At Ducks Unlimited - Surrey, BC
Next Week: BLUE (Water, Sky, Flowers, Birds, Eyes, The Blues, Melancholy,...)
We spent some of today at the Aldergrove* parade and Agri-Fair. I can't remember the last time I was at a small town parade. It's been quite a few years!
After it was done we wandered off to the fairground to watch a little quick draw shooting. Then hubby went to check out the antique tractors at while I strolled past the booths.
Finally we went to the antique tractor pull. This is definitely a boy toy event. But I did see a Massey 33, just like my dad's. They made it pull way too much weight though, poor thing.
Title: Washington's Lady
Author: Nancy Moser
Publisher: Bethany House, June 2008, Paperback, 416 pages
As a non-American, I eyed my review copy of the 400-page Washington’s Lady with a little apprehension. How was I going to stomach a tome about America’s first first-lady – someone I’d certainly had no interest in till now? I needn’t have worried. For in author Nancy Moser’s capable hands, I soon began to care about what happened to the grief-stricken, yet high-spirited widow Martha Dandridge Custis. And my fascination lasted to the end. The story begins just after Martha’s first husband dies. It covers all of George and Martha Washington’s lives together, ending with Martha’s death in 1802, two years after George died.
The book’s 18 chapters are organized into three main sections. “The Golden Years” (Chapters 1-8) tells of George and Martha’s courtship and early marriage. “Our Glorious Cause” (Chapters 9-15) gives us the growing revelation of what the colonies’ resistance to Britain will mean to the country and to the Washingtons in particular. We see firsthand the grim conditions on the battlefield and come to appreciate the sacrifices many made for freedom. “The Course of Duty” (Chapters 17 -18) takes us to the end of the war and shows the pressures on George and Martha as George agrees to become the first American president while remaining responsible for a large and needy family. Though writing around a plot that has been largely determined by real life must be tricky for a fiction writer, I felt Moser did a good job of weaving an interesting character-centered story using the plot cards history dealt her and adding a few of her own where the record was mute.
The way Moser weaves that story is by creating many short scenes. Each chapter consists of a multitude of vignettes of varying lengths told in first person by Martha. In this way we get a well-rounded view of this plump, determined, optimistic, warm woman, who is also generous, unpretentious, hospitable, industrious, a smothering mother, doting grandmother, and an unendingly devoted wife. The other main character, George, is seen through Martha’s eyes and Moser manages to preserve our sympathy and respect for him, even when viewed at such close range.
There are a host of secondary characters and I did, from time to time, find myself puzzling over who was who. A family tree or some sort of chart illustrating the relationships between characters would have been helpful.
And while we’re on wishes – a little more information about dates (noted at the beginning of each chapter and within the chapters especially when there are time lapses in the action, for example) would have been nice too. I sometimes found myself confused about how much time had elapsed from scene to scene and wondering what year we were in.
Moser’s writing style is brisk and as no-nonsense as Martha, into whose skin she manages to climb with the adroitness of an actress. I liked the signature way she ends most scenes with a short, punchy statement, as one imagines Martha would have: “But I didn’t"; "Another promise to be fulfilled"; "I would not allow it"; "We would see.”
Many themes run through the book. The fear of death, especially the death of family members and children, occupies Martha a lot. Martha is a devout Christian who takes her relationship with God seriously. Thus it’s no surprise that she struggles with feelings of betrayal during times of personal tragedy – which are many. Parenting is another subject that keeps reappearing as Martha struggles with being too lenient with her son and letting George, his stepfather, be a real dad to the boy. The marriage relationship is another theme that pervades the book. We witness how George and Martha ride out the storms that family living, war, and public office bring.
Finally, the book is about character. In our time of self-indulgence, it seems odd to see people sacrifice private and family life with the integrity, selflessness, and sense of duty that Martha and George Washington serve America in its infancy.
Other goodies in the book include a section called "Fact or Fiction," where Moser explains what is fact and what fiction in the book. Besides shedding light on the historical truth of the story, her exposé gives insight into the extensive research required to write such a story. The volume ends with a set of 18 discussion questions - making the book an excellent choice for reading groups.
Washington's Lady will appeal to the reader who is a student of American history and people. Though it may lack the compelling magnetism of a page-turner, I truly enjoyed my brief sojourn with Moser’s warm and human Martha Washington. By the end, I wished I could hostess a party for her, where, as I poured her tea, I would tell her how much I admired her for the person she was and the great job she had done.
(Note: This is book three of Moser's "Ladies of History" series -- all fictional biographies. If you enjoy such books, you'll want to check out the other books in the series, Mozart's Sister, the story of Nannerl Mozart, and Just Jane, the story of Jane Austen.)
The reality of God's presence is not dependent on any place, but only dependent upon the determination to set the Lord always before us. Our problems come when we refuse to bank on the reality of His presence. The experience the Psalmist speaks of --"Therefore will we not fear though..." will be ours when once we are based on Reality, not the consciousness of God's presence but the reality of it --Why He has been here all the time!
