Do I post this quote every year? Probably, but I love it because it says exactly what I feel. Fall is here again and the colors around me are beginning to change. I do love Autumn!
To all my dear blogging friends…
I’d like you all to know that my dear husband, Byron, passed away Wednesday night, almost exactly two years after his cancer diagnosis. He was a courageous fighter, and accepted his continually changing condition with grace and acceptance. At the end, he was where he wanted to be — at home, lovingly surrounded by his family.
Your kindness and lovingly supportive comments on my various posts throughout this journey have been deeply appreciated. I haven’t been on my blog much during his decline, but I will now take some time to mourn and regroup, and redesign my life without him. I will return, before too long though, to my reading and to this blog.
Hello, my friends. It’s time for some reflecting on life and reading in the month of August. It was another rather intense month, but flew by amazingly quickly. I’m proud to say that I actually finished reading two books during that month! Focusing on my reading has been a challenge with everything going on in our lives right now, but I decided to return to a much loved book, Persuasion, by Jane Austen, and just enjoy whatever reading time I could find. It was such a pleasure! The book and the simple act of reading! And then I ended up the month reading a book by another favorite author, Edith Nesbitt. The Story of the Treasure Seekers was a reminder of how childhood used to be a time of intense innocence and imagination.
The end of August also brings my favorite Fall reading challenge. Although I can hardly take on a bigger challenge than life itself right now, I’m going to join the Readers Imbibing Peril XVII challenge and read as much as time allows. I have a dear friend (a high school friend!) that loves the Fall and this kind of Fall reading, but he’s still a university professor and therefore doesn’t have the time to participate. But we both love Ray Bradbury, and he is inspiring me to read more of Bradbury’s stories and novels, so I’ve decided to make that my focus of my RIP reading this year!
On the home front, August brought another major change in our journey through cancer. Byron’s chemotherapy stopped working, just that quickly after 6 successful infusions. It was not unexpected but it was disappointing nonetheless. So he is now on hospice, and August was spent getting settled into that new reality, and focusing on finding the right combination of medications that would manage his pain more efficiently so that he can have some comfortable quality of life during this stage. We are so appreciative of our new hospice team! They work incredibly hard to manage his comfort care, and we feel very supported and cared for.
When I use the word “hospice,” I find that people assume that death is imminent. That’s what I always thought, too. But now we know that although hospice is “end of life care,” there’s a period of time before the final decline that can be much longer than anticipated. That’s where we are right now, this week — in the calm of pain management and improved quality of life. Byron is still able to care for himself and work on his home projects and his reading. Because he is quite disabled due to the cancer in his hip and pelvis, he requested a wheel chair from our hospice team, and so we are able to get out for early morning walks as often as we can now. Being outside and surrounded by beauty feeds our souls! Our daughter calls these cherished walks, our “Walk ‘n Roll” time.
I hope that you had a good August, my friends, and will have a book-filled and enjoyable September.
I look at this old photo that I took at the Salt Flats near the Utah/Nevada border and marvel at the calmness of that morning a few years ago. July has been a tumultuous month, plain and simple, but we are here at a calm spot at the end of this month, taking some deep breaths before moving into August.
Once again, I did not get much reading done this month. Too much Life happening. But yesterday I actually sat down with a new graphic novel, called Dancing at the Pity Party, by Tyler Feder, and started reading again. It felt wonderful to just sit and read on a hot afternoon!
Stay cool in this summer heat, my friends!
My July in brief:
- Heat! Although we haven’t reached the 113 degree temperatures of last summer, we’ve had too many 100+ days this month. No central air conditioning in our old home, so we spend much of our day and night managing the fans and window air conditioners so that we can keep the house as cool as possible. It’s been a challenge!
- Our grandson and Scottie’s Drive-In. Our precious grandboy (I probably should call him our “grandman” now because he’s over 6 feet tall and very much a teenager) helps us on weekends. He mows the lawns for us and, afterwards, we provide his current favorite meal —a hamburger and fries from our local burger joint, Scottie’s Drive-In.
- Watching TV. We love getting caught up in a good series on TV, and that happened this month with the Netflix series, Our Blues, a South Korean drama that takes place on Jeju Island. We were captured by the intertwining lives of the various characters, and loved our glimpse into another part of Korean culture. The cinematography was especially beautiful.
- Remembering my Mom. July 18th marked four years since my Mom’s passing, and I shared photos on my instagram account of the gorgeous sunset we experienced as we left her apartment the night we said goodbye to her. I miss her every day, but I have so many special memories that make me smile.
- Red Clover. You may remember my photos of Crimson Clover that fills the agricultural fields around here with brilliant red in early May. Well, the crops of “red clover” bloom in mid-July, and are gorgeous in their more subtle color. Up close, they look pink, not red. And when you look at a field of them, they look a pale lavender color! A crop that is so mis-named!
