Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Time to Review....

It's that time of year when I let you know how I did on my New Year's Resolutions for 2015...
and here is something that is very important for you to understand before we start that even if I do not totally achieve a specific Resolution, I do not in any way consider it a failure.

There is learning in the journey, not just in reaching the destination, and sometimes the errors and mistakes and missteps teach you more than the easy achievement.

I consider my life one that is always in progress.  I always want to learn, push myself and just keep trying.

Since I made these a year ago, here is a recap if you want to read it...  2015 Resolutions

#1.  Celebrate more...

       This started out good and well intentioned.  I joined an art group that I now can not imagine not being a part of.  I found my rowing club.  I attended things that I probably would not of attended, but then it sort of twisted on me...
       Sometimes you need to say no...  Saying yes when you are overbooked and overwhelmed is not a good thing.  This resolution reminded me once again that BALANCE is the key to life.  Saying yes to things that enrich and bring joy to your life is a very good thing, but don't say yes because you feel you should.

#2.  Exercise with the intention of Love, not Fear.

       I maintained my weight this year, and if you are reading this blog and are in my life, you know that there have been some major upheavals, grief, accident for another family member, and health issues this year.  I listened to my body and some activities that I used to do, I no longer do and some activities that I had never done before are now joys in my life.  I am not perfect with this, but I do feel there has been a MAJOR shift in my thinking.

#3.  Twice a month get my camera out.

      Total hit and miss with this.....  I did well some months and not so well others.  I did come up with plans of taking the pictures, but sometimes did not make it out to do it.  Need to keep going on this....

#4.  Do a Money Savings Challenge.

      I had to completely redo my plan on this one.  I laid it out here, and revamped it here, and in the end did not do a spectacular job on this one.  I had a lot of unexpected expenses this year, travel and medical, that made this VERY hard to do, but on the other hand I did not add to my debt in this year and paid some others off.  I have this set up to continue in 2016, so I believe I am on the right track.

#5.  Get the piano tuned and find a piano teacher.

       See above, but I have an appointment during January and have found a teacher.  My piano is in such bad shape that it is going to take more money than I initially planned.  I am now very excited to get this done, and play once again.

#6.  Do a Reading Challenge.

       LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this resolution!  I finished as documented in my 1st2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter book reports.  I will be doing another reading challenge in 2016.

#7.  Cross more items off my Bucket List.

       I didn't do the ones I thought, but still made progress.  I learned to row and still do it!  I visited a psychic (weird but cool).  I finished watching the top 100 movies, some of which I will never see again.  I did some personal ones that I never mentioned on here.  Life is a journey and this year's journey kept me close to home, but hopefully travel will come back in 2016.

#8.  Don't let things sit.

     I dealt with things I had no clue I was going to have to deal with and I did.  It wasn't easy, but it was easier than letting it build and explode.  This will always be a work in progress thing for me as I still seem to struggle when expressing myself when I am really emotional to get the right words out.

#9.  Journal consistently

    My journaling changed dramatically this year by introducing Art Journaling into the mix.  I could tell what was really going on emotionally by the type of art I was doing.  I still wrote periodically, both here and on paper, but art took the stage this year.  My one regret is that I let my Gratitude Journal get out of practice, but I am currently getting that back on track.

Here's to another year of trying new things and working on myself...
and yes, 2016 resolutions are on their way.

Melissa

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Change in Stitches

In October, an era ended for me....

I delivered my last batch of quilts to Primary Children's Hospital.

For the past 15 or so years, I have made at least 10 quilts a year, but normally 15,  and donated them.  It was a labor of love, but the time has come to change my focus.

So I thought in honor of the end of this era, I would do a post about my adventures in quilting....

my trusty sewing machine

I did a simple pattern found in a Woman's Day magazine many years ago.  You simply cut 7 inch squares, then sewed them into strips of 7 and then sewed nine strips together.  It ended up being about  a crib size quilt.

I did holiday themes, sports, animals and many others...

getting its batting on...
I loved searching out fun fabric to use...
Pirate Rubber Duckies, too cute!

They weren't always perfect and in alignments, but they were made with love...
A girly pink poodle quilt
They were a bit of work, but I enjoyed working on them...
Animals playing sports!

I decided to end the quilt donations due to one simple reason, the cost of making each one has SKY ROCKETED in the last two years..  :(  


Never fear, however, I still will be giving of my time, but just in a different form.. 

Instead of sewing with a machine, my stitches will be knitted.   I have been knittin' for kittens and have a few other knitting projects to donate in mind.

Still stitching....
Melissa







Monday, December 21, 2015

4th Quarter Book Report...

I am in the home stretch of this challenge and it is going to be interesting to see when I finish, because I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be done before the end of the year...

As the 4th quarter starts on October 1st, it seems appropriate that I start with:

#22.  A book that scares you.

         Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The monster in the book did not scare me....
The creator of the monster, however, did.

I had to let go of my preconceived notions of what this book was about due to the movies that have been named after it.  The book begins with a series of letters from a sea captain to his sister about his adventures and a man his crew rescues.  The man, Frankenstein, begins to tell his story to the captain and we are drawn into a story in which what scared me the most the idea of just because we can, does it mean we should....

#39.  A book with magic.

