Saturday, June 27, 2020

A Whole Month Later -- Catching Up

It has been a MONTH since I posted?? I guess I didn't feel I had anything newsworthy, which never stopped me in the past, as my readers well know. These are such strange times... continuing quarantine at home, plus all the unrest which started here in Minnesota after the death of George Floyd. I didn't know how to address it all. (Also, my depression reared its ugly head for a while, so I wasn't enthused about writing.) I'm all in favor of radical change. It's about time we finally address our racist habits here in the USA. I think having the conversations is a great start. So many of us white people, definitely including me, have had easy and oblivious lives, unaware of how truly difficult it has been all along for people of color. I thought I was "woke" but I see I was not. So.. I'm trying to read and learn all I can. This will be an ongoing goal of mine.

Meanwhile, my sister got married!! She was divorced many years ago (which is sad no matter what, and each situation contains its own unique story of sadness). And then a year ago she attended a 50th school reunion in the town where we used to live as kids; we moved away from there when I was 12 and she was 13. She has always been good at keeping in touch with people from the past. Me, not so much. I would never have attended that reunion. Anyway, while there she re-connected with a family friend/classmate. His family had attended our church where our dad was the pastor. And we used to go out to their farm fairly often to have dinner and play around. You know, for a town kid to go visit a farm, it's always memorable and there's so much to do. We have good memories of that family.

So when my sister re-connected with R., we thought it was quite cool. And he is a very nice man. His wife of many years died of cancer 3-4 years ago. Sis and R. were both in the right position to be open to a new relationship. And this one went fast. They felt close immediately and a year later - Boom! - they got married. They figured at age 69, why waste any time? And R's mother is still alive; she is now 97, understandably getting frail. So they wanted to hurry on her behalf as well.

The wedding was small - a crowd of 10 - and we practiced social distancing. It felt quite odd to not be able to hug and be close at a wedding. I did sneak in one quick hug with my sister, but kept my distance from my new brother-in-law. It was a fun, happy day. I must say that I have not seen my sister this happy in a LONG time. I am thankful that she and R. found each other.

They got married at the chapel on the campus of the senior residence where R's mother lives. My son was videographer. Here he is shown interviewing R's mother. He intended to get taped comments from all ten people, but ended up getting only that one. And the final pic is Sis and R opening the gift we gave them.. it's something they have to choose, so it's just a written description.

I am happy to report that my depression went back into hiding. I'm feeling quite good again and am interested in my fun hobbies again. I have been mostly sewing, because oddly, I have not been able to concentrate on reading! During this time when I could be reading up a storm! What's up with that? I figure it'll come back to me eventually. I hope you, my lovely readers, are healthy and happy. Keep safe, everyone!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Book Review: The End of the Ocean

Novel: The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde

An audio book I got at a bargain price as a new user of the Chirp audio books app, I really enjoyed this book! The writing was great; several times I was struck by excellent metaphors and other language devices that make a book so rich. The narrators were also very good. I liked the fact that a woman read the female character's part and a man read the male character's part. The story takes place in the future, after humans have caused such destruction via global warming. People are living in crisis, running from fires and facing severe water shortages. There's a woman and her story from the past (probably around our current time), and there's a man and his young daughter trying to survive in the future, year 2041. It all seemed terrifyingly possible and realistic. A serious issue, but I kept a glimmer of hope throughout the book. I suppose that's because the lead characters had to rely on hope as well.

somewhere in Norway -- I hope we never need to worry about where to find water as they did in this book! (part of it took place in Norway)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

My H2H Challenge Quilts

This year I made two quilts for the Hands2Help Challenge. This first one went to Quilts of Compassion:

Another option was their idea to send a quilt to a local caregiver. I decided to give one to my friend who works in the mental health field. I'm sure it is quite a challenging job, and I'm betting that her patience and quiet approach are helpful to her clients and to herself. Still, no matter how well suited she is to the task, I'm sure it sometimes gets to be difficult. So I sent this one in the mail, and I will post her response below the pictures.

From my friend:
"Thank you so much for the wonderful gift that arrived today! You will never know how much that means to me. After a challenging week at work, this made my day. The quilt is so perfect in every way. I love that the animal print came from Panama."

The give-one-locally idea was fun as I got to experience her reaction. I'm very pleased that it was a hit.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Book Review: Disappearing Earth

a novel: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

This book takes place on a peninsula in north-eastern Russia very near and/or in the arctic - a peninsula that I never knew existed! However, I have recently learned some things about the Russian arctic, so some of the life styles in this book were a little familiar due to my recently-gained knowledge. It's always fun when my worlds of learning collide.

