Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Knitting Sticks: 5
"At the church, I saw how savagery can replace kindness in the heart of a man, faster than a driving rain."
This was a difficult book to read, as are all books dealing with this subject. As I said in a previous post, found here, it is a hard to get your head wrapped around the scope of the genocide. Reading a book like this brings the focus down to the minute level as different genocide survivors from the Nyamata area recount their stories. Mr. Hatzfeld tells one survivor story per chapter, prefaced by a general description of the person who is going to give their testimony. It is a book well worth reading.
After you finish with this book it is instructive to read the "companion" book, Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak also by Jean Hatzfeld.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I love Clematis. I won't debate with you how you actually say the name of the plant, whether you put the emphasis on the "e" as the English do or the "a" as all us good midwesterners do. You make your own choice. However you say it I think these are some of my favorite plants in my garden.
I am not sure when my love affair with this wonderful vine began. It may have been an early incident I witnessed between my mom and dad when dad decided that the vine covering the side of the house needed to be "pruned" and so he cut it to the ground. I remember much fuss from Mom, and worrying that permanent damage had been done. No need to worry, clematis likes to be whacked off at the ground, or at least this one did.
Somehow or other the name stuck in my mind. Clematis (echo Clematis, Clematis, Clematis), it just sounded so exotic. I just knew that when I had a house that I was going to have one of those vines with the big beautiful purple flowers.
So, when Dan and I bought our first house one of the first things that I planted was a Clematis. I waited and waited for the big purple flowers. All summer I waited. Hmmmmmm. Then late in the summer it started putting out little tiny buds. Aha! I thought, now I would get big purple flowers. But...... what I got was big puff balls that looked like balls of cotton. Where were my purple flowers! I want my purple flowers! (if any of you are familiar with "Dexter's Lab" then say that with the same accent as Dexter). I didn't realize at the time that there are actually 3200 varieties of Clematis. I have no idea what I planted but I know that it wasn't what I thought. Disappointment in the extreme. Of course then I had a baby that winter and I was too busy to care. That vine continued to bloom vigorously year after year and I just ignored it.
In our next house we just didn't have the right sun/shade mix (or so I thought) for Clematis so I was 10 years in the Clematis wilderness.
Now, however, I have loads of Clematis. There is one that is vigorously climbing up the light post at the end of the driveway. There are three that climb up the lattice fence and there are three more scattered in the garden beds. I may even find another place or two to stick some. Who knows. They bring me joy when I sit on the garden bench in the late afternoon, the sun setting on the other side of the house throwing the back garden into shade. They make me happy.
Thanks Dad for cutting down that first Clematis and thanks Mom for being so upset about it. I knew immediately that this was a special plant that I needed to have some day.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Knitting sticks: 2
OK, I tried to like this book, I really did. I loved The Greatest Generation, and I figured that I would like this one too. I was wrong and that makes me sad.
This book is billed as the "voices of the sixties" and I suppose that is correct. But only certain voices, those of the Baby Boom generation who came to adulthood (and in some instances I use that term loosely) and prominence during that turbulent time period. All note worthy people to be sure and all with interesting view points (that I often disagree with). However, these people are NOT the men and women of the Greatest Generation, not by a long shot (well except for maybe Senator John McCain and Senator Bob Kerrey).
I can technically be classified as being a "Baby Boomer" having been born in 1960 (you do the math to see how old I am). I have a fairly low opinion of most of the baby boom generation. By and large we are a whining, self serving generation who has been given too much and of whom not enough has been asked. We don't really understand what it means to sacrifice for this country or for our families. Sad but true.
I would much rather had read a book about the average people who lived through the sixties and how it affected them. I know how Gloria Steinem's life was changed, or John McCain. I can do that research myself. You can't mean to tell me that only well know people were effected by that time period. Oh well.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Casablanca ( yes it is great Ashley)
Independence Day (Welcome to Earth!)
Now Voyager (Better Davis and Paul Henreid as star crossed lovers)
The Hunt For Red October (Sean Connery is the sexiest old guy ever)
Goodbye Mr. Chips
The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson is brilliant, Middle Earth as I always saw it)
Star Wars (#'s 4,5 and 6. FORGET the first three)
ANYTHING with Fred Astair
You've Got Mail (the cutest movie EVER)
The Last of the Mohicans (Daniel Day Lewis at his studliest)
Pride and Prejudice (the A&E version, who could resist Colin Firth)
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (Howard Keel!)
The Trouble With Angels (a scathingly brilliant movie)
An American in Paris (who can resist Gene Kelly)
White Christmas (forget "It's a Wonderful Life" and go with this one at Christmas)
Remember the Titans (my favorite sports movie)
A Room With A View
Ben-Hur (sure Charleton Heston looks Jewish)
In Harm's Way (John Wayne beating the Japanese)
Portrait of Jennie (Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten)
Shadow of a Doubt (Joseph Cotten reminds us that uncles are not always nice men. Remember to look for Alfred Hitchcock at the beginning of the film but I won't tell you where)
Aliens and Alien Resurrection (watch Sigourney Weaver kick alien butt)
An Affair to Remember (Cary Grant, yum!)
The Philadelphia Story (Cary Grant AND Katherine Hepburn AND Jimmy Stewart)
Turner and Hootch (it never fails to make me laugh)
Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (don't bother with #2)
OK, I had better quit now.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
This is going to be a fairly long piece so fasten your seat belts, it is going to be a bumpy ride (you need to say that to yourself using a Bette Davis kind of voice, just for the effect).