        The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

I continued the October theme and finished another trilogy with this book with magic in it by reading 'The Book of Life'.  The series combines witches, vampires, daemons, oh my!, which means magic is a major plot line.  I enjoyed this series, but here's a bit of a tip, if you do take this trilogy on, read them back to back to back, as the third book brings back EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER ever mentioned...it got a bit confusing until I remember them and placed them in the context of the story.  

#23.  A book more than 100 years old.

         A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

On the surface, it is a light and funny read, but go a little deeper and you quickly realize this is a book written by a MASTER of satire and then it gets even better!  I love Mark Twain, but had never read this and now I am lamenting this fact.  A single line singes a entire problem as seen by Twain and it is perfection.


#33.  A book from your childhood.

          Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Sometimes you just need to read about a sweet, somewhat high strung, pig and a wise and kind spider, and if it takes you back to your childhood and the remembrance of your beginning of a lifelong love of reading, it's all the better.  I love this book!  I love this book!  Have I mentioned that I love this book.  Reread it if you have a chance and fall in love all over again....

#20.  A book at the bottom of your to-read list

         Middlemarch by George Eliot

You are dropped into Middlemarch, a quaint English countryside village, and I have to be honest for the first 100 or so pages, I wasn't sure I wanted to continue.  It dragged for me and I really did not like it, but then something happened, it flew!  I don't know if it was the colloquial english that threw me for a loop or the set up of the story, but I struggled in the beginning.  At its heart, this book is about change.. how we deal with unexpected change, how we deal with change we wanted but does not turn out how we thought, how we deal with technological changes, and any other possible type of change.  It is an interesting character study of people and yes even the town they inhabit.

#2.  A classic romance.

       Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Ok, I am officially questioning how this is a romance.... I actually double checked while reading, because as far as I can tell this book is not about romance.  I googled classic romances and it popped up on every list.  For me, this is not about a book about romance, in the true sense, but the superficial chase of it.  Madame Bovary marries a dull country doctor and is somewhat content until she attends a party and sees how others live and then embarks on two very immature affairs that leave not only her life in ruin, but her husband's and the most heart breaking of all, her daughter's.  It's an interesting book, because it never once condemns or condones the character's behaviors but simply states what they are, which was very controversial at the time the book was written.

#24.  A book based entirely on its cover.

        The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele

This is not a book to speed thru, but one to absorb into your life over time.  It is an excellent introduction and explanation of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.  No it is not just about the physical practice, in fact, that is a very small part of what Yoga truly is.  This was very informative and personal for me.... multiple people that I love had told be about this book and as I read it, my connection to them was brought to the forefront for me.  I will be reading this book again, slowly and doing the work recommended in it in 2016.  If you are curious at all about yoga in its true state, please consider reading this book.

#45.  A book set during Christmas.

        Pelican Road by Howard Bahr

Two trains, one heading north and the other heading south, are on a collision course on Christmas Eve in Louisiana.  There are multiple characters, which at times got a little confusing, but in the end creates a rich, yet sad, story.  Howard Bahr has a gift of story telling and the selection of the right word to enrich the tapestry of the story.  It is not a happy, spirit of Christmas book, so do not read it if you are looking for happy happy joy joy....


With that, I conclude my reading challenge, officially on December 14th...
I loved this challenge and the books that it brought into my life.
I loved the suggestions that you gave me...
I loved the questions that came throughout the year as I was asked how the books were...

I will be doing another Reading Challenge in 2016 and will be revealing it soon...

Still with my nose in a book,
Melissa






Friday, December 18, 2015

Parliament Perspective....

I have been meaning to write this post for quite a while now but just could not find the words or even process what I had been a part of....

Sometimes, events just need some time to sink in and for me, The Parliament of the World's Religions held here in Salt Lake City back in October needed some time.

I had heard about the Parliament way back in February when I saw an ad that the H.H.H. Dalai Lama was going to be attending and since hearing him speak is a life goal, I did some research and put my name on a list to volunteer.  My logic being that it was good 'karma' to volunteer to hear him speak.

Months went by, and I do mean months......

In July, a friend of mine called me and told me he had been hired by the Parliament and needed some help.  This phone call started an adventure that I could not of predicted, and I'm not sure now that if I had known what was to come if I would chose to do it again, but I know this, it was a life changing event.

Me, Geoff and Christine....last day of the Parliament
Geoff, Christine and I started calling from a database to fill over 3000 volunteer shifts over 7 days of the Parliament and set up and take down.  I made calls all over the country, emailed all over the world, and by the end more people had my cell phone number that I was really comfortable with.....Diane joined the motley crew and helped keep the spreadsheets sane.  We worked long hours, weekends, and had trouble shutting it down, because as the work really got going, the reason behind it got in our heads.  The Parliament had the potential of being amazing and we just wanted to see it happen.

By the time the dates of the Parliament rolled around in October, I had lost track of the hours I had put in and was quite frankly already exhausted, but on the morning of October 15th, I arrived at the Salt Palace Convention center at 4:30 am, yes am and the actual event started.