This one starts out with the disappearance of two young girls from a community in the southern part of this peninsula. The story then expands to include other families and groups within that same community. It also includes communities north of this one, hence the closer proximity to the arctic region where reindeer herding is a way of life.

The chapters bounce around between groups of people. It wasn't too jarring other than wishing to know the outcome of some of the previous situations; but then the reader gets caught up in the new chapter and new situations. It's a captivating book and good story that involves a lot of human emotion, struggles, joys, and sorrows. I give it 5 of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Book Review: The Less People Know

The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets and Stolen Identity -- a memoir by Axton Betz-Hamilton

I vowed I was going to stop reading memoirs, but I'm glad I broke that vow. This one is fascinating. I had heard the entire story on a podcast, but knowing the whole story did not ruin my interest in the book. It reads like a captivating mystery in which I was constantly wondering "what happens next?" even though I knew.

The author grows up in a family whose identities were stolen, years before this was a common or even known crime. Their finances and entire lives are upended as a result. The author devotes her life and her career to unraveling her own story and researching the phenomenon, thereby becoming one of the earliest experts on the crime of stolen identities. Fascinating story. I recommend it.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Quarantine Sewing - It's What I Do

More quarantine sewing.. I'm getting caught up on some things, but the more I get caught up, the more I find that I'm behind on, so it doesn't feel like progress. I'll keep plugging away at my to-do piles.

These quilts were all mostly finished, just needed some borders added.

This one was made by my sister (the main part), and I just added the HSTs border.

I made this one years ago in a challenge posted by Victoria Findlay Wolfe. I finally chose this Australian fabric for the border. I didn't even own this Australian fabric when I made the quilt top, so I'm glad I waited, as I think it looks pretty cool.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Book Review: And Then She Was Gone

a novel: And Then She Was Gone by Rosalind Noonan

An 11-year-old girl vanishes while walking home from school. She is not found until six years later. Reunification with her family is difficult and awkward. There is a lot of anxiety experienced by everyone in the family, except perhaps her father who is very mellow. Except he is also a high-energy fire fighter. It seems the author couldn't decide -- is he mellow or high energy?

I tried to put myself in the mother's shoes, wondering what it would be like to have a sudden return of a stranger, the daughter you missed desperately and with whom you dreamed of being reunited. The mother and daughter both struggled with reconnecting. Believable. But, I didn't like the mother character very much.

The daughter is 17 when she returns, and I kept thinking she seemed too mature for someone who had been snatched at 11, experienced trauma, and never completed school. Perhaps the author wanted us to believe that the girl matured quickly because of those experiences. Maybe. I can't explain human behavior and/or psychological responses to trauma. I could be wrong in this assessment.

Here's a weird thing: in the beginning when the girl is being snatched, we are given to believe that it is the first day she had permission to walk home alone from school. At the end of the book, it is claimed that the perp had stalked her for weeks to figure out her patterns and his snatching plan. There are many such inconsistencies in this book.

I would recommend using your reading time on other books. This one is "entertaining" but not great.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Book Review: Mornings in Jenin

Book: Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

This book of historical fiction is very well-written. It follows a family through four generations in Palestine. The first group is forced out of their homes and removed to a small, walled-in area. They maintain hope of getting back home. Four generations later, they are still in exile. Wars have occurred, children have grown and taken on causes, married, or moved away. Some of the events that take place are violent and graphic (after all, it's war). The story is based on true wars and true events, with fictional characters, therefore one can learn about the conflicts between Palestine and Israel and try to understand what has been at the root. An excellent book, full of the love and agony of humanity.

Friday, April 24, 2020

T for Terry

1) I think I changed my comments to "moderated." If it didn't work, I'll try again. I have been getting several comments in other languages and regarding goofy stuff not related to me or my interests. So, due to a few I have to make it more cumbersome for all. Sorry about that.

2) Here's some sewing I have done recently. One of the groups I donate to, Wrap-a-Smile (WAS), is coming up on its 20th anniversary. Also, its founder, Terry, is seriously ill. So to celebrate WAS and to honor Terry, some of us decided to make quilts out of T-blocks. (T for Terry.) Here is what I have done so far:

This first quilt is made of all Ts.

