“East of Eden”

“East of Eden” by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck is a journal about several families and two in particular that become close in a dark way. One of the families, the Trasks, is similar to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck’s characters are fascinating in many realms, such as love, mystery and murder. 

Most people have read this book. If you haven’t I recommend that you do. It has entertained readers for over half a century.   

Lab Girl

Book Review Monday

“Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren is a book that covers it all and does it brilliantly. Jahren is a serious scientist whose excitement about her work is infectious. She studies soil, seeds, plants, and especially trees and it is hard for the reader to not become involved in her work in the lab and in the field.

The author has many challenges including being raised without affection or the assurance that she was loved. This, as well as her bipolar disorder, made her relationships complex. She honestly shares her life’s story professionally and personally.

I recommend this true story which is a national best seller.

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The Daughter’s Tale

Book Review Monday

“The Daughter’s Tale” by Armando Lucas Correa

An eighty year-old woman in New York City in 2015 receives a box of letters from long ago and seven decades of secrets spill forth. The shock of learning about her past was devastating both physically and emotionally.

At this point the story switches to her childhood in Germany in 1939 and the way her Jewish parents had saved her and her sister from the Nazis. The amazing journey takes the mother and her two daughters to the South of France where they become separated. One daughter ends up in Cuba and the other in the United States.

This story is based on true events and is an unforgettable account of love, sacrifice and survival. I recommend it.

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“The Internet has been this miraculous conduit to the undeniable truth to the Holocaust.” Steven Spielberg

 

Book Review

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

I don’t read a lot of novels, but I am very glad that I did not miss this one. The author, a Harvard graduate, has woven the lives of two disparate families into a web that is forever binding. The story involves teenage love, adult secrets and subtle racism.

This book is utterly engrossing and its story lines are complex leaving one considering important issues of life. I recommend it without hesitation.

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“Little Fires Everywhere” has won many awards including the #1 New York Times bestseller. It was made into a Hulu series starting Reese Witherspoon.

Rob Bell

Rob Bell is a bestselling author and international teacher and speaker. I was first introduced to his writing by a friend who never steers me wrong when it comes to books.  I have read two of Bell’s books and plan to read more in the future.

Since the subtitles tell one exactly what the books are about I’m going to list both of them for you in their entirety.

  • “Love Wins” – A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
  • “What is the Bible?” – How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything

There you have it! This is what these two books are about and I recommend them both. Regardless of how many times you have read the Bible I promise you that you will be enlightened or at least encouraged to look at the Bible in a different way.

 

The Last Lecture

“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

I just read this book for the second time and still found it very interesting and uplifting. Professors often give a “last lecture” at the end of their illustrious careers. Randy Pausch, a tenured professor at Carnegie-Mellon, gave his when he was in his late forties and dying with pancreatic cancer. He had many reasons to give this lecture to an overflow crowd of over 400, but his real audience was his three young children. His talk covered things he wanted his children to know one day because they were too young to remember him and all the love he had for them.

It is a beautiful true story that I think any of us can learn important lessons from, but if you aren’t inclined to read the book you can hear and see Pausch give his Last Lecture on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7zzQpvoYcQ

 

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Talking to the Animals

If you could communicate with animals, what species would you like to talk with?

My Answer: Dogs and Cats

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I would want to know what they remember, if they can think of the future and whether they get their feelings hurt. I feel sure that they love deeply.

Your Answer?

 

“Children, old crones, peasants, and dogs ramble; cats and philosophers stick to their point.” H. P. Lovecraft

Photos by Pixabay

 

Kate’s Haiku

The responses to the Haiku Challenge https://crookedcreek.live/2019/11/14/haiku/   were many and I am so proud of each reader who has participated. You’ve done an impressive job and there’s some good poetry here. Instead of printing all the poems together I think they will be more appreciated if they are posted a few at a time.

I’m going to begin today with one by my granddaughter, Kate Elliott. Thank you, Kate, for your very meaningful submission.

Kate’s Haiku

I’m American
I live across the ocean
I love England too.

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I’m so happy to report that Kate is going to be crossing that ocean with her husband, Tom, in the next couple of days to visit us here in America!

Holocaust Novel

“All My Love, Detrick” by Roberta Kagan

Most of my reading about the Holocaust is factual but I decided to try this best-selling novel and I’m glad I did. As the title indicates it is a love story. Detrick, an Aryan, falls in love with Leah, a Jewish girl, and their struggles to be together are very realistic. There are parallel love stories of other couples that unfold smoothly throughout the book. There is plenty of love-making but also tragedies among the characters of all ages.

