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

Monday, March 31, 2014

March Books

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell -- I decided to get as many of her books as I could find in my local libraries. This one dealt with the Puritans and their colonies in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.  She discusses John Winthrop a lot, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, Henry Vale, and other people here and there.  It was an interesting way to learn more about this time in US history. I liked this book least of her books though. I think because it was more "wordy" (get it?)  instead of talks of her travels to various places. She did travel some, but New England's not that big so ...

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell -- a pretty good way to learn more about Hawaii's history; I ... didn't know much about it

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool -- a blogger recommended this one so I found it at my library. I enjoyed reading of Abilene's summer in Manifest as she learned more about the town where her father had lived (I passed this one to my mom, and she enjoyed it as well.)

Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury -- another book my mom read and thought I might like. These are easy reads for me. This one dealt with a few NFL players (fictitious) and the foster care system.  Really made me wish I had more of a heart for helping children especially older ones who are jaded by the system.  My heart hurts for them.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein -- I'm trying to read a few books that people have recommended on their blogs or on Facebook.  This was one Niki liked a lot, and I found it in the YA section of my local library.  I had a tough time getting into it, and thought of not wasting more time on it, but I kept thinking that Niki really liked this book so I kept going.  And I'm glad I did.  The story got better and better the more "Verity" wrote, and then later when someone else wrote ...it came together pretty well.  This story takes place during World War II. Just never make the mistake of calling Verity an English gal. She's SCOTTISH!

The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism by Deborah Baker -- this book is about a Jewish woman who converted to Islam, and moved to Pakistan where she wrote articles that spoke against the evil West.  In my opinion, she's a horribly weird woman.  Read more here if you want.

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett  -- curious what it's like to be held hostage in Somalia as a female? Here is one woman's experience - wow; Bridget recommended this memoir and my library had it

Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove  -- found this in the new book section at my local library; the author and his wife live in a hospitality house in a predominately black neighborhood north of Duke University's campus. Since I live about 30 minutes or so from that area, I decided this might be an interesting book. It was.  I admire the way they live among addicts, and homeless people, and those leaving for and returning from prison. How they really get involved in these lives and learn more about themselves in the process.  How we are all in this together...that sort of thing.

Where Yesterday Lives by Karen Kingsbury - another book my mom had that I decided to read before returning to the library.  A family in Michigan gathers to bury their father - and to deal with some issues they have with each other. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February Books

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White -- A memoir about the author's time in prison for bank fraud. Only his prison was a Louisiana leprosarium.  This story tells of his months there introducing us to his fellow prison inmates as well as those who had lived there for decades due to their having leprosy or Hansen's disease.  A pretty interesting book!

What's That Pig Outdoors? a Memoir of Deafness by Henry Kisor  -- I found this in the biography section of my local library.  It was interesting reading the perspective of a man who was deafened by an illness when he was three.

One of several things that struck me was how often he had to go for speech therapy because after awhile his ability to speak at least 90% clearly (or able to be understood) would falter. I like that he tried improving himself and that his speech therapists pushed him to do better.

I enjoyed his thoughts on being a life guard. How much of that is visual rather than listening for someone crying out for help.

Also when he talked about lipreading - who tended to be easier (women, Southerners) to read vs. those more difficult (men, nonSoutherners). 

"Deaf people share certain similarities with blind people, for each has suffered the loss of a sense. Our afflictions, however, are not the same.  The consequences are profoundly different. Blindness is a handicap of mobility, deafness one of communication. Terrible as is loss of vision, it does not distance the blind from the sighted the way loss of hearing separates the deaf from the normal.  Deafness opens up a huge social chasm between sufferers and nonsufferers. In the hearing world, deaf people tend to be solitary and ignored if they are lucky, lonely and rejected if they are not. That is why Samuel Johnson called deafness 'the most desperate of human calamities.'"  (pg. 11)

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell - I tend to like books where people travel to various parts of the world. I even read books from time to time of people traveling the United States from east to west by mule or those who hiked the Appalachian Trail.  This book was in a local library - the one I go to least - and it seemed odd, but of some interest so I checked it out.  I figured I could always return it not finished if it didn't capture my attention in the first chapter or two.  I found I really enjoyed it!  The author takes the reader on a trip to Key West, Washington, D.C., the Adirondack mountains, New York City, rural sights in Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland all the while telling historical tidbits about the men involved in the deaths of three United States Presidents.  She also incorporates other history and current events along with her wit and humor.  A very nice way to learn more history!  

