"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

31 August 2014

2014 Book Review #34: The Book Thief

I cannot describe this book well enough.

Words fail me.  Truly.  It has left a huge impact.  I will remember these characters forever.

The author is brilliant. One of the BEST authors I have ever read.  It should be required reading for every German, Jew, American and every single high school student who can read above a grade 8 level. It is life-changing and mind-numbing.

I am wiped out emotionally from just finishing this book about an hour ago.

I'm not going to summarize  but rather, I will put in quotes the summary from the back of the book, page 2 of the Readers Guide at the end of the novel. Words in parenthesis are my own words.

STORY SUMMARY

" Liesel Meminger is only nine years old when she is taken (by her mother and little brother, who dies on the way,) to live with the Hubermanns (Hans and Rosa), a foster family on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, in the late 1930s.  She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The Grave Digger's Handbook, a book she stole from her brother's burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, life on Himmel Street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a full-fledged book thief.  She rescues books from Nazi book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor.  Liesel is illiterate when she steals her first book (she is 10 in the beginning of the story), but Hans Hubermann uses her prized books to teach her to read.  This is a story of courage, friendship, love, survival, death, and grief.  This is Liesel's life on Himmel Street, told from Death's point of view."

and from the back of the book:

"It is 1939.  Nazi Germany.  The country is holding its breath.  Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow.  It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.  So begins a love affair with books and words; as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read.  Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.  But these are dangerous times.  When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down."

MY THOUGHTS

I'm always saying on this blog that "this is the best book I've read all year" because I love books and most of the ones I choose are fantastic.  But really?  THIS novel is THE BEST one I have ever read.  It truly is. I've always thought Les Miserables was the best...but this beats that.  This author is a master at his craft.

The story's voice is that of Death.  It is chilling. It is eye-opening. It is brilliant.

This piece of literature is also done differently than most books set in WWII. It is from the perspective of Germans who despise Hitler.  I loved that.

Also, in one part of the story, the Jewish man hiding in the basement, creates his own story on old newsprint.  The author does a fantastic job of creating the pages to look like what the character (Max) was doing with that paper. The sketches and words are just amazing.  This happens twice in the book and each time I was astounded at the brilliance of this idea. It is potent.  It really makes you think that these people were real....were actually alive in that time period.  

The story is brave.  It is about true heroes.  It is about abandonment.  There is also a lot of symbolism in this story.  The symbolism of Death being the narrator is amazing.....and it brings out Death's feelings for each victim. One of the best quotes (and it's also brought up again in the reader guide) is the following:

"I'm always finding humans at their best and worst.  I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both" (page 491).

The story is friendship.  The friendship between Liesel and her best friend, another German boy, Rudy. The friendship between Liesel and Max, the Jewish man hiding in the Hubermann's basement.  The friendship between Liesel and Papa.  And the friendship between Liesel and Ilsa, the mayor's wife. These friends will make you laugh.  and cry.  and moan.  and cheer.

The story is guilt.  Hans' guilt about being alive after WWI showed me just how powerful it is as an emotion.....but in Hans' life, he uses that  guilt to help others.

I love how the author used foreshadowing in this book.....it is very powerful.

The ending left me with tears.  In my eyes.  And in my heart.

The very last sentence will be one to ponder for a very long time to come:


"A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR (Death):  I am haunted by humans." (page 550).


This story will stay with me for a very long time.  As it should.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for advanced readers ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest I rate this a 10.  But it doesn't need a rating. It needs a reading.  Read this. And then let me know what YOU thought.







29 August 2014

End of Summer Vacation Faves

Well, it's just about the end of summer vacation.....it's been a wonderful 10 weeks off from work!
My official last day is Tuesday, after Labor Day. Claire's last day of freedom is Wednesday.  It's probably good that we are getting back into a routine....but oh how I will miss these lazy days of summer!

Join in with me and other writers as we share our FIVE FAVES from the week, hosted by Susanne.

