Friday, March 31, 2023

Beginning ~ with a wait

In the parking lot of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, in the cool dusk — which is a lie already, because it is never really cool, not even on this January evening, since this is Texas and, more specifically, this is Galveston — we wait.
The Last Karankawas ~ by Kimberly Garza, 2022, literary fiction (Texas), 288 pages

Welcome to Galveston, Texas, population 50,241.  A popular tourist destination and major shipping port, Galveston attracts millions of visitors each year.  Yet of those who come to drink by the beach, few stray from the boulevards to Fish Village, the neighborhood home to individuals who for generations have powered the island.

Carly Castillo has only ever known Fish Village.  Her grandmother claims that they descend from the Karankawas, an indigenous Texas people once believed to be extinct, thereby tethering them to Galveston.  But as Carly ages, she begins to imagine a life elsewhere, undefined by her family’s history.

Meanwhile, her boyfriend and all-star shortstop turned seaman, Jess, treasures the salty, familiar air.  He’s gotten chances to leave Galveston for bigger cities with more possibilities.  But he didn’t take them then, and he sure as hell won’t now.  When word spreads of a storm gathering strength offshore, building into Hurricane Ike, each Galveston resident must make a difficult decision:  board up the windows and hunker down or flee inland and abandon their hard-won homes.

Moving through these characters’ lives and those of the extraordinary individuals who circle them, this book weaves together a multitude of voices to present a lyrical, emotionally charged portrait of everyday survival.  The result is an unforgettable exploration of familial inheritance, human resilience, and the histories we assign to ourselves, reminding us that the deepest bonds are forged not by blood, but by fire.

ONLINE COMMENT by Mikayla Johnson:

"I finished reading The Last Karankawas this week, and I was dazzled by Garza’s ability to craft chapters that not only serve as moving vignettes for individual lives, but also together complete a narrative arc for Carly Castillo and the community of Galveston as a whole.  In a book that features twelve main characters, spans decades, and intertwines a variety of complex and deeply rooted cultural traditions, her stories–within–a–story novel is no small feat.  

 "Additionally, I was delighted by the 'glossary and guide' found at the back of the book.  Having expected the novel to end on the last page, I started reading the glossary just for kicks, when unexpectedly the definitions wove into an epilogue detailing endings and new beginnings for the characters I had come to love.  As a writer, I will come back to study Garza’s work for her masterful ability with multiple points of view, the intricacies of her delicious prose, and her playful experimentation with form."

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Collecting my thoughts for Thursday

What are the odds of seeing these two license plates beside each other?  Can't read it?  The one on the left says, "PEEKABOO" and the one of the right says, "I SEE U."  Photo credit to Buzzfeed.

Once upon a time, I wrote:  "I buy books I know I want to keep, sometimes after reading the library copy. . . . Books I keep are usually related to my teaching . . . I don't collect fiction, so that is usually from the library."  The photo shows my nearest library when I blogged that nine years ago.

Things are different now that I'm retired.  I prefer getting books from the library.  If one I want is not available there, I may buy the book if it doesn't cost too much.  Do you like borrowing books from the library . . . or collecting books to keep . . . or reading on your device . . . or what?

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Alone vs. Lonely ~ and words coined by kids

Collins Dictionary has this in a section for people learning English, but I think it's interesting for the rest of us to ponder, as well.  Here are quotes from their page:

"If you are alone, you are not with any other people."

 "If you are lonely, you are unhappy because you don’t have anyone to talk to."

As I think of these differences, I come up with my own examples:

I live alone (except for my cat), and I'm not unhappy about that.  I can talk to other people by picking up my phone or going down to eat in our Circle@Crown Café.

It's also likely that I don't feel lonely in my apartment because it's filled with books, and those books are filled with characters who "come alive" as I read.

Words coined by kids

Somebody wondered what a boy meant when he said "a double kid."  Hey, it's a perfect way to describe identical twins.  In that case, I have "a double daughter."  As you can see (on the right), they visited the Arch in St. Louis.  It looks like they were wearing identical sunglasses and had been slurping identical treats.

One child calls an exclamation mark a "yell mark!"  A cactus should be known as a "sharpie."  A mom said her kids called the baby monitor the "momitor," and that makes sense.  Saying hand sanitizer is "hanitizer" is also logical, and calling a ham sandwich a "hamwich" is perfect.

