Sunday, June 20, 2010

Deep Creek, A Novel by Dan Hand

I should be finishing off the thirty sock creatures, but I found a book at the library that looked interesting.  I was browsing the shelves to find books for my 93-year old mother which is not an easy task.  Her interests have become more and more limited.  They're down to modern day romances set on ranches--only ranches.

Instead I found Deep Creek by Dan Hand.  What a great book!  I didn't want it to end.  It is historical fiction set in the Idaho-Oregon area from 1886 through 1892.  The story is built around an actual event, the murder of thirty Chinese miners.  Using the racism of the period, Indian land grabs, excessive power of publishers and land barons, along with the ensuing social intrigue, Hand develops a well-balanced and fascinating look at a period in our history that is too often overlooked.

The characters are solidly constructed and fascinating.  This alone would make it a great book club selection.  Nature vs. nurture theories of human development are tested throughout.  Yet, Hand also looks at how a single event can override all.  One wrong choice might leave damage capable of destroying one's life and affecting future generations. 

My one complaint is that in a few places (very few) the book does not move from one scene to the next well.  In some cases, I felt disoriented before realizing that this new paragraph had moved on to another subject.  These few changes within chapters felt like places where a new chapter should have begun.  Hand's chapters, however, move back and forth in time from the  murders in 1886 to the attempts to solve the crimes and bring the murderers to justice.  The places that I found problematic would not fit with that.

All in all, it was a great read that I heartily recommend.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Working is Hard!

I've been away from my blog and my sewing for too long!  Between the housework and the job, I've been a bit drained both physically and, surprisingly to me, emotionally.  While my job is to recruit volunteers, I've spent most of the week going through the facility's units meeting people, joining in activities, and pushing wheelchairs in order to get to know everyone and their needs.

The emotional impact of dealing with residents has been enormous. Nursing homes have changed!  There is a push to have people "age in place" preferably in their home.   The level of care needed by the vast majority of the residents in nursing homes today is exceptionally high.  Most have moved beyond the ability to have more than a short conversation if that.  Having to leave your home,  lose a great deal of your independence, and deal with the physical ailments of disease or aging has to be devastating.

The residence is very nice and the workers are caring, yet, I often feel a sense of despair. Smiles from residents are few.  It  may well be that I am misinterpreting the situation and creating the negative attitude myself.  I am continually thinking about how much I would want to be in my own home. I do realize, however, that the care needed by the residents would be impossible for most families to provide at home.

I am trying to stay positive and focus on how much I can enrich residents' lives by bringing the community to them.  My job is to increase volunteers and volunteer programs.  This seems to be a legitimate need.  There are programs for activities and entertainment.  The number, though, is really insufficient.  I am amazed at the isolation of the facility.  This place has been open for sixteen years and is within a quarter of a mile of where I shop all the time. I had never heard of it, nor had most of the people I've talked to about it.  How can the residents feel like a part of the community when they are unable to get out often and so few in the community even know they exist? Many do have family members visit, but family is and should be a part of our social life not all of it.  I love my family, but I need to be around others sometimes as well. 

I have one year to build this program.  I know it won't be easy.  I remember how difficult it was to get volunteers for activities at churches and schools.  I do sincerely hope I can make make this work.  Wish me luck..

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Steig Larsson's Newest Book, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest"

Normally I don't read stories about spies and corporate greed. I'm also wary of foreign books because sometimes they don't translate well.  Larsson's trilogy managed to overcome my usual disinterest in the genre and translated exceptionally well.

I read the first book in this trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,  after a member of my book club raved about it.  The story lines and characters were well developed and interesting.  I liked the second one,  The Girl Who Played with Fire, even more because it more fully fleshed out the characters as well as providing a fascinating and well written story.  This last in the trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, is a more than fitting end to the set.     

I'd read a negative review before getting this last book in the series that made me nervous about investing in the hardcover as soon as it came out.  I HATE it when a book doesn't measure up in a series like this, especially when I've paid a lot for it.  In some cases, it becomes blatantly obvious that an author has pushed to finish a commitment rather than create a good story.  In the end, however, I felt this book was the best of the three--and I liked the first two a lot. The reviewer's summation, as it turned out, was flawed rather than the book.  It contained information that was factually incorrect.

These books are not just episodic stories using the same characters.   Each one builds on the last.  The first two leave you wanting and needing additional information as should be expected of a trilogy.  More in-depth answers come with each book.  While the individual books certainly stand on their own, the second and third provide  information that make you more fully understand and appreciate the first.

I love the characters Larsson has created.  Throughout, Larsson uses these people to prove that sometimes what we might view as flaws in individuals are, in fact, more clearly defined as differences.  He creates an understanding that these "flaws" often have positive influences not only for the individual, but for friends, family, acquaintances, and society as a whole.

I'm glad I went ahead and purchased the book as soon as it came out.  It was well worth the price.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Week in Sock Creatures

I've fallen behind on my sock creatures.  As a means of covering my butt, I will point out that, thankfully, I did say "thirty days or so"  on my original post about this (or words to that effect).  I got four done this week. I've decided to go for quality rather than finishing on time.  My excuse:  I've joined Americorps.  (That "s" on the end just seems wrong to me, but that's the name.)  Americorps now have a volunteer program open to everyone from college students through retirees.  I'm serving half-time as a volunteer coordinator for an elder care facility.  In any case, here are the four completed this week.