So, do you think Dr. Samuel Mudd was guilty of conspiring to kill Abraham Lincoln or was it coincidence that John Wilkes Booth happened to know exactly how to find his house when he needed treatment?

Here is one thing that took my attention, too.

"Robert Lincoln, by the way, would continue to run the War Department for Garfield’s successor Chester Arthur.  In the 1880’s, this mostly entailed managing the dwindling Indian Wars out west, with one ghastly exception.  The same week Garfield was shot, one of Lincoln’s charges, a twenty-five-man Arctic scientific expedition was en route to Lady Franklin Bay.  Robert Todd Lincoln, writes Leonard F. Guttridge in Ghosts of Cape Sabine, "could not have cared less about the North Pole."  Underprovisioned, thanks mostly to Lincoln’s indifference toward the project, the men arrived in the North Pole to set up a base, expecting a relief ship the following year.  It never came.  After two years went by without supplies or rescue, the starving party abandoned their camp and retreated home.  Only six survived.  The survivors ate the dead men.  It was a fiasco of planning and leadership, a national embarrassment and disgrace, and as the bureaucrat in charge, Robert Lincoln had frozen blood on his hands.  When the rumors of cannibalism surfaced, Lincoln and his counterpart the secretary of the navy conspired to cover it up by announcing that the reason the bones of the dead had been mangled by knives was that the survivors cut up their comrades’ flesh to use as "shrimp bait."  That’s how ugly the scandal was - that turning human flesh into shrimp bait was a positive spin." (pg. 161)

Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu - a memoir of a Moso girl who tells of her people's traditions and her story of how her mother defied tradition by leaving her mother's household and how Namu later did the same - except in a bigger way. The Moso believe in visiting relationships between women who live at the maternal house, and men who knock on their doors as lovers.  Marriage breaks down families and hasn't been widely-practiced.  While some people have written of the Moso as matriarchal, they are perhaps more matrilineal.

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell -- since I liked the above-mentioned Sarah Vowell book more than I thought, I decided to see what else my library had that she's written. This book was more of a collection of thoughts on touring Presidential libraries, attending the inauguration of President George W. Bush (and Sarah's bursting into tears of sorrow), thoughts on Teddy Roosevelt (as a child she envied his asthma since he was able to lie around and read all day), Tom Cruise, Tom Landry, The Wonder Twins and a few other topics. I learned more about her upbringing in Oklahoma and Montana, her parents, her twin sister, and her nephew.

I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia by Su Meck  -- I found this one in the new books section of a local library.  A pretty interesting story of a lady who got struck in the head by a ceiling fan and the results of that: she lost all her 22 years worth of memories and had to learn who she was again.  She tells of her frustration of not having shared memories with people who called themselves her parents, and children, and husband, and cousins and so forth.  And the thought of kissing and having sex with this strange guy. Wait! What is sex again?  How do I even write or read or find my way places or take care of my young children?  If you know someone with a traumatic brain injury or if you just like memoirs, this might interest you.

The Chance by Karen Kingsbury -- My mom finished this and said it was good. I thought it would be great for reading while traveling to and from the beach this weekend, and it was.  An easy, somewhat predictable read, but sometimes you need something light.  This was about best friends, Nolan and Ellie, who were separated when Ellie's dad moved them across country when they were both 15 years old. Eleven years later, they meet again. Stuff like that.

Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart - another book that mom my finished, said was good so I decided to read it rather than return it to the library for her.  Takes place in Charleston (duh), mostly about three cousins and their experiences one year just before and after one cousin gives birth.  Deals a bit with post-partum depression. Not in a really technical way, but maybe making people more aware of it in an easy-to-read fiction way.

Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar -- found this in the YA section in the library.  A story from Pakistan about a girl with a pretty awful father and brother, but a good mother.  This story is about their lives once the mother and daughter become house maids because of the slackness of their male relatives.  Books like these make me sooooo thankful for my culture.

Friday, January 31, 2014

January Books

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls  - one of my favorite books last year was a memoir by this author.  This book was a "true life novel" about Jeannette's grandmother, Lily.  An interesting read especially if you are curious about how people grew up in the Southwest a hundred years ago.

