Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

"It was a time after first discoveries but not last ones. It was wanting to know everything and wanting to know nothing. It was the new sweetness of men starting to talk as they must talk. It was the possible bitterness of revelation."--Something Wicked This Way Comes
For October I decided to read Something Wicked This Way Comes, my interest in revisiting Ray Bradbury piqued by my book club's reading Dandelion Wine in September.

When I was a teenager I read most of Bradbury, and passed my paperback books to my younger brother when he was in a reading slump.

But Bradbury is wasted on the young! The young may get the mystery and the fantasy, but some things require a view that only age can bring. An October view, as it were, from the perspective of a fifty-four-year-old father.

One October night a carnival comes to town and Will and Jim have snuck out of their houses to see the carnival being set up. They observe it's secrets and understand the evil going on, endangering their lives. The circus master Mr Dark, the Illustrated Man, searches for the boys. The boys have only Will's father, the library janitor, and their own ingenuity to protect them.

Wil and his father are unable to sleep, and their 3 am talk it is a most beautiful scene. Will asks his father about goodness and happiness. Although he only understands a small portion of his father's meaning, he has never heard his father talk so much and is transfixed. His father shares all he has learned about life.

"Too late, I found you can't wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else."  
"We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have a choice, to laugh or cry. No other animal does either. We do both..."
"Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know, is bad, or amoral, at least. you can't act if you don't know...we got to know all there is to know about those freaks and that man heading them up. We can't be good unless we know what bad is..."
The carnival, like life, has its enticements, the pink cotton candy stickiness; and it has frightening deformities and sinister side shows, the house of mirrors that confuses those who enter and reflects back what we do not want to see.

"...here comes the carnival, Death like a rattle in one hand, Life like candy in the other; shake on to scare you, offer one to make your mouth water."

In his search for the boys, Mr. Dark finds Will's dad in the library. He offers the gift of reversing time, and then he threatens Will's dad with death.  Looking death in the face, Will's father laughs and robs evil of its power.
"Evil has only the power that we give it. I give you nothing. I take back. Starve. Starve. Starve."
Death isn't important, it is what happened before death that counts, Will's father knows.

After vanquishing Mr. Dark and his cohorts, Will's dad knows it is just the beginning. "God knows what shape they'll come in next...We got to watch out the rest of our lives. The fights just begun."

The circus sideshow freaks, the witches and the living dead, are vanquished but other 'autumn people' will arise and we must always be on our guard, ready to stand up to them. Our weapon is laughter and joy.
I wrote a poem long ago, but many years after reading Somethng Wicked This Way Comes, and yet I wonder what part of Bradbury's novel remained in my subconscious when I wrote it.

Circus Life
by Nancy A Bekofske

The thing about life is
it’s like a three ring circus.
I can almost smell the greasy odor of popcorn,
feel the sticky web of cotton candy
attaching itself to the skin,
see the wild beasts on stools and
the dangerous, captivating dares of the trainer--
hyperbolic symbol of the little daily risks we take
just going to work or school or to mail a letter.
The bareback riders in pink tights and tutus
recall the various temptations
flashing their thighs at us.
The sad clowns fall down over and over,
suffer the trials of water and fire, spurring laughter.
That's what life is all about:
trial, temptation, danger,
and the deep haw-haw of laughter.

Monday, October 30, 2017

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.—Albert Camus
In the middle of a blizzard, Richard is moved to shed his twenty-five year long isolation and dares to love again, guided by Lucia, who has lost everything several times but still takes a chance on love.

What brings them together is Evelyn, an undocumented alien, the loving caretaker of a boy with Cerebral Palsy whose parents' toxic relationship and troubled lives has left her knowing more than is safe for her to know.

The trio resolve to undertake a dangerous mission to protect Evelyn, a journey into a silent landscape of deep snow and journeys to their pasts.

Isabel Allende's In the Midst of Winter is a story of rebirth, forgiveness, and love. The character's back stories take up the most space, told piecemeal in long chapters between the action.

Lucia is an immigrant, a professor, who escaped Chile when her brother's involvement with a gang led to his death and made her life unsafe. Lucia is a character women will love. Evelyn is an illegal alien from Guatemala who also took the dangerous journey to America to save her life. Both women understand what it is like for a loved one to simply disappear.

