It’s Friday Somewhere

Yikes! I’m a day late for Free-Reading Friday. I got wrapped up in a project and spaced out what day it was. These hot August days melt into one another. I can hardly remember what day it is unless I mark the calendar.

Can I make a case for it being Friday somewhere in the world? Maybe not. I know it’s tomorrow somewhere, and my today is someone else’s yesterday; but I may be too close to the International Date Line for my today to be tomorrow anywhere.

At any rate, any day can be a free-reading Friday as long as you spell it with “day” at the end.

I’ve just finished reading The House Girl by Tara Conklin. It is a quick, enjoyable read that switches back forth between Josephine, a young woman who lives as a slave in Virginia in the 1850s, and Carolina, a present-day lawyer who works on a lawsuit seeking reparations to descendants of slaves. As Carolina digs into history, she learns of Josephine’s difficult life. Meanwhile, Carolina has issues of her own to solve. I won’t spoil it further. If you like historical fiction, you might enjoy The House Girl.

I’m settling into my next book, Sisters in Law, by Linda Hirshman, about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sandra Day O’Connor. My book group friends tell me it’s an interesting read.

Enjoy your Free-Reading Friday on this Saturday. It will be Friday again soon enough.

House Girl

 

What if…?

I have fond memories of going to the movies with my cousins and brother when we were kids. One of our moms would drive the five of us to the theater and drop us off. As the oldest, my cousin David and I each had a dime tucked away in a pocket for the phone call home. We were also in charge of the three younger ones, although for David that meant putting up my brother, the youngest, to some interesting mischief. I don’t remember many of the movies we saw but we had plenty of fun. We often sat through a couple of showings before calling for a ride home.

A few things have changed about the movies since those days back in the 1960s. Newsreels and cartoons have given way to previews and product advertisements. One can no longer gain admission for 35 cents. Nevertheless, going to the movies is a great way to spend a hot July afternoon.

My husband and I did just that a couple of weeks ago when we decided to see Dunkirk, which tells the little-known story of an incident that happened during World War II in 1940, before the U.S. entered the war.

British and French troops, fighting against the Germans, had been cornered in Dunkirk, France. They were stranded on the beach. Across the channel was England. The military launched Operation Dynamo to evacuate the soldiers from the beach and return them to England. The military were aided by hundreds of civilian craft, dubbed The Little Ships of Dunkirk. These civilians braved enemy fire to make trip after trip ferrying soldiers from the beach to the larger ships which could not reach the shore.

The planners of Operation Dynamo expected to rescue 35,000 troops, a number which turned out to be a gross underestimate. In the end, some 340,000 British and French soldiers were evacuated. (Various sources differ on the actual number, but most of those rescued were British.) Not everyone made it out of Dunkirk. Some 80,000 were taken prisoner by the Germans.

While the evacuation itself makes for a good story, here’s the important thing about Dunkirk. If those soldiers had not been successfully evacuated, Germany would have won the war. Imagine how different our world might be in that alternate version of history.

A small digression is in order. In 1879, eleven year old Annie Nielsen sailed from Denmark to America. She and her brother were traveling with family friends to join their mother who had come to Utah the previous year. One day, Annie went too close to the ship’s railing and nearly fell overboard. She was rescued by a sailor.

In San Diego in the early 1930s, another little girl about the same age was playing on a pier by the ocean. She saw and boarded a raft, thinking it was tied to the pier. It wasn’t. She began to drift out to sea. She was rescued by a stranger who happened along in his boat.

Annie Nielsen was my great-grandmother. The second little girl grew up to become my m other. If either had been lost at sea, I would not be writing this.

As I think back to Dunkirk, I am struck by the sheer magnitude of the rescue, and the possible consequences if it had failed. If those 340,000 men had been lost, who among us would not be here? How would our world have been different? Would the U.S. have entered the war? If not, would my parents have met? (Many Baby Boomers might ask the same question.) Would Germany have come across the Atlantic and caught America unawares? Would we live under a very different government?