FIVE FAVES


  • SHOPPING! One of my very best friends and sisters in Christ (Lynn) and I went outlet shopping in Lake George last Saturday while Dave and Claire were at this fun place. It had been awhile since Lynn and I were able to connect and what an enjoyable afternoon we had!  We did some shopping, ate yummy salads for lunch, more shopping.  I found some good deals on "back to work" clothes for my self and even picked up a Christmas gift for Claire.  I love these "moms days out".  It was a blessing to have that time together!
Caroga Lake State Campground
Southern Adirondacks
26 August
  • LAKE DAY! Tuesday was gearing up to be hot and humid in our town so Claire and I headed north-west to a favorite lake that we hadn't been to since the summer of 2005! We had also camped there, when the girls were very young, for Fourth of July weekend 2001.  Ah....the memories!  One of my sisters (Hope) and her husband joined us and we had so much fun swimming in this cold, but refreshing lake.  And the best thing was that we swam with loons!!  There were 2 loons on the lake very close to the swimming area, just outside the roped off section, swimming alongside us!  It's the closest we have ever been to the loons...even closer than when we were kayaking further north on a different lake.  We stayed until the beach closed and decided to linger in the area. What a blessing to have this day together.....sun, sand, ice cream and a quick stop at Hope and Donny's house afterwards before heading back to the capital region.  (they live about 10 min away from the lake). Claire and I had so much fun and are hoping to get up to this lake to kayak maybe later this fall.

photo courtesy of starbucks website
  • COFFEE with FRIEND:  I finally got together Wednesday evening with my very good friend and sister in Christ, Erin.  We live in the same town!  And we hadn't seen each other in almost a year!  Just so busy!  But we finally met at the local $tarbucks and had an hour to relax, catch up and sip our fave beverages. Mine was an iced skinny peppermint mocha.....yum.  It's a blessing to have good friends...we've been friends for years...and we always have so much to chat about. We attend different churches and hardly ever get to see each other. It's a blessing when we do get together. What a great evening!
Cohoes Falls
28 August


Claire descends the stairs to the trail
Cohoes Falls View Park
National Park Service Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor

  • LOCAL FUN!  Yesterday, Claire and I took a local trip to part of the National Park Erie Canal-way Heritage area......about a 7 minute drive from our house!!  We had never seen the Cohoes Falls up close and I decided, since it was a partly sunny day and cool, that we would do something local.  We first went out to lunch at the place Claire chose and had this:
photo courtesy of Claire 


Then we took a trip to the town library where we each found 2 books to enjoy in the next few weeks and finally we went to the falls.  It was so much fun and we got some great shots!!  I hadn't realized that the park was 4 acres with beautiful walkways and a beautiful sitting area. After spending about a half hour there, we went home and relaxed in the backyard on chaises with our books.  A great day and a blessing to spend it with my 15 year old.
Cohoes Falls View Park
Capital Region, NY


Near the beginning of the walkway
Claire, age 15
28 August

  • BLOOMS!  This plant, pictured below, was one that was dying about 2 weeks ago.  It had been sitting on our deck steps since late June and was blooming nicely until about the end of July.  So a couple of weeks ago I moved it to our front stoop which gets all the afternoon sun and even though it gets very hot out there after 1 pm, the plant all of a sudden started thriving and yesterday was the first morning in a long time that I actually saw color!!  What a blessing!  a small thing but a creation of God.


And thus ends another week..........

............and Happy Labor Day weekend to  those of you who live here in the States....enjoy this last official summer vacation long weekend....and many blessings and much luck to those of you in the Northeast who have children starting school again in less than a week!!








27 August 2014

Still Praise

Long Lake
Central Adirondacks
August 2013

Look at this photo.....taken last summer on our week-long Adirondack vacation.  It's so refreshing, isn't it??  That lake, the mug of coffee in the early morning hours......so alive......

I didn't get to do a week this summer in my beloved mountains.  I haven't even done all that much hiking up there due to the foot and back issue I'm dealing with.

And I've been complaining about it.  Loudly.  Softly.  To God. In my journal. In the shower.  With anger and disappointment and frustration. Some times with tears.  All the negative emotions I do not like to display or even talk about.

Yet, here I am writing about them.  WHY?

Because the other morning I was having a quiet time.....being still in the presence of God which hadn't happened in a few days...yet that day it happened.

I was doing a devo from the You Version app on my iPad when I heard God's whisper to open my real Bible....you know..the old fashioned hard copy kind....and turn to a Scripture about healing.  Typically I just read the first couple of verses and meditate on them. Not that morning.  I read the entire passage.  Here are the first verses from Jeremiah 17 where I was reading:


I went on to read the the passage....you can read it here.