You may put parmesan cheese on your spaghetti, but one child asks for "Farmer John cheese" on hers.  Three guesses what "yummy bears" are.  Have you ever visited the "Vampire State Building"?  If you travel, you could visit "Africa, Asia, and Syrup" (known to most of us as Europe).

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Two quotes for TWOsday

Let's discuss these quotes:

(1)  "How many oceans are there?  If you did well in middle school geography class, you probably answered 'five':  Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, and Southern.  But wait!  That's not quite right.  Five is the cultural answer, based on our twist of reality.  The correct answer — nature's answer — is just one.  Look at a globe if you don't believe me; we live on a one-ocean world."

That's from page 182 of 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True by Guy P. Harrison (2011).  Do you agree?  Looking at the map, would you say there are five oceans or one ocean or something else?

(2)  "I wanted real adventures to happen to myself.  But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home:  they must be sought abroad."

That's from page 12 of Dubliners by James Joyce (1914).  What's a "real adventure" for you?  Do you think we need to go "abroad" to find adventures?  I seem to find them wherever I am, but maybe I don't define adventure the way James Joyce does.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Book quotes to ponder

Think about these quotes:

(1)  "There's a strong movement on foot to drop hereditary names altogether."

That's from page 10 in the Herland Trilogy: Moving the Mountain by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (speculative fiction, 112 pages).  She published Moving the Mountain in 1911, long before I was born and even before my parents were born.  Who would I be if "hereditary names" had been dropped back then?  Who would you be?

(2)  "When it comes to Jesus, all we have are memories."

That's from page 1 of Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior by Bart Ehrman (2016, 336 pages).  Ehrman presents an intriguing analysis of memory, based on psychology, sociology, and anthropology (also from page 1).  Experiments have demonstrated that verbally transferred information changes significantly from person to person.  So how accurately do you remember what someone told you a few years ago about someone else?

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Musical Saturday?

Is this treble clef sign vine telling us something?  Maybe it's nature's music.  The one on the right looks like a capital S written in cursive, but someone has reversed a clef sign.

Risé Recommends
The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle ~ by Joanne Huist Smith, 2014, memoir, 224 pages

After the unexpected death of her husband, Joanne Huist Smith had no idea how she would keep herself together and be strong for her three children — especially with the holiday season approaching.  But 12 days before Christmas, presents begin appearing on her doorstep with notes from their "True Friends."  As the Smiths came together to solve the mystery of who the gifts were from, they began to thaw out from their grief and come together again as a family.  This true story about the power of random acts of kindness will warm the heart.  Here are the author's words at the end of the Foreword:
"Come.  Walk with me.  I will share with you the message that forever changed my family, the healing magic of the 13th Gift."
See also other books that my friend Risé has recommended (click on the titles):
  • Lost Laysen ~ by Margaret Mitchell, 1996, novella, 128 pages
  • The Fifth Child ~ by Doris Lessing, 1988, fiction, 144 pages
  • Plum Wine ~ by Angela Davis-Gardner, 2006, fiction, 352 pages

Friday, March 24, 2023

Beginning ~ with Bill lighting his pipe

Bill Duncan settled back in his chair and lit his pipe.  I said nothing but waited for him to speak for I knew that the usually taciturn Irishman was going to tell me something worth hearing.
Lost Laysen ~ by Margaret Mitchell, edited by Debra Freer, 1996, novella (South Pacific), 128 pages

Until recently, the world thought Margaret Mitchell had only one story to tell:  Gone With the Wind.  Now meet a heroine to match Scarlett:  Courtenay Ross, a feisty, independent-minded woman, and the two men — one a cool-headed, well-heeled gentleman, the other a hot-blooded, pugnacious sailor — who adore her.

Equally intriguing is the story behind the story — the real-life romance that inspired Mitchell:  how she gave the original manuscript as a gift to her beau, Henry Love Angel, and how the manuscript, along with Mitchell's intimate letters and treasured photographs, were lovingly safeguarded only to be discovered decades later in a shoebox.

