Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thoughts on reading material

Gretchen Rubin has it just right in this post.

I am saying good bye to author Suzanne Brockmann

I love books (that should come as no surprise to you by now) and it is always sad when I make the decision to "give up" an author. It doesn't usually happen with me but now is one of those times. I am a reasonable person but there occasionally comes a time when I have to say enough is enough.

Now I divorce myself from an author for a few reasons. Ernest Hemingway and I are through. Yes I know that he has a beautiful way with words. I have read several of his novels in a vain attempt to like him. It just wasn't happening. So, he and I parted ways. Amicably but we are done (of course he is dead so it really doesn't matter to him). I feel the same way about Jonathan Swift and Gullivers Travels. My book club loved him but I had a decidedly different reaction. The part about the Lilliputians cleaning up his poop by carting it away in wheel barrows was fairly amusing but that was the highlight for me. There have been other authors and books but I won't list them here. My "giving up" an author is usually a reflection of the fact that I don't like the writing style or the subject matter. However, this is not the case with Ms. Brockmann.

I have been reading Suzanne Brockmann novels for a number of years now. I am not sure where I first heard about them but I loved them from the first. I would eagerly anticipate the next "Seal Team 16" or "Seal Team 10" installments. I loved being on her bulletin board. But, that has all changed and I have made the decision to say goodbye. I doubt that Ms. Brockmann will care but that is the way that it is.

I hold fairly conservative views (that will also be no surprise to you). Ms. Brockmann and I are POLLS apart in our views which doesn't bother me in the least. I am voting for John McCain, she is an Obama supporter. She has the right to vote for whoever she wants to as do I. That is the beauty of the USA. She is very vocal in her support of gay rights (her son is gay) and that is more and more reflected in her writing. She can write what she wants but I don't have to read it.
But..... I have felt more and more that if you have conservative political views that there is no place for you on her bulletin board (of which I am a long time member). Ms. Brockmann allows political discussion on her board but those of us who express conservative views or support for President Bush are often (make that almost always) vilified, called bigots and homophobes and worse. It has been very heated at times and more than once rather vitriolic. Express open praise for President Bush and see what happens, just make sure that you have flame proof clothing on first. Now, I will admit that some of the mud slinging has come from both sides. It doesn't contribute to the discussion and I hate to see it. But, I am finding more and more that those who preach "tolerance" are often times the most intolerant.

Well, I am divorcing myself from Ms. Brockmann, her bulletin board, her books and it breaks my heart. It is a long time in coming and it is hard. I love some of these ladies. They are smart, funny and look out for each other. But, there is no place any longer for me on her board. The atmosphere is toxic at times and I just don't need that. I don't like right wing blogs that bash people and I avoid those. If I do that and consider myself to conservative then I think I will need to do that with this bulletin board. Good bye Suz. I will miss you, I will miss your books but we are done.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baseball Anyone

Ah summer baseball. I love it. One of Dan's baseball buddies had extra tickets to the Indians-San Fran Giants game and we snagged two of them. Unbelievably this is our fist game of the season. We usually go to about 10 games a year but this year things have conspired against us.

We arrived early at the ballpark to find our seats and get something to eat. Tonight was special for Cleveland fans because Omar Vizquel, our former Short Stop would be back for the first time. Now, there are former Indians players that we "boo" when they come to play (yes that would be you Jim Thome) because they left for more money. When I say money I mean egregiously large amounts of money that should never be paid to anyone who is playing a sport. We can debate later about whether it is OK to boo a player and the salaries of said players. In the case of Omar we didn't boo we cheered. This man is loved here is Cleveland and we took the time to show that with cheers and a standing O not only before the game but when he was up to bat. A quality player all around.

During the first few years of attending Indians games I will admit that the nine innings seemed to go on FOREVER. However, I learned the basic rules of the game and that helped. But it wasn't until my hubby urged me to learn to score the games that I really came to experience the full game (thanks honey!!). He seemed to think that I was "born to score baseball games" perhaps because I love order (some would read that as obsessive compulsive but they would be WRONG). Now I can't imagine not taking my score book with me.

Jacob's Field... alright, alright I will call it Progressive Field even though that doesn't feel right to me. Progressive Field does a fairly decent job of food. I had my usual piece of pizza and half of a watery beer ( because I was too lazy to go and find the good beer). Dan also had a hot dog. Not too bad.

