"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

20 November 2017

2017 Book Review #34: The Bluest Eye


This is the first book I've completed by the Pulitzer Prize winning and Nobel Prize for Literature winning author.  I had started one of her other novels (Beloved) a couple of years ago, and never finished it and didn't bother renewing it from the library.

I wanted to love this novel.  But I didn't.  It is an important one and deep.  But way too sad and dark for me. Yet I understand its importance in American culture.

STORY SUMMARY

The story takes place in the town where the author grew up. That town is Lorain, Ohio.  It is the story of a little black girl named Pecola Breedlove.  Pecola is 11 years old and has an older brother Samuel.

Pecola prays every day for God to make her eyes turn blue.  She wants to be a beautiful and beloved little girl like all the blond, blue-eyed children in America.

The story starts out in the Autumn of 1941.  The marigolds are not blooming this year and Pecola's life is about to change.....drastically, and in painful ways.

She has a couple of friends.....sisters named Claudia and Frieda.

Other than that, Pecola is alone.

Her father rapes her and gets her pregnant.  

Pecola ends up losing her mind......she becomes what we would call today, "mentally ill".

MY THOUGHTS

This book is rich in language.  It really brings out the feelings of fear, loneliness and yearning in the little girl's life.

But it is dark.

Themes running throughout this book are:  pedophilia, incest, poverty, infidelity, pregnancy, racism, addictions such as alcoholism and prostitution.  Yet at the same time:  friendship, love, curiosity, innocence, childhood wonder. The black characters believe that being white equals being beautiful.  This just made me so sad. And a bit angry!

This book has been called a "significant work of American fiction" and I can definitely see why.  But it was a a difficult read.

The subject matter:  abject poverty, isolation, unfit mothers and fathers, the various class levels of the black folk (racism among the blacks!) and of course the meanness and hatred of the white folk.

The book also shows how the women are at the mercy of men.....how their lives are filled with violence and they are subject to being made to feel inferior.

The book takes place in each season of the year and is told in a child's voice.  The voice of Claudia.

The author is excellent at portraying these characters in such a way that makes you want to reach out to them and help them.  You can smell the scents she describes and visualize the surroundings. Her descriptive prose is just excellent.

It almost reads like an essay and a poem all at the same time.

The writing is superb.  But the themes are just so dark.

I'm glad I read it.  She is a brilliant voice for the African American population for sure.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (due to subject matter).

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 9.






19 November 2017

Be Prepared!


Last weekend I was on a 1.3 mile hike into the woods to the destination of Clear Pond.  The temperature was about 18 degrees when we started out at 9:30 in the morning.  I was in the Central Adirondacks near a village called Indian Lake.  This is about 1 hour and 45 minutes north-west of my home in the capital region of New York State. At home, the temps were hovering around the mid-30s. No snow. Anything below 25 on a hike is pretty cold.  I was wearing my long hiking leggings, thick wool socks, my hiking boots, a wick away hiking tee shirt with a long sleeved one over that, then a long thermal hiking shirt plus a wool shirt over that.  I also had my winter outer layer jacket that is similar to a rain jacket but thicker with a hood and zippered pockets.  Also, gloves. Yes, the trail did have some snowy spots.


Because the hike was short (2.6 miles round trip) and fairly flat, I didn't pack a lunch but instead packed a piece of fruit, energy bars, water and my carafe of coffee because it was so cold.  Note the backpack above.  When we got to where I laid it down, we were at the pond.  I did have to take off my jacket...you can see it sticking out of the outer pocket, as it got warm.

 Inside the backpack was a headlamp (a hiker's accessory for winter hikes when the woods get darker earlier), a flashlight, first aid kit, packet of tissues, lip balm, whistle was around my neck, notebook and sharpie pen was in little pocket, cell phone, (although there is hardly ever a signal that far north and deep in to the woods) and matches.  All of these items have a purpose on a winter hike.

Yes, I was prepared.

The sun came out and it was just glorious.  When I saw the pond stretched out before our eyes, I  gave thanks to God our Creator.

CLEAR POND
Indian Lake, NY
Central ADKS
12 November 2017

And because my hiking friend was busy taking photos, I sat on the logs we found and meditated. I became still.  It was so peaceful and quiet.

The Lord began to whisper to me.....it has been awhile since I just sat.  And allowed God to breathe into my lungs and into my heart and into my mind.

He showed me that just like I had to prepare a hiking bag with some extras due to the cold weather, I have to prepare my heart for worship.  I have to be still and KNOW that He is God.


