, Electra Barnes Cartwright, presumed dead but very much alive, has five unpublished manuscripts. She has agreed to make a rare appearance at a public library celebration of children’s series books which series hero, Charlie Harris, is helping to organize.

The news of this anticipated author’s appearance delights some collectors who will do anything for a rare copy of a book or an autograph. Charlie, a librarian/archivist and a long-time Veronica Thane fan, is beginning to think that this author visit might be a bad idea when someone dies. Can he figure out what happened?

Over the course of this book, readers are treated to the first few chapters of the very first Veronica Thane mystery. “Miranda James” (a pen name for series collector Dean James), has perfectly captured the flavor and style of the bygone juvenile series genre. At times, a little over the top even for the genre, but it is entertaining. There are numerous references to actual children’s series titles, mainly Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Mystery readers who grew up reading the genre will be delighted.

Elements from the teen sleuth genre are incorporated into the novel. This book is definitely a murder mystery, but the plot brings in enough other elements, sometimes as red herrings and sometimes as real clues, providing a change of pace from similar cozies.

A reader does not need fond memories of childhood series books to enjoy this story, but those who have spent hours in the company of young detectives will truly enjoy this trip down memory lane.

 

Wedding Cake Murder: A Review

WEDDING CAKE MURDER
Read: February 2017
Reviewed: February 27, 2017
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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SPOILER ALERTS

This book is boring! For many books, I truly enjoyed the “Hannah Swenson Mysteries” by Joanne Fluke  and found the characters and setting enjoyable (just like returning to visit old friends) and the plots interesting.

In recent years, the books have become boring. The dialogue is weird and stiff and many characters do not act like real people. It’s like returning to visit old friends and expecting they would be like what they were in the past, but they’ve greatly changed and become boring and unrealistic.

This book is supposed to be a murder mystery. At one point, I had read approximately half the book and still no murder! I noted the page number (166). It was almost though Fluke had read my thoughts and decided to finally had a dead body appear (the corpse has been discovered by page 170)!

The reason I gave this book two stars is because I liked reading about Hannah’s wedding (even though it was to Ross Barton; how could this “blast from the past” appear and sweep Hannah off her feet?) when she had Norman as a love interest. I rooted for Norman (he built Hannah’s dream house!) and while Mike is sexy, Norman is the one with depth.

I always felt the friendship between Mike and Norman was unrealistic because they were competing for the same woman for marriage. It would have been nice to see, just even once, the men angry with the presence of the other in Hannah’s life.

In this book, the acceptance by both Mike and Norman of Ross just simply doesn’t ring true! Most men, upon being rejected, would not even want to attend the wedding, let alone be part of the bridal party.

One of the reasons why I rated this book two stars (instead of one) is the absence of Tracy Todd! She was mentioned, but didn’t appear! This child is the most annoying character in any cozy series I’ve read to date! She speaks the most unrealistic child dialogue ever written and is completely nauseating! It isn’t likely to happen, but it would be wonderful for reader if Tracy was murdered in one of the future books!

I have been reading this series for over many years, and will likely continue to read new books because I am still slightly interested in the lives of the citizens of Lake Eden; I’m not certain why. As a reader, perhaps, I am machoistic?

My Favorite Christmas Memories: Judy Bolton and “The Secret of the Musical Tree”

My Favorite Christmas Memories: Judy Bolton and
“The Secret of the Musical Tree”

by William Land

As a life-long fan of children’s series books, I have read many of these novels since I was eight years old. I have thrilled to the adventures of the girl sleuths including Connie Blair, Cherry Ames, Vicki Barr, the Dana Girls, the Blythe Girls and Trixie Belden.

Boys designed for boy readers have also been part of my adventures: Ken Holt, Rick Brant and, of course, the Hardy Boys are among the collections I have devoured. Naturally, the tots, such as the Bobbsey Twins and the Happy Hollisters, have not been overlooked.

However, my favourite all-time series are the adventures of girl detectives Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton. I like each one for different reasons and cannot chose between them.

Both Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton feature young girls who investigate puzzling mysteries. Both girls are clever, resourceful, have a keen sense of right and wrong, and a zest for adventure. Both have loyal friends and a devoted beau.

