Friday, September 30, 2011

Quotes and Book Banning

"You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against"
  - Laurie Halse Anderson

Several months ago I subscribed to a "quote of the day" service.  Each morning when my alarm goes off I slip on my glasses and check my email from my phone for my quote.  I have always loved quotes.  When I read or hear something that resonates, I jot it down.  I have notes in margins of my journal, in my date book, in knitting pattern books and wherever I can find a spot to scribble.  The problem is I can never remember where I wrote the perfect quote for the moment.

Signing up to have a quote delivered each day seemed to be the perfect solution.  The first glitch was not turning off the chime notifying me of a new email.  I am a very light sleeper and they seem to be sent out around 3:00 a.m.  It took my little pea brain a few days before I thought to turn off all notifications.  Problem number one...solved.

My latest dilemma is my quotes have backed up my email.  I have hundreds of read emails, all being quotes.  I am usually really good at clearing out my mailbox, but I haven't wanted to delete the quotes.  I created a folder and moved all the quotes over, but they are now just as disorganized and lost as the ones scratched in some random margin.  Actually, I sort of enjoy opening a book or calendar and finding a random passage to ponder for awhile.

I still have quotes delivered each morning.  It gives me something to think about while showering and getting ready for my day.  This week each quote has been from a book that was at one time banned or challenged.  This is "Banned Books" week.

Each morning this week I've been reminded how easily we could lose freedoms we take for granted.   I was awake at 3:00 this morning when the quote at the top of this post appeared; I have been thinking about it all day.   I am afraid I am guilty of hiding behind being against something without focusing on what it is I am for.  It takes less energy to be against, than for.  To be for something calls for action.  It calls for putting your beliefs on the line.   I will be working on this one for awhile, but I do know I do not want someone else deciding what literature is available to me.

Did you know E.B. White's "Stuart Little" was once labeled unfit for children and banned from the shelves of the New York Public Library?  "Interspecies miscegenation!"   The Library Director ended the ban, after reading a copy,  and the book did end up on the shelves.  White's comment, "Stuart Little got into the shelves of the Library all right, but I think he had to gnaw his way in." ( I found this tidbit in a book  I shared with you earlier, Writer's Gone Wild, Bill Peschel).

It is difficult to believe works of art, both written and visual , are still being censored today.

Food for thought and discussion.
(Ms. Anderson's YA book Speak,was challenged as pornographic in 2009)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thank You!

I just found out Jill, Chillin with Jill, has bestow upon me the "Versatile Blogger Award".  Thank you Jill, you are very kind.  This is the second time I have received this particular distinction.  The first time, I must admit, was at a very busy time in the school year; I just didn't really have time to follow all the criteria.  I am not for sure I will get it all correct this time, but I will try.

I understand many bloggers do not accept awards.  I never turn down chocolate or  a compliment.  You just never know when it might be your last.   There is one thing that makes me uncomfortable and you will discover how I choose to handle it further down.  Jill, I accept with pleasure.

I know I am suppose to tell you seven random things about myself..oh my..what have I not already shared with you?

  • I was a barrel racer from a very young age through high school.
  • I love college football and Willie Nelson. 
  • I  was editor of my high school paper.
  • Once upon a time I was a wardrobe I can't even figure out my own style.
  • I record Masterpiece Theater every Sunday night.  I save it for an evening I want to sit and knit. 
  • I have an imaginary butler named George who has been with me for 30 years.  If you ever need him, let me know and I'll send him over.  I know he will work as hard for you as he does for me.
  • I never have a problem entertaining myself...I am never bored!
Now, I know I am suppose to send this award to seven bloggers, however, I am unable to choose.  I don't know who accepts and who doesn't.  I don't like rejection...I'm sensitive.  Please check out my blog list (I think the complete list is on my profile)  and visit all of these wonderful sites.  You will find travelers, writers, poets and artists.  There are gardeners, gourmet chefs, photographers and so much more.  So many voices telling their stories.   Some of the authors found me... others I discovered.  Have fun browsing!  Again, thank you so much Jill.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Delicious Autumn

“Delicious autumn! 
My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird
 I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumn."
  -- George Eliot

I love autumn!
It sends me back to the kitchen after a summer of salads
and grilled dinners.
We haven't had fabulous is all relative.
After the temps we were gifted with several weeks ago, 
it is now at least pleasant.