While I am glad things turned out as they did, I think it’s interesting to imagine alternate endings to the stories I encounter.

Note: For readers who seek more information, I suggest Dunkirk by Joshua Levine. I found it a bit tricky to keep track of characters and events, but it has a lot of good information about the events leading up and including Operation Dynamo.

dunkirk

 

 

 

 

Becoming Unstuck, Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being stuck on a quilting project I had begun way back in January. I’m happy to announce that I’ve finished the quilt!

Whew! This quilt ended up being a much bigger project than I had intended in more ways than one.  Not only did I have to put it aside a time or two while I thought about what to do next, the sheer size of the quilt caused me to have to take many breaks. I began to refer to it as a behemoth. Lugging it around and pushing it through the sewing machine was physically taxing.

Finishing a quilt is something like finishing a good book. I have many “next quilt” ideas in my head, but I need to enjoy this one for a while before beginning another.

Taking a break from quilting gives me a good excuse to begin reading the next book. Happy Free-Reading Friday!bedspsread quilt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a Break

Is it possible to get PTSD from the news? I am beginning to think it might just be so. It  would be hard to argue that the current news climate is anything but stressful and depressing. It seems as though every day we are bombarded with nothing but bad news.

A healthcare bill that threatens to devastate the many who depend on Medicaid.

Syria.

Yet another child left to die in a hot car.

Russia’s tampering with our election process.

One more outrageous “Presidential” tweet.

STOP!

I needed a break today, so I spent an inordinate amount of time watching  cute pet videos.

I went to the sewing room and lost myself in my current quilt project.

I spent some Friday Free-Reading time and finished a book.

Finally, I went in search of some good news stories.  I found several. (Thanks, Google.)  Here are a few.

In Florida, dozens of strangers formed a human chain in the Gulf of Mexico to save people caught in a riptide.

Closer to home, an Idaho couple was reunited with their dog that had been lost in the wilderness for months.

Preschool sweethearts, who had lost touch with one another, have been reunited and married. (He proposed in front of their old preschool.)

Malala Yousafsai has graduated from secondary school and continues to advocate for women’s education.

President Jimmy Carter has been released from the hospital after having been treated for dehydration. He’s 92. He still builds houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Robinson Cano just hit another home run.

Good news is all around us. Sometimes you just have to go in search of it. I’m glad I did. I can’t make the bad news go away, but I feel better.

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Summer Reading

booksHot summer days mean extra reading time as I stay indoors to escape the 100+ degree heat. I’ve just started reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. I loved the movie, but I’m told the book goes into greater depth over a longer period of time. It’s what books do.

It’s been a while since I’ve offered up some suggestions for your reading pleasure. The titles I’m suggesting today are not thematically related, or even the same genre. They’re simply good books.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom tells the story of Lavinia, a little girl from Ireland who is orphaned while on the ship bringing her family to America. The ship’s captain, who also owns a plantation, indentures her and places her in the care of his slaves who raise her. Because she is white, Lavinia never quite belongs in either the slaves’ world or the plantation owner’s world. Her situation makes for an interesting, thought-provoking, sometimes harrowing read.

Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie is a page turner about a serial killer in Seattle, Washington. Alexie addresses a number of themes, including cultural identity, Native Americans, racism and mental illness. This is not a story for the faint of heart; if you live in Seattle, I do not recommend you read alone at night.

If you’re looking for a lighter read, Still Life by Louise Penny might fit the bill. Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the quaint village of Three Pines, south of Montreal, to solve the murder of a longtime resident The first in a series of mystery novels featuring Inspector Gamache, Still Life is reminiscent of Murder She Wrote.

I hope at least one of these books suits your taste as you escape the summer heat. Stay cool and enjoy a happy Free-Reading Friday!

 

 

New Toy

I bought a new computer today. Needless to say, the afternoon and evening have been spent familiarizing myself with it. My husband bought a new tablet at the same time, so he’s been busy with his own new toy.