Richard is Lucia's boss at New York University and had invited her to be a visiting professor. He rents Lucia a basement room. He has lived in a winter world ever since the loss of his baby to SIDS left his wife severely depressed. Richard drank and partied his sorrows away. A tragic accident took their remaining child's life, and later he lost his wife.

I felt sympathy for the characters and appreciated Allende addressing the violence that causes most of today's immigration to America. She demonstrates the horrors that force people to leave their homeland and family and give a face to illegal immigrants. Allende's passion for the plight of women and children is evident throughout the novel.

The novel shows that in the midst of great disappointment and pain people can find new life, that the possibility of love can come unexpectedly. The love story between Richard and Lucia is very beautiful.

I was not a fan of how the story was presented. The characters tell their stories to each other, but the authorial voice is telling the reader, not the characters.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

In the Midst of Winter
Isabel Allende
Atria Books
ISBN 9781501178139

Read an excerpt of the novel at

Read about The Isabelle Allende Foundation which supports MILES Chile’s efforts in human rights,  promoting respect for people independent of race, creed, ethnicity, political ideology, gender, ability, sexual orientation and age:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dickens and Christmas

Charles Dickens is the great great great grandfather of author Lucinda Hawksley. I discovered Hawksley on social media and learned about her newest book Dickens and Christmas. I knew I had to read it!

A Christmas Carol has been a favorite story since Third Grade when I was Martha in a elementary school play. I memorized all the lines by heart watching rehearsals.
Our school play of A Christmas Carol, 1962
Growing up I watched every movie version every year. Later my husband and I read the story out loud and together watched our favorite movie versions. (I even wrote a paper about A Christmas Carol for my Studies in the Victorican Age course at university!)

Dickens and Christmas is a biographical history of Christmas in Dickens's personal and professional life, and a social history of the celebration's evolution in England in the Victorian Age. The celebration underwent a huge transformation to become the holiday we know today. We learn about the Twelfth Night celebration of Dickens's youth and the joyful celebrations he shared with his family.

Hawksley draws from writings by family members, letters, and the Christmas texts to create a vivid portrait of Dickens as family , writer, and social reformer.

Few readers today know about Dickens's other best-selling Christmas stories. They were so popular that he was required to write a new one every year, which became a source of great stress, requiring six months work while also writing his novels. The early novellas became short stories published in his magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round.

One of the aspects of the Christmas stories I love best of all is Dickens's desire to improve social conditions for the poor and most vulnerable in society. Dickens was a 'resistance' writer of his time, intending to bring awareness and sow seeds for legal and social change. I

Because of Dickens's Christmas writings, the season has become one of charity and good will.

God bless us, every one!

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Dickens and Christmas
by Lucinda Hawksley
Pen & Sword
Publication Date: October 30, 2017
ISBN:  9781526712264
PRICE: £19.99 (GBP)

Charles Dickens quilt by Nancy A. Bekofske
Charles Dickens quilt by Nancy A. Bekofske
In the style of  19th c British quilts, with embroidered images from his novels
Read about my Charles Dickens quilt at

Read more about Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol at

Read about Karen Kenyon's book Charles Dickens:Compassion and Contradiction at

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Breakdown, Losses, and Crosses: Four Years in Montague

In late April 2005, on a quiet evening, Gary and I were in the Grace UMC parsonage living room reading when a phone call came in. Gary answered it. I could tell it was not from family or a parishioner. As the call went on I set my book down and listened. Gary silently mouthed "D.S.," district superintendent. I was on alert.

I was in the final months of homeschooling our son. He had been accepted by Grand Valley State University for the fall. We were anticipating a big graduation party. We had put money down to return to a cabin in Cheybogan for our last summer family vacation before our son went to college, to take place over the Fourth of July week.

We had ordered new chairs, the first brand new, nice, matching chairs we had ever bought. I looked forward to returning to work full time. I was sure I had the resume and contacts to find a good job.

Grace had just completed a two-year visioning program and was preparing plans for future growth. The word on the street was that Grace was making strides and impacting the community.
Spring tree in Lansing
Our parents were aging. Gary's folks had sold their winter home in Florida. His mother was tired and had a chronic cough and his father developed macular degeneration. My dad had an inoperable bleeding ulcer that sometimes sent him to the hospital. He gave up bike riding for golf and then golf for senior bowling. He was developing peripheral neuropathy. Dad's non-Hodgkins lymphoma had been in remission for about seven years. It was increasingly important to be close to family.
Laura's 88th birthday
The new Bishop had other plans. The D.S. told Gary that he was to replace a pastor who needed to be removed from his church because of controversy. And that there was to be no discussion. A refusal would mean no appointment at all, for the pastor he was to replace would be coming to Grace. The reasoning was that Gary was not controversial and the salary levels were equitable.