The verses that jumped out at me were the following:

"Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth,  because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.  Indeed they say to me, "where is the word of the Lord? Let it come now!"'

Whoa.  "those who depart from Me (who don't know Jesus, who leave God, etc.) shall be written in the earth (in other words, will not have their names written in heaven...as spoken of in Luke 10:20)

Now I am not going to state my opinion on whether I believe in "once saved always saved" or not.....that's not what I mean here.  

These verses got my attention because with all my negative emotions the last couple of weeks, I have felt a void from God......Oh yes, I have still prayed for my friends and their requests, I have still gone to church, and I have still read Scripture. But...it's just been actions......just lip service.  NOT GOOD!

Our Lord is the giver of life.  He is LIVING WATER!!  He is the fountain of living water!! I want that!!

And my praise??

It's been still.  It certainly hasn't been the first thing I participate in upon waking.....yet I love to praise and think it's extremely important to give praise to God each and every day.  Yet....it's been lacking in any meaningful way in my life.

I've  been too focused on getting better...on running to the chiropractor and doing stretches and trying to heal up......without totally relying on the Lord.

And I need to rely on Him.  He is the only One who can bring total healing....and I still need to praise even if that healing isn't instant or anytime soon.

That goes against what my flesh wants to do.

But my spirit knows it's important.  I want to have vibrant praise....I purpose in my heart to continually praise Him.....the One who gives me Living Water.........that refreshing, reviving, soul cleansing Living Water............

I don't want my praise to be still.............like a placid, calm lake....I want it to be exuberant..like a rushing waterfalls....and constant...in good and bad times....totally focused on Him....because He is in control........the fountain of Living Water.

Kaaterskill Falls
Catskill Mountains
May 2014

22 August 2014

2014 Book Review #33: Home Sweet Home

Ok....I cheated.  I read this book until the very last quarter of it.

And then I just skimmed through to the end.  I just couldn't really "get into" this book yet I wanted to see what was going to happen...and sure enough it was sappily predictable. (is sappily a word??!)

I thought I was going to love this book...and maybe want to own the series.....I mean, it's set in my beloved Adirondacks!!  What's not to love??

My husband bought it for me for Xmas as it was on my wish list....but I THOUGHT it was a mystery.....and nope...it's a romance. My least fave genre.
I checked out the author's website and even got a response from her when I emailed her a question as to where the lake setting was.....I thought "Ok, it's had good reviews...I haven't read a romance since I was a teenager...maybe I will like this one....I mean, it's set in the Adirondacks!!"

STORY SUMMARY

Andie Powell is from the small Adirondack village of Emerald Lake.  When she turned 18, she left for college and never returned.  She has been living and working for a consulting firm in NYC.  Her new work project brings her back to her hometown where she needs to convince the town board to approve of Klein Group project.....building new condos on the waterfront.  Little does she know, her first and only boyfriend, Nate Duncan, is now mayor.  And she has never been able to forget him.



Andie has not been back in Emerald Lake in over 10 years.  She last saw her mother and grandma a year ago at the funeral for her father in Washington, D.C. where he was a senator.  She always loved her dad and always wanted to do big things for him.  He is the one who was constantly telling her that she could do big things.



Andi and Nate soon clash over the project...and as mayor he has the power to break her career just like she broke his heart many years ago.  However, the sparks that fly between them, only ignite the passion that is still in both their hearts.



Andi left Emerald Lake to look for a life that she thought she wanted.  But is everything she ever wanted really in Emerald Lake...and has it been there all along??



MY THOUGHTS



Well, I tried this book.  I LOVED the setting and descriptions of early autumn in the Adirondacks.  The author didn't answer my question about which lake the story is based on....she kind of skirted around the issue in my email reply.  From a book review I read of the series, the person was thinking it is based on Piseco Lake in the south-western part of the mountains but from the description of the lake and carousel, it reminds me of  a lake called Caroga Lake that does indeed have an old carousel still on the premises.  In fact, my oldest daughter, when she was 2, rode on it with Dave and I because it was still up and running back in 1995.



So, from the description and setting, I really enjoyed the book.



As a plot?? NO.  Much too predictable......the character development is  quite  good...but...the story just didn't hold my interest.  I think because I correctly predicted what was going to happen.........