Yesterday I found the above lovely pie pumpkin at the market; I couldn't resist bringing it home.  Roger has been hinting he would like some pumpkin bread.   One little pumpkin yields plenty of meat for two loaves of bread with some leftover.  I am thinking maybe, a roasted butternut squash and pumpkin soup.  

The recipe I use for pumpkin bread is over twenty years old,  given to me by a friend from another time and place.    I look forward to pulling out the faded and stained recipe page each year and gathering all the wonderfully aromatic spices like cloves, nutmeg and allspice, to name a few.  I can't help, as I read over the recipe, remembering the mornings my friend and I spent together chatting about life over a cup of cinnamon coffee and a slice of her warm pumpkin bread.

Yesterday, I decided to change it up a bit.  Inspired by an article in Southern Living about pecans, I thought I would try throwing in a cup of toasted pecan pieces.

Pumpkin Bread with Pecans

3 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs, room temperature and beaten
2 cups  cooled pumpkin (or 1 15 oz. can)
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg (I prefer freshly grated)
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2/3 cup water
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F
Cream sugar and oil
Add eggs and pumpkin
Combine dry ingredients
Add to pumpkin mixture, alternating with water.
Mix well.
Fold in pecans.
Pour into 2 well greased and floured 9" x 5" loaf pans
Bake for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, or until wooden pick comes out clean.

One for now and one for the freezer.
Bon Appetit'!

I hope you are on your way over... I'll brew the coffee!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Buddha in the Attic

Monday evening when so many were snuggling in with a bowl of popcorn ready to watch a new season of favorites on television.  I curled up in my favorite chair with a book I had picked up earlier in the day while browsing in the bookstore.

Immigration in US History
image via Salem Press

"On the boat we were mostly virgins.  We had long black hair and flat wide feet and were not very tall.  Some of us had eaten nothing but rice gruel as young girls and had slightly bowed legs, and some of us were only fourteen years old and were still young girls ourselves.  
Some of us came from the city, and wore stylish city clothes, 
but many more of us came from the country and on the boat we wore the same old kimonos we'd been wearing for years--faded hand-me-downs from our sisters that had been patched and redyed many times.  Some of us came from the mountains, and had never before
 seen the sea, except for in pictures, and some us were the daughters of fishermen who had been around the sea all our lives.  Perhaps we had lost a brother or father to the sea, or a fiance, or perhaps someone we loved had jumped into the water on unhappy morning and simply swum away, and now it was time for us, too, to move on."

So begins Julie Otsuka's newest release The Buddha in the Attic.

Jule Otsuka hands us the incredible heart wrenching story of a group of young Japanese women brought to California as mail-order brides.  They leave mothers and homes with a picture a beautiful young husband tucked in a sleeve and a promise of a better life concealed in the heart, only to find something different.

The Buddha in the Attic is a collection of narratives written in the first person of "we".   It begins with their journey across the ocean to a new land to begin a new life.  Ms. Otsuka chooses to end the book, not  with the voices of the Japanese women, but of the people they worked for and lived among, who one morning awoke to find this group of people gone; homes deserted, shops closed, pets left behind.  

This slim (a mere 129 pages), but incredibly profound book is more poetry than novel.   I did not budge from my chair until I reached the last period.  

Happy Reading!   

Friday, September 16, 2011

Looking Around

Needing a pick me up I took a wellness walk around the yard yesterday afternoon.  It wasn't much of a pick-me-up, strolling among my lovely plants that have turned brown and crunchy from the unrelenting heat and lack of rain.   

I did find a few things smiling back 

wishing me good cheer.

I'll leave you with a glance of what is  holding on for a few more days

cascading over

peeking around

standing up straight

 and hiding in the shadows.


just waking up and

 those taking their final bow.

I hope you find something to make you smile.
Have a terrific weekend!

Monday, September 12, 2011

How Did I End Up Here?

I am the type of reader who is compelled (driven) to finish one book before I pick up another.  I really am somewhat OCD.   It is just the way God made me.  With that said how is it I find myself reading three books and trying to knit a baby sweater at the present?

First the knitting doesn't bother me so much; I love to knit and watch football (have I mentioned I love it!) or the latest recorded Masterpiece Theater.   I really am a little crazy with three books vying for my attention though.   Here is what happened.

Before school started back I downloaded The Sisters, Mary S. Lovell on my nifty Nook knowing I had my trip to Chicago in front of me.

