"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Trips & Stats

When time and weather permit, we enjoy taking a one-or-two-night trip to somewhere in the beach or mountain areas.  Sometimes I long to live in either one of those areas, but then I figure living about in the middle of the state, we are roughly half-way to the beach and mountains which is pretty good. 

If I remember correctly, the first official 90° day of 2015 hit my area when we were in the North Carolina mountains. Specifically we went to Roan Mountain along the NC/Tennessee border...and we had our sweatshirts on first thing in the morning.  (Click to enlarge photos.)

It was cool enough for a sweatshirt when we started

Part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) runs through Roan Mountain so we walked a bit of it.  Instead of it mostly being a trail within woods (it was a little; see above picture), this part of the AT opened up to some grassy areas or balds. We enjoyed the pretty views.  Also, it was peak time for the rhododendrons - and flame azaleas, apparently - so we picked a great weekend to visit.

First the rhododendrons. I didn't realize they were so tall!

That's me in the middle of them!

The bee is enjoying it, too!
And now some flame azaleas.

Beautiful, right?  Here is the trail we walked on. You can see patches of flame azaleas along the left side.

The AT heading south towards Georgia

We also visited Todd where Andrew likes to ride his bicycle along the road where the train used to run.  Todd is not far from Boone. We pass a community called Meat Camp and a store called Goober Peas when we go there.

The road along the South Fork of the New River

Andrew rode his bike on the Blue Ridge Parkway here, but I took this picture before he arrived. 

The Linn Cove Viaduct

Since it was still so hot, we decided to head to Myrtle Beach the following weekend.  Wilmington, Oak Island, and Southport are great, but they don't offer the number of hotels on the beach - which was important to us since it was nearly 100°, and we wanted to be near the ocean!  We found a place at Dunes Village in North Myrtle Beach, and we only left it once after we checked in.  (And that was to buy some food.)

This was the view from our room.  Andrew rode his boogie board in the ocean while I just enjoyed how refreshing it felt as the waves hit me, and as I walked in the water.  We walked along the beach, swam in the pool, sat on those blue-and-white striped chairs (I read some there), enjoyed the swing, played a round of mini-golf...that sort of thing.  There was a nice sea breeze so it never felt hot like it would just a few miles inland. 

We left Monday morning, and on a whim decided to ride into Southport just to see what things were like there. It was hot so we stayed a bit under two hours. But we did walk around and saw this pretty flower.

Someone told me it was a flame lily

And it felt nice out on the pier because of the breeze blowing off the Cape Fear River. 

June Stats: 
From the local meteorologists, Tim and Grant:

"It was a really warm June. 6th warmest on record in the Triad.
Our heat wave in the middle of the month was the longest 90° stretch in June on record."


"The avg. high temp in the Triad for June was 88.7° (+3.9)."

I counted 15 days with high temps over 90!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June Books

A Chinaman's Chance: One Family's Journey and the Chinese American Dream by Eric Liu -- this was a pretty good book about a Chinese American. Some parts were much more interesting to me than others, but that's normal for most books, I suppose. I liked reading about his family, and how several of his father's siblings went back to China after being educated and living several years in the United States.  The chapter on "Father Tongue" was good as were other parts.  This was in the new books section at the library.

The Witch Doctor's Wife by Tamar Myers --  The author was born in the Belgian Congo, so when I saw this book at a local library, I thought it would be full of tidbits about her life there. And, I suppose, in a sense it was. But...I thought some of it was confusing, and the author's bitterness towards her parents for sending her to boarding school shone through. Maybe I was reading too much into it since I have a family member who has had issues with this fact in his own life.  I like the tidbits written at the beginning of each chapter. They were facts about tribes and animals in that region of the world. I'm sure I could find most of that information on Wikipedia, but I was more likely to read it in a book this way.

The Headhunter's Daughter by Tamar Myers  -- A sequel to the book above. I checked out these books at the same time; otherwise, I'm not sure I would have bothered finding this one. Of the two, the first was better.  I did like the author interview at the end of this one to learn a bit more about the author's growing up years.