The presidential voting season has rolled around again (actually it feels like it was never really gone) and for the first time I feel that I need to actually write down why I am voting for one candidate over another. I have tried to stay out of the fray, to stay above it all, to not be dragged into the melee. But that is really just like walking through the barnyard and trying not to step in the cow pucky. Not going to happen. So, here it is.
Does Senator Clinton really think that we believe that she didn’t know about Bill’s issues with fidelity? A vast right wing conspiracy? Hello! And don’t think that he has changed his tune. If he thought that he could get away with it when he was PRESIDENT OF THE USA then I am sure he hasn’t quit now, he has just gotten better about sneaking around. I would guess that Hillary did have a conversation with him before officially declaring her run for the White House. My guess is that it went something like this, “Bill, if I ever catch you taking Little Willy out to play in someone else’s yard again I am going to change you from a rooster to a hen in one shot.” Imagine Bill Clinton in the White House with nothing to do. The mind boggles.
Mrs. Clinton and I don’t agree on one single thing, not taxes, not Iraq, not immigration. And don't get me going on Universal Health Care! So I just have to decline the offer to join the team.
Lest you think I don’t want a woman to be President then let me disabuse you of that thought. I would welcome a woman in the Oval Office, just not THIS woman. How about someone on the lines of Margaret Thatcher or Condoleezza Rice?
Now let’s talk about Barak Obama. On the surface I will give him all the points for charisma, eloquent speech and good looks. But people lets say it again, “Character matters.” Keep repeating that. The old adage about not judging a book by the cover comes to mind.
Senator Obama it is very difficult (read impossible) for me to believe you attended a church for 20 years and didn’t hear anything controversial from a pastor who has the cojones (look that word up if you don’t know what it is) to get up in the pulpit and say, “God Damn America!” I hate even writing that phrase let alone saying it. You claim Pastor Wright as your mentor, the man who performed your wedding, the man who baptized your children.........the man who gave an award to Louis Farakkhan, the man who feels that AIDS is a government plot to kill off blacks. You dedicated a book to him and yet you never heard anything offensive. Hmmmmmmmmmm.
While we are on the subject of people you hang with, let’s discuss your friendly relationship with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. Bill Ayers is an admitted and unrepentent domestic terrorist. Think Timothy McVeigh only not as “successful”, although he wishes he had been. Senator Obama would have us believe that Mr. Ayers is now “respectable” and “mainstream”. That the things that he participated in were done 40 years ago and therefore aren't relevant today. Attempted murder and subversion of the government aren't relevant 40 years later? Oh please. John Hinderaker of Powerline has done a great job of pulling together the information on the friends of Barak Obama here and here. With friends like these the
I know, I know. I am just a bitter woman clinging to her guns and religion. Sorry Senator Obama, I just can't give you my vote. The disdain and elitism that I hear in your speeches is not the change I want to see in the country that I love. And speaking of your calls for "change". What change would that be? An increase in taxes? Do you really think that increasing taxes on those who provide jobs is the way to foster new jobs? Do you really think that rolling back Nafta is the way to foster our standing in the world. It will just mean that to others our word is not our word.
I have no problem with a black man for president, it just can't be you. How about Ken Blackwell, Michael Steele or J.C.Watts. Those are men of color who I could get behind.
So, we finally come to John McCain. Saving the best for last. I will say, right off the bat that I don't agree with him on everything. We take widely divergent paths when it comes to immigration, campaign finance reform, whether waterboarding is actually torture and a host of other things. But just because we disagree on some things doesn't mean we can't get along together just fine. He does what he thinks is right, whether it makes the left think he is nuts or the right think he is a traitor to the "conservative cause". I like that in an old white guy who can't comb his own hair.
John McCain can laugh at himself. He has been willing to say, "Hey I was wrong on that issue but I have it right now" (no "I misspoke" being bandied about). No elitist snobbery there as far as I can see. He has it right on raising taxes and earmarks and pork barrel spending. No to all of them.
I want a man in the Oval office, waiting for that 3am phone call who isn't going to take any horse pucky from anyone (I wanted to write another word but I refrained). Do you think that a man who spent 5 1/2 years in a Vietnamese prison camp, who had his leg broken (not once but twice) and his shoulders dislocated during torture, who said he wouldn't take an early release because his other soldiers were still there, is going to be a "lets sit around and talk about it kind of guy. Singing Kumbaya with terrorists?" I don't think so. I want someone who is going to do what has to be done.
Now John is a tad on the older side (sorry mom) and at times has a bit of a temper but I want someone with a bit of a temper when Osama or Kim Jong Il or the Chinese or Putin or nutty Chavez or any of the Islamic terrorists come knocking at our door. Heck, I don't want them to have the chance to come knocking at the door. Don't give me this business about sitting down and talking out our differences. The Islamic extremists want to kill us. It is convert or die. No talking needed.
Senator McCain you have my vote.
Why you might ask, is she putting a picture of a clean butter dish on her blog. Why indeed and is it REALLY clean.
Do any of you have dogs? Do any of you have big dogs who can reach things on the counter? Can you see where I am going with this. I bet you can (sounding a tad like Mr. Rogers there).
