Category Archives: Life

Reflections: September 2018

Reflections on the Columbia River, September 2018…

September was both a busy reading month and a busy family month! At the first of the month, I  happily joined the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge, hosted by Heather (@Capricious Reader) and Andi (@Estella’s Revenge) and got right to the job of reading from the list of genres that make up the focus of this challenge. It continues until the end of October, which is great because I’m really enjoying reading the books I chose.

I took a reading and blogging break in the middle of the month to travel to Salt Lake City for my mother’s Celebration of Life. It was a beautiful celebration of a life well-lived. My husband and I enjoyed the road trip, being with family, and spending time in the beautiful Rose Garden at Red Butte Garden where we have my parents’ memorial bench. Both my parents donated their bodies to the University of Utah Medical School, so the Garden and the bench are extra special to us, and the bench is a cherished place we visit a often as we can. The bench itself sits in the Rose Garden surrounded by beautiful roses, which they both loved, and is a happy, peaceful place for us to spend time.

My reading has been a great solace to me in the last two months. My extra hour of reading in the afternoon, dedicated to my Mom, has been wonderful! So despite the long-distance road trip, and all the planning that took up so much time, I was able to enjoy 7 books in September. It really should be 8 books, because I am almost finished with Rosamunde Pilcher’s, September, but, unfortunately, I won’t finish it before midnight tonight.

My September reads:

 

 

She lives in my heart and mind…

My mother’s Celebration of Life was held last Saturday and it was lovely. It turned out to be a perfect day weather-wise and the location in the Rose House at Red Butte Garden, looking out at the Rose Garden and my father’s memorial bench, was perfect, as well. My three brothers and I each spoke about her, and one of my sisters-in-law read some of my grandmother’s poetry. My oldest brother played “Amazing Grace” on his alto flute, and then we all visited with many friends and cousins, enjoying the beauty of the Garden, and saying goodbye, each in our own way, to this beautiful, amazing woman.  She wrote the words in the caption to the photo below, words about her own mother. They say it so well for me, too!

“She lives in my heart and mind. Not always consciously, but she is so much a part of me that I can feel her with me always…”

I’ve shared a lot with you about my mother and recently about losing her. She was an integral part of this blog right from the beginning in 2007, was my focused audience for much of my writing, and was also a contributor with her own book reviews. It was another way for us to share our passion for reading with each other, and with you. I still have things she wrote in the last few years with this blog in mind, so I will continue to occasionally post about her and share those book responses as I return to my full-time blogging.

You have all been so kind in your thoughts and comments to me during this time of loss and mourning and celebration of a life well-lived, and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

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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!