Thursday was insane.  Just INSANE!  The good news is that the attendees really did not see the chaos behind the scenes, but it was exhausting.  The Salt Palace is a LARGE facility and by the time I left, later that I intended, I had logged over 13 miles.  During the chaos, I was helping the Sikh community get Langar ready and I met an amazing man,  Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra..  He is an emeritus board member of the Parliament and was the main coordinator of Langar.  I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off and he took my hands in his and just had me breathe for a moment and told me it was all going to work out.  I didn't get the opportunity to see him again until Sunday and could not miss the opportunity to take a picture with him...
He was the calm in the storm of Thursday

Friday, thank goodness, was sooooo much calmer and I had moments of seeing the benefits of all of the work.  I was able to sneak out of work for a few minutes and attend a Plenary session, which was a main session of the Parliament, and hear Marianne Williamson speak and a few others.  I was renewed, rejuenivated, and excited once again.  I still worked long hours but it was doable.

Saturday had a slightly later start time, 5 am, and we seemed to of hit our groove.  Most of the volunteers had already done a shift, so they knew what to do, Langar was running smoothly, and the attendees were understanding the layout of the facility.  We were still busy, but it was enjoyable....so by the time my shift was done, I went home and changed and went back to attend the evening Plenary session.  My reason was
Jane Goodall...the legend
I could not believe I was in the same room, not 15 feet away from her, hearing her speak.  It was a goal of mine to hear her speak, but here is the most amazing part of the Parliament, the other speakers  that also spoke that evening also blew me away.....It was more than I could of ever hoped.

There is not enough time or space for me to accurately describe, praise, or promote the others, so I am going to just list them and hope that a name might catch your eye and you find a book of theirs, search for them on google, or ask someone about them...
                    Karen Armstrong
                    Dr. Tariq Ramadan
                    Mairead Maguire
                    Robert Pape
                    Medea Benjamin

It was an incredible, yet very long evening, that I am so glad I went back and attended.....

Before I go any further, I guess I better explain Langar, since I have mentioned it a couple of times.  Langar is a free meal that is put on by the Sikh community.  It became the most popular event of the Parliament.  I don't know if I will be able to explain why, but the energy in the hall where it was held was AMAZING.  When you went in, you first took off your shoes, a scarf was placed on your head by members of the Sikh community (a very beautiful experience), and then the people you were with were led to your place.  You sat on the floor in a community style, not knowing who you would be next to and were served.  The food was delicious, but it fed you on a deeper level....a community belonging level.  Everything was donated, all help volunteered and I can not thank the generous Sikh community enough for doing it.
The beautiful women who put scarves on at Langar
Sunday was my day off during the Parliament and it did not go as I had planned.  When the Dalai Lama was announced to speak at the Parliament, they also announced that there would also be a talk at the University of Utah as a gift to the community.  I managed to get tickets to it and was very excited.  However, as many of you know, H.H.H. the Dalai Lama was advised in late September to cut back on his schedule and return home to Dharmsala to rest, which meant he would not be attending the Parliament or the speech on Sunday.  I never thought I would ever say this, but this is my truth...I am grateful that he did not make it.  It allowed me to attend the Parliament all day on Sunday as a participant, not in my volunteer shirt, and soak it in.

I enjoyed a leisurely Langar, I wandered thru exhibits, and attended a full Plenary session not in an exhausted state.  It was incredible!  While wandering an area, I saw a keynote speaker from Saturday night sitting on a couch and went over to tell him how much I appreciated how much I enjoyed his talk and ended up chatting with him for over 20 minutes.  Unexpected connections happened all over the event and added to the experience.
Tibetan Monks working on a Sand Mandala

an interactive exhibit where you wrote on a heart your wish or statement for the world

a gathering of angels....they walked in silent meditation, weird but cool


The Plenary session on Sunday had the focus of Climate Change and had amazing speakers once again....the list of speakers amazing and long, but I have to mention Chief Arvol Lookinghorse.  His passion and direct connection to the earth was heartbreaking and an immediate call to action.

Monday was a bittersweet day as we were glad the work was done, but sad that the energy and experience were coming to an end.  I can not tell you how many times people came up to me and the other volunteers to give their sincere Thanks for the work we had done.  I was brought to tears many times.  Throughout the 5 days, I had met people from 26 different countries, many many US states, and a multitude of different religions and we had gathered in peace, understanding and learning.

I just realized that I really never explained what the Parliament is and what it hopes to accomplish. I think the best way to do that is to give you a link to the Parliament of the World's Relgions...

                             http://www.parliamentofreligions.org

However, for me, this quote from the website sums what they are trying to accomplish..

The Parliament of the World's Religions seeks to promote interreligious harmony, rather than unity. The problem with seeking unity among religions is the risk of loss of the unique and precious character of each individual religious and spiritual tradition; this understanding is key to our framework.
Interreligious harmony, on the other hand, is an attainable and highly desirable goal. Such an approach respects, and is enriched by, the particularities of each tradition. Moreover, within each tradition are the resources (philosophical, theological and spiritual teachings and perspectives) that enable each to enter into respectful, appreciative and cooperative relationships with persons and communities of other traditions.

If you go on the website, you can also see more of the amazing speakers who were in Salt Lake City and the opportunities to get involved, no matter where you live or what you believe.  They are planning another Parliament in the next couple of years, and I plan on attending wherever it is....

Still absorbing an amazing, exhausting experience....
Melissa





Monday, November 16, 2015

K.I.S.S.

(I just realize I never posted this after I wrote this in May...oops)


In the 9th grade, my science teacher was Mr. Browning.  On the first day of class, as we walked in, we all noticed something written on the board....