I enjoyed the book and would rank it four stars out of five. I know I’m a hard critic for a book must be great literature for me to give it five stars. “Sunflower” and “Night Trilogy” come to mind in that category.

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“Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.” Helen Keller

Rats? On The Other Hand

The last post was about the menace of rats.    https://crookedcreek.live/2019/06/12/rats/   Rats in the city, rats in the house or on the farm can be real pests, but as with most things in life, there is a flip side.

Rats Make Affectionate Pets!

My granddaughter, Kate, and her husband, Tom, live in a flat in Cheltenham in the UK that does not allow cats or dogs. Kate has always had several pets from the time she was born and could not imagine living very long without one or more. So, a couple of months ago they adopted two rats and here they are: 

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Meet Sergio and Earic (he’s the one with prominent ears!) These Fancy Rats were purchased from a pet store and are now part of the family in Kate and Tom’s home.  Kate says they are very smart animals and can learn commands such as fetch, spin, jump and come. They are not picky eaters and are easy to care for. Sergio is seen in the picture above in one of his favorite places, riding on Kate’s shoulder. Earic is here with Tom. 

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Earic & Sergio

 

So before we become too opinionated about any subject it probably pays to learn more and to have more experiences. I look forward to meeting Sergio and Earic in person when I return to England!

 

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“I do feel like by buying rats from a pet store, you are saving them because if not, they would get fed to a snake or something.” Nikki Reed

Remember

From “Remember Me” by David Harkins, Copyright 1981

You can shed tears that he is gone or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he’s gone or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back or you can do what he’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on. 

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Raymond F. Mattingly     10/28/1929-12/12/2014

 

Thoughts & Prayers

Thoughts and Prayers are not enough. Thoughts and prayers come after the fact, after the loss. We as Americans, as citizens of the world must do more. We must be proactive. How?

Love and respect others, including those who are not exactly like us. We are all human beings, we worship the same supreme being by different names or no name, we all have families and we all have a place in this world that we share.

We must be engaged with others. We must be an active part of the solution. We must be involved with our political representatives to hold them accountable. We must lead by example.

We must stand up against hate. 

 

Smile

I’ve often been accused of thinking and talking too much about death. I do contemplate the subject and read and talk about it quite a bit, but I want to declare that I am not morbid. Death is inevitable for each of us, so why not acknowledge that and get on with laughing, loving and living? That’s my philosophy. 

Can death be funny? If your first instinct is to answer, “No,” think again. If you’ve ever watched the late eighties movie, “Weekend at Bernie’s” you know better!

John Cleese’s Philosophy 

Is death funny? It is. Death is certainly present in my life, and there’s humor to be mined from it. Somebody was saying to me last week that you can’t talk about death these days without people thinking you’ve done something absolutely antisocial. But death is part of the deal. Imagine if, before you came to exist on Earth, God said, “You can choose to stay up here with me, watching reruns and eating ice cream, or you can be born. But if you pick being born, at the end of your life you have to die — that’s nonnegotiable. So which do you pick?” I think most people would say, “I’ll give living a whirl.” It’s sad, but the whirl includes dying. That’s something I accept.  John Cleese

Now everyone loves me

“Die with memories, not dreams.” Word Porn

Cats 4

Trips to the Vet

fullsizeoutput_126e  Zoe

Taking Zoe to the vet has become increasingly difficult. Part of that may be that I now must do it alone, but the biggest factor is her fear of enclosure. She is quick to sense that something is up. It makes me wonder what she may have endured in her first year of life before she was given up for adoption. I learned long ago to not let her see the carrier ahead of time or she would hide where it is impossible to reach her. Currently, she escapes under the king sized bed and holds her ground right in the middle where not even the longest human arms could retrieve her.

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After doing some Online research I ordered a “Cat Bag” to transport her in an effort to help her feel more secure. It has a long zipper and adjustable velcro at the neck. A soft handle in the middle allows carrying the cat snugly in the bag. She said, “You’re kidding, right?” and the chase was on.  

She weighs less than ten pounds, but the total package consists of amazing speed, terrorizing screams and four paws equipped with dagger claws. Now almost twelve years old, Zoe is behind in vet visits for the first time. We are waiting each other out and I’m pretty sure who will win. Yes, the one with the claws.

fullsizeoutput_1227  Elliott

Elliott couldn’t run away if he wanted to. I simply pick him up and stuff him into his larger size carrier. Simple, until I start to carry the carrier! Really, I’m capable of carrying twenty-two pounds. I carry heavier bags of cat food and litter, however, those packages do not shift. Elliott cries half-heartedly as he moves from one end of the carrier to the other, keeping me off balance as I carry him.