We were in shock.

Gary's new church appointment was along Lake Michigan, north of Muskegon. We were disappointed that we would be so far from our families. The church was in a small resort town. Our one experience with small town life had  not been a good one.

There is always a meeting to introduce the incoming pastor and family to the Staff Parish committee of the new church. Gary, Chris, and I drove to Montague, had dinner with the new D.S. and the head of Staff Parish Relations, and went to the meeting. Then we were taken on a tour of the parsonage with the D.S. and one of the Trustees.

It was night time when we arrived at the house, but it was obvious that it was surrounded on two sides by a parking lot and by streets on the other two sides. The parsonage was near a large Reformed church that had been buying up property on the block to expand its parking lot. The parsonage had been built in the early 1950s, a small ranch that had housed both the church office and the pastor's family. The original church was across the street and now housed the city museum after a new church complex had been built just outside of town.
Back yard of Montague parsonage
We entered one of the front doors and came into a rather large entry area. It had once been the church secretary's office! A home office was behind it with a half-bath. On the other side of the entry hall was the opening into the living room of the parsonage.

The living room was small, and the only solid wall had a large brick fireplace. The carpet was filthy. Next to the picture window was a second front door that had been the private entrance for the family. separate from the church office entrance. There was a diningroom,  eat-in kitchen, a  nursery size bedroom, a second bedroom, and a nice sized master bedroom with wallpaper partially torn down, and one full bath. We were told the bathroom tiles had been painted and we could NOT get soap on them or the paint would come off. How does one shampoo and shower without soap getting on the tile, I asked.

This was when I started to cry. I was leaving two full, newly remodeled bathrooms, just completed, for this? A newly remodeled kitchen, for this? This house was half the size, at best, of what we were leaving and obviously in disrepair.

I was soon in panic mode. Where was I to put my piano? The pump organ? My grandparent's diningroom set with the triple hutch and buffet? Where would my sewing room go?

We were shown the basement in which two bedrooms had been added, one with an egress window, but were told not to open the doors to the rooms. The unfinished basement was lit by bare bulbs on strings. It was filled with so many boxes we could hardly walk through it. I disregarded the request to not open the bedroom doors and peeked in but all I saw was more boxes.

The D.S. asked the Trustee if the carpets could be cleaned.

We drove back to Lansing, arriving about midnight.

And then began my breakdown.

I had to leave a city and home and church I loved, a future I had planned, and for what? A troubled church and an inadequate house? I was angry. I hated the bishop. At least once I threw things. But there was nothing we could do. There was no way we could find housing and Gary a job to support us in a few months. In the itinerant ministry and parsonage system you were trapped.

We had to scurry and change the cabin plans because we would move around July 1. The delivery on the new furniture was after our move-out date and we had to change the delivery address. And we had to start sorting, selling, donating, and packing. All while homeschooling and preparing for college.

On the day we moved into the new parsonage I cried all the way there, and bawled when I saw my new home. We had been given the chance to live in a rental house for the summer while the parsonage was repaired and fixed up. I didn't want to live out of boxes and move again. We had no idea how bad the house was. We soon found out.

We were told a new refrigerator had been purchased to replace one that was too filthy to clean.

We could not put our lawn mower and other items into the single car garage because it was filled with trash bags and piles of junk, shards of broken glass scattered across the cement floor. We thought it was trash and started hauling it out on trash pickup day.

The basement had black mold from previous flooding and we could not use the downstairs rooms until the basement was cleaned up. Ladies came with buckets and bleach for days.

There was no air conditioning. We were surrounded by a church parking lot and cement that refected the heat. Our dog came down with heat stroke. I couldn't sleep in the heat.

Every few days something broke down or malfunctioned or did not work. The sink backed up. The disposal did not work. The toilet leaked into one of the basement bedrooms right on our son's dresser. Windows did not open. We asked for a screen door so we could have cross ventilation. Chris and I kept a list that came to twenty things that had gone wrong in a few weeks.

