Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

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

Our Time is Now

When I heard the announcement this week that Stacey Abrams has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work against voter suppression, I was thrilled.  I read her book, Our Time is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, a few weeks ago (actually, I first listened to her narrating the audiobook version of her book, and then read the print version), and I was deeply impressed.

Our Time Is Now, is very well written and also very engaging. As I read through it, I kept thinking that it should be required reading for every high school student, and for every voter! Do we still teach Civics in high school? This book would be an extremely important addition to that curriculum! Are we, as voters, educated about the right to vote or do we just take it for granted?

I (shamefully) didn’t know very much about the way voting really works, and doesn’t work, in this country. But I was gifted an extensive education about it by Stacey Abrams. It is shocking and sobering to learn what has happened to our right to vote, but she elucidates the issue very well and goes way beyond describing that sobering news. She creates a clear and hopeful guide for how it can be dealt with and changed, and how powerful and necessary those changes are to insure fair elections in the future. Her knowledge and understanding of that process is extensive and impressive, and her writing very clear and understandable.

Our Time Is Now is my longer, more complicated answer to how we can frame and revise voting rights and the architecture of American democracy for the current age. My hope is that they can read this book, written by a sojourner like myself who has seen glimpses of our possible future.

Stacey Abrams is one of my heroes, and this book solidified that feeling even more for me. I told my family that this book is a “must read…” And I repeat that here for all voters, and young people preparing to become voters!

Something I Cherish, #1

The word I chose to guide me through the year 2021 is CHERISH. I am keeping this word ever present in my mind, every day, and I thought I’d start sharing with you some of the daily kinds of things I am cherishing right now.

At least once a week, my husband and I pick up a coffee and then head to Fern Hill Wetlands, which is not far from our house. During this winter season, we sit in the car, drink our cups of coffee, and talk over the important (and unimportant) things happening in our life right now. It’s a wonderful way to start the day…together, talking things over, watching the eagles and the waterfowl, and the always dramatic sky.

I cherish these together moments.

Idia of the Benin Kingdom

Idia of the Benin Kingdom, by Ekiuwa Aire, is the first book in a new picturebook series for young children. The series is called “Our Ancestories,” and the stories will all be from African history and legends, with beautiful illustrations, and will be “free of the racial prejudice inherited from the slave trade and colonization.”

At Our Ancestories, we know that there is a deep divide between the truth of African history and the common understanding of it. We strive to bridge this gap through various means including stories, merchandise, and other informational content. Our desire is to make African history more mainstream filling a void that has been missing for years. We believe this will positively affect the modern generations in providing identity. Ultimately, we know that rediscovering African history will help create a better future.

In this first book, Idia is a young girl in the Benin Kingdom who loves to dance. She dreams one night of a queen leading and winning a battle, and after the battle, the queen helped the injured by using her healing powers using special herbs and potions. She was a great leader!

Idia never forgets that dream, and as she gets older, the dream guides her. She asks her father, a great warrior, to teach her the skills needed to become a warrior. He agrees if she promises never to stop having fun with her dancing. Later, she also asks her mother to teach her the healing skills of their people. Her mother thinks she is too young to learn those skills, but agrees to teach Idia about medicine and magic if she does her chores every day.

Idia grew up with all these wonderful skills, but it was her beautiful dancing that caught the eye of the King, and he asked her to marry him. Idia remembered again her childhood dream, and realized that she was the “queen” in that dream, and her son she would have would also to be a King. So she agreed to marry, and in doing so, she became “a queen, a warrior, the first woman to fight for the kingdom, and the first lyoba (Queen Mother) of Benin.

This was a fun book to read, and beautifully illustrated! I highly recommend that parents and teachers share it with the children and students! 

I chose this book to read for two of my personal challenges. It was a great choice for my “Wanderlust challenge” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book based on a true story from Benin.

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It also was a great choice to read for my Antiracist Education challenge. 

 

January Reflections, 2021

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I was so happy to welcome this January and this new year! After all the difficulties of 2020, how nice to have a “new beginning”!  And the month was filled with LIFE.

Weather-wise, January started with unusually warm weather and all our bulbs thought Spring had arrived. Mid-month, we had a week of major rainstorms with flooding and the closing of many streets in the area, and with water in our basement (110-year-old home with a leaky foundation). After the rains and the flooding subsided, we had a storm that dumped a couple of inches of snow on us!  It didn’t stick around very long, however, with the temperatures warming back up to 39-40 degrees during the day, but we enjoyed it while we could.

Hubby and I were able to get our first dose of the Covid vaccine (Moderna). Hubby has some health issues that put him into the first phase, and because of that, I was also able to get my first dose. We are now anxiously waiting to make appointments for our second dose. So far, we haven’t been able to do that. Yikes!

My reading this month was both productive and enjoyable. Productive in that I focused on reading more books from my Classics Club list. I have now read 45 out of the 50 books I planned on reading for my 5-year period of time. My favorite reads this month were from that list: The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim; The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Grahame; and Most Secret, by Nevil Shute. Another favorite was the audiobook of Stacy Abrams’ book, Our Time is Now. I will be reviewing that one soon.

