Monday, February 28, 2011

Brainy fiction

Sometime ago I was made aware of a self-published book by Lisa Genova entitled "Still Alice." I purchased a copy and passed it around amongst my sisters and book club friends. The author lets Alice, through her point of view, tell her story as she begins the mental descent that comes with a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's disease. It is chilling and most realistic and I felt it gave me an idea of what my mother went through during the 8 years of her final life journey that was Alzheimer's.

Fictional Alice is a professor at Harvard University. Author Lisa Genova is a Harvard-trained Neuroscientist. This training gives her description of Alice's story an authenticity as well as practical, helpful information for the reader. Mesmerizing!

"Still Alice" was eventually picked up by Simon & Schuster and remained on the New York Times best seller list for months. Genova's second novel, "Left Neglected" has been on the Times list since being released in early January.

Once again Sarah Nickerson, as the main character, tells her story. Sarah is also Harvard educated in business and lives a very busy life as a vice-president of human resources at a major company, a wife, and a mother of three small children who have a nanny. She lives in a tony suburb of Boston and is constantly multi-tasking as she tries to do and be it "all." While on the telephone on the way to work she rolls her car which leaves her with a brain injury.

She is diagnosed as "left neglected." She thinks she sees and feels the whole picture, but her right side is all that is actually real. She can't find her left hand, finish the picture on the left side, read the whole page, or see someone standing on her left. Her life will never be the same.

As the book works its way through a year of her slowed down life, Sarah discovers that perhaps she has left neglected the things in life that are most important and worthy of her time.

The book is informational, a general wake-up call, and inspirational as we join Sarah on her journey through a recovery that is not total physically but is perhaps more than 100% emotionally.

Note: I find it interesting that this book was released to the public just one week before the shootings in Tucson and the resultant brain injury suffered by Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords. It opened my eyes to the rehab which Gabby may be experiencing in Houston.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sally's girls

I had the great pleasure of spending Friday afternoon with Sally's girls. Sally was participating in a Ragnar relay race through the Arizona desert. I was part of a relay of child care providers.

In all, she ran 18.5 miles as her part of a team effort. I'm noticing that there are many young mothers who seem to be running these days in all kinds of events and races.

I'm glad that wasn't the thing to do back in my young motherhood days. I had a hard time just running the mile in PE.

Really, I'm quite in awe of their desire to be physically fit and of the satisfaction they must feel after challenging one's self to do difficult things and succeeding.

I just wanted Sally to see that even though her girls missed her, they were still showing their smiles, especially little Mae. She is a most delightful baby!

For pictures of the "Babes with Babes" Ragnar team doing their thing go here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spring garden time in Arizona

The lettuce and greens have gone to seed and its time for warm weather plants in Arizona.

I love to leave some of the greens to flower because the bees love them so much.

Tomorrow will be a planting day. Time to bring on the basil, cucumbers, and peppers. I'm also planting some warm loving tomatoes with a shorter time to maturity so they can beat the "killing" heat of our summer. I love "Arizona Sweet 100's" and I'm trying an heirloom called "Fireworks." I'll wait until it warms up a bit more to put in the bean seeds. It's also time to give the winter survivors a shot of plant food as well.

The tomato plants by the garage have been shrouded. Pesky birds are poking holes in them before they are fully vine ripened!

These rainbow brights taste more like the fruit that tomatoes really are. Sweeter, light, and fresh but still a tomato.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Things I love, Julianna

It's time to give Julianna a post of her own . She's still young for sleepovers so I was pleased when her mother asked if Julianna might come for a visit today while she was at the dentist. I wasn't pleased about Susan and the dentist, but I was so happy to spend some time with Julianna.

This morning she was serving tea in the grandkids room.

I love how she is starting to talk and how she is so full of joy that she skips instead of walks. She's a mover. I don't think I have many pictures of her without a blur or two.

It got really entertaining when talking Elmo came to tea. You would have really enjoyed their conversation.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Things I love, Grandkid sleepovers, part 2

Sunday evening the girls arrived with their American Girl dolls for their holiday weekend sleepover. I can hardly believe the fun the girls and I have with their dolls. I had made each granddaughter a coat from some gray fleece I got for a song from a remnant bin. Sister Lynette helped me knit a neck scarf and hat to accessorize each coat. The buttons were part of the remaining stash from my mother's button box. The pocket trims were just pieces found in my scrap drawer.

I couldn't wait to see their reaction to my latest project. Before they left the next day, I also made them each a pair of felt boots using Heather's new Josefina doll's boots for a pattern.

They were soon off to play with the dolls in the "grandkids" room.

I think our next sleepover might be an adventure in learning doll hair care . I won't let them touch the hair of my Kirsten doll (whom also serves as my dress form and model when I sew.)

I love watching how they mix things up combining a bit of this and that for a whole new outfit.

Side note: We are noticing that the dolls purchased a couple of Christmases ago are starting to have discolored vinyl arms and legs. This is not a problem with the older or newer dolls. Has anyone else experienced this problem? I plan to make a call into American Girl customer service. At the price, one assumes they are buying a quality doll. I don't think we should stand for inferior materials. Perhaps it is too bad that Pleasant Company sold out to Mattel.