 Keep

 It

 Simple

 Stupid

Not the greatest confidence builder since it implied we were stupid, but it has proven time and time again to be worth while life motto and reminder.

Why am I bringing it up now?  Well, it has to do with a New Year's Resolution I set up.  Ironically, it was the repeat of last year.....the Savings Challenge, written about here...

It has proven to be a very time consuming and obnoxious process, and too complicated for success.

So, I am revamping and making it simple.

$25 a week.....

Lesson Learned.
Melissa




Friday, October 2, 2015

Third Quarter Book Report....

My reading challenge continues and I am thoroughly enjoying it!  I can't believe I have only 19 books left, I think I may be done way before the end of the year.....

Anyway, here we go with the Third Quarter....
and I start with pure fluff, no substance in this one....

#15.  A popular author's first book.
  Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts

I'll admit it, I'm a Nora Roberts fan.  I think I have read all of her books, and some more than once.  Yes, they are fluffy; yes, you know who is going to end up together on page 3; and yes, the plot lines in the early books are a bit iffy, but sometimes when I read, I just want to shut off my brain and enjoy, and her books fall nicely into that category.  Reading her very first novel again showed me how far her writing style has come.  Her female leads have always been feisty and Adelia is no exception, but what I realized the most is how much the male characters have evolved throughout the years... It was nice to see.

#7.  A book with nonhuman characters.
Fluke by James Herbert

A puppy is born into this world and you follow his life and thoughts as he grows up.  There is a major plot twist that I can not give away, but this is a great book.  James Herbert is akin to a British  Steven King, known more for his horror books, but this is a tale of connections and kindness and the legacy we leave.  I loved this book and can not recommend it enough!

#5.  A book with a number in the title.
 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

So it goes....life that is, and this book.  Buy your ticket, take a seat, buckle up and enjoy the mastery that is Kurt Vonnegut.  World War 2, time travel, aliens, of the outer space kind, are all in this.  So it goes.  Life, death, heartache, success..... So it goes.  I have read Kurt Vonnegut before, 'The Sirens of Titan', and will do so again, and I get the feeling that at the end of the next one, I will say, like I have with the previous two, 'It was an adventure and I'd do it again.'

#13.  A book set in a different country.
(France)  Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda

You are dropped into people's lives without all the details and as you, the reader, and the characters gain trust, you begin to gain an understanding of what made them and why they are they way they are.  The book does not really have a plot yet it works, because it is such a great character study of how people, who on the surface have not a lot in common, can come together and heal and form very strong bonds.   I'm finding that I love authors who are French and the way they tell stories, so I'm going to hunt up some other French authors when my challenge is done.

#4.  A book published in 2015
 The Season of Migration by Nellie Hermann

A short (250 pages) dense book about a period of Vincent VanGogh's life in which he was estranged from his brother, Theo, who was his greatest supporter.   The book was at times very slow and chaotic, it jumped around in time, but in spite of that or maybe because of it, you get a real feel for the angst and frustration of a man who deeply wanted to make a difference, yet had not found his place.

#42.  A book you own but have never read.
              The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

I've owned this book for a couple of years now and it has sat in digital purgatory on my kindle bumped by library due dates and other books that had captured my attention.  This challenge has gotten me to read books I hadn't thought to read or made time for and it has shown me what I have missed by keeping to my normal reads.  

'By telling stories, you objectify your own experiences.  You separate from yourself.  You pin down certain truths.  You make up others.'  This selection sums up this collection of short stories perfectly.  A narrator who is based on the author, but not really.  Stories of Alpha company in Vietnam that may or may not be real.  The stories have a way of showing the horrors of war, but also the absurdity and yes, even the humor of men just trying to survive....


#1.  A book with more than 500 pages.
 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I'm not going to lie, I was not sure I was going to make it thru this epic novel.  The story was easy enough to follow, but it was a slow and heavy read for the first half of the novel.  Now that I have finished, I can't really say that I loved it, but I didn't hate it either, and with the greatest of irony, the title character is the one I liked the least.  It is a novel about a game and the written and unwritten rules of it.  The heartbreaking and frustrating part is that the game is love.  Family love, romantic love, love of God, love of country, really love in any form are all explored....and the saddest part is that the majority of the characters do not seem to 'grow up' for lack of a better phrase and accept and protect the love in their lives.  It is a novel well worth reading, and I am glad the challenge got me to do so.

#28.  A book with antonyms in the title.
 Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman

Through a series of memos, suggestion slips, and actual letters you are submerged into a first year teacher's adventures in a New York City High School in the 1960's.  While I appreciated the struggles, it felt disjointed due to the way it written and  it felt incomplete in some ways.  As the book nears the end, the main character is torn between staying at the high school or taking a new job at a college, and by the words and feelings presented, I was shocked and a bit confused why she stayed.....  I think teachers, who read this book, might appreciate it a bit more than I did, but in the end, I am still recommending it.

#50.  A book you started but never finished
 Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

I have no idea what my problem with this book was before...  From the first chapter, I was hooked! Technical information delivered with humor and a bit of snark, this is right up my alley.  Some of the footnotes made me laugh out loud.  Yes, there are 2 whole chapters to pooping in space, which at times got a little old, but there were practicalities (and gross ones) that had to be dealt with and NASA is still dealing with.  I thoroughly enjoyed the author's writing style and humor and will be reading more of her books in the future.

