Monday, August 29, 2016

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin ~ Book Review

Doss was raised in a trailer park by the river by his loving mom who encouraged his artistic side to help him cope with his life threatening asthma.  Now an adult, and his beloved mom passed away years ago, Doss is a struggling artist and fishing guide on the river.  When he meets Abby, the beautiful international model who just happens to be the daughter of a very influential & powerful senator, he is smitten but out of his league.  But Abby is not like her parents in that respect and does not care where Doss has come from, only who he is as a person.  In spite of their objections, she continues to see him and also uses her connections to help his art to sell.  Now married 10 years against the wishes of her parents and still totally in love, Abby faces the fight of her life with an aggressive life threatening illness.  With Doss by her side supporting her through all the treatments and experimental programs, Abby fights with everything she has.  But as all avenues start be closed, Abby makes a list of ten things she wants to do before the illness ends her life.  Involving the trip that Doss promised her at the beginning their marriage, they sneak away to make the 130 mile canoe trip down the St. Mary River.  But chasing them down is her very angry father who has all resources to find them at this fingertips and a hurricane barreling down the coastline.

This story is a heartbreaking look into the devastating and emotional journey on one couple's fight against cancer.  The story goes back and forth between Doss and Abby's present and their past giving the reader a backseat ride to the the story of their lives.  It is emotional and heartbreaking from beginning to end as the story of their deep love and supportive relationship unfolds, to the stress of Abby's powerful father never really accepting Doss even after 10 years, to the decisions that they are faced with as their cancer journey progresses.  It is also an exploration in how a person's life should end when they have a long term, terminal illness.

As usual I loved the story put out by this author.  This is not a new release by him being published in 2008, but I'm working my way through all his older novels.  He really knows how to build character and how to get the reader to connect with each of the vieiwpoints of the main characters.  His story and character building is bar none.   As per his other novels there are varied characters from all sorts of backgrounds, good and bad, and their stories really draw you in.   That being said, I did find this particular story to be a bit wordy in respect to his descriptions of the river.  I found it a bit over done and it actually distracted me from the journey that Doss and Abby were taking.  So even though it was a heartbreaking story I was disconnected more than his other books and finally found myself skimming the parts where I was getting bogged down in river descriptions and metaphors and analogies.  But I loved how the story was resolved between a couple of the characters and thought that was worth any frustrations described above.  This was also still worth the read for me simply for the fact that it took an issue I thought I had a pretty strong stance on and made me at least consider it from a different angle.

  I gave it a 9/10.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #394

I just can't believe it's Friday already.  I haven't posted a thing since last week's FFF.  Can a week have already flown by?  All the better to do the Friday's Fave Five so that I don't miss those blessings in my life as they whoosh by!  Please join in.

1.  Fitness accomplishment.  The ladies only gym I go to, curves,  had a little Olynpics of their own with the chance to "compete" in any one or all of three "events".  Low and behold I won the bronze medal in one of the events which was "Plank".  Simply,  you just held a plank in proper form for as long as you could.  

(This is a plank like I did.  You can make it more challenging by going up on your hands)

You had a chance to try once a day for 5 days.  I was able to give it a go twice.    I have never in my life won anything fitness related.  I was lucky if I ever got a Participant ribbon, which half the time was unlikely as I tried to get out of anything remotely like that.  This was a huge encouragement for me in my fitness journey over the last 5 years.  To realize where I had come from (basically an out of shape couch potato) to where I am now is great to me.  And don't get me wrong, I am no "athlete" but to now enjoy physical activity and actually crave it is amazing to me and worth the effort it has taken.  

2.  New Fave Ice Cream Flavor.  I discovered Nanaimo Bar flavor of ice cream and it has rocked our world.  If you've ever had a nanaimo bar you know how good they are.  As an aside, did you know they are a Canadian thing?  Yup, them and poutine.  We know good food!  Anyway, if you can get ahold of Western Family Classics ice cream in this flavor, do not pass it by!

3.  Washer and dryer.  So thankful for these hard working appliances.  When I think of how it used to be before my time:  hauling water from a stream, building a fire, heating it in a big cauldron and finally boiling your laundry and hanging it over bushes and stuff to dry... all I can say is "Thank you Lord"  that I was born in this age and time of wonderful washing machines and dryers and I mean that with all my heart!

4.  Evenings at home.  It's been a fairly quiet evening week around here and for that I'm thankful.  No running to have to be anywhere, just eat our evening meal together, clean up the kitchen and then just relax for the evening reading or watching tv.  I love being out and about but sometimes am just really glad for home time too.