I went off yesterday morning to do my usual Monday morning errands. Yes, I know it was Tuesday but on Monday I was shopping for a prom dress with the youngest progeny so the grocery shopping didn't get done until Tuesday. Work with me people! Anyways, I went off to do the shopping on a beautiful sunny day all happy. I had a small smakeral of homemade bread and a little smear of butter as I went out the door. Yum. Came home and unloaded all the provender and was greeted VERY enthusiastically by the dog. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. He is always glad to see me but this was really very "suck-upish" of him. I went to wash the grapes and noticed the butter dish. That's funny, I was sure there was almost an entire stick of butter on that thing. Boy it sure looks sparkling clean except for a little bit of butter at one end. On closer inspection is that a DOG HAIR on the dish? It IS!!!!!!! MAXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX! Of course, he knew the jig was up and was hiding in his house.
I don't know if that much butter will hurt him (by the way this isn't the first time that he has helped himself to a stick of butter and he is still living) but I am sure that he now has the arteries of a 70 year old smoker who has McDonald's every day. I am also sure that his poo will be more like buttery spread for awhile (hmm, too much information you think?) but it is what it is. He will survive.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Prisoners of the Japanese
Rating: 5 knit sticks
This was a hard book to read but I think one of the most comprehensive in it's overall view of what it meant to be a POW of the Japanese during WWII (and I have read quite a bit on this time period). Mr. Daws follows the lives of several men as they progress through their time as POWs and in doing so gives voice to the overall experience of the 140,000 men who were "guests" of the Japanese during the war.
Daws made several observations that I really hadn't thought about. The POWs really worked in an unstated tribal system. You had the larger tribe which might have been the battalion or larger group of soldiers or perhaps the group of soldiers from one region or town. Then you had the smaller "sub-tribes" which were usually 3-4 men. Those men who weren't in a sub-tribe, where your buddies watched your back, possibly even got you food if you were in the sick hut, didn't for the most part survive their captivity (the Japanese didn't feed those soldiers who were sick, if you couldn't work you didn't eat).
For the most part officers who were also POWs don't come off too well in this book either. If Mr. Daws is to be believed (and I have no reason not to at this point) then the officers didn't really watch over their men. They often acted in a self survival way, making sure that they had the best of what there was to offer. That didn't apply to all officers but to many.
I will leave you with a longish quote that sums up the book.
"The Japanese were not directly genocidal in their POW camps. They did not herd their white prisoners into gas chambers and burn their corpses in ovens. But they drove them toward mass death just the same. They beat them until they fell, then beat them for falling, beat them until they bled, then beat them for bleeding. They denied them medical treatment. They starved them. When the International Red Cross sent food and medicine, the Japanese looted the shipments. They sacrificed prisoners in medical experiments. They watched them die by the tens of thousands from diseases of malnutrition like beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy , and from epidemic tropical diseases: malaria, dysentery, tropical ulcers, cholera. Those who survived could only look ahead to being worked to death. If the war had lasted another year, there would not have been a POW left alive."
1 knitting stick: Burn it!
2 knitting sticks: less painful than a root canal
3 knitting sticks: OK
4 knitting sticks: I would read it again
5 knitting sticks: Excellent!
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Last night was the opening night for the CVCA Spring Musical. This year they are presenting Oliver! and our thespian daughter had a part (she would be the girl in the red dress). I have to say that this is the best production that CVCA has put on in all the years that we have been going to plays and musicals. This would be our eighth Spring Musical and it was excellent. Snaps to all the kids and adults who put in so much time and effort to make this a wonderful production. We have tickets for next week's performance and I can hardly wait.
Then the girls arrived and everything was chaos for years on end. We had a bigger house, more stuff and especially all those stupid Barbie shoes and other little girl paraphernalia. There were months where I couldn't even see the floor in the basement play room because everything was covered with toys and no one had picked up. I was doing good if I actually got the dishes all cleaned up after dinner and before I hiked myself off to bed. In fact, during the time that I was so depressed after Beth was born, getting the sink cleaned up was the ONE task that I set myself. If I could do that one thing then I was OK.
Now I have a significantly bigger house and I don't have a cleaning lady (my choice by the way). I have the great ability to ignore the fact that the pile of dog hair in the corner might actually be mutating and growing. Those aren't crumbs on the counter, I am just drying bread crumbs for a cooking project. For a while I had hired one of my daughters to clean my house, for actual MONEY! However, it was a frustrating experience for both of us. She didn't do it the way that I wanted it done (not that I was doing it that way either) and she wasn't getting it done when I wanted it done. Not a good situation. She went off to college and I went back to waving my magic vacuuming stick around and calling things clean.
Then it came to me Sunday morning, as I was standing in the shower thinking that I really should clean the shower stall before some highly contagious fungus starts to grow. Zones! Break the house down into different zones and then schedule cleaning and other chores for each zone on a different day. That way I am not overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning the whole house and quit part way through. Yes, that might just work. I could hear the angels singing like in a bad Hollywood movie. I am sure that some other, more skilled domestic engineer has already come up with this thought but I am claiming it as my own. Take that Martha Stewart!
