Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday's Fave Five, 11-3-17

LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Today marks the end of my six-week surgery "sabbatical." I was supposed to return to work full-time on Monday; however, things have worked out well for me to teach just one class on Monday and Tuesday of next week.  I'll start back full time on Wednesday.  That gives me a three-day week for the first week, which is much more manageable for working back into things.  I'm thankful for a substitute who is willing to teach two more days, a boss who is agreeable to this arrangement, and also a husband who insisted on my working in gradually.

2. The lady who used to help me with my house occasionally no longer cleans houses; however, she is willing to come next week to help me get it good and clean.  That is such a relief.  I can't pick up much weight at all, or push a vacuum or mop (what a shame!!) :-) -- and my husband's shoulder is giving him problems, so he can't clean very well either.  So I am grateful that this super-duper lady is willing to come help me this time.

3. This week's blanket.  Not real thrilled with how the colors turned out; however, it's a good way to use up yarn.  I have way, way too much yarn.  Acquiring yarn may have turned into an obsession? 

4. Caramel apples.  My precious aunt sent me some from a store near her home that is known for them.  They were delicious.

5. I went with Mike for his orthopedist appt. this morning, and we stopped by a new place for us for breakfast.  I had sweet potato pancakes with pecans and cinnamon syrup.  Very autumn-like and very good!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Goodbye October

Why is October always in such a hurry to go?

My friend Kristin Waite Smith took this photo and captioned it perfectly.  I asked permission to post it because it is so beautiful.  And true.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Anthony Doerr spent ten years writing this book.  Its construction is so careful, and deliberate, and artistic, that ten years almost doesn't seem like enough to get it written.

This book contains the parallel stories of Werner and Marie- Laure.  Werner is a young boy with great talent in electronics who grows up in the early years of the Nazi regime.   He learns his trade from finding old radio parts and an old electronics/math textbook, and he teaches himself how to build radios.  He and his sister spend many late evenings in their orphanage listening to signals that they pick up - many from the west, including signals from an old man who broadcasts stories and music.

Werner is chosen for a select boarding school for training Nazi officers, even though he is a small boy, because of his ability to trace radio signals.  He leaves behind at the orphanage his younger sister, Jutta, a girl of keen insight into the wrongness of the Reich, and he spends many nights trying to reconcile what he is doing with the deep-in-his-heart knowledge that his sister is right.

The other part of the story is about Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who lives with her father, who is responsible for all the keys in a huge national French museum.  Marie-Laure and her father are forced to flee when the Nazis enter Paris, and they go to the home of an eccentric uncle who lives in Saint-Malo, a near-island on the coast of France, in a home that is as eccentric as the uncle is - five stories high and very narrow. Uncle lives on the fifth floor and never goes outside.

These two young people live completely separate lives, until near the end of the war, when their lives cross for twenty-four very important hours.

The format, very effective, is to intersperse a short chapter about Werner with another short chapter about Marie-Laure.

The other plot in this book involves a mysterious rare gemstone that was held at the museum, and a German officer whose job is to find that stone. (This story also relates to that of Marie-Laure.)  So short chapters about that are also included from time to time.

I had seen several reviews written by people who said they could not put this book down.  I could see why.  The stories are gripping.

The book is about war, and awful things happened in war.  So some awful things are written about in this book.  A few usages of bad language are included.  However - nothing is gratuitous (in my opinion) and nothing is too explicit.

For a mature reader, who likes well-constructed imagery, and who is not afraid to see from the inside how horrible regimes can develop, this is an outstanding book.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday's Fave Five, 10-20-17

LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Went to the grocery store this morning, which is a much bigger deal than it used to be!  Mike went along to carry anything heavy and to haul bags around.  But I got what was needed without being too exhausted in the store.  It's time to get moving a little - I only have two weeks left before going back to work.

My dad took me to a couple of doctor appointments this week.  That was a big help as well--so I am getting out more and more.
2. Yet another week of great help and support from family and friends.  I don't think we've had to "scrounge" for supper more than a night or two in the past month.  We had more good suppers provided again this week.

3. I am so pleased to have a wonderful substitute during this six weeks of absence from school.  I can relax much more knowing that things are being taken care of with my classes.  

4. This week's finished blanket.  It's made entirely with the yarn that has a metallic thread running through it.  I thought I would really enjoy working with that, but it wasn't to be.  The black in particular is difficult to see and work with, and for some reason the metallic strip makes it harder.  But I did think the colors were nice.  They are small blankets and they are going to a group that has places where they distribute these smaller ones.  I am enjoying having more time to work with yarn during this forced time aside.