When we pause, when we are still before God Almighty, we can hear His whisper.

We all need a Sabbath....a pause in our day, our week, our month, our year.

For me, I am all about taking a pause each week....but sometimes it is filled with worldly pursuits. Things like social media, online news, fiction books, traveling, coffee dates, cleaning, hiking, shopping, etc.

There is nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves.  They all have a purpose.  

However, to know my purpose in God, I need to spend time with Him on an intimate level.  And that means to actually be still.  To prepare my heart by reading of the Word.  To sink my teeth into that daily bread and Living Water.

To do this, we need to let go of the distractions.  

Prepare our hearts by leaving the worldly pursuits for another time.  

Stopping.  Listening.  Waiting.

Thanking God.

      Remembering what He has done for us in the past.

      Rejoicing at what He will do in the future.

He has a plan and a purpose for us...

just like the items in my backpack all had a purpose, so too does God have a purpose for US.  Just like the matches worked with the fire starter ball my friend supplied, so too do we have work that God purposes us to do.



It starts with being still. Are you prepared?






17 November 2017

Mid-November Faves





I can't believe I'm writing a FFF for mid-November already!  Didn't we just do October?  This school year is going by so quickly it seems like!

Let's pause and look back on the blessings from the past week.  I had many.  Some big, some simple but all special to me.  We link up at Susanne's site to read other blessings, too.  I'm grateful for Susanne in hosting this each week throughout the year.  God is good and we need to be giving Him thanks!

FIVE FAVES



  • RAKED AND READY FOR WINTER:  It's still Autumn for 4 more weeks but last weekend we decided to finish up the yard work and fold up all the deck chairs.  Brought the rocker from the front porch out to the deck where it is waiting for me to purchase a new cover for it.  No snow yet here in eastern NY but other parts of the state have had some. I'm thankful we got the rest of the outside chores done.
  • AFTER WORK WALK:  I took a nice walk after work a couple days this past week.  Cold, crisp fresh air does a body good.  This is an historic cemetery right in our neighborhood.  I love how the late afternoon sky looks behind the stark trees.  The man whom the cemetery is named after lies buried in the middle there...the flat stone on the ground...he rode his horse from Cherry Valley NY to our area during the Revolutionary War and there's something about warning the soldiers but I don't know the entire story on that.   I like walking in this part of my development.  The old mixed with the new.  I'm thankful for the rich history in our state.

image courtesy of Amazon
  • NEW COFFEE!  While running an errand at Target one afternoon this week, I saw this new (new to me anyways) coffee on sale.  Of course I bought some.  O.My.Goodness.  It is smooth, with an amazing peppermint flavor and just a very small hint of the white chocolate.  It's perfect as an after dinner dessert or a late afternoon treat while relaxing. And the scent.....Mmmm...reminds me of Christmas cookies baking in the oven when I would add peppermint extract to the chocolate ones.  It has made my whole house smell like the holidays!
Trail to Clear Pond
Siamese Pond Wilderness Area of the Central Adirondacks
Sunday 12 November
bright beauty on the edge of the pond


A little warmth on the beach
 thanks to my matches and Cheryl's fire starter ball
  • LATE AUTUMN HIKE!  My long time friend Cheryl, from the central part of NYS, and I decided to hike in the Central region of the Adirondack Mountains on Sunday.  Dave and I had gone to church the evening before, so I took Sunday to be in the mountains and my body and soul were so refreshed! It was only 18 degrees when we met at the trailhead, but the trail was only 1.3 miles to the pond we wanted to see. So we figured since we had our winter hiking gear on, we would be fine. Neither one of us had ever hiked it before.  Our destination was Clear Pond...and clear it was!!  The clouds were reflected in the water and the sun came out while we were there.  We have no snow where I live in the capital region but parts of the mountains have a dusting.  It was very pretty!!  I'm so thankful for fresh, mountain air.  There is nothing like it!! The entire hike was only 2.6 miles so we decided since it was only noon when we got back to the cars, that we would go out to lunch in the next town south of where we were.  It was a great Sabbath rest!  Below are a few more of my fave photos from the hike.
I wore my dad's wool shirt in honor of him,
 his life as a hunter and as a veteran
We were surprised to find a boat by the pond.  Note the duct tape!
photo compliments of Cheryl B

Clear Pond
Siamese Pond Wilderness Region of the Central Adirondacks

  • CHRISTMAS SHOPPING:  I started my shopping for extended family this past week.  I got a lot accomplished.  I decided for each of my sisters and their families, I would do themed bags.  I chose a tea theme, a woods theme, and a smoothie theme.  And almost every item I wanted to buy was either on sale or inexpensive to begin with.  I even ended up buying a couple of things for each daughter and my husband.  So, I'm about half done moving into Thanksgiving week which is always something to be grateful for.
That wraps up my week.