Now I just have to do the zone cleaning on a CONSISTENT basis to make it a habit (you know the old adage about doing something for a month and it will be a habit, like brushing your teeth or changing your undies). After one week of experimentation this seems like something that I can do. Of course, I still have to vacuum the kitchen more than once a week because that seems to be where the dog hair likes to congregate (like bikers at a Hell's Angels bar all tough and in your face......or food). I can do this. Of course now it is Spring and Summer is right around the corner and I will want to be outside a lot more. We will see.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Several books to read if you are interested in learning more about this are:
A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester
The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906 by Philip L. Fradkin
San Francisco is Burning by Dennis Smith
I am sure that there are a lot more books on the subject but these just happen to be the ones that I have read.
Rule Number Two.
Kraft, Dr. Heidi Squier
"There are two rules of war. Rule number one is that young men die. Rule number two is that doctors can't change rule number one."
In 2004 Navy clinical psychologist Dr. Heidi Kraft
was deployed to Iraq. This is the story of her time there. I don't know about you but when we think of the medical treatment that our soldiers are receiving in Iraq (and Afghanistan too) I really hadn't thought about the fact that they need to be treated psychologically as well as physically. You think about the doctors and nurses in the CASH units, treating physical wounds. but you don't think about the psychiatrists and psychologists who are there for the soldiers who need to just talk to someone about the buddy that they lost, or the horrible things that they have seen or just how lonely that they are.
This isn't a particularly long book but a thought provoking one. When Corporal Jason L. Dunham was brought in, and initially classified as about to die, Dr. Kraft was holding his hand when they realized that he wasn't going anywhere yet. She held his hand throughout his initial treatment at the CASH unit and until he was medivaced to Bahgdad, Germany and Bethesda. She was touched in a deep way by this particular young man, not knowing that he had come by his fatal injuries because he threw his Kevlar helmet on top of a grenade and then threw himself on top of the helmet, sacrificing his own life to save his Marine buddies. Dr. Kraft was able to be present at a White House ceremony a year later when Corporal Dunham was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The book is dedicated to his mom, Deb Dunham.
This is a book worth finding at the library.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Can it be? Do you think that Spring is actually here. Yes I know that by the calendar Spring has been here for almost a month. But if you live in Northeast Ohio like I do you know that the calendar is often a liar (sort of like Hilary Clinton but that is for another post). We had snow showers last week and a nice hard frost on Monday. However, the daffodils are out and the trees are finally budding so I think I can get my hopes up just a bit. Maybe. However, I know that you don't plant anything but pansies until at least Mother's Day.
Since it is the middle of April I have also put out the hummingbird feeders. I would expect to see the males in another couple of weeks. The first year that I had feeders out I didn't have a single bird. Those little buggers were around I just knew it but they weren't hanging at my house. The second year I had maybe two. But now, I have a ton and boy are they vicious little devils. They will dive bomb you if they choose and they are always chasing each other around. They sound like gigantic bees when they are hovering at the feeder and that always freaks Ashley out (which makes me laugh, sorry Ash).
Also, can I just say that I really hate deer. Don't give me that stuff about how picturesque they are and how could I hate Bambi. Bambi my big brown bahooki. Those things are just rats with hooves. I raise my fist in a Scarlett O'Hara moment and vow that I will win this war. I have the larger cranial capacity. Those things are just venison sausage in waiting. I spend all summer spraying my plants with liquids that smell either like a slaughterhouse or like vomit. Lovely.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
You may (or may not for that matter) wonder where I am getting all these "pithy" quotes of the day. Come on, you know you have been curious, just admit it.
Well, all these quotes are coming from my Commonplace book.
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines a commonplace book as a book of memoribilia and I guess that is what it is. It is my book full of quotes that struck me, copies of speeches (like the Gettysburg Address and Ronald Reagan's speech after the Challenger disaster) and occasionally poetry (VERY occasionally).
I had never heard of a commonplace book until several years ago when I read about it in An Open Book by Michael Dirda. Mr. Dirda was, at that time, the editor of The Washington Post Book World. He keeps a Commonplace book and the idea sounded excellent to me. I have since found that it was and is something practiced by many. William Bennett keeps a commonplace book as did Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and John Adams. Good enough for me.
When I am reading if something strikes me and I want to remember it I flag the quote with those little post it things and then copy it into my commonplace book when I am done reading. As simple as that. I have the book broken down into different sections such as Speeches, Quotes from Books, Religion, Poetry, Quotes from letters, Misc. Info and Misc. Quotes. Those designations seem to cover most things for me.
So, that is where the quotes are coming from. I have A LOT of quotes so don't think I will run out anytime soon.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I don't remember when I actually started reading, I just always remember having a book with me. Heaven forbid if I found myself someplace and had to kill some time and didn't have something to read (I am still like that). Horror!!
I recently read a thread on another blog where the question was posed, " What books that you read between childhood and young adulthood influenced you the most? What books do you remember most vividly?" Of course that got me to thinking (a dangerous thing I know). So, without further ado, here is a list of books that I think of fondly, remember with gratitude for the hours of pleasure that they gave. It is not an exhaustive list by any means. I have added a small amount of commentary with them so this post will run a tad long. It is my blog and I can do that.
