Thursday, May 25, 2017

Daddy Sandwich

My father was many things: brilliant scientist, gifted actor, always ready with a quip or pun, loving father, trusted husband. He was not, however, much of a cook. I remember he barbecued for a bit, on a grill that he imbedded in a cement wall (to keep his young children from running into the hot grill)... until the wall fell down one day, because apparently my father was not that gifted with cement. However, he would, upon occasion, make for us something he called Daddy Sandwich. It was a treat at the time, mostly because it was prepared by him, but also because it was tasty. He toasted whatever bread we had in the house at the time (white, pumpernickel, or rye were the most likely candidates) and then added a layer of cream cheese. On top of this, went a layer of canned salmon, carefully mashed. (Fresh was not easily available. For the first 10 years of my life I thought salmon came from a can, or from the deli as lox.) He trimmed the crusts off the open faced sandwich, then cut it on the diagonals to yield 4 triangles of deliciousness.

This morning, I made a Daddy sandwich. No matter that the bread was gluten free, since I've developed a wheat allergy, or that, thanks to my Ashkenazi heritage, I prefer to use lactose free cream cheese, and that the salmon, was leftover wild CoHo salmon I broiled last night, or that I left the crusts on, because, why not? It was a Daddy Sandwich, and I was so happy to share my breakfast with his memory.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

I've yet to read anything by this author which I have not been swept up into the story. I was not disappointed. In fact, this book grabbed my heart and didn't let go. I mean, the main character is a graphic novel artist/writer and hits the cons!

But Joshilyn Jackson has a way of writing about the South, and the many layers of life here that delve beyond sweet tea, manners, and magnolias. She gets that duality of two types of south that has troubled me for so long-- there's the south I love, with the beauty of the land, the traditions, and the close knit community, and then there's that dark underbelly that launched abominations into our world which still rear their ugly heads in ways such as the slayings at Mother Emanuel AME, racism, bigotry, and other ways of stamping out human hearts and lives.

Plus, there was real compassion in the way Jackson wrote of Birchie's decline and illness, and the love between Birchie and Wattie. I also was moved by the way Jackson explored Leia's path of understanding and willingness to share her pregnancy. (But Batman as baby-daddy? How cool is that???)

Joshilyn Jackson, thank you. You hit it out of the park, again. And thanks to LibraryThing early reviewers and the publisher for sending me this copy.

tags: 2017-reada-favorite-authoradvanced-reader-copyearly-review-librarythinggreat-titlemade-me-thinkplaces-i-have-beenreadset-in-the-southtaught-me-something

From the publisher:
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy--an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules by A.J. Mendez Brooks

The WWE world is not my usual habitat, but recently, a friend mentioned he used to work for WWE in Atlanta, and was amazed that no one in the group of friends gathered followed wrestling. This coincided with some good reviews of AJ Mendez Brooks' new release, so I decided to check it out myself. Glad I did. I found insight, humor, understanding, honesty, told by a very bright, and apparently vary talented/determined young woman. Fascinating read.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for sending along this copy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Firebrand (Alternative Detective #2) by A.J. Hartley

Dear Mr Hartley,
Please accept my humble apology. I am unable at this time to write a review of Firebrand, for reasons which are far too mundane to go into here (i.e. life gets complicated sometimes). I really wanted to have written a stellar one, since, in all likelihood, I'll be meeting you at JordanCon next week. (In theory I'd be the one wearing the sign that says "Sorry I didn't get to review your book before meeting you" --  though more likely I'll just be wearing a sheepish grin on my face.)

However, thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow out my nails, as I seemed to have bitten them down. In Ang, you have created a great character, and keep unfolding a world that fascinates me. My unease with some of the  political situations were because they rang a little truer than they might have when you were penning the story, but please don't mistake unease for complacency. Ang isn't the only female who can do some shit-kicking. Some of us have to do it land based or behind a computer, rather than from a rooftop or crane. And I know a cos-player or two who could use Madam Nahreem's guidance to help pull off a role realistically.

As to the question raised at the end of the book, unless Willinghouse really steps up his game, I hope it's Daria over her stuffed-shirt brother. I suspect life would be a lot more colorful, exciting, and passionate with that choice.

Many thanks to friends at Tor Books for sending me this ARC. My only complaint is that now I have to wait extra long for the next Alternative Detective book to make it into my hands.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Put a good face (or 3) with a Good Deed

Yesterday, I wrote a little story about Peter & Sons, a family business that as long as I have known them (which would be in 1981 when I came in to have the heel repaired my shoe that had broken while I was dancing at a friend's wedding. I had been a bridesmaid-- hated the dress, but loved the shoes I had gotten to wear with them. I flung the shoes into a corner to continue dancing, but the next morning, took them to a Peter & Sons, which had opened in the brief interim when I had left Charleston to pursue life in the frozen north.) The act of kindness bestowed has touched a lot of hearts. I printed off the blog post and took a copy to the shop this morning. I wanted to tell them in person how far their story had gone.