5. Enjoying our porch.  We have not been able to use the porch over the years as much as expected.  The springtime brings with it so much pollen that keeping the porch clean is impractical.  And the summers are so beastly hot.  However, the temps are going down, and with this beautiful fall weather, we are now going out there more.  Mike vacuumed the floor and I wiped down the tables.  It's perfect for reading in the afternoon.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday's Fave Five - 10-13-17

LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Doing a little better every day, after surgery 2 1/2 weeks ago.  Actually, it's more like two steps forward, one step back.  But I am learning that the admonition to take it easy, and rest, rest, rest, is not just a suggestion.  It is an absolute necessity.

2. Many kindnesses from many people.  Friends, family, Sunday school class - Many have brought us food.  My mom has shopped for us.  Dad is taking me to dr. appointments (two surgeries - two doctors).  

3. A huge kindness worthy of its own mention:  Our neighbor is, as I write this, outside cutting our grass.  He cut it the first time the day I was in surgery, and this is now the third time he's cut it.  It's a huge help, since Mike still can't cut it due to his own shoulder issues.  We are so grateful for his help.

4. The students have been very kind.  This banner was made by the students at school.  It's not visible, but all the students signed it.  We've put it in front of the fireplace (not needed in our ridiculous 90 degree October heat) where I can enjoy their kind gesture every day.
The fifth grade teacher came to visit and brought student-made cards.  This one is too funny.  Apparently the teacher told the students that we are Carolina Gamecock fans--and we live in the middle of Clemson territory, so not everyone agrees.  One little girl wrote this to me.  Brings a smile every time I look at it.
5. Finally - I finished this last night.  The stitch makes a beautiful blanket; however, I won't use it too often because it requires so much weaving in of cut yarn threads if it's done in such a way to make it pretty.  Next time I would leave out the purple and beige, and just stick to green, yellow, white, and the two blue shades.  Who knows - maybe I will try it again.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

From the Past

This grand old church building is located in the older part of our town.  Some would call it the rougher part of town.  I am familiar with it, as I used to occasionally substitute there as a piano player.  Several times the kids and I would go to that church, for that purpose, when Mike was working weekends.  I remember looking at the various hallways and rooms and thinking what a great, solid building it was - and what treasures could probably be found inside.  I saw third floor classrooms and thought - Those would make a great preschool or community center of some sort. 

The congregation was small, and probably could no longer utilize all the space that they had.  A lot of dust covered a lot of things.

The Saturday before surgery, I told Mike I was going out for the morning, for various stops.  One stop was at a massive yard sale taking place at this church.  Apparently the membership finally dissolved, and the leadership handed the key over to another young church that needed a larger building.  So the people of the church were cleaning out all these old classrooms, storerooms, the church library, and anywhere "stuff" was stored.  Much of it probably hadn't been used or looked at for many years.

(My siblings and parents will know what I mean by saying that stepping into that church fellowship hall was like stepping back into the Athens church.  The scent was identical. That old, big, cool, musty, barnlike smell that is unique to those old buildings. That childhood feeling of "What will we find" upon entering the old storerooms, at the back of the baptismal in that huge old structure in Athens.)

And then I started poking through the stuff.  It was like revisiting childhood.

Visualized songs.

Vacation Bible School materials.

And then this.  An old filmstrip projector.   I wish I had a nickel for every filmstrip I've ever threaded up for a Sunday school class, or a church kids' class, or who knows what purpose.

And these are only the things I got pictures of.  Lots of plaster pieces used for some painting craft.  (Shades of old Vacation Bible Schools!) I saw a lady happily rooting through that box, for things for her ladies' group somewhere.  

Sunday school materials.  Cabinets.  Old-fashioned wooden chairs.  Books for all ages.  Choir materials and hymnals dated from the '50s and '60s. Some Gaither Homecoming songbooks.  Old office supplies.  

Then the lady in charge, who has a son in one of my classes, offered to let me go up to the library.  Some of the books up there were old theological books, or directories of church conferences long since outdated, but I also got good stuff.  A first edition hardcover of Elisabeth Elliot's only novel.  A book written by her brother.  Biographies.  Children's Happy Days books.  Old stuff that most people don't really care about any more, but book lovers do.

I would have bought one of the cabinets on the spot, because it would have been perfect for my classroom - in far better condition and with more shelves than the one currently there.  However, since Mike has a bad shoulder, and I was having surgery first thing Monday morning, I could not think of a way to get it to school.  So I reluctantly passed it up.  But I did get a stack of books and a couple of boxes full of miscellaneous things.

And I also got a trip back into the past.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday's Fave Five, 9/29/17

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

I guess it is Friday, isn't it?  I have been holed up since Monday, and at home in my recliner since Tuesday, following major abdominal surgery Monday afternoon.  Still a little fuzzy in thinking, but there are good things to come even out of a week like this one.

1. Pain medicine. Yes. No more to say than that.
2. Everything went well - no unforeseen complications.
3. Wonderful care by family, neighbors, and friends.  I've got so many people looking out for me that I have to turn off the phone to take a nap.  That's a good thing.
4. Nice food and flowers.
5. Grace from God to come through this OK.