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott. I know that most every girl of a certain age has read Little Women and loved it. I love it too but it isn't my favorite LMA book, Eight Cousins is. Actually, it is probably a tie between this book and An Old Fashioned Girl. I still read both of them every few years just to re-experience the joy that is Louisa May Alcott.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien. Listen all you "johnny come latelies" I read LOTR when it was still geeky to do so. When most people didn't even know who J.R.R.Tolkien was. I LOVE these books. Can I say it again, I LOVE THESE BOOKS (don't you hate it when someone uses too many capitals). I actually have four different sets of these books (I just keep wearing them out). I can remember the first time I read through them and was absolutely mesmerized. That feeling hasn't left me in all the years since that first time.
Life and Death of a Pharaoh Tutankhamen. When I was growing up we lived in the same Illinois town as my mom's parents Grandma and Grandpa Pringle. Many was the Sunday we could be found at their house for dinner. I spent many hours reading this book, cover to cover. I was fascinated. It was my favorite thing. In fact I have a picture, taken in the 70's when we were visiting my "grands" in Florida, with a rather sullen me holding the book. When my grandparents went home to the Lord and their household was broken up the book went to my aunt. I was bereft. Imagine my utter joy when last year, as I was wandering the stacks of Half Price Books, there it was!! I pulled the book off the shelf, opened it up and was transported.
Grace Livingston Hill. This is not a book but an author. I spent several summers reading every GLH that I could get my hands on. The Ben Franklin by my parents cottage actually sold them and if there were any new ones I bought them immediately. Sigh.
The Holocaust. by Martin Gilbert.
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I think I bought this book at the flea market but I am not sure. I just know that it was one of my favorites. I have gone on to read most of the works of Rumer Godden but this is still my favorite.
God is An Englishman by R.F.Delderfield. Another one of those books purchased at the Ben Franklin. Long and involved, just the way I liked (and like) them.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery. What girl worth her reading salt hasn't read and loved these books. I still read them and love them.
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.
Well, this list could go on forever and actually has. I had better quit and go do something constructive.......like read a book.
1865: Abraham Lincoln died from wounds he received at the hand of John Wilkes Booth
1912: The "unsinkable" Titanic sank in the North Atlantic on her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City. 1517 of her 2240 passengers and crew died in the disaster.
1955: Ray Kroc starts the first McDonald's.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Commitment is best measured not by the time one is willing to give up but, more accurately, by the energy one wants to put in, by how present one is.
"Chasing Daylight" by Eugene O'Kelly
By the way, just as a side note. This particular book is well worth the finding and reading. Mr. Kelly was the CEO of KPMG when in he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2005. This book was written in the time between his diagnosis and his death, a short 3 1/2 month span of time. Very thoughtful reading.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
- If God meant man to fly, He'd have given him more money
- flying is not dangerous. Crashing is dangerous
- The propeller is just a big fan in the front of the plane to keep the pilot cool. Want proof? Make it stop then watch the pilot sweat.
- It's best to keep the pointed end going forward as much as possible
- The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire
- Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man....landing is the first!
- always remember you fly an airplane with you head, not your hands
- never let an airplane take you somewhere your brain didn't get to five minutes earlier
- helicopters can't really fly-they're just so ugly that the earth immediately repels them
Friday, April 11, 2008
The Red Leather Diary
I loved this book. In 2003 Lily Koppel, a staff writer for the New York Times, walks out the front door of her apartment building and notices a large dumpster on the street by the front door. It is filled with old steamer trunks and valises (suitcases to the rest of us) that have been brought up from the basement storage room. The building owners were in the process of cleaning out the storage room and these trunks and valises, many very old, covered with labels from faraway places, were on their way to their final resting place....a local landfill (even as I write that phrase I shudder at the waste and loss). Instead of hurrying on to her job (she was already a tad late) Lily pulls herself up into the grimy dumpster and starts to open up trunks. The flotsam and jetsam of peoples lives come spilling out. A woman's nightgown. Sheer lace curtains. Old sepia toned photos. A man's charcoal gray dress coat with a velvet collar. So many things. She takes a few things, an old typewriter, a flapper dress from the 20's, a few other things. But, the item that changes her life isn't even something that she found. As she was taking her "haul" back up to her apartment the doorman mentions a diary that was found. They divert to the basement where he has stashed the diary in his locker. Lily finds in her hands the worn leather diary of Florence Wolfson and so the story begins. Ms. Koppel interweaves entries from the diary with the fleshed out story that she recieved from the diary's author, whom she tracked down in 2006. I couldn't put this book down.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Living the Simple Life
St. James, Elaine
For a number of years now I have been trying, sometimes with success and sometimes not, to simplify my life. That means different things to different people. For me it meant learning to say "no" more often than I said "yes" when people asked me to do things. It also means that I am trying to clean out all the "stuff" that I have collected over the years. It is always a fight to overcome the urge to keep something because I might possibly need it at another time when, really, I know that I won't ever need it again and that I could easily replace it if the need ever arose. We all have way too much stuff. This little book didn't really give me any new insights on simplifying my life but it reinforced some things that I am already working on. Actually, I do have to say that I took at least one step yesterday that she mentioned in the book. I am addicted to email. Well, perhaps not addicted but if I hear that little "chime" that my computer makes when I receive a new email I need to stop and check it out. I look at my email too many times over the course of the day because I hear that little tone. So, yesterday I went in and turned off the tone. Amazing. I didn't need to check the old computer as often because I didn't hear it telling me that I had a new message. I guess the book was worthwhile. By the way I got it through Paperback Book Swap so I didn't have to shell out any money for it.