I remember life without computers. (Actually, I remember life without television, but that’s another post for another day.) My husband and I bought our first computer in 1989. It seemed like a bigger deal in those days. We pored over magazine reviews, asked questions of our friends and colleagues, shopped, shopped and shopped some more before we committed to a “24 months-same-as-cash” agreement on a Macintosh Classic. I think the cost was around $2000, a pretty good chunk of change for a young family.

Neither of us was particularly savvy about technology. I was paranoid that I would push a wrong button and break the computer. One afternoon, the house became very quiet. Any parent knows it’s time to check on the kids when it gets quiet. Imagine my panic when I found my then three-year-old in the spare bedroom, ejecting a diskette from the computer. She seemed to know exactly what she was doing. Of course, nothing was broken. My daughter had acted upon her natural curiosity. The computer was more foolproof than I had thought.

Here I am, several computers later. I decided to replace the laptop I’ve used for the past nine or ten years. This time around it seemed like less of a big deal. After asking a few knowledgeable people their opinions and checking a few websites for reviews, I took a quick shopping trip. By then, all I wanted to do was type on the keyboards of the laptops that had made their way to my “maybe” list. I type a lot. I wanted something comfortable.

The laptop I bought today cost about one-fourth what that Macintosh Classic cost in 1989, and will do much more. Heck, my smart phone will do more. The things a computer can do continue to amaze me.

Of course, I need to tear myself away from the novelty so I can transfer things and get the old laptop ready to donate to Computers for Kids; but I am enjoying my new toy. While I’m still a bit leery of new electronic devices, I’ve become more comfortable with messing around and trying new features. I may remember life without computers, but I don’t think I would want to do without.

new toy pix

 

What Did Jesus Say?

Now and then I will see a  Facebook post by a modern-day Pharisee who claims “Jesus said this,” or “Jesus said that”, without including the Scripture reference. I’ve been a student of the Bible for forty years, but my response is often, “Really? I don’t remember Him saying that.”

I’ll search the Gospels for the reference. Sometimes the quotation has been cherry-picked out of context, sometimes misquoted. Other times, the quote is just plain revisionist scripture.

These occasions led me to want to better educate myself about what Jesus actually said. Thinking a red-letter edition of the Bible would be helpful, I looked through the several translations and editions we had at home. I found no suitable Bible to use. The only red-letter edition on hand was a small, King James gift Bible I had received as a child. The print was way too small for my 67-year-old eyes. Besides, King James language, although poetic and beautiful, can no longer be considered the vernacular. I needed something I could read and understand.

I went Bible shopping. I was overwhelmed by the wide range of choices, none of which was within my budget. There were large tomes with large print and space for taking notes, small Bibles with too-small print, myriad translations, even a few with the words of Jesus in red.

I also found something called journaling Bibles. These are intended for those who do art work in their Bibles in response to Scripture. Margins are ample, paper is sturdy; some even include drawings to be colored. (I consulted Pinterest. Apparently Bible journaling is quite a fad. It is telling that I found a greater variety of these in the craft store than in the book store, artfully displayed next to specialty “Bible journaling markers” and lettering templates. Someone is making a green killing on these.)

I threw up my hands in frustration and did not buy a new Bible that day. Instead, I bought a pink Bible highlighter–the kind that is erasable and will not bleed through thin paper. I would make my own red-letter edition.

The plan? Using my favorite study Bible, I would read the Gospels as an Advent discipline. As I read, I would highlight Jesus’ words with pink. I am not the most consistent, disciplined student. I have made progress, but Advent was over months ago. Here it is June, and I’ve reached the 16th chapter of Luke. That speaks to my humanness, I suppose.

Not having a deadline to finish has its advantages. I’ve been able to go at my own pace, thinking about what I read. Reading the Christmas story right after Easter gave me a new perspective. I read it not as a routine ritual, but as something to consider in relation to the Resurrection.

The highlighter has also slowed me down. I have focused on Jesus’ words. Even His shortest utterances have a power I had not before realized.

I’m glad I undertook this red-letter project. It continues to teach me much.

Bible pix