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell -- I pretty much hated this book from the beginning.  I really don't like books that say the same thing over and over. The first chapter was about a dirt poor family conniving to steal turnips from a passing neighbor. If I heard them say one more time about how much they love turnips, but their turnips had "damn-blasted green-gutted worms in them" so please give me yours  -- grrr.  Thankfully the next chapter dropped this subject, but it was disturbing!  Books like this feed contempt for the poor, the backward farmers, women preachers (or any perverted preachers because Bessie was perverted), the southerners who dare think like this. I guess it's for the best that people like this starve and/or burn to death with few people caring. Wouldn't want to bother any one with these lazy, perverted lowlifes, and the sooner this breed dies out, the better for all of us.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls  - since I read her memoir and her true-live novel, I decided I should read this novel since my library had it.  Pretty interesting book.  I didn't really love the ending, but the story itself was pretty good up until the last bit. It just ended a bit "happily ever after" which is good, but was too abrupt perhaps.

A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament by Rabbi Samuel Sandmel - I saw this book recommended to Rachel Evans sometime last year and put it on my wishlist. I got it for Christmas and decided it would be the first book I began in 2014.  It took me nearly the whole month (some days I read more than others), but I finished it earlier today (the 27th). 
I enjoyed reading how the New Testament comes across to a rabbi.  He wrote it for Jews, and many things that were familiar and innocuous to me in the NT, came across differently when I considered them from his perspective.  I enjoyed how he concluded the book (see below.)

 Here are a few notes I took.

One example of why Paul is difficult for many Jews to understand:
"Rabbinic Jews and modern Jews believe that man is by nature good; Paul, that he is by nature bad.  Jews hold that a man may commit sins and by repentance re-establish himself in God's grace; Paul, that man, in possessing a physical body, is gripped by inherited sinfulness from which he himself cannot extricate himself.  Jews believe that each person, through repentance and good deeds, works out his own personal atonement; Paul, that helpless man requires atonement to be made for him, and that the death of Jesus was this atonement."  (pg. 38)

Page 41 dealt with Jewish missionaries and how missionary activity was "by no means unsuccessful" in the Greek Diaspora.

The Jewish view of sin vs. Paul's view was interesting.  "In the Jewish tradition, man atones and, it is believed, God graciously pardons him. In Paul's view, man cannot atone, but needs to have his nature changed from the bodily to the spiritual."  (pg. 59)

When the author talks about the gospels, he speaks of Matthew and Luke borrowing heavily from Mark yet recasting the stories to suit the emerging needs of the church.  Since Paul seems to abolish the use of the Law, the gospels were written due to "the urgent need for some regulation."  This is why Matthew introduces Jesus' version of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount. 
"The differences between Mark, on the one hand, and Matthew and Luke, on the other, show us  with unmistakable clarity how the problems, doctrines, and needs of the church developed and reached a crystallized expression."  (pg. 143)
"The Gospels do not in reality tell us about Jesus; they tell us about the faith, the problems, and the interests of the church which created them."  (pg. 195)

"In the Jewish tradition there have been many men who have inspired in modern Jews ideals such as self-effacement, nobility, and exaltation, yet neither the Old Testament nor rabbinic literature depicts the ancient worthies - Abraham, Moses, David - as perfect. Not perfection, but goodness, has been the Jewish demand from the individual, a goodness which we Jews have urged upon ourselves as a personal responsibility to be nearly as perfect as possible.  But we Jews have not equated strict perfection and goodness as interchangeable.  If this standard seems deceptively to be lower than Christian perfectionism, we Jews would reply that the standard is not less exacting, but only more humanly tolerable.  In the Jewish view, there have been many great men, but not any perfect man to be exalted above all others."  (pg. 209)

And the conclusion:

"For Jews, the New Testament is not and cannot be a literature sacred to us.  But the sacred literature of others can be enlightening and broadening to us, even giving us fresh perspectives on our own beliefs, if we try to understand sympathetically the profound perplexities and deep aspirations which human beings have been inspired to express, and how the lives of our contemporaries are moved by those ideals and institutions which embody them.
The New Testament, although it is not ours, is closer to us than any other sacred literature which is not our own.  It shares in a legacy which is eternally precious to us. For American Jews it is the Scripture of our neighbors - and, happily, of fellow citizens and friends."  (pg. 321)

The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood -- This short book (fewer than 100 pages) was pretty good. I wish it had been more about 'the butler' and his time in the White House, serving 8 Presidents. The first part is, but much of the end is about the making of the movie by the same title.  That part was just OK.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Books

Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner -- I've had this one for awhile, but never took the time to read it.  Pretty neat book. Two brothers - one left at the altar - travel around the world and record their experiences. I tend to enjoy these types of books and this was no exception.