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With each annual trip to the vet, it becomes increasingly more difficult. The staff always sees my challenge and offers to help me get him back to the car, but I need to demonstrate that women (and senior women at that) can handle any job we accept. He is my cat. I can carry my cat. I always pray they are not watching my retreat wobbling to the car. 

I have a plan for Elliott’s next outing. We will meet the challenge.

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Bottom Line

Zoe, Elliott and I are all seniors. We understand each other. We need each other. We love each other. We know that, one at a time, we will conclude our stay on this spinning orb, but for now, the three of us are making one another happy day by day.

 

So now you know that adopting a cat (or any pet) is a big responsibility. You probably knew that already, but thank you for reading about my life with Zoe and Elliott. I hope you have pets you love as much. Animals are wonderful. They give so much love and devotion and expect only that in return.

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Night Prayers

Part 4 of 4

 

Theme photo in title by Kate Puckett Elliott

 

What I Know for Sure 4

The Last Seven

As you may have noticed, this subject has been difficult for me. Quite honestly I am surprised, because I’ve been nothing in life if not sure of my opinions, but therein lies the problem, I believe. Opinions are easy to come by, easy to hold, easy to change. Knowing something for sure is utterly different. Knowing means possessing proof, irrefutable facts, it is a reality, the unwavering truth. This reality is harder to come by. In previous posts, I came up with thirteen (13), if you allow me to include those I threw in facetiously. In order to meet the high bar set by Oprah, in number only, I was determined to come up with seven (7) more things of which I am sure. After much contemplation, here they are:

14. The love of an animal is pure. They give physical comfort, make no demands, don’t pout and are quick to forgive. 

15. Death comes to all living creatures. No matter how we try to avoid this fact it is a reality. 

16. There are no perfect marriages. Some are happier than others, some have more trials, but regardless of the effort put into a marriage, it is not possible to live with another human being without some rough spots and adjustments along the way.

17. White privilege is real. The greatest advantage I’ve been given in life, I have done nothing to earn. It was provided to me at birth simply as a result of having two white parents. 

18. Time spent in nature is rewarding. The sounds of birds, crickets, and water flowing, the feel of breezes that touch one’s face, the glimpse of a small furry animal scurrying along the ground, even the faint fragrance of a wildflower are healing and rejuvenating to the spirit of who we are or were meant to be. 

19. I cannot turn over a new leaf. No matter how many times I try, simply acknowledging that I need to make a change is not incentive enough. For me to make a change, it must involve serious consequences.

20. High heels are detrimental to a woman’s health. Created in Persia (Iran today) to be worn by men riding horses, a raised heel served the practical purpose of keeping the feet within the stirrup. High heels today serve no purpose except to hobble women, making them more vulnerable not only to assault, but to back pain, falls, and injuries to the foot and ankle. Yes, I am aware that they can be beautiful and that women who are strong and agile, can look stunning wearing them, but I maintain that they are not worth the risks involved. 


We have explored and exhausted this subject for now at least. You, the readers, have contributed many things that you know to be true and they are listed below. Please feel free to comment, adding more things you have decided are true over the past month. I believe that something can be true to one of us, yet not all of us. We are individuals and we do not think, feel or believe the same. Thank you so much for sharing with me and with each other. 

What Readers Know for Sure:

I am but a microscopic speck in the great macrocosm of the universe.  
My existence has had a purpose
Life IS worth living
I am a morning person  
I know God is real
A true friend lifts you when you’re down, listens to your problems, is caring and encouraging.
Columbus Day marks the beginning of recorded history in America.
Millions of European migrants came here bringing their music, art, science, medicine and religious principles that shaped the United States.
A leopard can’t change its spots.   
You can’t go back, only forward.
You can’t change the past.
One hand washes the other hand.
You can’t change a person’s thinking when it comes to religion or politics.
What I believe for sure, you may not.
My mother, brothers, and sister have loved me unconditionally.
I have the inner faith and strength to get through very difficult times.
Teachers can change a student for a lifetime.  
Seasons follow each other.
Spring starts from the ground up.
The moon and stars follow the sun. 
Full moons cause strange behavior in people.
Everyone is either predator or prey.
Every action has a reaction.
The human body is the most incredible organism.
Every person has a story.
Every person can choose how to react to their story.
We move through seasons and chapters of our lives individually.
Some decisions are more difficult than others.
When inflated, balloons float up.  
We all die alone, even when others are around us.
We are on this earth as we know it today, only once.

