Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Book Review: Anxious People

 Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

An odd bunch of people get thrown together for an extended period of time when they become hostages of a bank robber. I am amazed at how Backman's brain works. He comes up with so many quirky people and situations! It reveals his keen observation of humanity and how we interact. One has to admit, we do have all those eccentricities that he creates in his characters. I got a bit bogged down in the middle when I wanted things to hurry along; friends encouraged me to keep reading, and I am glad I did. In the last part of the book Backman once again shows us his understanding of the absurdity, complexities, and beauty that is life and that is love. He touched my heart strings in a big way. I would have given the book five stars except for the part where I got bored. It redeems itself with a beautiful ending, so I give it four strong stars out of a possible five.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Two Book Reviews

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Thi Bui has written a masterful graphic (illustrated) memoir. She was born in Viet Nam, and when she was very young (and her mother was 8 months pregnant), they escaped and eventually made it to the USA. Apparently she struggled to write this book over many years. It finally came to fruition when she decided to make it an illustrated version. I loved her drawings, and the story resonated with me. I lived through all the history she recalls (though from a safe vantage point in the middle of America), and well remember the "flood" of refugees making their way to Minnesota. Then, when I worked in St. Paul Public Schools, I had the lucky draw to work closely with many refugee and immigrant children. I learned so much from them, and much of it is reflected in this book. I easily read it in one sitting, about two hours. I plan to read it again, because it was so well done, and because I want to catch what I may have missed on the first reading.

The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty

Augie Merasty leaves his home at age five to attend a residential school for Indian children in Canada. He endures many years of abuse and torture at the hands of the nuns and priests in charge of the school. It's another indictment of the system which strove to eradicate the culture of the First Nations. Same thing happened here in the U.S. Families are still suffering from the generational trauma brought about by this criminal treatment imposed upon children. With a tumultuous adult life and alcoholism, he pays the price for his abusive childhood, yet maintains a bit of his original spark. Heart-breaking yet hopeful book. I am thankful for the reconciliation work being done in Canada, which includes learning more about the history of the residential schools.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Hike, Sew, Sleep, Repeat

 I did not make this ducky quilt. I purchased it from a quilt shop
while on one of my road trips. All other quilts pictured here were made by me.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Swede Hollow is Real!

 OK, I knew Swede Hollow was a real place. Please see my previous post in which I review the book called Swede Hollow by Ola Larsmo . I knew Swede Hollow was a real place and had been a neighborhood for several groups of immigrants when they were new to St. Paul, including Italians and Irish and Swedes and possibly others. I had been to Swede Hollow Café a number of times in the past, but I had never explored the actual Swede Hollow area.

This time I looked around, and just a block or so behind the café, I found this park.. in the real place that the historical events occurred.

After having just read the book, it was fun to see the actual place. The book is fiction, but relies on some historical events and names, so I felt that seeing the park was an authentic "discovery" of the old neighborhood. It's fun to have history come to life before one's eyes.

It's hard to see it here, but this is a very steep hill going down into the hollow.

The stairway may give you a better idea of how steep the hill is. I wonder if this stairway is in the same location of the original stairs which were built by the residents of the hollow. In the book they
always sounded a bit rickety and very steep. I wanted to go further down and explore, but there was a person sitting at the top of the stairs. Sad to say, I didn't feel comfortable walking near him.
I will go another time.

In the book, the children of the hollow often climb the big hill and hide in bushes to spy on the Hamm Mansion at the top. There is no longer a mansion; there is a big building which is now an assisted living facility. .. and it is located in, guess what, Hamm Park!
(Hamm's Beer used to be a famous product of Minnesota.. I don't know if it still exists! The Hamm family living in the Hamm Mansion must have been from that enterprise.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Book Reviews: Three Books


"This is a good one, Mom."

1. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Read this for a book club. I liked the book but was a little disappointed in the character development. I didn't feel particularly attached to any of the characters. That said, it's a book about slavery, something I need to try to understand more fully. Each time I read a book such as this, I learn more and am reminded of just how heinous (and complex) an institution slavery was. It is a reminder of how and why we still struggle with our attitudes and racism here in the U.S.

2. The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson

I loved this book! It's a book about so many things: relationships, family, history, trauma, and plants. I gained a new appreciation for our environment and our ties to plants and animals. Please read this book!


3. Swede Hollow by Ola Larsmo

This book is about Swedish immigrants who came to Minnesota in the late 1800s and settled in an area of St. Paul called Swede Hollow. It is a real area that contained poor housing and often experienced floods along with contaminated creek water that they relied on. After many years of Swede Hollow being an actual neighborhood, the city finally condemned it, and it no longer is a developed area. The area still exists, now empty of people, and I have been curious about its history; I was happy to find this book. It follows Swedish immigrants from their arrival in the U.S. in the late 1800s through their struggles, joys, and sorrows up to the modern day. It is fiction but some of the characters and the historical events were taken from Minnesota's real past.

Fun fact: tomorrow morning my book group will meet at Swede Hollow Cafe in St. Paul.. yes! It's near the real Swede Hollow!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Show Pins Quilt

 Several years ago I found this long, narrow, already-quilted piece on a Free Table at a guild meeting. I don't know who made it. I took it, not sure what I would do with it. Eventually I decided to turn it into a quilt on which to display my pins: quilt show pins, pins from work, school, church functions, and pins from my various travels.