- Studying Spanish. I just reached a milepost in my attempt to regain my fluency in Spanish. I’ve worked on it, using the program Duolingo, every single day for 200 days! I’m rather proud of my learning streak, but I’m even happier to be regaining so much of the language I lost due to not using it very much since my year in Argentina as an exchange student. “Use it or lose it” is so true!
- Byron and his treatments. July was cruel to us. The most difficult thing about Byron’s battle with cancer is the metastases in the bones of his hip. In early July, he suffered a pain flare and after a trip to the ER and many tests over a two week period, it was discovered that he has a series of fractures in that hip joint. So being able to go upstairs to sleep has become too difficult. We now have a hospital bed situated in the bay window of our dining room area, and I’m happy to say that it’s a very workable arrangement for now!
Hello, friends. It’s past due time for an update on life and reading. Well, there’s been a lot of life going on, but not a lot of reading for me this month.
July has been an intense month for us filled with too many medical appointments. My focus, and the focus of our family, has ended up being entirely on my husband and his illness. The cancer journey truly is a roller coaster, and the last three weeks have been filled with gigantic ups and downs.
That said, we are still living each precious day to the fullest. Despite physical challenges, we still do as much as Byron’s limited energy allows. We share time with friends and family near and far (mostly on Zoom calls), and we laugh a lot, watch good shows on TV, try out new recipes or take-out food that might taste good to Byron’s chemo-damaged sense of taste, and we cherish our time with our daughter, son, and our precious grandboy.
Byron is reading more than I am right now, and what a potpourri of genres! His current read is The World as We Knew It: Dispatches from a Changing Climate, edited by Amy Brady and Tajja Isen. He recently finished the first volume of one of the graphic novels on my shelf called A Man and His Cat, by Umi Sakurai. Before that, he read The Cat Who Saved Books, by Sosuke Natsukawa. And before that, it was a book he liked so much he bought copies for our kids — Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, and The Deep Origins of Consciousness, by Peter Godfrey-Smith.
Early mornings finds me in the garden watering and weeding. I can’t keep up with either, it seems, but it’s nice to be out there. And I have also been working on my project of scanning old slides and photos from the last 53 years!
We are busy with life right now amid the ordered chaos of medical treatments and tests. And we are deeply grateful to our medical team, and to our extended family and friends team, and to our own little family unit team. All of whom bolster us up and help to give us the courage we need to face whatever life brings each day.
A Glimpse of our July in photos: (there are captions to the photos)
I was getting to the point of thinking that summer would never come! Record rainfall here in the Pacific Northwest, and what felt like endless gray days, weighed heavily on us although the moisture gave us spectacular spring color. But now…just like that…Summer has arrived with sunshine, blue skies, and much warmer temperatures. I’m actually having to water the garden now!
My reading has slowed down with more time spent working on taming the garden. Our weekly schedule is filled up with doctors’ appointments, but we also enjoy our every-three-weeks visits from our daughter, and an occasional [very short but very much appreciated] outing. But I I look forward to reading on the porch more often now. Summer reading time is here!
Books in progress:
- The Sign of the Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright
- Korean Gardens: Tradition, Symbolism, and Resilience, by Jill Matthews
New books that arrived this week:
- The Windsor Knot, by S.J. Bennett
- The Colour of Summer, by Victoria Connelly
- The Forgotten Beach, by Andrea James
The sun is shining this morning! After so many days of rain, the yard is like a jungle! The grass, which I was finally able to mow last week during a break in the rain, (quite a challenge!) needs to be mowed again! And the butterfly garden literally looks like a jungle. So… if you need to find me today, I will be outside weeding instead of reading!
Something I’ve been thinking about this morning…from the poet John O’Donohue in his book, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Invocations and Blessings.
May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Toward what is difficult,
Painful, and unknown.
“It’s easy. At your blog, before next Sunday 12th June, 2022, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.
This is your Spin List.
You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period: August 7, 2022.”
I enjoy these Classics Club spins, although I haven’t always finished the book or reviewed it in a timely manner. However, since it’s supposed to be a fun, stressless event, I just read for the enjoyment of it, and like having the book chosen for me at random.
So for Spin #30, here are the twenty choices from my Classics Club List (round 2):
- Austin, Mary Hunter: The Land of Little Rain
- Beston, Henry: The Northern Farm: A Glorious Year on a Small Maine Farm
- Buck, Pearl S: Sons
- Conrad, Pam: My Daniel
Doyle, Arthur Conan: The Sign of the Four
- Fleming, Ian: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car
- Gunther, John: Death Be Not Proud
- Hinton, S.E.: The Outsiders
- Morrison, Toni: Home
- Narayan, R.K.: Malgudi Days
- Proust, Marcel: Days of Reading
- Pym, Barbara: Some Tame Gazelle
- Sorensen, Virginia: Miracles on Maple Hill
- Soseki, Natsume: Kokoro
- Trollope, Anthony: Barchester Towers
- Verne, Jules: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
- von Arnim, Elizabeth: The Caravaners
- Wharton, Edith: In Morocco
- Whitman, Walt: Walt Whitman’s Diary: A Summer in Canada, 1880
- Wiesel, Elie: Night
Happy reading to all those participating in this 30th Classics Club Spin!