Once again, when I walked in,  the store delighted me. I could see the top of Igor's head above the partition that delineates the line between customer space and workshop. I could hear the cadences of speech that reminded me of my mother's family, who also were Ukrainian Jews. The sons of Peter joshed with me as I told them I needed to talk to them, "Not me", said Igor as he pointed to his older brother. "He did it."
"I hear someone calling me in back", said Josif, pretending to walk away from me.
But the story got told, and I gave them the post.
And then I asked if I could take their picture. Daniel (Josif's son) joined us (and already knew the story of the guitar) and after a little discussion of where to take the photo, it was done.
Josif, Daniel, and Igor Tsveer

So why did the sons and grandson of Peter decide to take the picture in this spot? Over their shoulder is the one who made it all possible, the man who taught these men by example to be the men they are: Mr Peter. Yup, photobombed by the patriarch. It's a good thing.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Do a Mitzvah

Something nice happened.

A few months back, I realized I was not playing my guitar, a purchase that I saved nickels and pennies, and occasional dollars for in my college years. I'd spent high school diligently learning to play, mostly borrowing friends guitars, but longed for one of my own, one that I earned, one that chose me as I chose it. And in the early 1970's my guitar and I found each other. I had exactly enough coin to cover the cost, and once I passed it over, the Goya  dreadnought pattern guitar came home with me.

That guitar travelled with me: summers in the mountains of West Virginia where I played the folk tunes I'd learned, winters initially in Charleston, but later in the Finger Lakes region of New York, when I  went off to University, and then to St Louis, where I finished my undergraduate work. It came back to Charleston with me, where my roommate and I would sit on our porch, in the soft southern air, singing songs of the 60's. It travelled with me when I fell in love and married, though I rarely took it out of the case with all the added happenings of being one of two, and then of motherhood. When I did play, it was a solitary song, because by then, I'd forgotten many of the chords, and my transitions were no longer as smooth as I might hope.

In the continuing effort to downsize, and lighten the burden of sorting through decades of accumulations that my children will face when I pop off, I made the decision to sell my guitar. Since it had been a steady companion for over 40 years, I felt funny just putting it up on Craigslist, so instead, I inquired among my friends if anyone was interested. There were several nibbles, but before I could commit, another friend suggested that I might want to consider putting it up in an auction  which benefited charity we both were supported-- and maybe, if I were to try my hand at decorating it, it might raise even more. Somehow, that sounded really right. Really, really right.

So, I began planning. I made a template of the guitar face and worked on my design, while also talking to others who had decorated instruments, Tate Nation, a wonderful artist and friend here in Charleston and Maggie Stiefvater, an author and artist I know through her YA books, and her very entertaining twitter feed (and who I briefly met when we both were guests at YallFest 2016) being two of the most helpful. 

It was a pleasure to try such a different venue for my folk art pysanky-inspired style of drawing. With a constant cheering section from the folks in a JordanCon Group*, the design grew, til all it needed were new strings (which are being donated by Ross Newberry) and initials of the final buyer to be put into the design by yours truly.

JordanCon is next week. It was time to give the case a cleaning and make sure all was ready for it to travel to the auction. As I took the case out of storage, the handle came away in my hand. This has been an exceptionally odd year for me with art accidents, so somehow, I wasn't surprised. But, I knew I had to get it fixed, and somewhat speedily, too.

Peter and Sons in South Windermere has helped my family out many a time: from the snapped strap on a shoulder bag, to the torn zipper on a suitcase (Peter has long since retired, but his sons, and grandsons continue to run the business.) My favorite visit to the shop was when I brought my son's size 14 Italian red leather shoes (made by the same craftsman who made Pope Benedict XVI's red shoes) to get stains and creases out of them after some travel abuse, so he could wear them for a wedding. "They look a little big for you," quipped the son behind the counter, "but I'll see what I can do." He worked magic. They looked great.

Hugging the guitar case in my arms, I entered the shop. I love the mix inside: luggage and cases, jumbled together with various styles shoes, hand written signs, bumper stickers from long ago campaigns, and various other items, all surrounded by the essence of leather and shoe polish. Add the two brothers, the sons of Peter, with their warm humor, quick wit, and the accents of their Ukrainian heritage, and it's a heady mix. Today, it was the brother who has lost 50 pounds (he'll tell you the story, and show you the original hole on his belt which was his "before" weight) who helped me. I figured I'd drop the case off today, and come back in a day or two, so told him I just needed it back so I could to get it to the auction on time. "No, no, no", he said. "Just have a seat." he told me as he wandered into the back.

When he returned, the handle was fixed.  The rivet may not match exactly, but it's sturdy. When I asked how much I owed, the cost was nothing. "You give; I give. That makes me feel rich here", he said, pointing to his heart. "Better than money."

And that, my friends, is the mensch who did a mitzvah.