#47.  A play.
   A Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

I saw the play preformed at the Utah Shakespeare Festival years ago and fell in love it due to the fact that no one had to die in order to learn the lessons needed to be learned.  Reading it, however, it was not as wonderful as I remembered.  The first half is a very serious tragedy, then it falls into a farce.  It is very uneven and contradicts itself multiple times.  The only good thing, I really found was that it is a short play.....  It was very interesting to revisit this play.


#9.  A book by a female author. 
    First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

This is a sequel to one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors and it did not disappoint.  It did not, however, wow me.  I enjoyed seeing where the characters went and it let a child in the first book take a larger role, but there was a bit of an unneeded character that distracted from the characters I wanted to spend more time.  Overall, an enjoyable read!

I read in streaks this quarter, due to the fact life has gotten very, very, very busy, but putting a book in my hands is something that will be always a priority...

On to the 4th Quarter.
Melissa




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The 100 best....

One of my Bucket List items was to watch the Top 100 movies ever made, and I recently completed that goal,

or should I say survived......

I can't say that I was a big fan of a lot of the movies.  There were a lot of war and mob movies, of which I am not a big fan.  Violence and I do not really get along, it literally upsets my stomach.  Quite a few movies had female nudity just for no reason at all, not cool, and immediately turns me off of a movie, it's just  lazy.

I did stumble across some that I probably never would of watched without this list.  I was caught off guard how much #26 Dr Strangelove made me laugh.  I am still quoting it...

Some of the movies made this list for the technological breakthroughs that they made, and while I'll admit it was interesting to see movie making evolve thru this, the story lines with those movies iffy at best....

If you decide to check it out, take this piece of advice, watch them in order, instead of what I did, which was to watch the movies I liked first and then finished the list.  I think that may of skewered my perception of the entire list.

I got my list from here, and what I realized, more than anything, is that we need more female screenwriters and directors and movie critics. PRONTO!

Still a movie fan....
Melissa




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2nd Quarter Book Report Part 2

Here it is, Part 2 of the 2nd Quarter Book report....
If you are confused, the following posts will bring you up to speed.
The whole list is found here,
The First Quarter report is here
Part 1 of the 2nd Quarter link is here...

I was really lucky in this quarter to read books that really resonated with me and this next one exemplifies it perfectly...


#14.  A non fiction novel


A General Theory of Love by Drs. Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon

How to describe this book?  It blends poetry and literature with hard and detailed science...  It goes into great length in the power and fragility of the limbic brain.  I struggled at times with the discussion of the animal testing and the cruelty it described, so if you are at all sensitive to that, be forewarned.  However, the underlying message of this book can not be missed---connections matter.  The connections we form with our parents, partners, and people around us, they matter,  A LOT, and modern life is telling us that we don't need them, but we do.  A definite must read.



#37.  A book with a color in the title.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

The prose started out like poetry, beautiful and haunting, but quickly became manipulative and just wrong.  I get there are issues with the foster system, and I understand that some parents are not meant to be parents and are cruel and unkind, but do they all have to happen in ONE book.  The main character, Astrid, is 12 when her very messed up life falls even farther apart.  Her mother, Ingrid, a selfish *****, is there ever was one is convicted of murdering her ex boyfriend and Astrid is put into the foster care system.  The book is well written, the writing style enjoyable to read even if the content wasn't.  So, I say to you, be forewarned and proceed with caution.


#38.  A book that made you cry.
               
Nobody Don't Love Nobody by Stacy Bess 

Read, just please read, this book.  The author, who was a teacher at Salt Lake City's Homeless shelter school, weaves stories of her student's heartbreaks and setbacks with a paradigm shift for the rest of us...   It never gets too preachy or unrealistic about the problems, but it poses some hard questions for you to answer.  Please just read this, and really take to heart pages 221-228.....

#10.  A mystery or thriller

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I LOVE this book, so my review may be a little slanted in that direction, but hey, it's my blog, and I can be biased if I want to.  This book is a nod to the Gothic classics, ironically of which I'm not a huge fan, especially Jane Eyre.  It is set up as a book within a book with the main character, Margaret, unraveling the mystery as the reader is.  

#29.  A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit. (Ireland)

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy (updated)

I had seen the movie with Minnie Driver years ago and as I read this book, memories and details came flooding back to me.  It took me a while to let go of the movie and enjoy the book.  1950's small town Ireland and Dublin then revealed itself to me.  The is a story of friendship, duh, and of a young woman finding her own....  The ending is SO much better than the movie, I gained quite a bit of respect for the main character, Bennie, with it...

#32.  A trilogy

Phillip Pullman's His Dark Material's Trilogy

Book 1 The Golden Compass
It took me a bit to get into the story, I had seen the movie when it came out a while ago and it is just wrong when compared to the book, but when I fell into the story, it FLEW!  A parallel universe, animals that are a part of you, corruption, and friendship drive this story.  It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis series 'The Chronicles of Narnia' where you might read it as a child and only see a fun story, but if you read it as an adult, you realize the stories are full of symbolism and allegory.

