Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

I’m a wife, mother, grandma, retired teacher, gardener, knitter, and avid reader. I live near Portland, Oregon, USA.

Early December

Interior with the Artist’s Daughter, by Vanessa Bell, 1935-36

Hello, dear friends,

We are well into the holiday season now. and I wanted to check in and wish you all a very happy season.  I hope you are well and enjoying life and family and good books. And as for the stresses and strains that also seem to be part of the holidays, I wish for you some quiet and some time to just enjoy the present moment.

I feel like I’ve been away forever, and I am hoping to get back to some consistent blogging again. I am getting back to my reading, choosing kind and gentle reads for now. Poetry is a balm for me. Books about grief (some of them), are helpful and appreciated. And when I found a book of poetry about grief that really spoke to my own experience, I was thrilled. Living Without the One You Cannot Live Without, by Natasha Josefowitz, sits beside me right now as my solace and one of my guides through this journey.

Recent fiction reads, such as Farewell to Fairacre, by Miss Read, and The Bookstore Sisters, a short story by Alice Hoffman, have been my bedtime reads. My non-fiction afternoon reading included Michelle Obama’s new book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, which I felt was an enriching audiobook to listen to. She is, as always, full of wisdom and compassion, and hope. I really enjoyed it. I also read a library find: A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives, by Lisa Congdon. It was inspiring and I enjoyed each short biography of many different women who found their passions and careers later in life.

After two-and-a-half years of pandemic lockdown and the extra precautions we had to take due to my husband’s cancer, I am beginning to get back to some of my used-to-be normal activities. I have started going back to my exercise class at the gym, although I know that Covid is still here. But I need my exercise friends, the three-day-a-week routine, and the exercise! It’s so nice to be back. I’m also getting back to my morning walks, although the weather always seems to play havoc with that routine at this time of year. And I’m also getting back to my reading. It all feels so good!

 

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

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.

With love,
Robin

August Reflections and September Plans

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!

My Readers Imbibing Peril XVII reading list!

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.

On our “Walk ‘n Roll.”

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.

July Reflections

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!

I was also able to finish my Classics Club Spin book, so I’ll try to post my review of The Sign of the Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle,  in the next few days.

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!

 

 

 

July Thoughts

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)

Summertime

Mt. Hood in the distance…

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:

New books that arrived this week:

 

Porch pots in full bloom…

 

Time to Weed

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!

Jungle…

The Classics Club Spin #30

 

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin event!  So what exactly is the Classics Club Spin? Here is the description from the Classics Club web site:

“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):

    1. Austin, Mary Hunter:  The Land of Little Rain
    2. Beston, Henry:  The Northern Farm: A Glorious Year on a Small Maine Farm
    3. Buck, Pearl S:  Sons
    4. Conrad, Pam:  My Daniel
    5. Doyle, Arthur Conan:  The Sign of the Four

    6. Fleming, Ian:  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car
    7. Gunther, John:  Death Be Not Proud
    8. Hinton, S.E.:  The Outsiders
    9. Morrison, Toni:  Home
    10. Narayan, R.K.:  Malgudi Days
    11. Proust, Marcel:  Days of Reading
    12. Pym, Barbara:  Some Tame Gazelle
    13. Sorensen, Virginia:  Miracles on Maple Hill
    14. Soseki, Natsume:  Kokoro
    15. Trollope, Anthony:  Barchester Towers
    16. Verne, Jules:  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
    17. von Arnim, Elizabeth:  The Caravaners
    18. Wharton, Edith:  In Morocco
    19. Whitman, Walt:  Walt Whitman’s Diary: A Summer in Canada, 1880
    20. Wiesel, Elie:  Night

Happy reading to all those participating in this 30th Classics Club Spin!

The Reading Girl (1896), by A. C. W. Duncan.

Irises

Last year at Schreiner’s Iris Garden, Salem, Oregon

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

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 is the third book I’ve read by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, and I liked all three of them. Click on the following titles to read my reviews of the other two books:  The Moorchild and Greensleeves.

 

This book was one of my choices for The Classics Club, round 2.