The Sisters is the story of  the six Mitford sisters who each walk their own path.  One flirts with Hitler and one with communism.  One becomes a duchess and is reviled while another becomes a renown author.   You might think you are reading fiction as you are drawn into their eclectic lives.  I doesn't get any better than this.

I hadn't ventured more than a quarter of the way through it's  640 pages when visiting Left Bank Books, in Saint Louis, my son-in-law hands me  Bill Peschel's Writer's Gone Wild and tells me he thinks it is something I would enjoy.

I think my son-in-law has discovered I have a bit of a quirky side (I don't show it to many and not very often).  Anyway, I opened the book, read the the first sentence of the introduction and laughed out loud.  Oh yes, this book was going home with me.   Of course, I had to open it and start reading it once settled on the short flight back home.  This is a book filled with wonderful stories about some of our most prolific authors' sometimes bawdy escapades.  I have not found one boring moment between the covers.  Gratefully it is not a book you have to read at one sitting.  I find myself searching out some of my favorite writers and reading their mischievous tales.

My third book is my book group's September read, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer.  As soon as the last person left and dishes were washed and put away I downloaded this one and thought I would just check it out before going to bed.    I didn't want to put it down.

This is a story of a nine year old boy, Oskar, desperate to learn about his father sets out to find the lock matching a key he finds hidden in his father's closet.  His father, a jeweler, died September 11th in the World Trade Center.  Oskar's trek takes him through the boroughs of New York and into the lives of an eclectic group of people, all survivors in their own way.  He heals and is healed along the way.

While I found this book powerful, it is a little difficult to read.  It is not a book to put down mid chapter and later pick up where you left off.   There were a few chapters I wasn't sure who was speaking.

Extremely Loud... is more about a boy trying to come to grips with his own feeling of quilt than it is about 9/11.  It is a book that will have you laughing and crying at the same time.   I fell in love with Oskar;  his "heavy boots" broke my heart.

To be honest I will finish this book in a few minutes.
 I will be down to two.

I hope you are reading something good,
 and may your "boots always be light".

images: barnes and noble and pinterest

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Were You?

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."  
Zora Neale Hurston

There are events in everyone's life that no matter how many years pass when someone brings up the subject you can tell them exactly where you were and what you were doing.  In my 56 years I have had a few.

I was in the fourth grade reading when the classroom door opened,  the principal walked in and told us to put our heads down on our desk.  She and the teacher began whispering and she left.  Mrs. Barnett then announced President Kennedy had been killed.   I remember looking up as she sat down and put her head in her hands.   My mother was one of the first parents to show up at school to take me home.

And, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I left my home headed for school.  I had early morning room duty that day and had left home earlier than usual.  I was stopped at a traffic light waiting for the turn signal when a radio newscaster announced a plane had flown off course and crashed into one of the towers of The World Trade Center.  I remember thinking how odd and turned the volume up on the radio hoping to hear what they thought might have happened.  The light changed and I turned into the intersection.  I had not traveled far when it was announced with disbelief a second plane had just crashed into the other tower.  I remember saying out loud to no one, "this is not an accident".    I called my husband when I had a break.  I heard the anxiety in his voice when he said, "A third plane has hit the Pentagon.   We are under attack, have you talked to Heather?" Heather was in school watching the events unfold on a television in her classroom.  Last night she shared with me her memories of that morning .  As teachers, we carried on our day as best as possible trying to have a normal day.  I remember spending long periods of time on the playground watching children play and talking quietly with other teachers.  Parents arrived during the day to collect their children to take home.  A few of the schools closed early.  No one really knew what was happening or would happen.  Everyone just wanted to gather what was theirs and seek comforted at home.  We spent days listening and watching as this tragedy unfolded before our eyes.  It was the day we found out we were not invincible.  It changed each of us and our country forever.

We must never allow the horrific events of  September 11 melt into a paragraph somewhere in the middle of  a fourth grader's history book.  When we forget or minimize any crime against humanity we become complacent and risk the events to be repeated.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Little Bit of This and That

Yesterday was the first day of school.  It was a terrific day, but I would be lying, by omission, if I did not tell you I came home and took a power nap.  It was a very good, but busy day.  This week we will spend the week getting acquainted.  It is going to be a very good year and I am so excited to begin.