I would rather read a good mystery.



If you like romances, it's good.



I have now determined that I definitely...just like in my young adult years....do NOT like romance novels.



In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (although there is nothing challenging in the literary sense in this book,  there are s@x scenes that I wouldn't want a young teen reading...that just turned me off too....).



On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 6.



Savoring Summer Faves

2 weeks from today I will meet my new group of special needs kindergartners............

it's hard to believe we are approaching the end of August and the end of summer vacation.

I'm savoring each day....each evening...each experience.........

and finding the blessings in these long, lazy days.....

won't you join in by linking up with Susanne and the other Friday Fave Five bloggers?

Because I was traveling to and from Boston last week to help our oldest move back onto campus, the following faves are from the last 2 weeks...........





Moreau Lake State Park
Claire on the right with her little cousins:
 Emma (age 11) and Mermaid Mady (age 6)
8 August
  • LAKE DAYS!!  We've been enjoying the NYS Empire Passport which gets us into most state parks/lakes and oh how much fun we have had this summer!  My youngest sister Jill and her 2 little girls met Claire (age 15) and I at one of our very fave lakes for a fun afternoon of sun, sand, and swimming.  The weather was just perfect!  The older girls had a blast burying Mady and shaping her into a "mermaid".  This was our 4th time at this particular lake this summer and we also spent time this past week at another fave lake with Claire's school friend, Suzanna.
Great Sacandaga Resevoir/Northhampton Beach
Southern Adirondacks
19 August


Courtney's home for her final year
15 August




apartment kitchen
  • FINAL YEAR! Last Friday, our oldest gal, Courtney, filled her car.   The rest of us filled my husband's SUV and I drove it to Boston while Claire rode with her big sis. (Dave had the Global Leadership Summit to attend so couldn't help this year).  We had a very long drive which definitely is NOT the blessing here.....the Boston traffic on a summer Friday afternoon is NOT pleasant.  Going up route 128 from the Mass Pike to the Gordon College campus typically takes us about 45 minutes.  That day it took us 2 1/2 hours on top of the 3 hours from our house across the state of MA.  NOT fun.  But we arrived safely and helped her set up her on-campus apartment.  One of her 4 roomies helped us move in (the other 4 girls won't move in until later next week) and I then treated the girls to a late dinner at this fave place. Claire and I spent the night in the apartment with her, and then we went out for breakfast at this lovely tea house. Courtney declined going out for breakfast as she had to get other things done.  She officially doesn't start classes until next week, but because she is an Orientation Crew Leader for incoming freshmen, she has this week of training and prep.  Oh how I miss her already!!  It's a blessing that she is able to attend this high ranking Christian college but I am not ready for her to be a senior!!  I pray for her daily.





  

  • HANDMADE  GIFT!  No, this gift wasn't handmade by me or for me.  I discovered this person via the FFF group.  She made me two of these hats for a friend of mine who is battling cancer. I was thrilled when she told me the low cost and absolutely delighted when I received not one, but two, hats in the mail from her last week!  My youngest daughter claimed one of them (a different shade of blue to this one pictured above).  The work is exquisite.  And since I'm not a knitter, I was so thankful to be able to purchase this for my friend.  I can't wait to surprise her with it.  What a blessing to "meet" other bloggers in this way.





Ready to climb Wakely Mt!
9 August
l-r:  new friend Rebecca, me, Cheryl
photo courtesy of Cheryl A Blask and taken by Richard Fey


Wakely Mt. Fire Tower
Central Adirondacks
  • HIKING!   So, technically, I shouldn't have climbed this 3,754 foot high mountain because I am still recovering from fasciitis in my right foot. I had a LOT of pain.  It took over a week to fully recover. It just about did me in, on the climb down.  Even the climb up was much more difficult (although exactly like all the trail  books and websites said) than I anticipated.  It is one of the "high peaks" of NYS...in fact, out of the 100 highest mountains in the Adirondacks, this one ranks as #67.  SO.....I have now climbed, since 2004, 12 Adirondack mountains that contain fire towers (and numerous other mountains that don't have the towers, along with hundreds of lake,pond, and waterfalls trails).  I feel sad that I can't finish the Fire Tower Challenge this summer....and all because of this fasciitis problem that is SLOWLY healing...much too slow in my opinion! The blessing with this fave is that I met 2 new hiking friends, spent the day with my awesome childhood friend who actually organized the hike, and got to check off another mountain from the list! It was a long, hard 6 miles but we did it!!  I now have only 6 mountains left to do in the Adirondacks and 2 in the Catskills.  I think, based on the chiropractor's report, that I can do one more this autumn....if I wrap my arch/foot in Rock Tape.  So, I've ordered some and hopefully it will help me hike better.  My husband couldn't do this one with me but he has told me he can hike this fall.....I'm really looking forward to it and I plan on being very careful until then!!  It is a huge blessing to live so close to my beloved mountains.
looking towards the Central Adirondacks
from the summit of Wakely Mountain

