Thursday, March 27, 2014

First Quarter 2014 Book Report

Aye yi yi!  Where is 2014 going?  And why is it going so fast?

So guess what?  I'm in a book club.  I was so happy to be asked to join this group of wonderful women -- some I knew, some are new friends.  Their book for February was The Husband's Secret, which I had read last year and thought would generate some great discussion.  It did.

For March, they had chosen The Book Thief.  No problem, I thought.  I had read this treasure several years ago, and had recommended it to others.  I thought I had a copy on my bookshelves somewhere, but apparently, I had given it away.  So, I ordered a used copy from Amazon for .95, and received it with a week to spare for a little re-read and review.  But when I finally sat down with the book on Friday (our meeting was coming up on Monday), I couldn't remember the story at all -- yikes!  That Saturday morning was a cold snowy mess, so Clay and I watched the movie.  Beautiful.  But I knew there was much about the story that the movie wasn't able to cover, so I re-read as much as I could before the meeting, and I want to re-read the entire book soon. If you haven't read this one, you should.

Our friend, Tim, leads a book group at our library every other month.  Bad Dirt, a collection of short stores by Annie Proulx, was his choice for March, and we had a great discussion, despite the fact that I wasn't crazy about the stories.  In fact, if I wasn't reading this for Tim's group, I would have abandoned it.  I really wanted to like this book -- Proulx is a Pulitzer prize winner, for pete's sake -- I was ready to be wowed.  I wasn't.  Tim and another gentleman in the group found the stories hilarious -- I just found them pretty sad pictures of the human experience.  Clay and I did go upstairs after the group and check out The Shipping News -- I just want to be sure I'm not missing out on loving a great writer, so I'm trying again.

 I had made some reading resolutions for 2014, and I am happy to report that I'm doing pretty well on those.  For the young adult novel, I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

This is a beautiful novel -- not simply a beautiful YA novel.  It's sad, but you know it will be sad from the first page -- it is about cancer, so be warned.
It's just beautiful writing.  And it's full of beautiful characters you want to know.  And although it's set in Indianapolis, you will go on an amazingly beautiful journey.

It's worth the tears, I promise.

One of the resolutions was to read outside of your usual genre, so I decided I would read a horror or science fiction book.  My friend, Christie, recommended The Dead Zone by Stephen King.  It's not horrible, and just a tiny bit frightening, but it was thrilling, and I finished it in 2 days.  It's a love story, a father-son story, a teacher-student story and a "what in the hell would you do if you had this terrifying power?" story.  I probably won't read any more Stephen King, but I am glad to have read this one -- his storytelling is fantastic, and makes me understand why so many are addicted to his novels.

And I'm saving the best for last.  The first resolution was to read "something massive", and The Goldfinch, at 785 pages, certainly qualifies.

I saw this book on all kinds of "best of" lists at the end of 2013, but when Maureen Corrigan of NPR said it was her "book of the year," that was enough to make me download it onto the nook.  Because holding a volume of this book surely would have made my arms tired.  And since it's on the shelf of new fiction at our library, I would only have had 7 days to read it.  And it's just too lush to finish in 7 days.  There's too much about the museum world, the fine antique furniture world, the Vegas underworld and the crazy world of art theft to take it all in in just 7 days.  And by too much, I mean too much in a very, very good way.

I had to stop and breathe.

And, I'm still not done.  I have 50 pages to go.  I've had 50 pages to go for 3 weeks now.  I just don't want this one to be over.

So, I guess you could say I'm currently reading this one.

I am also currently reading Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlin for my Tuesday book group, Runaway by Alice Munro for Tim's book group and listening to Amy Tan's Valley of Amazement in the sewing room.  


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Not Just for Kids

Last week, I was honored to be asked to be one of the guest readers at the St. Ambrose School Read-a-thon.  But picking a book to read to the kids K-8 was tricky;  I had only 15 minutes on stage to share a favorite book -- how could I ever choose?

I have a pretty big collection of children's books.  Some of the books I've had since I was a kid, but my collecting really started with a children's literature class at Purdue, which I took during the semester I was an Elementary Ed major.  The professor was tough, and we disagreed on some things (she didn't like Disney movies!  I wonder if she still doesn't?) but I loved the class because we read authors I had never heard of, did interesting projects and I got an A.  

I have most of Sarah, Maggie and Will's books from years of book clubs, book fairs and Scholastic orders.

I have lots of Little Golden Books.  My kids learned pretty quickly that I would say "no" to a crap toy at the grocery, but I would never say "no" to a book.  

When I worked at the library, I would often order copies of the books we would read during storytime on the Bookmobile:  Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie.  I continued that habit while I worked with my sister in kindergarten.  And almost every time I go to a bookstore.

So, I carried a stack of books into the school that day.  Olivia, Knitting Nell, When I Was Young in the Mountains, The Corgiville Fair, Little House on the Prairie.  

But I read from an old book with a lasting message:  the 1945 Newberry Award Winner,  The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin.

This is a book about bullying, although the girls in the story saw it all as fun and games.  It's a story about discrimination.  It's a story about following your conscience.  I couldn't read the entire book to them, but hope I stopped at a point from which they'll want to read it themselves.  I knew I'd chosen well when one of the teachers (and friend) stopped me on the way out to tell me that had been one of her favorite childhood books.  