At critical moments it is necessary to ask guidance, but it ought to be unnecessary to be saying always --"O Lord, direct me here, and there." Of course he will! If our common-sense decisions are not His order, He will press through them and check; then we must be quiet and wait for the direction of His presence.
- Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest
Title: From a Distance
Author: Tamera Alexander
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers, June 1, 2008, Paperback, 352 pages
At 32, Elizabeth Garett Westbrook would be considered a spinster by some. But to the heroine of Tamera Alexander's latest historical novel From A Distance, the fact that she's still not married is of little concern to her.
What does occupy her mind is the possibility that she could be the first female photojournalist at the Washington Daily Chronicle. To gain the position, she must prove herself, and that's why she has come all the way to the Colorado territory and goes out on more than one limb to capture its scenery and wildlife at their most spectacular.
In this post-civil-war story, Alexander has put a woman with rather modern values into an 1875 frontier setting. The result is the story of ambition and determination pitted against nature, a mysterious illness and a backwoods community that is not a little askance over our heroine's big city outspokenness and style. During the months she spends in Timber Ridge, Elizabeth gains more than notoriety and an enviable portfolio as she comes to see that what she thinks she wants may not be what she thought it was after all.
Plot and character seem equally important in this story. Elizabeth's ambition, along with the unpredictability of the Colorado spring weather, her unexplained breathing problems, and her August deadline push her to take all kinds of risks that endanger her and her assistant Josiah Birch. These challenges help us see what she is made of, expose flaws, and sometimes make her hard to like. Birch, her assistant, comes with his own baggage from the past. So does Daniel Ranslett, bachelor and sharpshooter who, after first meeting the spirited redhead, can't get her out of his mind.
The story twists and turns through murder, romance, greed, and forgiveness. As a whole the characters are well-developed and complex, and the plot is cleverly conceived. Some of the intertwining back-stories with their multiple coincidences left me felling a little incredulous though.
Alexander writes in an easy-to-read style. Her occasional use of period language caught my attention at the beginning ("...those building could be stacked atop the other..." and "...the ability to traverse a chasm successfully lay in focus and balance..."), but I soon got used to it. Her transition from one point of view character to another is seamless and it was easy to feel like I was experiencing the story along with them. She also has a way of ending chapters with a hook that kept me turning pages.
I found some of the historical aspects of the book interesting. The description of the photography of the time gave me a great appreciation for my digital camera. And things took so long. The laborious transportation and mail system of the frontier could stretch a project which would take us days to a week or two, into months.
Women's roles is one of the book's themes. So is race. The story's time frame - ten years after the civil war - was a time when racial discrimination was still deeply ingrained in the nation's psyche. The evil that results from racial prejudice runs through the story. Truth and its importance is a subject that comes out especially in relation to Elizabeth's tendency toward sneakiness. On the religious front, though Josiah seems to be the only character with a strongly held personal faith throughout the book, the Christian world view pervades the story and both Elizabeth and Daniel take steps toward establishing their own personal relationship with God.
Altogether, I found From A Distance a rewarding read. Fans of romantic Americana won't want to miss it, or the next book in the Timber Ridge Reflections series, Beyond This Moment, due to be released in the spring of 2009.
I've been away on a short summer holiday. Last Friday we went to Kelowna. There we visited Dad. He even joined in on the Happy Hour Karaoke at his home.
On Saturday we checked out the 26 or so murals in Vernon. The mural blog will have pictures in the days ahead.
From Sunday to yesterday we were visiting this little munchkin and his mum and dad in Kamloops.
It was fun to be away - but also great to be back!
Editorial opinions from across Canada:
Conferring this award on Dr. Morgentaler was a mistake - one we expect will be greeted by many long-standing Orderholders returning their medals and pins. One wonders whether the Order of Canada will ever reclaim its former prestige.***********
Recipients should not be people whose views are anathema to half the country. They should not be the kind of Canadians whose conduct alienates and offends some of the best citizens and institutions in the country.***********
Almost all members of the Order have accomplished things that are uncontroversially worthwhile. . . . By this measure Morgentaler does not qualify.**********
. . For its part, the public should consider the possibility that this controversy will so galvanize pro-life groups that they will mount a renewed political offensive to end the public health-care system's coverage of abortion.************
Given the new strength of conservative forces in Canadian politics, the eventual outcome is anything but certain.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the advisory council was not unanimous. That the award was made anyway is itself a departure from customary practice, and is suggestive of heated discussions behind closed doors, and the fierce determination of those who insisted on it. They have their victory, and Morgentaler has expressed his satisfaction with it.*************
As they have returned the A-word to the public agenda, they must now expect those who don't agree with them to resume their own advocacy.
Yesterday we went to one of the biggest art shows I've ever been to. The Arnold Mikelson Festival of the Arts is an annual art show and sale that happens on the three-acre grounds of the wooded Mikelson property in South Surrey. Over 100 artists of all kinds (pottery, jewelry, photography, paintings of all kinds, carvings etc. etc.) had their displays spread over the grounds. It was amazing. (If you're in the area, the festival is happening next weekend - July 12 & 13 - 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. as well.)