There are always imaginations at work in the "grandkids" room!

This sleepover I pulled out the sketch books I had purchased at Deseret Book last December for 95 cents each! Bargain!

The girls loved having a bound book with a space for their names that they could draw and write in.

Sadie especially enjoyed hers.

They were soon off to share their drawings and stories with grandpa.

He found them to be most delightful.

And looked at every page - of all three books!

It delights my teacher's heart to see how their reading and writing skills are progressing.

Grandpa loves his girls!

Other highlights:

When grandpa announces bedtime and tucks them in they are asleep in minutes! Just like in the olden days with his own kids. Grandpa also came to the rescue when Sadie lost her blankie during the night.

They are becoming very good "cleaner uppers."

We made ebelskivers for breakfast again and as Ruby announced later, "Ate all of them except for one."

They loved playing in the front yard and "walking the wall" (the back yard was full of helpers pruning back all the frozen damage.)

They picked up the limes on the ground under the lime tree and practiced using their throwing arms as they aimed for the green barrel. They mostly aimed well. They also earned a little money.

They gave a great backyard garden tour later in the day (ala Grandpa Jensen style) to some boys keeping them entertained while Grandpa helped their mother with a letter.

They are growing up so fast! Sometimes I wish I could freeze time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Things I love, Grandkid sleepovers, part 1

We try to take advantage of long holiday weekends with extra "none school" nights. Friday night Toby was picked up by grandpa after school so that he might spend the night and part of Saturday with his grandparents. Toby tagged along with Grandpa Glen to Home Depot and Costco on the way to our home.

The next morning we traveled the 202 west to grandpa's favorite nursery. It was a beautiful drive as we watched sun rays flood parts of the valley as they broke through the clouds highlighting a mountain top or high rise building in downtown Phoenix. Our destination was Berridge Nursery at the base of Camelback Mountain.

Here we are loading our purchases. We hope to revitalize our frozen landscape. And yes, those are tomato plant leaves. One can never have enough tomatoes!

And that is Camelback Mountain you see in the background.

On the way home we stopped by the bird store just west of Alma School on Southern. They were not open at 10:00 am as posted so we took a side trip to Nate & Nichelle's to say hello and pick citrus from their backyard before returning to the store.

The bird store is a favorite spot for grandpa and Toby. Toby plans to buy a parrot someday after he loses a few more teeth. I don't think that will be enough change. Parrots live a long time, are noisy and cost lots of money.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Things I love, Family History

I think that part of the reason I love history so much is that by studying and reading about history I open a much larger window on the world that existed for family members who lived before me. Those ancestors become more real to me as I understand the times and conditions in which they lived. My window becomes even larger when I am able to visit in person some of those family history sites. Someday I hope to see in person the railway bridge picture above.

I grew up with the family story of my great, great grandfather losing his life while working on this bridge. A couple of years ago I found the Forth Bridge web site while using the Internet to enhance my family history experience. I also find it fascinating when I discover information relating to family history when I least expect it.

While in Utah with my sister Lynette cruising the BYU Bookstore we noticed this book in the bargain books section. "You don't suppose that the Forth Bridge would be included in this book do you?" one of us asked.

Well, indeed it was and in a big way. Information about the building of the Forth Bridge warranted six pages. Some structures had just a two page spread but the Golden Gate Bridge had 22.

The Tay Bridge, just north of the location for the Forth Bridge, collapsed during a great wind so new, more expensive engineering skills were needed for the construction of the Forth.

I found the details most interesting and intriguing. On the above web site the list of deaths during bridge construction include George Hendry, age 32 and lists his position as a riveter. I can't help but picture him in this photo.

Even now they say that this extremely long bridge is constantly being repainted because when they get to the other end it is time to start over.

For more about the Forth Bridge and George Hendry go here and here.

And, YES, I did purchase a copy of this book at the bargain price of $6.99. Let me know if you want to give it a look.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sister time in SLC

Our monthly visit to Utah was extra sweet for me this month. My sister, Lynette, had flown in from Kansas to visit the same week. She was there to see her daughter, Brittany, and son-in-law but she was also very happy to hang out with me. So while Glen worked with his clients, Lynette and I added a few miles to Brittany's car.

We visited quilt stores (for as long as we wanted :), had a personalized tour courtesy of Brittany's MIL at the Bloch exhibit at the MOA (I so enjoyed it again), spent a delightful couple of hours in the BYU bookstore, and remained in-house on Thursday working on projects together that we had found in those quilt stores.

By Friday we were out and about once more as we made our way to downtown Salt Lake City and Temple Square. First stop, the distribution center so the Leavenworth Primary president could stock up. Second stop, the Relief Society Building where we were given a tour by Lynette's college and lifelong friend, Annette. After our tour, Annette turned us loose in the basement where quilter Lynette posed in front of the Primary themed quilt. We also traveled to the other side for Relief Society inspiration.

