Category Archives: Life

Happy Birthday to my Mom

I am missing my Mom today…it’s her birthday and she would have been 99 years old! We lost her just three weeks ago, so celebrating her birthday today is a mixture of sadness and joy–she  lived life to the fullest and left us with so many joyful memories!

After my Father passed away twenty-four years ago, I started a list of “Would Haves” because there were so many times when my brothers and I would say, “He would have loved this…or that.” I haven’t started a similar list for my Mother yet, but I will need to soon because there are already things happening that she would have liked! One thing for sure that will be on that list is  the upcoming September release of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times. That one would have been number one on her TBR list!

Happy birthday to my beautiful Mom, my special friend. I miss you!

July Reading Reflections

My reading reflections for July are about my mother, since I spent three weeks of July with her at the end of her life. I am home now, tying up lose ends, returning slowly to routines, and trying to get used to life without her. But despite my sadness, there is also so much to comfort me — loving family and friends, many many happy memories, and an overwhelming pride in her for how she handled her life, especially life after my father passed 24 years ago, and especially again at the end. She showed great courage and dignity throughout it all, and I’m so proud to be her daughter.

The photo above is a list of the books she read in 2018. She read and listened to 10 books (including volumes 1-4 of the Harry Potter series) and  was also in the middle of three other books when she fell ill:  she was listening to the audiobook of Shanghai Girls, and reading the Kindle version of Dreams of Joy, both books by Lisa See, an author she loved; and she was in the middle of the Whitmore Library Book Club choice for July, a title I don’t remember now. At almost 99 years old, she was an avid reader to the end!

The Butterfly Garden

This is the shady part of our butterfly garden…

While we spent the last three weeks with my mother, our daughter watered our gardens and kept everything alive despite the 90-100 degree temperatures. It was a huge job, but we were delighted upon our return home to find our butterfly garden in full bloom and full of bees and butterflies!

I want to share with you a poster I saw and just loved at Red Butte Garden, in Salt Lake City, where we have my father’s memorial bench, and where we will soon hold my mother’s Celebration of Life and add a plaque to the bench in memory of her.

My Reading Hour

What to do with that hour each day that was set aside for wonderful long phones conversations with my Mom?  I’ve decided that for the next little while I will take that same hour (mid-afternoon) and call it my reading hour. Seems so right to fill that emptiness with books in memory of my loving Reading Buddy. She’d like that, I’m sure. And so will I!!

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My Reading Buddy

When I started this blog in 2007, I dedicated it to my father “who would have loved this new way of communicating,” but wrote my posts with my mother in mind as my primary audience. Both my parents were avid readers, especially of history, and they instilled in me a deep love of reading. They supported my book obsessions from very early on — we made weekly trips to the library; my father would buy me a new book when I finished another book in a series; gifts were almost always books; and there was always book talk happening in our household.

I was living 800 miles away when my father passed away twenty-four years ago, so it was at that time that my mother and I began to talk with each other on the phone every day. Our talks became our afternoon ritual, and over the years and despite the distance, our relationship grew closer and closer. Yes, we talked about the daily happenings of our lives, but we also shared long conversations about the books we were reading or had heard about. I called her my “reading buddy.”

So as my blog became an important part of my life, my mother joined in with me to write posts and share what she was reading. The blog became another way to communicate with each other about our shared love of reading.

Six days ago, my mother passed away. She was three weeks short of her 99th birthday and had lived a full and wonderful life. Her decline was swift and timed almost to perfection — my family had gathered together for our yearly reunion. She was thrilled that we were all together again, and we filled the first few days with our lively conversations and good food. When she became ill suddenly, we all took turns staying with her at night, and we worked together to make her as comfortable as possible during the day. She didn’t linger, and although none of us was with her at the moment of her death, she knew that she was surrounded by loving family.

My husband and I drove back home yesterday, and brought with us some of her books, paintings, and special treasures to remember her. All afternoon, I kept having these habit-urges to pick up the phone and call her to let her know we were home safe, to tell her what book arrived in the mail while we were gone. It’s going to be so different without her.

But, I know that I have been the most fortunate person on the planet to have such a loving mother/friend/reading buddy. And there are so many fun and wonderful memories to keep her alive in my heart, forever.

She loved the book blogging community, visited many of your blogs, and knew many of you by your first name. So as you write your posts and share your love of reading with all of us, please remember for a moment that you touch hearts in ways you might not be aware of…that your passion for reading brings joy to young and old…and that sharing a book is an act of love.

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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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.”

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!

That’s Evolution!

The kite-eating tree!

Last weekend, our son and grandson were flying their new drone when it got stuck in one of our 100-foot tall oak trees. No way we can reach it even with a ladder! No way we can even throw a rock high enough to dislodge it.  So we’ve watched it all week, hoping the wind will do its work, but the breezes haven’t blown it down yet. So this weekend, we sent up a “rescue” drone to try to knock it from its position in the branches. The second drone, after hitting it once, (we were so hopeful!) also got stuck in a second tall oak!

“That’s evolution!” my neighbor pronounced. “They used to be kite-eating trees [a la Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang], but now they have progressed to eating drones!”

Our drone in the tall oak tree…

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Grandson and Grandma Play Minecraft

In the last few weeks, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with our 11-year-old grandson. Those hours spent with him are precious times!  On the days that we have him all day long, we have a fun routine. We start the day at the breakfast table making a list of all the things we want to do during the day, including what we’ll have for lunch and dinner, errands and tasks. Time outdoors is included as well as the indoor games and activities. We revisit the list at the end of the day and mark off the things we’ve actually done. It’s a fun way to realize that there are endless things we can do and never get bored while spending the day (or days) with grandparents!

One thing that is always on the list is some time for one of his favorite computer games, Minecraft. Last year, he showed me how to start a game myself, and I was hooked! He showed great patience in helping me learn how to build things and navigate the environment. He showed me that I could choose a “peaceful” game without monsters attacking me and blowing up my buildings, and that I also had a choice of “survival” or “creative” modes. In survival mode, I have to find all my own supplies and materials. In creative mode, they are already there for me. I find this game fun and relaxing and play it quite often, building houses, villages, and cities, and exploring many different biomes.

But now there is a computer version in the house that can be hooked to the TV and is controlled by a joystick. Although I do well on the touchscreen version of the game on my iPad, this old grandma has a great deal of trouble with using a joystick to navigate the computer version! Grandson has once again shown great patience in trying to help me learn how to use it because he would dearly love to play a two-person version of the game. If I could just manage to work that joystick really well, we could build things together in one game! But the manual dexterity skills that seem to come so naturally to young people these days are very difficult for me to manage, so I mostly end up watching him create his Minecraft worlds. I’m practicing my joystick skills, but it’s slow learning for me.

This sweet Grandboy hasn’t given up on me. He enjoys visiting my current game on my iPad, and likes to add his own touches to what I have been building. And he continues to educate me about the endless possibilities of this amazing game. He’s a wonderful teacher! This week, he loaned me three books to read on the subject (knowing I love to learn by reading). I know I am loved when he loans me his hardback Minecraft books!