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What I Know for Sure:

I love my family with all my heart.      
Having time alone is a necessity for me.
Native Americans should not be called Indians.
Dish towels should be laundered separately.
April is not delivering in March.   
Love, at first sight, is a real phenomenon. 
Depression should be renamed. 
April had a baby.
Alot is not a word.
I am no Oprah.
CPR does not always work. 
Grandparents are not infallible.   
Adventure Animal Park will continue to make money on April through May. 
The love of an animal is pure.
Death comes to all living creatures.
There are no perfect marriages.
White privilege is real.
Time spent in nature is rewarding.    
I cannot turn over a new leaf.
High heels are detrimental to a woman’s health.   

The flowers bloom, then wither . . . the stars shine and one day become extinct . . . This earth, the sun, the galaxies and even the big universe someday will be destroyed . . . Compared with that, the human life is only a blink, just a little time . . .  In that short time, the people are born, laugh, cry, fight, are injured, feel joy, sadness, hate someone, love someone. All in just a moment. And then, are embraced by the eternal sleep called death.     Virgo Shaka

Part 4 of 4

Theme photo by Akiko Kobayashi (Japan)

What I Know for Sure 2

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland

It has been over two weeks since we began discussing “What I Know for Sure.” To me, this absence of posts is no surprise. After all, there are so few things we know for sure, or perhaps I should say, that “I” know for sure. Your comments after that first installment of this subject were thought provoking and I look forward to you sharing more as we go forward.

Sometimes during the night, when revelations so often materialize, I think, “I must remember this for the blog,” but when morning arrives the thought has vanished. If I am so sure, why did that certainty evaporate with dawn? To me it is further verification we know so little for sure.  Or, perhaps it is that what we know isn’t of great consequence.

Listed below are the four (4) things which I declared, initially, I know for sure. Thank you for not asking me to explain #4! It is one which I feel strongly about and I wonder if you have things which you think too few people know for sure, but should be obvious.

  1. There are few things of which I am 100% sure, but one of those certainties is the fact that I love my family with all my heart.
  2. Having time alone is a necessity for me, but I sometimes forget how much I need to be with people.
  3. Native Americans should not be called Indians.
  4. Dish towels and dish cloths should be laundered separately and not with bath towels or underwear.

What I know for Sure Today

5. April is not delivering in March. That giraffe! Have you been watching? I have, since sometime toward the end of February, and somedays I feel so sorry for her and other days I am mad . . . at her, at the Animal Adventure Park, at her Baby Daddy, Oliver. It is irrational, I know. Nature cannot be rushed. It will happen when the time is right, etc., etc. Last week, on April 8, the park’s veterinarian said that was going to be the day, “April is showing signs of early labor.” NOT! Thousands watched the live cam in anticipation, but no baby. Poor April, gestation for giraffes is fifteen months and the offspring will weigh around 150 pounds. April has gone through this three (3) times before. She knows what she is doing. It’s the caregivers who apparently do not. 

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6. Love at first sight is a real phenomenon. Not romantic love, I don’t know about that, but a Mother’s love for her newborn. No matter how red, skinny or fat. No matter how covered with toothpaste-looking vernix caseosa, bald or not, a Mom is going to experience pure love the moment she looks at her newborn’s face.

7. Depression should be renamed.  Depression is a word from the late Middle ages meaning to “press down”. It evokes a slump or perhaps an indentation, nothing too significant. The word may refer to the economy (recession), weather (tropical) or to geography (relative to the horizon). It also is a medical diagnosis and this is what should change in order to more adequately portray the condition. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders there are several diagnostic codes listed for variations of this disorder. It is not my intent to delve into the nuances of this diagnosis which can be complex and even terminal, but to encourage thought and perhaps dialog.