Most of us have been taken in by the notion that speed of reading is a measure of our intelligence. There is no such thing as the right speed for intelligent reading. Some things should be read quickly and effortlessly and some should be read slowly and even laboriously. The sign of intelligence in reading is the ability to read different things differently according to their worth.
Mortimer Adler "How To Mark a Book"
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Lookee what I learned today. How to do a toe up sock. This, obviously, is the toe. It took several tries before I could get the hang of the "wraps" and I am not sure if I have completely figured it out but I have done OK I think Now onto the foot and then the short wrap heel.
Zach had to check the sock out. He wasn't impressed but then he never is.
I think that it is nearly impossible to get your arms around the scope of the genocide. Rwanda is a tiny country, about the size of Vermont or Maryland. Surrounded by Burundi on the South, Tanzania on the East, Uganda on the North and Congo on the West it is dwarfed by it's neighbors. Often called "The Land of A Thousand Hills", it is beautiful (so my husband tells me for he has been there). From April to July in 1994 between 800,000 and one million Tutsi's were murdered by Hutus (most scholars believe the higher number to be the accurate one). Most of those people were killed in the first 3-4 weeks. That means that taking the lower number approximately 29,000 people were killed EVERY day. And it wasn't impersonal killing either. These Tutsi's were often murdered by people that they knew. Neighbors killed neighbors, friends killed friends. The killing was most often done with machete. You can't kill someone from an impersonal distance with a machete. Add to the killing (as if the killing isn't enough) the systematic rape of women and that time period is unimaginable in the scope of it's horror.
I could state lots of facts here but I think the best thing for you to do is to read about it yourself. The best book that I have read on the subject is We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. It is chilling and worth your time to find.
I don't want you to think that things are still bad in Rwanda. The country is a stable one in a region often marked by instability. They have made a tremendous effort at reconciliation and healing. Paul Kagami (the current President of Rwanda), for all the criticism leveled at him, has done a good job guiding his country through the painful process of reconciliation and growth.
You may wonder why I care about Rwanda. Well, if all works out as we hope, Dan and I will be in Rwanda in September with Opportunity International. We also hope to see the children that we sponsor through World Vision. We have a white board posted in our back hall with all their pictures on it. I see their beautiful faces many times a day. They have musical names like Jeanette, Bosco, Chantal, Donat, Jean Claude, Charlotte, Emmanuel, Enoch, Venuste, Phocus, Clementine, Joseph, Jean Pierre, Dominique, Fulgence, Vianney, Solange, Esperance, Agnes, Damascene, Felicien, Marie Jeanne, Evaliste, Winnifred, Angelique, Claire, Joseline, Francois, Vestine, Therese, Immaculee and JMV (Jean Marie Vianney). I want so much to meet these young people and hopefully we will.
Just an aside note. The current genocide taking place in Darfur is on the scope of Rwanda. It is just taking place over a longer period of time. But it is as bad and the world is reacting in just the same way. We wring our hands and say, "How awful" but we do nothing.
To conclude I will just give you a simple reading list. It isn't exhaustive by any means but it is the one that I have followed. New books on the genocide are coming out all the time (I have three on order at Amazon at the moment).
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch
Shake Hands With The Devil by Romeo Dallaire
Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
Machete Season by Jean Hatzfeld
An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina
Frontline: Ghosts of Rwanda
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
I have a special group of friends who are my "Bible Study Peeps". No, you don't need to tell me that we are WAY too old to be calling each other that and that it sounds really stupid. Tough beans to you. That is what we call each other and that is what we are. And no I am NOT referring to those nasty marshmallow things that come around at Easter. Those things are vile.
These women are so special to me. Some I have know for a long time and some are new friends in the past two years but I can tell you that I don't know what my life would be like without them. We are there for each other no matter what the circumstance. We have laughed, and cried with each other. We have, and are, walking through tough times together. We are studying the bible (and this year the life of Paul) for all we are worth and growing in the process.
Some of us have small children (NOT me thank goodness) and some of us are anticipating empty nests in the next few years. Some are working outside the home and some inside. Some of us are flesh and blood sisters but we are all sisters in Christ. We are all so different but what unites us is our love of Jesus Christ our savior.
This bible study came into my life at just the right time. I don't know why I am surprised at that, the Lord always has perfect timing. I had withdrawn from leadership in the Bible Study program at the church we were then attending but I hadn't found another bible study to go to. I really need a bible study. I like to study the bible on my own but the insights of other women studying the same passage is so much better for me. At any rate, I happened to go to a surprise birthday party for my friend, Heather. I was sitting next to her at the luncheon and she mentioned the small bible study that she and another mutual friend, Dotty (one of my FAVORITE people EVER) had started. As soon as she mentioned it I knew I wanted to be in that bible study. I knew it was the right place for me. So, I asked if I could insert myself into their bible study because I didn't have another one to go to and I missed it. She said yes and the rest is history.
I look forward to Thursday mornings more that I can possibly say. I don't like to ever miss my "peep fix" as well as the Beth Moore study. Excellent in every way. In the summer, when we don't meet on a weekly basis we can't go too long without having breakfast or lunch together. We actually call it our "Peep Fix". We are so dorky.
