Monday, February 20, 2017

Latest Reading Material

It's time to catch up on some reading! There was a lull over the holidays and I missed having a book or two by the side of my reading chair. I'm playing catch-up and thought I would share what I've read over the last two to three months.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
This is a sweet story of a sixty-nine year old widower who lives life in a very precise manner, day after day, since his wife died. One day he finds a charm bracelet his wife had hidden away and his curiosity is piqued to know where it came from and why he never knew about it. He begins making inquiries and follows clues as each charm reveals something about his wife's past. His monotonous life suddenly takes an interesting turn as he must travel to the source of the clues in order to unravel each charm's meaning.

A Gentleman in Moscow
 A Gentleman in Moscow received a rare 5-star rating from me on Goodreads. In 1922, a Bolshevik tribunal sentences Count Alexander Rostov to house arrest at the Metropol, an elegant hotel in the heart of the city. Once a guest in the most lavish rooms, the Count now must live his life in the hotel's attic for the remainder of his days. An interesting array of hotel guests cross his path and deeply affect his life. Riddled with humor, embellished with elegant history, the Count must find his purpose within this small but wonderful enclave.

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey
I've been interested in learning more about the politics of the 1960's and the causes of the radical social unrest at that time in order to compare it to what we see in politics today. This is only the beginning of what could end up in a life long attempt for me to understand that era. I combined this reading with "Destructive Generation" by Peter Collier and David Horowitz. Wow. Obviously what we see on the surface of political passion is only the tip of what lurks beneath. The author was raised in the environment of the radical left and we see his earnest life's work to promote the beliefs of socialist agendas in a time that culminates in the 1960's. His work with the Black Panthers leads to troubling revelations and Horowitz begins to question his beliefs. Revealing, yet troubling, this book is well worth the dive into this topic. So much of what I recall hearing in the news during the 60's pops up in this book. However, being a child, I had no idea the social and political upheaval in our country followed such a purposeful agenda of the radical left.

How High the Moon
It was time for a little "fluff" after reading the previous heavy topic. It is often difficult for me to believe authors who write from a child's perspective. Most of them don't pull it off very well, including this one. This story is about an orphaned girl whose mother runs away, leaving her with the mother's boyfriend. He is a sweet guy who does his best to raise this spunky girl. The story presents a cast of small town characters in a 1950's setting. It was an okay read, but nothing to write home about.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
This is the last book I just finished. It's currently in high demand at our library, perhaps because it speaks on a topic rooted right here in the Appalachian Mountains. The author was born and raised mainly in Kentucky by his grandmother in a dirt poor environment. The story is the author's memoir, but, he also discusses the plight and causes of the poor families living in this region of our country and the hopelessness that persists from one generation to the next. With the encouragement of his grandmother, J.D. Vance finds a way out of the vicious cycle, joins the marines, and goes on to graduate from Yale Law School. He purports to be the very rare example of what most kids living in the Appalachian culture experience. Their plight is not very different from that in our inner cities. It's an interesting topic, again if you want to read something thought provoking and current to today's issues.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Autumn's Grand Finale

     I began hooking this rug at the very, very end of autumn, sometime around December 10th. This is where I am today. The most difficult part has been finding wool in the colors I envision for the design. As I became ready to hook the border, I found a small piece of wool in the perfect shade of brown in a local antique mall where a vendor sells wool in one of the stalls. It wasn't a big enough piece to complete the border and I lamented over how to acquire more of it, even messaging the vendor to see if she had more. (She did not.) A rug hooking friend asked me to give her a sample of it so she could go home and check her wool stash to see if she might happen to have it. Lo and behold, she phoned me right away to say she found some in a drawer! We both rejoiced over the phone knowing what it means to find just the right piece and color of wool. This good news prompted me to cut the piece I already had and begin work on the border, knowing more wool was on the way. Yay!
     I completely enjoy every hour I spend working on these rugs. The time is peaceful, contemplative, and nourishing to my creative spirit. It's amazing how the mind is freed up to really delve into thought when the hands are busy like this. I think about my family and friends, I pray, I ponder books I'm reading, and I work out solutions to problems weighing on my spirit. In the end, there is a beautiful rug to throw down on the floor or hang on the wall. Woven into it are all those people and thoughts that occupied the many hours to create it. Many of you, my dear family, friends, and readers, are in this rug. : )

