Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: Snow Hunters

 Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon

This book is so well written! I often stopped just to soak in various passages due to the lovely writing. I loved the gentle pace and the way the characters went about observing their worlds and building their lives.

A young man grows up in North Korea, lives through the war, and spends some time in a POW camp. Later he makes a getaway on board a cargo ship, the only passenger among the paid crew. He disembarks in Brazil where he knows no one and speaks no Portuguese. His life carries on as he sorts out his war trauma and his new surroundings.

The writing is almost spare yet very poetic. The pace is steady; life goes on. I grew to love the characters.

my friend's grandchildren, twins, a couple of years ago

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Trying to Clear my Brain

 Uffda.. 2020 has been hard. I'm mostly happy being at home on lock-down, but at the same time, my brain is frazzled. Times have been very stressful. I could list all the junk that has happened, but I won't. Most of it has been in national and world news anyway.

I'm still finding it hard to read, but I'm muddling through a little better than at first during the pandemic. I have done a LOT of sewing so I am going to try to catch up with some pictures of what I have made.

Just like my brain function lately, that one quilt pic decided to align itself to the left instead of to the center. There is no reason why, and no fixing it. Next time maybe I'll show you my ice dyed pieces.

That's enough for now. I don't want to bore you. And my brain is still as foggy as it was when I started.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Book Review: Open House

 Open House by Katie Sise

This one was an interesting story about a family whose daughter had died; ten years later it is still an unsolved mystery, and the younger sister, now an adult, deals with aftermath of the trauma.

The story started out strong; I thought I was in for a good read. However, before long it felt like a soap opera; a first-person account from the victim, explaining her life ten years before, went on for too long, right up to the very moment she vanished. A good story fell flat. I felt this book could have used some better editing.

Not my usual picture of someone reading.
Someone else posted this picture, and I borrowed it from Facebook.
I thought it made such a pretty winter picture.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

American Dirt -- Book Review

 Book: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Wow! This book grabbed my attention from sentence one! I could hardly put it down. Tense, moving, interesting, well-told. This book is an eye-opening look at immigration. I have heard there is some controversy since the author is not from Mexico (it's about a family from Mexico). But I don't hold that against her as it seems to be very well researched and so well told. A good author can write well about a place she is not from. Cummins does that beautifully. I highly recommend this fascinating book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Two Books

 A World Erased by Noah Lederman

Lederman's grandparents were Holocaust survivors. As he grows up he begins to feel more and more curious about their stories. He especially admires his grandfather (Poppy) and wants to know Poppy's history, which included fighting with insurgents against the Nazis while in the Warsaw Ghetto.

When Poppy dies before revealing his past, Lederman is alarmed, and he begins to pester his grandmother for stories. Through this process he gains respect for his grandmother. As a budding journalist, Lederman had a burning desire to learn the full stories. "Never again" has special meaning to him as the atrocities are so close to his own life. I still find it terrible to read and to try to comprehend the cruelty we humans can inflict upon each other. Since the Holocaust, even more atrocities have occurred. When will we say "never again" and really mean it?

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama's memoir of her life, focusing especially on her years of marriage to and life with Barack Obama and their foray into politics, eventually reaching the White House.

I started this book early in the COVID experience, when shelter-in-place was fairly new. At that time my mind was so distractible; I could not read coherently for a couple of months. During that time I put this book down. Later I came back to it and finished it. I truly admire Ms. Obama, but the book didn't light any fires for me. It was interesting, but I maybe should have read it when I was not affected by COVID-brain.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Nephew and His Quilt

 My nephew recently let me know that the quilt I gave him in 2007 has been well used and well loved -- so much so that it is now holey and threadbare. His girlfriend thinks it should be replaced. So.. of course, I felt inspired to send him a new one. This one was made about 4 years ago but has barely been used, so it's like new and is new to him.

He lives in California, with temps above 100 and smoky air surrounding him. Not really quilt weather! I was just happy to know it arrived safely. Now I know he has a blankie that is not threadbare. This was so much fun that I think I will send another one to another relative who has let me know how much he/she loves the original one I gifted long ago. My plan was to give every relative ONE quilt made by me. However, when Quilt Love is expressed, then I really don't mind gifting a second one. (In fact, I love it.)

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Book Reviews: Two Books

How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

Kendi walks us through his own journey of discovery as he explores where racism came from, what it really means, and how we need to re-examine our responses to it. Through the journey he learns to change some of his own habits and attitudes. He's very honest about what he learned about himself.

He also describes what we should all work toward which is focusing on policy. The results of racism are bad policies which harm entire groups of people. Our nation's attitude has become one of blaming the people, when in fact we need to blame the policies. He outlines some clear steps he followed along his own self-examination. He also lists the steps the rest of us can follow. It will require some hard work. But he ends on a hopeful note, assuring us that these changes are possible.

A very thought-provoking book.