I can add that this is one of the books that Risé recommended to me.  So I got it from the Crown Center Library and am about to read this short book.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts
Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Another library book ~ and Thursday thoughts

Our Missing Hearts ~ by Celeste Ng, 2022, fiction, 347 pages

Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library.  His mother Margaret, a Chinese American poet, left without a trace when he was nine years old.  He doesn’t know what happened to her — only that her books have been banned — and he resents that she cared more about her work than about him.

Then one day, Bird receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, and soon he is pulled into a quest to find her.  His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of heroic librarians, and finally to New York City, where he will finally learn the truth about what happened to his mother, and what the future holds for them both.

Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice.  It’s about the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and the power of art to create change.

Thursday Thoughts

As I think about smiling, Snoopy, there have been days during these years of Covid that I have wondered what there is to smile about.  I'm not sure the fact that it's Thursday is enough to make me smile.

Okay, readers, imagine we're having a Café Conversation and I ask you, "What's there to smile about?"  What are you readers finding to smile about these days?  Could you (would you) share a story, please?  I swear I just HEARD a book blogger shout, "Books make us smile!"  Okay, there's a book up above for ya!

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

It's Waffle Wednesday again

I plan to be in the Circle@Crown Café this morning
because it's Waffle Wednesday again.  Wanna join me?

Risé Recommends ~ While we're in the Café, wander on over to the Crown Center library to see books that our retired librarian Risé has recommended to me.  I mentioned one recently HERE, and below is another she says is good:

The Fifth Child ~ by Doris Lessing, 1988, fiction, 144 pages

Lessing's contemporary gothic horror story — centered on the birth of a baby who seems less than human — probes society's unwillingness to recognize its own brutality.  Harriet and David Lovatt, parents of four children, have created an idyll of domestic bliss in defiance of the social trends of late 1960s England.

While around them crime and unrest surge, the Lovatts are certain that their old-fashioned contentment can protect them from the world outside — until the birth of their fifth baby.  Goblin-like in appearance, insatiably hungry, abnormally strong and violent, Ben has nothing innocent or infant-like about him.

As he grows older and more terrifying, Harriet finds she cannot love him, David cannot bring himself to touch him, and their four older children are afraid of him.  Understanding that he will never be accepted anywhere, Harriet and David are torn between their instincts as parents and their shocked reaction to this fierce and unlovable child whose existence shatters their belief in a benign world.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

World Poetry Day ~ two of my favorite poems

World Poetry Day is celebrated on March 21 to encourage us to write poetry, read poetry, and share poetry with friends and family.

Do you have a favorite poem?  I often ponder "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, asking myself "what if?" questions:  What if I had chosen that instead of this?  What if I'd done that other thing, rather than what I did?  Here's the poem:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

If asked to recite a poem or think of a favorite, however, I usually share Emily Dickinson's whimsical "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?" which was first published in 1891.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Oh, well, BOTH of these are favorites.  How's that for not choosing one?  I've blogged about both poems before.  Click on the titles, if you want to read more.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Be happy — it's the first day of spring!

I'm happy because today is the first day of spring in my part of the world.  It's the time of year when day and night are of equal length, marking the start of spring around here.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Talking and reading ~ the usual stuff

"Thank you for calling....Loved it"

Yesterday, I called one of my two best friends, and we talked for two hours and twenty minutes.  For part of the time we were in school together at Emory University, I lived with their family — she has a husband and four children.  After our talk, I sent her a link to something we discussed, and she emailed back:  "Thank you for calling....Loved it."

I later called my other best friend, who returned my call after lunch.  We talked a long time, too.  What?  Why can't I have two best friends?  One lives hundreds of miles east of me, and the other lives hundreds of miles west of me.  I wish we could get together and talk for hours.  Phones are the next best thing, but I can't get a hug over the phone.

Clean Speech St. Louis

I picked up a 2023 workbook for Clean Speech St. Louis (Volume 2) in the lobby recently and brought it home to read.  Crown Center for Senior Living is one of 32 participating organizations.  Last year's subject was about harmful or hurtful words said about a third party who is not present; this year's focus is on the verbal mistreatment of the person with whom you are speaking (p. 12).  The third day suggests we review what we learned last year.  They'll be happy to send a link to download the curriculum from last year, if you missed it:  <>.  Examples from the book:

Day 1 example

"Steve wakes up one morning to a text message from his brother, berating him for not being more helpful with their elderly parents.  In a foul mood, he complains to his wife Beth that there's no coffee creamer.  Feeling criticized, Beth is short-tempered with their teenage daughter, Sarah, who goes off to school in a huff, silent and moody in her carpool.  Over dinner that night, they sit at the table and describe their rotten day, before retreating from the tension into separate corners of the house on their devices."