A group of ladies removed layers of wallpaper from the dining room and the torn wall paper from the master bedroom and the rooms were painted. Men worked on painting and fixing up the outside.  Even the basement lighting was improved with a light switch.

After church we would be fixing lunch in the parsonage kitchen, listening to parishioners coming to their cars from the Reformed church service. The parking lot was a few yards away from the house. We could hear what people were saying so I knew they would hear us, too. The master bedroom and bathroom were on that side of the house. There was no privacy at all.

I was walking Kili when a neighbor told me that several dogs in the neighborhood had died of cancer, that it was a high cancer area. White Lake had a history of pollution and Hooker Chemical had left a superfund site just outside of town.
The Montague church building
Everything was different. We went from a church with great music to no choir, from a well-heeled congregation to one that wore shorts, flip-flops, or bare feet to worship: resort town casual.

People were constantly complaining about the previous pastor, rumors and innuendos. I was upset because he was at the church we had left and because I did not want to hear it. I finally told one woman that I understood she was in pain, but since I did not know the man, and it was upsetting me, please don't talk about it. Even a staff person was telling Gary rumors and slanted stories.

Other parishioners were angry 'their' pastor had been taken away. One man invited us to dinner, but we butt heads when he heard we had homeschooled. Another group pushed Gary to continue the book club the previous pastor had led, then criticized the book choice and our opinions. These people left the church.

I don't want to talk about what I don't know. I can only saw that the pastor had family concerns, was a 1960s intellectual idealist, a prophetic voice who was introverted and absent-minded. We learned that he was also dying. Over the next year he was unable to pastor our previous church and an interim was brought in.

We had our last family vacation in Cheyboygan, staying at a rental cabin we had been to the year before. It was a wonderful holiday.
Chris and Kili on the Straits of Mackinaw

Our new family doctor was wonderful and we stayed with her for nine years, even through several moves. She proscribed anti-anxiety medicaton for me. It was to be short-term, but I liked who I was better on the medication and continued it for several years. Statistically, many clergy and clergy wives are depressed.  I started a Yahoo support group for clergy wives and wrote a paper for the Conference about what I learned about clergy housing needs. I heard a lot of horror stories. One young mother lived in a parsonage with no railing on the stairway to the bedrooms! Safety and privacy were top concerns.

One of the United Methodist circle groups invited me to join them and I found like-minded readers and friendship. Books circulated, including Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. These ladies were a great deal of fun, too.

There was a group of quilters at the church and for a while I went with their carpool to a quilt guild in Muskegon.  Then I was told I had to reimburse the driver towards gas because I could not drive at night and take my turn. I stopped going.

After the introduction parsonage tour the D.S. had sent the Trustees a letter saying they needed to provide housing that met parsonage standards. The old parsonage did not meet them, including privacy, a two-car garage, and air conditioning. The church quickly formed a planning committee.

The neighboring Reform church had previously wanted to buy the parsonage but the sale had fallen through. After repairs and cleaning up, the Reform church agreed to purchase the house and our church rented it from them for us to live in while they built the new parsonage. We lived in a 'rented' house for about a year.

Luckily, a clever man figured out how to put several window air conditioners into the house our second summer. He was an important figure in the church and community and he and Gary became real friends and partners in ministry.
the side yard was used to pile snow from the Reformed church parking lot
A committee of mostly men designing a house for someone else's needs, all trying to get in what they desire, is a long process. I was used to being involved with parsonage remodeling and wanted some input, but even Gary was not invited to sit in on the committee meetings at first. I made sure they had the conference parsonage guidelines and an article about parsonage living and needs.

The process and communication was fraught with problems and changes and frustration. The committee wanted a 100% handicapped accessible floor plan, a walk-out basement, and an open concept floorplan. The original design had the front door leading into one huge room. I was not amused. I knew that many winter evenings found me in my robe, quilting. If a parishioner came to the door to see Gary, I sure did not want to be caught in my robe.
The new parsonage
The new parsonage ended up huge and very upscale with oak flooring, doors, and trim throughout. There were two full and one half baths, all wheelchair accessible. There were three big bedrooms, one with a walk-in closet. There was an open concept kitchen/dining area/ living area and another living space with glass doors for privacy. The kitchen was not large, but the space well planned. The laundry room was so wonderful!
The new parsonage front
the new parsonage back

