Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recycled Art and a fun library in Beatrice, Nebraska

On Sunday, I went with my friend, J. Pario of Painting on the Ceiling to see the recycled art exhibit that featured some of her work.  I love the idea of recycled art.   I love this tree mosaic she made out of pieces she had cut from Christmas cards and other pieces.


Here's the artist herself, with some of her work:

I like the idea of working with fused plastic

And then there is plarn.  I don't think I'll ever have the patience for that, but it certainly is interesting:

The show was held in a library, which was quite large for a small-town library.  I found a quiet spot to read:

Yes, that IS a bathtub!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Can you trust your memory? Lessons from the Protecting Hand Sculpture


In Lincoln, Nebraska, where I live, there is a sculpture called “The Protecting Hand,” originally created for what was then Woodmen Accident and Life (Now Assurity Life Insurance). It still graces the south side of a downtown building, clearly visible from the state capitol, that unique tower on the plains.

I remember when I was a child, the parents were nude. 

Or were they?

I even remember my second grade teacher commenting on how terrible it was that the figures were all naked, that someone should put clothes on them.  Then I remember seeing them with clothes on for the first time. I seem to remember something about a controversy and how they finally agreed to put clothes on the figures.

But are those memories accurate?

A photo of the sculpture was recently posted on a Facebook page about Lincoln, and people began commenting on the fact that the figures were formerly nude and the clothes were added later.

Then someone had the audacity to state that the figures had always been clothed. That can't be true, I thought.  They were once naked.  Everyone knows that.  It’s part of Lincoln’s lore.

Still unbelieving, I searched for visual proof, and found this photo from the 1957 University of Nebraska yearbook:


Yep, they had clothes in 1957 – and that was before I was born.

Yet there is this collective memory of the figures being naked.  I showed the picture to my 20-year-old daughter, and she said, “Weren’t they naked at one time?”

The Facebook page shows the common consensus: The parents formerly had no clothes. Here are some comments:
  • I remember when the man and woman had no clothes
  • They are hilarious with clothing. I hope they never put clothes on the naked ones in the State Capitol Building!!
  • Remember when woodman had to dress the people. So stupid
  • Glad they never put pants on "The Thinker" or "Venus de Milo". What were the city fathers thinking?
  • I remember when they were not dressed. Really never made sense to me why they had to "clothe" them. Ridiculous.
When someone explained that it was an urban myth that they were naked, people refused to believe it:
  • there was a time, for a very long time, they were unclothed and it was very nice sculpture.
  •  Urban fact. We're talking full frontal nudity, man, woman and child. I was titillated and proud of my city. What poor hired mason had to spackle that penis?
  •  Sorry, not an urban legend. When I was young they were not clothed. Remember it vividly.
  •  I grew up in Lincoln as well. I'm positive they were naked as I also remember the big to-do when they were made to have clothes put on them. It wasn't a story I heard...I actually saw it with my own eyes countless times.
And when someone finally showed pictures to prove it, including one of the sculpture going up, that clearly shows pants:
  •  You can show me all the pictures you want, but I grew up in Lincoln, and I can tell you, they were not clothed. In fact, there was a fig leaf cod piece before there were pants. My mom thought it was so funny, she stopped so we could have a good look see. Don't know what to tell you all, but parts was parts, not pants.

 Some pretty strong feelings here.  And some pretty strong memories.

And then, after we had proved that the figures had always been clothed, someone added their comments (evidently without looking at the previous comments):
  • Miss the original art. Whoever changed this art, was a coward. If you cant handle art, leave the art. Dont change it. I mean, its the art of an insurance company, with 1950s standards. Pretty dang mild.

 Here we go again .. .

Like many legends, there is an element of truth to it.  The artist’s original model showed all the figures entirely nude, but he was asked to modify it before creating the full-sized version on the building.  That model is now on display in the Assurity building, which is now in a different location.

Why do so many people remember the figures being nude?  And why is it such a strong memory? Did it just seem like they were nude because the clothes were so understated?  Did we focus on the children and miss the clothes on the parents? Were we somehow remembering hearing about the artist’s original model and getting it mixed up with the full-sized sculpture?  Did we get some false information somewhere?

The fascinating thing about this memory is that it is not just something we heard or experienced.  It’s a strong visual memory.  Many people can “see” those naked people in their memories.  How could those memories be wrong?

I still find it hard to believe that they have always been clothed.  And what about my second grade teacher?  Was she just talking about the kids being naked? 

I’ll never know.  But what I do know is that we can’t trust our memories all the time.  And certainly not when it comes to naked people in a huge hand.











Saturday, July 13, 2013

Impossible Pie

Here's a recipe I've gotta try.  But I'm not a big fan of coconut.  I wonder if I could make it without coconut.  ♥

Ingredients
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded coconut
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 Tablespoon butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Directions
Place milk, coconut, eggs, vanilla, flour, butter and sugar in blender. Mix well.
Pour into a greased and floured pie plate. Sprinkle nutmeg on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Balsamic glazed fish

I adapted this recipe from one I found on the package of Trader Joe's Frozen Sablefish:


  • 2 T honey
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T soy sauce or teriyaki sauce
  • 1 T orange or lemon juice
  • 1 T orange or lemon zest or peel
  • optional: ginger (powder or fresh minced)
  • 2 T oil
  • pepper


Season fish with pepper. Combine other ingredients into a glaze and spread over fish. (You may need to melt the honey in the microwave first.) Broil 3-5 minutes, then finish in a 450-degree oven until it flakes with a fork (about 10 minutes per inch of thickness of fish).

Friday, May 31, 2013

Grammar Tip #8: Lightning vs. Lightening


This one should be obvious, but I've seen it misused so many times lately, that I decided to include it in my Grammar Tips.

Here’s how to tell the difference between these two words:
  • Lightning is that flash of light in the sky during a thunderstorm. 
  • Lightening is a verb (specifically a gerund) meaning making lighter in weight,  color or intensity.

Some examples are in order:
  • I saw lightning in the sky.  We’d better go inside.
  • I am lightening my load by taking some books out of my backpack.
  • The sky is lightening as the sun comes up.

Now, here is where it gets confusing. “Lightening CAN refer to the flash of light in a thunderstorm, but only when it is used as a verb, to express action and NOT when it is used as a noun.

