Feb 26, 2014

Books: 4 Outstanding Authors on My Bookshelf

Cover of "Run"
Cover of Run
Cover of "Team of Rivals: The Political G...
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Cover of "Cutting for Stone (Vintage)"
Cover of Cutting for Stone

Cover of "Mistress of the Art of Death"
Cover of Mistress of the Art of Death

When you read by genre, a whole world of things can happen while you are not looking. That is what happened to me while I was reading the biographies of the founding fathers (30 or More Books You Might Like) plus the big wonderful Steve Jobs book.  People kept telling me about fiction they were reading but one can only read so much. I might add that I needed cataract surgery...but now that I can see again, life is good. Let the reading begin!

But now I am on a quest to get caught up with several years of reading. Here is what I have on my book shelf:

State of Wonder, Bell Canto, Run and any other book Ann Patchett has written.
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
Mistress of the Art of Death, Ariana Franklin
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin

I suggest you look at Book People and their blog post, Ann Patchett Recommends.

That should do me for a while...any suggestions for the BEST books you have read lately?


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Feb 24, 2014

#4, #Chinese #iPhones and Elevators!

English: Elevator buttons in a typical freight...
I noticed that the elevator did not have a #13 while I was in Mexico! When I visit the Far East it startles me because there it is big is life...a floor with the #13 button. However the Chinese have their superstitions too. They don't have all the buttons either. How does that work just exactly?

I had always thought that #13 superstition had something to do with Harry Houdini. I looked it up and I was wrong. However, numbers do play a part in most cultures on this earth I think. But to leave out a whole floor on every building's elevator just seems very, very strange don't you think?

Then I began to think about the iPhone. Since the Chinese think that the #4 sounds the same as the word for death, they don't have a #4 elevator button. I wondered if they allowed a #4 on all those new cell phones everyone is using.  Imagine...no #4 or GHI if you are texting the old fashioned way.

I don't know why it just hit me but #### are very strange, exotic and wonderful things when you think about them.

Have a wonderful day!

This is an elevator panel made in China. Notice the differences.
Any number that ends in #4 (i.e. #24, #34, #44) is omitted. 
Both #13 and #14 are missing! I guess they don't use #1 and #2 either.
Obviously they are not taking any chances.

Note: I do know about the Last Supper, the stages of the moon and a lot of other stuff! Honestly I did look it up! Special thank to Janet and her article A Brief History of the Telephone on Midlife Boulevard for the inspiration!
Interesting huh?
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Feb 21, 2014

Travel to Puerto Penasco, Mexico: Where the USA and Mexico Rub Shoulders

 photo baja-california-norte-map-1.jpg
Pto. Penasco is on the NE shore of the Gulf of California

Travel is one of the great joys of my life.  I love learning about people and watching the world from a different perspective. My husband and I have been lucky enough to see cultures unlike our own and to learn that our values are not necessarily all that there is. It has become so much of a part of our being we had forgotten the shock of seeing the lifestyle in third world countries. But while seeing the world through the eyes of our friends, I felt a certain degree of surprise again that people surviving in such hard circumstances.
Las Palomas Beach and Golf Resort
Golfing in the Sun
Sandy Beach at Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mx
This last week our group visited a border town in Mexico very close to Tucson. After a drive through the Tohono Oodam native American reservation and south into Mexico, we arrived at the 5 star Las Palomas Beach Golf Resort on the Gulf of California. The journey was marked by a delay because of a car wreck involving a crime scene that forced a trip on the back roads through the reservation. The drive that would have normally take 5 hours was lengthen by almost 2 hours. We went through the Border Patrol checkpoints along the way and we were allow to enter Mexico after our car was looked over by Mexican authorities. Our passport was not checked when we left the country...just when we reentered the USA. Even at the outset, the short vacation lost all resemblance to our quiet life here in Tucson.

Las Palomas condos all have a view
of the Gulf of California beach.
Puerto Penasco is located only 60 miles south of the border but is it a world away from what we see in a normal day here in the USA. There are lot of expats in the community, huge resorts, golf courses, and in town there was a lively small market district. Because the Mexican way of life involves bargaining hawkers are after you all the time. But most of all there is evidence of poverty. Like almost every community in the USA, there is drug trade and crime.

Their resort business has suffered because citizens of the United States are frightened by news of drug lords and  I think US citizens expect to see gunfights in the streets. We were grateful our friends were willing to come with us.