5.  Sunday afternoon walks.  My mom really enjoys going to the lake for a little stroll but rarely gets there.  She's in her '80's and feeling the aches and pains of old age so to go by herself is difficult.  It's nice to take her on a Sunday afternoon and just see her enjoying nature and being outside.  It's also a time where she tends to go down memory lane a bit so that is always fun to listen to.  Hopefully our weather will hold out for many more Sundays so that we can get our fill before winter.

What were your favorite blessings this week?  What uplifted you or made you smile or made your life better?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #393

Welcome to the Friday's Fave Five!  We are looking back over the week to take notice of those things that are good and a blessing to our lives.  Honing our radars to note the good things so that we can be uplifted when the stresses of life comes, making gratefulness an automatic response.  Please in join with us.

1.  Maintenance week.  This is the week where I'm closed for business but I am a busy beaver deep cleaning, sorting and purging all things that pertain to my childcare business.  While I don't necessarily enjoy the process, I do love the result.  Nothing like fresh, clean carpets & furniture, toys that are purged of broken & ripped parts and wholes, scrubbed clean of what little hands transfer around,  fresh smelling areas to play and learn.  Lots of work but worth the results.

2.  Sleeping in on work days.  With the maintenance week also comes the opportunity to have an extra hour or so of sleep each morning even though I still have full work days in front of me.  Oh if only that could be my everyday reality, but I'll take whatever mornings I can get and have been grateful for them this week.  

3.  All my kids home on the weekend.  Now that they are all adults, one of whom is now married, it is getting rarer that we get holiday times together.  We didn't have an extended holiday all together this year but we did have everyone here for various reasons this last weekend and so  Sunday we took advantage of the opportunity  go to our happy place at Waterton Lakes National Park.   Even though it was super busy we got our traditional favorite picnic spot, had our traditional fire roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, went for coffee and ice cream, some of us took in a hike to Bear's hump and some of just relaxed and enjoyed the opportunity to do nothing.  It was a perfectly beautiful day. We were only missing our new family member, our son in law, but maybe next time he can come too.  So grateful for these opportunities!  

Family pic (sans Mitch) Waterton 2016
the creek that runs right beside our fave picnic spot

we even had a visit from this little family who pondered why we were all 
cooking hotdogs in the middle of their path to the creek

4.  Great deals.  I always love me a great deal and I hate to pay full price for practically anything.  I've had my sights on one of those big barbie houses for years for the dayhome.  They are so expensive and even used ones are usually listed at over 70 dollars.   This last week I was taking a gander through kijiji and scrolled back quite a few pages and lo and behold someone was selling one in excellent condition for $40.  With the furniture included.  I couldn't believe no one had scooped it up.   Happy danced in my imagination all the way from purchasing it.

5.  Movie night out with my sis.  We haven't done that in a long time.  It was nice just to spend some time out with her enjoying a good movie.

What were you're favorite blessing from this last week?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Sisters Weiss by Naomi Ragen ~ Book Review

Rose and her sister Pearl are growing up in a loving, yet super restrictive ultra-Orthodox Jewish family during the 1950's in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. Though they love each other dearly, there is the typical tensions and jealousy between them that sisters have. Rose is approaching the age when the matchmakers of the community start looking for prospective wives for the young men of the community. This is the life they know until Rose has a chance encounter that introduces her to a love of photography and the stories that photographs tell. Not approved by the community or her parents, photography never the less draws her to the point where she is willing to take chances and she starts to live a hidden life. That is until her secret is exposed by the one person she trusted. Wisked away from all her friends and her school and those she loves to her grandmother's community for a year in punishment and hopes she'll repent, Rose nevertheless cannot resist the draw of the freedom that photography gives her and continues to live a secret other life. When the restrictions become so suffocating she makes the hardest decision of her life and pursues freedom at the cost of exile from her community.

 Forty years later, Rose's daughter receives a strange letter from someone claiming to be her cousin asking for help to break from Williamsburg. Rivka has been inspired by her aunt Rose's infamy within the community and her world renowned achievements in photography and wants to pursue the freedom that she has built up in her mind that her aunt has. But as she recklessly and thoughtlessly pursues what she perceives is the benefits of not answering to anybody, she throws those newly found family members and those that love her back at home into utter chaos. Both Rose and her sister Pearl must reopen old wounds in order to help Rivka.