We packed up and moved again. It was so much easier for my brother and father and son to all visit at the same time now. We used a corner of the unfinished basement near the walk out door, put up plastic sheeting, and made a library and put a daybed there for one more sleeping space.
The front parlor/diningroom
The house was built in a wooded area just beyond the church and the landscape was natural. The building site had been raised due to high water levels and the desire for a walk-out basement (although the basement was totally unfinished at this time.) The circular gravel drive went up a hill to the two car garage, and a ramp in the garage led into the house. In the back was a huge wood deck with a Southern exposure.
March, 2008 sunrise view from the house
Several problems arose. Winters along Lake Michigan are harsh with lots of snow. The gravel drive was icy even when ploughed. Our car would slide back down the driveway, often sideways. It was treacherous walking down to the mail box, and after a rain a lake formed at the base of the driveway. The basement walls had been poured over several days and large cracks appeared. We only lived in this house seventeen months, and already the wood windows had black mold from humidity condensing on the windows in winter in spite of my wiping them all down every day. The master bath was huge with a soaking tub and walk in shower, but it was cold! We used a space heater to warm the room up.

I wasn't sure how I would like not being in a neighborhood. But the wildlife entertained me. In the spring a doe and two fawn went through the yard twice a day. A Tom turkey and his harem and chicks made their way through, too.

Every spring brought two fawns
A box turtle returned to her traditional nesting area near the house.
A Box turtle came to lay eggs in the sandy soil. And a tree frog took residence in a hole in the front rail.
A tree frog took residence in the fence
Our Kili was was over sixteen years old when I knew it was time to let her go. She had lost interest in her walks. It was very sad to lose our companion and we hated telling our son, who had just returned to university, that his beloved pal was gone.
Kili at 16 years

We were just over an hour's drive from our son. Chris had a dorm with a kitchen and we would drive down to Allendale and take him shopping for food until he got his driver's license. When he and a friend bought tickets to a concert in downtown Detroit I was concerned because he had little experience driving. I said I would drive them there and Chris would drive us home. When I met his friend I gave him a hug and said he was my son, too, for the weekend. He ended up in Metro Detroit and remains one our of son's best friends.

We got Chris a used car for his second year of college and he would drive home for visits. For July 4 he brought his roommate. They had arranged to share an apartment before learning their dads were both United Methodist pastors! Both boys ended up in the Metro Detroit area and have remained friends and Chris was a groomsman at his wedding last year.

There was a great quilt shop outside of town. I had a nice quilt room set up in the new parsonage had this was a very productive time for me. I was commissioned to make a poodle handkerchief quilt. I made my First Ladies Quilt.
Poodle handkerchief quilt

quilt made for my brother
The local quilt shop had annual quilt shows. I also took quilts to the Coopersville Farm Museum annual show.
Little Women, a pattern from 1952
Remember the Ladies, my First Ladies Redwork quilt
I still miss some of the restaurants we enjoyed, and the ice cream parlor, and an old fashioned hot dog stand with waitresses coming to the car. A short drive took us to Lake Michigan, and the White Lake Lighthouse. There were nesting eagles to be seen, and Pileated Woodpeckers were all around. A half hour took us to Norton Shores where there was a nice mall and shopping area.
our photograph of the White River Lighthouse, a gift from the church
I got a job as church secretary at the United Methodist Church just across the White River in Whitehall. The pastor was nice to work with. When her husband could no longer drive they gave me his car!

Then my father's non-Hodgkins lymphoma became active.
Dad's August 13, 2008  birthday

My brother had noted during August, 2008 that Dad was tired and listless and experienced fevers. Dad finally went to the doctor. Dad had one chemo and I went across state to stay with him. I returned home but two weeks later I took a leave of absence from work and ended up staying at Dad's house for two months while Dad was in Beaumont Hospital. Luckily, I had my own car.

Every day I arrived at Dad's room at 9 am and stayed until my brother arrived after work. I returned to Dad's house and Tom would join me later in the evening. We would wind down watching NCIS or House reruns on antenna TV.

