Sunday, September 27, 2015

With sadness...

It is with great sadness that I share with you all that on Wednesday, September 23, my father, Ray Allan Becker, passed away. He had been dealing with the effects of Parkinson's disease my whole adult life, and he spent his final years in a nursing home.

While the past few days have been difficult, they have not been unbearable. I've had my moments, and I'm not sleeping very well, but for the most part, I am doing fine. I strived for the past many years to see my father as his Father saw him, and with the knowledge of spiritual eternity, I feel a great peace.

I'm blessed with a very supportive husband and daughter-in-law. And my grandson has been sure to give me extra hugs and asked to attend the funeral with us.

I've been helping my mother with arrangements, which is a blessing in that it keeps one busy. Things have gone smoothly, and my mother is doing very well. After all the years of caring for my father, then visiting him in the nursing home, I think she feels a measure of relief now.

The visitation and funeral will be held Monday, and I plan to share some favorite memories during the service, if my poise holds out.

About my dad...

Dad grew up on a farm, the youngest of four. After high school, he spent four years in the Navy as a radarman aboard the Destroyer USS Farragut.

In 1967, he married my mother, Lois Hoagenson, whom he dated during his service. When my oldest brother, Bradley, was two months old, Dad and Mom took over my grandparents' farm. My brother Reggie and I were born thereafter. Shortly before I turned one, Dad lost his right hand in a farming accident, and during my childhood he wore a prosthetic hook.

Dad always called me Carrie Beth.

My folks sold the farm in the early 1990s and rented the farmhouse for another ten years until they move to a nearby town in 2001.

Dad was a quiet, humble, good man with a wonderful sense of humor. He loved sports, music, and westerns. He chewed Doublemint gum, always order the fish, and loved dessert. He was always active in his church, loved spending time with extended family, and spun a good yarn.

Dad was of the generation of fathers who had a hard time expressing his feelings, but I know he was proud of me and that he loved me without reservation. He is with me every moment of my life, and I'm proud to be his little girl.

Our family's last picture: Bradley, me, Reggie, Mom & Dad. Nov. 2013.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (Fall 2015 TBR)

Link up with your own list here: The Broke and the Bookish.
This week, the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish are asking:
What are the Top Ten Books on Your Fall TBR?
My fall TBR pile is stacked with some exciting things:

I'll read pretty much anything by Elizabeth Gilbert, but, Big Magic, a book about creativity seems especially exciting.
Golden Age is the third and final installment in Jane Smiley's Last Hundred Years series.
I'm ready for another installment of Humans of New York, and this one features the stories behind the pictures.
I've been patiently awaiting Killing Reagan, the next in the Killing... series by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard.
What's autumn without a book about football? The Last Season is about a father and son's last football season together.
Two books are coming out within days of each other (Oct. 1 & 6) about Rosemary Kennedy, the Kennedy sister who was institutionalized by the Kennedy family.
I adore Ruth Reichl, and I'm beyond excited for her new memoir/cookbook, My Kitchen Year.
I really enjoy Rick Bragg's writing, and his new collection, My Southern Journey, is a compilation of his writing about the south. 
Another Pioneer Woman cookbook? Yes, please! The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime is due out mid-October.
Lastly, I'm a sucker for a book about the White House, so Under This Roof is on my TBR, too.
What are you looking forward to reading this fall?


Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Monday! (9/21/15)

It's Monday! is sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.
Last week was a bad week for reading. We had a roofer out on Monday to give us an estimate for a new roof--no reading that night. The next night, my mother stopped by with a friend of my father's from his Navy days--no reading Tuesday. Wednesday was spent watching the Republican debates, which bled over into Thursday night--no reading then either. Plus, no reading at work on Thursday due to special activities. I was really feeling it by the time the weekend rolled around. Do you ever feel the lack of reading acutely like that? I never realized that reading isn't just something my mind looks forward to, but it's something my body needs (for relaxing, etc.).
(The story has a happy ending in that my husband had to work Saturday, so I had a day to read to my heart's content. I missed him, of course, but it was nice to refuel.)
This weekend I finished Joyce Carol Oates's The Lost Landscape. It was a good memoir, but I wouldn't call it masterful, which is the exact word I expected it to be. I've never read any of Oates's writing before, and while I enjoyed this book, I did feel bored in places. The book is comprised of biographical essays (most of which were previously published), and it feel like Oates was reluctant to use the word "I." A fine collection, but not stellar.
This week I plan to finish both 180 More (poetry) and Ben Carson's Gifted Hands. Carson's book has encouraged me to by the juvenile version for my grandson. I think it's a great book for young boys (and girls) to read.
I'll also be finishing Tony Danza's I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had on CD. I have really enjoyed this book, and I'll be sad for it to end.
And I'll likely begin and finish Maxine Kumin's The Pawnbroker's Daughter. Kumin is a poet, and this is her memoir. It's quite short, so it should be a nice counterbalance to Oates's book.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (Guitar Center books)