A Year Down Under by Richard Peck -- a junior fiction book I found while looking for another book on the Newberry Shelf at the library.  A fifteen-year-old girl from Chicago goes to a "hick town" to live with her grandmother for a year during a depression.  She recounts stories from school and from living with this interesting relative.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare -- I saw this book mentioned by someone on Facebook and then a week later I read a blogger's book review and noticed she mentioned it as well. So I decided to read it for myself despite it being for junior readers.  It was pretty cute reading about Kit's life in the Puritan Northeast after having been born and raised in Barbados.  Quite an adjustment.

Head Over Heels in France: Falling In Love in the Lot by Samantha Brick  -- I am not familiar with this lady, but apparently she was/is in British TV.  I just saw this book in the biographies and I'm a sucker for reading about life in France (I guess!).  For her, it was meeting a guy in the Lot, and agreeing to move in with him and later marry him.  It wasn't the most interesting book I've ever read (by far), but it did make me want to visit the Lot!  And it was pretty interesting reading her English impression of those in that part of France!

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure -- "My adventure in the lost world of Little House on the Prairie" -- the author is an avid Laura Ingalls Wilder fan - of the books, really - and decides to try a few of the old-timey chores (like churning butter) and visits most all the places mentioned in the books where Laura and her family lived.

Charis: God's Scandalous Grace for Us by Preston Sprinkle  -- I think I heard about this on Facebook because somehow it ended up on my Amazon Wishlist and I got it for my birthday; I really liked the chapter called Tattoo referring to the Bible verse about our being engraved on God's hand 

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume edited by Jennifer O'Connell -- a collection of a couple dozen essays of women authors who learned life lessons from Judy Blume books; I saw this at my local library and decided to read the variety of topics

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom -- I wrote about this book here

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart -- I still read a few blogs, and four of the ladies post book reviews from time-to-time. I have a small notebook near my computer where I jot down titles of certain ones that seem appealing. This book was in Liz's top 5 one year so I looked for it in the YA section of my local library the other day and finished it up at the beach.  Interesting book about a girl who goes to school with a bunch of rich kids. She wants to be included in the secret society that is for guys only - and she wants to stop being "bunny rabbit" to everyone.  I like her ingenuity.  I don't like her group of friends very much. They are only her friend, really, when she's with the right guy.  I prefer her geekier friends, I guess.  They seem more loyal. 

Motherless by Erin Healy -- This book was unsettling to me. I guess a story about a man on his deathbed narrating a story about how he lost his wife after her battle with a bipolar disorder was too much for me. But not enough that I didn't keep reading.  I read most of this at the beach and on the way home. And I finished it about 11:30 last night (June 22) because I couldn't sleep due to drinking tea after 3 PM. 

Until Tomorrow by Robin Jones Gunn -- I saw this while in the YA section the other day, and thought I'd give it a try.  Traveling through parts of Europe interested me, but otherwise the storyline was so silly and high schoolish for me.  I only finished it because I was hopeful of more interesting talk of the sights and experiences in Europe - that, and because it was a fairly fast read for me. And I am in need of more library books...

Home Town Tales by Philip Gulley -- a wonderful, easy read full of "recollections of kindness, peace, and joy"  ; he's a good storyteller, and I appreciated many of the lessons here.  Like choosing to focus on your blessings in life instead of all the things that are hard.  And looking for kindness in people - because often kind acts are there.

Under the Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America by Joseph Kim -- the story of a young man who grew up in North Korea. I've read a few books similar to this, and each time it floors me how many people who live under the same sky have such utterly miserable lives.  I know we all suffer in various ways, but watching your children cry from hunger has to be among the worst ways to suffer.  These types of books always challenge to me to look around and include the one eating lunch alone at school, and feed the beggar coming to my door. Or they make me want to do those things....if given another chance.

I posted earlier not thinking I'd finish another book before July came, but I had more reading time today, and finished another book just now (10:19 PM). So I had to add it to June books.

Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell -- a collection of stories about Sarah's life; she's a pretty interesting writer. I liked the chapter about her journey on the Trail of Tears. Other chapters were good, too.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June: Kids' Stuff

Fewer than six months until Christmas!  I can't believe how fast 2015 is going.  June started off a little cool and damp. I remember one day when the high was in the mid-sixties.  Once we hit our first 90° day, however, it kept on and on and on.   We had 90+ temperatures for 14 days straight until today when the cloud cover and threat of rain has kept it cooler, but muggy.

(Oh, now it's raining - good. We need rain.  -- 4:58 PM EST)

Here are a few activities this month with Zach and Sophie.  I did see Michael some, but he's at that age (13) where you just don't take as many photos.  (Sorry, Mike! I took lots of pics when you were younger!)

During the cooler days of June (6/3), Zach and I enjoyed doing some chalk art.  He likes to wear his snow boots sometimes and has them on here. In fact, when he goes with my dad to check on the garden, he often wears them as his work boots.

One day we went to the mall in Greensboro where Zach enjoyed playing and eating ice cream.

 Several times we went to the Children's Museum. He wanted to wear the scrubs before checking the horse's eyes and ears.  I was surprised because usually he doesn't want to wear the dress-up clothes there.

We had the April and May family birthday party at our house (on June 6).  Everyone seemed to enjoy it - especially the kids.

Sophie thoroughly enjoyed her plate of banana circles.  (6/15)

Zach and I enjoyed the sprayground!  The first time we went was with my mom in late May. Later Stephanie and Michael went with us.  And the third time, it was just me and Zach. 

This was our first time going - May 29

This was our trip together on June 18.  We both got thoroughly wet that hot day!

Zach got Lego swim trunks since his first visit

I love how Sophie looks for her big brother.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Catch the Jew!

Normally I would just include this on my monthly books post, but this was long enough that I figured I'd do a separate post.

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom --  a Facebook friend - an older American guy living in Tunisia at the time of this recommendation - posted about this book a few months ago, and I put it on my Amazon wishlist.  Ed mentioned the author traveling to various parts of Israel/Palestine, meeting all sorts of people, and reporting on his findings.  Sounds like something I would really enjoy!  And I did in many ways although the book was also unsettling.

Tuvia was born into a very religious Israeli family. (Just looked it up "I was born and raised in Israel to an ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist family, and grew up in the most elitist neighborhood of ultra-Orthodoxy at the time.  My father was a rabbi...My grandfather refused to come to Israel because he did not want to live with Zionists, and the Nazis rewarded him and most of his family with on-the-spot burials." pg. 1).

I get the impression he rejected most of that religious stuff although he's Jewish and a supporter of Israel.  Still, he left Israel to pursue things forbidden to him during his childhood, i.e., science and the arts.  He founded the Jewish Theater of New York.

I like that he is fluent enough in Hebrew, Arabic, German, and English that he could hear and read what others were saying/writing, and, he didn't have to rely only on what people fed him.  (I remember one instance where he knew what the imam was saying to his people whereas the German or French NGOs didn't.  That was a bit disturbing.) He often convincingly pretended to be a German journalist - he'd call himself Tobi the German -, and, therefore, gain access to areas of Palestine or Israel that were off limits to Jews, and vice versa.  For the most part, the Palestinians loved Tobi the German.  It was unsettling to me how often they would mention Hitler's treatment of Jews in a positive light.  I like that Tuvia reported on Palestinian areas - places I have never really heard about. Of course, I'm going on his own reporting - and maybe he lied - but if he didn't, there is a whole nother viewpoint of them.

Truthfully Tuvia admired the Palestinians he met - they had great food, and were warm, friendly, accepting (of Tobi the German at least), supported their own unlike "self-hating" Jews or even an "ex-Jew" in one case.  I was amazed at how many European especially German groups were working to help Palestinians - and in Tuvia's mind show the world how awful Israel is.  I actually feel quite mixed up after reading this!

This book has 467 pages so there were lots of interesting tidbits. I only noted a handful so it wouldn't be too much.

-- Walking through Tel Aviv, the author notes: "It is interesting for me to see, as I walk, that the leftists of this land are also its richest.  How does this work, and why, is a puzzle to me." (pg. 97)

-- Jewish stone throwers (pg. 103); that is they were throwing stones at their own Egged bus  (I often think only of Palestinian youth as throwing stones so this stood out to me!)