It was a beautiful night for baseball, not necessarily a beautiful game (with the Indians those are few and far between these days). The temp was perfect, the sky was unclouded and there was very little wind. Lovely.

To top in all off we were all presented with our VERY OWN Travis Hafner bobble head doll. OH joy, OH rapture. To make it TOTALLY authentic (OK I will stop with the capitals now) I have added a bandaide to his shoulder since he is currently on the DL. We always want to go for authenticity at our house. Of course the bat broke the minute that I put it together which I think is a sad commentary on how Travis Hafner is hitting this year. Sigh.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Prairie Home Companion!

"Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and the children are above average".

Ash and I spent Saturday evening doing something that always brings us loads of joy. We went to Blossom Music Center to see A Prairie Home Companion.

Our family has been listening to PHC on Saturday nights since the girls were very little. My grandmother first told us about it (Thanks Grandmother!) and from the first time we heard the dulcet tones of Garrison Keillor we were hooked.

Ash and I loaded up our shortie lawn chairs, our deli sandwiches and brownies and our ponchos and drove down to Blossom which is about a 40 minutes south of our house. We like to get there early (the doors were just opening) so that we can find the perfect spot for some shade and people watching. This year our perfect spot was on the upper most portion of the lawn close to the walk way. That way we could watch all the people arriving.

We were done with dinner, we had spent time visiting with friends and it was getting on to time for the warm up to start. It was then that the weather decided to "ramp it up". We had been watching the clouds off to the west of us and the sky above us. The bad weather seemed to be holding off and passing us by but we were WRONG. About 5:30p we started to hear rumbles of thunder and see flashes of lightning.
Now, I love a good thunderstorm with lots of lightning but......I like it when I am inside in my nice DRY, SAFE house. Not when I am sitting on a metal chair surrounded by trees. Ash and I dug out the ponchos and packed everything else back into our waterproof bag and hoped for the best. A little rain wasn't going to be a problem for us and the show would go on despite the rain.

Ponchos are a lovely look don't you think? At any rate the warm up started at 5:45p just as the rain came. And it wasn't just a little drizzle, it was really raining and thundering and lightning. Great. We will be fried. We will die happy, thinking about Powdermilk Biscuits and Guy Noir Private Eye, The Lives of the Cowboys and Lake Wobegon but we will still be fried.

With about 5 minutes to go before the broadcast began officials from Blossom began to circulate through the crowd on the lawn letting us know that we could come and find seats in the Pavilion under the roof. Wow, that was a surprise. We aren't usually fools so we grabbed our stuff and ran through the rain, snagging seats in the last row. Excellent. About the time we sat down the heavens opened with full force as well as wind.

Ash and I still kept our ponchos on during the broadcast because our seats afforded us the ability to take advantage of the blowing rain but we were still under cover for which we were grateful. The thunder rumbled and at one point the pavilion lost power (for about 30 seconds) but we were treated to a wonderful PHC with special guests Jorma Kaukonen, Robin and Linda Williams, and The Wailin' Jennies (who happen to be a favorite of Ashley). We were treated to The Lives of the Cowboys and Guy Noir Private Eye as well as all the other funny things that one would expect from PHC. It was a good evening.

The Bees are busy

The bees are busy in the Spirea. I love these bushes because they bloom so prolifically in early Summer/late Spring.

If you look closely you can see tons of bees just going from blossom to blossom. Then if you get a tad closer you can hear the buzzing. There is a low hum as the bees do their work. I wish that you could hear it because it is actually fairly loud.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Appliances are there to keep us humble

OK, I will say this right off the bat. Dan and I aren't that mechanically inclined. That is just the way it is. We are fine with that. If something, say the refrigerator, isn't working correctly it is great to call the expert (and hope he doesn't have refrigerator repair man pants). That is what an expert is there for, to do things expertly that we can't do.

Well, our frig hasn't been working quite right for about a week. It just wasn't all that cold. It is a tad disconcerting when you get up in the morning and have your bowl of cereal and the milk just isn't cold enough. Not a good way to start your day. Now, when we first noticed it the temperature outside was a blistering 92F so I just thought nothing of it. However, when it cooled down to a reasonable 82F the frig still wasn't cold enough. SO, I did what any self respecting frig owner would do. I turned the frig temp down. No dice. It still wasn't cold enough. Grrrrr. We finally moved the milk to the frig in the garage. That would be the 23 year old refrigerator that has NEVER had a service call, as opposed to the current frig that has had 3 calls in the last 7 years.