 This book has been on my TBR for a while. It sounded so interesting in the description and it didn't disappoint. It was hard to put it down. It really examines what freedom really is, how we perceive it and the prices that individuals might pay to attain it. It is about love and family relationships, about betrayal and forgiveness and the reverberating consequences of actions that we might not even realize are happening. Both Rose and Rivka make choices within the story that set things into motion in their lives that will have far reaching affects and both must learn that those choices come at a cost. The story also examines the thought process and feelings behind rebellion that might come from such restrictive environments. I found the story super interesting.

 Though I've heard of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews I've never really known what they believe or how they go about their lives. This story was eye opening in that regard. The author is American but has lived in Jerusalem for over forty years and has observed the type of women described in the story both in New York and in Jerusalem. She has friendships both with the religious and secular communities and believes that the stereotypes about both do not do either sides justice. The story made me think about freedoms and what it might mean to individuals. Though Rose chaffed against the restrictions her sister Pearl's character learned accept them and actually find a good life within them. As it also examined perceptions that we may have from both sides of the fence it really made me think. Rivka definitely had a rosy perception of what Rose's life might be like but under the surface there were many life long issues that came with Rose's bid for freedom and pursuing the life she wanted for herself.

 The reason I knocked off a half point for this really good thought provoking story was because in the first 1/3 or so of the book, it is filled with quite a few Jewish sayings. Though there is a glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish words and phrases at the back of the book there was not a way in the story of knowing which term would actually be on the list. I must admit I did get tired of flipping to the back to find meanings and wished it would somehow have been defined within the story itself. But other than that, the story itself was really good. For those who are sensitive to it, there is a scene of promiscuity in the story but can be skimmed over without missing the purpose and consequences of the scene.  And bonus points to the author for showing some of the consequences of being promiscuous.

I gave this book a 9.5/10

Linked to Semicolon Saturday Review of Books

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #392

Welcome to FFF, a place where we push the pause button on our hurried days and just look back over the week to find and acknowledge them.  Please join us.  If you are new the guidelines are linked in my sidebar!

1.  Some sunshine!  This has been the rainiest year I remember in a long time.  Everynight it seems we have thunderstorm warnings.  The ground is so saturated it prompted Environment Canada to put out a rainfall warning the other day too.  Since coming back from holidays it just seems like we are having more cloud and less sun that goes through our day.  But yesterday was an almost full day of lovely sunshine.  It was so nice just to be out in it playing with the kids and enjoying the warmth.  A welcome blessing.  I don't think I would be suited to some of these cities that regularly see a lot of rain and cloud.

2.  Summer to do list.  The great summer to do list began a few weeks ago as I prep for my maintenance week.  It's a week that I take off so I can get all those jobs done that can't get done with 6 little kidlets running around my feet.  Things like carpet cleaning, painting, toy repair, etc., etc., etc.  But I look at that long list today and I actually have a couple of things already crossed off due to lots of kids being on holidays.  It's a great feeling to have a jumpstart on a very busy, not so favorite week of chores that must be done.

3.  Trying a new food item.  Nowadays it seems there is always a new something in the produce departments at the grocery store.  This last week I found a thing called doughnut peaches.  When I first glanced at them beside the regular peaches I though a few peaches had not grown properly due to be squished out on the tree but then I saw the sign:  Doughnut peaches.  At double the price, no less, of the regular ones.  My curiosity peaked, I bought one each for me, Hubby and Tamara.  The did NOT taste like doughnuts.  LOL.  But they were very juicy, very sweet, and very mild in flavor.  I think a little too mild for my tastes.  I think for the price I'll stick with the regular peaches.  But they were fun to try.

4.  TBR (to be read) reading list knock off.  At the library last trip I came across a book that has been on my tbr list for a very long time.  This list of mine on my library account is nearing the 400 mark.  Yes, it's not a typo, it is nearing 400.  Yikes.  And I just keep adding at a rate that is exponentially higher than the ones I am actually reading of them.  So many books so little time and all that.  But when I saw this one just sitting there I nabbed it and in spite of the fact that it is not in my set reading challenge for the year (which is to read as many of the books that I buy this year and half of last year that I can)  I made time for it.  And it was a great read.  Now I can check mark that one off my list.  Maybe my next year's challenge will have to be to read mostly my library tbr list.  Hmmmm, something to consider.  So hard not to get distracted with all those lovely books lining the shelves at the library!

5.  This quote by Lysa TerKuerst (from this post)

So, I must let love guide me.
Love can empower me to feel hurt without becoming a person consumed by that hurt …
I can feel offended, but I don’t have to be offended.
I can feel insecure, but I don’t have to act insecure.
I can feel angry, but I don’t have to respond in anger.
That’s the choice love makes.