This is #10.  He's Homer Simpson's evil twin.  Don't you think they bear a resemblance or is it just me?  I've named him Gomer.  This was my first attempt at teeth.  I think it went well.  The problem I have with this one is that it completely lacks symmetry.  I love symmetry.  It's hard to get when using leftovers from other creature ventures, though.  The Stupid Sock Creatures book has some rather rustic looking ones, too.  This one actually looks good in comparison.  It's growing on me.

Number eleven:

It's definitely part hamster.  From the back you can see the coordinating sock used for the underside.

I'm particularly pleased with the ribbon tongue.

I'm doing more of the sewing around the mouth and closings by hand which looks much better.  A mistake with this one was using loose stuffing without any batting.  It's lumpy looking.  Next time I'll wrap batting around stuffing and squeeze that in.  Since she, like Bob the Blob, is rather nondescript, she has been named Bobbette the Blobbette.

Number 12:

I like this one, but it is totally different than it was supposed to be.  Those flippers were supposed to be wings.  Everyone thinks they look like flippers including me.  I placed them too far back.  I also should have put something inside to stabilize the flipper/wings since they rippled a good bit.   I sewed about a quarter of an inch in along the edge of the flipper/wings and another line about a half inch from that to try to get rid of the rippling effect.  They are better but still not flat.  To get something resembling wings next time,  I will use some stiff interfacing.

I love the tongue sticking out.  It kind of resembles something prehistoric.  Name:  Sarah Jurassica Parker.

And last, #13:

Originally I was going to have the ribbons sticking out all the way around.  Because they are several inches long, however,  I soon realized that it would be nearly impossible not to catch the edges in the other side.  I'd like to try this again with shorter ribbon pieces.  It was late when I was doing it, though, and there was no way I was going to start cutting the ribbons down.  Name:  Whiskaretta.  I am sure if sock creatures could sing, this one would have a whiskey tenor.

Goals 10, 11, 12, and 13:  complete!  I'm almost halfway there!!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Beautiful Sunday

Despite some heavy rains, today was absolutely beautiful.  In fact, I think the rain brightened the brilliant greens of early summer especially when the sun came out right after a downpour.

I've got a new birthday camera coming in a few days.  These pictures of my flowers taken with the old one will do until then.


I am so looking forward to playing with the  new 14 megapixel, 10x zoom camera!!

On other fronts, I've decided to post the sock creatures once a week.  I'll be doing them every day.  I'll just put them together for a group shot once a week.  It's probably a bit of overkill to have so many posts on the individual ones.  Must be off to finish today's beast.  I do hate to leave them for the late night.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Ninth Sock Creature is Here!

This one is already named:  Eelinore.

She does appear to be part eel, hence the name.  My knowledge of eels is pretty much limited to knowing they exist and reading tiny bits about them in books.  I'm thinking eels would not have that food bulge, though. Yes, I did that bulge on purpose.  Those who have seen Eelinor hint that I just stuffed her poorly.  That is NOT true.   The stuffing shows through in the picture but not when you see her in person--or should I say in creature?

I'm particularly fond of her multifaceted gold eyes.

I'm feeling kind of guilty for not using sock fabric for the back ridge.  Frankly, my sock supply just did not have something that would give the right effect.  The blue sequins are spectacular. 

The eyes are kind of insect-like and the belly bulge more along the line of snake.  I think those features combined with the eel-ish shape and back ridge qualify Eelinor as a true creature.  Goal 9:  completed.

Happy Birthday!

Today is my 60th birthday.  I am astounded to have lasted this long.  Actually I've been pretty cautious in life. There were those fifteen years of smoking, the early motorcycling, and a few years where I let the weight get a bit out of control.  All in all, though, I've taken better care of the "vehicle" than many.  

Lately a lot of thought has gone into what my goals will be for this new future.  They've certainly had to change. Staying home with the kids was hard work and a great pleasure.  As it turns out, there is some very real negative payback for having children a bit later in life, leaving a good number of years between each one, and staying home to home school them.  Despite two new degrees after getting the last child into high school, no good jobs have turned up.  My plan WAS to get a fairly decent job for fifteen or twenty years doing something interesting and paying off the college loans.   If I got really lucky in the salary department, I might have gotten enough money to bring in the Merry Maids service!  Reality:  with the economy, my lack of work experience, and--lets face it--my age, I've  gotten offered a couple of minimum wage jobs I could have had with just my high school degree. 

So now, I volunteer.  My first goal for turning sixty was to get a volunteer position that would use the brain a bit more than my work as cashier/maintenance worker/heavy lifter at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  Yesterday, I found that I had succeeded at that.  Starting Thursday, I'll be volunteering part-time to help develop the volunteer base for an elder care center.  Kind of funny volunteering to get volunteers, don't you think?  It is a year-long experiment really for the organization.  I'm looking forward to the challenge.

My second goal is to develop more outside interests.  I've tended to focus on family which has been great.  As the kids are moving on with their own lives now,  I want them to see parents who are well capable of having a good life on their own.  So my first goal in this area is to spend more time on my sewing.  While "thirty days of sock creatures" may seem frivolous and wasteful to many, it actually is giving me a good bit of sewing experience on fabrics I've tended to avoid. Also, while I joined a quilt guild last year, I need to really get more involved by taking classes and joining in more than the monthly meetings. 

Last, I am going to get in better shape.  I do some exercise--elliptical trainer.  I've found, though, that a sixty year old body gets pretty stiff.  It needs more than twenty minutes on the elliptical a day.  I'm going to experiment with this goal.  Yoga and pilates are first on the list. 

So, happy birthday to me!  I'm feeling good about this new part of my life.