*JordanCon  is a yearly gathering of fans of Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series, as well as fans of fantasy in general. James Rigney, best known to his fans around the world as "Robert Jordan," succumbed to  cardiac amyloidosis in 2007. since it's inception in 2008, JordanCon has raised more than  $9,000 for Amyloidosis research fund at the Mayo Clinic through its charity events at the annual gathering.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gather Her Round (Tufa #5) by Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe got me hook line and sinker with his first novel of the Tufa The Hum and the Shiver. With each subsequent Tufa tale, he reels me in further. There are so many elements about the series which keep me reading: the backstory, the setting, the depth of the characters, not to mention the incredible story arcs that weave and wander between the books creating a tapestry that delights, surprises, and satisfies. When I read a Tufa novel, the plots of each book engage me, but the writing-- oh, the writing! In a seemingly effortless, unpretentious, uncluttered way, Bledsoe brings the sounds, smells, and sights of Cloud County to vivid reality in my own imagination. I am transported to walk among the characters he has created, a silent observer, watching the good, the evil, and the in-between create the paths of their lives. These are stories that ring with song, those rich ballads from ages ago, and new ones filled with love, longing, and a touch of magic.

Kera Rogers set out one afternoon to practice her music at a favorite spot in the woods.  A text conversation with her boyfriend abruptly cuts off and Kera is believed to have fallen victim to the wild hogs, led by a monstrous, seemingly supernatural one. When the young man she was seeing behind her boyfriend's back is the next to die, the plot, as they say, thickens. One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this tale was the telling: the split format of an adult Janet at the Smoky Mountain storytelling festival, relating the tale while intertwining her music and the basic narrative unwinding the memory of a happening in her girlhood.

If you've read any of the Tufa series, you may see characters you've met in other books, but if you've never come to Cloud County in your reading before, this, as with any of the books in the series, gives an easy glide in, without a preponderance of fill-in to catch you up.

Bottom line: thank you Alex Bledsoe. You keep writing; I'll keep reading.

Thank you to Tor Books for this copy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip by Hitha Palepu

My business travel days are over, but that of my children is just beginning. I figured this book might be good for the latter for business, and maybe help me pare down for my few travels. There are some good suggestions, but it is very female oriented (makeup, cosmetics, heels vs flats, types of bras, etc). I was also struck by the use of "hair ties" to hold rolled clothes and for another use or two, assuming everyone would have them on hand and need to be travelling with them. I liked the illustrations from an artistic point of view, but they aren't as helpful, for me as photos or more detailed drawings from a packing and finding new assistive point of view. I have an important trip next month, and will put these suggestions to the test to see if it helps.

Thanks to Blogging for books and the publisher for sending me my copy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Frog Who Was Blue by Faiz Kermani

This lovely little book was written to support the World Medical Fund (WMF), a medical charity working in Africa, which focuses on the regions most vulnerable children. It is a simple story of Malawi, who comes from Lake Ticklewater, deep in the heart of Africa. All the frogs there, including Malawi are blue (which, of course, got "I'm in Love With a Big Blue Frog" running nonstop through my brain). However, when Malawi gets accepted to Croak College, he finds out that no other students are blue, just him. The green frogs tease him and shun him, and poor Malawi is broken hearted. But things happen, as they often do in stories like this, giving children a chance to be exposed to the message that being different is not necessarily a bad thing.

As a retired pediatric nurse, who worked with disabled children, this was a common occurrence for the children and families to get through. Kids who look different, have equipment to help them walk, talk, breathe, pee, eat, write, talk, can all be treated like blue frogs. It's not always an easy fix, and though this book is a nice beginning, I found myself remembering Digby Wolfe's poem, Kids who are Different.

Here’s to kids who are different,
Kids who don’t always get A's,
Kids who have ears
Twice the size of their peers,
And noses that go on for days.

Here’s to the kids who are different,
Kids they call crazy or dumb,
Kids who don’t fit,
With the guts and the grit,
Who dance to a different drum.

Here’s to the kids who are different,
Kids with a mischievous streak,
For when they have grown,
As history has shown,
It’s their difference that makes them unique.

Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the author for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Some of the pysanky I have available still are listed here. If interested or desiring more information, please contact me (picture row and position of pysanka from the left would help). Thank you.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rejoice the Ides of March or The Bard Can be Wrong

Long story short, today is our wedding anniversary. Javaczuk and I were married 33 years ago, on the eastern shore of Maryland. We also were married 33 years, 4 days ago in Washington, DC. And if you want to get technical, we also were married 20 years ago in Charleston.  I told you, it's a long story.

The first was the family wedding, but for those long-story-short reasons, suffice it to say we needed to be married again to make it legal. So we were. On our honeymoon. 33 years ago today. With my mother and siblings present.

The third was actually in the Catholic Church-- the sacrament of marriage, 13 years after the original ceremony. Our son and my mother were our picks for best man and matron of honor, but since one was 7 and the other not a Christian, our pastor asked us to pick witnesses who were both adult and Catholic. So we did, but in my heart, I treasure my mother standing (well, sitting in her wheelchair) for me, and our son by his dad's side, as I wed my sweetheart, once again, though this time with the Church's blessing.

We were telling the story of our weddings to our daughter, and she decided we needed to renew our vows. After all, it had been over 20 years since we did so. It would be easy, she told us. She could perform the ceremony herself, since she is a Notary Public. So, with our daughter as officiant, and granddaughters as maid of honor and best girl, with me clutching my iPhone with a picture of flowers I'd drawn, with the man I gave my heart to all those years ago, she said the words, and we replied "sure, why not?" and "you bettcha". We sealed the deal, once again. He's stuck for good.