Nancy Drew’s world is more “fantasy;” she doesn’t significantly age as the series progresses, has unlimited freedom and money and doesn’t go to school or work. Her life’s role is “amateur detective.” Nancy has loyal friends, especially cousins Bess Marvin and George Fayne. She also has a “special male friend,” Ned Nickerson. Carson Drew is not wealthy, but provides a very comfortable lifestyle for his motherless daughter and himself.

Judy Bolton’s world is more “realistic;” she ages as the series progresses, is from a middle-class family, her parents are more protective than doting Carson Drew. Fortunately, Dr. and Mrs. Bolton do allow their daughter her freedom and trust her judgment. Judy works after high school graduation as a secretary and marries her long-time beau, Peter Dobbs. As the young wife to the young FBI agent, Judy continues to sleuth following her marriage.

The tagline, “A Judy Bolton Mystery,” proclaims the 38-volumes (1932-1967) mystery series by Margaret Sutton. She was a real person as author and not a book packager ghostwriter; i.e., “Nancy Drew Mystery Stories” by “Carolyn Keene,” 175-volumes (1930-2003). With the permission of Mrs. Sutton’s estate, the 39th final volume, The Strange Likeness, ©2012 was written by two long-time series fans.

The books from the original series publisher have been out-of-print for decades. However, again with the permission of Mrs. Sutton’s estate, Applewood Books reprinted the now 39-volume series in trade paperback editions which closely mirror the original format. These cherished stories are again available for long-time or new Judy Bolton fans of the 21st century.

Last week, I chanced to read about a young girl who is a 21st century Judy Bolton fan. She posted her short YouTube Judy Bolton video summary for others to discover. The URL for “Judy Bolton Mysteries by Margaret Sutton” is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEwMfuA5Dgw .

A favourite plot device or cliché in series books in series books for me is doubles, doubles, doubles! I am referring to look-alikes, twins, uncanny resemblances, impersonators, impostors, or whichever adjectives one wishes to use to describe people who coincidentally resemble or are intentionally created to be mistaken as our favourite heroines or heroes.

Those sleuths who search for valuable objects, especially jewelry or gemstones, are very appealing to me. A missing priceless or costly jewel or a cache of glittering baubles, and the tireless search of a young detective for these precious stones, is exciting to read.

Family and friendship is very important to me so those stories which centre around times with loves ones, especially during the Christmas season, resonate with me.

One of my all-time favourite series books is from the Judy Bolton series; #19: The Secret of the Musical Tree (©1948). In this story, Judy Bolton Dobbs is Christmas shopping in Cleveland. Twice that day, she is mistaken for her look-alike cousin.

To her astonishment, Judy learns that Roxy Zoller and her father were in a plane crash. Callers to their home are met by a new housekeeper and not permitted to see them. Judy and Roxy had made plans since meeting to spend their first Christmas together (their mothers were long separated as told in #14: The Clue of the Patchwork Quilt, ©1941). But, as the holiday draws closer, Roxy is incommunicado except for sending Judy a Christmas present, in the form of a musical tree which plays a Christmas carol. Included with the gift is a strange message: “Hi, Cousin, Hope this arrives on time. Wish I were you this Dec. 23.” (page 81).

Judy deduces that she is to gain access to the Zoller residence by ladder. As instructed, the red-haired young bride braves a winter storm and travels to that home and climbs into Roxy’s bedroom at the stroke of midnight. The cousins trade identities and Judy is left alone with the criminals.

The new “housekeeper” at the Zoller home is really a cunning villainess, Tess Mendez, who quickly becomes suspicious of “Roxy!”  She and her cohorts challenge the young detective to fool them about her impersonation while hoping for rescue.

The cover illustration and frontispiece of this book, the last of prolific Judy Bolton series artist, Pelagie Doane, are exceptional. The charming scene on the cover accurately mirrors the text: Judy, her erstwhile ward, Roberta Dunn, and two of Roberta’s chums are shown on the cover at the bay window in the living room of the Dobbs home. The characters are attractively and accurately depicted, but Judy, in her signature brown because it “makes her hair seem less red,” is too tall. Through the window, the falling snow conveys the message that it is the winter season (page 76).

