Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Tuesday, 21 July, 2009


I found this book at my favorite used book stores the other day. Used to, if I wasn’t at home, I was at Katy Budget Books. I started reading it on the 1 ½ hour drive home. I’ve had a hard time putting it down to participate in life.

Amazon.com Review
Jacob Jankowski says: “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” At the beginning of Water for Elephants, he is living out his days in a nursing home, hating every second of it. His life wasn’t always like this, however, because Jacob ran away and joined the circus when he was twenty-one. It wasn’t a romantic, carefree decision, to be sure. His parents were killed in an auto accident one week before he was to sit for his veterinary medicine exams at Cornell. He buried his parents, learned that they left him nothing because they had mortgaged everything to pay his tuition, returned to school, went to the exams, and didn’t write a single word. He walked out without completing the test and wound up on a circus train. The circus he joins, in Depression-era America, is second-rate at best. With Ringling Brothers as the standard, Benzini Brothers is far down the scale and pale by comparison.Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob’s life with this circus. Sara Gruen spares no detail in chronicling the squalid, filthy, brutish circumstances in which he finds himself. The animals are mangy, underfed or fed rotten food, and abused. Jacob, once it becomes known that he has veterinary skills, is put in charge of the “menagerie” and all its ills. Uncle Al, the circus impresario, is a self-serving, venal creep who slaps people around because he can. August, the animal trainer, is a certified paranoid schizophrenic whose occasional flights into madness and brutality often have Jacob as their object. Jacob is the only person in the book who has a handle on a moral compass and as his reward he spends most of the novel beaten, broken, concussed, bleeding, swollen and hungover. He is the self-appointed Protector of the Downtrodden, and… he falls in love with Marlena, crazy August’s wife. Not his best idea.

The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there’s trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the “revenooers” or the cops, and losing all your hooch. There is one glorious passage about Marlena and Rosie, the bull elephant, that truly evokes the magic a circus can create. It is easy to see Marlena’s and Rosie’s pink sequins under the Big Top and to imagine their perfect choreography as they perform unbelievable stunts. The crowd loves it–and so will the reader. The ending is absolutely ludicrous and really quite lovely. –Valerie Ryan

a day at the beach?

Monday, 20 July, 2009

Yesterday morning after a home cooked breakfast of eggs-your-way, bacon, and english muffins, Hubby, WS2 and I ran down our list of options of what we could do for the day.  Our choices:

ride the ferry to a “new to us” beach (ferry wait time was 45-60 mins per traffic website)

go to our regular beach

go shopping on The Strand (I had absolutely no other takers)

go to Schlitterbahn

go to see Transformers 2 or Harry Potter

play online video game

What do we do? We pack our boogie boards and head to the beach. If you’re staying in Galveston and don’t go to the beach every once in a while, then what are you doing here?  Our ‘every once in a while’ has turned into the third time this week.  It seems like as soon as I get the sand out of every nook and cranny (but do you really ever get it all?), we’re packing to go again, which is just fine with me. Just as we are gettin’ gone to hit the waves, it starts thundering. Then RAINING! It hasn’t rained in weeks. We think, “whatever, it’ll blow over”.  It was just one dark cloud, how long could it rain? So we go. We drive along the seawall.

We keep driving along the seawall.  (Why did we keep driving along the seawall? To get to the other side of the cloud, of course.)

We drove a little more.

And a little more.

Still raining.

Ok, so what could a little rain hurt? We’re going to be wet anyway, right?  So we go.

We drive through the sandy dunes and onto the beach. NO. RAIN!  We’re so proud of ourselves. We beat the weather! Yea for us! We open our truck doors to a tsunami some wind….  (only a few things blew out, like our new kite’s flying instructions. ~sigh~) The Hubs gets out with his boogie board and high tails it to the waves calling for WS2 to hurry and catch up. That sends WS2 running right after him.  I’m video taping this whole thing because the waves were HIGH from the tsunami wind and the crests of the waves are blowing like crazy into the air and I’m thinking “oh yeah, I’m sooo sending this to Bob Van Dillen!” (he’s only the best and funniest meteorologist ever on my favorite morning show Morning Express with Robin Meade) when all of a sudden, the biggest, most ginormous rain drops start falling.  I quickly stopped taping and blew ran just as fast as my flip flops could carry me back to the truck. Not far behind me were the guys hanging on to their boogie boards with a death grip. We decided we’d hang out in the truck for a while so the rain could blow over.  When the rain didn’t stop and actually got worse with HAIL, we decided to leave the beach so that we wouldn’t get stuck in the muddy sand with all the die-hards that didn’t want to leave.

When we got home it was time for de-sanding.

And laundry.

I think I found a pearl….



Fun Foto Friday-Holly

Friday, 17 July, 2009


This is Holly the dog. Holly is cool. Especially with her tricked out shades. To know Holly is to love Holly. She’s a border collie who adopted BRO2 (my 2nd oldest brother) last March after being out on the streets.  She couldn’t have chosen a better home. She’s gone from street walker to sophisticated doggie diva. Since her arrival, she’s been to the doctor to be spayed, graduated from puppy kindergarten, celebrated her one year birthday, exercises on a daily basis (she loves to chase after her bright red ball), lays out in the sun (she occasionally takes a dip in her very own pool), and in between all that has somehow managed to have us all WRAPPED AROUND HER LITTLE (?) PAW.