I love you guys. Some of you may never see this although you all know about the blog. But whether you see it or not the fact remains that I couldn't do without you. See you Thursday.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Cobbers. Wood, Thomas
An interesting little travel memoir about the authors trip to Australia in 1934. I really enjoyed it. I found the book on the "free book" shelves at my local library. I am sure that they didn't think that it was valuable and I am sure that it isn't worth that much but it has been signed by the author and was originally purchased in a book store in Brisbane so that lends some extra "interest" to the book.
The book details Dr. Wood's two year trip around Australia. His insights and perceptions were a joy to read. He presents the people that he met and the places that he traveled to with humor and sympathy. It isn't a long book, only about 275 pages but I couldn't put it down. He had me laughing out loud at some of the descriptions of people.
Michael Dirda "As I Live And Read" Outlook Magazine 7/2004
These men are doing a job that I hate. They are doing my Spring clean up. Because my husband is the most wonderful guy, he let me, just this once I think, hire someone to blow out all the many leaves from all the beds. This is a job that usually takes me several days and lots of work. Eric and his crew are going to have it all done in a day, as well as fixing my back fence and filling in some areas in the lawn that need some work. What luxury this is. They are also going to edge all my beds and that alone is something that pleases me IMMENSELY.
I love working in my garden. It is therapeutic for me, to dig in the dirt, to move plants, to have flowers. I am not a master gardener by any means but I can hold my own if I have to. I love to be on my deck in the summer, sitting in the shade and reading a book while the hummingbirds are dive bombing me and the flowers are growing. Totally soothing. The hiring out of this job just makes my Spring start out a bit better.
Thank you Dan.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Look who came to visit this morning, Mr. Turkey and his harem. Thank goodness I had my telephoto lens on my camera or I wouldn't have gotten the shot.
We have tons of turkeys living in the woods around our house. We hear them all the time but it is a rare thing to see them. There is one female who occasionally strolls across the front yard, or I might see a couple in the woods but it is VERY rare for me to see Mr. Tom. This particular fellow is the younger of the two that inhabit the woods. His harem is a tad smaller (only about 8 females) than the other fellow who has upwards of 20 females at last count. He is a busy boy come spring time I would think.
I remember the first time I saw this particular wild life. I was driving down our street and something strolled across the road. Turkeys don't generally stroll but this one was so I got a good look. I thought, "What is that! I haven't ever seen one of those before. Oh my gosh that must be a wild turkey!" Now, I hadn't ever seen a wild turkey (unless it came in a bottle and that is another story) so this was cool. They are one of the few wild things in our woods that DOESN'T destroy the landscaping so I say welcome!
Greeted this morning with the sad news that Charleton Heston has died. His work brought the girls and I hours of pleasure. Even though he had been out of the limelight for the last few years due to ill health it is sad to think that he is no longer with us.
I can't really pinpoint the time when I saw my first CH movie. I am sure that it was in my teen years when I watched a lot of old movies (not that I don't watch a lot now, thank goodness for Turner Classic Movies). One of the stations in the Chicago area showed movies/musicals late at night. I took in a lot good Hollywood stuff while eating my popcorn and drinking an Orange Crush.
I love watching The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, The Greatest Show on Earth, Soylent Green, The Planet of the Apes. Who couldn't thrill to the confrontation between Judah Ben Hur and Massalah, or the chariot race in Ben Hur, or Charleton Heston in a skimpy loin cloth thing in the The Commandments (the first half anyways), or the classic line from Planet of the Apes "What have you done to him you damn dirty apes! You taken out his brain!" (I just wanted to write damn).
Funny as it sounds, one of my favorite of his movies is a long forgotten made for TV movie called "A Thousand Heros" about the crash of United flight 232 at Sioux City, IA in 1989. I can't tell you why but I just love that movie. When the movie was first shown, in the early 1990's I had recorded it on a VHS tape. The girls watched it almost constantly at the time. In fact, we had to take a weekend trip to Rochester, NY and I took the tape with us because I needed something for the girls to do while Dan was in meetings. Imagine my horror when I realized, after we arrived home, that I had left the tape at the hotel (the tape also had Mary Poppins on it but who cared about THAT). Frantic calls produced no tape and sad faces. Then, several years later, when I had finally figured out how to be "online" and how to do an internet search, I typed in "Charleton Heston movies" on a whim and found......that I could buy the VHS of the movie. Rejoicing, rejoicing.
I think that when Ashley gets home we will need to indulge in a Hestonathon. I will bring the popcorn and the orange crush, you Mr. Heston bring all the good memories.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
"Charles Grieve was smiling gummily, like an undertaker who had turned up at a children's party by mistake and and was determined to make the best of it."
Friday, April 4, 2008
This is my front step. See anything wrong with it. Yes, oh observant one, the sandstone is disintegrating before my eyes. Sandstone and northeast Ohio don't always get along. Actually, this has been an ongoing problem for the last few years but it has now gotten to "critical mass" stage and must be fixed. Have talked to the landscaper who said that yes, he could do it but he wasn't the best qualified. So, the mason was here today to look at the problem. It seems that the stones have shifted because they sit only on cinder blocks and there is no real foundation under them. Why am I not surprised. Our landscaper at the time did the work. He did a great job with the pavers but evidently didn't know what he was doing with the steps. I am now going to wait for the estimate and then hoping that Dan and I don't have a heart attack when it comes. However, it has to be done. Sigh.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I came across this article this morning and I had to laugh because I have, in our increasingly wide ranging travels, come across some of these horrendous tourist traps, as well as some that weren't listed.