Book 2 The Subtle Knife
Well, I am officially hooked on this series and flew thru this book.  I read it on a flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City....  I always love book 2 of a trilogy, due to the fact that you have all the background, you understand the situation, so now you can get to the heart of the matter.  Characters grow and make big decisions, plot lines start to come together, and you get a glimpse of the future.  You've probably noticed that I haven't talked much about the actual story line and it is for good reason...one of the reason the movie messes the The Golden Compass up so bad is that it introduces things in trying to simply reduce the time to tell a story when they really need to be revealed at the right time...  Writing a book review is somewhat like that, I don't want to ruin a wonderful story by revealing things too soon....

Book 3 The Amber Spyglass
My least favorite of the three....it got a little chaotic with elements that did not seem to be needed and some of the characters got a little cliched, but my main issue is the force used to drive home the point of the trilogy.  During books one and two, it was there, but subtle, in this one is was like a sledgehammer to the side of the head.  The subtlety worked better in my opinion.  I am recommending the trilogy despite my reservations with the third book, however.

#16.  A book from an author you love that your haven't read.
Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich

This book is pure fluff;  this author is pure sugar, but sometimes, in life, you just need that.  This is the third book in a series that spun off of her popular Stephanie Plum series.  Lizzy and Diesel are on the hunt for stones that represent the Deadly Sins, yes those deadly sins, and in each book of the series they are on the trail of the greed stone.  If you have ever read a book by Janet Evanovich, you know there are crazy supporting characters and in Wicked Charms, there are a Broom, with an attitude, and Carl, the bird flipping Monkey.  It's screwball comedy that wouldn't work in a long book, but in this fairly short novel it's ok.

#3.  A book that became a movie. (will be released 12/15)
 In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Phillbrick

A non fiction book, that read like a thriller, of an event that inspired Herman Melville to write 'Moby Dick', that is the simple way to describe a complex and interesting book.  Mr. Phillbrick pulls from multiple sources and the survivor's accounts to piece together what happened.  He is balanced in his criticism and praise, yet also understood the basic danger of whaling in the 1800's.  A definite recommendation!!!!

If you've been paying attention, you've probably noticed that in the first two quarters, I've read quite a few books.  This challenge has 52 books, and I have only have 19 left.  I have a feeling that I will finish early, but that's ok, because my to read list is kind of long.......

With my nose still in a book,
Melissa

Friday, June 26, 2015

An Adult's View versus A Child's Memory


This past week, I journeyed back to Georgia for a Celebration weekend of my Dad's life and did something I had not done in a very long time, I spend some time in the town where I grew up in and realized some things...

Even sleepy, quiet Southern towns change and grow and Pine Mountain, Georgia is no exception.  Some things I recognized right off the bat, others I did not remember at all, and most shockingly, there were some that had been added since I left......Isn't weird that we think our childhood haunts will never change?

A bit of my personal history, from the time I was 6 to 13, I lived in Pine Mountain.  It was the first place I had lived for over a year and a half.  There is a part of me that still considers it home.  The years there were ones of my childhood, before teenage rebellion and change started.  I have a lot of happy memories of that time....

My Dad was born in Pine Mountain, so his family history is there too...  During my childhood years, he worked for Callaway Gardens, which more information and history can be found here, so Callaway became my playground.

Every summer, I LIVED at the Beach...but I guess I better explain how landlocked west central Georgia has a beach.  It is a man made lake that they trucked sand in and made beaches on the shore.  
I'm probably the only person to ever capture humidity in a photo...my camera was having a hissy fit and kept fogging up...
Walking down the grassy area to the beach, I had a Child's Memory versus my Adult View moment.  I SWEAR to you the grassy area was longer.....I guess it was just my shorter height and child perspective that made me remember it that way.  It was a weird shift to see it as it really is.

a view of Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens
As I strolled along the beach, for a quick visit, and to get some sand for my sand bottle, I was bombarded with memories that I had not thought of in YEARS..friends, first crushes, events, you name it came back to me.
The WaterSki Pavilion at the Beach
One memory that immediately came to mind was the day I learned to water ski on this lake.  When I was growing up, there was a waterski show every afternoon at the Beach and the performers taught lessons.  On Junior skis and with a very cute instructor, I found balance on skis and got up for the first time.

I bet you are wondering why for a resort named Callaway Gardens, I have not even mentioned the gardens...It's another Child's Memory vs Adult's View thing.  The beach was my playground, as a kid, and where if I had my choice I would go.  The gardens were for behaving and walking slowly, not so much fun for an adventurous kid.  As an adult, however, and especially on HOT, HOT, HUMID days, the garden is where I chose to go...
for the beautiful colors

for the variety
And what I began to realize was even in the calm and quiet, you can still find whimsy and laughter....
A Lion....

And his Tamer....
And  fun and adventure....but also enjoy the peace....
The Chapel at Callaway Gardens

The amazing stained glass windows
In the Chapel, I had my most profound Child's Memory vs. Adult's View moment.  Along the side walls, not pictured, are more stained glass panels.  I was immediately drawn to them....
and noticed details I had never seen before....
Nature was infused into the glass....
The small details that make up the bigger picture are beautiful and taking time to realize they are there and a part of the bigger picture gives you a better understanding of the whole.

I'm glad I got to go back for a day to get this new view and bring together my Childhood Memories with my View as an Adult.  My only regret is that I did not get to see everyone from my memories.....

