Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bookworm? Guilty as charged

All these just in the past couple of months?  Ok, so maybe it does make sense that the running joke at Book Club is finding a book that Martha HASN"T read.

This book we read for our winter book club selection.  I had read it before, several years ago, and thought "sure let's read it again".  It's a historical fictional account of the the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the oldest surviving Jewish illuminated texts.  The story takes the reader all over the world:  with the focus being war-torn Sarejevo.  While I enjoyed it the second time around, I left realizing how little I actually know about world history, especially as it relates to the conflicts between Muslims-Jews-and Christians.

 This book I actually picked out on a whim.  I was eager to see how the Ipad worked with my local library's system and it was the first book I came across that was "available to download NOW".  (while my library has loads of digital books available, many were already checked out, and I wanted instant reading).

What a pleasant surprise this book turned out to be.  It is set post-WWII and centers on a young Polish couple that is reunited after 6 years being separated from each other.  Can you imagine being a newlywed, with a new baby and war breaks out.  Your husband goes off to serve his county and you are left to fend for yourself?  Both the husband and wife suffered greatly during the 6 years and the author did a great job of telling each of their stories while also telling their story of being reunited.
 This was another book club selection...and one I hadn't read.  It's written by a Colorado author, who after years of teaching The Scarlet Letter to her students, decided to write about what happened to Hester and Pearl after the Scarlet letter ended.    I'm sure I read Scarlet Letter in high school (isn't it required reading) but didn't remember the details.  After reading this book, I'm curious to go back and re-read Scarlet Letter and see how the Hester created by Hawthorne compares to this Hester.   Maybe this summer?
 Maeve Binchy has always been a favorite author of mine.  Think easy beach read style of writing but set in Ireland.  As is her typical style, she tells the stories of many different characters with them all coming together either throughout the story or at the end.  I admit:  the story itself was rather hard to believe as being possible:  A woman dying of cancer, reaches out to the baby daddy and asks him to raise this unborn child.  The baby daddy takes on the challenges with the help of his community, and manages to kick his alcoholic habits in the process.  If only life's stories really were that simple to solve:  but that's what makes me enjoy this author:  she puts such a happy spin on even the saddest of stories.  Check this one out when you just need some happily-ever-after type stories.
 Speaking of's another story that is a mixture of happiness and heartbreak.  I read this one based on the reviews of my friend.  The story is told by Doug, the 14 year old new kid in town.  The author does a great job of getting the voice of his protagonist just right and the issues he faces will bring you to the brink of tears.

Keep the tissues handy, you'll need it for this one as well.  My friend Fran gave this book to me at Judy's memorial service, with only the words of caution "probably don't want to read it RIGHT now". As I read it later (as she suggested), I could instantly tell why she cautioned me about reading it in January:  the story is told through the eyes of the family dog.  A wise and loving dog...and I couldn't help but picture Judy's dog, Nemo telling a similar story.  Dogs really are man's best friend!
And the last one for this review...Chains...another book suggested by Ganelle.  A young adult work of historical fiction, it is set in the early days of the Revolutionary War and tells the story of a young slave girl.  I enjoyed the author's perspective and found myself intrigued as I realized what a difficult position slaves were placed in during this time in history.  My only complaint was how the story just ended.  Luckily, the last page alerted the reader that this is book one of a trilogy.  You know what I'll be reading next:  Book Two!

So there ya have it....I can spend hours reading (and yes, my house sometimes reflects that I have done nothing but read all evening).  I enjoy going away on an adventure with a book and look forward to having even more time to read with summer vacation fast approaching (Counting down:  25 days of work left, YEAH BABY!)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter reflections

 No matter how long the winter, Spring is sure to follow....Proverb

This winter was long.  Oh no, not in terms of weather.  That was mild.  But the heartache and sadness we all experienced with the passing of Judy....well, that made for a pretty rough winter.

As Easter approached, I really struggled with how I wanted to spend the day.  For the past 12 years, Judy, Eric and their girls joined us here at the House of Chang for a feast.  We always took the time to celebrate.  Should I continue that tradition, knowing that one very important person was not with us this year?  Or, do I use this opportunity to start a new tradition?  Would Eric and the girls want to join us?  This would be the "first" of a year of firsts for them.  

But, in the end, I decided to continue on....with a few changes.

 The boys, at 12 and 14 were a huge help in terms of helping get things ready.  My car remains in the shop, which leaves us with NO car.  How do you get groceries home for a meal for 24 people with just a scooter?  Well, you turn to your family for help.  The boys met me at the grocery store with the wagon and hauled the bulky stuff home.  Dom took the rest home in the side car.   I laughed to myself thinking Judy surely would be proud to see us "going green".

Thing Two took care of the cookies, snickering that "With the bow tie on this one, he looks more like the Playboy bunny" (and while I don't have a picture, I too am wondering how does this child know about such things?)

We had to color eggs...for the first time in many years.  I tried many Easters ago to make hard boiled eggs.  I seriously over-cooked the eggs and they turned green.  Not a big deal, since I don't really care for them in the first place I just wouldn't bother coloring eggs.   But, younger Thing LIKES hard boiled eggs.  In years' past, that too was not a big deal as "his Judy" took care of him, bringing over a carton filled with hard boiled eggs just for him.    This year, I managed to cook the eggs "just right" and thus there were no green eggs served with the ham.
 Our driveway was jam packed with cars, so the neighbors were kind enough to let the boys shoot hoops on their driveway.
 In an effort to get guests to sit (instead of the usual habit of standing for hours on end), we cleaned up the garage and had seating for all outside.  
 Vannie took  over the Lish Family tradition of making the bunny cake.

 And at just shy of 1 year old, Cassidy reminded us all that "firsts" aren't always sad occasions.  This marked her first Easter.
So, while we were missing our dear friend Judy, we are moving forward....and celebrating Easter in our traditional style was indeed the right thing to do!

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.                                                Anne Bradstreet

PS:  a final note about the flowers in the top picture.  Those are from MY yard.  Yes, me the brown-thumbed Martha finally had a flower or two to pick from the garden.  I planted the tulips several years ago, but every year either the neighborhood rabbits got to them or a snow storm crushed them before they had a chance to bloom.  This year, they bloomed.  Sometimes our reminders that it will be OK are as simple as the blooming of a tulip.