Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

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

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.

It’s June Already!

Artwork by Edith Holden…

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.

It was lovely to once again focus on my reading in May, and I’m looking forward to reading on the porch again now that June has arrived!

 

 

Changes at Fairacre

Times are changing in the charming village of Fairacre…

In this time of changes in my life, I find great comfort in reading the books in the Fairacre series, by Miss Read (the pseudonym of British author, Dora Saint). Changes at Fairacre is the 18th book in the series, so I am getting close to the end of my time in Fairacre. I’ve been reading them slowly, savoring them, not wanting them to end. Since I only have two books left in the Fairacre series, I am grateful that Dora Saint wrote another series to follow — that takes place in a neighboring village called Thrush Green. So it will be awhile before I have to say goodbye to these gentle, delightful stories.

I think Changes at Fairacre is one of my favorites in the series so far. It was a tenderhearted story, with all the changes that were happening in the village and in the life of the main character. Time moves on in these books, and this main character, the village school teacher, faces new challenges and some losses that touched my heart. The seasons and each school year come and go. The children grow and change. Life goes on as the village faces all the problems of modernization. Changes.

From the Publisher:

Times are changing in the charming downland village of Fairacre, and Miss Read isn’t certain that it’s all for the best. The new commuter lifestyle has caused a drop in attendance at the local school, and officials are threatening closure. Miss Read worries about the failing health of Dolly Clare. Vegetable gardens have given way to trips to the Caxley markets, and the traditional village fete now includes a prize for best quiche. With her trademark patience and good humor, Miss Read hopes for the best and plans for the worst as the village grows increasingly modern. Despite all the innovations, Fairacre still retains its essential elements: gentle wit, good manners, and the comfort of caring neighbors.

A few of my favorite passages from the book:

“Everything was quiet. I leant out of the bedroom window and smelt the cool fragrance of a summer’s night. Far away, across Hundred Acre field, an owl hooted. Below me, in the flowerbed, a small nocturnal animal rustled leaves in its search for food. A great feeling of peace crept over me. The tranquillity of Dolly’s old abode and my new one enveloped me. I knew then that I had come home at last.”

“My bedtime reading at the moment was Virginia Woolf’s essay about my favourite clergyman, eighteenth century Parson Woodforde. I had come across her remarks on the entry: ‘Found the old gentleman at his last gasp. Totally senseless with rattlings in the Throat. Dinner today boiled beef and Rabbit rosted.’ ‘All is as it should be; life is like that,’ she comments.”

“There may be many changes in Fairacre, I thought, but the seasons come round in their appointed time, steadfast and heartening to us all.”

Painting by Robert John Hammond…

May Check-in

A hill nearby covered in Crimson Clover…

I will start with an apology for not checking in sooner and for leaving this blog sitting too quietly for the last while. It has been an up and down month, a very emotional month, since my last post. The update on my husband, Byron, is that he has continued with his chemotherapy treatments with infusions every three weeks, and we have played the waiting game now for 9 weeks to see if the chemo is actually working to [temporarily] halt the progression of his cancer.  We had to wait until a certain period of time had passed to repeat his CT scan. The scan was done last Saturday, and we finally received the results yesterday. At this point in time, it is working. *Big sigh of relief here!*

So he will continue with his three-week cycle of infusions, and our lives are adjusting accordingly. The infusions are on Mondays. That first week is a challenge for him, with deep fatigue and other struggles. The second week, he feels better but not great. And the third week, he is almost back to “normal,” feeling well enough to work on projects (although his stamina is low), and have family come to visit. Then, the cycle is repeated …until it no longer works, or the side effects become too much to offset the benefits.

With this major change to our daily/weekly routines, plus the anxiety about whether or not this treatment is working, I simply couldn’t focus enough to read a book, and writing a post seemed too difficult. But, I am very thankful that we have a lovely grief counselor who is helping us through this roller coaster time, and she recommended a book that she thought I would enjoy. I downloaded it onto my Kindle directly after my appointment and read it in just a couple of days.

 The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II, by Madeline Martin, brought me back to my reading.

Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.

The Last Bookshop in London is an irresistible tale which showcases the transformative power of literacy, reminding us of the hope and sanctuary our neighborhood bookstores offer during the perilous trials of war and unrest.”
–Kim Michele Richardson, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

My counselor was right! I enjoyed it very much, and all of a sudden, my world seemed to right itself again!  She added one other recommendation for me:  she suggested I get myself over to Powell’s Bookstore for an hour of wandering.  Do you see why I love this counselor?

Back to my apology for leaving you without an update on our situation for so many weeks… I will try to check in with you here, dear blogging friends, at least once a month as we continue on our current health journey. And thank you so much for your care and concern.

Byron heading into Kaiser for his CT scan…