And because I love poetry, and because this has been a crazy winter, I started with this poem:  

The First Bluebird 
by James Whitcomb Riley 

Jest rain and snow! and rain again!
And dribble! drip! and blow!

Then snow! and thaw! and slush! and then--
Some more rain and snow!

To wake up--when, I jing!
I seen the sun shine out and heerd
The first bluebird of Spring!--
Mother she'd raised the winder some;--
And in acrost the orchurd come,
Soft as a angel's wing,
A breezy, treesy, beesy hum,
Too sweet fer anything!

The winter's shroud was rent a-part--
The sun bust forth in glee,--
And when that that bluebird sung, my hart
Hopped out o' bed with me!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Layer Cake Sampler Quilt -- Squares 1-6

In February, I read about a quilt-along on the Crimson Tate Facebook page, and thought I would try it -- it's been months since I've put a quilt together, I already had the fabric needed for the project, and since I've never done a quilt-along before, it sounded like fun.  AND, you know I want to be just like Heather when I grow up.  (Do cat-eye glasses come in bifocals?)

Early in 2013, I had purchased a layer cake of Mary Jane's Glamping fabric, and had planned to make this quilt:
(You can find the pattern here, and I think you can still get the fabric at the Fat Quarter Shop and in several Etsy shops.)

But instead, I'm going to try to make the 20 squares that go into the sampler quilt designed by Amanda of Material Girl Quilts.   Another motivation for sewing this quilt?  I met Amanda when I was paying a visit to CT a few weeks ago -- I was telling Heather how I was planning to start the quilt along, and she told me that Amanda was going to be stopping in.  And she did!   

I was sort of star-struck.  A real live blogger!

(I know.  What's wrong with me?)

Anyway, the whole idea behind this quilt is that you start with layer cake squares.  You choose two fabrics, place them right sides together, sew an "X", then cut each square into 8 half-square triangles.  For each quilt block, you make two of these sets.  (Don't worry - Amanda tells you just how to do it on her blog.)

The perfect tool for this project is the rotating cutting mat I bought a few years ago with a 40% off coupon at Joann's:

It makes very quick work of the slicing of the squares! 

I haven't done precise piecing like this for a while, and I've had to do a lot of ripping and re-sewing.  I also skipped one of Amanda's instructions and didn't square up each small square to 4 1/2" -- I guess I thought if I sewed accurately, it wouldn't be necessary.  But it was.  Let's face it -- I wasn't thinking, I just wanted to get a square made.  Rip, rip, rip.  

I learned my lesson, pressed and trimmed, I was able to finish the first 6 blocks:  

Week 1:


Week 2:  
Flying Geese Variation

Week 3:
Happy Star

Diagonal Stripe

I love the way 4 of these blocks came out, I am OK with one, but I really don't groove to the diagonal stripe.  The block is nice, but I think my colors are wrong.  I wish I had thought my colors out a bit more -- I'm currently stewing over color choices for 7 and 8, but I need to stew faster, because I'm a bit behind -- Amanda posted blocks 9 and 10 on Friday!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Guns and Letters

I am primarily posting this for my friend, Jeannine.

As one who is constantly working toward a peaceful spirit, I felt pretty unpeaceful when I wrote this -- I was steaming a bit, and my first few versions were fairly vitriolic.  Edit, edit, edit, and this is what I sent in:

March 14, 2014

Letter to the Editor, Seymour Tribune:

On his facebook page on Thursday, March 13, Representative Jim Lucas claimed victory with the passage of Senate Bill 229, concerning firearms matters

As passed on Thursday, SB229 allows for the following: prohibition of taxpayer-funded gun buyback programs in Indiana; the sale of guns owned by convicted individuals (in cases of non-felony convictions) by police authorities, with the profits from the sale (minus sale expenses) returned to the individual; legal possession of guns at school function off of school property, including field trips, proms and graduation ceremonies (if guns are allowed at those venues); legal possession of guns in their cars by individuals in public school parking lots, provided those cars are locked and the guns are not in plain sight; and, prohibition of individual school district discretion regarding whether or not employees may have guns in their cars in school parking lots – they can.

It is important to note that this bill was opposed by the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Indiana Association of School Principals, the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, the Indiana School Boards Association and the Indiana Urban School Association. As noted in the February 28th edition of The Tribune, school superintendents in Jackson County opposed the bill. In short, the bill was opposed by those most closely affected by its passage. Why Representative Lucas supported, voted for, and rejoiced in the passage of this bill when top educators, administrators and his own constituents condemned the bill is a mystery to me, but one that seems to be in keeping with our current Indiana Legislature's mindset that those in the State Capitol building understand more about our schools and children than those who actually work in our school buildings with our children.

I could write pages of my thoughts on gun control. I have discussed the Brady Bill/Law and Gabby Gifford's Americans for Responsible Solutions with dear friends and beloved family who carry weapons. I'm not going to argue with anyone's right to own a gun, because let's face it, I lose. The NRA, its massive reach and its powerful lobby are smarter and more powerful than I am; despite Representative Lucas' claims of victory, it was the NRA who won on Thursday.

Our job as parents, as educators, as legislators, as humans is to keep our children safe. Representative Lucas and I probably agree on that. However, Representative Lucas believes that easy access to guns will help keep our school children safe. I feel much more frightened knowing that this close proximity to more guns simply puts more school children at risk of accidental (or even more horridly, intentional) shooting. Our schools should be refuges of peace and safety, and I believe the safest place for any child is as far from a gun as possible.