Thursday, August 16, 2018
Lawn Boy, Jonathan Evison
Mike Munoz can’t catch any breaks it seems. “I’d like nothing more than to spread my proverbial wings and fly the f**k away from my current life, or maybe just get above it for a while.” His only job skill is lawn maintenance which he enjoys, and when he loses his job and can’t find another, he is plagued by one grinding indignity after another, and says, “After all, most of us are mowing someone else’s lawn, one way or another....fleetingly content, most of the time broke, sometimes hopeful, but ultimately powerless. And angry. Don’t forget angry.”
He still lives with his mother who sometimes has to waitress double shifts to cover expenses so Mike’s most important role is providing care for his 300-pound older brother Nate who functions at the level of a five year old, and for whom he is a surprisingly compassionate and tender caregiver. Some jobs won’t work because the hours conflict with the hours he needs to spend with Nate. Enter easy-going Freddy who is really good with Nate and whose baritone voice soothes him when he’s acting out.
They live on the res and Mike points out that you don’t have to be an Indian to rent there. “Apparently all you need is a bunch of broken shit in your yard.” At one point their landlord raises the rent forcing them to live in their car until another rental becomes available. Mike is a determined young man who doesn’t want to “settle.” He didn’t learn job skills at school but he did learn to read and the library becomes one of the warm places he likes to hang out and get book suggestions from a librarian. As a former librarian I adored this: “The library was the most stable thing in our lives, the only thing in the whole damn society that said to little Mike Munoz: ‘There you go, kid, it’s all yours for the asking.”
I think this is a rich as The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and certainly as warm and humorous. One of Evison’s themes was the class divide in America. Mike had a dust-up with a wealthy client and said “I guess when you’re a big rich, important person, sitting around on your ass, meditating on your big important, rich-guy thoughts, moving your money around in the ‘free market,’ the one built on the backs of slaves and children, you can’t be bothered with noisy lawn movers.”
Mike Munoz is not given over to complaining and recognizes the need for honesty in his voyage of self-discovery, one step at a time making interesting and loyal friendships along the way. I absolutely loved this book, hated for it to end.
We Own the Sky, Luke Allnutt
I selected this book to read next when I saw the Harlequin imprint thinking, oh good - I could use a romance right about now, not realizing how much Harlequin has changed since the years Harlequin was synonymous with romance, when my mother would read one a night before bed. Perhaps it started that way with Rob and Anna so in love with each other and their beautiful child whom Rob sometimes called Beautiful instead of Jack, but it became something else as Jack’s illness was diagnosed and quickly progressed.
I found it almost unbearable to continue reading yet was buoyed by the hope and compassion offered by others and through the online help group. I had to finish the second half today; I needed a resolution, to know what happened. The writing is lovely and the story is simple. How do parents survive their children? The author wrote this after his own harrowing cancer experience and perhaps that’s the source of his authentic voice. The author left me with a fresh appreciation for the power of forgiveness and to reaching out to help others. This is an unforgettable book.
Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover
This read like fiction, me flipping pages, trying to squeeze out reading in every possible moment. I thought of Kristen Hannah’s recent book, The Great Alone. What happens to the children of a mentally ill father and a meek cowed mother? Hannah’s book was fiction, this was not.
Normally parents protect their children, but when the tables are turned, children are left without advocates and have to fend for themselves against parents who leave them unsafe and vulnerable. Three of the seven siblings left home and earned PhDs, while the other four stayed to be enmeshed in the web of paranoia, lies and twisted religion.
Westover’s story is remarkable in that she never received a formal education, didn’t understand rules of standard hygiene and was clueless to social protocols, yet she climbed over all the hurdles to earn her PhD from Cambridge, while battling the disapproval of her parents.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.
In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.
A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.
How Hard Can It Be?, Allison Pearson
It’s hard to believe that a book this funny could also deal with some very serious modern-day problems, or as she says, “I don’t know why no one says “problems” anymore, except maybe problems have to be solved, and they can’t be, and issues sound important but don’t demand solutions.”