Appreciating both perspectives..
Melissa




2nd Quarter Book Report, Part 1

Instead of trying to remember my thoughts and feelings as I finished a book a month or two after, for this report, I am going to review them as I finish them.  The result, the numbers will be out of order, but I feel this is a more authentic report of my Reading Challenge, first written about here, and the First Quarter Report, here...

#6.  A book written by someone under 30

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It took me a bit longer than I expected to read this book, not because I did not enjoy it, but because there was a lot of information to absorb, especially in the first part.  I arrived in Nigeria in the early 1960's in the first pages and was introduced to the five main characters, which in the beginning, I was concerned one would get lost in the fray, but that was not the case.  The novel covers a coup, then a brutal civil war that tore Nigeria apart and for a while led to a smaller independent country that that only Rwanda acknowledge.  Chimamanda writes with compassion, yet honesty on what happened and while it is heart breaking to read of the starvation and brutality, it is well worth reading.

#41.  A book by an author you have never read before

One Thousand White Women:  The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

This is a 50/50 review.  There are some things that I hated, and yes, I do mean hated about it, but I also loved things.  The book poses an interesting, yet morally bankrupt, 'what if' to a small moment of American history.  The actual offer was made of 1000 Cheyenne horses for 1000 white women to become brides of the Cheyenne, in order to assimilate the Cheyenne into a world they were rapidly going to have to accept in order to survive......  This book follows the first 40 women West, and this is where some of my issues roll in....  This book is written by a man, not one review on the cover or insert  by other authors was a woman (this should give you a clue on what my issues are).  The way the 'women' written by a man talk, deal, and survive rape bugs me on a fundamental level.  If a man deals with rape from the female perspective, he needs to be very, very careful and sensitive, this author was not. I almost gave up on the book with this issue, because it happens early and often in the beginning.   If you can get past that and some other issues with a man writing about women and sex, the story is like a train crash you can see coming, but can not turn away from.  The period in history is fascinating; the broken promises by the US government for greed embarrassing; and the simple, yet called barbaric lives of the Cheyenne worth learning about.  Read it with caution.

#19.  A book based on a true story

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

You should know that for a while I, for a while, wanted to climb Everest.  I have since changed my mind, not only from reading this book, but from a heartbreaking story on HBO's Real Sports about the risks that the Sherpas take for Western indulgences.  Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to reach Everest's peak, has condemned the new lackadaisical attitude of 'climbers' who sit on chairs and eat First class meals on the mountain during their ascent.  It has become a luxury tour money making machine that is costing Sherpa's their lives and ruining Everest (and more importantly, the more holy names that the Nepalese and Tibetan people call it).  Now for the book....it was well written by a haunted author and participant of the events he was writing about.  Jon Krakauer described the process of not only getting to base camp, but the process of elevation acclimation and the eventual climb and ascent of Everest.  It is more frightening and life threatening than I ever imagined and that's when it all goes right.  The expedition that was written about in Into Thin Air did not.  The book is at times hard to read, not because of poor writing, but because of the brutal suffering and deaths that occur.  I am recommending this as a cautionary tale of what happens when Mother Nature reminds us that she is in charge, especially when humans get arrogant about the risks.

#35.  A book set in the Future

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Don't worry, you were genetically engineered to like your life and if something stresses you out, there is a drug to help.  Forget reading and art, they make you think, so you don't have to do that....
The scary part of this book is that it was written in 1932 and in 2015, it seems a lot of the population just wants to be entertained all of the time and as soon as something is wrong pop a pill for it.  I have a feeling that in 1932 this book was scandalous, but now, it has become, in my opinion, a warning......
that you can not push aside the uncomfortable, you have to work through it.  Happiness does not come by ignoring sadness, but by working through it.  Are you seeing a common thread, working through something....not ignoring it.  A highly recommended read....

#25.  A book you supposed to read in School

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The descent into madness is so slow, and reasonable, that the bottom hits you hard leaving you with the confusion and frustration that Esther, the main character,  feels.  A remarkable book written by someone who dealt with and ultimately lost her battle with mental health issues.  It's not a long book, but it took me a bit to read it, because I needed to take a break periodically, however, I still recommend it.

#36.  Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

A young girl from Indiana has unrealistic expectations about a Prep school in New England due to pamphlets and articles and photos in Seventeen magazine.  Lee, the main character, struggles to fit into a mold that she sets for herself, not realizing that by being herself she would of fit in just fine, even with her being a scholarship student.  The book pulls you right back into high school, no matter where you went and all of the emotions that went with it.  I do have a major complaint about the book and its in the way Lee treats her family.  Even thought she is on scholarship, there are still expenses for the family and they are a burden, but Lee never seems to appreciate it and is down right snotty and bitchy to her parents.  I got the feeling throughout the book that she was embarrassed of them and not on the high school level that most teenagers go thru, but a life long embarrassment.  All in all, it was an interesting read, but I can not say that I really liked it..

#30.  A book that came out the year you were born...(1971)

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

It started slow with details and information about a group that I had no prior knowledge of and a country's protection and police force inner workings.  I had my doubts, but after I got thru the first section, it started to fly and was very interesting.  They call this book the first novel of its genre and I can see why, I've read others and they all owe something to this book.