This is the first year we have had irises in our garden. After visiting Schreiner’s Iris Gardens last year, we chose and ordered some special irises from their online catalogue and planted them in the fall. They have been blooming in the last two weeks, and have been spectacularly beautiful! It’s been so fun to walk outside in the early morning and find another burst of blooms!
Of course, having irises blooming in the yard made me think of Vincent Van Gogh and his famous paintings of irises. I have the book, Vincent’s Gardens, by Ralph Skea, on my garden bookshelf so I pulled it down to reread and find information about those paintings. I love Vincent’s artwork, and I love reading about gardens that influenced famous painters, so this was a perfect book to revisit. And I was particularly interested in the story of his most famous painting of irises, which was painted in May of 1889, shortly after he was hospitalized for a psychotic breakdown. According to the author, Mr. Skea:
Vincent suffered four major mental crises in Arles, and became fearful that these psychotic attacks would recur with ever increasing severity. On 8 May 1889 he was admitted as a voluntary patient to the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, 24 kilometers (15 miles) north-east of Arles. Because of his fragile mental state, he was not allowed to leave the walled grounds of the asylum for the first month of his one-year stay. The often deserted garden, with its pine trees, lilac, roses, irises and overgrown lawns, offered him a calm enclosed place where he could paint and draw directly from nature.
The beauty of our irises brought us much joy this month, so I can easily imagine that the irises at the asylum in Arles would have been a calming beauty for a mentally struggling artist.
The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, won the Newbery Honor Award in 1962. It would be a fun read for 6th graders who are studying ancient Egypt. Although I had the book in my 6th grade class library for many years, and my students enjoyed checking it out and reading it, I hadn’t read it until now. I’d call it an historical mystery and the story of a strong and talented young man overcoming adversity. I enjoyed it!
From the publisher:
Ranofer wants only one thing in the world: to be a master goldsmith like his beloved father was. But how can he when he is all but imprisoned by his evil half brother, Gebu? Ranofer knows the only way he can escape Gebu’s abuse is by changing his destiny. But can a poor boy with no skills survive on the cutthroat streets of ancient Thebes? Then Ranofer finds a priceless golden goblet in Gebu’s room and he knows his luck and his destiny are about to change.
This book was one of my choices for The Classics Club, round 2.
June is here already! My husband, Byron, and I have settled into our three-weeks-at-a-time routine dictated by his cancer treatments. He is doing well with his chemo, and while not an easy time, we are grateful that the chemo is working. The “settling into a routine” is so helpful, as is knowing what to expect for each week following his infusion. Getting into a routine has relieved my worries (aren’t the unknowns just the worst!) enough so that I am back to my reading. *Big smile*
So my May reading was all over the place, but enjoyable. After I finished The Last Bookshop in London (discussed in my mid-May post), I read Named of the Dragon, by Susanna Kearsley. I’ve read quite a few of her books and always enjoy them. I enjoyed this one, too, but it wasn’t among my favorites of hers.
Then I read a book called Widowish, by Melissa Gould. It was her story of grief after losing her husband. I wanted to like it more than I did. Although there were some very good, relevant, quotes and passages in it that I copied into my reading notebook, I felt let down by her in the telling of her story. Part of it felt superficial to me, and I’m not sure if that was due to her writing skills, her chosen narrative style, or perhaps not wanting to spend too long in the deep dive into her own story. Anyway, I am glad that I read it, but it fell short of my hopeful expectations.
Following that book, I listened to the audiobook of The Starlet and the Spy, by Lee, Ji-min. It was an interesting historical fiction story of a young Korean woman, quite damaged emotionally from the war, who was chosen to be the interpreter for Marilyn Monroe when she visited the American troops in Seoul, South Korea in 1954. In those four short days that the two of them spent working closely together, they formed a life-changing bond. It was an interesting story, but I didn’t care for the narration and would have preferred to read it instead of listen to it.
I had on my Kindle, a short story/novella by Salley Vickers, a writer I enjoy. It was called Vacation, and was an interesting glimpse into a marriage. Years ago, I read her book Miss Garnet’s Angel, and really liked it. Once again, with this novella, I enjoyed reading her work.
And to end my May reading, I read two delightful books for young people (of all ages!). I read The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, and will be posting a review soon. And after talking with my sister-in-law about books we loved when we were children, I read Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry. It was one her her childhood favorites and I had never read it! My review will be posted soon, too.