And Kate is nothing if not a problem solver. Her marriage is stale, her husband is in training for a new career so isn’t working, she needs to return to the work force after a seven-year hiatus at the age of 49, her teenage daughter has fallen in with a destructive crowd and her son just wants to play video games all day. When she’s faced with employment competition from a much younger crowd, she has to take steps to turn back the clock. “That’s how I ended up being a liar in the office and a liar at home. If MI5 were ever looking for a perimenopausal double-agent who could do everything except remember the password (‘No, hang on, give me time, I’ll come to me in a minute’) I was a shoo-in. But believe me, it wasn’t easy.”
Let’s see, what else? Her mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and since her husband is in retraining, doesn’t have time to help with her care. Oh yeah, her mother has taken a fall, her nearby daughter has to take care of her and resents it, resents Kate. Kate tries to understand Julie’s position, “I try to be understanding, but since when could the power of reason unpick the knots of sibling rivalry? I should call Julie back, and I will, but I need to get Emily sorted out. Emily first, then Mum, then prepare for my interview with the headhunter this afternoon. Anyway, I don’t need Julie’s help to make me feel guilty about getting my priorities wrong. Guilt is where I live.”
All of these problems and more fall to Kate to resolve. One situation after another crops up and meanwhile I’m laughing my head off. Wait, menopause isn’t funny, hahaha, and age bias in the workplace is serious, hahaha, and on. I can’t wonder at Kate’s tolerance for Richard’s mid-life crisis since I had such a marriage myself once up a time. The good news is that this is a sequel.
Paris in the Present, Mark Helprin
This wasn’t suspense but it was a page turner nevertheless. This was unique in every way, an absolutely new and fresh novel with an 75-year-old protagonist set in Paris with it’s feet in WWII.
"Mark Helprin’s powerful, rapturous new novel is set in a present-day Paris caught between violent unrest and its well-known, inescapable glories. Seventy-four-year-old Jules Lacour―a maître at Paris-Sorbonne, cellist, widower, veteran of the war in Algeria, and child of the Holocaust―must find a balance between his strong obligations to the past and the attractions and beauties of life and love in the present.
In the midst of what should be an effulgent time of life―days bright with music, family, rowing on the Seine―Jules is confronted headlong and all at once by a series of challenges to his principles, livelihood, and home, forcing him to grapple with his complex past and find a way forward. He risks fraud to save his terminally ill infant grandson, matches wits with a renegade insurance investigator, is drawn into an act of savage violence, and falls deeply, excitingly in love with a young cellist a third his age. Against the backdrop of an exquisite and knowing vision of Paris and the way it can uniquely shape a life, he forges a denouement that is staggering in its humanity, elegance, and truth.
In the intoxicating beauty of its prose and emotional amplitude of its storytelling, Mark Helprin’s Paris in the Present Tense is a soaring achievement, a deep, dizzying look at a life through the purifying lenses of art and memory." Review from the New York Times
Women's Work: the First 20,000 Year, Elizabeth Wayland Barber
"Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.
Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture.
Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods―methods she herself helped to fashion. In a "brilliantly original book" (Katha Pollitt, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric." Review from the New York Times
This book was surprisingly more interesting than I could have ever thought. As I research spinning and knitting in turn-of-the-century homesteading of Central Oregon I find a dearth of written record and have come to realize much like in Barber's book, there isn't one. I have to find mention in digitized newspapers and off-hand comments in miscellaneous memoirs. Women's work apparently isn't remarkable enough to write about!
Saturday, August 11, 2018
It’s been firecracker hot this past week with temperatures in the triple digits and smoky as fires consume vast swatches of the West, but life goes on at the High Desert Museum ranch house. Kids Camp is in full swing and their activity with us yesterday was cast iron cookery over an open fire. Ethan was super cautious about keeping the flame safe and the event went off without a hitch. They made griddle cakes to use with the butter they had churned in the morning. We’re seeing a lot of visitors from foreign countries this summer. It takes me a little more thought to explain homesteading and the homestead act to them. We try to stay in character, but for them I realize I have to explain the “why” behind how I became a homesteader.