Act 2

Friday, 17 July, 2009

Act 1

So, one quick call to my attorney later, we have papers stating that I have Sunday night telephone visitation at 8:30 p.m. and that BH is to have the boys available for me to talk to them, no ifs, ands, or buts. About this time, it started where WS1 was busy doing his sports-school function-friends thing. We talked sporadically and eventually it led to THIS NIGHTMARE. The Sunday night phone calls worked great, for the most part.

At first.

I would call at PRECISELY 8:30 p.m. central time. WS1 would answer and we’d talk. What’s so hard about that? But every call, SM would come in after 15 minutes and tell him it was time for him to get off the phone. Do you have any idea how effen annoying it is to have a STEPMOTHER tell you how long you can talk to your own son?!? Of course, I would let him go-I didn’t want him getting in trouble with her. I wouldn’t have kept him on the phone for long anyway, it was just the principle.


I tried to keep our conversations as light and kind-hearted as I could. I didn’t want to make it a chore for him to have to talk to me. As for me, I loved our Sunday night ‘chats’. It meant the world to me. So much so, that I even kept notes about our conversations. I want to hold on to as much of him as I possibly could.

Eventually, that all went to hell in a hand basket. Some Sundays WS1 would answer, others he wouldn’t. (Neither BH or SM would ever answer for him.) Turns out WS2 would be “at a friend’s house” or “outside”. Well who let him go?? It was amazing that BH could break a court order and not be concerned in the least bit. I would try calling the following day, the next, nothing. When I confronted BH about this, he would say “you’re the one that wanted to have Sunday nights at 8:30”. In other words, Sunday night is the only night you can talk to him. I could never get it through his thick brick-wall of a skull that I had to have that put in place so that I would be able to talk to him in the FIRST  place! (He still to this day does not understand.) But wait, didn’t he say that I ‘could call anytime?’

So what do the hubs and I do? We buy a razor phone (all the rage at the time) and a 2 year contract commitment for WS2 for Christmas. I happened to mention it to WS1 so that if BH and SM talk about getting him one, WS1 could tell them that he was already getting one. Well, WS1 mentioned it. And SM got him one anyway. She also just happened to give it to him as an EARLY Christmas present-as in the VERY SAME day he was coming to be with me for our Christmas visitation.

I feel lame and she comes across as the HERO.  bleh

all I can say is where’s the xanax…….



I’ve got some, OCEAN FRONT PROPERTY in Arizona…. (Act 1)

Thursday, 16 July, 2009

When the boys went to live with their dad and SM, it was all through temporary court orders. It was the ONLY way I would agree to them moving. In my mind I was hoping and praying, and literally counting on the fact, that they would come back to live with us. Then it would all be an easier legal process for that glorious day. (If you believe that flimsy excuse, “I’ve got some… OCEAN FRONT PROP-ER-TY in Arizona”…. sing it George!!) It was my way of leaving the door open for them to come back.

Ok, OKAY!! Fine!! It was my way of leaving the door open, well, for ME.

I wasn’t able to close that emotional door for the permanency of the transition. I hope my only fault here was having too much hope. Hoping that it was all just one miserable, awful, nasty nightmare and that I would soon wake up to sunshine, daisies, and the world once again rotating on its axis. I tell you this because I need you to have background. History, baby. You know, where you’re supposed to actually learn from your mistakes? During this temporary court order, I was able to call and talk to WS1 and 2 most any time on their cell phones.

Then as time passed, like about a year, BH had me served with court papers saying that he wanted permanent residency for the boys. Enter another emotional break down by the Yankee Wife. It’s one of those events where you’ll always remember where you were when it happened. As always, Hubby was my rock. (Thank you again, Hubby.  I love you!) At the time I felt like I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.  The boys still wanted to be there (sob), WS1 was established in high school and doing well, and I didn’t want to disrupt their lives. (YES I DID!!  I wanted them to pack all their stuff, say goodbye to their friends, and come back more than anything in the world!) That emotional door of transition was “fixin’ to hit me, where the good Lord split me”, whether I liked it or not.

Anyhoo, SM started taking both the boys cell phones up at night so they wouldn’t talk/text with friends during the night.


WS1 was a teenager with friends, so he always, ALWAYS, got his phone before the sleep was even out of his eyes the next morning. But WS2 was still in the ‘I-have-friends-but-they’re-not-my-ENTIRE-LIFE’ phase, so after his homework he would be ‘busy playing outside’ and the phone would be left “in her drawer”. The next day would turn into the next day into the next day. I talked to WS1 pretty often (during this time anyway), but it got to where WS2 hardly ever had his cell. When I would call the home phone, NO ONE WOULD EVER ANSWER. I have proof people. Don’t they know detailed call history logs don’t lie? I have it right here in black and white. When confronting BH with this, he told me flat out “we don’t answer the home phone”.  I have proof of this in many an e-mail as well. I mean, WTF??  I told (ok, maybe it was YELLED….yes, definitely yelled at) him he was preventing me from having communication with my kids.

He said, AND GET THIS, “you can call them anytime you like”.

Well, of course I can call them anytime I want! It’s getting a freakin’ ANSWER that’s the problem.




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