Life is nothing if not contradictory. The Ides of March isn't always a date to beware. And the Bard can be wrong. The course of True Love sometimes does run smooth, 33 years and counting.

Pictures below:

March 11, 1984 At the Calvert Collection, in Washington DC, because if you can get married in an antiques and art gallery, why wouldn't you? (We call this our fake-aversary, because the marriage wasn't legal)

March 15, 1984, St. Michael's, Maryland, by the courthouse, where we'd just gotten hitched by a judge. (That's my kin gathered round us.) This is the one we recognize as our true marriage date.

March 15, 1997 Cathedral of St John the Baptist, 2 pictures

March 11, 2017 South Carolina Lowcountry

Sunday, March 12, 2017

One Pan & Done: Hassle-Free Meals from the Oven to Your Table by Molly Gilbert

Two years ago, we moved into a new home where 3 out of 4 burners on our stove were kaput, and our oven unreliable. Though we're in the process of renovations now, I became an expert on one pot cooking, since essentially, I only had one working element with which to cook. This is a nice collection of full cooking, from breakfast through all mealtimes and on to dessert. The few recipes I've tried so far have been tasty, though some were a little bland for our tastes, but I'll follow my instincts when cooking them next to add some of our favorite spices to kick flavors up. All in all, a fine addition to the shelf.

Thank you to Blogging for books and to the publishers for sending me my copy.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine

Warning: If you are approaching your "golden years", and/or you've lost someone you love who was elderly and had memory problems, and/or two of your biggest fears are that memory loss/illness will take your beloved before your or that you will lose all you love along with your own cognition/memory, don't read this book. Cathleen Schine is a skilled, fabulous writer, and she paints a picture that will rip across your heart, reviving all of your deepest fears, reawakening all of your darkest moments. This is not a book for the lighthearted. I can imagine that for those still in the light of health, having never lost someone they love, this could be the "hilarious novel" written about on the back cover. For me, all it made me want to do is curl up and cry. I can't rate it because I can't separate the excellent writing from the black despair of the emotions it evoked.

From the publisher:
From one of America’s greatest comic novelists, a hilarious new novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love

The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don’t just grow, they grow old, and the clan’s matriarch, Joy, is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would have wished. When Joy’s beloved husband dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother’s loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy’s college days. And they didn’t count on Joy herself, a mother suddenly as willful and rebellious as their own kids.

The New York Times–bestselling author Cathleen Schine has been called “full of invention, wit, and wisdom that can bear comparison to [ Jane] Austen’s own” (The New York Review of Books), and she is at her best in this intensely human, profound, and honest novel about the intrusion of old age into the relationships of one loving but complicated family. They May Not Mean To, But They Do is a radiantly compassionate look at three generations, all coming of age together. (less)

Tags: 2017-read, an-author-i-read, at-least-the-writing-was-good, don-t-want-to-rate, everyone-else-liked-it, good-but-made-me-sad, great-title, made-me-sad, made-me-uncomfortable, places-i-have-been, read, thank-you-charleston-county-library

Friday, February 17, 2017

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Allegory, fairy tale, magical realism, historical novel-- Anna and the Swallow Man has a bit of it all. It certainly has the characters of an old European folk tale, not just simple good guys and bad guys but demons and shape changers. There's even the lovable fool. The story, set primarily in Poland in WWII, centers on Anna, a child of 7, whose father is taken away one day and never comes back. Though circumstance, Anna begins to travel with a person she names the Swallow Man. Their journey is one of survival, uncovering truths and illusions, falsehoods and fantasies. It is written in elegant, evocative prose, which leaves many aspects of the tale for the reader to imagine, but also filled a place in my reading heart I hadn't realized was vacant. Also notable are the wonderful chapter illustrations and cover art, done by Laura Carlin.
To be honest, I am not sure I was able to absorb all the author packed away in the pages, but this novel is one I am pretty sure I could again and find something new each time.

tags: 2017-read, awardwinner, first-novel-or-book, great-cover, magical-realism, read, still-trying-to-figure-this-one-ou, thank-you-charleston-county-library, translated, will-look-for-more-by-this-author, ya-lit

From the publisher: Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 16, 2017 A Day Without Immigrants

The Family of Abraham and Ida Galler circa 1926
My grandparents each fled their homeland in a time of persecution. In America, they not only found a haven and new home, they found each other. Hardworking and with few means, but a lot of drive, they started an egg cart on the East Side of NYC (which is especially ironic since one of their granddaughters is a pysanky/egg artist) that they gave up in the summer of 1929 to move their growing family to the country in Brooklyn and live off the income of the stocks they'd invested in with their profits. Their timing might not have been good, and even though wealth alluded them, their goodness and generosity touched many souls. At my grandfather's funeral, the funeral of a simple shopkeeper and resale man, over 1,000 people came to pay respects. They gave thanks to his widow and children, telling of the many kindnesses he had done them in a time of need, a helping hand, a few dollars here, a meal there. His family was astonished at the number of people he'd helped in his short life. The story is that my grandmother finally got exasperated, exclaiming to her eldest daughter "A nickel here, a dollar there, a bowl of soup there, and all the time his children had to wear second hand clothes and have fried bread for breakfast! Could a little of that generosity have been spent at home instead of giving to others? Did he have to help everyone who asked?" To which her daughter replied, "But Mama, that's what you do. If anyone needs help, they come to you!"