I am really looking forward to my February reading! Because it is Black History Month, I’ve decided that my focus will be to choose from the wealth of excellent books by black authors– from classics to modern fiction to non-fiction to books for young people! I have so many good books already waiting for me!

 

 

The Measure of My Days

Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting, and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.

I have had this book on my shelf for ages. But as I move into the years she wrote about, her seventies and eighties, I decided to finally read Florida Scott-Maxwell’s, The Measure of My Days. It’s a quiet book, with many thoughts about her daily life, about aging, and about death. I do not live alone at this point, but I am touched by her thoughts on aging and being alone, and think of my mother and how she handled those years. I see them coming ahead of me, sooner than I would like, and look for guidance and wisdom to help me along. And she most definitely has wisdom and guidance to share with me! Here are a few examples of some of her thoughts that resonated with me…

I wonder if living alone makes one more alive. No precious energy goes in disagreement or compromise. No need to augment others, there is just yourself, just truth—a morsel—and you. You went through those long years when it was pain to be alone, now you have come out on the good side of that severe discipline. Alone you have your own way all day long, and you become very natural. Perhaps this naturalness extends into heights and depths, going further than we know; as we cannot voice it we must just treasure it as the life that enriches our days.

It is not easy to be sure that being yourself is worth the trouble, but we do know it is our sacred duty.

The crucial task of age is balance, a veritable tightrope of balance; keeping just well enough, just brave enough, just gay and interested and starkly honest enough to remain a sentient human being.

When a new disability arrives I look about to see if death has come, and I call quietly, “Death, is that you? Are you there?”. So far the disability has answered, “Don’t be silly, it’s me.”

I want to tell people approaching and perhaps fearing old age that it is a time of discovery. If they say “Of what?” I can only answer “We must find out for ourselves, otherwise it wouldn’t be discovery.”

One cannot be honest even at the end of one’s life, for no one is wholly alone. We are bound to those we love, or to those who love us, and to those who need us to be brave, or content, or even happy enough to allow them not to worry about us. So we must refrain from giving pain, as our last gift to our fellows.

Florida Scott-Maxwell, painted by Amanda Brewster Sewell.

When I bought the book, I hadn’t heard of her, I just liked the concept of the book. So, for those of you who have never heard of her, either, I’m including a short biography of Florida Scott-Maxwell from The Poem Hunter.com:

Florida Pier was born in Orange Park, Florida, and educated at home until the age of ten. She grew up in Pittsburgh, then moved to New York at age 15 to become an actress. In 1910 she married John Scott Maxwell and moved to her husband’s native Scotland, where she worked for women’s suffrage and as a playwright. The couple divorced in 1929 and she moved to London. In 1933 she studied Jungian psychology under Carl Jung and practised as an analytical psychologist in both England and Scotland. She died in Exeter, England. Her most famous book is The Measure of My Days (1968).

 

 

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I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes

When Robert Louis Stevenson was in his late 20’s, he set out on a journey that he hoped would provide material for writing a book. It was a hiking journey of approximately 120 miles through the Cévennes Mountains of France, but it was not a solo hike.  He took with him a companion — a donkey he named Modestine. He wrote of his adventures in his book Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes.

From the publisher:

In twelve days, from September 22, 1878, until October 3, 1878, Robert Louis Stevenson walked from Le Monastier to St. Jean du Gard in the Cevennes. His only companion was Modestine, a donkey. He traveled as his fancy led him, stopping to sleep whenever occasion offered. One morning after a night’s sleep out of doors Stevenson scattered coins along the road upon the turf in payment for his night’s lodging.
Modestine, the donkey, demanded that her owner exercise all his ingenuity. At first he loathed her for her intractable differences of opinion displayed concerning the rate of travel to be maintained. Repeated blows seemed not to influence her until he learned to use the magical word “Proot” to get her moving.

If you have read some of his other books, like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, or his book of children’s poems, A Child’s Garden of Verses, you know he is a wonderful writer and storyteller. This was one of his early works, but he already had the power of description and fun storytelling, so it is an enjoyable recount of his travels. It actually became a very influential book in the genre of travel writing.  Traveling with a donkey also provided a fair amount of comic relief for the reader, although I’m sure it was massive frustration for him as a traveler!

Since our travel is so restricted these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was fun to walk alongside Robert Louis Stevenson through these mountains in France. There were times when I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed being with him, though, because he appeared to be a bit of a curmudgeon, but I would love to retrace his route with my husband as my walking companion! Many people do just that!

 

An Excerpt from the Book:

Night is a dead monotonous period under a roof; but in the open world it passes lightly, with its stars and dews and perfumes, and the hours are marked by changes in the face of Nature. What seems a kind of temporal death to people choked between walls and curtains, is only a light and living slumber to the man who sleeps afield. All night long he can hear Nature breathing deeply and freely; even as she takes her rest, she turns and smiles; and there is one stirring hour unknown to those who dwell in houses, when a wakeful influence goes abroad over the sleeping hemisphere, and all the outdoor world are on their feet.

He captured the people and the times very well, described the outdoor experience beautifully, and there was plenty of adventure (such as convincing Modestine to take a short-cut up a steep hill!) to keep you reading through this short book.

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.