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Am still reading The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Essays, on March 31st, 2016.

roses_table_dinner

When I look at the picture above it bring tears to my eyes. Grieving is such a long, slow process.

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my grieving, and today seemed to be a day that brought it all current, even though it’s now been over 2 years. I’ll never stop missing him, my DH, Dave. A good friend came to visit today and we talked a bit about my grieving and where I am today, how I am today. And most days I’m doing well – most people tell me I’m doing remarkably well, and I suppose I am. I’ve learned to adapt to a life alone. Many hours of the day I don’t think about it – I just go about my day with errands, reading, paying bills, attending meetings, helping at church, cooking, or whatever. I’ve adapted. I fill my hours with a variety of activities, mostly Monday through Friday. Weekends are still a conundrum to me – I go to church every Sunday morning – but many of the hours of the rest of Saturday and Sunday are filled with nothing. Not that I sit twiddling my thumbs – I always find something to do – a project, filing, some TV perhaps, grocery shopping, cooking, sorting the mail. Nothing important, really. Sometimes I go to a movie by myself – I don’t mind doing that – I used to do it when Dave was in San Diego on our boat and I was home, so going to a movie alone isn’t a problem.

Probably talking about Dave today brought it into the now, rather than pushed to the recesses of my emotional soul. I can do that mostly – just “not going there,” as they say. I could let myself go sometimes, but most of the time I am able to convince myself that it will only make my eyes red, make me congested for an hour or two, and make the rest of my day a sad one. That’s kind of what happens if I hit a trigger. And there can be any number of them. Seeing one of Dave’s shirts (one in particular hangs in with my own clothes, a favorite shirt he wore often, a Tommy Bahama polo shirt). Occasionally I hug the shirt to me and wish I could catch his scent. But no, it’s long gone. Today I was talking about Dave. My friend Darci was remembering when she heard about Dave’s death. When she left I felt a bit down.

roses_vaseAs I was preparing my dinner I glanced out the kitchen window and noticed the profusion of blooming roses out in the garden. I’ve paid absolutely no attention to them. But because I was sad already, they were a trigger for me. Dave loved roses – particularly red ones – and the two bushes must have about 20 blooms on them. I felt guilty for not noticing them. If Dave could talk to me he’d be telling me to GET OUT THERE and enjoy those roses. CUT THOSE ROSES! So, in addition to cutting a few of the roses, I decided to do something that I’ve not done even ONCE since Dave died. I set the dining room table and had my dinner there. Alone. Classical music playing from my Sonos speakers.  I took the pictures before I actually ate the meal as I thought I might write about it. I poured myself a glass of wine, but it didn’t taste good to me. The dinner wasn’t very good, either (leftovers). Up to that point I was feeling okay, but as soon as I actually sat before my plate of food I began to cry. I looked out at the view (a gray day today, cold almost) and just felt incredibly lonely. I talked to Dave. I told him about his roses and apologized to him for not noticing them. And I cried some more.

Most evenings I sit at my kitchen island – with the TV on for background noise – and I eat there. Dave and I only ate our breakfast and lunch in the kitchen – we ate in our dining room every night we ate at home (or on our patio outside during the summer months). He actually enjoyed setting the table and setting up candles and a nice ambiance. All I had to do was cook the food and he was ready and there with the lighter for the candles, his glass of wine, music, etc. I may have mentioned this before – sorry for repeating it, but it’s on my mind – a few weeks before Dave had his stroke we were eating dinner as usual. Dave was a bit melancholy and said something about not feeling all that great – just didn’t have much energy and he said he had a feeling that he wasn’t going to live all that much longer. I, of course, in my usual chipper (naysayer) way said, oh, honey, you’re all right. Maybe you’re anemic (he sometimes was). He said, no, I just feel like maybe I’m reaching that point. I’ve lived so much longer than anybody thought (because he was a Type 1 diabetic and had lost 2 legs and had had heart bypass surgery – even his doctor was surprised at his energizer-bunny-body). Dave was 74 then, and that IS a fairly long life for a Type 1 diabetic. But he’d plumbed some depth of himself and was preparing himself, I suppose. We had a very heart-to-heart talk and among many things we said to one another that evening, I’d told him that if he went before me, that I’d be setting a place for him at our table.