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man
by Fannie Flagg  -- A fiction book I got at a book exchange. Rather cute and fun and easy for when you want something light to read.

Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller by Gary M. Burge -- I got this last Christmas, and had it in my "to-be-read" pile. I picked it up before Christmas this year and finished it today.  I enjoyed reading this short book and thinking of Jesus' parables in their cultural context.  The author discusses honor and shame in a community and how people would uphold it.  He talked about the story of the lost sheep, coin and son.  He discussed extending grace, and compassion.  I may have to read this one again soon!

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey  -- I saw Rachel Held Evans mention this as one of her favorite books of 2013.  Since it was near Christmas, I added it to my Amazon Wishlist and although it was out of stock when I put it on there, it must have come back in stock 'cause I got it for Christmas.  I received seven new books for Christmas, and decided to read this one first.  It's really not at all like I thought it would be.  Maybe I thought it would be more snarky, have more fightin' words...not sure. But I found a lady who adores Jesus, and His compassion and grace oozes from her words!  I read this book and found encouragement, hope, purpose, love and a desire to serve others more.  I found a lady who didn't yell at all those people trying to keep her (and other women) down, but one who loves anyway. One who seeks to follow Christ, do her part, but allow HIM to right wrongs.  I found a sense of unity that is rare in my divisive world.  What a wonderful book to finish right before a new year.  She leaves me much on which to reflect.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Meme

Some years I don't post this until January, but I've been working on this off and on since November 13, and I have it ready before 2014!

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

went to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't make any that I recall. I decided just the other day (December 26) to keep a gratitude/service journal of sorts.  I want to be less negative in 2014 by focusing on all the good things in life.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?

I wasn't super-close to her, but a blogger friend died in late May. I'd been following her blog for a few years.

5. What countries did you visit?

France and Belgium

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

less negativity, more serving others

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 19/20 -- it was this day that Samer's mom died (it was the 20th in Dubai, but due to the time difference I was online on the afternoon of the 19th when he told me via Gmail chat)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I can't think of any achievement

9. What was your biggest failure?

doing little to make the world better

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I got the stomach virus going around my family (and community) the other week, but thankfully I just vomited once and immediately felt much better, and have had no other problems.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

plane tickets

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Andrew's - he's most always a cheerful, helpful guy

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Syrian regime, Egyptian harassers, the US gov't, mine at times

14. Where did most of your money go?

health insurance

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Have I ever mentioned that I am not a "really, really, really excited about" type of person?  But I really enjoyed our trips (mostly to the NC mountains and beach).

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2013?

the made-up "Zachariah Mordecai-yuh" song that Zach and I sing in my car; the other version is "Zacharooshka Mooshkatooshka Zah kuh roosh kuh....kuh, kuh, kuh"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. Happier or sadder?

ii. same

iii. Thinner of fatter?

iv. fatter

v. richer or poorer?

vi. richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

helping the poor; making a difference

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent it with my inlaws for lunch, and my family in the evening at Mema's apartment.  We played Taboo and Apples to Apples with my family.

21. How many one-night stands?

22. What was your favorite TV program?

The Amazing Race  -- I love seeing other parts of the world, their cultures and the people  -- sometimes I see a place I've actually been (like Vienna in the last season)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


24. What was the best book you read?

This is always a tough one for me because how can I pick the best out of dozens of books?  Among my favorites were

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien

Coming Home to Jerusalem by Wendy Orange

Stolen Years: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls -- I'm not sure why I liked this book so much, but my sister just finished it and said she enjoyed it as well. It's amazing what some kids endure!

Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison  -- This wasn't the most interesting book ever, but I learned quite a lot from this book so I feel it was among my most worthwhile reads of this year.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

26. What did you want and get?

books, memory cards, trips to the mountains and beach, many things!

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Help

28. What did you do on your birthday?

I took Zach and Michael to the local children's museum

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

practical, comfortable

30. What kept you sane?
several short trips just to get away and enjoy nature

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Vladimir Putin, the savior of the world...  nah, kidding.  Ummmmm....I'm not much for celebrities.   *thinks* Grumpy Cat?