I called our usual appliance repair service and scheduled an appointment. I tried not to pop a blood vessel when they said the service charge would be $69.50. I tried to remember that the gas prices are higher yada, yada, yada. But what could I do (and don't say fix it myself).

The repair man arrived on time and didn't have pants that showed me more of his anatomy than I needed to see. I showed him the frig, complained with a smile about how this frig was on it's third service call and my OLD frig hadn't ever quit and left him to it, hoping that he wasn't going to sigh and tell me that, unfortunately, this wasn't a problem that they saw very often and that he didn't have the part and that it would have to be ordered and that it would be a week (that particular scenario has happened before around here). He worked for about 15 minutes and then needs to ask me a question or two

"How long ago did you first notice that the refrigerator wasn't cold enough?"
"About a week".
"How long have you had this frost build up on the ice maker chute?"
"Hmm, about a week I would guess."

Then he tells me that the fact that the freezer is way to cold (I didn't know that freezers could BE too cold!) and that the frig isn't cold enough is probably related. That made sense to me. So, then he opens the frig door and points out that there is a plastic bag with green onions in it that is pushed up against the small vent on the lowest shelf of the frig.
"How long has this bag been in your frig?"
"About a week I would think."

And then the light dawns.

A bag of green onions was blocking the airflow from freezer to frig, making the freezer too cold and the frig not cold enough. Hmmmmmmm. How stupid can I feel for $69.50. Pretty stupid I can tell you. But, I was still glad that it wasn't some obscure part that needed to be ordered from Mauritania or something.

So "Dave" took my check with a smile and left to make some other poor household happy by fixing their appliance. He also left with a great story to tell the other repair men at the office. "Hey guys, you won't believe what these people had done......". I love to know that I have brought laughter to someones life. Now I can live my life happy, hopefully with a cold refrigerator.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

House to House

House To House
Bellavia, SSG David
Knitting Sticks: 5!!!!!

I had to think about this review for several days after completing this book. I just had to let it "digest" for a time before putting my thoughts on paper, so to speak.

I believe that in the years to come, when we talk about battles that have been bravely fought by our men and women in uniform, we will add a name to the list of places already in our lexicon of war. We speak with hushed and reverent tones of Bunker Hill, Verdun, Belleau Wood, the Somme, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal. We will also say the name Fallujah. Because of the MSM and their firm insistence that the war is lost, that there is nothing to be gained by speaking of the wins in the war, that there is nothing good that CAN be spoken of Iraq, most people do not know the sacrifice and heroism that is Fallujah. The battles that were fought street to street and often face to face.

SSG David Bellavia served with Third Platoon, Alpha Company, Army Task Force 2/2 during the battle of Fallujah in November 2004. They entered a city where the enemy had been, for weeks, preparing for battle by booby trapping houses and stock piling weapons. They met an enemy who willingly sacrificed themselves and innocent bystanders in order to kill the American soldiers that they encountered. This is the memoir of those first two weeks of hard fighting, house to house. Of wounds and death, of killing. I don't want to go into too much detail because I want you to find this book and read it. Then I want you to think about what the men and women who serve in our military are asked to do to keep you safe in your nice warm house.

This book is often hard to read. Not because it is full of big words but because it is full of pain and love for his fellow soldier and dealing with having to kill a fellow human being who is actively trying to kill you and will stop at nothing to accomplish that end. But however hard I found this book to read I am glad that I did.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

John S. Zinsser Jr.

I read today that John S. Zinsser Jr. has died at the age of 84. I can just hear you asking, "Who is that? I haven't ever heard of him." Well, I hadn't heard his name either until today but he had a profound impact on my young reading life. Mr. Zinsser was the long time editor of the Reader Digest Condensed Books, one of the staples of my summer reading when I was a young bookworm.

Readers Digest Condensed Books get short shrift in the book world. Those who are "serious readers" don't consider them worth anything. After all they are "edited and condensed" therefore they can't be good. Well, I would beg to differ and I would consider myself a serious reader.