From humble beginnings, they raised a family. Their descendants are dentists, scientists, businesswomen, real estate agents, entrepreneurs, podiatrists, chefs, physical therapists, builders, philanthropists, volunteer workers, scholars, renaissance men, musicians, educators, professors, nurses, researchers, artists, writers, homemakers, teachers, CPAs, administrators, lawyers, doctors, veterinarians, parents, grandparents, and citizens. (And that's only through their children and grandchildren. Great grands and great great grands are still finding their passions, and seeing where their talents take them.)

Today, February 16, 2017, is a day where many have encouraged immigrants, "foreign-born people nationwide, regardless of legal status, not to go to work or go shopping in a demonstration of the importance of their labor and consumer spending to the United States’ economy."*   This granddaughter of immigrants stands with immigrants.

*Rogers, Katie 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

During Y'allFest 2016, I had the opportunity to meet Nicola Yoon (not that she'd remember me, she undoubtedly made a bigger impression on me than I did on her.) Shortly thereafter, I was able to snag a ebbed copy of her TheSun is Also a Star from my fabulous Charleston County Public Library, and fell into that segment of the world that loved the book, enough so that when Blogging for Books offered it, I said yes. I rarely reread books within in a year, let alone within months of the initial cracking of covers, but this is one case, perhaps the only, where I reread it within months. My first read was one of those wild "I can't put this book down and need to see what happens" gallops, so my second was a more leisurely revisit, a wandering through the remarkable prose and the New York Day of Natasha and Daniel.

The publisher's blurb actually didn't win me. It was hearing the attendees at Y'allFest that got me to pick the book up. I was intrigued to see how Yoon handled the concept: Two teenagers, with nothing in common except the city they live meet and fall in love on the day one of them is being deported back to Jamaica. Told from alternating viewpoints, the story is endearing, thoughtful, informative, and a very special gift to readers.

I also am fascinated by the cover, so did a bit of research on it. The jacket art is by Dominique Falla, design by Elaine C Damasco. As anyone who has ever done this type of art knows, this in an amazing work and I remain in awe of Dominique Falla's skill as a tactile typographer and string artist. Even had I not felt the way I do about the book, as a lover of art, the book would have grabbed the art lover in me.

Thank you to Blogging for Books, Delacorte Press, Random House Books, Dominique Falla, and of course Nicola Yoon, for bringing this book to me.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Love, not hate, makes America great

I was born the year after Rosa Parks took her bus seat in history. My first birthday came just a week or so after Little Rock Central High School was desegregated. Nonviolent protest was a common topic among my parents and their friends. At the Ethical Society, where my family went for Sunday discussions with like minded individuals, we children learned a hymn to humanism, which included a paraphrase of Felix Adler's words: "This place we meet to seek the highest is holy ground." Before I turned three, as the Civil Rights Movement gained strength, I have a clear memory of asking my father what race were we. My father paused from his reading, and pondered a moment. My dad, who had eyebrows that rivaled John L. Lewis, ran his fingers through that forest as he did when he was in deep thought. He sighed, and then nodded his head, signifying agreement to some unspoken idea. Then he told me I was of the Human Race and to never forget that. The Human Race. Others might try and break that down, try to belittle one part of the Human Race or another based on beliefs, or color, or sex, or ability, but that was a ploy to something unworthy. We are all part of the same thing.

That was the lesson seared into my soul. I grew up in times of turbulence, but diversity was always championed. When the riots broke out after Martin Luther King's assassination, an African American friend came to our home just over the DC line, to check on my mother (who was experiencing the first debilitating and disorientating symptoms of what was later diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis). She knew my mother usually went grocery shopping on that day, and didn't want Mama to have to be out in the uncertainty that was our city. I asked our friend why people were being violent, because hadn't Dr King believed in nonviolence? "Violence begets violence; hatred begets hatred", she said. "But kindness begets kindness. Your mama and daddy did me kindness at the darkest time of my life. We are all family."

The mothers and grandmothers in my neighborhood all were early activists in the Women's Rights Movement. Many remembered when women got the right to vote (my mother was born the year after, but told me how her own mother would tell of her first time voting as an American, and how my grandmother never missed a chance to vote until the year she died, and only then because she died before the election.) Family  appointments and community happenings were written onto the  League of Women's Voters calendars that adorned every home in the neighborhood. And as I grew from girlhood into my late teens and twenties, Women's Rights and Women's Health became the causes I, too, fought for (though, in fairness, my first protest was against the Vietnam War in the 60's, and I remain  peace advocate. To this day, I respect and honor our military for their service, but pray for the end of the wars and fighting that plague our world.)