Link up with your own list here: The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic: Freebie! For which I chose: Top Ten Books I Read at Guitar Center
A reader friend asked me recently if I remember where I was when I read certain books. I sure do. And there's one location that's cemented in my mind more often than others: Guitar Center stores.
I'm married to a musician. My husband has played guitar since he was a kid, and we spend a lot of time at Guitar Center stores all over the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area. We know the layout of each store and most of the staff. And they know us. They know my gregarious husband who's always looking to trade in or trade up. And they know me, the girl who always follows my husband in with a book under her arm. At one store in particular, the manager whisks me away to a cozy, secluded spot ideal for reading while my husband checks out the equipment. As long as I have a good book, I don't mind how long he takes!
I know I've read dozens of books in Guitar Centers, but I only remember eight for sure. I find it especially interesting when staff come by and ask what I'm reading. Occasionally, I'll be reading something they've read or have heard of. Such was the case with Unbroken. It's not often that I get to bond with musicians as much as my husband does!


Monday, September 14, 2015

It's Monday! (9/14/15)

It's Monday! is sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.
Didn't September just start? How can we be halfway through already? I was just getting into the summer groove, when summer kind of petered out.
Last week I finished A Good Enough Daughter. It brought up all sorts of feelings about aging parents and nursing homes and family relationships. It's not a book for everyone, but it helped me process some difficult family situations in this season.
This weekend, I finished The Jesus Cow. This was an odd book. It's a lot like his other books--full of colorful downhome, small town folks, northern vernacular, and fun language. A cow is born on Harley Jackson's farm on Christmas Eve sporting the visage of Christ Jesus on his flank. Harley dithers as to what to do, eventually getting caught up in things out of his control. I'm not sure exactly what I think of it. On the one hand, it might raise some interesting discussion on the nature of faith and integrity, but it really let me down in its conclusion, like another hundred pages of the book was distilled into a third-person narrative in the prologue. It went too quickly, too cutely, from climax to conclusion. And I don't feel that any of the characters grew.
This week, I continue reading 180 More, and I'm loving this one.
I'm also still listening to Tony Danza's I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had. I cheer along with his successes and sympathize with his failures in the classroom. Teaching is one of the hardest gigs there is.

This weekend, I picked up Joyce Carol Oates's new memoir, The Lost Landscape. I've never read anything by Oates, but I've long wanted to. This appears to be comprised of essays--many published before. I'm enjoying the writing so far.
I also started Ben Carson's Gifted Hands. I'm not even a quarter of the way in, but I can definitely hear Carson's soft-spoken integrity and grace. It's written simply, and I'm already wondering if it would be a good book to give my grandson, who's nine. Carson is proof positive that denying the culture of victimhood will get a young black man (or white man, of course) anywhere he wants to go.

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Everyone's answered them but me

If there's one thing bookworms like, it's finding out what other bookworms like. What are our bookish habits? How do other's habits differ or complement our own? So I'm going to answer some of those basic bookish questions today.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
My favorite (and almost exclusive) place to read at home is in the left-hand corner of the couch, propped up against two pillows, with another on my lap to prop up my book, and if the weather demands—which it almost always does—a blanket. Also, a floor lamp trained on my book. This is known, in my house, as “the queen’s location.”

