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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

First Quarter of 2012, Vacation, March Books

This month started with me and Andrew in Germany. Actually we traveled to Austria on the first, but we were in southern Germany until the morning of March 7. You'd think with all the time we had in the air (over ten hours just from Munich to Atlanta and then a short flight to Raleigh), I would have read lots. But I didn't read AT ALL. In fact, I only read a few pages the whole time we were gone and that was on the flight to Munich.  I did do something I rarely do. Watched a couple movies!  Andrew saw where Puss in Boots was offered on our little plane TVs and he wanted me to see it. He and Michael had watched it twice and he wanted me to enjoy it as well. So I watched it - and then another movie.  I watched Napoleon Dynamite on the way to Germany.  Fun times. 

So anyway, I got home from Germany and had to catch up on reading blog posts I'd missed from all my favorite bloggers. I also had to unpack, do laundry, visit my nephews (and kiss them!), divvy out souvenirs I'd bought for the family, get used to the six-hour time difference again...in other words, I didn't read much when we first got home.  And when I did get back into a reading mood, I was interested in books on World War II and Germany. Go figure.  Samer finally got me interested in something besides reading about Islam, Muslims and Arabs!

Can you believe three months of 2012 are now over?  I hope you've had a wonderful first quarter of the year!  Did anything exciting happen so far? We went to Germany (Nuremberg, W├╝rzburg, Bamberg, Munich), Austria (Salzburg, St. Gilgen, Mondsee) and the Czech Republic (Prague).  A fantastic trip.  Could not have asked for better weather or a more incredible host!!  Also we went last weekend to Myrtle Beach with Michael.  Two great trips!

In other news, Michael turned 10 (which I noted in February) and Zach will soon be a year. 

On to those books now ...

March Books

The Nazi Officer's Wife
by Edith Hahn Beer -- an interesting tale of how a Jewish woman survived the Holocaust by reinventing herself as "a proper German woman";  the Nazis were really good to THEIR women: they wanted them to breed many more pure Aryans so they treated them well (if you like being treated as good breeding material, I guess.)  good book to read after coming home from Germany

The Great Starvation Experiment by Todd Tucker  -- I really enjoyed this book much more than expected!  So interesting!

"In 1974, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of America estimated that about 70 percent of approved drugs had at some point been tested on prisoners.  With each disclosure, the public became less trusting of science and scientists. ... While the doctors maintained that their research was both necessary and ethical, the public couldn't help but notice that the test subjects almost always seemed to be among society's most vulnerable, like poor southern blacks, retarded children, the elderly, and the incarcerated." (pg. 197)

A few conclusions from the Great Starvation Experiment -- Keys noted that it "more closely duplicated anorexia than it did wartime starvation, in that conditions other than food intake, such as cleanliness and accessibility of medical care, were 'normal.'"  Plus there were no bombs flying over their heads like in war zones!   Also in terms of starvation "women seemed more durable than men" - this "data came from across the globe and was remarkably consistent."  Keys would later say this was the most significant finding of the study:  "The human body was very, very tough."  "Keys concluded that the human body was supremely well equipped to deal with starvation."  The mind, it seemed "surrendered first" yet still most of the men who started the experiment came out stronger than ever.  All went on to receive college degrees; among them they became college professors, school teachers, a college dean, an ambassador ...  (from pgs. 182 and 192)

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman -- If you like World War II stories, animals and learning a bit about life in occupied Warsaw, you should read this book. I appreciated learning about the animals and even the Nazi appreciation for some (did you realize they were trying to reestablish extinct animals that were native of their region?).  This book has some humor, lots of bravery and interesting facts about Poland.  I appreciate the many brave Polish people who helped others.  Oh yeah, the zookeepers in this book hid Jews at the zoo. 

Ridiculous Packaging by Karen Favreau -- I saw this 142-page book in the biography section of my local library. I saw the author had briefly worked in the local library system and thought the other title of the book - Or, my long, strange journey from atheist to Episcopalian, in two acts - made it seem a bit more interesting. Especially since I read a book earlier this year about an Episcopalian who basically lost her faith. Weird how that works. So I read this while we were at the beach, made a mental note to google the author (to see if I recognized her) and found out she's dead!  Died of ovarian cancer in July 2010 at the age of 41.  (The book was published in 2005.)  In the book, she told how she'd grown up Catholic in Massachusetts and later abandoned her faith. She lived a pretty hard life during her college years, and later - gradually - came back to faith while living in North Carolina of all places. She went to UNC-Greensboro, worked briefly in my county (which is why I decided to see if I recognized her) and for a longer time with the neighboring public library system.  I enjoyed her book and am sorry to read that she is now dead.  (By the way, I did recognize her.)

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder -- the story of Deo, a Tutsi from Burundi, as he flees genocide in his country, arrives in New York City with $200 and speaking no English.  Quite an inspiring book. I enjoyed reading about Deo's first days and months in the United States and what obstacle he encountered.  It made me more and more want to look out for strangers in my midst, especially ones who need friends and help.  May my eyes be open to those in need like Deo.  I am amazed by those willing to help - thank God for caring hearts.

What They Didn't Teach You About World War II by Mike Wright -- I found this at the library and really enjoyed many fascinating stories about WWII. The author covered such things as rationing, the role of women, the Holocaust, the treatment of POWs, the first nuclear test, submarines, weapons, censorship and much much more. I had fun sharing some of these things on Facebook as "any guesses" questions and trivia.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Germany doesn't want me to forget her

I went out to run errands for only a couple hours today, yet many things jumped out to make me remember our trip to Germany.

First I went by the Post Office. Nothing there except I mailed a letter to Germany.  One dollar five cents now. 