Yesterday, the most extraordinary thing happened. People all over the world, on all continents, got together and raised their voices in unity with those who joined the Women's March on Washington.  Though the agenda varied somewhat from activist to activist, all had something to say. I spoke for Human Rights, and for Kindness, for those early lessons run deep. I felt strongly I wanted to stand for something rather than against something.  Yes, there are many things in this world that make me angry, negative, upset, or fearful, but I choose hope. I choose kindness. I believe in the goodness of Humankind. And while technically, because of my health, I could not march,  the Charleston Women's March went right by my window I could watch, wave the signs I'd hand lettered, and give my support. I could rejoice that family, both far flung and near, were able to join in as they chose and speak to support what they hold to be inalienable rights; to breathe life into liberty and equality, with dignity, nonviolence, humor, passion, and yes, kindness.

I've thought about this a great deal, because there are people whose friendships I cherish that didn't see the purpose of yesterday's activism. One person even told me that she could make her own choices about her life, her health, her body, so she didn't see why she should march, or why others even needed to. But she also is too young to remember the days when women's bodies were not our own, when we couldn't choose for ourselves about ourselves,  choose who to love, or any one of a myriad of other issues.

I realized that those who marched, marched for our own beliefs and also for those who disagreed with the protest. We marched to uphold our rights and also their rights, their choice, their expression of belief, even if it contradicted our own.  We marched from all segments of society, the rich, the famous, the just plain regular folks, and those less fortunate. We marched, different colors, genders, education, occupation. We marched to uphold Human Rights. And for the ability to do that, I give thanks. The cadence of yesterday's marchers will ring in my heart and in my head. The words shared I believe, from those early days where I learned the value of kindness, through the dark days after the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME, where l saw the visible demonstration of the strength of love here in my town. Love, not hate, makes America great.
Flow Chart I made to help get it all straight in my head

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Action Plan for today

I need to slip away to my Happy Place. ("Happy Place"; Folly Beach view of Morris Island light house. Mixed Media. 2016)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

But what happened to The Chair

I tend to cross-post to various blogs. as was the case with Resting in the Arms of Love. I've since been asked by several people "what happened to the original Chair"?

The Chair eventually went to chair heaven, but not before every spring was sprung, upholstery (second time round) completely worn, strange lumps that conformed to no one's body developed, and the recliner function became useless for even the most stout-hearted. Bumma replaced it with a white recliner, scaled once again for diminutive folks. After she went on to that comfy reading chair in the sky, our daughter got it, where it was promptly claimed by her then (now ex) husband who dragged it to his man shack in the back yard. It turned dark gray from the smoke and general grime. When they split, it was too filthy to reclaim so it remained with him. I still feel guilty I let it go to such a fate.

My mother in her throne, the last month of her life.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Resting in the arms of Love

My father used to say he was a trendsetter. After all, he'd called people meatheads for years before Archie Bunker nicknamed his son-in-law that on  All in the Family. He also had a chair, a throne, that no one else was supposed to sit in besides him. One of the first purchases he and my mother made in 1968, when the family finally moved out of the little house that had been our home for 17 years, was a recliner just for him. I remember sitting on the arm of the chair, or on the floor near by, talking with Daddy about his life as a child actor, and growing up in the Bronx.  But to sit in it, myself? Never! (except if he wasn't home and I wouldn't get caught!)

An aside: My favorite story was when he was cast as "the pest" in a silent movie called Womanhandled, and the cast had to go on a road trip to Texas to film scenes where Richard Dix was pretending to be a cowboy. My father was a little kid, maybe 6 or 7 (though he was diminutive, as I am) and was playing the part of a 4 year old brat. Regardless, he couldn't travel alone, so my grandmother accompanied him. She, however, kept strict kosher, and refused to let him eat what the rest of the cast did. She bought food and prepared meals for the two of them. And when there was a barbecue in the cast's honor, she held fast and refused to let him eat all that wonderful food-- which was why my little Jewish grandmother and her son were the only two people in the entire production that did not come down with food poisoning afterwards. Sometimes religious dietary laws really come in handy.

By the time I'd gone off to college, the rules had relaxed. We all knew, though, that once my father got home from work, The Chair was his, and we had to park our bottoms elsewhere. He even co-opted  a hand signal that was actually a punchline to a joke -- a hand signal in the joke that meant "enough of that shit". 

(Left: that's me, in 1977, with our mutt Patonka and my flute, and some very stylish glasses, in The Chair. It's hard to describe the fabric. A modern weave that was kinda scratchy, enough so that you never wanted to sit in it in shorts. )

That chair traveled with the family from St Louis to Charleston, back to St Louis. After my dad died, the chair became my mother's throne. It travelled with her one more time, back to Charleston when we joined households. By this time, it was a bit tattered, so she had it reupholstered. Javaczuk marveled that she was able to find another fabric just as scratchy. 