I have to work Monday-Wednesday but am getting out early on Wednesday as the students only have a half day. My husband has the week off so he will be going down to his parents early in the week and picking up our youngest from the T station in Boston. My oldest daughter and I will travel together a few days later. Please pray for traveling safety.  We will be spending Thanksgiving weekend in Plymouth County, MA.  Hopefully, I will find some time Friday morning to participate in this weekly post.  If not, have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone here in the USA!






13 November 2017

2017 Book Review #33: The Orphan's Tale

What.a.story!

This novel is fiction but the author (I have read all of her other novels and they all are fantastic!) got her idea for the story from doing research on real life circumstances revolving around a circus and a train car full of abandoned Jewish babies during WWII in Germany/France.

If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly from the 1940s, then this novel is a must read!

STORY SUMMARY

Noa is just 16 years old, Dutch, and pregnant by a Nazi soldier.  Her father throws her out of their home in the Netherlands and she is forced to give up her baby. She ends up living in Germany, above a small train station, and cleaning it to pay for her rent.

One day, Noa discovers an entire boxcar full of Jewish babies.  Some are already dead.  There are dozens of them. Most of them are scantily clothed if at all. And it is winter! They are headed towards a concentration camp.  These babies remind her of the baby she birthed and was forced to give up.  Noa decides to snatch one of the babies...a boy whom she names Theo...and runs away into the snowy night.  He is a newborn.

She finds shelter with a German circus. The Circus owner and ringmaster, Herr Neuhoff welcomes her into the "family".  Circus people treat each other like family.  Noa doesn't plan on staying very long but Herr Neuhoff wants her to learn the flying trapeze so that she can blend in with the other performers and not arouse suspicion from the German soldiers who often come around to investigate.

Astrid, the lead aerialist, is a Jewish woman.  She was raised in her family's circus until she married Erich, a German.  Once the war began, he kicked her out and divorced her.  She ended up in Herr Neuhoff's care as her own family is missing.  She has no idea where her parents and younger brothers are.  Astrid is now in her late 30s and has a relationship with Peter, a Russian performer.  

Astrid is instructed to teach Noa all that she knows about the trapeze.  At first they are rivals but they soon form a very strong emotional bond.  They both have secrets though from their past and neither of them share those secrets until circumstances force them to become brutally honest with one another.

Now it is spring, and the circus is moving to France to perform in the little villages there.  They are often checked by the Nazi soldiers and they all feel like time is running out before Peter, Astrid, and Noa are found out to be not whom they really say they are.  

One evening, Noa meets a French boy named Luc.  His father is the mayor of the village where they have been performing. His father sides with the German soldiers to keep his village safe. Astrid warns Noa that no good can come from a friendship with this boy.

And then one night the unthinkable happens.  Peter is arrested and the big top is on fire!

One person dies.  Who is it??

MY THOUGHTS

This book moved me to tears in many places because of the reality of the horrors that faced the Jewish people or even the good Germans who disliked Hitler and all he stood for.  

I learned alot about circus life from this author who clearly put a lot of research into this novel.

The character development is exquisite.  Each chapter is a different voice between Astrid and Noa and the ending had me reaching for the kleenex.

I don't want to give too much away as I don't want to ruin this beautiful story for you.

The main themes seem to be family, (is it only blood relatives that make up a family??), forgiveness, betrayal, abandonment, parenting, love and friendship.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.


10 November 2017

Feels like November Faves!


Well, it finally feels like November here in eastern New York State!  I think the mild autumn is now a thing of the past and we are well on our way to a more typical late autumn with temps dipping below 35 degrees.

I have no work today as all the schools are closed due to Veterans Day tomorrow.  That in and of itself is a blessing to me....I have many things I hope to get done today and it was so nice to NOT rush out the door this morning.

I'm participating in the weekly "gratitude" post where we link up at Susanne's and share our FIVE FAVE blessings from the week. Won't you join us??