Artist Donna Smallenberg was there. I've never met her, but had heard of her and seen her work on display at New Life Church in Kelowna, when we used to visit there before my bro moved away. Her painting style is unmistakable and her subject matter rich with Christian symbols. Her website describes her work: "Donna Smallenberg's artistic style shows medieval, Victorian, and African influences and is spiritually and Biblically symbolic and significant for us today." One painting, "A New Name," struck me particularly.
View her beautiful gallery.
She relates some of the spiritual lessons she has learned while working as a professional artist on "the heart of the art" page -- lessons applicable to the Christian artist in any field, I think.
She also has e-cards!
He possessed the kind of exotic good looks that appeared to be an ambiguous blend of races - at least black, white, and Latino. He must have pulled all the fine out of that multicultural gene pool. Mr. United Nations had on a gray lightweight wool suit, tailored to perfection. His white button-down shirt had been starched to military attention. His artsy tie, knotted charmingly askew at his neck, looked like an expressionist painting. I sensed a little wildness there and it looked good and natural on him — like wildness looks good on mountains and waterfalls.
Canada is abuzz with the newest appointment to the Order of Canada. Henry Morgantaler (champion of abortion rights for women) has been selected to receive that honor. Along with thousands of others, I'm outraged -- but not that surprised. After all, abortion has been legal in Canada since 1969. And politicians of every stripe refuse to revisit the issue knowing that this is one issue which still has enough traction to jettison their political futures.
The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) is attempting to change the public perception of abortion. In a June 30th open letter to Fellow Pro-life Laborers, Stephanie Gray, Executive Director of CCBR says:
To give Henry Morgentaler the Order of Canada is simply to be consistent with what's going on in this country....
We can look at Morgentaler's award and blame the selecting committee. We can blame the government and its politicians. We can blame others -- because that's easy. But what's difficult is to blame ourselves....
Know this: abortion advocates have made "choice" look good and as a result that makes pro-lifers look bad. We as pro-lifers ultimately make ourselves look good by exposing the deception of the pro-choce claims. Rather than directly changing what people think of us, we need to change what they think of abortion. The effect of that shift will be a change in their perception of pro-life organizations.
Think of it this way: did social movements in history (such as those led by William Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.) focus on changing how the public perceived their organizations or on how the public perceived the injustices? It was the latter. And when that transformation occurred, people naturally gravitated towards these people and their movements.
Today is Canada Day and Canada's 141st birthday. How much do you know about Canada? Specifically, how much do you know about Canada's literary scene? Take this CANADA DAY LITERARY QUIZ and find out!
1. Rhubarb is a Canadian literary magazine that celebrates
a] the ethnicity of the Doukhobor
b] Ukrainian art and culture
c] Writers and artists who are of Mennonite heritage
2. Canada's richest literary award for fiction (presently $50,000) is:
a] the Giller prize
b] CBC Literary Award
c] Governor General's Literary Award
3. Which Canadian writer has sold over 30 million books -- more than any other Canadian author:
a] Lucy Maud Montgomery
b] Margaret Atwood
c] Robert Munsch
4. Children's writer Kenneth Oppel is best known for his books about
5. Which Canadian province did Lucy Maud Montgomery not live in?
a] Prince Edward Island
6. Which Canadian writer's short stories have been compared to the stories of Chekhov?
a] Alice Munro
b] Guy Vanderhaeghe
c] Carol Shields
7. This Canadian author is sometimes referred to as a pioneer of inspirational fiction:
a] Lucy Maud Montgomery
b] Janette Oke
c] Rudy Wiebe
8. This Canadian author who has had a book named to the Oprah Winfrey book club also does acting and has hosted a TV documentary series.
a] Gabrielle Roy
b] Ann-Marie MacDonald
c] W. P. Kinsella
9. This artist and writer of several classic books for children was influenced by Ukrainian roots, a childhood on the prairies and the Catholic faith:
a] Marsha Skrypuch
b] William Kurelek
c] Ian Krykorka
10. This Canadian Christian poet won the Governor General's Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize and was made an officer of the Order of Canada:
a] Margaret Avison
b] Patrick Lane
c] Michael Ondaatje
Below are the names of five current Canadian writers who are Christian. Can you unscramble their names? The list of book titles, below, are your hints. After unscrambling the writer's name, match it with the book they've written.
1. KAMR BNNHAAUC
2. DISUNGM RWEBURO
3. LPIH WYALALAC
4. ESENDY YEORAL
5. JN SDLIUINTQ
a] Broken Angel
b] Glitter of Diamonds
c] Hidden in Plain Sight
d] The Spiritual Brain
e] Family Squeeze
12-15 correct: Congratulations! You are part of the Canadian literati.
8-11 correct: You're not unaware of the Canadian scene, but probably more into content than trivia.
4-7 correct: No doubt you're well read. Now why not get some Canadian content into your literary diet?
0-3 correct: Well... thanks for at least reading my (Canadian written) blog!