At first Dad's room was filled with friends coming to visit. When the doctors discovered cancer in his brain as well as his body they told Dad they could not treat both. He was ready to return home when one doctor said she thought there was a way, and Dad rallied. He fought valiantly as his body failed. He received chemo in the brain, and after that he lost touch with reality. Dad would tell me garbled stories, laughing about memories I couldn't follow. Or he would ask about something that was not there. People no longer visited, except our old neighbor from Houstonia, Gordon McNab. He came to keep me company regularly. And dad's girlfriend came, but it was hard for her after Dad was no longer himself.

Gary made several trips to Clawson to see me. It was a horrible winter, and traveling across Michigan was a risky and frightening experience.
Winter 2008
Gail Miller, who had lived next to my grandparents and was my first Michigan friend, was a PA with the cancer doctors and worked on the floor were Dad's room was. She was a wonderful support to me. Gail finally scolded the doctors and told them to let us let Dad go. Dad was removed to Hospice and that day he passed while my brother and I were out of the room getting lunch. Dad spent his last hours listening to his favorite music, including Roy Orbison, while his children talked.

My brother arranged Dad's funeral with a service held in Clawson and then in Tonawanda, NY where his remains would rest next to our mother. Gary drove across state for the funeral. It was December and a blizzard kept Royal Oak friends from attending the funeral in Clawson because the roads were not plowed. The airport was shut down and the funeral parlor had to drive Dad across Canada to Tonawanda. Tom and I drove together. Tonawanda was also covered in deep snow, and we were lucky that family were able to get to the funeral parlor.
Winter view from parsonage, 2008
I wanted to be home with Gary and Chris for Christmas. I had only been home two weeks in the last three months. Tom and I drove back across Canada in a snowstorm, spent the night at Clawson, and the next day drove across Michigan in more snow. We arrived in time for Christmas Eve service.

Dad left me his house. We were seven years from retirement and wondered if we could afford to keep it. With a son in college, the costs of taxes and utilities and upkeep would be a burden, but Dad also left my brother and I a tidy inheritance.

I returned to my part-time job as a church secretary.

For Mother's Day, 2008,  I made my mother-in-law a quilt with her vintage
handkerchief and photographs scanned on fabric. She loved looking at it.
In January, 2009, Gary's mother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Laura still enjoyed her counted cross stitch work but she had suffered from a chronic cough for a long time. Gary's father was legally blind. The two older boys arranged for their folks to move into senior housing.

The next day, my mother-in-law was in Hospice. Her sudden death left her husband of 69 years in shock. Gary's brothers were out of state and we traveled to Grand Blanc to help Herman arrange the funeral plans. He was confused and kept calling his wife his mother. The funeral was to take place in two weeks to give time for the family to get back to Michigan.
Pillows with Laura Bekofske's needlework
I gathered Laura's tops with her counted cross stitch handwork and turned them into pillows, one for each family. After the funeral we traveled across state to stay in Clawson and go to Grand Blanc to help sort and clean and toss to prepare the house for sale. Gary's father wanted to return to live there, but we knew that would never happen.

Over the next years we regularly made trips to see Chris at college and to Clawson to check the house and visit with Gary's father. We did not even think about replacing Kili with a new dog.

On the bright side, the church held a potluck dinner followed by a meeting. After dinner, I offered to take the children to the parsonage where they could play games or watch TV. We got along very well and I was asked to teach the upper elementary Sunday school class.

They were a bright group of kids with a lot of energy. I had them write a church newsletter. The kids came up with ideas to write about. Some did interviews, others stories about the church, and some did creative writing or art. It was unconventional, as during Sunday school time these kids were running around the church instead of sitting in a class!
My class working on the newsletter
The younger families, whose children were in my class, started a social group and nicely invited us to join their activities. One couple included a woman from Scotland and her husband who was from the same village in England as my Grandfather Greenwood! They held a Robert Burns party every year with haggis and a poetry reading!

Traveling across state every few weeks was exhausting. Gary asked his District Superintendent if it would be possible to get an appointment in the Detroit Conference to be closer to his dad. We did not necessarily want to move from Montague, but it would have been a time and cost savings to live closer to Gary's dad and the Clawson house. The answer was not unless Gary took a deep pay cut, about $20,000. We could not afford that. We assumed we would retire from Montague.
the house in Clawson
Instead, after Annual Conference and new appointments had been set, the D.S. called and told Gary he was needed in Muskegon. The pastor needed to be moved immediately and replaced with an interim pastor. It would be another switch of pastors and churches, two times in a row, which is never done. Gary said we could not be ready to move by July 1. An August 10 date was offered so we had six weeks to pack. The church held a nice goodbye party for us. And we moved a half hour down the expressway to Muskegon.