We then met up with Annette once more for lunch at the Lion's House. Always so good! Lynette and Annette were roommates (along with Jeanette :) in Washington, D. C. when doing internships back in the late 1970's. They have kept in regular contact ever since!

During lunch we were seated in a lovely little nook under a window. I loved the old paned glass windows. If you look at the upper left pane, you will see a reflection of the Lion House where we are dinning.

This trip, the weather was a bit cold but the sun was shining! We had traveled through blowing snow (like 40 mph blowing snow) from about Scipio to Santaquin on the way to Provo. That was NOT fun!

After lunch, we walked across Temple Square to the Church Art and History Museum. I took this picture through a window in the museum. I just loved the view through the leafless trees.

Several new exhibits have opened for children. Upstairs has many hands on activities that the little ones will love including dance instruction with costumes, ship building with Nephi, and feeding dinner to the missionaries. I hope to take my grandchildren soon.

But it was the children's artwork downstairs that touched my heart. When the call went out for entries, they received almost 2000 from around the world of which 250 are on display.

This baby blessing watercolor by a five year old just took my breath away.

After a visit to the Deseret Book flagship store where Lynette found beehive inspiration for decorating her new home (you know, "Bunker Bees" and all that and I can't wait to see it) we were done for the day. Even with parking validations we still had to fork over $4 each to exit the parking garage. It was a great day and an almost perfect week. There is nothing like hanging out with a sister!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bloody non-fiction

I do most of my library book selection on-line. I submit book requests and when the automated telephone system calls to tell me the books are in (the Maricopa County inter library loan system draws from 17 libraries) I go to the Southeast Regional Library closest to home and pick them up. I hardly ever browse amongst the shelves, but I always swing by the shelf holding the newest non-fiction on my way to automated checkout. This is where I have found some most interesting books. Both of these books were on the shelf a couple of weeks ago. How could I pick up one and not the other?

"My Thoughts be Bloody" was fascinating as it told the story of the Booth family and their acting tradition. John Wilkes Booth's father, Junius, was the most famous Shakespearean actor of his day, thus the author's quoting of Shakespeare in the title. The author, Nora Titone, is also an expert in 19th century history and this book is a treasure trove of many interconnected historical events leading up to the Civil War and assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It is also a psychological family drama. John Wilkes' older brother, Edwin, is the true heir of their father's talent and famous in his own right as the foremost Shakespearean actor of his time. John is one who does not recognize or honor boundaries and who is constantly in trouble and in need of financial help. The book begins in early 1800's England and ends with the Booth family's horror at the dastardly deed done by one of their own.

Poor Glen! We were on a road trip last week and I was constantly bombarding him with new information about 19th century America. Truly a fascinating read.

James Swanson wrote "Manhunt" which tells the story of John Wilkes Booth and Lincoln's assassination but also the 12 day hunt for Booth through Maryland and Virginia. I read and enjoyed it sometime ago. A movie based on "Manhunt" is currently in production.

"Bloody Crimes" is his second book and it juxtaposes the lives and final journeys of Abraham Lincoln, President of the Northern States and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States during the final days of the Civil War. It includes detailed events following the assassination of Lincoln, funeral in Washington, D. C., and the funeral train which carried Lincoln's body across the northern states back to Springfield, Illinois. It also describes Davis' journey through the south after Richmond falls as he tries to evade capture during the same time period. This was indeed an incredulous time in the history of the United States of America. The book continues on to describe Jefferson Davis' two year imprisonment, long life back in Mississippi, death at age 80, and his own funeral train ride through the south back to final burial in Richmond, Virginia.

I learned that Lincoln and Davis were just 10 months apart in age, both tall and rangy in build, both extremely bright and well thought of by their peers, both losing their first loves at a very young age whom they mourned grievously, and who both lost young sons through sickness and accident during the Civil War. They lived in Washington, D. C. during the same time period in the 1840's but no record exists of them ever meeting in person.

It seems appropriate that I was reading these two books during the week of Lincoln's birthday. I highly recommend both books to anyone interested in this time period.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Things I love, Gardening with Glen

I've been taking a picture of Glen with his new tree on or near his birthday for the last few years. The tree, of course, is growing faster than Glen. However, the great thing is that Glen is not aging much at all. Here he is at "60" and I'm still dying my hair so I don't look like his mother. That same tree is now covered with white blooms just six weeks later.

One of the best parts of my early retirement and our empty nesting has been the joy Glen and I have found in having more time to garden with one another. We've worked together to create a special place that will draw us outdoors. If you live in Arizona, there are many days when it feels great to be outside.

The first week of February was not such a time. We experienced a very hard freeze. Such freezes are not common in the Valley of the Sun. This freeze was hard enough to create ice features on our water features.

Most interesting was the wall fountain with perpendicular icicles.

All that ice was interesting but hard on some of our plants. The bougainvillea, hibiscus, lantana, and jacaranda tree all took a big hit. Let the pruning party begin!

Click on "garden" on the sidebar for many pictures taken over the years.