At some point, my mother decided that though she loved The Chair, it was becoming hard for her to get in and out,  or to push it back to recline in, so she got another chair. The Other Chair wasn't allowed in the living room, because The Chair ruled there. But later, when we'd shifted to the house on the lake, the Other Chair, emerged and became part of the room we all spent the most time. I remember my nephew, who now is in high school, crawling all over it when he was under two, and delighting that he could make the seat of Other Chair shift into a reclining mode. After a bit, Other Chair, shifted again up to the cabin, so my mother could have a comfy spot there. Most of the pictures I have of her in it are really terrible, but I like this one,  because I love how she's bundled up inside the cabin, during winter (yes there was a fire going, maybe 5 feet away from her). As one who also is always cold, it makes me realize I come by my tendencies honestly.
The other picture, which I also love,  though it is not of my mother, was taken in 2006 or 2007. (The dating of it comes from the knowledge that we changed the curtains in 2007 and painted the door, but it was in the fall and this visit was spring.) Heatherico came up to the cabin with me for a visit. You can see who claimed the green chair in a characteristic arms over head pose.

We are now talking about selling the cabin, moving into yet another new phase of life. Some of the furniture will convey, some we'll sell, and some we'll keep. When the fires threatened the area, it was a lesson in "what would I miss the most? " There aren't that many things I really want to keep:  a painting or two, a gift from Heatherico I treasure, a picture, some things Javaczuk wants, and, the chair. But I was resigned that it might not be a possibility. Luckily, the forest fires, though they were close, didn't directly threaten our little haven. And when my sweetheart went up to winterize the place (there still was too much smoke in the area for me to safely go), he came back with what he could fit in the car from our list, including the chair.

We have it set up in our room, where Javaczuk has a reading nook in one corner and I now have one in the opposite corner. I started meditating in an effort to help improve my breathing and health, and the chair is my place of choice. I delight in curling up in it to read, or to have my tea. It's comfy, designed for diminuitve folks, and is stuffed full of memories. And every time I sink into it, I feel I am resting in the loving arms of dear ones now gone.

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

I found this to be a powerful story of a single mother struggling to to right, to raise her young child, and to build memories for him as her own death from ovarian cancer draws nearer.  The characters rang true for me, and Grodstein made it easy for the reader to glimpse the struggles of Karen, as she struggles to find the right path to point her son, when she's gone, and to provide him with support and memories he can take on his own life journey when his mother is no longer there. I normally steer clear of politics, but Karen's job as a consultant was fascinating. The elements of her work that were wound into the story really were fascinating, and illuminating about the business of politics. However, the true strength of this book was the business of parenting and of creating a family.

Thank you to LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program and to the fine folks at Algonquin (who have yet to disappoint me in any book I've read that they've published) for sending this copy of the book to me.

From the Publisher: Karen Neulander, a successful New York political consultant, has always been fiercely protective of her son, Jacob, now six. She’s had to be: when Jacob’s father, Dave, found out Karen was pregnant and made it clear that fatherhood wasn’t in his plans, Karen walked out of the relationship, never telling Dave her intention was to raise their child alone.

But now Jake is asking to meet his dad, and with good reason: Karen is dying. When she finally calls her ex, she’s shocked to find Dave ecstatic about the son he never knew he had. First, he can’t meet Jake fast enough, and then, he can’t seem to leave him alone.

With just a few more months to live, Karen resists allowing Dave to insinuate himself into Jake’s life. As she tries to play out her last days in the “right” way, Karen wrestles with the truth that the only thing she cannot bring herself to do for her son--let his father become a permanent part of his life--is the thing he needs from her the most. With heart-wrenching poignancy, unexpected wit, and mordant humor, Lauren Grodstein has created an unforgettable story about parenthood, sacrifice, and life itself.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Know Thyself, and know thy Girls, whether they're lemons or melons

As Breast Cancer awareness and prevention month approaches, I've been inundated by requests to do one of those coy little games to raise awareness without actually saying anything.

Dammit, NO! Breast cancer is not a game. I lost my mother to it, and far too many other fabulous people, both women and men. 

So, instead, being the sort of nurse who always liked to teach, and who found that visuals were far more effective than I could be with my words, I've posted above The 12 signs of breast cancer, revealed. It's an amazing teaching tool developed a few years back by Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont (whose webpage appears to be down, but luckily the image was captured many times over on the internet).  It's easy to comprehend, and has been translated into loads of languages. 

12 signs of breast cancer, revealed
B. Pinching
C. Erosion
D. Red & Hot
E. New fluid
F. Dimpling
G. Puckering
H. Growing vein
I. Nipple retraction
J. Asymmetry
K. Orange skin
L.Invisible lump
With this, self-examine, and true awareness, we can make inroads on early detection of breast cancer. Outcomes are linked to how early the disease is found. 
This chart wasn't available when my mother was alive. Her first mass wasn't visible to the naked eye. When it recurred, she didn't know lemons, and dismissed the changes in her breast to all sorts of harmless things. It was only one of those happenstance embarrassments, (walking in on my mother while she was in deshabille) that allowed me to see her breast, notice the signs, and get her to treatment as soon as possible. 
Do yourself, and those who love you a favor: use all that you were given when you entered this life: your eyes, your hands, your brain, and more. Be aware; take care.
This post is dedicated to Ruthe Nadel, who made lemonade from lemons her whole life, but didn't know other uses for them to save that life. I wish she had. Miss you, Mama.
Ruthe, after her first radiation treatment. "Look at me! I'm  radiant!"