The inside illustration shows Judy and Roxy in the latter’s bedroom. Judy is dressed in Roxy’s night clothes and her cousin is framed in a bedroom window on the outside ladder. Judy is tugging at the window shade and draperies, whispering to the other girl to “be quick” because “someone is coming!” (page 116).

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This is one of the few Judy Bolton novels I read as an age appropriate reader during the 1970s. I didn’t have access to many of the Judy Bolton series when I was a child. The series was out-of-print by the early 1970s and the publisher was only selling remainder stock to bookstores.

One of my classmates owned this book (and the previous one in the series) and she loaned both to me. I was lucky that some of my classmates, mostly girls, read the series books and we loaned them to each other.

This story captivates me every time I read it – once every few years – I love it that much. It is also one of the few children’s series books where the plot isn’t too implausible – these events could have happened in real life.

This December, I re-read this beloved book again. I continue to be charmed by this thrilling adventure. Judy Bolton proves she’s a loyal friend and relative to Roxy and that girl’s father by staging their rescue. In the spirit of Christmas and the with the magic of the holiday season, Judy, her husband, Peter, and their immediate and extended family gather, as planned, to celebrate Christmas Day together.

The conclusion of this novels warms my heart. Like Judy, I believe that, whenever possible, families and other loved ones should be together at Christmas. Judy Bolton proves this dream can be realized in this Christmas adventure.

Until another Christmas season, when I want to revisit #19: The Secret of the Musical Tree, I shall return my book to its proper place among the other 38 books in this captivating series to be discovered again when I must revisit the musical tree and its holiday secret.

©2016

Why I Need to be Six People!

Life is to be lived, embraced, experienced, enjoyed … but all that we, as human beings, must do, should do and want to do to enrich our lives must fit into 24 hours each day, seven days each week, 365 days each year (excepting for Leap Year – once every four years!).

I don’t have enough time, or I don’t have enough of me!

I need to become six people!

Recently, as I explore my inner thoughts, I know it would be wonderful if I were six people!

Why? … one might question! I need to be six people in order to accomplish all that I must do or want to do to enrich my life.

I live with physical disabilities; cerebral palsy from birth (1959) and Parkinson’s disease (2011). Currently, each day, I manage approximately four to five hours of significant activity before I need to stop and rest. This conflicts with my personality of wanting to get things done and live life as fully as possible!

 

#1Bill-Locket-3-crop

As I get older, I find I need more rest. I need more downtime. I must rest and relax and refocus so that I can rebuilt. “William #1” is the person who would have restorative sleeps (quality naps), or rest quietly with a good book or movie to restore energy, resulting in better health.

 
#2Bill-Locket-3-crop

“William #2” is the worker! This person is responsible for all the tasks that must, should and want to be completed in order to maintain my home. Due to my recent 2015 move from Sudbury to Orillia, there are still many boxes and other belongings (including books) which must be sorted and organized. This isn’t enough time to do everything that I must do including unpacking and organizing my household.

Additionally, tasks like cooking, dish washing, laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, and related tasks, have to be done. “William #2” is responsible for home maintenance.

 
Bill-Locket-3-crop#3

“William #3” must do errands outside the home, grocery and other shopping, and tasks that are necessary for good health and well being. Visits to medical appointments, support groups, regular exercise (the two dreaded words of the English language!) and being with similar people who will help along this journey.

 

#4Bill-Locket-3-crop

The next me, “William #4,” is very social. He will work on staying connected with his network of terrific family, friends, series collectors, and others! He will regularly write letters and e-mails, make phone calls, and schedule face-to-face visits!

 
Bill-Locket-3-crop#5

This person is the creative person. This is the man who wants to spend time writing creatively on a number of subjects or projects of personal interest. This is someone who wants to and needs to share on a variety of topics. “William #5” is the creative writer!