Several weeks ago I wrote about my friend Cam.  I shared with you a picture of the sweater I had just mailed out for her new baby girl and mentioned she had just told me she was expecting her third grandbaby, a boy who would be named Liam.  I didn't immediately know what I would knit, but I knew exactly what color it had to be. 


I bet you guessed it would be green.
You guys are just too smart!

I finished it, wrapped it and mailed it a week or so before heading to Chicago.  I told her I wouldn't post a picture of the finished product until she had a chance to see it.  She emailed me to say it had arrived and had been opened.  I obviously picked the perfect color for a Liam; she shared they had just purchased accessories for the nursery in the exact shade of green. 

Liam's Polo

I had just enough yarn to knit a pair of matching socks.  I just couldn't resist. So much fun seeing something come together.

I recently found out I have another friend expecting a grandson later this year.  Oh yes,  I have begun.

I am so grateful to friends for suppling me with sweet reasons to occasionally pick up the needles.

Monday, September 5, 2011


One summer when I was quite young I developed a fear of snakes.  It was really more than a fear, it escalated to a full blown phobia.   I would play outside in the mornings, but once the sun passed overhead I would head back inside and start what became the routine body search for two puncture wounds.   It was a miserable summer for everyone in my family, and it was my fault.   By the summer's end my snake phobia had disappeared as quickly and quietly as it appeared.  I still remember the pain of that fear.

Several months ago as I approached my car after grocery shopping a car pulled in two slots away from my car, rolled down his window and ask if I could help him.  I opened my car door and said I would try.  He then opened his door, got out and came closer.  The first thing out of his mouth was, "Don't be afraid".
I quickly glanced into his car, noticing a woman sitting in the passenger seat and a baby asleep in a car seat in the back, I told him I was not afraid of him.  He stepped closer and I stepped behind my car door placing my grocery bag in the passenger seat.  Once again he ask me not to be afraid and once again I told him I was not afraid.  He told me he didn't want money, he wanted information and stepped closer. I stepped back as he ask me yet again to not be afraid. 

I realized at this point I needed him to tell me what he needed and let me try and help.  I told him I was not afraid of him, but I needed to leave.  He finally told me his story.   His baby had been released from Children's Hospital earlier and he was meeting someone, before returning to the small town where he lived, and they were running late.  He wanted to know how long I thought it 
might take to get from one point to another.
I gave him my best guess and apologized that I could not do more.  I thought he was going to start crying.   Before I sat down in my car I turned around looked at him and said, "By the way, I was never afraid of you".  He smiled at me, nodded and got into his car.

As I drove out of the parking lot my mind was racing.  Should I have asked if he needed gas money?  Had I put myself in harms way?  What bothered me then and now is how horrible it must be to live with the fear that  someone, everyone, is afraid of me because of who I am, by the color of my skin.  

Was he telling me the truth?  I have no idea.  I will tell you, at no time did I feel intimidated or threatened.  I still feel saddened that anyone has to carry the pain of such a fear around.

I wish I had some enlightened way to end this post, but I do not.  This is simply a story about a man who needed someone to look him in the eye and say I am not afraid of you, and a woman who is really not very brave.  I do regret not offering him gas money, even if he didn't ask.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Help

Everyone knows I do not  almost never go to see a movie adapted from a book I have really enjoyed.

I picked up The Help sometime in early 2009.  I am not for sure what caught my attention.  I may have picked it up to read on a trip.  It may have been the birds on the jacket.  Sometimes I will pick a book much like I choose a bottle of wine, by the artwork.  My thought... if they put money into what you see on the outside, they probably have something worth trying on the inside.  I loved the book.  Being a southern girl, I knew the stories told within the pages of The Help  held the unexaggerated truth and I quickly recognized each character, even though I belonged to the generation of the children.  I loved the book (and vowed to never eat another piece of chocolate pie);  I wanted people to read it and understand what they were really reading.    I gave it as gifts.  I suggested it to friends.  It wasn't until months later the book began to earn a little chatter.  By late autumn it was suddenly the book to read.

When I heard a movie was being made, I groaned.   My only comment was, "They will ruin it".

Today I went to see the movie.  I laughed, I cried and, if it would not have embarrassed my husband,  I would have stood up and cheered, even though I knew what was going to happen before it happened.  While things were left out and there were small things I had forgotten, they did well.   If you are going to just do one, read the book, but I am so glad I broke my hard and fast rule.

Oh, and NO, I am not going to see "Sarah's Key"!  I will not!  I will not!  I will not!