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Catching Up and Keeping Up

     We've had a bit of the flu, along with a few other viruses, going around here. The nurse's office at school has been busy and we've taken turns at home with all of it. I doubt there is anything left for us to catch at this point! I trust it is all behind us now and we can get on with enjoying our weekends by not spending them in bed.
     We enjoyed having Claire's children here last weekend while Claire and Daniel went skiing. The children were happy and content with whatever we provided them for food and entertainment. Sunday afternoon turned out to be sunny and mild so we played outside. The kids were all over the place, running and exploring. We started out wearing jackets and hats but, those were quickly shed since it was warm enough for shirts and sweaters. Henri and I kept up pretty well, all things considered. : )


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hanging Children's Art

     The grandchildren's drawings always make me smile. It's amusing to hear them tell about their drawing and to understand the reason behind why they used a frowning face, the swirly squiggles, or a fish floating in air. I always feel enlightened when they tell me about their picture and I usually end up commenting something like, "Ah! Now I see it!"  Sometimes I will pencil a little of what they tell me on the back and I always add the date.
     I have folders and boxes of drawings my daughters made from the 1980's and 90's. Steve and I still laugh at most of them when we have occasion to take them out. There's Audrey's early drawing of our dog tied to a tree with a little pile of poop nearby. (She drew it like she saw it.) We have drawings of their dream houses and their friends, and many horse drawings. One day I will find a way to display some of them so we can enjoy them more often. For now, I decided to hang some of the grandchildren's pictures because they visit often and I thought they would enjoy seeing their pictures hanging here as much as I enjoy having them.
     I chose clip frames because they are simple to use and there is no need to figure out competing frame colors, sizes, etc. They are inexpensive and readily available at Michael's or online. They are easy to change out as I expect I will do as the children continue to draw and create artwork. I happened to already have six frames in the 9 x 12 inch size. These turned out to be the perfect size for drawings done on copy paper. There was a slight gap between the paper and the frame, so I used construction paper in varying colors behind each picture to set them off in the frame. The added burst of color helped with the effect I was going for.
     The six pictures made this boring, blank wall suddenly appear cheery. There is room for more frames, which is good because there are two more grandchildren due to arrive this summer! As long as I keep the drawer filled with paper, pencils, and crayons, the children will keep us supplied with a lifetime of art... and smiles.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Questioning the Establishment

     I wrote a post that I won't publish. (Sigh.) In the back of my mind I knew I wouldn't publish it even as I typed the words. I had an opinion about the weekend's marches and protests and politics in general, but I hate confrontation and I hate to offend. However, I will share this: The protests and marches aroused the most unexpected reaction in myself. I felt grief. The more I watched and the more I heard, the sadder I felt for everyone. I would have preferred to have felt annoyed or angry. Those emotions are easier for me to quench. But no, it was grief. To examplify (I just made that word up), it was the grief that a parent feels when their children behave foolishly and the parent can only shake their head and wonder and feel sad. Everyone is rightfully entitled to their opinion and I love that our country embraces this freedom. I only wish it could be demonstrated without such hate and ugliness.

     I had to research what the women were marching about because their message was a little convoluted and covered multiple topics. Once I located the Women's March in Washington website and read their agenda, I understood it better and my grief was substantiated. Much of the women's message is based on false or misinformation. Other groups of women were marching in opposition of President Trump. We must be careful to learn the facts and not believe everything the media, special interest groups, or angry people are shouting. I may agree that President Trump leaves a lot to be desired in personal comportment, however that doesn't cause me to back an opposing group simply because it's anti- Trump. I pray that I've taught my daughters to think for themselves and not to ever become a puppet for special interest groups, or Hollywood, or haters in general. There is so much background and agenda within these groups but, if you boil it down to its core, it's all about, "I want what I want." It is about our mortal flesh during our short existence on earth, idolizing ourselves.