 
Bill-Locket-3-crop#6

The last “me” is the go-to-guy! He is the one that will pick up any slack from the other “Williams!” He is the man in reserve! “William #6” is the spare!
Cloning myself will provide enough “Williams!” Of course, it might be easier if I just use my nicknames for my cloned selves: William is the original, then I have Bill, Billy, Will, Willy, Liam, and Billiam! Oh, wait, that’s seven????!!!

 

Is the world ready for six or seven of “William Land?” I’d like all variations of me are welcome, but, perhaps, I am the only one believing this?

 

©2016

The Magic of Christmas: the Wish Book

The Magic of Christmas: the Wish Book

by William Land


Merry Christmas
When I was a child, the forthcoming excitement of the Christmas season was marked by a huge occasion. This event was the arrival of the Sears Canada (formerly Simpson’s Sears) Christmas catalogue known as the Wish Book in our home.

My childhood and young adulthood (my twenties) was spent living in a small Northern Ontario uranium mining town: Elliot Lake. The town was somewhat isolated; it is located approximately 30 kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway. The community is found approximately halfway between the larger cities of Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

Shopping was limited in this remote area. Many goods and services, if they were actually available, were expensive. Like many families in Elliot Lake, the Land family ordered frequently from the catalogue outlets offered by Sears and Eaton’s. It was a sad day for Canadians in remote areas when Eaton’s ceased publishing their seasonal catalogue of merchandise for sale in 1976.

Fortunately, we still had Sears Canada and their annual Wish Book – a catalogue filled with pages and pages of holiday merchandise for the Canadian consumer. Most importantly for the five boys in my family, we found much to covet within the bright, colourful pages of this annual publication. Toys, games, and other childhood delights were among the offerings.Sears Wish Book 1975

My brothers and I poured over these pages constantly, it seemed, trying to decide which treasures to request on our Santa wish lists. My four younger brothers generally favoured sports items, games and what could be terms as “boy toys” while I wanted books and games. Each year the catalogue offered the newest releases in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series which I desperately wanted to acquire – I was a boyhood fan of these thrilling adventures.

I recall my mother advising us one year not to lose the pages of the well-thumbed Christmas catalogue because she wouldn’t be able to order. As one might expect, the binding became loose and pages were lost due to frequent handing by five rough boys! Our mother was smart, though – she acquired a second catalogue that she kept hidden from her sons until after the holidays. (An aside: This practice was adopted after she spent considerable time one year in the catalogue office completing order forms because she didn’t have a complete catalogue in her home. We had literally “read” that issue to shreds that year!)

As a younger adult, I still enjoyed poring over the annual Wish Book – not searching for the childhood novels any longer (I still can remember the unhappiness I experienced the year the series books were discontinued from the stock of this catalogue), but for other things I might enjoy: china, crystal, clothing, jewellery, home décor or anything else catching my fancy. I also searched for gift ideas for those on my Christmas list – the shopping in Elliot Lake was still limited in the 1980s. Citizens still needed the merchandise available through the Sears Canada catalogues much of the time.1971 Sears Wish Book - Children's Books

As an older adult, I still enjoy the annual tradition of pursuing the Wish Book. I’m not searching for anything particular – as I age I discover that I have for too many belongings and don’t want a lot of anything more – but still look at merchandise that captures my attention. Due to aging with a disability, I no longer enjoy shopping like I did in my youth. To avoid having to go to stores, I online shop – this saves a significant part of my energy.

I realized that I didn’t leave my apartment to get my reserved copy of the catalogue from the department store last week. In the absence of making a physical trip, I ordered a copy through the Sears Canada website last week. I expect its arrival in the mail sometime within the next few days. Of course, the current issue of the Wish Book is online, but I don’t want to deny myself the pleasure of turning the bright, colourful pages to see with fascination the festive offerings from this annual holiday publication. This activity represents a favourite Christmas tradition for me!Sears Wish Book 2015

©2015

21st Century TV Reboot Planned for Nancy Drew

21st Century TV Reboot Planned for Nancy Drew

by William Land


Earlier this week, CBS announced a planned television reboot of Nancy Drew – the heroine of various series featuring the intrepid girl detective.ND-GD-1