This quilt has one T block which is top row, center. Ts are slanted. See?

This quilt has a row of purple/yellow Ts in the middle.

The Ts below are the middle part that look like pistons:

Another volunteer is quilting these for me. Wrap-a-Smile gives quilts to kids who undergo cleft lip/cleft palate surgery all over the world. They get to keep the quilt, of course. If you are interested in donating to Wrap-a-Smile, I'll be glad to give you the information on how, where, and all the deets you need.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Book Review: An Only Child

An Only Child and Her Sister by Casey Maxwell Clair

my rating: 3 of 5 stars

This memoir is written by the older of two daughters. They are very close in age, but their lives are totally different. They are frequently in different places, and most often they are treated quite differently by the parents. Therefore the older one, who seems to be the preferred child, feels like an only child and only occasionally sees her sister.

It's a sad story of neglect and longing. Part of the longing was my own, to find someone to give the girls the love they craved. I seem to get drawn to memoirs, but I may be getting tired of them. So give my 3 star rating a bit of leeway. It could easily have warranted 4 stars by someone who's not tired of this genre.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

More A to Z Blocks

I am continuing to work through my book of blocks in alphabetical order. Here are more of what I have made:

This yellow one was accidentally made 14 inches rather than the standard 12-inch size I was aiming for. And the colors in this photo are off. It was prettier in person.

The last one I made is Contrary Wife (what a name!) There are several more C blocks to work through before I get into the Ds.

Happy sheltering at home, readers!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Solo Sewing

During the quarantine I am doing all my sewing alone at home. I enjoy it, but usually I have at least a once-a-month quilters' gathering which rejuvenates me, and I'm missing that now. Still, I do enjoy sewing when I feel like it and doing whatever I want. Even the quilt projects to which my friends and I donate are not currently in operation, so all the sewing we do is for later. Which means.. there are no deadlines prompting me to do X, Y and Z before the more fun things that I'd rather do. That's a benefit of quarantine sewing.

Here's what I have been making:

Those three tops will eventually be for Wrap a Smile which gives quilts to kids after cleft lip surgery. They are made from a combination of my own blocks, donated blocks, and some donated rows. Wrap a Smile is one of the programs currently on hiatus. But they'll need lots of quilts once they start back in operation.

Here is a collection of blocks I made from a tutorial at the blog, The Objects of Design. Post was on Aug. 20, 2014. The block has partial seams, but they're super easy and go together quickly. They make a small block, only 5.5 inches. I was going to try to be creative, but ended up deciding on a straight setting. They're already interesting enough so that it makes a creative quilt top as is.

To my own chagrin, I am not reading as much as I thought I would during this quarantine time. Since I'm doing so much sewing, maybe another audio book would be a good way to go.

Happy sheltering-in-place, everyone! I hope you are healthy and happy. Sending my hugs around the world.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Book Review: Grayson

Grayson by Lynne Cox

A true story. Lynne Cox swims in the ocean every day in early morning hours, training for various long-stretch swim endeavors such as swimming the English Channel. One day she feels that something is swimming underneath her, but she is not sure, and if it is something, she doesn't know what it is. Instinct tells her to keep swimming and not to fear. Eventually she discovers it is a baby gray whale. This is her story of swimming with the whale, hoping it can be reunited with its mother. As time passes she experiences close sightings of many other ocean and sky creatures. I can't imagine what an almost mystical experience that must have been.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Podcast Recommendation: Threshold

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Some are mildly interesting, some are riveting. One I'm going to recommend is Threshold. I discovered it recently. They have completed two seasons, I think, but I have only listened to Season One so far. Season One takes an in-depth look at the bison/buffalo in North American history and in current wildlife management programs, focusing on herds in Montana and in Yellowstone National Park. It is so interesting, and I hope some of you take time to listen to the whole season.

Apparently each season will focus on one topic. I don't yet know the topics for the next seasons. I think they may have already started Season Three. If they are all this well done, I am (and you are) in for a treat!

Where can you find podcasts? At Apple Podcast, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and lots of places. I have an app on my phone called Castbox. That's what I use. It's easy to do a search and find all kinds of interesting podcasts from all over the world. I started with CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company). They had some great ones; I especially recommend Someone Knows Something. It's not being currently produced, but what they did in the past was excellent. And once you get hooked in one, they'll often recommend others, so the ideas soon become never-ending and overwhelming. But fun! I love to listen and learn while I sew.