What were your favorites blessings from the last week?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Balance: A Story of Faith, Family, and Life on the Line by Nik Wallenda (with David Ritz)

Nik Wallenda hails from the lengendary famous high wire walking family, the Wallendas.  His family has been performing on the high wire for 7 generations.  He, himself, has been on the wire since he was 2 years old, granted only a couple feet off the ground when he was little, but you get the idea.  Performing and pushing himself to new heights and challenges is literally in his blood and he has broken many world records.

I had known of the Wallendas before.  Nik's grandfather infamously fell to his death while performing on the high wire as did other members of his family in separate incidents.  But Nik carries on his family's heritage believing he is called to not only do daring, thrilling feats on the high wire but to share Christ through his giftings that God has given him.

Nik Wallenda came across my radar when I first watched his famous walk across Niagra Falls and he had me hooked.  Miked not only to his dad, but into the network's boards, and not knowing his mike was "hot", I watched as he glorified Jesus and was so thankful for the opportunity to do what he was doing and let God know it.  It was mesmerizing.  Then I watched him do it again across the Grand Canyon and in Chicago between two buildings.  So when this book came up I was super interested to find out how he came to his strong faith and the story of his family.

This book was really good.  Nik is very upfront about his shortcomings.  How being in the business for all these years has required that he be very particular and in control, but how not leaving that at the door when he came home almost caused his marriage to fall apart even though he and his wife, also a performer, loved each other dearly.  I really appreciated his honesty in how he really had to seek God and still battles it today, with God's help.  He tells his story of how his great-grandfather has influenced his life, how his mom and dad instilled faith in the Lord in him from his youngest years and how it all leads his decisions and life today.   Just as he uses a balancing pole to keep from falling on the high wire Nik relates God to be his balancing pole in life to keep him from a keep a balance between ego and humbleness, drive and being led, control and faith to keep him from falling in life.

"Yes, I have a job to do.  Yes I was born to do that job.  And yes, the aim of that job is to thrill people by performing seemingly impossible feats.  But, in realizing those feats, if I fail to reflect the glory of God I have accomplished nothing."
Nik Wallenda
Balance:  A Story of Faith, Family and Life on the Line
pg. 164

A very interesting peek into the life and thoughts of a man who literally puts his life into God's hands in every way yet never expects that God "magically" keeps him falling.

If you've watched any of his walks, heard of his family, are interested in what makes daredevil performers tick or just like a good autobiography this is a great read.  I give it a 10/10.

Linked:  Semicolon Saturday Review of Books

Friday, August 05, 2016

Friday's Fave Five #391

Welcome to the first FFF of August!  I can't believe the summer is half over already.  At least the way I think of summer.  Come September 1, I already think of that as fall even though technically there is 3 weeks to go of summer.  Anyway, moving on to FFF.  Please join us as we reflect on the blessings in our lives from the past week.

1.  Back to the gym.  Though we did do lots of walking on our vacation, it was nice to get back to a routine where I actually challenged my muscles a bit.  I was so laid back on vacation that I was good and ready to get to it.  

2.  Quiet evenings have been appreciated this week by me.  The transition back to work always is a bit tough with getting my sleep hours back to routine.  The quiet evenings have been wonderful to just get things like laundry done, and get organized for work.  That is going to end with a very full week coming up so I was very thankful for this opportunity of easing into busyness.

3.  Star Trek with friends.  Before we went on vacation we made a movie date with good friends who also like the new Star Trek franchise movies.  Coffee before and lots of popcorn later, we enjoyed the show and the company.

4.  Coconut Mocha Macchiato from Starbucks.  This is one of their newer summer drinks and I discovered it just before holidays.  I get mine half sweet and it is just delicious.  And cold.  Yum.  I've been trying to be a very good girl and only get them as a once in awhile treat as I'm really trying to cut way back on my sugar intake, but sometimes I just have to treat myself.

5.  Short work weeks.  Monday was a holiday so that makes this a short work week.  Gotta love those.  Especially when the weekend will be busy.  I'll be helping out my friend prep some stuff tonight for her daughter's wedding tomorrow.  It's in their gorgeous backyard so there is lots to be done.  Our girls were friends as teens and I can hardly believe the both of them are married this year.  Time does fly and the whole thing is making me feel a bit nostalgic.  

What were your favorite blessings this week?  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend doing things you love and being with folks you love.