Inheritance: a Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Not many memoirs are so riveting that I can hardly put it down. This one is. Shapiro's writing is beautiful. Her intelligence leads her to a thorough soul-searching and "new life" discovery as she suddenly at age 54 learns that her father was not her biological father. The story is captivating and spiritually rich. She now makes a podcast called "Family Secrets" which she handles equally as beautifully. I am captivated by her podcast as I was this book.

The COVID thing fogged my brain, and there were two full months in which I was not able to read. Now I'm back to reading like normal, and it feels great! I love books!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Book Review: Dracula!

 I listened to Dracula by Bram Stoker  on a podcast, read by Phoebe Judge. Podcast is called "Phoebe Reads a Mystery." I decided to give it a try, as it's an old classic that I had never read.

Well.. it's creepy! And sometimes interesting and sometimes boring. Sometimes it drags on, with lots of slow detail. I sometimes got the male characters mixed up in my mind.

The creepy parts are creepy. How does the human mind come up with this stuff? Vampires, and especially the way people must save them from themselves are a horrible thought. I suppose it comes from the fact that vampire bats really do exist. Then the imagination takes over from there. Wow.

There were a couple of main characters who are women. I did like that the circle of men around M.  respect her intelligence and include her in decision making (after at first excluding her under the guise of protecting her). She gives them a clear reason why she should be included, and they see her wisdom. Of course the overall attitude toward women was that they are the weaker sex and need protection. So the fact that they recognized and valued M's intelligence was important.

A side story is a doctor who works with "lunatics" in a hospital for insane people, aka insane asylum. He is curious and likes to learn about how the minds of "lunatics" work, but overall they are not given much respect. The straight jacket is employed frequently. Ugh. I'm so glad we have progressed a little in this field. Not enough, but at least we no longer refer to them as "lunatics."

What else can I say? Now I can say that I have read Dracula. I do not intend to ever read it again. My curiosity was satisfied, and the creepiness is in my past.

Vancouver Public Library

Friday, August 21, 2020

Trying Again... And I Read a Book!

After two dry months I finally managed to read a book! This COVID stuff has messed with my mind in a weird way so that I could not concentrate on reading. It has been very frustrating. I did finally manage to read this book: Chinese Cinderella, the True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah.

It was a memoir, a young adult book, so the reading was quick and easy to finish in a short time. Interesting story. The poor child's mother died shortly after giving birth to her, thus the family blames the baby and thinks of her as bad luck. Her own bad luck starts on that day and continues for years. It was very sad. But, here's a hint... the Cinderella part eventually does take place, and it's not just a sappy marriage to a prince.

I am hoping this blog entry will publish correctly. The new format threw me off last time. I now will attempt to show you some of the things I have been sewing during the pandemic shut-down.
above: I made the top a while ago, but I finally got it quilted recently, and I am very happy with it. The pattern is Smudge by Villa Rosa. It is made of Australian fabrics so I count it as one of my souvenirs from traveling there in 2015.
above: Some of you might recognize this. It is part of Gudrun Erla's pattern called A Stroll in Paris. She presented it in mystery format. I finished most of the project, but not all. I decided to just stop with these blocks and make my own piano keys border. Not sure what I will do with it. Keep or give away?
The three above were made for Quilts Beyond Borders.
The above two are for Wrap a Smile.

This week I was able to spend a couple of days with my sister and cousin up at the cabin, so I feel that my summer has been a success. I got to swim in the lake, and that was my goal. When one's travels are restricted, the goals become quite tame. I was happy to achieve mine.

Monday, August 10, 2020

HELLO!! Hello? helloooo....hellooo (echoing)

My little blog has been feeling neglected. I have not been inspired to write much. But I am still here! The pandemic and the self-quarantine have really messed with my interests. You know I love to read, but guess what? I have barely been able to read a thing for the last couple of months! For some reason I cannot settle down and give my full attention to a book! I'm perplexed and hope it will correct itself soon. Right now I am managing to listen to a book on the podcast, "Phoebe Reads a Mystery." She is reading Dracula by Bram Stoker. I have never read it in my life, so decided to listen to broaden my knowledge of classics. It has been a little creepy and then a little interesting in ways other than creepy. We're not done yet. She reads one chapter per day. I have been sewing. Here are some examples: Oh, wait! Blogger has changed its format! Where do I find the insert for sharing photos??? Sheesh... it's not even honoring my desire for paragraphs. I'm lost!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Why I Don't Drink

I started listening to a new (to me) podcast: Inappropriate Questions. It is produced by CBC (Canada). So far I am enjoying it. Some of the questions they have discussed include "Have you had the surgery yet?" (transgender issues), "Are you able to have sex?" (disability issues), and the most recent that I listened to, "Why don't you drink?".

This question about drinking is a little less obviously inappropriate. It depends a lot on context, who asks and how they ask, and the non-drinker him or herself and what they feel comfortable with. Several people were interviewed and had a few different takes on how it can feel to be asked that question. It prompted me to think about myself, and how I feel about that question.