-- On his meeting with Gideon Levy:  "For many years Gideon has championed the Palestinian cause, but not one Palestinian has befriended him, or he one of them.  Obviously, despite what his articles may suggest, he really doesn't care about Palestinians, only about the Jews.  He's an Israeli patriot, as he says to me. He wants his Israel, his Jews, to be super-humans and reply to a bullet with a kiss.  In short: he wants all the Jews to be Jesus and die on the cross.

There can be only one reason why he would want them to be a Jesus: Inside of this man's heart, in its darkest corners, this Gideon is the biggest kind of Jewish racist that has ever existed. Jews must behave like super-humans because they are.  And as long as they do not behave as a master Jesus race, he hates them.  He is the strangest self-hating Jew you can find."  (pg. 122-123)

-- "The stupendous love for the Palestinians from so many nations that I keep seeing in this region is quite interesting. Some years ago I was in a Palestinian refugee camp called al-Wahdat in Jordan, where people live worse than the average cockroach.  No foreign government was helping them in any way, no NGOs around, and the Jordanian government was doing its best to make the life of these people a bit less intolerable.  It doesn't take a genius to know why the world 'loves' only certain Palestinians. I don't want to think about it."  (pg. 275)  

I kind of do want to think about it, though.

Also, an article by Tablet Magazine about his findings.

Monday, June 1, 2015

20 Questions

My friend, Niki, did this so I copied her.  I probably have another like this somewhere in my archives, but I am not sure where.  :)

Happy first day of June!  I'm thankful for the inch and a half of rain that we received this afternoon. While I love sunshine and clear days more, I am thankful for rain to keep the grass green and growing. Plus, it's good to have water to drink!


1) What is one of your favorite ways to spend a Saturday?
hiking in the mountains or walking on the beach

2) List your top three favorite TV shows.
The Amazing Race

3) Would you rather be in pictures or take them?
take them

4) Why do you blog?
I don't do it as much any more, but a few years ago I liked meeting people through blogs, and the last couple of years, I've just mostly noted what books I read each month, and this year I'm trying to highlight some life events.

5) Share five websites that you visit regularly.
1. Facebook
2.  article links I click from Facebook which vary
3.  PRI and NPR stories that I listen to while doing stuff around the house
4.  blogs - Bridget and Nancy in particular since they post more than others
5.  weather.com when I'm hunting for somewhere to go

6) If you could have lunch with one person from your Twitter list who would it be?
I haven't been on Twitter in so long, I can't recall who is on my list.

7) List a few of your favorite snacks.
chocolate chips, popcorn, ice cream, potato chips -- but I don't usually eat all that stuff. I just LIKE them!

8 ) Do you have a pet? If so, what kind?

9) Which three material possessions would you struggle to live without?
computer, books, car

10) What’s your favorite drink?

11) Do you enjoy cooking?
not too much

12) Do you have children?

13) What are your favorite hobbies?
talking to people who are not like me

14) Would you consider yourself to be shy or outgoing?
shy unless I'm in an outgoing mood

15) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?
take off some fat and wrinkles

16) Who is your favorite actor/actress?
I love most of those on NCIS and NCIS: LA

17) What’s the coolest thing you’ve done this week?
sat on the porch while it rained (the week is young!)

18) Do you live near your family or far from them?
near my immediate family

19) List three of your talents.
I don't have any - I used to sing, but rarely do any more

20) What is your greatest attribute?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

May Books

The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow -- A story about a young lady whose dreams to study in another country are canceled by impending war.  World War II. So she joins her family's silk weaving business and meets a host of interesting characters including Jewish German boys who were brought over to England.   Pretty interesting tale.

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy  - - a great memoir of a doctor's first year of doctoring.  This book made me cry at times, made me nervous, fearful, and made me smile quite often as well. He liberally uses (what I consider) bad words, but maybe that's just how doctors - and most of the rest of society?? - talk and write nowadays.  I loved seeing him grow in confidence throughout the book, and there were several memorable and favorite characters - both patients and medical personnel. 