Confusing, right?  The best way to figure it out is to ask yourself, Would I use “thunder” or would I use “thundering “ to replace it? If you would use “thunder,” then use “lightning.”  If you would use “thundering,” then use “lightening.” You can remember it by associating the longer word “thundering” with the longer word “lightening.”

Examples
  • It is lightening outside. (You would say, “It is thundering outside.”)

BUT
  • I think we are going to have a lightning storm tonight. (You would say, “I think we are going to have a thunderstorm tonight.”)
  • There is lightning in our area tonight. (You would say, “There is thunder in our area tonight.”)


The instances where you would use the word “lightening” are really very rare.  When in doubt, use lightning.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Update on Meditation and My Blood Pressure

In my previous post, I shared how slow breathing, or meditation, can lower blood pressure, with or without using "helps," such as CDs, podcasts or the famous (and expensive) RESPeRATE machine.

After I started practicing slow breathing/meditation, I found my blood pressure readings becoming consistently lower. When I saw my doctor, she gave me surprising and happy news:  She said I could try going OFF the blood pressure medicine to see how I do. "Most people just want drugs, so that's what I give them," she explained.  "But if you're willing to use other methods, I'm willing to work with you." It was refreshing to hear that from a doctor.

It's been almost two weeks now without the med, and so far my blood pressure has been stable.  A few times it has been a little bit above normal, but ten minutes of meditating will almost always bring it down.  Here are some examples:

Before meditating: 130/93. After meditating: 115/79
Before meditating: 128/90. After meditating:  114/80

What's even more exciting is that usually when I take my blood pressure without meditating, it gives me a completely normal reading, such as 117/77 or 118/84.  I haven't seen readings like that for over a year.

I've also varied the way I use the Jesus prayer in my meditation.  Sometimes I use the shortened form of the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me."  I say it silently once as I inhale slowly and once as I exhale slowly.  I usually do about eight breaths per minute.

Meditative prayer has also greatly relieved my anxiety and depression.  I believe as I continue to practice it, I will notice other  health benefits as well.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Alternatives to RESPeRATE Breathing Tool for High Blood Pressure

If you've googled anything about blood pressure, you've probably seen the ads for RESPeRATE , the machine that's been shown to lower your blood pressure. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it showed up as a featured ad on this blog post. (Sorry about that.) If you're like me, you've been tempted to buy it.  But let's face it: The $300 price tag is pretty steep for what you get:  a machine that gives tones to tell you when to breathe and some cheap headphones.  Oh, it does have a band that measures how your chest and stomach moves in and out when you breathe.

Research has shown that slowing your breathing to 6-10 breaths per minute can lower your blood pressure. But do you need to spend $300 for a machine to help you? What are some alternatives to using RESPeRATE?

I discovered these podcasts at  http://hillphysicians.com/YourHealth/HealthMultimedia/Pages/Podcast.aspx               In order to share them with friends, I made a tiny url: http://tinyurl.com/breathing1234  Listen online or download the podcasts entitled "Paced Breathing for Hypertension." These podcasts give you tones to signal when to breathe.  They're simple to use and free.  If you find yourself getting ahead of the tones, just take a few breaths to get back on track.

You could also try a music CD that has tones to help you breathe.  I found this one:
The Slow Deep Breathing Music Album for Yoga, Meditation and Relaxation

The podcasts or CD are a good way to become familiar with the pace of breathing.  After using the podcasts, you may wish to try slowing your breathing on your own. That way you can practice breathing exercises anywhere: while waiting for an appointment, at your desk, or (better yet) outdoors in a peaceful setting.  Try to make your exhalation a slightly bit longer than your inhalation.  From time to time during the session, test your breathing by counting how many breaths you take in one minute.

I find it helps to use a phrase with my breathing.  You can do something as simple as counting 1-2-3-4 while breathing in and then count 1-2-3-4-5-6 while breathing out. Or you can use phrases, such as "I am very calm. My body is resting peacefully." or "My blood vessels are opening up. The blood is moving easily."

I like to use an ancient prayer called "The Jesus Prayer" or "The Prayer of the Heart," which was developed by the early Christian monastics as a way to "pray without ceasing."  The monks and Orthodox faithful still practice this prayer today.  It's simply: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  I breathe in while saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God," and I breathe out while saying "Have mercy on me, a sinner."  Actually I have found that it works better to make the second phrase a little longer, so I usually say, "Have mercy, have mercy on me, a sinner."  I sometimes use a prayer rope, which has knots that you finger with each repetition.

If you are a Christian, I highly recommend the Jesus prayer, because it has been used for centuries as a tool of meditation and devotion in much the same manner.  And the monks of Mount Athos are some of the healthiest people on earth.

Of course, you may use a phrase from your own religious tradition or beliefs as well.

I find that when I spend 10 minutes practicing slow breathing, my systolic blood pressure lowers by about 12 points each time.  It's gone down as much as 19 points.  I've been doing this for several weeks and I seem to be getting lower blood pressure readings overall.  Although I am on a small dose of blood pressure medication, I am hoping to be able to reduce or eliminate the medicine in the future.  My doctor is fully supportive of my breathing sessions.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Grammar Tip #7: Punctuation and quotation marks

Many people are confused about where to put quotation marks, especially when the quotation marks are not used for conversation, but rather for something like a movie title. What complicates matters is that the U.S. has different rules from Great Britain. (And don’t ask me about other countries.)

The rules that I share here are for writing done in the United States, and they are really quite simple:

  1. Commas and periods always go inside the quotes. 
  2. For other punctuation marks (question mark, exclamation point, colon, semicolon) it depends on whether the quotation mark is part of what is being quoted. 
Hopefully some examples will help:
  • “This is a good day,” she said.
That’s pretty straightforward, but let’s try this one:
  • I don’t really like the movie “First Blood.”
the tendency is to put the quote in front of the period because it’s not part of the movie name. But that’s not how we do it in the U.S. The period and comma always, always, always go inside the quote, no matter what.

Now let’s look at some examples with a question mark:
  • “How are you?” she asked.
Here the quote is an actual question, so the question mark goes inside the quote.
  • Do you like the movie “First Blood”?
In this case, because the movie name does not include a question mark, you would put it outside the quote.