At the Las Palomas Resort we were treated to a upscale condo experience. Inside the resort the pools were constantly clean and a quick call to the desk would get you all the maid service you could desire. It is a gated resort with security. The food was wonderful and the water filtered/purified. Outside the resort was a different world.

I need you to understand that we didn't see the situation as bad. But dirt streets and shacks that served as home to people let us know that the division between the haves and the have nots was wide indeed.

The Mexican government is building a dock for cruise ships north of the town so I think things will be getting better and better for the citizens. Jobs for those that are willing to work will be more readily available.

The thing that is most difficult for Americans to understand is that a third world culture is very unique. Things we see as awful really are not. It is not bad...it is just different. But it did take some adjustment in attitude because we were so close to the USA.

Roof top view from a small restaurant in Old Town Puerto Penasco
near the Malecon. Resorts in the background.
We golfed, ate wonderful food, walked on the sandy beach and bought fresh shrimp to bring home. All in all a visit to this small fishing community was worth the time...interesting, enlightening and most of all wonderful. In the end we were glad to be home...but then we always are!

Have a wonderful day.


We celebrated my husband 76th birthday at Blue Mar Restaurant (rated best in recent years)
Ultra light planes are available for rent!
The setting was stunning!
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Feb 12, 2014

Books, history and Vladimir Putin

The Olympic Stadium
The Olympic Stadium (Photo credit: MichaelWu)
All those books I read about the founding fathers for the last couple of years has taught me one very clear thing...history is not pretty. I like to think that we Americans have been honest with ourselves when it come to what we have and have not done. But then I realize the honest person cannot say that is entirely so. We tend to gloss over the bad and even justify it as a means to a good end.

When the commentators for the Olympics were discussing the opening ceremonies they spoke of President Vladimir Putin and the "usable history" that was presented to the world, they also spoke of how the president of Russia was even taking a hand in monitoring what was put in text books for the school children. I suppose that there is only so much you can tell children. The brutal facts may have to wait until later.

But I would also like to think that we know, Vladimir Putin knows and world knows that looking at the past can be a very necessary though difficult thing. It is only by facing the ugly facts that we learn so we can make logical and good decisions in the future. No country is exempt!

What do you think?


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Feb 11, 2014

Shopping for Shoes with Maddie and Amelia!

Many, many years ago my now 16 year old granddaughter picked out a pair of shoes for me. They were Teva's and I have always loved them because I could wade in the water and it didn't ruin them. Now about 12 years later I went shopping with other granddaughters. I wanted a pair of dancing shoes to wear to our Valentines Day dance.

Seeing things through a child's eyes is a very wonderful thing.

Maddie is 10 and she could see what I needed right away. She found a pair of t-strap shoes, red, large heels and very practical. She thought they were great! I thought they looked like something a person in their 70s (LIKE ME) would wear...I did not like them at all. But I loved that Maddie was thinking of me...sincerely thinking about me. She wanted me to have what I really needed. She is such a wonderful granddaughter.

I hated these even though they are very practical. (dancing shoes)
Amelia, on the other hand, brought out pair after pair of gladiator shoes for me to admire. Even though I am in my 70s and don't want practical shoes, I do know that I would look ridiculous with straps winding up my ankles. But evidently Amelia thinks I am a very cool grandma! I liked that a lot.

There were no shoes purchased. I couldn't do it even to please those two little girls!

Amelia loved these!
Have you ever let your grandchildren help you pick out shoes?

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Feb 10, 2014

Friendship:To Join or Not to Join

I was invited to join our Red Hat club here in the park. I won't do it but the invitation did make me stop and think. Why is it that we are drawn to somethings and absolutely won't do others?
I belonged to a flower club once. It turned out
I like the flowers but I didn't like the club!

The discussion about the choices we make is always on my mind. Within the last week I have had people bring up why choosing to be happy, or please ourselves is imperative. But the article I read that said that happy people don't make friends willy-nilly made very good sense. They are slow to join this group or that and don't let just anyone into their life. In fact, it seems to me that they avoid toxic groups or people by simply taking a little care.

Now I am not saying that Red Hat girls are not absolutely wonderful. But, when making a commitment to "join" a group, I am just very slow to get there.  It has to feel just right.

How do you approach a situation like that?

Just wondering.


