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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

December Books

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth -- I had too many scattery notes so I posted them already

Jesus Freak: Feeding -- Healing -- Raising the Dead by Sara Miles -- a lovely book. I was touched by many things she wrote though I disagreed with a few things. Still, stuff like this makes me smile:

"Sure, it's impossible to feed five thousand people, make a deaf man hear, bring a dead girl to life, as long as you obey human rules.  So do it God's way instead, Jesus teaches. Say yes.  Jump right in. Come and see.  Embrace the wrong people. Don't idolize religion. Have mercy. Jesus' tips cast a light forward, steering us through the dark."  (pg. 3)

Beyond the Blue by Leslie Gould -- a story about international adoption and a family in Vietnam and another family in Oregon

Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day -- I saw this in the new books section and thought I'd give it a try even though I wasn't familiar with the author.  I rather liked it.  It's a story about Juliet, ten years after her high-school graduation, still in the same small town, working at a one-star motel, and her former best friend showing up at her workplace - and finding Maddy hanged the next morning right there on the hotel railing.  It's a mystery to be solved. 

Prints Charming by Rebeca Seitz -- a light-reading book about friendship, scrapbooking, and finding true love just across the breezeway

A Night to Remember by Walter Lord -- not a light-reading book; an account of the night the Titanic hit an iceberg and sunk

How Sweet the Sound by Amy Sorrells -- a "coming-of-age tale, inspired by the story of Tamar," this book tells about life mostly from 13 year old Anniston's point of view.  It discusses family secrets and how they haunt people. 

Death of a Dunwoody Matron by Patricia Sprinkle -- "a Southern mystery" which I really liked for the most part.  I like the main character's sense of humor, and this story about who killed off doll-like Yvonne - and why? 

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day -- when Amelia Emmet returns to teaching after being shot by a college student, she gets a graduate assistant who is intrigued by her story, who wants to solve the mystery of why this student shot a teacher prior to killing himself. 

The Secret's in the Sauce by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson -- the first in The Potluck Catering Club series. It's not a new series, and I'd previously skipped over it at the library, but I was in the mood for some light reading.  This is the story of six women who start a catering service. Each chapter is written or told by one of the members. It was decent so I got the other two books at the library yesterday. Might as well.

A Taste of Fame by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson -- book two in the series mentioned above; this time the ladies compete in a national reality show: catering for events in New York City

Bake Until Golden by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson  -- the ladies are back home from New York, and when a murder occurs in their town, one of them is the prime suspect

Trouble the Water by Nicole Seitz -- a pretty good book to read while I was sitting on the beach listening to the waves during this super-mild December; partly because the title has "water" in it, and also because it takes place along the coast of South Carolina.  This is the story of Honor and her showing up at the home of Duchess, and how their lives intermingle. It's also the story of Alice reading her baby sister's story through letters as Honor wastes away from an aggressive form of cancer.

Did You Declare the Corpse? by Patricia Sprinkle -- When MacLaren goes on a trip to Scotland to explore her genealogical roots, she got more than she bargained for when two people - one from her group - wind up murdered.  I enjoyed learning a bit about Scotland's history and scenery from this book.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold -- I got this at a book exchange awhile back. It's about a girl who was murdered by a neighbor who lured her into his secret hole in the ground.  All that was ever found of her body was an elbow.  And the story is told by Susie as she watches from her heaven. It's a bit weird.

Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman -- "One man's journey to peace and freedom on the Appalachian Trail" ; I like AT stories quite a lot.  Andrew and I have hiked very small parts of areas mentioned in the book so it's always fun to think of those places when you hear authors mention them.  This book had a lot more God talk than other AT books.  We actually heard of this book from a lady in Damascus, Virginia, back in May when she was greeting thru-hikers with trail magic (e.g. candy bars) as they came into the town.  I got the book off my wishlist for Christmas and finished it quickly so it would be my last finished book of the year!

Happy 2016, folks!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Books

Merry Christmas!

I wanted to post the books I received for Christmas this year. Some are from my Amazon Wishlist while others were chosen for me.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Nordic People

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth -- I heard about this book while reading the comments of one of Bridget's blog posts, and decided it might be worth checking out.  Thankfully my library had it, and I finally remembered to look for it. It was good!  Well, I tend to enjoy learning about other countries and cultures, and this was one region I'd not read too much about.  Sure, I see these Nordic countries often mentioned in the news.  The Danes are so happy and people leave their babies outside in their buggies while the parents eat inside!  And no one steals them!   The Norwegians are so rich!  The Swedes so welcoming of immigrants!  Bridget has piqued my interest in Finland since her family moved there a few months ago.  Iceland, well, they just have ice there, right?  I swear I woke up Andrew when we went over Iceland one year because I was able to see it down below from our plane. Is that possible or did I dream that?  I was so excited. He was so...not excited that I woke him from a nap.  Planes are tough for us to sleep on!

I learned so many neat tidbits from this book.   Like the Danes are super-trusting and trustworthy. If you try leaving wallets behind for an experiment on how many of the wallets will be returned intact, you will be run down by Danes AS YOU "DROP" THEM so the experiment is tough to do.  Also, lawyers aren't needed as much due to this trustworthiness.  Agree on something and shake on it.

I was surprised to learn that Danes have high cancer rates and poor health (pg. 34).  I think they smoke and drink a lot.

According to this author:

90% of Danes have approximately the same standard of living (pg. 30)

pig farming and pork butchering is big there (pg. 26)

Danes are sociable and outgoing; and they love community choirs and joining clubs (pg. 38)

They have a really high tax rate, but get a lot of "free" stuff from it.  Also, more than half of Danes have public jobs or are on the dole (pg. 57, 60)

They love their flag and will hoist that thing even to celebrate birthdays.  (pg. 96)

A few bits about Icelanders. More of them believe in elves than believe in God. (pg. 136)

I guess I didn't note much about them. Sorry, Icelanders.

Norway -- lovely scenery, rich because of oil; somewhat lazier, but with plenty of public money due to oil, even the outer places of the country have good infrastructure and are inhabited (not everyone lives in the major cities)

Swedes peel bananas in Norway because some jobs are too lowly for people rich with oil wealth (pg. 183)

Finland -- they like sitting naked in the sauna in silence - DO NOT TALK TO THEM THERE!
low verbosity; they like being alone (pg. 220+)

alcohol makes Finns aggressive (pg. 239)

Swedish people were told to describe their compatriots.  "The top adjectives they chose, in descending order of relevance, were: envious, stiff, industrious, nature-loving, quiet, honest, dishonest, and xenophobic.   The bottom three (out of thirty) characteristics, i.e., those least exhibited by the Swedes were: masculine, sexy, and artistic."  (pg. 285)

Something mentioned about many of the countries, if not all....a lot of the people just don't like talking to strangers.  The author tried engaging them in conversation and in some countries it was just horrible to the natives.  The author mentioned Nordic people not having to talk to fellow countrymen because they were so much alike, they already knew what the other was thinking!  He termed it a "high-context society."   Weird and a bit boring if you ask me.    (pg. 286)

He mentioned Swedish rudeness - barging on trains (I must admit that this surprised me!), their totalitarianism, individualism, modernism (no church for us, thanks...too traditional), feminism (don't you dare open a door for a lady, you freak!), independence (from family, not the state)  (pgs. 327-335)

Monday, November 30, 2015

November Books

Nora, Nora by Anne Rivers Siddons -- this book follows the life for a preteen, and the months her mom's cousin visits and stirs things up in little ol' Lytton, Georgia

Wearing God by Lauren F. Winner -- the chapter on God as a laboring woman was especially powerful and touching