     Ironically, given my lifestyle today, I grew up in the 1960's mimicking my older sister who protested the Vietnam War and rallied in favor of everything from feminism to legalizing marijuana. Oh, the arguments she and my dad had around the dinner table! I wanted to imitate her and it felt radical to oppose "the man" and to celebrate free love and peace. I never fully understood what it was we were opposing. I just wanted to belong and to give voice to my feelings. I was a child and I reasoned like a child. At that age, we were sure that we knew more than our parents. Most likely they sadly shook their heads at our conduct. I never dreamed my life's learning would lead me to embrace Christianity or that the "establishment", which is as shape shifting as a Harry Potter character, would be that which I still oppose, albeit in a different manner. Here is a quote from Jack Shafer on Politico,

"If you’re of a certain age, the invocation of the Establishment gives off the scent of the 1960s, when it was believed to be the invisible but ever-present forces of conformity and societal control. Depending on who you talked to, the Establishment was the force behind the war in Vietnam, the muscle that demanded the enforcement of the drug laws, the power behind racism, the reason college dorms were segregated into male and female. It was—and remains—the placeholder for the nameless but omnipotent “other side” of any power relationship. In short, the Establishment was your parents."

     So, the funny thing is, I now see our pre-Trump country as the establishment. I see the stifling governmental controls on manufacturing and society (a 1.5 cents per ounce tax on soft drinks in Pennsylvania?!) as the establishment. I see Hollywood and all the fans who mimic it as the establishment. To me, these are the societal norms and to buck them is to be in opposition. You see how this reasoning has the previous anti-establishment now serving as the establishment? It's crazy! The bottom is up and the up is down. I question the current establishment but, with an entirely different perspective than I had as a child. Do our laws line up with God's Word which spoke the universe into creation? Are they what's best for the individual and for the society in general? Do we want the government paying for everything and therefore controlling our freedom? Our laws should not dictate what we eat or drink, who we love, or what we do in our bedrooms. I believe that the separation of church and state is a good thing for a country and in matters of faith, we must each follow our own walk. In my personal life there is no separation of God from any given portion. God is in my politics, he is in my thought life, he is in me as an employee, a wife, and a mother. So, to ponder anything is to include God and His Word and to hold all these things to that standard of perfect measure.

     Answers to life's questions will often only lead to more questions. But one thing we can know for certain, God is sovereign. Most importantly, life and death matters are not for man to decide. They are way bigger than man's ability to reason. The more we try to understand this puzzling life and the baffling ways of man in respect to God's character and will, the closer it draws us to Him. If we sincerely desire the truth and we seek the truth with all our hearts, it will be revealed to us in astounding ways. Peace and joy will overcome anger and anxiety, and sense will be made of the nonsensical. However, be forewarned, we will often find ourselves in a position of having to choose whom we will please, God or man? God or myself? God or...? Think about this as you watch videos of the marches on Saturday and the riots last Friday. In whom has man put his faith and trust?

      I saw this on a friend's facebook timeline:

"No one in the world can change truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hetacombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?" St. Maximilian Kolbe. Executed: Auschwitz 1941

     I will leave off here with a beautiful new song, "There Is A Cloud".


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January Thaw

     We have had a string of rainy days and milder temperatures that make it feel and smell like it's spring time in March. The mountains and sky were so pretty when I walked into school that I had to stop and pull out my phone to take a photograph. Moms and dads with students walked swiftly past to get inside before the bell rang, but I was compelled to stop and notice these clouds and sun. As I stood there, missing the bell and the Pledge of Allegiance, I realized that I haven't changed much since I was a student- not quite conforming to the standard and making it in before the bell.

     It was still mild when I got home from work, so I took Henri for a nice little round about. The wind picked up, making it feel even more like March. Later, I went into town to my friend Eleanor's house and met up with some other ladies to work on our rugs. We sat on Eleanor's front porch in sweaters, enjoying the bit of warm sunshine and soaking in some Vitamin D.
     By days' end, I had made three trips up and down our winding road. The final trip was a drive down to the firehouse at 5:30 where a yoga class has been ongoing for several years. How did I not know about this?! I have wanted to try yoga for a long time and here we have a convenient, low commitment opportunity right under my nose. The attendees were all my age or older, which made me feel feel very comfortable in my inability and unbalance. We had essential oils rubbed on our wrists, we stretched and worked with light weights, and we did an exercise for fending off ADD and dementia. It was a great, one hour session and I will definitely return. Can you tell that I am less demented already? : )