Let’s see the same idea with exclamation points:
  • “Come over here!” he shouted.
  • I really, really like to play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”!
Hopefully the examples help. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.




Sunday, March 10, 2013

Iditarod 2013 Poem

My first Iditarod poem of the year. (Hopefully not my only one. I'm having a hard time getting inspired this year)


Iditarod 2013
The snow is blowing in my Nebraska home
I’m cooped inside with a gimpy knee
But never fear – I’m not alone
The Iditabuds are here with me.

I sit and watch the lead change hands
It’s Martin—It’s Aliy—It’s Mitch this time
It’s so confusing for us fans
No pattern, no clue, no reason or rhyme

It makes an exciting last great race
When we don’t know what will happen next
Can we keep up this frenzied pace
Of following those marks on the GPS?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I’m Weird #2: Coffee? Beer? Soda Pop? No thanks


When you ask most adults to name their favorite beverages, most would certainly have one or more of the “Big Three” on their list: coffee, beer or soda pop. But not me. I can’t stand any of them.

Photo by Seemann
from morguefile.com
Coffee: What a bitter, horrible taste. I don’t even like the smell of coffee. I’ve heard you have to develop a taste for it—but why? Especially when tea is so much more delightful—and better for you. Tea gives just enough caffeine to give you a little boost—but not enough to make you jittery.

Photo by Seamann
from morguefile.com
Beer: Once in a while, I decide to try a sip of my husband’s beer, just to see what the hype is about. Every time it tastes like something spoiled, something I need to clean out of the refrigerator. I guess the time to develop a taste for beer is when you are young. When I was young, my church looked down on drinking, so I never tried it. But I had no desire to, because it smelled so vile. Now that I’m part of a church that often has get-togethers at a local brewery, beer is no longer taboo; but I still don’t get what the appeal is. I will drink those Seagram’s fruit-flavored “malt beverages,” but my cold alcoholic drink of choice is hard cider.

Photo by ronnieb from morguefile.com


Soda Pop: I used to drink cola, usually Pepsi One. I only had one a day—but I needed that one. A few years ago I read somewhere that carbonation robs your body of calcium. I wasn’t sure if it was true or not, but since my mom has osteoporosis, I figured I wasn’t going to take any chances. So I quit cold turkey. It was in a November, when I wasn’t as likely to crave a cold can of cola. I replaced it with lots of tea—both hot and cold—to replace the caffeine. (I learned that Pepsi One has twice as much caffeine as other colas. No wonder I was so addicted.) It’s been several years now. Occasionally I’ll have a specialty soda, such as a root beer float or a creme soda from the “Rocket Fizz” store, made with real cane sugar (no high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, thank you.) But usually when I try a sip of typical soda pop, I find it tastes like chemicals. It’s one of those things that once you give it up, it becomes distasteful to you. (I wish that worked with chocolate or ice cream.)

I don’t mind being weird, and I think it’s healthier too. I drink a lot of milk and tea, some water—though not enough—juice and the occasional alcoholic beverage.

Being weird can cause problems at certain social gatherings or public events. People bring out coolers of beer and pop, and I’m left searching for the water bottles at the bottom. Coffeepots are everywhere, but seldom hot water for tea. When I remember, I keep teabags in my purse, and I have been known to search out a microwave in the kitchen of a church or meeting place, so I can have a simple cup of tea. But that’s not enough to motivate me to develop a taste for one of the “Big Three.”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Grammar Tip #6: Affect vs. Effect

This one seems to trip people up.  But it’s really very simple:

Affect is almost always a verb. Effect is almost always a noun.

To be more specific: Affect is almost always used as a verb (an action word) meaning “to act on” or “to produce a result.”  Effect is almost always used as a noun (a thing) meaning “a result,” “a consequence,” or “something produced by an outside cause.”

Now for some examples:

How will the hurricane affect the price of oranges?
What effect will the hurricane have on the price of oranges?

Note the difference?  In the first sentence, affect is used as a verb. In the second sentence, effect is used as a noun.  Let’s try another set:

I don’t like the way this medicine affects me.
This medicine has some bad side effects.

Now, you will note that I used the word “almost always” in both instances.  Like many rules of the English language, there are exceptions.  The good news is the exceptions are very rarely used.

Affect can be used as a noun meaning an emotional response (such as a facial expression or tone of voice).  Psychologists are about the only people who use affect as a noun, and the phrase is usually,  “He/she has a flat affect.

Effect can be used as a verb meaning “to bring about” (which is similar, but not exactly the same as the verb affect).  The phrase most commonly used is “to effect a change.” 

So unless you are using the phrases, "He/she has a flat affect" or "effect a change," you are probably correct in assuming that affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

How will that knowledge affect your writing? I believe it will have a great effect.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I’m Weird #1: Shoe Shopping is NOT Fun

I’m starting a new “series” on my blog called “I’m Weird.”  I got the idea to write a blog post about some of the ways I’m different from most people—at least most Americans.  But the list got so long, and I knew I would always be thinking of more, so I decided to make a series.  So here goes:

I used to hear an ad on Pandora radio that started like this:
On a good day you go shopping
On a really good day you go shoe shopping with your best friend . . .

Really?  That’s a good day???  I hate shopping of all kinds.  It’s something I put off until the last minute.  I hate spending all that money, and often I can’t find what I’m looking for.  So it’s off to another store, and another store . . . until I finally give up and go home or just settle for something close to what I want.

Photo by Alvimann, from morguefile.com
And shoe shopping is the worst.  Who designs women's shoes, anyway? Yeah, high heels are supposed to make your legs more shapely, but in my case the shapely legs would be ruined by the wobbly walk (and probably the broken ankle I’ll get when I fall) and the grimace on my face from wearing the world’s most uncomfortable shoes.  Flats aren’t much better.  They’re always too tight in the ball of my foot and they slip in the back—if they even have a back at all. Why do shoe designers think women want to wear shoes that don’t stay on their feet?

I have a confession to make: I buy men’s shoes most of the time.  They are cheaper, fit better and feel MUCH more comfortable.  But I still don’t like shoe shopping.

And why would I go shopping with my best friend?  Why would I subject her to that torture?  That’s not what friends are for.  Occasionally we might stop in a gift shop or a museum store and prowl around a bit, but it’s always in conjunction with something more fun—like visiting a nearby town to have lunch, tour a museum and generally explore.  We would never go shopping just for the sake of shopping.