Here's to next week.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday's Fave Five, 9/8/17

 Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Mike is making progress with his shoulder therapy.  He got thumbs-up from the physical therapist this week.  AND - he can now do his exercises on his own.  I've had to help him with a couple of the exercises, which has not been good for marital harmony.  :-)

2. Beta Club induction ceremony today at school.  I'm the sponsor, so of course it falls in my lap.  The officers this year are very detail oriented, so that helps tremendously.  And it all went over well.
3. Finished a blanket this week and got it mailed off to the recipient, who should have it now.  I've discovered that a larger crochet hook makes progress go so much faster.

4. For the past two weeks, I've gotten beautiful tomatoes at the farmers' market, and we have enjoyed great BLTs, and ham and tomato sandwiches.  I've also enjoyed more tomatoes and cantaloupe, which most people think is weird, but it's great.

5. Finally - it looks like we will get more rain than wind from the hurricane system.  We have the possibility of being off of school Monday.  Daughter who lives near the coast may not have to evacuate either.  She sent me this picture today.  I didn't get it at first, but it is funny once I did get it.  Blessings and safety to all in the path.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Lark Rise to Candleford

 Lark Rise to Candleford is not a typical style of reading in our fast-paced age.  It was on a list of the most famous books of each year, one of many that pops up on the internet.  It sounded interesting, especially after one review stated that its style was similar to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Apparently I bought an abridged version, but a note in the book made it clear that most of the book was intact. The book is pictured here with the title page because the outside is a quilted cover; the title is embossed into it but is not visible in a photo.

The story is semi-autobiographical of the author, Flora Thompson.  It was earlier written as two books that were combined into one, and published as a single volume in 1945.  The quiet story of a small English town in the 1880s is told in this book, through the seasons; and the book caught on because it told so well the stories of this agricultural people in a time of great social and economic change.  Laura Timmins is the main character of the book; however, the book is not really about her.  It's about the town, and the ways of the townspeople in every area of their lives.  Their lives were hard.  Homes were small and rude, and both men and women had their own forms of backbreaking work that kept them busy and without much time for personal pleasure.  But the story is not depressing - it is a realistic account of the good times and the bad ones for these people.

This book is recommended to anyone who likes slower paced reading that is more character- than plot-driven, and to anyone who enjoys glimpses of other historical time periods and other cultures.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Street of Eternal Happiness

This book was reviewed on two separate occasions in World magazine.  With two reviews, and the China connections of our son, it looked like a book of interest.  And it was.

"Street of Eternal Happiness" is the actual name of a street in Shanghai.  (I found during my short trip there, three years ago, that over-the-top names are common.  I remember construction on new apartment complexes with names like "Heaven on Earth" and "Wonderful Bliss.")  The author, Rob Schmitz, subtitles the book "Big City Dreams Along a Shanghaii Road."  He then chronicles the lives of several people, moving from one story to another one, throughout the 311 pages.  He is well equipped to do so:  the street has been home to him and his family for several years, during his journalistic stint in China.

I read the book this summer - nonfiction books like this are my favorite genre - and Schmitz does this format very well.  For example, he tells the story of Auntie Fu and Uncle Feng - an older couple who run a pancake shop.  They argue endlessly.  She is caught up with "prosperity gospel" advocates and he is angered by that.  

Page 79: "Auntie Fu had grown up hungry.  She was born in 1949, the year Mao took control of China.  Home was a small farming village in the mountains of western Sichuan province, near the border of Tibet.  When she was in the third grade, Mao's Great Leap Forward swept through the country, and the village was split into ten farming collectives.  Families were required to eat at communal kitchens.  Land was snatched from local families and redistributed to teams of more than five hundred people each.  For those accustomed to tilling individual plots of the challenging mountainside terrain, working collectively didn't come naturally.

"Worse still, the village was required to hand over nearly all its output to government officials.  Within a year, the town ran out of food.

"Auntie Fu scrambled for anything to put in her stomach.  There was no school, and she'd spend days foraging for wild vegetables in the mountains.  When the trees bloomed in the spring, she ate their flowers.  In the river valley below, boats docked next to the granaries.  She learned to lie in wait for careless tractors that would sometimes cut through bags of wheat while transporting them to the warehouses.  Fu and her brothers and sisters would follow the trail with brooms, sweeping up stray kernels of wheat for dinner."

That helps to explain why the "prosperity gospel" was attractive to Auntie Fu.  It also shows insight into Chinese thinking that we in the West have no understanding of.

Schmitz talks about Mayor Chen - whose home was ripped away for redevelopment.  And Zhao, who thought nothing of leaving her family in a western province to come run a flower shop on the Street of Eternal Happiness in Shanghai.  She wanted a better life.  And CK, who sells accordions from his second-floor sandwich shop, whose fortunes vary from day to day.

The book is good.  I recommend it to anyone interested in nonfiction accounts, told in story style, with insight into Chinese thinking and culture.