Next was the library, the first book that caught my attention was by Stephanie Deutsch.  I ended up getting two books on the Germany shelf instead. Well, they were on the shelf concerning World World II so ... Germany, right?*

I went by ALDI, a German company, to stock up on carrots and broccoli and a few other things.

Then at Walmart, I walked by the entertainment section, glanced up and "von Kaiser" was on a video screen.

Then, I was in the baby department (looking at diapers for Zach) when I heard a clip of "My Favorite Things" playing from a nearby music stand!


As I noted on Facebook

Thanks to Germany and the 6 hour time difference, I think I am ready for Daylight Savings Time's loss of sleep for the first time ever. I've been awake before 5:30 the last three mornings - perfect!

I've only added a few pictures here, but if you want to see a few things from Germany, Prague or Salzburg, feel free to look.  You can even see my little German children, Uwe and Verena.  By the way, how would you pronounce their names? Uwe especially looks funny to me.  :)

I need to mow the yard. First time this year. Welcome Spring!

*  I haven't read any books so far this month, and I'm not really in the mood to do so.  Been trying to catch up on blogs and newspapers and Facebook stuff.

Friday, March 9, 2012

February Books

The day after Michael turned ten, Andrew and I left for Germany.  I didn't bother posting my February book list there.  Hope you all are well and maybe enjoying some warmer weather by now!  For sure it was much warmer here when we returned than our days in Europe. 

Breaking Up With God
by Sarah Sentilles - "A love story" of how a lady seeking to be a priest ends up leaving God altogether when she realizes the God she wants to worship is nothing like the God in most church people's minds.  I could relate to a few things in this book, but overall not much.  I did think some of my online friends would relate to her struggle more. 

"The desert sky was filled with vultures circling. They eat what we leave behind. I imagined they found the remnants of my faith and carried it high. When I die, I would like to be reduced to bone by them. The closest we can get to resurrection is this: borrowed flight on black wings."  (pg. 179)

Inheriting Syria by Flynt Leverett -- this book talks about some of Syria's history with the Assad family; I saw that Bridget read it and put it on my Amazon wishlist. It gave me a better understanding of Syria. I would love to see it updated to include what is happening there now and even in the second term of GWB.

God Is Red by Vine Deloria, Jr  -- see previous posts

"The past history of the West is eloquent testimony to the fact that a universal religion crossing ethnic lines does not lessen wars; it tends to increase them until one particular ethnic group comes to dominate the religious beliefs of the whole group with its own cultural values."  (pg.  293)

"We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth as 'wild.' Only to the white men was nature a 'wilderness' and only to him was the land 'infested' with 'wild' animals and 'savage' people. To us it was tame.  Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.  Not until the hairy man from the east came and with brutal frenzy heaped injustices upon us and the families that we loved was it 'wild' for us.  When the very animals of the forest began fleeing from his approach, then it was that for us the 'Wild West' began."  (pg. 90 - quoting Chief Luther Standing Bear)

The Good Women of China by Xinran -- In January I read a library book by this author about Chinese women who have given up children for adoption. This book is the author's first, and I found it at another local library.  Xinran tells the story of various women in China.  I am struck with how awful the lives of many women are in this world - incredibly sad!  Really interesting book if you like cultural tidbits and learning about women from other parts of the world. 

No Tears For Mao by Niu-Niu -- the story of a girl who grew up during the Cultural Revolution; see previous post

I enjoyed much of this book, but the ending wasn't my favorite.  It was quite interesting learning about Niu-Niu's childhood as she was separated from all her family except her grandmother. She talked about how she was treated as a child of "criminals" and about the loyal devotion of one friend in particular.  She shared of her camaraderie with gang members and how she stole due to her hunger. I vowed if I ever owned a restaurant that I would look around for children who looked hungry and give them food.  During a famine in south China, she told of the peasants moving into the city begging for food. They ate leaves and tree bark and in the city, rats and the paste used for propaganda posters.  One cultural aspect of when Niu-Niu traveled during college to Tibet was eye-opening. All the married men came to a big field, made loud noises to attract their wives who then laughed as they found their husbands. The men then dropped their pants, the wives took off their clothes and while everyone watched, they all made love.  Without television and movies, apparently this was their village's entertainment. Niu-Niu was shocked as Chinese people are often discreet about such private things.  Shoot, I would be shocked and I live in the USA where these things are shown on television every night.

Sky Burial by Blake Kerr -- After finishing medical school, the author and his lawyer friend go to Tibet to climb the mountain.  While there, they witness the Chinese government's mistreatment of the Tibetans, do some reporting on it and get to meet the Dalai Lama among other things.

Tell Them I Didn't Cry by Jackie Spinner -- Washington Post reporter shares about her ten months in Iraq; I enjoyed the stories of friendships made and cultural aspects, life with the Iraqi and American staff. 

"Americans do not seem as interested in facts as they are in the filtered news that reaffirms their beliefs or what their favorite pundits are repeating. In the face of hard evidence, if the evidence does not fit their politics, they will challenge the message and the messenger. I had no message to deliver from Iraq except what I saw, what I had experienced, and what I heard.  But for some of our readers, depending on the story of the day, I was either for or against the war, for or against the occupation, for or against our soldiers."  (pg. 172)

It's funny how so many of us don't want our views challenged by evidence (or whatever) because we are so adamant that what we believe is right and there is nothing left to learn from another perspective!

God's Guest List by Debbie Macomber -- this is a book I found on the new books shelf and I read it all in one afternoon. The author speaks of "welcoming those who influence our lives" and urges us to be attentive to the ones God brings into our lives whether they are parents, children, extended family, coworkers, strangers and so forth. She urges us to make positive impacts on others.