On a good day? I don’t go shopping.  I might go out for tea at a local coffeeshop, attend a concert or play, take a long walk with my camera, play board games with good friends, or jam Irish folk music in the basement of the music store.  Anything but shopping.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Introduction to the Autoharp

The autoharp is a simple, yet complex instrument. On one level, it’s extremely easy to play, making it a popular tool for elementary school teachers and music therapists.  But the autoharp can produce some amazing melodies in the hands of a master.

A typical chromatic autoharp has 36 strings and 15 or 21 chord bars.  To play a chord, you simply press a button and strum. The chord bar dampens all the strings except the strings for that chord.  If you hold down the “C” button, the only notes you hear are C, E and G. 

If you know anything about music, you can pick up an autoharp and strum along with singing almost immediately. Picking out melodies is a little harder, but if you’ve played other instruments, you can pick up some basic songs fairly quickly.

Here I am after only one month of playing the autoharp:




I hope to improve with practice.  The following video shows how wonderful an autoharp can be.  This is Bryan Bowers, well-known autoharp master, at a recent concert I attended:


Bryan uses “diatonic” autoharps: autoharps that have been tuned to just one key. It’s easier to pick out a melody on a diatonic autoharp, and it produces a louder and usually more beautiful sound.  The disadvantage, of course, is that you can play in only one (or sometimes two) keys.

I hope to add more posts about the autoharp as I learn more about this amazing instrument.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fear of Traveling

Most people have fears that someone can at least relate to: heights . . . water . . . crowds . . . closed spaces . . . clowns. (Well, maybe not clowns.)  But I have a fear that most people can’t understand: the fear of traveling, sometimes called "hodophobia."

Before we go any further, let me make one thing clear: I am NOT afraid of flying. I think flying is one of the safest means of traveling.  Heck, if I could afford to get in a plane early in the morning and fly to New York City and have lunch and then make it back in time for bed, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

For me it's simply this: I’m afraid of being away from home for long periods of time—no matter how I get there. 

Most people love traveling. They look forward to trips for weeks in advance. Traveling is relaxing, a way to get away from the stresses of everyday life.  For me traveling is a huge stress I don’t need. 

For me traveling means feeling out of control, tense, and not being able to sleep without prescription meds (which I hate to take).  I’m afraid of forgetting something at home, forgetting something in the hotel, getting sick, having a car accident, missing my flight, getting lost, etc., etc.  On vacation, everyone wants to try new restaurants, but my stomach is tied up in knots, and I can barely get down a bowl of soup.  It’s just not fun for me. 

What’s worse: The stress of traveling brings on strange physical ailments.  I’ve had back pain, jaw ache, vaginal infections, eye infections, and who knows what I’ll get the next time.  These problems sometimes continue even after I return home and occasionally build up into a nasty case of depression.  It’s just not worth it for me.

Strangely enough, I’ve found that traveling by myself is actually less stressful.  I feel more in control. I can listen to whatever I want in the car.  I sing along, talk to myself, stop whenever I want, munch on whatever I want.  I also find that a little alone time in the hotel can help me relax.  Of course, I want to have some people contact while I’m there.

It also helps if I have a strong motivation to travel.  I’ve traveled twice to meet famous sled dog mushers, and both times have been enjoyable. In fact, I remember when I was looking forward to meeting Martin Buser, four-time Iditarod champion, I was literally counting the days.  I remember thinking, “So this is what it feels like to look forward to traveling.”  Usually I’m filled with dread before a trip.

So there you have it:  My true confession.  It’s hard to have a fear that people don’t understand.  There is very little support for people like me.   One webpage said people should try to overcome their fear of traveling by starting with an English speaking country.  What? Start by going to another country?  Whoever wrote that obviously did NOT understand hodophobia.  A good start would be going to another state.  I doubt if I’ll ever go overseas. 

Hints for overcoming a fear of traveling?  Not sure I have many of them.  Here are a few thoughts:
  • Baby steps, just like any fear. You may need to start with a day trip to another town, or an overnight trip not far from home. 
  • Find something to motivate you to travel.
  • Travel alone or with someone else—find what works for you.
  • Plan ahead, print out maps, make lists—whatever you can do to help you feel more in control.
  • Take medication to help you sleep if you need to.
  • Have an “escape plan.”  You’ll feel better if you feel like you have the freedom to go home early if you need to. 
But it might be  best to just accept it that you don’t like to travel.  It’s not all bad.  I save a lot of money that way.  (My husband likes that part.)  And when it comes down to it – say I have a thousand dollars to spend.  I’d much rather spend it on something like a new camera or a new autoharp, from which I will get many, many hours of enjoyment, than on a trip, which—even if I were to enjoy it—is over in a few days.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Making a Poster


Last Friday at work I needed to make a sign.  At first I figured I’d make something on the computer and print it out. But our printer wouldn’t print anything that large.  “Have the design center print it out for you,” said one of the graphic artists, a young lady who had just graduated from college.  But the older designer suggested I make it myself, using poster board and magic markers.

So I set to work. I drew guidelines with a ruler (top and bottom and one down the middle for centering). Next I sketched where the letters should go, keeping in mind that an M takes up much more room than an I. It was a much more difficult process than just highlighting the text and hitting the command for “center.”

But it was much more satisfying.  I’d forgotten how much fun it was to work with my hands. I’d made plenty of posters this way in the past, and I remembered how enjoyable it was.

At this stage I showed it to the student intern graphic artist.  “Wow,” she commented.  “I could never do that.”

I was sad, in a way.  This young person—an expert graphic artist—would never know the joy of hand-lettering a poster on poster board.  She probably didn’t even know how to do it.

I spent the rest of the afternoon carefully coloring in the letters with red Sharpie, then outlining them in black with an art marker.  Then I erased all the pencil marks.  A fulfilling way to spend a  Friday afternoon 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Shoestring Band

My husband is in a band called the Shoestring Band. They play locally in coffee shops and for specialty shows, such as an old-time tractor show. Their music is described as "old timey" folk, country and bluegrass. Here is a sample of their music:

 Eight more Miles to Louisville:



Grandma's Feather Bed:



Ashokan Farewell

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why do you like math?