As a long-time Nancy Drew fan, my feelings about the proposed Nancy Drew TV series are mixed. Anything that brings Nancy into the 21st century is welcome, but the project must be done well. Unfortunately, neither book series Nancy Drew, Girl Detective (2004-2012, 47 titles) and the current Nancy Drew Diaries (2013-, currently 11 titles) are particularly successful. Many long-time, adult fans dislike and/or are not interested in this modern version of Nancy Drew.Nancy Drew Girl Detective series

I don’t believe either series are credible modern adaptations of the classic Nancy Drew mystery stories which the former series had replaced. The modern books lack the gothic elements and thrilling spine-tingling situations of the original series, Nancy Drew Mystery Stories (1930-2003, 175 titles). The first 56 books, published by Grosset and Dunlap, are particularly noteworthy as a testimony to the originality of the Nancy Drew series. These exciting novels of yesteryear have been replaced by a running theme in each book of the new series – sabotage.Nancy Drew Diaries

Of course, the various Nancy Drew series are not geared for the adult fan, but for an age-appropriate child audience. I lack first-hand knowledge of children’s reading habits, but I believe if the books were block buster sellers, like the Harry Potter books for example, sales reports would be frequently reported in the news.

I am not optimistic about some of the planned reforms. Changing Nancy from an eighteen-year-old amateur detective in a small, bustling city to a NYPD 30s super-sleuth is my biggest misgiving for the success of this project. How will the 21st century TV Nancy Drew still be similar to the Nancy Drew of the novels? Of course, if Nancy and the other main characters from the classic book series were present and close to their book personalities, the new TV series may have merit.

Of course, Bess, George, and Ned would have professions because they are Nancy’s age. Ned, for example, would have left university long ago. Nancy’s father and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, would likely have cameo appearances in the series unless Carson Drew, too, had relocated to New York City. Will his sister, Eloise, a resident of New York City in the book series, be cast in this updated TV adaptation?

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What is very positive about the TV adaptation is that it will introduce the Nancy Drew brand to new audiences? Diehard fans of the TV series might be eager to seek out the first 34 original titles (1930-1956) and/or their counterpart revised books (1959-1977) and the balance of the series which only had original texts (1957-1979, 35-56 titles). Both the child and adult readers might take interest in the various Nancy Drew print series; many of the books are long out-of-print.

Possibly fans might also find interest in the various TV and movie adaptations of Nancy Drew: wire-holder

1) Bonita Granville (four movies approximately 66 minutes each, 1938-1939);
2) Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Pamela Sue Martin (11 hour solo appearances and two two-hour episodes with the Hardy Boys, 1977-1978;
3) Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Janet Louise Johnson (one two-hour appearance and two one-hour episodes with the Hardy Boys, 1978);
4) Nancy Drew: Tracy Ryan (13 30-minute episodes and two 30-minute appearances with the Hardy Boys, 1995);
5) Nancy Drew: Maggie Lawson (1 87 minute movie, 2002); and,
6) Nancy Drew: Emma Roberts (1 99 minute movie, 2007).

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If the TV series brings Nancy Drew again into the limelight and the character gains new fans that is wonderful. The legacy of Nancy Drew from the Stratemeyer Syndicate will continue well into this century. The current book series might not be blockbusters, but the Nancy Drew HER Interactive computer games have been best-sellers since 1998. Currently, over 30 titles, based on Nancy Drew books, have been released; more are in development.ND-Her-Interactive-01

Count me among those life-long Nancy Drew fans waiting for the release of this new incarnation. Of course, I won’t wait with bated breath – I suspect a 30s-something New York professional women sleuth will bear little resemblance to the young teenage amateur detective of the white-spine and wraparound-spine dustjacket-covered blue books and the yellow-spine pictorial hardcovers from my collection.

Yet, over 85 years since her first appearance in The Secret in the Old Clock (©1930), Nancy Drew still lives on in her various incarnations. The long-lasting young sleuth, in whatever form she makes her appearances, still continues to captivate her audiences from the first time age appropriate child reader to a nostalgic elderly adult fan in her sixties or seventies. Nancy Drew still has universal appeal!

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