We had lived in Montague for four years with a move to a new house in the middle. During that time we had lost two parents, our beloved Kili, and adjusted to an 'empty nest'. We had inherited a house we were not sure we could afford to keep until retirement. Gary’s next assignment was for a year, two at the most. We were facing a short-term assignment, and another move before retirement.

Friday, October 27, 2017

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West

For National Wolf Awareness Week I read American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee. It is the story of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and the battle between state and Federal agencies over wolf hunting. By telling the story of one wolf, O-6, Blakeslee engages the reader's heart and mind while revealing the complicated political process that determines American law that is too often independent of informed knowledge.

O-6 became a favorite of wolf watchers and her life is well documented. Blakeslee introduces readers to National Park Service employee Rick McIntyre who every day watched and recorded the activities of the wolves. And we meet those who rely on elk hunting for income or food or sport and who hate the wolves.

The hunters believe that wolves decimate elk herds and that banning any hunting leads to ending all hunting, therefore the end of any need for guns, therefore the banning of guns. In other words, they are fighting for their way of life. States arbitrarily determined how many wolves could be taken and how many were 'needed', totally unbased on any scientific understanding.

While one Federal agency reintroduced wolves into the Yellowstone ecosystem, another leased land contiguous to the park for ranchers to graze their livestock. Wolves don't understand imaginary boundaries and often their territory went into non-park land where they could be hunted. When packs are decimated and weak they take easy prey, which include the grazing livestock. The ranchers are then reimbursed for their losses. It is a vicious cycle that makes no logical sense.

I was appalled whle learning how Washington politics impacted the Yellowstone wolves. Congress overruled the court regarding the hunting of wolves. It had cost $117 million  to restore wolves to the ecosystem. The results were dramatic; flora and fauna flourished as the environment returned to its natural state. Fewer elk ended overgrazing and brought a flourishing of fauna that brought back the beaver and rodents and consquently raptors. Yet no fewer elk were taken in the hunt, it just was not easy to find them. Legalizing hunting adjacent to the park land was like throwing that money and environmental stability to the wind.

Toward the end of the book, Rick realizes that wolf 21 had returned to die where his pack had once ruled. It puzzled him until he recalled the story of Hachiko, the Japanese Akita who had always waited at the train station for his owner, and after the owner's death had continued to come every day for nine years. 21 was waiting for his mate.

"Can a wolf in the wild experience what we know as joy and happiness?  Rick said, his voice breaking noticeably. "And my answer is yes."

Blakeslee's book is a wonderful study both of the wolves and the complicated human reaction to wolves.

I received a free book through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

See photos of O-6 at Shumway Photography at http://www.shumwayphotography.com/Yellowstone/Wolf-06/

Reading about the death of O-6 was sad because two days previous we let go of our last Shiba Inu. The Shiba is an ancient breed and according to DNA research is closest to the wolf.  Kamikaze had spent seven years as a puppy mill breeder before we adopted her through a rescue shelter. She was only 14 but had multiple health issues, some the results of bad breeding or early living condition. We lost our Suki, another puppy mill breeder rescue, at age 15 in June. Kamikaze had gone down hill significantly after Suki's loss. Both dogs were blind and spent their time cuddled together, drinking from the same bowl at the same time, and going in and out together.

As a girl I loved reading animal stories, especially Ernest Thompson Seton's Wild Animals I Have Known. Yes, I loved those Disney nature films. I was nine years old when my grandfather took me to see his hometown and the 'last of the Lobo wolves'. The creatures in their small pens looked like large, gentle dogs, not the killers that had been hunted into extinction. Here is my empehmera of the Last of the Lobo Wolves, Milroy, PA
The Last of the Lobo Wolves postcards circa 1963

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Mini-Reviews: Martin Luther, Renegade to Hoffman's Practical Magic

Martin Luther: Renegade, The Graphic Biography is one of dozens of books that have come out on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant revolution, which began when Luther dared to stand up to church corruption. Although I was tempted to read several of these new books, I could not fit them into my tight reading schedule.