Whenever I meet people who like math, I have one question:  WHY?????  I ask that question because I honestly can’t understand why ANYONE would like math.

Often the reply is, “Because there is only one right answer.”

And I respond, “Why is that a good thing?”

Having only one right answer means there’s no room for creativity, no room for expressing your own ideas, no room for “good, better and best.”  And it also means that any other answer is WRONG.

Is getting the right answer all that matters?  If so, I blame the school system, which emphasizes tests over creativity and learning.  

I prefer subjects that have many right answers—that have room for growth.  Give me a good essay question over a math equation any day.

In all my years of asking people why they like math, I HAVE gotten a few good answers. One woman said math is like a puzzle to be solved.  I get that.  In fact, the few “mathy” things I like are logic puzzles and the game Mastermind.  (But I hate chess.)  My favorite game, Scrabble, has some math components to it. In fact, math people make the best Scrabble players.  (NOTE:  While I’m a good Scrabble player, I will never win a tournament.)

The best answer came from a math professor who teaches at a small college in South Dakota.  He visited our contra dance group, and he described how contra dancing is actually very mathematical.  During a particularly intricate dance, he smiled and said, “This is neat.”  He explained that he was planning on giving his students an option: take the final or write a contra dance.  I liked that. 

When I asked him why he liked math, he answered with two words: “It’s beautiful.”

That’s an answer I can accept.  Math is not beautiful to me.  I find much more beauty in a well-written poem, a creative painting or a plaintive ballad.  But I can accept that math is beautiful to him.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Facebook’s Other messages folder: How Facebook may be hiding important messages you sent or received


Last week I discovered another sneaky thing Facebook did without telling us.  They gave us a spam folder called “Others” and promptly hid it from us.  Here’s how to find it:  Go to your home page.  Look at the left side.  You should see the following listed:

News Feed
Messages
Events
Followed by various favorite links

Now click on Messages and you’ll see a link for Other.  Click on that – and you’ll probably see a huge list of messages you never had a chance to read.

I discovered a few spam messages, but most of them were notes from pages I had liked, or messages about events I was invited to, or messages from strangers who had something important to say to me.  For instance, several months ago I posted on a couple of fan pages, asking for comments from people for an article I was writing for Iditablog.  I discovered five responses that I’d never had a chance to read. It’s too late now to include those in my article.

Mine were fairly innocuous, but other people have missed very important messages, such as job offers, prize winnings or notes from long-lost relatives. My husband discovered a note from someone who turned out to be a cousin living in Sweden he had never met.  Fortunately he discovered it in a reasonable amount of time and was able to respond, but others haven’t been so lucky.  One blogger wrote about how she lost a brand-new laptop, waited a week without hearing anything (or so she thought), and finally bought a new one.  Months later she discovered messages in her Other folder from the person who found her laptop. 

Now that I know how to find the Other folder, I check it often and I shouldn’t lose any more messages.  But what worries me is the messages I try to send. It’s sad that a social media site has taken over our social lives, especially a social media site that hides things from us and makes changes in an underhanded way.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Fall of the Roman Empire Written by a Child

www.morguefile.com

Many books have been written about the fall of the Roman Empire, but here is a summary, written by my older daughter in about fourth grade (I discovered this while cleaning). Both girls are now in college. The younger one asked, "How did you keep a straight face when reading these?"  But I was glad they were learning real history, even if they expressed it in an unusual way.

Enjoy:

As the Roman Empire grew weaker and weaker, barbarians started atacking. The barbarians were very rough people and no one really liked them. There emporers dauter was board with life and wanted to do something new. So she decided to marry a barbarian, Atilla the Hun. Atilla thought this is a great way to invad Rome. The Romans were so desprate that they paid Atilla money to go away. But on the way back he died of a nosebleed. The Romans even killed the leader of the army just because he couldn't defeat the barbarians. The emporer was getting scard. He was so scard he packed up all his things and moved to a small swampy town. Meanwhile Rome was being distroyed by a barbarian trib called the vandals. Then Rome totaly fell apart. A barbarian called Orestes chased the emporer away and remaining Romans were being ruled by scatered barbarian kings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Comfortable Summer Dress Made from a Dollar Store T-Shirt


This comfy dress is easy to make and only cost me a dollar! It’s perfect for HOT summer days when you want to be cool and comfortable, but you don’t want to wear shorts and a tank top.  It does take a little bit of sewing knowledge (i.e., how to gather), and you will need a basic sewing machine. 

You will need a large T-shirt.  Use the largest T-shirt you can find.  I used a 4X, which I bought at the dollar store.  You will also need a tank top or T-shirt that fits you.  I had a tank top that I didn’t wear much, but found it matched the T-shirt perfectly.

Cut out the sleeves and cut across the top of the T-shirt. Trim to make it into a skirt shape.  

Measure where you want the waist to be on the tank top and cut about a half an inch below that.

Turn the T-shirt inside out and sew up the sides.  Even though you don’t need to sew all the way to the bottom, it looks better if you do.

Set your stitch length to the longest setting and sew two lines of stitches around the top of the skirt for gathering.

Pin the tank top to the skirt, wrong sides together, gathering the skirt as you go. Match the side seams. Then baste.  I don’t usually take the time to baste when I sew, but I find it is essential for gathering.

Sew the skirt and top together.

Remove the basting stitches.

Press the seam allowances upwards.

Turn the dress right side out and top-stitch just above the seam, making sure to sew through the seam allowances underneath.  (See photo below. Click for a larger view.) This helps reinforce the seam and keeps it from coming undone.

 The dress is done!

Note:  I got inspiration for this dress from my friend Amy's post.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Collective Nouns for Animals, Especially Birds


You can call this a "murder of  crows"
or a "storytelling of crows.
Photo from  http://www.morguefile.com

Collective nouns for animals have always intrigued me.  This website gives some common collective names for animals, and this one gives some extremely creative (but often little known) collective names for birds. Here are some random observations from the lists.

Otters can be called a raft or a romp.  I particularly like romp because of the way otters love to play.

You can have an ascension of larks or an exaltation of larks.  I wonder why their collective noun sounds like something heavenly.

Both finches and hummingbirds can be called a charm when in a group.  I do find both birds charming, though some may disagree.