Day 2 example

"Steve wakes up one morning to a text message from his brother, thanking him for being so helpful with their elderly parents.  In a cheerful mood, he compliments his wife Beth on the outfit she's wearing.  Feeling loved, Beth is more patient with their teenage daughter, Sarah, who[m] she encourages to speak more confidently with the challenging girls in her carpool.  Over dinner that night, they sit at the table and share small victories from their day, enjoying each other's company a little longer than usual."

What a difference a kind, positive word makes!  I'm sure we've all seen this in real life.

2022 = Lashon hara (Hebrew: לשון הרע) means "evil tongue" for speech about a person or persons that is negative or harmful to them, even though it is true.

2023 = Onas devarim (Hebrew: דְּבָרִים) is the prohibition against saying hurtful words to a person.

With Her in Ourland ~ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1915, utopian fiction, 123 pages

This is the third book in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's utopian trilogy which begins where Moving the Mountain and Herland left off.  Gilman masterfully compares our modern male-dominated world with an imaginary perfect society comprised of only woman. Gilman was a well known and deeply respected sociologist and this trilogy holds an important place in feminist fiction. All of our books are printed to order. This reduces waste and helps us keep prices low while greatly reducing our impact on the environment.

A blogger had this to say about the book:  "With Her in Ourland reads less like a story and more as philosophy."  That's okay with me, since philosophy was part of my double major undergraduate degree.

In response to my St. Patrick's Day post a couple of days ago about being Irish, a friend sent me this photo.  I love it!  Hmm, I'm taller than most of my friends around here, even though I've shrunk a couple of inches in my old age.  Does does that make me less Irish?
Deb Nance at Readerbuzz
hosts The Sunday Salon.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Sad book for Saturday

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past ~ by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair, translated by Carolin Sommer, 2013, 2015, memoir, 240 pages, 8/10

At age 38, Jennifer Teege happened to pluck a library book from the shelf — and discovered a horrifying fact:  Her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the vicious Nazi commandant depicted in Schindler’s List.  Reviled as the “butcher of Płaszów,” Goeth was executed in 1946.  The more Teege learned about him, the more certain she became:  If her grandfather had met her — a black woman — he would have killed her.

Teege’s discovery sends her into a severe depression — and fills her with questions:  Why did her birth mother withhold this chilling secret?  How could her grandmother have loved a mass murderer?  Can evil be inherited?

Teege’s story is cowritten by Nikola Sellmair, who also adds historical context and insight from Teege’s family and friends, in an interwoven narrative.  Ultimately, Teege’s search for the truth leads her, step by step, to the possibility of her own liberation.

I downloaded this onto my Kindle in 2016, but I seem to have forgotten about it for all these years.  It isn't an easy book to read, especially since I lived through those years (as a child) and one of my neighbors when I moved here to the Crown Center for Senior Citizens had been in a German concentration camp.  I'm not sure I can "recommend" that anyone read this book, but I guess I'm glad I read it.  Now i need to read something light-hearted.

Friday, March 17, 2023

St. Patrick's Day

Pizza sounds good to me, though it is NOT very Irish for St. Patrick's Day, is it?  Notice the shamrock shape of the topping.  Not GREEN, but I wouldn't want GREEN pepperoni, if that's what that is.  Or is it strawberries?  Or tomatoes?  Oh, well.  Happy St. Patrick's Day, anyway!  Today, I'll try to remember to wear GREEN, because my ancestry is part Irish.

Why do we wear GREEN on this day? 
Leprechauns are actually one reason we're supposed to wear GREEN on St. Patrick's Day — or risk getting pinched.

The tradition is tied to folklore that says wearing GREEN will make you invisible to leprechauns, who like to pinch anyone they can see.