I read Martin Bainton's biography of Luther, Here I Stand, several times, albeit in the 1970s. At Temple University I had a course on the Reformation. Our professor called Luther a cultural icon, a game changer, who freed the common people's minds with a Bible they could read. The result was a peasant uprising against all in power. In a seminary course on The Book of Romans we learned about its influence on Luther.  Most recently I reviewed Brand Luther by Andrew Pettigrew. I have at least a foundation of understanding.

The oversize book of 154 pages is illustrated by Andrea Grosso Ciponte. The art is beautiful, often with striking light and dark contrasts. Some pictures appear painted over photographs. The story by Dacia Palmerino tells Luther's faith journey. Life was brutal in Luther's time, with disease, poverty, and the abuse of power by governmental and church authorities. People turned to faith and the hope of escaping eternal damnation through works-- acts of piety, including church donations called indulgences.

Luther struggles over justification in God's eyes and with the easy buy out offered by indulgences. Reading the Bible he becomes his own theologian and realizes that we are justified in God's eyes by faith, and faith alone, and that works without faith is meaningless.

Luther is excommunicated and goes into hiding for a while, protected by the local prince. He uses the newfangled printing press to great advantage. The peasants rise up and are mowed down by the army. Luther frees the priesthood from celibacy and consents to marry.

I would not suggest this graphic biography for younger readers. It is very dark, even if it did skip Luther's self-flagellation, and the theology and historical milieu would be confusing.

And I am concerned about the portrayal of Luther's later years and emphasis on his talk about the Jews needing to come into the fold now he has reformed the church to a purer state. I would hate it to spur a justifiction of Anti-Semitism.

The end of the biography highlights how Luther ended the power of the Catholic Church over government, for each Prince was free to choose his faith.

I won Renegade from Plough Publishing House through a Publishers Weekly giveaway.

I so enjoyed The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman that I checked out Practical Magic through Overdrive. Rules is a prequel to Practical. The elderly witchy aunts in this book appear as teenagers in the prequel.

This first book about the Owens women was very popular and became a movie. I have not seen the movie.

Plot wise, it is a simple story. Sisters become complicit in hiding one's dead lover. In the end each finds true love. What sets the novel apart are the otherworldly occurrences and the reality of magic in their world.

I could see how Hoffman has grown as a writer in the time between the two books. Practical Magic has a lot of 'magic' rules which gave the novel a specific tone, but slowed the action. The tale is told, with very little dialoge or action. I will warn that the language is also grittier and the plot line involves an abusive lover.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Quilty News

I was at the October CAMEO Quilt Guild meeting to see Beth Donaldson give a presentation on the Detroit News and Quilting in the 1930s. Beth works at the Great Lakes Quilt Center, a part of the Michigan State University Museum. Her career at MSU has included the development of The Quilt Index. The Detroit News History Project was the basis for this presentation.
Vintage Detroit New Quilt Pattern shared by Theresa Nielson
Quilt patterns published in newspapers, including the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, were popular in the 1930s. The Detroit News started the Edith B Crumb's Quilt Club Corner Column which shared quilt news from across Michigan. An actual club of quilters met in Detroit. The News  held quilt shows in the 1930s which drew up to 88,000 people to see up to 2,000 quilts. The winning quilts were to be based on patterns published in the News.
5th Detroit New Quilt Show in 1938
The first Detroit News Quilt Show winning quilt was based on the pattern series of Horoscope symbols, as seen in the pattern below which was shared with me by Theresa Nielson last month.

Beth shared 1930s quilts from her collection. Sadly I forgot my camera and only had my cell phone for photos.

 This quilt featured signatures.
 A Rainbow Quilt Block Company quilt.

My weekly quilt group friend Betty Carpenter made this quilt that has been displayed at the Blair Memorial Library. The pattern reminds me of the quilt made by Jane Austen and her mother.

 Betty recently also made this very cute elephant quilt.

What's hanging on my wall? I made the door blocks based on photographs in a book. I added silk leaves, scanned actual rocks and printed them onto fabric to applique onto the quilt. I printed out a quote from Thomas Wolfe's book Look Homeward, Angel. Read more about my quilt at https://theliteratequilter.blogspot.com/2014/03/roots-of-understanding-thomas-wolfe-and.html
"Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door." 

The book's protagonist returns home when his brother is dying of pneumonia in October, 1918. The scene is based on the death of Wolfe's own brother.