(photo courtesy of Richard Fey)

along the trail up to the summit

  • KINDERGARTEN!  I received my letter from the school district last week stating that I was assisting in kindergarten for the new year.  Glory to God!  I have loved being with the 1st and 2nd graders for the last 3 years but I really wanted to go back to the K level so I could actually teach......yes, I'm a TA but in the kindergarten class which is an inclusion class, the gen ed teacher doesn't mind when I teach a small group.  I love being able to keep my hands in special ed and not have all the paperwork I did when I was teaching in my own classroom.  This job gives me the pleasure of the little ones, along with using my special ed skills and knowledge.  It's going to be a great year...and the kindergarten team is the original team of people I first started working with when I took this TA job (minus one gal). The head teacher, a male, is excellent with the kids and I love that he is flexible and allows me to work with as many special needs kids in the class that I want.  The other blessing is that the little boy I worked with at the end of the school year last year, will be in the class....I get to continue to work with him!! I think it is going to be a great change for me even though I do still have to work full time to help pay those college bills!!
That wraps up my last 2 weeks......

......we continue to enjoy lazy mornings, afternoons at the lake, shopping trips for back to school clothes and supplies (almost done with that!), bbq dinners, coffee on the deck, reading and blogging time......badminton in the backyard....chats and lunches with friends..........biking.....swimming, visits to the chiropractor (but thankfully I am now down to just once a week or every other week!), long movie nights with daughter and hubby, working in my flower gardens, and slowly starting to work out again......

God is good all the time and all the time, God is good!!

Enjoy the remaining days of August, everyone!!



20 August 2014

lazy days


we all long for them..........

                     we all need them.............

                                     do we all take them?

I'm reflecting on lazy days........especially lazy summer days............

you know the ones..........

where you feel the sun on your shoulders

the wind ruffling the water be it lake or sea........


Northhampton Beach State Park
Great Sacandaga Resevoir
Southern ADKs
19 August

your limbs loose and your mind at ease

 your soul listening, waiting.............

for what?  your mind is full of

new directions?  new schedules?  new ministry opportunities?

maybe a physical move or job change?

maybe an emotional battle yearning to be won and set loose?

new ways to deal with your teens or trying toddlers?

concerns or stress over college kids, future career, student debt, tuition costs, lack of finances........

prodigal children or special needs challenges......

marital strife or missing friendships?

what is your mind reeling with................

what is your soul longing for?

and............

can you completely let your mind, heart, body and soul rest?


I've been talking with friends this summer because I'm home from work in the months of July and August.  I like to connect with my friends as I have time to really listen and chat.

And in doing so, I have learned that many of my friends are dealing with some issues mentioned above......or other things not listed.....

and I've realized that I, too, have struggled with just simply resting in God.........

in waiting on Him....in talking with Him..........

oh yes, prayer happens every day.......but have I really spent a significant time emotionally connecting with my Redeemer-Friend like I do my earthly friends?

Have I allowed my self to be so absorbed in the intimacy of the Father to hear that still, small Voice or are my prayer times rushed with pleas and quick praise?

I'm finding that these last days of summer vacation are ones I want to savor......

with the Savior.........

some alone time.......

some time spent being lazy......doing nothing yet doing everything in my power to connect with my Friend.......the One who is always there.....always listening, always guiding, always teaching............

We need to have these lazy days.........these "Sabbaths"........

to just sit.............


and savor...........

Let's purpose together to savor these last days of summer..........and to be lazy in the Lord...........

.........to let loose our thoughts, plans, actions......

and just be.

With Him.