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Feb 8, 2014

30 (or more) Books You Might Like

Cover of "Team of Rivals: The Political G...
My next book!

Recently a Facebook contact asked me to share what I was reading and my thoughts on books in general. I was very flattered that she was interested. 

What we read is one thing but why we read what we do is entirely another. Amazon has a list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. Have you seen it? When I looked it over, I was surprised at how many books I had simply chosen not to read. I suppose it is something we all do. Our tolerance for certain reading material can keep us away from an author or subject matter. For example, I have chosen not to read The Hunger Games, anything by Truman Capote, Ann Rule or Stephen King. There are lots of others I could add to that list. I cannot make myself read some things. 

Note: All books available at Books on Amazon

I just finished reading a book called The Power of the Dog: A Novel written by Thomas Savage. The book is a reprint originally released in 1967. It only sold about 1000 copies when it first was published. It was absolutely incredible. In the afterword by Annie Proulx she said that it was the best of Savage's 13 novels and compared it to works by Wallace Stegner (The Big Rock Candy Mountain (Contemporary American Fiction). I actually thought it carried the same theme as John Steinbeck's East of Eden (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics). 

This is a "hard-eyed" western story about a sharp tongued cowboy, his much nicer brother, a beautiful woman and a fragile boy named Peter. On the surface it felt so innocent...even old fashioned...even though the character that reflected the Cain in Steinbeck's book was as evil and angry as any human to could become. The fact that Savage actually made you hate him beyond all reason speaks for the quality of his unique writing. But what was running under the water is what caught me off guard. I am not going to tell you. I am sure another critic will do that for me. I am glad I didn't pass over this one because I would have missed a very good book. Amazon gave it 5 stars and I agree.

Within the last 18 months I have read 4 biographies. Each took me many months to read. I loved them all because the authors managed to get inside the heads of the subjects and the narrative reflected the attitude and lifestyle of each of the men featured in the biographies. I did not speed read these books. The three books about the founding fathers helped me understand what their life was and how they saw each other. It was a wonderful learning experience for me. When you read the John Adams book I suggest you watch John Adams mini-series from HBO as you go alone. I did that and it was so much fun.
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (I loved this book.)
  • John Adams by David McCullough (perfect)
  • Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson (written with a newmans eye and style)
  • Thomas Jefferson Art of Power by Jon Meacham (perfect I was glad I had read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose when I read this book. History has a way of tying itself together.)
On the lighter side, I read one of my favorite author's, Anne Tyler. She put out a new book not so long ago called The Beginner's Goodbye. I admire Anne Tyler because she always manages to get inside the tragedy and put it in perspective. I love these "strength of the human spirit" books so I eat all of her books up like candy. I liked that Wally Lamb did much the same thing in I Know This Much is True.

I have a lot of books on my kindle...some I have loved and others not so much. In fact I carry a whole library around with me on it. The following list is only the kindle books I have read.  I cannot begin to list all the others I devoured in recent years.

  1. The Power of the Dog: A Novel by Thomas Savage (one of the best western books I have read in ages.)
  2. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffith (beach read...very British)
  3. The Keeper of the House by Shirley Ann Grau (excellent)
  4. Scafell by Mathew Pink (new author-good story)
  5. The Widow Waltz by Sally Koslow (beach read)
  6. The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin (couldn't read it...sad)
  7. The Fiddler on Pantico Run by Joe Mozingo (true, very interesting)
  8. The Best Seller by Arunabha Sengupta (could not follow the story)
  9. Gone Girls by Gillian Glynn (excellent)
  10. Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith (true, hilarious and personal)
  11. Up Country by Nelson Demille (loved this because I had just visited Vietnam)
  12. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (free, fun and true after all these years)
  13. The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler (I love Anne Tyler books)
  14. The Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook (beach read)
  15. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (wonderful)
  16. The Girls Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (wonderful)
  17. The Girls with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson (wonderful)
  18. Tinkers by Paul Harding (good but felt like a copy of Gillead by Marilynne Robinson. I loved that book)
  19. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (disjointed...I have not finished it.)
  20. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (fascinating true story)
  21. Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead (Sort of O.K....maybe I wasn't in the mood for a Civil War novel)
  22. The Lincoln Lawer by Michael Connelly (beach read)
  23. Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (excellent...reminiscent of Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson)
  24. The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell (I am a big fan of The Beekman Boys TV show)
  25. Building a Satisfying Retirement by Bob Lowry (Interesting story of a retirement plan by a blogger)
  26. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (unique approach to a story told through letters.)