2. Do you use a bookmark or a random piece of paper?
Bookmarks. I’m forever on the search for the perfect bookmark—one I love the looks of, but that doesn’t disintegrate with use. I usually use free ones we get at work from The Book Depository. Each has Post-it note tabs lined along the right edge for marking passages.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or a certain amount of pages?
I stop anywhere. If I can, I try to end at a chapter or natural break, but it doesn’t stress me out if I can’t.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?
A great deal of my reading is done at work over lunch, but other than that, I don’t eat or drink while I read. I don’t like spills or smudges in my books.

5. Do you watch TV or listen to music while reading?
At home, the TV is always on, so I read to a lot of news. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but with more difficult nonfiction or poetry, I’d prefer quiet.

6. Do you read one book at a time or several at once?
I usually have four going: my main book; a second, shorter book read at home only; a book of poetry, and an audiobook.

7. Do you prefer to read at home or anywhere?
I prefer to read at home. It’s cozier. And the lighting is better.

8. Do you read out loud or silently?
Out loud? Do a lot of folks read out loud? I read silently.

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?
Neither. I can’t bring myself to skip pages, and reading ahead would spoil the natural progression of the book.

10. Do you break the spine or keep it like new?
Horrors! No.

11. Do you write in your books?
No. Except to correct typos. I correct in pencil and then circle the page number. I spent enough years as an editor that I can’t stand to leave things uncorrected.

12. Do you buy your books or borrow them from the library?
Okay, so this is my confession for everyone to read. Even though I work in a library, and also have access to a great public library, I buy the books I read. (There are a few exceptions, like children's books.) I just can't stand not having the book I want to read when I want to read it. And to borrow a book, read it, like it, and then have to purchase it? Since it will be several years before I read it again, the books never get purchased. So I vet books well, reading excerpts and paying attention to reviews, then buy a few books every other week. This is one of my great decadence as far as spending money goes. I pinch pennies elsewhere. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's Tuesday! (9/8/15)

Well, it's not Monday, but I thought I'd still give you a reading update this week anyway. We had a nice three-day weekend, full of relaxing, sci fi movies, car rides, thrift store shopping, and a nice Labor Day lunch of BLTs. I got up each morning at 8:00 so I could read in a quiet house, and hubby slept in. It rained a lot, which made for perfect no-guilt reading.
Last week and this weekend, I finished four books. First, was my audio of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. How I adored this audiobook! I can't wait to read the others in the Flavia de Luce series.
Next, I finished Cara Nicoletti's Voracious, which mixes food and literature and is full of recipes to try. Each short chapter pairs a book she loved reading with a recipe for the food in the book. I enjoyed this book so much. I think most bookworms would love it. Nicoletti has a generous spirit and love of food, and she tells just enough about the book to pique your interest. You'll find some of your favorite books discussed.
I also finished Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea. I was not as enamored of this book as most folks are. I found it too ethereal to really sink my teeth into. I would have enjoyed Lindbergh giving examples from her own life to make her ideas a bit more concrete.
Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck was a short (3-disc) audiobook. I had trouble finding an audiobook at the library, and since I'd just read a book by Nora's sister Delia, I thought I'd give this one a try. It's a book of essays about womanhood. I really didn't enjoy her essays about aging and death, but her essays on apartment-renting in New York City and the like were fun. But in short, Nora Ephron and I have very different ideas about what "having a good life" means.
Currently, I'm re-reading A Good Enough Daughter. This one came out in 1999, and first I read it at that time. I'm kind of surprised I liked it so much. I guess I've changed more than I thought in the last 15 years. As Alix Kates Shulman is caring for her aging parents and going through their house to ready it for sale, she recounts her past with and without her parents. It's well-written, but there's a lot of free-lovin' affairs, feminist rhetoric, and pedantic navel-gazing.
I continue to pick up 180 More every night for a daily dose of poetry. It's a good collection.
And I started an audiobook wildcard, I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had, Tony Danza's story about being an English teacher at an inner-city public high school. I grew up with Danza on Who's the Boss (ahhh, '80s television, how I miss you), and I'm kind of a sucker for celebrity memoirs. I'm only about one disc in, and I like it so far. Danza is self-deprecating and likable, but I feel his students are about to eat him alive.

I'll be finishing A Good Enough Daughter later today, and then I'll probably pick up: