Blogging, Friends, and Lots of Life

Book blogging buddies

There has been a lot of LIFE happening in the last few months, some of it difficult and some of it absolutely lovely but also time-consuming. As a result I have gone missing from my blog once again! But  I have continued with my reading, just not with writing about it, and have quietly visited many of your blogs when time allowed.  But after meeting two lovely blogging friends for lunch yesterday, Les @Coastal Horizons, and Kay @Kay’s Reading LIfe, I am inspired again to return to my writing and sharing about books and life. Thank you, Les and Kay!  But before I tell you what books I’ve been enjoying (I promise another post devoted to the books I’ve read since April), I must tell you what LIFE has been like around here recently.

The major focus for me in the last few months has been my mother’s health. Those of you who have followed me over the years, know that my mother is a great reader, my mentor and best friend, and my reading buddy. Since we live in different states, this blog was started as another way to communicate with her and share what we are reading. My amazing and resilient mother is turning 99 years old in August! And she continues to be an avid reader. We always talk about books  during our daily phone conversations, but recently she has begun to have some more serious health problems, so we fully realize that these days and our daily conversations are precious.

In the last six months, I have made a number of special trips to see her. On one trip, I took my daughter, and then a few months later, I took my son and grandson to see her. Each trip was wonderful and full of special memories. My husband and I visited her in May, and we are heading out next week for another, longer, visit with her. My brothers and their wives will all be there as well, so it will truly be a celebration of family and an early birthday celebration for her. She and I will definitely be talking about books during that visit and I will treasure those moments.

The other focus in the last few months has been on my garden! Yes, gardening is definitely therapy for anxiety and anticipated loss, but it is also my new passion. My husband, my daughter, and I all share in the work on these garden projects, and it’s been a delightful way to spend our time!

The garden project we’ve been working on (started last Fall) is my “Butterfly Garden,” a project inspired by the butterfly garden built by the 2nd graders in my school before I retired. We have turned a narrow piece of our property, on the south side of the garage and along the alley way, into a beautiful garden! We can’t see it from the house, so we’ve put chairs out there so we can sit and watch the flowers grow, the bees do their thing, and a few butterflies that are finding their way to a place designed specifically for them. I hope you enjoy this slideshow of the butterfly garden as it has progressed!

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Read-a-thon Afternoon

The afternoon of this read-a-thon has been very enjoyable. I took a reading break, late morning, and attended a town hall meeting with one of our Oregon senators, Ron Wyden. This was actually his 888th town hall meeting since he was first elected, and I think that’s a wonderful achievement for any politician! He is a senator that really listens to his constituents!

After the meeting, it was back to my reading, and I spent the afternoon immersed in Alice Hoffman’s elegant book, Green Angel. Alice Hoffman’s prose is absolutely beautiful, and this story of grief and renewal was a very moving one. The book begins here:

I once believed that life was a gift. I thought whatever I wanted I would someday possess. Is that greed, or only youth? Is it hope or stupidity? As far as I was concerned the future was a book I could write to suit myself, chapter after chapter of good fortune. All was right with the world, and my place in it was assured, or so I thought then. I had no idea that all stories unfold like white flowers, petal by petal, each in its own time and season, dependent on circumstance and fate. The future is something no one can foretell.

A shy and introverted young girl, called “Green” (because she is gifted at gardening), loses her family when a terrible disaster destroys the city across the river from their home. Her family had gone to sell produce in the city, leaving her reluctantly behind. So many of the people in the community were killed, and the environment all around was damaged, as well, so Green’s grief was for everyone and everything that she knew before. The slow healing from such a devastating loss is poignantly described in this story.

This is actually my second time reading this book. The first time was quite a few years ago after I had suffered a devastating loss of my own. This was the first book I was able to read after spending most of a year unable to complete any book. It was, for me, a very healing book, and helped me get back to myself and to my reading. So I was curious to read it again, at a much happier time, and see how I felt about it. The beauty of it brought tears to my eyes.

So it has been an interesting afternoon, and a very enjoyable one. I’m continuing with my reading this evening, although I don’t plan to stay up too late… We’ll see! I’m loving this read-a-thon!

Read-a-thon Morning

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon started for me (in my time zone) at 5:00 a.m. That’s not early for me as I’m almost always up by that time anyway…I’m a morning bird! I started out with my usual tall cup of tea and an ebook downloaded from the library. The ebook is from a series of books that I share with my grandson. I wanted to start our the read-a-thon by reading about people whom I admire.  Who Was Ernest Shackleton is a nicely written account of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated voyage to the South Pole on his ship, Endurance, and his brilliant leadership that made survival possible for all his men.

My second book of the morning was Chasing Light: Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer, by Amanda Lucidon. The photographs were beautiful! And reading about a beautiful person with great integrity and courage was a lovely way to start my day!

Read-a-thon Eve

Tomorrow morning, at 5:00 a.m. (in my time zone), Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon begins.  This will be my second time doing this fun read-a-thon, and I’m really excited to start! I’ve gathered up books from my shelves and from the library, and I downloaded way too many ebooks from the library web site. But I’m all set, ready to go!

My book choices are varied. I included a number of children’s books, and will revisit some of the books I used to read each year while teaching (I miss them!). I’m been listening to the audiobooks of the Harry Potter series, and I’m on the last book, so I will definitely spend some of the day listening, although I may not finish it tomorrow. I’ve included some books that are on my TBR list, and others that just called out to me from the library shelves.

I also decided that I will take a break every hour and walk on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes. When I’m immersed in a good book sometimes I sit for hours on end, so the walking breaks feel really good. As far as food and treats go, I’m keeping it simple and basically just eating what I normally do during the day. I usually snack on fruit or veggies, or have some crackers with hummus, so that’s what I’m planning.

I’ll check in on Twitter and on Instagram, as well as post an occasional update here during the day. I also want to take some time and check in on other readers! I look forward to reading alongside you all!

Happy reading, everyone!

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky.”

Haruki Murakami’s book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, was a delightful surprise. I downloaded the audiobook this week expecting to enjoy hearing about his running experiences, but I didn’t expect to love this book. But I did love it and gave it 5 stars on my Goodreads review!

In this little book, he talks about how he became a runner, about the technical details of preparing for and running races, of the mental and emotional struggles of long-distance running. But it is also a fascinating memoir of the growth and changes he experienced as he became both a runner and a writer — two “obsessions,” really “passions,” that define who he is as a person.

“Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice. “

Murakami spoke to my heart with this book. I’m a walker with the heart of a runner. I wish I had discovered at a younger age this love of moving fast, participating in races, and learning all about myself from the daily experience of getting outside and losing myself in motion. But I didn’t start my “running” journey until age 65, and my knees will not let me run, so I am content with the walking experience. However, I identified with his love for running and writing, was touched by his descriptions of aging (he and I are the same age, born 2-1/2 weeks apart), am inspired by his passion for life, and I totally agree with his longing:

“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”

Dreams From my Father

My book blogging friend, Andi, at Estella’s Revenge, recently listened to the audiobook of Dreams From my Father, by Barack Obama (narrated by the author). She rated it 5 stars on Goodreads, and talked about how much she enjoyed listening to it. She inspired me to follow suit, so I downloaded the audiobook from Audible and am just starting it. My mother (age 98) is also going to listen to it so that we can share our thoughts about it on the phone in our daily conversations. We both miss the Obamas greatly and thought that listening to Barack Obama tell stories about his life and family would be very enjoyable. Thanks, Andi, for the idea! This little shared project is going to brighten our days!

Mom and I have been sharing books and reading experiences for a lot of years!

 

March Reading Reflections

My reading these days is both pleasure and therapy. I am enjoying the time spent immersed in my books, and feel I actually need that time away from the constantly distressing news-of-the-day. Right now, I am choosing books that are not too sad or stressful. I appreciate more than ever the really good writers. Their words are like balm, an antidote to the ugly rhetoric we are surrounded by these days. If I sound like I am complaining about the state of our nation/world… well, I am. It all bothers me a lot, and I do my part to participate in our democracy in positive and hopeful ways. But exposure to the daily ugliness takes a toll, so I choose to surround myself with as much beauty, kindness, humor, and uplifting words, as possible. My February/March reading reflects my need for escape, for humor, for fun, for perspective, for beauty, and for kindness.

Books read in February and March:

 

Books in progress, but not completed in February and March:

 

Classics Club Spin #17

It’s time for another “Spin” with The Classics Club! I am enjoying my reading of the classics I chose for my 5-year reading plan even though I’m running behind on writing my reviews. It’s a very enjoyable, non-pressured challenge, so if you are wanting to read more classics, you should join up!

Here’s how the “Spin” works:

Choose 20 books from your list of classics TBR and post that list on your blog before March 9th. On Friday, March 9th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 30, 2018. 

So here is my Spin List.  It will be fun to see which number (and which book) is chosen in the “spin” on Friday, and I’ll return to this post then to highlight the book chosen.

Classic Spin #17:

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  3. Arabian Nights and Days, Naguib Mahfouz 

  4. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  5. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  6. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  7. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  8. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  10. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  11. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  12. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  13. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  14. The Lost Prince,  Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  16. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
  17. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  18. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  19. The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
  20. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

Connections

I am awake early this morning. Sadness woke me from a grieving dream about a friend who is moving away.

So I made some tea and opened a book of poems from the library. Poems by Ursula le Guin. I read her introduction and then a couple of random poems. Poetry touches me like music, going straight to my heart in a way that bypasses all my filters and protections. I was touched by her words — words that describe similar experiences and familiar feelings — we have shared common ground, the Poet and the Reader.

And then I found her poem called “Dos Poesias Para Mi Diana.” There, inside this poem, was an electrical connection!  Without knowing anything about the personal life of this writer, her words alone, without explanation or history, let me know that we have walked the same pathways, shared two far-distant places on this planet. I am thrilled, touched, overwhelmed momentarily by the synchronicity of this magical connection. And it’s like the voice of a friend from far away gently reminding me that distance, and time, are irrelevant. Our connections, our friendships, transcend time and space.

Good morning, my friends!

Valentine’s Day at the Library

The Hubby and I visited one of our nearby libraries today. The Hillsboro Library is a very nice library with beautiful grounds which include paved walking trails, a creek, and ponds that host many water birds. It was a fun way to spend Valentine’s Day morning, both inside and on our walk outside the library.

Inside the library, I appreciated the “Blind Date” display and checked out one of the books that turned out to be a vegan cookbook. Perfect! I loved the clues on the front of each of the wrapped books and hope that many others checked out one of those parcels as a blind date!

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