FIVE FAVES

  • WORKING TOGETHER:  Dave and I were up rather early on Saturday morning.  It was gorgeous.  Sunny but chilly.  We ate breakfast and then put on work clothes to get more leaves raked and bagged.  We did 5 bags before running out of them.  We will try to finish that chore up this weekend if the rest of the leaves fall from the largest maple.  I am thankful we had the time to work together...makes the chore go faster! It's comforting to know that Dave is always willing to get these chores done with me, too!
image courtesy of Aeropostale


  • THICK SOCKS!  Tuesday was a very cold day.  First one, really, for this school year.  I needed socks.  I chose these new ones I bought at the outlet store and they felt so warm and comfy and looked nice with my rugged black boots.  I love thick socks when the weather turns cold and I'm thankful to have found several this year on sale!


 
image courtesy of Amazon
  • STEAMING HOT TEA:  after dinner on cold evenings, I like to sip steaming hot herbal tea because it's so comforting. This is my fave in autumn.  It is perfect. Not too sweet.  I drink it plain. I'm thankful for all the tea options in the local stores.



  •  GIVING:  Dave and I like to donate money from time to time to Samaritan's Purse ministry.  And I especially look forward to every November when we pick up the Operation Christmas Child boxes from church, fill them with goodies, and get them back to church in time to load them onto the trucks the weekend before Thanksgiving. Our church is one of the churches in this capital region of NYS that other smaller churches can bring their boxes to and we load up the trucks...we are the collection point.  Last year we collected a little over 30,000 boxes!!  I take great comfort in being able to choose items a little boy or girl will love.  I'm definitely missing having my youngest daughter with me this year to help with this project as my oldest does her own box.  I texted the youngest this photo so she could see what I chose (I still have a few more things that need to go in to it).  I'm so thankful for this ministry and the umbrella organization as well as for my church that participates in it.
  • COFFEE HOUSE WITH A MISSION!  Claire, our youngest, who is a freshman at UNH/Durham,  texted me a pic of a great looking mug of coffee Wednesday evening and said she was with friends at The Freedom Cafe.  Apparently, this cafe is on the UNH campus but is not a part of UNH.  It is run by volunteers and there is no price for their food or drinks.  You give a donation and the first dollar goes towards the cost of the item and the rest goes to the ministry LOVE 146!!  This ministry is one I support and one that  means a lot to me.  I loved the time the head of Love 146 came to our church to present what they are all about.  If you don't know, please click here  Anyways, it brought great comfort to my heart to know this place exists on a secular campus! They are taking a stand against human trafficking and you can see by the images that they also use fair trade items and items that are not produced by children who are forced into slavery.  I'm so thankful Claire texted me this information!  Guess where we will be heading when we take her back to the campus after Xmas break?!


That wraps up my faves for the week.

I hope you all have a relaxing weekend.




06 November 2017

For Today.....6 November

It has been far too long since I participated in this writing exercise.

I'm joining up with other ladies who also link up at our host's site.  You can find the Simple Woman Daybook info here.

For Today


Looking out my window.....
dusky golden light of late afternoon with puddles gathering on the sides of the street from the hard rain earlier today

I am thinking....
about the small group Bible study I am leading tomorrow evening

I am thankful...
for steaming hot cinnamon vanilla nut coffee

One of my favorite things...
fleece slippers for rain-soaked, chilly feet

I am creating...
a digital memory book featuring our trip to Rome, Italy!

I am wearing...
soft cotton jogger pants, fleece slippers, a Polo tee and a tunic sweater....also my jade cross from Guatemala 

I am reading....
The Orphan's Tale and the latest Adirondack journal

I recently finished watching....
Season 2 of Stranger Things (Netflix series)

I am hoping...
the town board candidates I'm voting for tomorrow, win!
 
I am learning...
how to let old friendships go when it seems the person doesn't want to reciprocate/keep in touch

In my kitchen...
Potato Pesto Gnocchi with Steamed Spinach, Fresh Melon for dinner

 
In the school room....
my youngest daughter has recently received an A on a major Sociology exam and an A in her Russian exam at UNH...she is also thinking about applying to be an RA next year

In my special education preschool class, we are teaching the 3-5 year olds the concepts of In, On, and Under this week, along with following directions for gross motor games and working on their fine motor skills with dot paint markers.  Practicing sitting in circle/group time continues to be a challenge for some of the 3 year olds.

Post Script
I'm loving this song right now.......

Shared Quote.....


A moment from my day...





Closing Notes....
I'm learning to take a time each day to "Breathe" based on Priscilla Shirer's Bible study with the same title.  As a busy wife, mom, and teacher, as well as a small group Bible study leader, I find I need these quiet moments in the late afternoon to recharge, renew, and refresh before the dinner hour and evening housework, activities.  I'm learning to just be still before the Lord.  And Breathe.