As you can tell, I read quite a few books in the 2nd quarter of the year, and this is not all of them, but I'm feeling like this post is getting really, really long, so I am going to break it into two parts...

Stay tuned for part 2....

Still reading,
Melissa

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

10 Random Items

I haven't written in a while, mainly due to the fact that I haven't had a whole blog post worth of an idea to write about, but then tonight, I remembered I had done a random post in the past and really enjoyed it and so here we go again...

Random.

Disjointed..

Thoughts...

#1.  While I love the rain and moisture we have been receiving the past couple of weeks here in Salt Lake City, I need some sunshine and dry weather to complete a project in my front yard.  I am putting in a concrete cobblestone walkway.  I have a great mold from Quikcrete and have asked questions, watched videos and prepared myself for another home improvement project.  I just need clear skies.

#2.  I am learning how to row/crew.  The weather, mentioned above, is also interfering with this as well.  Believe it or not, I row on the Great Salt Lake!!!!  And once you get out of the marina and on to the lake, the lake stink goes away and the views are stunning.  I will be doing a longer post when I finish my lessons and get some pictures.  It is unbelievably fun and a great workout!

#3.  My New Year's Resolutions are going ok.....  I have had some misses, but I am getting better.  One of the resolutions is getting revamped, the approach was WAY more complicated than it needed to be, so I am going to simplify it and let you know....

#4.  I have been rediscovering my Art gene.  As you may recall, I have been taking watercolor classes and now I have been introduced to Art Journaling.  I love the process!  When I get braver, I'll post some of my work on here so you can see it.

#5.  I am still doing my cardio kickboxing on a regular basis.  I still struggle with full pushups, but there has been a slight improvement.

#6.  Go see 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron'.  It is funny, snarky, and a good action film.

#7.  My vegetable garden is finally all in.  Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, kale, carrots, radishes, lettuce, and strawberries are all growing....

#8.  It has been interesting, to me anyway, to see the growth in me on issues that I have faced this year.  I have finally taken book knowledge and turned it into my own personal knowledge.  I have to acknowledge the guides, teachers and events that have led me to this.

#9.  With the end of the tv season, I am not that sad about shows ending.  My tv watch list gets smaller and smaller every year, and I am ok with that.

#10.  I am stopping with 10 things as a tribute to David Letterman's Top Ten Lists......  I loved watching Late Night back in the day....  His wardrobe has dramatically improved over the years.

Well...
I'm off...
Melissa

Friday, April 17, 2015

Beautiful Pollen....

I have had an exceptional hard Spring with allergies....

My voice has sounded like a deranged bullfrog pretty much since Easter, and it has not been pretty.
My sinuses have been clogged and airways have been restricted.

All thanks to the pollen that has been flying around...

My misery and bleary eyes, however, still love the beauty of Spring and all of the blooms and blossoms the pollen brings......

On Thursday afternoon, two days after the snowstorm, my mom and I went down to Thanksgiving Point to see the Tulip Festival.  It was a double bonus event.  My mom volunteers regularly at Red Butte Gardens, here in Salt Lake City, and as a Thank You for Volunteer Appreciation Week, they hosted an afternoon/evening at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, so our admission was free.

I was concerned about my allergies, especially since the wind was blowing.
We were both concerned about the state of the tulips after the windstorm on Monday and the snowstorm on Tuesday.

Our concerns were soon put to rest as we explored the garden, except for a grouping of Lilac trees that sent me sneezing.

Our first grouping of tulips along the walkway
Thanksgiving Point is a Show Garden, of 55 acres, which means as soon as something goes out of bloom, they dig it up and plant something new that will bloom next.  There were over 250,000 tulips in over 100 different varieties planted for the festival, which means as soon as they are done, 250,000 tulip bulbs will be dug up and replaced with another plant.  Can you imagine the work?  Their volunteers are amazing!  Red Butte Gardens, where my mom volunteers, is a conservation garden which means when something goes out of bloom, they just let the plant be and show it as is.  I have a feeling that most of us gardeners do a little of both....show and conservation.

If you live in Utah and have a chance to witness this festival, GO!!!!!!

there were blooms of every shape

and color and texture

and even some still in bud....

They said there were even brown ones.  Do these count as brown?

But all were Beautiful...
This outing also helped me get back on track with my New Year's Resolution of getting my camera out more.  I laid on the ground, got covered in sticks and leaves, and really had fun!

I worked on some photography skills

aperture settings

details

working all in manual to get the detail I wanted.
Thanksgiving Point's Gardens are wonderful to walk through.  A Rose Garden, an Italian Garden, a Monet walk, and even a Secret Garden are all different sections to explore.....

on our way thru....

We even found a girl playing near a stream

the walkway of the arbor in the Rose Garden

the fountains of the Italian garden

Another angle of the Italian Fountains...

lanterns to guide our way
There was even a waterfall area near the amphitheater and a not so patient goose, who I thought was going to attack during its photo session.
one of the 4 waterfalls

I just find running water so soothing...

See the diva like attitude I had to deal with?  :)
As we were just about out of the gardens, the sun started to shine thru the clouds and I got my favorite pictures of the day....
it just set the tulips to glow

This is why I love Spring

Nature just showing off a little bit.

I will put up with a stuffy nose and watery eyes for an experience like that.....
No longer complaining about my allergies,
Melissa