Too often, this diagnosis is considered to be a temporary “down” feeling which will pass, but in fact it is more likely to be a permanent condition that varies in intensity. If you struggle to understand friends or family members who you know to be depressed, please read this short account by John Pavolvitz, one of my favorite bloggers. I had been following Pavolvitz’s posts for over a year without knowing he suffers from depression, until reading this one:  http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/07/05/the-privilege-of-mental-health/

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Photo Credit: Missy Cornish

As Borland’s quote at the beginning of this post, some things are a surety and they bring comfort. It is reassuring to know spring never misses its turn and no night lasts forever. As one of our readers has stated, “. . . . . the Sun always rises. Light transforms the darkness.” And, while this is true there are those who suffer from “clinical depression” who cannot know this for sure, everyday. No matter what we call depression, it is a diagnosis to be taken seriously, to be treated and to be better understood. That understanding brings light to sufferers.

Part 2 of 4

Theme photo by Akiko Kobayashi (Japan)

What I Know for Sure

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Thank you to Akiko Kobayashi (Japan) for this photograph.

Oprah

This title will sound familiar to fans of Oprah Winfrey. I admire Oprah, but have not followed her closely over the past several years, so when one of our readers suggested this topic, I admit that I had to do a little research. Cindi, a loyal follower of Crooked Creek, has added valuable feedback and encouragement, so I knew that I should take her suggestion seriously. 

Oprah has written a book on this subject and it was a success as just about everything is which she attempts. You can read the top 20 things she “knows” at: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/the-top-20-things-oprah-knows-for-sure

A book of things I know for sure would be a very short one, but I will attempt to come up with my top twenty. Rest assured, I do not consider myself anything like this famous and successful woman known the world over, but I do believe that this is a subject worthy our consideration, yours and mine. As we explore together, please share with us what you know for sure. 

More Gray than I Realized

When I was much younger there were so many things I was sure were true. As someone has said, “Often wrong, but never in doubt.”  That was me. Either black or white! I knew things. Things I had been taught, things I read in the Bible, things I felt in my bones. Looking back I can see how that was not only naive, but arrogant. Education, both formal and day-to-day experiences, prove repeatedly how little I know for sure. Some of my strongest opinions have bitten the dust, because they were just that, opinions. 

I remember taking a required philosophy course at The University of Louisville back in the 1970s and experiencing a major revelation during the first days. The professor, speaking from his wheel-chair, in front of about fifty students would present topic after topic from various angles. About the time I became convinced of one of his assertions he would quietly say, “But on the other hand” and then convince me of just the opposite. It wasn’t that I was easy, it was that he was good. After a few weeks of exposure to his fairness and uncomplicated brilliance I clearly saw how little I knew for sure. This does not mean that we do not have things we believe and believe in, but to me at least, it does mean that most subjects and opinions can be debated and looked at from other points of view. Our real truths will not be diluted by serious scrutiny, but we may be able to better understand another’s position. 

What I Know for Sure

The fact that I have a blog and that I like to share my thoughts and experiences must mean that I think I know something, right? No doubt it comes across that way and those who know me personally will quickly add that I am opinionated. So there, I’ve outed myself before anyone else has the chance. Before we go out too far on a serious path like Oprah though, I want to say that some of the things I know for sure are not earth shattering, but trivial. I’m going to share them anyway. Feel free to do the same. Collectively, I am sure we know many things, big and small. I’m going to start with the number one thing I know for sure and see how far we get today after that.

  1. There are few things of which I am 100% sure, but one of those certainties is the fact that I love my family with all my heart. My guess is that you love yours in that way, too. Many, if not most, things change over our lifetimes. This has not. 
  2. Having time alone is a necessity for me, but I sometimes forget how much I need to be with people. There are those who renew their energy by being with people, by talking and laughing and playing games. Those folks would simply dry up if they had to be alone for long. Others of us need time of quiet and calm at regular intervals or we become anxious and distracted. There are tests that show which type of person we are and each is labeled as some type of introvert or extrovert, but we don’t really need a Myers-Briggs or other personality test to know our personal requirements. Still, if interested here is one of those quizzes to reveal more than you probably want to know:  http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
  3. Native Americans should not be called Indians. Columbus was mistaken. He did not land in India. If Native Americans want to use the term “Indian” they have that right, we do not. Why do we even celebrate Columbus Day? After all the suffering of this country’s indigenous people perhaps we should have a “First Peoples Day” instead.
  4. Dish towels and dish cloths should not be laundered with bath towels, underwear or other laundry. Please don’t ask me to explain. 

This is where I need to leave it for today. Perhaps I should apologize, because I have been thinking of this post for weeks and weeks and this is as far as I’ve gotten. These are the few things I know for sure as of today. I’m thinking as hard as I can and I know there are others to add to this list, I’m just not sure of them yet. 

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.

(Author unknown)

Part 1 of 4