Crows can be called a murder or a storytelling.  Perhaps it depends on your perception of these animals.  Starlings are called a murmuration.  Personally, I think murder applies to starlings more.

A destruction of cats is supposed to only be used for wildcats.  But anyone who has seen a domestic cat with a roll of toilet paper would apply it to domestic cats as well.

A lounge of lizards brings forth an image of lizards lying around drinking beer and smoking cigars.

A rhumba of rattlesnakes. Really? (Now I’m always going to be picturing dancing rattlesnakes.  I guess it minimizes the fright factor.)

A building of rooks doesn’t make sense, but somehow it still fits.

When I read “a deceit of lapwings” I had to look it up.  I found that a lapwing is a wading bird of the plover family found nearly everywhere but North America. (No wonder I hadn’t heard of it.) This website says the name comes from the fact that lapwings often present themselves as an easy prey to distract predators from their young. (The website even has a poem about lapwings.)

There's more:  According to this website, a group of ptarmigan is called an invisibleness.  My friend Helen Hegener, a writer who lives in Alaska, says ptarmigan are excellent at camouflage:  "Quite literally invisible when they want to be."  (Click here for more information on Helen's writing.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Fairies Poem and Fairy Garden Photos

 I love garden tours. Today I went on the 23rd Annual Backyard Habitat Tour, sponsored by the Wachiska Audubon Society of Southeast Nebraska. My favorite garden was a delightful fairy garden created by Cathy and John McQuinn.  The whimsical statues and displays nestled in amongst the beautiful flowers reminded me of a favorite childhood poem called "The Fairies." I discovered it in our family's copy of "Childcraft." I used to read the poem in a little sing-songy voice:  "There are FAIRIES at the BOTTOM of our GARDEN. It's NOT so very VERY far aWAY . . . "

Here is the poem, accompanied by photos I took today in the garden:

The Fairies


By Rose Fyleman

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
   It’s not so very, very far away;
You pass the gardener’s shed and you just
keep straight ahead—
  I do so hope they’ve really come to stay.
There’s a little wood, with moss in it and beetles,
  And a little stream that quietly runs through;
You wouldn’t think they’d dare to come
         merry-making there—
                Well, they do.

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
  They often have a dance on summer nights;
The butterflies and bees make a lovely little breeze,
  And the rabbits stand about and hold the lights.
Did you know that they could sit upon the moonbeams
  And pick a little star to make a fan,
And dance away up there in the middle of the air?
                Well, they can.

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
  You cannot think how beautiful they are;
They all stand up and sing when the Fairy Queen and King
  Come gently floating down upon their car.
The King is very proud and very handsome;
  The Queen—now can you guess who that could be
(She’s a little girl all day, but at night she steals away)?
                Well—it’s ME!











Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Random Sentence Generator: I CAN write free verse poetry after all

I've never been good at free verse poetry, but I think I've discovered a way to write some. Just use a random sentence generator. My husband discovered one at this link:

http://watchout4snakes.com/CreativityTools/RandomSentence/RandomSentence.aspx

I present my first free verse poem:

The emergency literature shuts the teapot inside the more vinyl.
Why does the romance stare over the legal paranoia?
A weapon complains in the extraneous bedroom.

The convincing lunchtime advances in the virgin stereo.
The textual article salts each absent upstairs.
The large helicopter tunnels the infamous skin.
The most frog bounces another insecure ash.

A freeze complains before the crystal.
Should the dirt insult a north?
A competent mill relaxes. A razor kids.
His blessed assumes the diverse skull within the domestic.

The despair chops its delayed lawyer past an arc.

END OF POEM
So what do you think?  Why not give it a try?  Use the random sentence generator link above.  You are allowed to delete sentences if you wish, but you can't change the sentences in any way.  I suppose you can rearrange the order of the sentences, though I didn't.

Then share your poem as a comment.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Homemade Spice Mixes

Mixing the Ethiopian spices
I love spice mixes.  I'm a lazy cook, so I find it much easier to just grab one spice jar and shake rather than measure out five different spices. Using spice mixes can help cut down on your use of salt. Spice mixes also make excellent Christmas gifts.  I purchase my spices in bulk from the local health food co-op.  They're economical and probably fresher than the packaged spices.  Here are two mixes that I especially like. Use them with vegetables, soups, stews, stir fry, or wherever you need a special kick.

Ethiopian Spices:
2 parts pepper
2 parts cumin
2 parts ginger
1 part tumeric
Mixing the Scarborough Fair seasoning
4 parts sea salt (optional)

(Note: If you leave out the sea salt, each individual can add salt at the table according to taste.)

Scarborough Fair Seasoning
Equal parts of (you guessed it)
Parsley
Sage
Rosemary
Thyme



Monday, May 21, 2012

Grammar Tip #4: Lie or Lay


It’s easy to get these two words confused.  And there are a few wrinkles that make it even more confusing.

But let’s start with the basics:

Lie means to get into or be a reclining position.  It’s something you do yourself. It can also refer to an object (or objects) at rest.
  • I’m going to lie down for a nap.
  • She likes to lie in the sun.
  • And old quilt lies on our bed.

Lay means to put something down in a horizontal position or a position of rest. It’s something you do to something (or occasionally someone) else.
  • Every evening I lay out the clothes I’m going to wear the next day.
  • I’m going to lay the baby down for a nap.
  • Could you lay the rug by the door?

Now that you have that down (hopefully), let me introduce the wrinkle: the past tense (something that happened in the past).

The past tense of lie is lay.  (Is that confusing or what?) 
  • I lay down for a nap at 2 pm and didn’t wake up until 4.
  • After working out I just lay there, too tired to get up.
  • Fresh snow lay on the ground that morning.

The past tense if lay is laid
  • I laid the baby down for a nap an hour ago.
  • I can’t remember where I laid the paper.
  • He laid the book on the desk.

There’s also something called “past participle.” The easiest way to explain “past participle” is the past tense with a helping verb.

The past participle if lie is lain.
  • Many times I have lain on this bed.
  • She had just lain down when the phone rang.
  • The newspaper has lain there all week.

The past participle of lay is laid (same as the past tense in this case).
  • I have laid tile in this house.
  • Our hen has laid an egg every day this week.
  • We have laid that subject to rest.