dinner_aloneBUT, since Dave died I’ve not been able to eat at the dining room table by myself. I’ve entertained many times and that’s not a problem, but to eat there – all by myself – has been just too hard. I was able to eat in the dining room tonight, but no, wasn’t able to set a place for him. Just couldn’t. I’ve thought about it lots, setting his place next to mine. I’m not yet able to stand up to the kind of grief and trigger that will bring on. It sounds like a little thing, but for me it’s not. It’s a bit of a hurdle – a mountain I must climb – and I’m not ready to do that yet.

Music is also a trigger for me. Am sure I’ve written this before too, but a few weeks after Dave passed away I set up a custom station on Pandora that plays a wide variety of relatively quiet classical and choral music. Many pieces by John Rutter and others sung by the Mormon Tablernacle Choir. There are some pieces (which always play when I select that custom station) that just bring on the tears, and I only play it when I’m feeling sad and am willing to “go there” with my grief. It’s cathartic, I think. Dave loved jazz, though he liked classical music too.

Until you’ve been there, you just don’t know how losing a dear loved one is going to affect you. Dave was the love of my life and I miss him so very much. Thank you for reading. Sorry for unloading all this emotion on all of you who come here for recipes! None today.

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  1. Nancy

    said on March 31st, 2016:

    I have been following you for some time and love your writing. About the time your Dave passed away I met my true love, Richard again. We were friends in Jr. High and then became boyfriend and girlfriend. First date, first kiss, first love. Remained that way through High school, then just slowly drifted apart. Never really sure why. 40 years later he contacted me and we were together again, like no time had slipped away. It was so wonderful. I had been divorced for over 30 years and so alone. He had been alone for 5 years. His kids and mine were so happy we had finally found each other again and were so in love.
    I lost my Richard in January of this year. It was not supposed to end like this. I told him often he owed me at least 40 years that we had missed. He was the most gentle, loving, passionate man I had ever known. I know what you mean about music. He had so much love and knowledge about music. It was a big part of our time together. I can not listen to it now and sometimes have to leave a store or restaurant if they are playing certain songs.
    I know everyone says it will get easier and I know it will but right now it hurts so bad.
    I want you to know you have been a strength for me. Thank you. You are in my prayers.

    Thank you so very much, Nancy. You’re not alone, and I hope you have friends or family who can console you during those tough times. God bless you, Nancy. . . carolyn t
    If you can please keeps post private.

  2. soozzie

    said on March 31st, 2016:

    Once, on my very worst day, a call came from the blue from a distant acquaintance for whom I had worked professionally years before. She had been thinking about me, and what I had done for her,and she said, as I tried to keep my composure given the other tragedy looming, “Know that you are beloved.” That has become my comfort, which I share with you. Because it is true.

    What a nice phrase. Saying just “know that you are loved” doesn’t quite have the same soulful meaning as BEloved. Thank you for sharing the story with me. . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on March 31st, 2016:

    I had been thinking that you had not talked about your grief in quite a while, and that though you have been bravely going on with your life, you must be still deeply feeling your loss. This was a very moving post. I’m sending cyber-hugs your way.
    Donna

    Thank you, Donna. Cyber-hugs in return to you, too . . . carolyn t

  4. Toffeeapple

    said on April 1st, 2016:

    I am still feeling very sad for you Carolyn, I wish that I were geographically nearer to you. Hugs. x

    Thank you, Toni. If I ever take a trip to England again, I’ll be sure to tell you so we could meet up at least for coffee of something. Thanks for the hugs . . . carolyn t

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