"Smells are almost always, ... described by 'simile, metaphor, or metonym.' As is God...I devote hours each week - in the classroom, in the pulpit, at my computer - to the task of putting words to my experience, and the church's experience, of God. The whole archive of Judaism and Christianity represents forays into such description. All of these images for God, from vine to shepherd to rock, are attempts to say something about God and how we meet and are met by God. Sometimes the words seem apt. And sometimes they seem as limited and useless as my efforts to describe the smell of a cinnamon bun." -- pg. 73

"When read through a biblical scrim, laughing during a political protest seems to do something even greater than what sociologists and humorologists enumerate.  Laughter indeed relieves stress and forges bonds. But it is also a sign of defiance, a sign that the ruler who rules unjustly is not ultimately in control. Because it is hard to laugh when you are terrified or furious, laughter fosters (and proclaims) confidence. If those who laugh now will weep later, and those who weep now will laugh later, then saying that God laughs and provokes laughter is synonymous with saying that God overturns the hierarchies of the world.  That overturning will make you laugh or cry, depending on where you sit."  (pg. 192) 

The House on Mermaid Point by Wendy Wax -- in this book, we spend time once again with Madeline, Nicole, Avery, Deirdre, Kyra, and Dustin (whom I met in a previous book) as they are boated to a private island in south Florida.  There they face odds with humor and hard work to renovate the property of a former celebrity.

Grandma Gatewood's Walk -- by Ben Montgomery -- a biography of the 67 year old grandmother who hiked the Appalachian Trial; what a neat lady!

A Promise Kept by Robin Lee Hatcher -- the story of Allison - who thought she heard God's promise to save her marriage -- and about her new life in the mountains of Idaho;  a good reminder to pray without ceasing, and to remember God works in realms we don't always see

The Perfect Life by Robin Lee Hatcher -- what happens when your perfect life gets turned upside down when someone accuses your high-profile husband of adultery on a news station?  It's a false accusation (right?), but it still casts doubt on your family. Why, God, do you allow such things?

The Promise by Beth Wiseman -- Mallory always wanted to save someone's life, and when the opportunity to travel to Pakistan, marry a man "in name only" in order to expedite his request to come to the United States so his daughter can be treated for leukemia is presented, she travels there. And finds many things aren't what she was lead to believe.  It was chilling to note that some of this story - more than I wanted to be true - was based on actual events. Yikes.

Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra -- my mom read this biography a couple of months ago, and it must have really touched her because she mentioned it several times. I finally remembered to get it at the library, and wow, I understand how it made such a strong impression.  Why God gives some people children is beyond me.

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok -- when we meet Charlie in this book, she is working as a dishwasher in the restaurant where her father makes his delicious noodles. When the opportunity arises for Charlie to work as a receptionist at a dance studio, her world changes. At least when she's not at home where her father holds to the traditional ways.  Good book!

Ribbon of Years by Robin Lee Hatcher -- the life of Miriam as told by friends and people she'd impacted over the years. I don't know that I would have kept such a good attitude if I'd dealt with the issues she faced!

Blessed Vows by Jillian Hart -- awhile back I got this two novels in one book at a book exchange, and I slowly read through the two stories. They were not that good, but thankfully the book is now finished and I can leave it for someone who might appreciate the tales.

Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck -- This book goes from Elle getting engaged, being asked to relocate by her fiancé, their breaking up, and her meeting a New York lawyer renting her cottage for a few months.  There's more stuff in there, of course, but that's a bit of it.

It Had to Be You by Susan May Warren -- another story involving the Christiansen family. This time focusing on Eden, and her coming out of the shadows and finding her place in the world.

Whenever You Come Around by Robin Lee Hatcher -- when her parents travel to Europe for a three-month trip of a lifetime, Charity comes back home to live at their house while her residence in Boise is renovated.  After her dog causes an accident (broken wrist and ankle), she feels obliged to help her neighbor Buck for a few weeks. 

God's Gift by Dee Henderson -- an OK story about a market manager, Rae, and her friendship with James, Lace, and David

When Love Blooms by Robin Lee Hatcher -- the story of a marriage of convenience, a young governess, and a dying wife.  Takes place in Idaho. A fairly good if not predictable story.