Today I put on a binding, a hanging sleeve, and now the pins are officially in their place. I am sure I used to have more pins, but without an official spot, they have been mislaid. That's OK. I like the ones I could find.

My church pin includes a president's pin from the year I was president of United Methodist Women (I was a terrible president). Travel pins hale from Scotland, Czech Republic, Panama, and the states of Washington, New York, and Florida. 


Do you have pins from various experiences of life over the years? What do you do with them? Do you put them in a specific place?

Monday, August 16, 2021

Unscientific Assessment

 I recently went on a very long road trip, and listened to a lot of radio. I decided to concentrate on Country Western music, even though it's not something I like very much. My assessment goal was to pay attention to the words and see what they say about life.

Most of the songs were about relationships. These are the stereotypes I came away with from country music:

A woman is small, beautiful and can "please her man." She looks great in jeans and a tank top. She can also be evil and conniving, but these are only the bad women. A woman seems to make serving a man her life's desire. What happens to her own dreams and goals?

Men are rough and tumble, bad at talking about feelings, jealous, and fall in love based mainly on looks - the looks of the woman make them weak in the knees, of course. Where is his desire to see the woman soar in her own life dreams? He doesn't appear to need to offer her any support in this area. 

A person should be raised by a mama who is an excellent cook and homemaker and instills in her children a faith in God and loyalty to family.

I learned very little about dads.

Very little about real-life struggles except for occasionally romanticizing being poor (down to earth).

Nothing about same sex relationships.

Nothing about people of color - people are assumed to be white? It seems that women should be blond.

Nothing about social justice issues.

I heard ONE song with these lyrics by Kelsea Ballerini: "I miss me. I miss my dreams. I miss my wings." The woman in her song, apparently in hooking up with a man, gave up her own dreams and her independence. At least she is realizing what happened. Is he?

This made me wonder about the world view of country music listeners and about their politics. Do they really see the above descriptors as the ideal? Do they really think this describes the way the world should turn? Maybe this is one of the reasons why a certain t-man whom I shall not name rose to such power and remains as "God, Jr." in the eyes of his supporters. He epitomizes this life to them? 

The thing is, I know and love people who listen to country music. I don't believe they hold these restrictive ideals for the roles of men and women. I am wondering how people can listen to country music all day long and not get sick and tired of its sameness. And I am wondering, do people who hold limited world views gravitate to country music? Does country music help mold limited world views? Or is listening to this music completely separate from one's politics and world views?

I may have offended some readers, and for that I apologize. You may have guessed that I, for one, will never be a country music super-fan.

(I do like bluegrass which, in my opinion, does include a wider world view and more inclusive perspectives. That's as close as I come.)

Friday, August 06, 2021

Hiking, Baby!

 I have caught the hiking bug! A while back, mostly out of curiosity, I joined a Facebook group called Women Who Hike Minnesota. Women Who Hike is a national group, and each state has their own local Facebook group. So.. I watched various women from Minnesota hike around the state in all kinds of weather. They exchanged ideas on good places to go, information about equipment, how to dress for cold weather, and lots of cool photos.

My husband had my extra shirt on his head, because he had no hat,
and this trail was VERY buggy.

After a long time of watching, I noticed someone posting that she wishes someone would start a small group she could go hiking with. "Self," I thought, "you could easily do that!" So I posted a note asking for out-of-shape hikers to join me, a hiking newbie, at a local state park. I even drove there a few days ahead of time to take pictures of exactly where we should meet and what the place looks like.

To my utter surprise, 15 women showed up! Wow! It was so cool! We had a beautiful day and a lot of fun. In Minnesota, one can participate in a Hiking Club through the state park system. I imagine most states have similar programs. Just go to a state park and ask about it, and they will sell you a little log book. It costs about $15. It lists all the official hiking club trails with little descriptors of each one. All you have to do is visit the hiking spots, do the hike, find the password which is posted at about halfway through the hike, and then record it in your log book. You write down where you were, the name of the trail, and the password.

After accumulating 25 miles of walking you get a patch. You get another patch for every additional 25 miles. I think if you do all the hikes you will have walked about 200 miles. I believe you also will be awarded a free camping night at a state park of your choice. Pretty good deal!

My signature look is to wear a tie-dyed shirt on a hike -- 
at this one I also had a tie-dyed hat!

Anyway, I have now been on about 5 or 6 hikes with various groups of women from the Facebook list. Sometimes people drive from quite a distance to join us! It is so fun! They have all been very nice, and it has been fun to do a new thing with new people. One of the people who came was an oldie.. a friend of mine who went to interpreter training with me waaayyy back in the 80s. Now we're both retired, but we had not seen each other in about 30+ years. It was quite fun to see her again out on a hiking trail.

I'm sharing some pictures I have taken on various hikes. Most of these are in state parks. Some have been hikes with my husband. Most have been hikes with women from the WWHMN list on FB. There are several more hikes coming up, and I am eager to see how things change once cold weather returns. I will need to learn how to dress for winter hiking.

I'm on my way to being an expert, apparently. Today I purchased these hiking sticks, aka trekking poles. Here's to the great outdoors!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Quilts on the Horizon

 My online group, Sunshine, had a sew-along day where we all made the same pattern: Horizon from this blog -- klein meisje quilts . It was designed by that blog creator, Lynn. We chose it because it is a quick and easy block and perfect for a big group project, requiring very few directions.

Here are the quilts we made on our sew-along day and a few days after (20 of them so far). They'll be wrapped around some cute kids some time in the relatively near future.