Now to add yet another wrinkle to this.  The past tense of lie is different depending on the meaning of the word.  It’s one of only a few words in the English language where this is the case. If you use the word lie to mean “to tell a falsehood,” then the past (and also past participle) is lied. So you would say
  • I don’t like to lie to people
  • I’m sorry I lied to you.
  • He has lied about his age before.
Hopefully you'll remember those examples the next time you ask yourself, "Should I say 'lie' or 'lay'?"

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review of "The Cruelest Miles" by Gay and Laney Salilsbury

In 1925 a diphtheria epidemic struck the town of Nome, Alaska. The serum that the town's only doctor had requested had not arrived on the fall ship that year, and so the lives of many of Nome's children were in danger. The only way to get the life-saving serum to Nome was by a relay of dogsleds. This describes the journey in vivid details. Though it's nonfiction (and historical), it reads like fiction. A good, satisfying read.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Spine Poetry: A Delightful Form of Found Poetry

I just discovered Book Spine Poetry.Quinn McDonald described it in a blog called "Quinn Creative." You simply stack up a few books, and each title becomes a line of a poem. When I started putting my stacks together, my husband looked puzzled and finally said, "It's a good way to trick yourself into sorting the bookshelves."  Later a friend came over.  She got it right away.

I found that many books start with "The" and that gets in the way of a good poem.  Finding a book that starts with a preposition or gerund is golden.  And it works better if you ignore the subtitles.

You can "write" as many lines as you wish, but I like the sound of a four-line poem.

Here is my first attempt at Book Spine Poetry.  I'll post the photo first, followed by the poem typed out.


Two old women
Living on the edge
In the land of white death.
Snowstruck.


The everlasting man
Walking on water,
Swimming with giants,
In search of birds and wild places.


To be a slave,
Hostage to the devil,
The worst hard time,
No end in sight.


The Orthodox way,
The way of a pilgrim,
Path to sanity,
A tiny step away from deepest faith.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Caroline and the Brothers Dank

Here are some videos of Caroline and the Brothers Dank playing at a local coffee shop:
Fiddle Music:


South Wind:

Wagon Wheel:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You’re going to Name your Baby WHAT? Thoughts on Today’s Baby Names


Photo by idiahoeditor (www.morguefile.com)

Every year our newspaper publishes a special section called “Bundles of Joy.” People pay to have a picture of their baby in the paper. I peruse the section, not so much for the pictures (even though they ARE cute), but for the names.  I find it fascinating what people choose to name their offspring.

Here are my very unscientific observations based on this year’s “Bundles of Joy.”  NOTE: Ideas on baby names are extremely subjective.  I hesitated to write this article because I don’t want to offend anyone.  If I pick on a name you have chosen, I apologize.  This is only one person’s opinion.

There were a total of 134 babies featured this year (if I did my math right).  I divided them into several categories and counted the total babies with names in that category.  All examples are from this year’s “Bundles of Joy” section.

Classic Names – 9
These  are the perenniel favorites, timeless names that will always serve a child well. They were common in my generation, but not as common today.  I only noticed one girls’ name: Anne.  Boys’ names included James, Mark, Thomas, William, Andrew, and Nathaniel.

Boys Names Used for Girls – 10
This is a pet peeve of mine.  Perhaps parents are trying to give their daughter an advantage by giving her a masculine name.  But probably they just like the sound of it.  I don’t.  And what’s worse – it ruins a perfectly good boy’s name.  You probably know a man named Tracy, Stacey, Dana or even Lois.  Those names used to be men’s names, but now the poor men have to suffer through life with a woman’s name.  Here are some of the names listed this year: Parker, Maisyn (changing the spelling does NOT make it a girl’s name, thank you), Payten (ditto), Peytin (ditto), Avery, Riley, Emery (and that is (or rather WAS) such a great boy's name), Halyee, and Reece.  (Okay, Okay, there is Reese Witherspoon, but it’s still a man’s name.) Please, people.

Old-Fashioned Names - 12
These are the names of our grandparents, names our classmates would have laughed at.  But today they are appreciated as “retro.”  I like most of these names. Examples: August, Levi (ok, I don’t like that one),Titus, Veronica, Oliver, Cecelia, Theodore, Cora, Naomi, Juliet (cool!), Ava, Ella.

Trendy but “Normal” Names - 48
These are names that were practically unheard of when I was growing up, but have become commonplace today.  Most of these are now good, solid names that will serve a child well. Examples: Ethan, Karlie, Lily, Lauren, Alison, Justin, Zachary, Carter, Jackson, Katelyn, Landon.


Newbies but Goodies – 30
People are becoming more and more creative with their names – and that can be good.  Some names are made up; others are uncommon or from a unique source. I really like some of the more unusual names.  Here are some examples from this year:
Girls: Amirah, Kinley, Emilia, Vionna, Gemma, Norah, Arynn, Maya, Kinsley, Somara.
Boys: Easton (very nice), Zavian, Donovan, Kyler, Griffin (my daughter really likes this one – I have mixed feelings), Caiden, Cade, Hudson (I really like this one), Emerson.

Just Plain Odd – 25
OK, people, creative is good, but odd is, well . . . ODD!  Here are some that made me shake my head in wonder.
Girls: Isla, Atleigh, Brylee, Brooks (I like Brooke, but Brooks?), Zariyah, Danica (“sounds like yogurt,” my daughter commented), Berkeley (a city in California?), Brinlee ( what???), Honor (honor is a good thing, but a name???), Alivia (Olivia is nice, but why change the first letter?), Alexiana (now you KNOW she’s probably going to be called Lex anyway, so why bother with a five-syllable name?), Harlow (really?  A GIRL named Harlow?  I’d put it in the boy’s names category, but it doesn’t even fit there.),
Boys’ names: Gunner (I’ve heard of the Swedish name Gunnar, but GunnEr???), Brenson, Enzo (Sounds like a laundry detergent), Cruz (this baby was Caucasian, BTW), Ryder, Marek, Brogan, Maddox, Holden, Ryker, Declan (how do you pronounce that, anyway?), Duran.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Recipe: Banana Spice Cake

Here's an easy way to use up those bananas that are getting too ripe.  Keep a box of spice cake mix on hand to use for this. (I try to buy cake mixes when they're on sale)

  • 1 box spice cake mix
  • 2-3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

Empty cake mix into bowl. Add baking soda.  Mix the cake according to package directions, except reduce the water by 1/4 cup.  Add mashed bananas. Bake according to package directions. When cake is cool, frost with buttercream or cream cheese frosting.  Makes a nice, moist cake.