Child of the Jungle by Sabine Kuegler -- "the true story of a girl caught between two worlds" ; my mom read this biography about a German family who lived in West Papua among the Fayu tribe, and she thought I'd like it. I took it with me to the beach this weekend, and read it within a day.  I like reading stories about other cultures, and this was rather interesting to me.

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller -- a story about the author growing up with hoarding parents: a father who liked to collect things, and a mother who shopped too much (QVC, online shopping) and the awful, awful messy houses they lived in and how her upbringing affected her life.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Several Days in November

1 -- to CiCi's' with the family to celebrate my dad's birthday; Daylight Savings Time ends

2 -- what a dark, dreary day!  The rain didn't help!

3 -- Zach is 4 and a half

4 -- woke up to the news that former Congressman Howard Coble died -- I used to really enjoy and be involved in politics, and he was someone I met a few times over the years

also, today my Aunt Bett would be 80....she died in her fifties from pancreatic cancer; she was Mema's baby sister so they celebrated Bett's birthday together in heaven

two years ago today Andrew and I were in Paris; we met David from Seoul there (I heard from him recently on Facebook, and he's still in the military; hoping to get out early next year)

5 -- played with Sophie and Zach

sat outside and enjoyed the evening - finally had blue skies for the first time all week!

6 -- new blocks at the children's museum

7 -- Fun with Zach at my house

10 -- THE SUN CAME OUT!  Zach, Bagel, and I went to Purple Penguin for frozen yogurt, and then enjoyed a few minutes at a local church before going to my house, and then for a visit with Steph and Michael

"You know who fell off a wall, don't you?"

He thought the ones in front of the pews were foot rests

12 -- enjoyed the blue skies and sunshine!

13 -- Sophie came for a visit

13 -- terrorist attack in Paris

photo from our visit in November 2013

17 -- to the children's museum with Zach

Leaf Art

he sounded out "by" all by himself :)

I heard him saying his phone # to Emma; they got along well

having fun with Leah

18 -- to Tanger and Walmart with Zach

He insisted that he needed a stocking

19 -- to Steph's house

he loved decorating these trees

20 --  to Gibsonville's Lighting of the Greens

but first, we must sit and watch the sunset (his idea)


waiting to ride the train

Zach refused to look at me and smile

22 -- Zach wanted a small Christmas tree for his house

Trust me, he decorated it beautifully

23 --  to the Bounce Around place at the local mall - first time going

Not sure what the rest of November will hold, but Thursday is Thanksgiving so there is that!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Yes, I'm talking about the weather

Although we had some dry spells earlier this year, here lately it seems it has rained quite a bit. Maybe it's because the rain comes, and then maybe it ends, but the clouds linger for days.

I love the sun.  Love it.  I appreciate the occasional rainy day or gray day, and I truly don't want to ever take water from the sky for granted when water is so, so useful and needed, but I can't help how I feel.

I love the sun.

So these long stretches of rainy and/or gray days are...well, one of my favorite local* weather guys put it nicely.

"I'd be lying if I didn't admit this weather is getting on my nerves."  -- November 2 with a graphic of the seven-day weather forecast which included lots of gray/wet periods

 Also, he included these charming gems on Facebook this week:

"I don't want a rainy weekend any more than you do.
Alas, we're stuck with another lousy Saturday." -- 1 hr. ago

"We may live in Seattle now. Working to confirm." -- 16 hrs. ago

"¯\_(ツ)_/¯ <----------->How I feel about forecasting clouds this week --  17 hrs. ago

"TODAY: We're stuck with clouds and occasional drizzle. A few showers possible as well. Chilly. It will not be a nice day."   -- November 3

He always has informative weather graphics or photos to go along with his commentary.  Bonus: he also often includes lovely pictures he takes when he goes on day trips around the state, or when he vacations at the beach, in New York, and most recently in the San Francisco area.