The Mormon Mirage by Latayne C. Scott -- I think Amazon recommended this book to me. I really can't remember, but somehow I ended up with it, and I finally read it.  I often find deconversion stories interesting although I take what is said with a grain of salt.  I know a convert to Islam who said she was reading all the silly stories in Mormonism, and she ended up becoming atheist. She was honest enough to realize her own faith had silly stories. And, hey, with a talking donkey as a story I grew up hearing as truth, I realize I'm right there, too!  That said, this was a story of a Mormon convert or maybe her parents converted when she was young so she grew up Mormon.  I started this book several weeks ago and only finished it in early May so I forgot a few details. Anyway, she went to Brigham Young where it seems almost all Mormons go, but she ended up leaving the faith. She tells some interesting facts about Mormonism - some of which she claims isn't taught today in order to make the faith seem more... normal, less contentious??  I am not familiar with her at all outside of this book so who knows if she's legit.  The book was pretty interesting and reminded me (not that I needed it) why Mormonism isn't for me.  No polygyny and having a bunch of children in my heaven! At least Mormonism doesn't really have a lake-of-fire hell...that's a plus. Unless you wanted your enemies to burn forever....

The Returning by Ann Tatlock -- a family copes with dad returning from five years in prison, and he copes with fitting into the family and community again.

A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France by Miranda Richmond Mouillot -- in the new books section of the library; the author's story of spending time with her divorced grandparents and trying to find out the history of their marriage, divorce and the years living in Europe during World War II.   Why, oh, why, does her grandfather speak of her grandmother with such hatred?  And why can't she get straight answers from either of them?

Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me by Lisa Fineberg Cook -- "The True-Story of a Domesticated Princess"  -- I saw this in a book exchange in Southport. I tend to enjoy stories of people living in other cultures, and I did enjoy many things about newlywed Lisa and her husband Peter as they moved to Japan just a few days after their wedding.  The chapters deal with adjusting to doing laundry, and cooking, weight gain, the difficulty in traveling without having a car, and not having a close friend.   Lisa's lifestyle and upbringing was far different from mine, but still I very much appreciated the few lessons she learned while living in another country and how she changed after spending time in a very different culture.   (I didn't even know what a J.A.P. was until several years ago when I lived beside someone from New York City, and she mentioned those Jewish American Princesses.)

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin  -- a nurse who has a pen pal fighting against the Axis powers in World War II.  The story of Philomela (Mellie) and Tom, and how they write anonymous letters, and later get the chance to meet.  How would that work out?   An OK book. 

Heavens to Betsy by Beth Pattillo -- an easy read about a woman pastor and her desire to be a senior pastor when the current pastor suddenly retired; also, she wants to marry

If the Oceans Were Ink by Carla Power -- subtitled "An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran" -- a secular journalist with a Jewish mother and Quaker father discusses a bit about her growing up in Islamic cultures, and her friendship with an Indian sheikh, Mohammad Akram Nadwi.  She talks about visiting him in Britain, and also in his hometown in India, they discuss the Quran, Muslims, and all sorts of topics relating to the world and Islam. 

A few of the many things that took my attention. I stopped noting them after awhile...just read the book if this sort of thing interests you.

The sheikh's mentioning of Christianity's "abstract ideas, like closeness to God, and being a good neighbor, and loving one another" vs. Islam's rules like praying five times a day, and brushing your teeth like the Prophet. Details, details, details. Not big ideas.  (pg. 53)  This took my attention because I remember asking people before what they think "loving God with all your heart" looks like.

The talk about purdah was interesting when the sheikh and Ms. Powers went to the sheikh's village in India.  Brothers and sisters often times didn't even speak to one another. (!!!)

About practices that aren't Islamic, but just traditions - like the niqab.  "To someone who has grown up in the village, they think it is totally Islamic.  They can't separate what is tradition from what is Islamic.  The only thing people in Jamdahan know about the niqab is that the Hindus don't wear them, and Muslims do."  Like many village customs, "they are traditions not done from religious knowledge, but to build their identity as a group." (p. 90)

Something that bothered me: I wish she had pressed harder on some topics. Like that whole beating wives.  I know the sheikh said it placed limits on it since beating women was a common Arab practice, but even symbolically, even if you were going to hit me with a toothpick, THAT STINKS!  Men are often far more disobedient than women, and to make women into someone a man can discipline really really irritates me!

