Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Changing Wine to Water: a shameless plug

"What happened to the blog?" is a question I've gotten from a few people lately.  Yesterday, Theresa left me a comment which has prompted me to tell you about this most recent thing occupying my time.
You can read the details here, or buy tickets or donate here.

If you live in the US, I'm sure you've heard about the Flint Water Crisis.  The immediate response of many charitable organizations has been to give bottled water and water filters to the residents of Flint.  In fact, we did that.....during January & February, our church coordinated the delivery of about $5,000 of water.  But the reality is this:  Bottled water is a short term solution to a devastating, long term problem.

The caustic water that was flowing through the pipes of older buildings has caused permanent damage to the plumbing.  Now, if you are planning on re-plumbing an older building, it is likely that asbestos remediation is going to be needed...... and if you are talking about a building like a church, or a church related school, there is not likely to be much public funding to get this done...
You see where this is going....on...and on...and on....

One of the churches that we have been working with since before the water crisis is in a blighted neighborhood and provides much needed community service to the residents who often do not have transportation.....they do things like this.  So this Food Bank, Clothing Bank, and Outreach Center is being run from a church that just celebrated its 100th anniversary (in other words, not a new building)

The other recipient of this charity event is a Lutheran school in Flint which has been operating with bottled water this school year.  Bottled water: for drinking, in the cafeteria, for washing hands, washing dishes.....in a first world country.

And the third recipient for our fund raiser is The Flint Child Health & Development Fund which has been covered nationally (or you can read about it at the link).

So...somehow, I became the event coordinator for this fund raiser.  It's not the sort of thing that I consider to be within my skill set, but the idea needed to be realized.
Fortunately, many people.....people who know what they are doing  and are enthusiastic, have stepped up and volunteered to help, otherwise I would be floundering.   If you would like to be part of this "reverse miracle" I'll give you the link again....click here

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


I promised books, then I disappeared!  But I'm back and here are the books I've been reading.

First I'll cover recent releases that I've read and liked:

The Children Act by Ian McEwan is a look into the life of Fiona Maye, a leading High Court Judge who presides in the family court.  She has a  number of well known decisions in her resume' including a difficult case dealing with the separation of conjoined twins.  At age 58 she has achieved great professional standing which has come at significant personal cost.  Her thirty year marriage is in crisis, and her childlessness is a lingering regret.
In the midst of this she is determining a case of a 17 year old boy, Adam Henry, months from the age of majority, whose family is refusing life saving treatment for religious reasons.  Fiona takes the unusual measure of suspending court proceedings to travel to the hospital and meet Adam to determine if the refusal of treatment is Adam's own wish or if he is being prevailed upon by his parents and religious community.
The book is a relatively quick read, but the brevity belies the complexity of the story and the lives depicted therein.  Kudo's to McEwan on this one.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.  Okay..this is a war novel so not a sunny story.  But the writing, character development, and story telling are so well done that this book is my current favorite of 2015.  It opens at the end of 2004 in a small war torn Chechen village with 8 year old Haava whose home has just been fire bombed by Russian forces, killing her father who is her only surviving relative.  Her father's friend and neighbor, Akhmed, covertly takes her to the remains of a hospital in the neighboring town with the hopes that she will be concealed and cared for by a female doctor that he has heard of, Sonja.

The Chechen wars (2) covered in the novel take place from 1994 through 2004, but the author has a talent for telescoping time to give the reader an over view of the history from hundreds of years ago, through the Stalin era, and the recent decade of war.  In various parts of the story, he extends the view into the future of some of the characters to bring the story to the present day.

The three main characters, Haava, Akhmed, and Sonja are beautifully drawn and they are connected through the story by many different threads.  Some scenes in the book are written unflinchingly, while others show the art of dark humor.  Though the novel informs the reader about a long history, the actual story arc takes place over less than 5 days.  This debut novel reveals to us an author with a rare level of talent for story telling.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a book I really didn't want to read because it is the last of the author's work and the thought of no more new Kent Haruf books waiting to be read was just too sad.  He passed away in Nov. 2014 and this book was released posthumously.  Like  The Children Act, this is a short, dense book.  The author once again brings us to Holt, Co. where widower, Louis Waters, is visited by a neighboring widow, Addie Moore, with a suggestion.  Both characters are in late life, both are lonely, and both have lived under the microscope of a small town.

I cannot think of a single author who is more generous to his characters than Kent Haruf, and he continues that in this book.  The story is poignant and yet very real.  And for long time Haruf fans, characters and places from his previous novels make cameo appearances.  It's the kind of book you close with a sigh of satisfaction and yet a longing for more. 

Anne Enright's The Green Road is long  listed for this year's Booker Prize.  The story takes place on the west coast of Ireland and is really a story about a matriarch, Rosaleen Madigan, and her four children.  In the first half of the book, we are given brief back stories on each of the 4 children who have scattered from the family home as fars as the U.S. and Africa.  Starting with Hannah, the youngest, the reader gets the first glimpse of Rosaleen. She has taken to her bed in protest of Dan's (oldest son's) announcement that he is joining the priesthood.  We are given to conclude that this isn't the first time she's done so as it is named her "horizontal solution".

The second half of the book deals with a Christmas homecoming that Rosaleen has called, inviting all four children home.  It is telling that the homecoming does not include the significant others of the children, except for the oldest daughter, Constance, who true to her name has become Rosaleen's care taker.

In summary, it is a well written dysfunctional Irish family story.  Enright creates her characters in the circle of a harsh spotlight: all beauty marks and flaws are on display.

Well....this appears to be long enough for now.  So not only am I starting with new releases, I will also end there for now.  Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Distractions

Sorry for the silence. Let's just say there hasn't been any grass growing under my feet, wild flowers maybe but not grass:
Mock sunflower

Wild Iris

Ladies Slippers.  

I call this particular location "Imelda's Closet" for Imelda Marcos.

All of the above from here:
Creating:  The thing that I have been best at creating this summer is havoc.  No pictures of that today.
There has been spinning....much of it spindle spinning which works nicely in the above location.  My Jenkin's turkish spindles have been happily producing little yarn turtles.
Not much weaving and knitting has been peripatetic at best.

Reading....Do I have a book list for you!!  That will have to wait for a later post.  Currently my reading is happily ensconced in the Middle Ages.....nonfiction, ancient writing, and fiction.  Barbara Tuchman's A Distant MirrorThe Icelandic Sagas (these are a total and happy surprise), The Nibelungenleid, and Kristin Lavransdatter.  Not to worry, that is my personal obsession right now.  I do have some more contemporary titles to share with you, later.....