“The Right Stuff” to Read

This summer, I was obsessed with reading.  I read at least 6 books and I’m not a fast reader.  To be perfectly honest, three were Mary Balogh romances, but to my credit, they were each almost 400 pages.  but the two most interesting books I read The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel and The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.

the right stuff by tom wolfe

I’ve never been interested in science or space, but I love history.  These books painted vivid pictures of the history of test flight and space exploration.  This year I saw the movie “The Right Stuff” on Netflix and loved it.  I liked learning about the pilots, astronauts, their families, and the time periods.  As I was shopping on Amazon looking for something to read, I came across The Astronaut Wives Club.  The cover of the book had a picture of the wives of the Mercury 7 astronauts.  They looked like fashion plates from the 1960’s.  Their hair, their smiles, their red lipstick….I was sold!  I know in elementary school we were taught to not judge a book by its cover, but that is exactly what I did.  I wasn’t disappointed wither, I could hardly put the book down!  Each astronaut had a wife and family behind him, keeping the home fires burning.  They stretched their husbands’ meager salary (before they were famous, anyway), raised their children mostly by themselves, and dealt with the constant fear of their husbands dying in an accident.  They went to the funerals of their husbands’ friends and coworkers, always wondering when they would be the woman wearing black.  They dealt with the wondering and worrying about the “cape cookies,” as the pilots called them – the women who hung around the Cape and “entertained” the pilots.  The astronauts worked and trained at the Cape and it was an understood rule among the pilots that no wives were allowed there.  Even before the launch of Mercury 7, the astronauts started receiving amazing perks, including $500,000 to split between the seven.  This was from Life Magazine, in return for exclusive access to the families and their stories, etc.  The astronauts received sportscars for only $1 a year…..custom Corvettes, etc. which they drove around the Cape.  Unfortunately, many marriages ended due to the separation, strain, and extramarital affairs.  swas made into a television series and just came out on DVD.  I can’t wait to see it.

I had to read The Right Stuff next, of course.  Though I’d seen the movie, the book was better.  The danger of flight test, as the pilots called it, was unbelievable.  The pilots, many former decorated war heroes, flew because they loved flying and the adrenal rush of “pushing the envelope.”  They certainly didn’t fly because of the pay.

My favorite pilot highlighted in the book was Chuck Yeager.  Yeager was an unassuming, gifted pilot from West Virginia.  In World War II, he was shot down over German-occupied French territory, picked up by the French underground , which smuggled him into Spain disguised as a peasant.  While in Spain, he was jailed briefly, then released.  He somehow made it back to England and returned to combat during the Allied invasion of France.  Whew!  All that by the ripe old age of 21!  On October 14 1947, Chuck Yeager flew the X-1 and reached the speed of Mach 1.05, breaking the sound barrier.  Amazingly, he accomplished this feat with two broken ribs.  Two days before the historic flight, Yeager and his wife chased each other on horseback through the desert at night.  He fell off the horse, went to a doctor off base, and kept this little tidbit from the Air Force.  he only told his flight engineer Jack Ridley, who fashioned a handle out of a saw-off broom handle.  With the broom handle, he could shut the door of the X-1 (kind of necessary, right?).

Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, making his regular Army captain’s pay of $283 a month!  No extra, no bonuses, just doing the job that he loved.  Since the flight was top secret, he received no fame or notoriety until a year later.  So many test pilots died or risked their lives to fly experimental and new planes.  We never knew their names, their deaths never made the news.  But they were American heroes.  Without their bravery, we wouldn’t have aeronautical advancements.  That book really made me think about how so many Americans look up to professional athletes and celebrities.  Pro athletes and celebrities make enormous wages and are practically worshipped.  But what did they sacrifice?  They certainly haven’t risked their lives while making meager incomes like the test pilots.  Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox!  Now that I’ve told you all about the books, you may not have to read them anymore….but you’ll want to!


What’s one of your favorite books?  I’d love to know!

We Brake for Estate Sales

Guide to finding great deals at estate sales

Megan, Kendal, and I went to an estate sale the other day.  We absolutely love estate sales, but they’re not all created equal.  Our favorites have antiques and lots of cool old stuff.  Megan saw online that this one had old quilts and linens, so she was sold.  To me, part of the fun of estate sales is going through the house.  I like to see the “blueprint” of a family’s home and the life they lived there.  It’s a very personal experience.  If one of their belongings call my name, I am only too happy to purchase it and give it a good home.

estate sale sign

We were like kids in a candy store, taking everything in.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about the family who lived there, probably for many years.  The house was beautiful, large, and traditional in style.  Looking at the family’s belongings, it was obvious that they liked to cook, entertain, and read.  They had a few different sets of china.  There was a Royal Dalton service for 12 that took my breath away.  Before I was married, I would have thought I needed to have it.  Now I’m more of a paper plate girl. There were several tables of silver, beautiful but needing polished.  The house was full of furniture (our favorite thing to buy if it’s antique), pictures, dishes, pewter, games, holiday decorations, and a whole lot more.  There were women’s clothes and some fur stoles (gasp!  how glamorous!).  Looking at the woman’s clothes, she must have been petite and well-dressed.  This may sound crazy, but I wish I had known her.

Megan and I love books and particularly have a fetish for really old books.  Not to read, but to decorate with them.  We each bought several.  I found a cute collection of Jane Austen novels and a volume of Tennyson’s poems.  I also bought the 1952 edition of My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier.  It’s not that it’s famous, but there’s a movie out based on this book and I’ve been wanting to see it.  So I started reading the book, but the musty smell just about knocks my socks off!  Kendal bought doll house furniture and an antique enamel-topped table that Megan pointed out to her.  On the way home, Megan was not so sure she should have pointed it out to her dear sister….maybe she should have bought it herself.  But every time Megan and I bring home another piece of antique furniture, our husbands cringe.  We’re running out of space.  Oh, well.

antique bed from estate sale
Fynn’s antique bed was a great deal ($30) at an estate sale!