The Perfect Blend by Trish Perry  -- a rather silly girl starts over in a new town after her elopement plans don't go through when her fiance' doesn't show

Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller -- I didn't realize at first that I'd read a another book by this author. I just saw this one in the new books section and thought life in Africa, troubled marriage to an American, and now living in the US sounded somewhat interesting. 

How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barabara O'Neal -- this is a story about a lady (Ramona) whose pregnant daughter has to go to Germany to visit her wounded-soldier husband, who takes care of her daughter's step-daughter, who manages a bakery in Colorado Springs, and Ramona's own story of when she was fifteen, pregnant, and sent to live with an aunt until her baby was born.  A pretty good book I found at another library in town.

Cherished by Kim Cash Tate -- this is a follow-up book from another that I'd read by this author a few weeks ago.  We see some of the same people, but are also introduced to a few new characters as they search for unconditional love.

If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous -- this is a pretty fun way to find out about a rural place in Japan - not a place on the map of most tourists!  I tend to like these stories of Americans living abroad, and while this one isn't real, the author interview made me realize probably much of it was based on true happenings during her own months in Japan.  The first third dealt with gomi (trash) rules, and I was like: how good can a book be if you have to keep reading about two American women who can't sort and dispose of their trash without getting in trouble?  But, you know, it was pretty good.  The talk of Marina's father made me reflect on my own which sometimes makes me teary-eyed. So there was some of that, too.

Monday, May 11, 2015

May Days

I am bound and determined not to go as overboard with sharing this month as I did in March or April. Goodness! I'd only planned to highlight a few days a month, but I got carried away the last two.  I think I have enough in these first eleven days of May!

1 -- First Friday concert in Graham: walked around with Michael and Andrew then RAIN!  Came back here for luggage, and then the boys went to Purple Penguin

2 -- to Tanger with Zach; Michael and Will came over to shoot Michael's new air gun, fly Will's drone, and shoot a few baskets.  Papa and Zach came for a few minutes, too.

Michael on the ground

The drone I named Benny

Defense, Zach and Bagel!

Good shot!

Zach's last day of being three!

3 -- Zach's party at the park; Zach stayed with me and Andrew for awhile after the party; bought Domino's pizza for him (OK, and me)

Zach is FOUR!


Sophie loved tapping her shoes on the floor

Yum. Cake!

New bike

He thought this was so funny

4 -- Steph, Will, and Mike dropped by before heading to the beach; to Tanger with Zach

headed to Texas, too

5 -- SWM flew to Dallas from Myrtle Beach; kept both kids for awhile

6 -- to the museum with Zach; to NC DMV for tag renewal and then on to ALDI

Zach enjoyed playing with a new friend

"Isn't this pretty?"

Um, he squatted a bit too far

and then he got in the sand

Sandy, wet boy

7 -- Zach at my house for the morning and early afternoon; to Walgreens for free 8x10 pics; to Hobby Lobby; Girls' Night Out at Chili's 7-11 with Melissa, Sharon and Laurie

Zach and Bagel

8 -- to Tanger with Zach

He chose to wear his snow boots

hung "Little Hooty" in the tree for Zach to discover

9 -- to Green Cove, Damascus, and Abingdon, Virginia so Andrew could ride the Creeper Trail

Green Cove
Abingdon, Virginia

Andrew riding

Selfie in Abingdon

10 -- left Abingdon for Damascus and then on to Valle Crucis and a hike at Rough Ridge overlook; home around 6:15

I noticed some blooms on my newly-planted rose bushes

Andrew hung up this tree face that we got at the Mast General Store

11 -- played a long game of hide -n- seek with Zach; saw a black snake while push mowing the yard tonight; a bird started making a nest in my clothespin bag (!!!); hottest day of the year so far (87° F)