Review of Destination: Love and Whales

I bought this book because it's written by my friend Jeanne Kern, along with Bruce Held. It's a romance between two unlikely people from the same hometown who both end up on a whale watching trip. The other characters on the excursion are fun, and you may even learn something new about whales. It's a fun, quick read. (Note: It does have a couple of "adult" scenes.)

 You can see the books I've read so far (starting in 2011) here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to Fix the Facebook Feed


Facebook is fun, but not when it decides what I want to see.  I am not a fan of the “Highlighted Stories.”  How does Facebook know what stories I want to see the most?  Often the ones I’m most interested in are not the ones I comment on. 

The Facebook Powers that Be have made it better now that we can click on “Sort” and choose “Recent Stories First.”  But it still seems like I’m missing something.  I’ve found I can control what I see on Facebook by using the List feature. 

Here’s how to make a list that will show all the updates on Facebook:
  1. Click on home.
  2. On the left, you should see some lists that have already been created.  (You may need to click on “More” to see it.)
  3. To the right of where it says Lists, click on “More.”
  4. At the top, click on “Create List”
  5. Give it a name. For this list, call it “All Friends” or “Everyone.”
  6. Click on “Create.”
  7. Click on “Add Friends”
  8. The next step is the time consuming one.  Click on every single friend you have. Make sure they are checkmarked after you click on the name.
  9. When you are done, click “Done.”
  10. Now you will see everything that the group has posted.  There is one more step. On the upper right click on “Manage List” and scroll down to “Choose Update Types.”  You can choose what you want to see from this list.  If you want to see everything, that’s fine.  But perhaps you don’t want to see updates about games, so you can unclick that.
  11. Now go back to home and look at your lists.  Do you see your “All Friends” list?  If not, click on “More.”  Hover your mouse to the left of the name and you will see a pencil icon. Click on that icon and click on “Add to Favorites.”  This will move that list to your Favorites list at the top, so you can find it more easily.  Now, whenever you log into Facebook, click on “All Friends” and you will see all the updates without any Facebook censoring.

Whenever you make a new friend on Facebook, remember to add them to the list.  You can also go back under “Manage List” and add the new friends from time to time.

Now that you know how to make a list, you may want to make other lists. You can make another list of all friends, call it “Photos” and under “Choose Update Types” choose only “Photos.” You may want to do the same with status updates.

 You can also make subgroups. You might want to make a list of people who you are most interested in (instead of letting Facebook decide what you want to see.)  Call it “News” or “Top Friends” or whatever you want. Just go through all the steps listed above, but instead of clicking on all your friends, just click on your top friends. You can make lists for various aspects of your life, such as friends from school, church, work or an organization, or simply “Old Friends.”  I also made one for Fan pages.  To do that, when you go to add friends, look at the upper left corner of the Friends Box, where it says “Friends.” Drop down and choose “Pages” instead, and you’ll see all your fan pages.  Choose all those, and you will have a list of fan pages.

You’ll find it much easier to keep up with everyone by using the lists feature. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review of the Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers is a historical fiction book set in a unique place and time - the Jewish fortress called Masada, during the Jewish-Roman war of 70 AD. The story is told from the point of view of four women who work tending the doves, whose droppings fertilize the gardens in their fortress-village. Their lives intertwine in often surprising ways. It's a story of struggle and suffering told in beautiful language. The characters are intriguing, though their actions are not always entirely believable. But it's an interesting look at an event in history not often talked about.

 You can see the books I've read so far (starting in 2011) here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Grammar Tip #3: “Mary and I” or “Mary and me”?


For some reason most people always use “Mary and I” (or “he and I” or “she and I,” etc.) in a sentence, no matter where the phrase lies.  So they end up saying something like this: “Mary and I went for a walk. A cop gave Mary and I a ticket for jaywalking.”

The first sentence is correct, but the second sentence is incorrect.  Why? In grammatical terms, the rule goes like this: Use “Mary and I” when the phrase is the subject of the sentence, and use “Mary and me” when the phrase is the object of a verb or preposition.  But that might as well be a foreign language to some people.

It is helpful to note that “Mary and I” often comes at the beginning of a sentence, while “Mary and me” comes in the middle or at the end of a sentence.  But that doesn't always work.

The best way I’ve found to determine which to use is simply to take out the “Mary and.”  Then read the sentence and see what sounds better.  Thus: “I went for a walk” sounds good, but “A cop gave I a ticket for jaywalking” sounds odd.  It should be “A cop gave me a ticket for jaywalking.”  Thus we should use, “A cop gave Mary and me a ticket for jaywalking.”

Here are some more examples:

He and I both like to eat sour apples.
It seems to her and me that we should turn left here.
On Friday, Sarah and I went to the movies.
Don’t tell Fred and me what to do.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review of Fyodor Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart


As a recent convert to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, I was interested in learning more about Fyodor Dostoevsky, an Orthodox Christian writer who lived in Russia from 1821-1881. I admit that I’ve never ready any of Dostoevsky’s works, but my daughters list his Crime and Punishment among their favorite books. I decided to read this biography to learn more about him.

As is true of many artists, Dostoevsky was a tortured soul, in more ways than one. He suffered from epilepsy and other ailments, experienced profound loneliness at times, and was unfaithful in marriage. Because of his political views, he was sent to a prison camp in frigid Siberia. It was there that his faith took root, and this faith became a central part of his novels. Though he achieved success as a novelist, he struggled financially all his life. The final chapter tells of a moment of victory he experienced during a speech he gave honoring the Russian poet Pushkin.

The author uses fiction techniques to tell the story of Dostoevsky in an interesting way.  The story comes out in bits and pieces, through conversations, recollections and flashbacks.  I found myself confused at points, and more than once I wished the author had told the story in a chronological, linear format.

I found Dostoevsky a fascinating character, and I learned a lot about a little-known period of Russian history. Perhaps it’s my turn to read Crime and Punishment.

NOTE: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booksneeze. The opinions expressed are my own.

 You can see the books I've read so far (starting in 2011) here.