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Syria especially when Obama was talking about getting rid of the chemical weapons

33. Who did you miss?  

34. Who was the best new person you met?

David - a Korean guy we met at our hostel in Paris. He spent our first day with us.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

be quick to extend grace and mercy

* kidding! just seeing if you were paying attention!  I find that a silly question. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November Books and Movies

I cannot recall another month where I actually watched more movies than read books, but this month that is exactly what happened!   Well, we went to France and Belgium. I don't read much while traveling by plane, but I did watch three movies on the 9.5 hour flight from Brussels to Atlanta.  They were

The Help

Admission (chosen because it was about 90 minutes)

The Breakfast Club (chosen because it was only 90 minutes)

When I got home I had to catch up on blogs and articles I missed while gone. Plus I was falling asleep around 8 every night and sleeping like the dead until 4:30 in the morning due to jet lag.  And now it's Thanksgiving and I've been doing stuff with pictures since Walgreens has had some free offers lately.  All that to say, I didn't read many books this month.  I only finished two.

Where's the Duck in Peking: Glimpses of China
by Cliff Schimmels - The author went to China to teach for a year and shares experiences of his life there. I really enjoyed these aspects of Chinese life.  A few things I'd heard before, while others were new to me.  For instance he reports of a female student coming to class with nasty bruises on her neck.  He later found out that if the Chinese feel they are getting sick, they will often pinch their necks to help with healing.  He told other stories about names and the three or four different translations for "ma" depending on the tone you used while saying it. I loved the last chapter when he mentioned their leaving China and how 250 students lined up to watch them depart. 

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards -- I found this in a book exchange recently. Pretty interesting book. Fiction. I like that it takes place in an area of upstate New York that a friend of mine lives.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Visiting My Roots

In a souvenir shop

 We went on a short trip to see our friend (well, he's really family), Samer, for a few days.  He told us to meet him in Paris this time, so that's what we did.  The flight was supposed to leave Raleigh and connect in Atlanta, but a maintenance issue prompted me to call the Delta helpline and we got an earlier flight to Paris through Detroit. Nice. I'd never been to Michigan so it was good visiting another state even if it was just the airport.  The flight over took 6.5 hours. I guess we had a good tailwind because even the airline ladies seemed surprised that it was so short.  It wasn't the most comfortable trip for me, however. I desperately wanted to sleep because I knew once we got there at 7 AM local time (1 AM back home), we'd be out and about all day without resting.  Alas, the more I tried to sleep, the less I did.  I resigned myself to just being tired, and I was for the first bit.  I felt like I could crawl up beside Napoleon's grave and just sleep for hours.    Thankfully, once we got outside in the cool (but not cold) air and sunshine, I felt more alert and happy and started feeling more peppy. I was able to make it until around 10 or 11 that night and fell asleep pretty readily!

This photo is from the first day. See how upbeat I look despite not sleeping for hours?

 We had a great visit with Samer. To be honest, Andrew and I aren't big-city type people, and I probably would never choose to go to Paris because it's not a place I've ever dreamed of going.  I am content hiking in the mountains or walking along the beach. That said, I really do enjoy most everywhere I've ever been.  I try to see the good in each place, and enjoy what is there. And Paris had some great sights!  Samer had been there before so he acted as our guide.  Of course.

It was raining a bit when we got to Versailles Palace.
November 5, 2013

 One thing Andrew really wanted to do was go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Samer had not gone all the way to the top. I think it might have been closed last time he was there.  Since Andrew wanted to, we went back to the tower one night. Actually it was the night of our visit to Versailles, and the weather had cleared so the view was great!  We saw for miles and miles. Samer took some great photos (a few of which I shared on Facebook), but here is one of just the three of us that someone offered to take for us.

It was cool up there - especially the two sides where the wind was whipping!

We did other stuff in Paris, but I won't bother with that now.  (Oh, we found the American Hospital where my mom was born.) I knew Paris for 6 days would be (or could be) museum overload for at least one person in our group, so I told Samer we should probably look for another destination.  He chose Belgium. He had never been to this country so it was the first one we'd all visit for the first time together. And it was lovely!  We landed in Brussels, but took a couple day trips to Bruges and Ghent. 

The rain in Brussels added a pretty sheen to the streets.

Bruges had several quiet streets that we enjoyed.

We got home Sunday night (Brussels to Atlanta to RDU - 9.5 hours, but a much more pleasant flight), and I've been trying to get my body back on North Carolina time ever since. It's 9 PM and I am ready for sleep now. I got up around 5:15 so I am tired.