RDCB's were an integral part of my summers. I spent many an hour reading through the numerous RDCB's that happen to inhabit the shelves at my parent's cottage. Now a days there are a lot of books hanging around the Cottage waiting to be read but when I was younger and didn't have the luxury of a drivers license or the money to buy books when I wanted the only thing that I had to read were those RDCBs. I loved them. I am not that old (stop laughing Ashley) but there was a time when Borders or Barnes and Noble weren't yet existent. The only places that I could obtain books were the library or the local "5 and Dime" (very limited selection). If I didn't remember to bring books with me to the Cottage then I was doomed. See, I was one of those kids (and still am) who had to have something to read. It was a physical need. I was lost without books.

Readers Digest Condensed Books introduced me to some of my favorite authors and encouraged me to read their books in the unabridged additions. I remember reading Jane Eyre for the first time in a condensed version. What young girl doesn't thrill to the darkness that is Mr. Rochester. One of my most favorite books was read first as a RDCB, In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I doubt that I would ever have read anything by Rumer Godden had it not been for that summer encounter. She continues to be one of my favorites and I look for copies of her work with regularity. In fact, my book club will be discussing In This House of Brede next week for our monthly meet.

Of course, there were plenty of other RDCB that were not that memorable. Books that reflected the times in which they were written. I have many vague memories of books read, scenes preserved in memory long after the title of the book is lost. I also remember vividly the look, feel and smell of those books. They continue to sit on the same shelf in the back hallway, waiting for someone to pick them up and read them. That someone may just be me when the girls and I spend 10 days with Mimi and Papa next month. I may have to break out some of my old favorites just for old times sake and to say a belated thank you to Mr. Zinsser who made them all possible.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Heros Among Us

Heroes Among Us
Larson, Major Chuck
Knitting Sticks: 5

This book really is a must read. As I said in an earlier post, the media gives very little coverage to the heroes who are serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This book comprises chapters based on the actions of America's most decorated warriors in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just a little background info (because I have done the research so that you don't have to). The three top honors awarded in the military are (in order of importance): The Medal of Honor, The Navy Cross/Distinguished Service Cross (the designation depends on which branch of the service you are in) and the Silver Star. In over 50% of the cases, the Medal of Honor is awarded posthumously (the 5 MOH that have been awarded for Afghanistan and Iraq have been posthumous awards) and since the Civil War when the MOH was first introduced only about 2400 have been awarded. Also, just as an aside, don't say that someone has "won" a MOH. They didn't go out seeking that honor, it was awarded to them based on the witness of others to their bravery above and beyond the call of duty.

The men profiled in this book, who have been awarded these medals, are humble, caring not for their own safety but for the safety of their men and others. You could tell from their words that they didn't think that they had done anything that was extraordinary. They wanted to talk about the men that they served with and not the actions that had gotten them an award that they never sought. This book is well worth reading to remind us of how special the men and women are who serve in our military and stand in harm's way so that we are safe.

Friday, June 6, 2008

This Day in History

1944: The Landings begin in Normandy

I was going to add more things to the list but then I decided that this was all I wanted to add. I have long been a student of history and of WWII in particular. Who knows why we are drawn to one particular time in history over another but this just happens to be the period that I like to read about the most.

Just about this time, eight years ago, Dan and I stood on Omaha beach and looked out at the expanse of sand and ground that needed to be taken by our troops on that fateful day. The sand stretches out before you as far as the eye can see. On June 6, 1944 that expanse of beach wasn't the vacation spot that it is today. It was covered with barbed wire and massive pieces of steel meant to stop ships from landing. The Germans had calibrated all of their gun emplacements to be able to put up a whithering cross fire meant to cut down anyone audacious enough to actually attempt a landing. They didn't expect that anyone would get through.

We then went over at Point du Hoc where the army Rangers scaled cliffs in order to disable the big guns that were supposed to be there (but in reality had been moved). So many have never heard of this amazing feat of sheer determination. It is well worth exploring.

Finally, we spent time in the American Cemetery in Normandy. That, most of all, was a sobering experience. Contemplating the row upon row of simple crosses (with Stars of David sprinkled in) marking the graves of the brave men and women who gave their lives in the cause of freedom. Yes, there are women who are buried there for there were women, nurses and others in the military, who gave their lives during that conflict.