Who could forget Bethlehem where the vendors followed me onto the bus with cries of "Miss, miss, you will like this! Because I like you I will give you a discount! One for $5 or two for $10!"
Or the fellow in Lima who wanted to sell me a rather mangy looking kitten. Or if not that then the guinea pig all dressed out for cooking. Yup, they eat them in Peru not keep them as pets. Very tasty I am told.
Or the fellow at the Taj Mahal who was not going to take no for an answer. We had been warned not to even make eye contact with the fellows and I didn't but he continued to follow me and if I stopped his wares would be waved in front of my face. No, I don't need a key chain replica of the Taj, thank you very much. I finally had to yell at him to get him to back off. That didn't mean that he left, he just hung back like a second string jackal waiting for dinner.
By the way, you may be wondering about the odd view of the Taj Mahal. It doesn't look like the traditional view does it. That is because we are actually viewing it from the back (the butt end if you will). This is a cautionary tale about doing your homework before you embark someplace. Now we did our homework (our kids will tell you that we always do our travel homework) but......we didn't take into account the fact of a missed flight and getting into Delhi a day late. We also didn't take into account the fact that the Taj Mahal is a MUSLIM site. That means that it is closed on Friday....and we were there on Friday.....but we didn't find this fact out until we were on the way to Acra when Dan read it in the guide book....and were already half way into the four hour drive from Delhi.....and the driver didn't tell us it was closed....but the guide said, "No problem, I will take you to place where it will be JUST LIKE you are there." Yeah right.
Forget salt, pepper, garlic and lemon. The lost successful seasoning for what we eat is a good pinch of nostalgia. Ask anyone about the foods they grew up with and you will unleash a torrent of (mostly) happy memories.
Nigel Slater "Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger"
We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do us harm.
Michael Monsoor joins Army Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, and Marine Corporal Jason Dunham in receiving the Medal of Honor posthumously for their sacrifice in Iraq as well as Navy SEAL Michael P. Murphy who received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his service in Afghanistan.
Thank you for your service. I am humbled.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Nine Mile Bridge. Hamlin, Helen
I love memoirs, especially one written by the ordinary "joe". Whenever I am traveling I try to pick up memoirs written by local people. It just brings something to the experience. That was sort of a digression but there it is. Anyways..... I had never heard of this book but as I was perusing the "Posted today" section of Paperback Book Swap I stumbled across this book. It is the story of Helen Hamlin and the three years she lived in the Maine woods (in the late 1930's I think) with her game warden husband, Curly. As with many memoirs it isn't all that polished but that is what makes it great. She just tells about what they did, how they survived etc. If you can ever find a copy then I suggest you buy it because you can't have my copy. Sorry.
The Death of the Grown-up. West, Diana.
This is definitely a thought provoking book and not one that can be read at a break neck pace. I took a great deal of notes on this book (yes, I take notes when I read but that is fuel for another post). Some of what Ms. West said is new to me or at least new to my thinking about this issue. The fact that what the "children of the 60's" would claim as their revolution actually started not in the 1960's but in the 1950's with the advent of magazines targeted towards teenage girls, with movies like "Rebel Without a Cause" which portrayed sincere youth stymied by hypocritical adults (read that parents) and by the beginning of a revolution in music. That the sixties revolution was more a rebellion of children against parents than citizens against a government and that it can be viewed as a youth movement that was all-style and no-substance (sorry Jane Fonda).
Some of what she relates has long been obvious to me at least. That children have come to feel that they are person's of considerable importance and that they are entitled to whatever they can get for themselves. Ms. West relates this to the fact that infant mortality rates have plummeted and that children are no longer seen as part of the economic subsistence of a family (I REALLY condensed what she said there). Also, the fact that the family is now a social safety net rather than an educational/vocational training ground. That we have in fact trained up parents who need parents themselves. Who set no boundaries for their children, who practice a "see no evil-hear no evil-speak no evil" parenting or worse, who in the name of "providing a safe environment" actually enable bad behavior. That it is amazing to think that "the extent to which following once reflexive middle-class manners and mores has become, weirdly enough, an act of rugged individualism."
I could go on but I think what I would like to say is that this is a book that really should be (and won't be I am sure) read by every parent with small children, or grown children for that matter. It was sobering.
Before and After Death
I have spent the last 30 minutes looking at the faces in this Guardian piece. I am always drawn to this type of photography and this particular subject matter. Not because I am fascinated by death but probably because I worked (many years ago) as an Oncology nurse and have a heart for that particular work. The pictures are haunting and beautiful in their own way but the stories are so incredibly sad. Not because all of these people have died but because in not one of the little vignettes that go with the pictures did any of them express any knowledge of Christ and his saving work for them. The ending thoughts seemed, for the most part to be hopeless and frustrated at the end of a life. How heatbreaking.
Death itself is always heartbreaking for someone, family members, friends. But I can tell you with certainty, having seen the deaths of Christians and non-Christians that those who had a saving knowledge of Him and knew what awaited them went, not necessarily with joy but without fear. Those who had no hope, those who struggled to hold on even when all hope was gone, those who feared death and what might be waiting afterwards (if they even thought there was something afterwards) struggled in death as well. It was a sobering thing to witness and participate in.
Nomophobia: the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.