My daughter sent me this picture. Alexia kept knitting on the circular needles, teaching herself how to decrease from YouTube videos and also how to make a Pom Pom. I taught her both English and Continental knitting, but she found her gauge looser and more consistent with English which was her method of choice when she went back home. I had explained that Continental has less motion so reduces the risk of repetitive motion injury and is also faster. She switched over in the middle of this project and then went on to teach herself how to purl. I never showed her how to cast on but no doubt she’ll find a YouTube video for that too.
I bought this Zoom Loom years ago when we visited Webs and have only made one square. I asked her if she’d like it and she was thrilled so the hunt for a shipping box has begun.
Meanwhile son Josh asked me to knit a red cap which I had planned to start in June when I discovered that the 20-year-old driveband that came with my Patrick Green carder was kaput. I haven’t had time until now to get that project underway. To my surprise the band I ordered from Susan’s Fibers is the right length but thinner and also performs much better.
I spun the first half of the fiber while demonstrating at the Deschutes County Fair and suddenly life got busy all over again. The second bobbin is on hold but it really feels good to be interested and excited about spinning again. I’m glad my spinning malaise was just temporary.
Crook County Fair asked me to be their spinning and weaving judge again this summer which I once again enjoyed thoroughly. It’s an intimate little fair and the people are delightful. This entry however took the cake and left us all scratching our heads. It’s a felted fleece designated as a seat cover, however, the fleece side was full of VM (vegetable matter) and was so greasy with lanolin so that none of us wanted to touch it and felt we needed to wash our hands afterwards.
At the end of all the categories I had two special ribbons to award. I gave the Judge’s Award to this exquisite silk yardage.
And then there was this astonishing nuno-felted horse’s mask. The felt itself was perfect, but the more I looked at the tiny details, the more I discovered: seed beads nestled in the felt, a half-dozen different bird feathers beaded and attached, slips of horses mane attached in a similar fashion.
A picture of the mask in use was attached to the supplementary material. I was thrilled to give this Best of Show. It’s going on to the State Fair next and I’m anxious to see how it performs there.
BrewFest starts this Thursday and we will have a houseful of guests for about four days. All of Ian’s kids will be here and two of his grandkids; six of our seven kids will be together which is the most any time since our last family gathering in 2014 before we moved, and thankfully the temps are predicted to drop!
Saturday, August 04, 2018
Our destination for the last part of our vacation was Yachats, pronounced YaHawts, and this AirB&B for the last three days of our trip. Because of the extreme heat inland the fog bank had come ashore and our plans of long walks on the beach were stymied.
After having a separate room to herself all along Alexia good naturedly accepted the futon in the living room which was rather unfortunate since it was colder outside than we had packed for and the cottage got quite small at times. We saw lots of down jackets and caps in use.
We tried to take Lexi to all the things we have enjoyed in this area over the years, like lighthouses and tide pools. Lexi had said all along she didn’t want to visit light houses or tide pools.
We hiked up to Heceta Head lighthouse, one of our favorites but it’s closed for the month of July so we had to content ourselves by looking at the outside.
True to her word, Lexi was not impressed or interested. She had more fun playing with the dog.
We should have listened to her from the start. She had been researching the things she wanted to see and once we let her pick, she was informative and interested again. This is Thor’s Well and best seen at high tide or storms so we timed our visit for high tide. It was cold and windy but she loved it.
Her absolute favorite spot of all was the Cape Perpetua lookout. From here we could see Cook’s Chasm and Thor’s Well, where we had just come from.
We took the circular hike from the parking lot to this WPA-era lookout. There’s a lot of CC construction along the coast like this. It was put to use during WWII as a lookout for enemy submarines.
This bridge was also built during the WPA era.
We got home on Wednesday and Friday we were back at the High Desert Museum ranch house for her last time this summer. Her parents drove up from Reno and all of our family got to spend the weekend together, then it was time to go home. Oh my goodness, how the time flew! And speaking of time flying, on Monday she’ll start high school as a freshman!