Thursday, January 12, 2017

From crockpot to cracked pot

Funny what strikes that sentimental spot in the heart. I've been thinking about my parents a lot lately, and mulling over the words for a post, but something else, equally sentimental, jumped queue.  Of all things, it is a crock pot that is pulling at my heartstrings.

When I moved out of the dorm, during my University years, my mother gifted me with a crock pot. (For the uninitiated, a slow cooker, that essentially let you heap lots of stuff into its maw, turn it on, and let it cook all day.) Yes, you can do the same thing with an oven, but this had the air of convenience about it. In essence, it was an electric bean cooker, that clever cogs over at Rival turned on to those of us who didn't have bean pots simmering on the back of our stoves. I used mine for stews, small roasts and fowl, and glorious soups. I still have that crockpot-- it's up at the cabin, with an ill-fitting lid from the days when I was at MUSC Children's and our division would do fundraisers which involved a lot of chili, hot dogs, and other sundry food items. (Somewhere out there, one of the other pediatric nurses has a crock pot with an ill fitting lid, because she got mine, instead.) I loved the meals that pot made, but honestly, it was a pain to clean. When my mother moved in with us, and brought her newer crock pot, with a removable crock lining, I switched loyalties and never looked back.

Mama's crock pot cooked up some great meals for us. I can't speak to what it did prior to 1988, when we all moved into a home together, but from that point on, that crockpot and I earned a heap of praise. (A token of how much I preferred it, is that it never had to make the trek to the MUSC Maternal-Child  Nursing lunches mentioned above. Little red was expendable once my mother's crock pot came into our lives.)

I used it weekly now, especially with just the two of us here at home. I can take a whole chicken from  the butcher, to roasted, to stew, and then use the bones for bone broth, all with the same kitchen helper. And the "set it and forget it" mode has always appealed to me, especially when I've had a day full of medical visits and appointments, and then walk into a home filled with the aroma of something roasting in the crock pot.

But a few days ago, as I cleaned the crock (as opposed to cleaning someone's clock) I noticed that after 35 years, there's a crack forming in the bottom of the crock. And, sadly, it goes clear through, though nothing has leaked yet. But, it's not long, I fear. Plus, I worry about the integrity of the crock and if whatever's under the glaze might not be safe if the glaze isn't intact.(There was a "Lead in slow cookers!" scare a few years back.)

Today, I retired my mother's crock pot. I did a lot of looking for a replacement, and while there are ones out there with bells, whistles, timers, and all sorts of extras. I'm not taking it tailgating, or serving dips or meatballs from it at parties. I didn't need handles, or vacuum sealed, or a carrying case. I didn't need a special slot to slip a meat thermometer.  No temperature control or timed settings.. I just wanted simple-- and a removable crock for cleaning.

Most places I checked locally (before resorting to Amazon or big box stores) only had the fancy ones. But I found my simple little crock pot, on/off with a few stops in between, and a removable liner. The woman who helped me at the store was delighted in my choice. She and I each showered praise on the simple crock pot, sharing recipes and memories (we'd each cared for our mother, each had one son, each worked full days which were often rescued by coming home and smelling the fragrance from the pot we'd set to cooking before we left for work.) Sure this one is a little 2017-- it's got a stainless exterior, but it's the innards that hold the real beauty. I'll put it through its paces this weekend. Prepare for some good smells and good eating... and a toast to my mother.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Thanks from Harry, and the rest of us, too

A few weeks ago, a neighbor I was quite fond of died. He was born the same year as my mother, which put him at 95, three years younger than my father would have been. In the aftermath of my neighbor's passing, others have spent time sharing small stories of him. At one point, someone praised the fortitude and remarkable nature of so many of my parent's generation, remarking they weren't called "the Greatest Generation" for nothing. 

In going through some more memorabilia, I found this letter from Harry Truman. I like to think it shows a certain class and dignity I have long associated with the Office of the President. 

 I've now looked up the birth year range of The Greatest Generation (formerly the GI Generation) and see that it spans from 1910 to 1924.  And though the youngest would be 93 and the oldest 107, I, for one, am still grateful for their service and sacrifice.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I'd been looking forward to reading this memoir, but wow-- I was not prepared for how good it actually was. With so much of the news this past year or so being of the elections here, I had trouble watching the news, (even The Daily Show became too much for me) so my interactions with Noah have been limited. This book, however, confirmed that he is, indeed, a remarkable man, raised by a remarkable woman, and gave me a window into yet another slice of South Africa. I've already retold at least 4 of the stories to different people.

My friend Barb said pretty much all I would have said otherwise in her Goodreads Review. Read it. Read the book.

Tags: 2017-read, biography-autobiography-or-memoir, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, e-book, first-novel-or-book, funny, great-title, heard-interview-with-author, i-heard-about-it-on-npr, i-liked-it, made-me-laugh-out-loud-for-real, made-me-look-something-up, made-me-think, read, reallyexcitedtoread, thank-you-charleston-county-library