I didn't mean to get into all that, but I wanted to share a couple of pictures from the one day this week when I actually saw blue skies for about half a day. Seriously...it's been that gray (although we didn't have significant rain fall all those days, and I was able to walk and read outside...hooray!)

Behold, Thursday, November 5, 2015, around 4:30 PM.  I actually love how the sun's rays brighten the leaves on these trees.

This is a view out my back door.  Although I have a perfectly good electric dryer, I like hanging out clothes so I do that most of the time. Thus the clothesline.

I decided to walk outside for a closer view

muscadine vines

I am very thankful that Halloween weekend (last Friday and Saturday) were nice because we truly had a great time outdoors with the kids those days.  And then Sunday when it was all over, the rain came.

* local meaning he works at a local station; Tim is from upstate New York

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


A week or so before Halloween, I started reading some of the Halloween Happenings mentioned in the local paper and around town.  I saw one for the City of Burlington that took place the afternoon of October 30 that sounded like something Zach might enjoy:  Downtown Spooktacular.

This is the city's picture. See me and Zach?

The costumed children and their guardians lined up at the municipal building for the half hour before three, and then had a costume parade down a couple of streets to the depot where they had a costume contest (we skipped this) and the children could trick or treat for the next hour and a half (3:30 to 5:00).  Participating businesses were marked on a map, and usually business workers were on the sidewalks outside their businesses ready to greet the children. The library invited children inside where they had a few games set up for kids to win candy. 

On our way to meet the other parade participants

Zach liked the idea of a costume parade, but wasn't sure what participating in a "parade" involved.  We talked about it on the way over, and I assured him I'd be right there beside him or nearby because I had to take pictures, of course!

Once we parked, and started walking towards the municipal building, I gave further instructions.

"Oh, you march through the streets..." I began.

"Like a marching band?" he interrupted.

"Yeah, kind of."

He stomped down the sidewalk: "Like this."


"Well, you can walk regular if you prefer."  (my friend Emily said on Facebook:  "Oh. Captain America doesn't just walk 'regular.'")

He gathered with the other parade participants, and had a blast!  He played with some kids while we were waiting for the parade to begin.

ready to go!

As we were walking I noticed a few people had gathered to watch along the way. I quickly instructed Zach that our job was to wave and smile at them.  

 He took the job of waving to those on the sidelines to heart!  At one point, he put up his Captain America shield in an especially CA-pride way, and the ladies "awww"-ed at how cute he was.  Some of them were filming the parade.

still waving

Once we arrived at the depot, we traveled many streets getting bits of candy, and a small bottle of water, popcorn, and a balloon along the way.  My dad arrived with a boy he'd been working with, and Zach enjoyed having J tag along.  

Captain America taking a short break

That night we went to the City of Graham's trunk or treat which the Graham police department and local businesses hosted.  They had hot dogs for everyone, and trunks full of candy.  It was very well attended so I'm not sure we will brave the line again next year, but it was fun to see everyone.  

Andrew, Michael, and Zach

Kids passing the time, playing
Yes, that is Zach on the ground

Michael came with us, and wore his horse head most of the time - to the delight of many people. He got so many stares and comments.  One little princess  was especially enamored with him.  She kept talking to him, and once I think she asked for a ride!  She had a slightly-horrified look on her face later when Michael decided to take the horse head off, and was holding it in his hands!

On Saturday, we did something more low-key. I noticed signs in downtown Graham about the First United Methodist Church hosting a small event outside their building. They had the road blocked off, and had games for the children, a "truck bounce castle" as Zach put it, and trunks of treats for the children.  We wanted to include Sophie (18 months old) in something, and thought this would be much easier than going from house to house. (We did this with Zach at 18 months, and he wanted to just run the sidewalks!)  Zach loved the bouncy truck, and did that for about an hour.  It was seriously better for him than getting a lot of candy, anyway.  And Sophie enjoyed strolling around for candy, and then later being freed from her stroller to explore a bit.

We met at Walgreens

He really wanted his face "painted"

He wanted to be a dog

fishing for treats