I say I don't drink, but technically, if even a drop counts, I do drink very rarely and infrequently. For example, I will sometimes have a Mike's Hard Lemonade (have had two or three in my life, I believe), or an occasional Mimosa (again, maybe 2 or 3 times in my life). And when I happen to imbibe, it is usually because I am getting it free.

I grew up in a Methodist household. My dad was a Methodist minister, and Methodism was and is strong in my family heritage. Methodism, in its history, took a strong stance against drinking alcohol. Officially it is still in favor of abstinence, although it is less strict now and encourages people who choose to drink to do so responsibly. My childhood household was wholly in favor of abstinence, and that is how I grew up. The act of drinking was seen in judgmental light. So, that was the attitude around which I grew up.

The first time I ever tried any alcohol was (guess when) during college. I had a drink once at an event; I think I was 19. Then I didn't drink anything again until my 21st birthday. I went to a bar and got the bar tender to give me a free drink.

After that I continued to drink very rarely. A couple of times as an adult (in my 30s), on two different occasions, I drank maybe two drinks, enough to get light-headed and silly. But I never liked that feeling and later was embarrassed at my silly behavior.

The final straw took place when I traveled with my husband. We were at an event. They had a table at which people were encouraged to sign a sober pledge - pledging not to drink at all from that point on, for the rest of one's life. As a person who drank so rarely I could almost call it never, I glibly signed the pledge, and went merrily on about my business. That evening we attended a dinner which was paid for by the company with which my husband was affiliated. Since it was free, I decided to order a drink. I took a couple of sips, and then suddenly remembered the pledge I had signed earlier that day. How glibly I had signed it, when others who struggle were being encouraged to sign the pledge, and maybe had to do some real soul searching before they could take that big step. I felt guilty that I had made a pledge and then had immediately broken it. For people who really had the problem, signing the pledge that day would have and should have held some great importance in their lives.. a turning point, one hopes.

After that I promised myself that I would never drink again, and in so doing I was honoring the pledge I had signed and attempting to be in solidarity with those who signed it with a lot more difficulty than I had. I did abstain from any alcohol for a long time after that.. many years. But in the last five years or so is when I have occasionally had a Mike's Hard Lemonade or a Mimosa. And to be honest, even those drinks were probably taken due to peer pressure (even at my age).

I'm still a Methodist (now called United Methodist), and I am proud of the Methodist tradition of encouraging abstinence. We still will never have a Methodist event at which alcohol will be served. We take that stance seriously, though as I stated above, it is more open to individual decisions these days. I admit I like the fact that I don't ever have to question whether I'll be in the presence of alcohol consumption at a Methodist event. I am not comfortable in drinking situations, and would hate to have to juggle my way through a church event with drinking being part of it. I'm happier without it being an issue at church.

As for being asked, "why don't you drink?" , I do feel a little uncomfortable with that question. The reason is because of the judgmental attitude in which I grew up. Drinking was just seen as wrong and bad. I enjoy a 99% alcohol-free life. I'm happy that I don't drink (for the most part). But when being completely honest with myself, I have to admit that I still do feel some of those judgmental feelings that I was taught. I try hard to separate the drinking from the person, so that I'm not being judgmental about the person but only about the habit. But it is hard. When trying to explain why I don't drink, I find myself sounding judgey, and I don't like that. I don't want to be that. So in my case, it is an uncomfortable question, though I wouldn't go so far as calling it inappropriate.

There. Just thought I'd share. It was on my mind, so I wrote.

Happy middle of summer! Hope you are enjoying some beautiful days. Read any good books lately?

Monday, July 13, 2020

Short Story Review - Recitatif

Levar Burton has a cool podcast called "Levar Burton Reads." Remember back when he did Reading Rainbow? Well, he truly loves books and loves to read. So now he does this podcast. Recently I listened to his reading of Recitatif by Toni Morrison. First he waxed eloquent about his admiration for Morrison. (He's right; she's a great writer.) Then he read the story. It is about two girls who were close friends in childhood. One girl is white, one is black. After their lives take them on separate paths, they bump into each other on a couple different occasions as the years go by. They are growing up and into adulthood as the 1960s Civil Rights movement is going full swing in the USA.

Of course the story is interesting; but one aspect is VERY interesting. Morrison purposely doesn't tell us which character in the story is white and which character is black. At the end, Burton talks a bit about the story and questions us, the listeners: do you feel that you know which is which? Why did you come to those conclusions? What pre-conceived notions led us to decide in our minds which girl is white and which girl is black?

This was mind blowing. I thought about that for a long time. To me, I barely gave it any thought while listening. It was "obvious" to me which was white and which was black. But I didn't realize until Burton challenged me -- why was that "obvious?" I'm continuing to ponder that question. What does it say about me, or about the story, or about American culture, or about Morrison's talents, or even about Burton's reading? Very thought-provoking.

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.