Beginning ~ with two metropoli


There are souls who are born in bustling metropoli such as Toad Suck, Arkansas or Tuba City, Arizona, spend their entire adult lives there, then are gently laid to rest beneath their native dirt without ever having seen the lights of Paris — or Peoria, for that matter.  So comfortable and familiar are they in their own little acres that they seldom wish to push themselves past their city limits into the world beyond.

Use Your Head: How to Develop the Other 80% of Your Brain ~ by Stuart B. Litvak, 1982, psychology, xiv + 164 pages

The author examines the functioning of the brain and recommends mental exercises that are designed to improve thinking, develop intuition, and increase brain.  He includes:
  • How to solve problems faster
  • How to be more creative
  • How to remember and record dreams
  • How to develop intuition
  • How to guard against the container/content phenomenon
  • How to develop right-brain/whole mind education
Word of the Day
A metropolis (plural = metropoli) is the largest, busiest, and most important city in a country or region.
Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts
Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Thursday Thoughts ~ for March 16th

National Social Work Month recognizes the dedication and empathy social workers across the country deliver while providing services to children and adults in need.  Social workers are advocates, advisors, counselors, and facilitators in schools, businesses, clinics, and government offices.

Hugging ~ The best thing about a hug is that you can't get one without giving one.

Library Loot

I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections ~ by Nora Ephron, 2010, essays, 141 pages
Ephron, author of the best seller I Feel Bad about My Neck, bemoans the vicissitudes of modern life as she recalls "everything she hasn't (yet) forgotten."  I got this from the library because I've liked her writing in the past.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A word and a coincidence

Trying to be funny, I asked my friend Risé about her "druthers" the other day.  I had even looked up the word before I called her, to be sure I was using it correctly.


druth·ers (informal, North American), noun = a person's preference in a matter.  Example:  "If I had my druthers, I would prefer to be a writer."

Origin of the phrase = When a person says, "I'd rather," it sounds like the word "druther."  Therefore, it's a shortened way of saying "I would rather."


Hours later, when I sat down to read, I decided to go back to a trio of books I'd barely gotten into months ago:  The Herland Trilogy on my Kindle.  I knew I'd need to start over.  I searched my Kindle, found the trilogy, and opened it to where I'd stopped reading.  That's when I was startled to see these words on the very top line of the last page I had gotten to:
". . . can't always have your 'druthers' . . ." (p. 22).
I stopped reading after those five words, just to jot all this stuff down.  What are the odds?  I haven't used "druthers" in ages, probably not in years.  And there it was, in the book I picked up to read.  A book I'd been reading long ago, not even recently.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

It's Pi Day, but not pumpkin pie day or pizza pie day

The Greek letter π (pronounced "pie") is the symbol ("pi") used in mathematics to represent a constant.  The number for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is approximately 3.14159.

Pi Day is an annual celebration of that mathematical constant π and is observed on March 14.  Why?  Because 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant figures of the math sequence.  In 2015, March 14 was celebrated as "Super Pi Day," since 3.1415 is a longer chunk of that number sequence, which is shown in the next illustration as 3.14159265359.
It's not pizza pie day or pumpkin pie day, but you can have one (or both) to celebrate the day, if you'd like.  I think that sounds like a great idea, myself.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Library Loot ~ two books

The Cat Who Saved Books ~ by Sosuke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai, 2017, fantasy fiction, 198 pages

Awkward high school student Rintaro Natsuki is about to close the secondhand bookshop he inherited from his beloved grandfather.  A talking bookstore cat appears with an unusual request — the teenager’s help in saving books from their neglectful abusive owners.  They meet a man who leaves his books to perish on a bookshelf, a scholar who cuts the pages of books into snippets to encourage speed reading, and a publishing drone who cares only about bestsellers.  Their adventures culminate in one final challenge.
Foster ~ by Claire Keegan, 2010, 2022, fiction (Ireland), 92 pages

It is a hot summer in rural Ireland.  A child is taken by her father to live with relatives on a farm, not knowing when or if she will be brought home again.  In the Kinsellas' house, she finds an affection and warmth she has not known and slowly, in their care, begins to blossom.  But there is something unspoken in this new household — where everything is so well tended to — and this summer must soon come to an end.

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.