Thursday morning (the day before yesterday) I demonstrated at the county fair for our guild with both my spinning wheel and a drop spindle. I checked on my entries and as I had thought, my sweater received no acknowledgement.
These were the judge’s comments, and yes, the sleeves are a different gauge since the body was knit from triple ply and the sleeves double ply. Since all the yarn was spun over ten years ago I can’t remember why I switched in the middle like that and of course, there’s no more wool left.
This on the other hand was a complete and utter surprise. I hadn’t actually entered it, but last Monday but Mary Wonser dropped off a fair admission pass, she lamented that entries were way down this year. I felt bad since I had only entered two items. She said that if I had anything else, that she could enter it for me, so we went upstairs and she picked out three more items, this being one of them. I passed it over since it’s such a simple project, but it pleased the judge and that’s what counts.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Wednesday morning we were in line early for the ferry from Tacoma to Vashon Island.
The past couple of days in Tacoma had been unseasonably warm but it was plenty brisk on the ferry.
The whole family came over for the day and since the weather cooperated, it was a water play kinda day. In spite of Lexi having responsibly slathering herself with sun screen, Ian wanted her to cover up in his orange t-shirt, plus he also he wanted to be able to keep his eye on her. Her cousins are struggling to make the Corcle work as a two-man operation.
Alexia got a chance to take the Corcle out and she nailed it.
Jason decided she was ready to kayak and the next thing I knew, she nailed that too. In fact, she kayaked until her arms were exhausted.
Low tide called for some scavenging.
The difference between low and high tide on Puget Sound at that parallel is mind boggling. This is low tide.
This is high tide.
We played a rousing game of Bring Your Own Book, ate Shrimp Boil for dinner and the family caught the ferry back to Tacoma, leaving us with perfection for three more days.
This was twilight on Puget Sound with Mt Rainer in the background.
This was our last evening and I milked the twilight until I was driven indoors.
It seemed like no time at all until we were back on the ferry, headed back to Oregon.
The tide that morning was super low and you can see how low by how high the ramp was compared to the ferry deck. Alison told me that there are times when the tide is so low that the ferry simply cannot run. People have to wait to cross until the tide comes in. What a different world from mine.
Saturday, July 21, 2018
We arrived in Tacoma late Monday afternoon. The plan was to walk a 1.3 mile trail downhill through an old growth forest and meet Allison after work at a seafood restaurant. The walk down was beautiful. The walk up was something else!
The cousins take a break and pose for the grandmas.
Tuesday morning after breakfast Rochelle drove us to downtown Tacoma for a visit to MOG (the Museum of Glass) and lunch at The Swiss, a historic eatery. The old railway station is in the background, now the courthouse, and is also filled with art glass.
My favorite part of MOG is the hot room where visiting artists and their crews work in a seemingly effortless choreography of glass making.
On display is an example of the work in progress, glass set into a ceramic base -
That is created on this ceramic 3-D printer.
And after 30 minutes it’s ready to insert into a ceramic mold that’s held firmly in a bucket of damp sand. This is one of the guest artists.
There’s a dramatic flare of fire, as if in protest.
And what comes out is glass in the shape of a giant quartz crystal. I could have stayed in their arena all day but lunch was beckoning.
I didn’t leave myself much time to zip through the gallery which was filled with the impressive work of Albert Paley, who also just happens to be a printmaker, and then it was time to go!
Our trip to Fort Nisqually had to be a quick one but Allison was in costume and we got to spend about 15 minutes with her before she had to lead a group on a “lock room” escape.
Alexia loves to “teach” Gus things and apparently he likes what she teaches.
We walked the two blocks from Rochelle’s charming bungalow to Jason and Ali’s charming bungalow for dinner. Tacoma is a sea of bungalows! The kids played a card game.
Wednesday morning found us in a line for the Vashon Island ferry.
Alexia has been on the ferry to Ellis Island but this was her first time on a car ferry. We are still on the island until tomorrow morning.