Upstairs in the hall, there were four painted portraits of children.  I’m assuming they were the children who grew up in the house because the portraits were signed and dated 1969.  The children in the portraits were beautiful, two girls and two boys.  They were priced at $70.00 each.  I felt sad and outraged at the same time.  Why on earth hadn’t the children, now grown up, taken the portrait of themselves?  Someone in the family had to have wanted them.  At least, I know I would have.  What a treasure to have a painted portrait of a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc.  I had the absurd thought to take them and give them a good home, if only to save them from the dump.  I did have a picture of a stranger hung in my home for awhile because I loved the frame.  It was of a mustached man, probably over a hundred years ago.  I got the creeps every time I looked at “him” so I kept only the frame and put our family picture in it.  I hope that mustached man doesn’t come back and haunt me for putting his picture in the garbage.

antique book from estate sale
The antique book “The Heroic Life of George Washington” (copyright 1902) displayed on this bench is an estate sale find. I think I paid $3!

There were two immigrant trunks that fascinated us.  They were beautiful and one was Scandinavian in origin.  If only we had more room for such treasures.  I know that the Bible says to store up treasure for yourself in heaven, not on earth.  But God?  Can I please just take my antique bench with me to heaven?  I just love it, and my kids won’t want it.  I’ve already told my kids that I will come back and haunt them if they get rid of all my favorite things.

Do you ever go to estate sales?  What kinds of things do you look for?  If you haven’t been, you are missing out!  We have made some of our best purchases at estate sales.  Here are a few tips if you are a newbie:

1. Look online for sales in your area.  You can usually tell if there is anything you might be interested in by the description and items listed of a particular sale.

2.  Go with someone…it’s just safer if you aren’t familiar with the neighborhood, and you might need help carrying large items out, since you are expected to remove anything you buy yourself.

3.  Have a little idea of what you are looking for, but keep an open mind!

4.  Arrive early for the best selection, but don’t hesitate to go on later or even on the second or third day.  The prices are usually reduced by a third or half on those days.

5.  If you see something you are seriously interested in, grab it or it will probably be gone!

6.  If the sale had an awesome selection, definitely plan on going back the second or third day for even better deals, although I usually find the prices pretty reasonable the first day of the sale.

For a more detailed list, read this guide from The Weathered Door for some great tips.  We hope you are inspired to find your next great bargain at an estate sale!  Good luck and happy hunting!


Books You Need to Read!

I love to read.  In fact, sometimes that’s all I want to do.  Fiction, nonfiction, historical romance (my particular favorite), inspirational, etc., etc.  I have an obsession with books.  It’s really about entertainment for me, not learning.  When I was in college, I had to read the classics.  Would I have read them by choice?  Nope.  Did I enjoy Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald?  Yes, but I haven’t read anything like that since.  As much as I love the movie “Pride and Prejudice,” (and oh how I love it) I don’t read books by Jane Austen.  I guess I don’t want to have to think that much when I read!

My favorite fiction author of all time is LaVyrle Spencer.  Her books transported me to another place (not a difficult thing for me….I tend to live in fantasyland anyway).  Years is my particular favorite, then November of the Heart, and Twice Loved.  In fact, after reading Twice Loved, Megan and I had to visit Nantucket and immerse ourselves in the history of whaling.  We even looked up streets, like Crooked Record Lane, that appeared in the book.  Very strange I know, considering only fictional characters lived there!

The best nonfiction books I’ve read are Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, and In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton.  These books kept me riveted and I didn’t want them to end!  Megan and I are military history nerds and can’t get enough of that sort of thing.  After seeing the miniseries “The Pacific” we had to read to books about John Basilone and Eugene Sledge.   I think that we as Americans should honor our past.

As far as historical romance goes, I’m reading Mary Balogh right now.  Her books are engaging.  Megan and I are big Outlander fans as well.  When my daughter was in eighth grade, at conferences she proceeded to tell her (male) English teacher that “my Mom likes to read books with shirtless guys on the front.’  I sputtered a denial of course (and it wasn’t true, I prefer my romance novels to NOT have pictures of people on them).  This particular teacher had been my English teacher in junior high too.  Niiice.

I suppose I deserved that embarrassment because when I was in first grade, I also threw my Mom under the bus.  When asked to write something about my Mom, I wrote “she likes to read Harlequin romance novels.”  I’m sure I had help spelling “Harlequin” but the worst part was these papers were hung on the wall for parents to read during conferences.  She still reads Harlequin romance novels, but only those by Betty Neels.  Betty passed away several years ago and is no longer writing, but she lives on in my Mom’s library.  Her plots are almost always the same:  an Englishwoman falls in love with a handsome but aloof Dutch doctor.  The books end with a chaste kiss.  I’ve read and enjoyed some Betty Neels books, but I like a little more romance in my books!

Now that I’ve covered my love of romance novels, let me try to redeem myself and talk about spiritual books.  Right now I’m reading Women Living Well:  Finding Your Joy in God, Your Man, Your Kids, and Your Home by Courtney Joseph and it’s wonderful.  I have a few other Christian books waiting in the wings:  9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage by Sheila Wray Gregoire and Flourish by Katherine Hart Weber.  Unfortunately, I tend to pick up the light and fluffy books before I pick up the ‘I need to work on myself’ books.  But when I do read them I’m encouraged and uplifted.  Okay, lesson learned.

The old adage, “so many books, so little time,” rings true.  I just wish that I was a speed reader so I could get to more books.  I’m sure this type of post will be a regular one, so it’s not “The End” but only “To Be Continued…….”