I don't think that you can visit these places, especially the American Cemetery, and not be changed. If you can visit and come away the same person then my heart breaks for you.

Take a moment to listen to FDR's prayer for D-Day. It is worth the time

Some excellent books to read about this particular issue. This is a VERY small list, I have read more but these are the ones that I most enjoy.
D-Day the Sixth of June by Stephen E. Ambrose
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Boys of Pointe du Hoc by Douglas Brinkley
Brave Men by Ernie Pyle
And If I Perish by Evelyn Monahan

Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

Ansel Adams: An Autobiograpy
Adams, Ansel
Knitting Sticks: 4

An interesting book to be sure. Even if you don't know the name Ansel Adams I am sure that you will have seen one or more of his pictures. His striking photography from Yosemite is everywhere.

Ansel Adams was actually a very articulate and interesting writer, thank goodness. I have read some autobiographies that could have used a good ghost writer but not this one. However, I think that my enjoyment of this book was enhanced by my having read a previous biography of Mr. Adams. He deals with his early life (as you would expect him to) but a vast majority of the book reads like separate "vignettes" of people, events and issues which have been important to him. I had to get used to the flow of the book.

I did enjoy the book and would recommend the read. Not a book that I would probably read again even though I did give it 4 pointy sticks. I have sent it along to some one at Paperback Book Swap for their enjoyment.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sock Wars continues

Well, I have managed to score kill number two. Sorry Delusionalknitter but it was just meant to be. All is fair in war and socks after all. She got the socks on Tuesday, says she loves them and has sent her SIP (socks in progress) to me for completion. I live on to knit another day. I also live in fear of the mail because I never know when my demise will arrive.

Monday, June 2, 2008

PFC Ross A. McGinnis, MOH Recipient

"Ross did not become OUR hero by dying to save his fellow soldiers from a grenade. He was a hero to us long before he died, because he was willing to risk his life to protect the ideals of freedom and justice that America represents."
Thomas McGinnis, father of Ross McGinnis

I feel that it is of vital importance for those of us who live in this great country to be reminded of the sacrifices that others make on our behalf. I have for many years been fascinated (not really the correct word but I can't think of another) with the men who are Medal of Honor Recipients. These men (and perhaps someday women) who are humble in demeanor, who would tell you that they were just doing their duty, who give their lives for their comrades.

In wars past we were reminded frequently, and we honored more publicly, the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. We seem to have lost that ability. The main stream media does not report, does not cover, gives short shrift to the young men and women who serve us here and overseas. They give very little coverage, except in a negative sense, to those who give the "last full measure of devotion" for our country.

Today President Bush awarded, posthumously, the Medal of Honor to PFC Ross A McGinnis who sacrificed his life so that others in his vehicle might live. Let us honor the memory of our brave men and women who put themselves in harms way to protect us here at home. Take the time to watch the award ceremony and to remember what these young men and women are all about. They are our best and brightest.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Anne of Green Gables

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of one of my favorite books of all time, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery.

I myself did not read these wonderful books until I was in college. I am sure that I had heard about them when I was growing up but for some reason I just hadn't read any of them. I guess I was just busy reading everything that Louisa May Alcott had written, I don't know. However, once I had read Anne of Green Gables there was no going back. I remember that I was a sophomore in college and was swamped with reading for school. I didn't have a car at that time and the only bookstore available to me was the campus one. I was in there one day, looking through the books and there was Anne of Green Gables. I don't know if it was on some class required reading list but it was there in paperback form. I needed something to read that wasn't school related so I bought it. What the heck. The name was familiar and I knew I should have read it at some point in time.

The dorm that I lived in had a small section of roof that was accessible from a friend's window and we used to climb out her window and lay there tanning (that was when I used to actively tan). Those hot spring days were where I first encountered the joy that is Anne.

Have you ever read a book and been totally enthralled. Where years later you still remember the feelings that the book evoked, you still remember where you were when you first read it? That is how it is with me and Anne. She was alive to me and still is.

So, to mark this anniversary I will again be reading the entire Anne of Green Gables series(not that I haven't read it many times before) and will be posting blogs over at Blogging Anne of Green Gables. Come on over and see what others say about these marvelous books