What is next? I have the Lincoln book that the movie about Lincoln was based on added to my wish list. It was written by Doris Kearns Goodwin and is called Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. I may watch the video again as I read it. I would also like to read another book by William Least Heat-Moon. The Road to Quoz: An American Mosey looks very good.

Any books to suggest?  Let me know.


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Feb 7, 2014

From Angkor Wat to the Car Wash

My granddaughters, aged 6 and 10, came to visit my husband and I this week for two night. They are children of the world because their parents are great travelers and seek out adventures. They have ridden on elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand, walked the trail to Cat Cat Village in Sapa, Vietnam, been in Singapore, Koh Samui in Thailand and have lived in China for many years. This last Christmas they climbed the temples in Cambodia and I have a picture of them standing in front of Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the world. 

The youngest speaks Chinese because she has a Chinese nanny that has taken care of her since she was born in a Chinese hospital. Next year they will move to Dubai. On this trip to Tucson their mother bought them Build-a-Bears with beating hearts. That is about as close to a real gift as they ever get because their gifts are the time spent with their parents doing very exciting things.


So, I ask you, what do you do to have fun with them when they come to visit? Well naturally, you go to the car wash. I know, it is exciting huh! They pressed their faces against the glass and watched the car go by covered with suds, ate popcorn and I even bought them "carwash" crafts. We giggled as they watched the people dry our car and then went home to eat ribs and play with my art box. 

I took them to the mall the next day so I could get some eyebrow maintenance done and they stood and watched as I winced with each pull. Then they spotted the henna tattoos...they like those a lot. The words "You can get those when you are in Singapore or Thailand at spring break," came out of my mouth as though that was normal thing to say. My oh my. 

These children are well balanced, beautifully behaved and full of fun. I suppose that this will be the last time I can fool the 10 year old with a trip to the car wash. But it was fun while it lasted. I am still smiling.
The interesting thing is that these children are not as unique as you might think. It seems that everyone I talk to knows someone that is living abroad with their family or has done so themselves. But for me it is very amazing.

Have a wonderful day.

Linked to Grand Social

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Feb 4, 2014

Aging: When I Grow Up I Want to be Like You!

Have you seen those t-shirts that have the words "Be patient, God isn't finished with me yet!"? Generally we put those cute little shirts on a 2 year olds because they do require a lot of patience. But I have come to believe that those shirts should come in all sizes.

I have a friend that celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday. Seven of us played 18 holes of golf with him to mark the day. When we grow up we all want to be like him.

We gathered for a birthday party his wife had organized on Saturday. There were  64 people there that value him as much as I do. He is funny and smart and very durable. You can see why there are those of us that want to be like him.

Aging is not easy. It requires tenacity to reach 80 years of age. You need exercise, good food, lots of social interaction and, most of all, a sense of humor. But mostly, it requires the ability to remain flexible enough to meet the challenges that aging brings.

Hollis is a retired Air Force major and
stands in front of a crowd with ease and
dignity. When he gave his thank you
speech we were all moved.

So here we are in a group picture. Hollis and his wife, Mary, are kneeling on the floor with one of their small grandchildren. Many people in this picture are over eighty and even though you can pick out a few, in most cases you would never guess who they are.

I decorated the tables for my friend and on the napkins I put a tag stamped with the words, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" Each person that read it stopped to think.

Hollis's beautiful daughter (center) and family!
I also placed a small sign on the table asking everyone to write some words of wisdom on the back of the tag. I thought with that many older and wiser people all together, there had to be some advice that needed to be shared. Even grandchildren added their thoughts. When Hollis went home he read them all. I thinks the ones he will treasure are the ones from children and grandchildren. One said "Be kind even when you don't feel like it." It was unsigned but I suspect it was one the daughters that wrote it.

Everyone in that room sees people like Hollis as an inspiration.  Because of them we have learned that almost all things are possible. Life is a gift and the trick is to enjoy and treasure each and every moment! What a wonderful way to celebrate of life.

Have a beautiful day and remember to always always "Be kinder than you feel!"


Note:  The candle holder was a wine bottles sprayed with high gloss spray paint. The crayons on the tables were used to doodle on the paper table covering. 

Granddaughter Gracie doodling for Grandpa!
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