I wish U.S. Americans would be better educated on the buffalo and the current issues, so I hope some of you take advantage of this free resource (and our current free time) and give it a listen.

P.S. I'm aware that most people know how to find podcasts, but there are some in my generation who might be slower to catch on, so that's why I give details on how to find podcasts and how to listen. In fact, I know a certain person of my age range who used to complain "What does that mean?" when radio shows would say "listen to this wherever you get your podcasts". I was in the dark for a while, too.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Book Reviews: Two Books

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates -- 5 stars

The author writes this book to his son. He explains his own life: how he grew up on city streets, learned what it means to be a black youth in America, and as he grows up he also analyzes what American society does to the lives of black people in general and black males in particular.

As a white person who spent many years being for-the-most-part oblivious, this was an important book to read and to attempt to comprehend. To be honest, the author is so intelligent and able to deeply analyze behaviors and society and history; I had a hard time grasping it all. I do feel grateful to have had this look at my white (dominant) culture in an illuminating way. I imagine a person could read this book many times and get more out of it each time.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle -- 4 stars

This book was pretty good.. I listened to the audio version. I think my reviews are subject to change depending on whether I read a hard copy (including Kindle) or if I listen to an audio version. I'm not completely comfortable with audio books, but I get them occasionally so I can do projects while I listen. I think I am more forgiving when listening to an audio book. So.. I don't know what I would think if I had read this myself, but I liked it pretty well as an audio book.

The idea of it was interesting. The main character is in a certain life, and then she wakes up five years ahead in the future. I liked how the author played it out. It surprised me a little, and I was glad the ending wasn't exactly what the main character thought it all meant. The book is a bit of a tear jerker, although I myself shed no tears. I can imagine me at a younger age crying over it, though.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

How Are You Coping?

During this corona virus pandemic, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, most of Minnesota has shut down: schools, churches, bars and restaurants, hair and nail salons, malls, many businesses have cut hours, and people are encouraged to self-quarantine if possible. Husband and I are doing that. We are trying to understand enough of the virus to be wise and careful, but not too much to let ourselves get crazy-scared about it. We are trying to trust that preventative measures will pay off.

We are in the vulnerable population of "over age 65," plus Husband is diabetic. So we want to be careful. This morning Husband went to the grocery store during the first hour of opening business which is set aside for elders like us. At that time of day, everything has been freshly cleaned and stocked, and the only people there will be in that same age group. Hopefully it's safer than just shopping among the general population. We have been getting groceries delivered, but that actually is getting harder as items are not in stock. It's harder to guarantee we will get the items we want. Yesterday (Friday) I went online to place our delivery order, and the first available delivery time was Sunday night! We could have made that work but just chose not to. Many of our usual items were not even available, but he found them in person early this morning. (Everything except bread and toilet paper. We're good so far.)

Other than that, we are not feeling too much stress during this "lock-down" time. I am fully retired and Husband is semi-retired, so staying home all day is typical for us. The only things we have cut out are the social and group gatherings we would usually be participating in. To be honest, having some of them on hold for a while is a relief! Even retirement life gets to be too busy sometimes. Husband has been doing his usual two days a week of work remotely (from home). Spring is slowly approaching, so weather has been nice enough to get outside for walks, which helps keep us sane.

So far our two adult children are doing OK. Son's job site has closed, but he is still getting paid. Daughter's job is still up and running. I'm crossing my fingers for her; she doesn't get paid if she doesn't work.

How are you doing, dear reader? I know for some people being cooped up at home is not fun. I hope you are finding ways to keep yourself happy.

For me, life these days has been quite fun. It is relaxing to have no obligatory events, and we can stay home and enjoy ourselves. As introverts, this suits us well. I have been doing my usual: sewing and reading. Here are some of the things I have been working on lately:

I also decided to work through a block book that I have, from A-Z. These are the blocks I have made so far. I'm a little bit into the B's.

Oh.. my sisters and I are feeling lucky to have completed a fun and healthy trip to Panama last month. Just this week Panama suspended all international flights, and they now have several confirmed cases of Covid-19 there. Prayers for them and for the world!

May we all enjoy good health and learn to appreciate our quieter world for now.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Panama Memories

I am so grateful for my trip to Panama. Here are some fun memories:

riding a boat through the canal (we were close enough to the canal wall that I could touch it)

hanging out with my sisters:

beautiful scenery

swimming in the Chagres River and in the Caribbean Sea:

Happy memories forever.