Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday to an Amazing Woman!

My family is getting ready for a special get-together to celebrate the birth of its oldest member.  Aunt Sister, our family's name for her, will be 100 years old on Halloween.  That her birthday party will be in mid-summer is not because she is frail -- far from it -- but because it's the best time for the large number of family and friends to gather to honor her.  I have every confidence that she will be just as vital, engaged, and lively in October as she is now.  But the celebration is now and I want to tell you about it, and her.

What I want to share is that Lona Mae is a testament to living longer.  I'm emphasizing the word "living" because our culture seems to be fixated on the numbers (oh, how we agonize over the 40th, or 50th, or 60th birthday) or on eliminating the external signs of aging.  Lona Mae doesn't seem to be too concerned about the numbers or the wrinkles; she's too busy with the living part.  She's an example of what the experts refer to when they say that, to live longer, we need to keep our brains sharp, our bodies healthy, our relationships strong, and our spirits nourished. 

That's what Lona Mae does when she has her friends over twice a week to play cards, or when she plays dominoes with family members (and usually wins).  That's why she enjoyed a recent trip to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play (walking from the car to the stadium and up the steps to her seat without assistance).  That's why a drive to Memphis to watch Avatar didn't daunt her, even if it meant getting home at 2:00 a.m.  It's also why she planned a slumber party for her younger sisters, so that they could come to her house, catch up on family gossip and have fun.  And it's why she enjoyed a trip to Las Vegas and will enjoy a trip to Greece next spring.

But Lona Mae is not just about having fun.  She has a very active spiritual life, which was recognized by a recent Christian service award by Harding University.  The recognition noted that she has taught Bible classes for more than 80 years.  She was also one of the founding members of a group of ladies in her church who provide help for community members in need.  Here is a photo of Lona Mae with some the dresses she made for distribution through her group:

Lona Mae's skills are not limited to sewing; she also enjoys quilting, ceramics, crochet, knitting and making holiday ornaments.  She is generous with her handiwork and many family members have examples of items she has made.  At a recent family reunion, she unveiled a large table which was filled with beautiful scarves that she had knitted.  She invited all of her nieces who were present to come forward and choose one.   You'll note that, in this photograph, I am among the happy recipients:


Lona Mae has always had a special place in the hearts of her family and friends.  As the oldest of 14 children, she learned early that her contribution to the family's welfare was crucial and her mother recorded in her life story that Lona Mae was a caretaker for the younger children and a great help around the house. Today, she is the touchstone for the family; all of us depend upon her wisdom and "good sense", as well as her knowledge of the family history and its continuing story.

I heard through the family grapevine that Lona Mae is a little bit concerned that she doesn't deserve the celebration that is planned for her 100th birthday.  My hope is that she'll stop worrying and enjoy what we, her many family members and friends know -- that she is more than worthy and that the pleasure will be all ours on that special day.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Sister!
Much love,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Recommendation: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

In A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly, the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (as well as the Academy Award-winning movie, A Place in the Sun) serves as the backdrop for the story of Mattie Gokey, whose life is limited to caring for her motherless sisters and dreaming of a life as a writer.  When a young woman's drowned body is brought to the hotel where Mattie works, she becomes involved as she realizes that the young woman is the same person who had earlier given her a bundle of letters and asked her to destroy them.  Mattie is torn between keeping her promise and revealing the contents of the letters, which suggest that the woman has been murdered.  Mattie must also make a decision about her future, to follow her talent and dream of being a writer by accepting a scholarship to Barnard College or to stay where she is and comply with family expectations by marrying a local man. 

This story reminds us of the narrow choices that women had just 100 years ago and is especially interesting, due to the tie-in with a true story, as well as an earlier novel and movie.  As I mentioned in an earlier recommendation, Mattie reveals a growing understanding about when she comments that some books tell stories (showing you life as you want it to be) and some books tell truths (showing you life as it really is). The first kind, she says, makes you cheerful and contented and the second shakes you up.  I enjoyed A Northern Life for these insights into a budding writer, as well as the plot development and the mystery.

You can find A Northern Life at your local public library, or through Amazon.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hollywood Costumes Come to Oklahoma City

We celebrated my birthday on Saturday and visited the Oklahoma City of Art for the "Sketch to Screen: The Art of Hollywood Costume Design" exhibit.  I expected it to be impressive, and was delighted, captivated and entertained by this wonderful collection of costumes and design drawings from the age of the silent screen to the movies of the 21st century.

All of the costumes are originals used in the movies with the exception of the three from Gone with the Wind.  Those three costumes designed for Scarlett are reproductions; the originals were not preserved.  Some of the original costumes featured are Mary Pickford's from Tess of the Storm Country , Rudolph Valentino's from Blood and Sand, Jean Harlow's from Bombshell, Claudette Colbert's from Cleopatra, Audrey Hepburn's from Funny Face, Deborah Kerr's from An Affair to Remember, Gregory Peck's eyeglasses and briefcase from To Kill a Mockingbird, Glenn Close's from 1001 Dalmations, as well as costumes from True LiesThree Amigos, Quigly Down Under, A Foreign Affair, From the Terrace, Valley of the Dolls, Witness for the Prosecution, Apollo 13, Raging Bull, Dick Tracy, Flintstones, X-Men: The Last Stand, Hello Dolly, Mama MiaThe Sound of Music, Ben HurChicago, The King and ICamelot, Titanic, and others.  Also displayed are many original designer drawings of the costumes, as well as backgrounds on the movies, costumes, awards, actors and actresses.

If you live in Oklahoma or will be visiting between now and August 15, be sure to put this exhibit on your calendar.  In case you don't already know, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is home to a comprehensive collection of glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly.    You'll find more information about the museum at, about the costume display (including photographs) at  and about the Dale Chihuly collection at .

Here is a photograph of the multi-storied Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower Chihuly sculpture which graces the atruim of the museum.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Favorite - Three-Crock Slow Cooker

My old Crockpot bit the dust and I had been looking for a new one.  I had also been bemoaning the fact that in downsizing, I no longer had cabinet space for a large and a small slow cooker.  Then I found this online -- it's a Hamilton Beach slow cooker and came with three crocks, two-quart, four-quart and six-quart.  I'm cooking a five-pound pork roast in the large crock this morning; the meat is in and there's plenty of room for the carrots, potatoes, and onions.  Best of all, it was half-price through Amazon ($34.99)!  Happy Day!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Indian Paintbrush - Oklahoma State Wildflower

There are dozens of Indian Paintbrush across the road from my Dad's farm.  I picked these this afternoon.  They are really beautiful alongside the highway this time of year.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Recommendation: Where the God of Love Hangs Out: Fiction by Amy Bloom

For years, I included volumes of short stories in my reading lists and still own several, collected against that day when I run out of things to read or the library is unavailable.  The reality is that I have moved away from reading short stories.  I do continue to (try to) write them occasionally and understand the undeniable creativity and craft that goes into a good one.  Most recently, I have more enjoyed really long novels that I can live with and in for weeks at a time, something the best short story can't do.

Amy Bloom's Where the God of Love Hangs Out features two sets of connected stories, providing the time and space to more fully develop character and plot.  I enjoy this format for the resulting length and depth of the series, as well as the natural stopping places provided at the end of each story.  (I do a lot of my reading "in-between" tasks, as a break and a reward for accomplishment.)

As the title implies, the focus is on love in its many forms.  A resulting sexual relationship in the first of the series is adulterous and in the second, between a stepmother and stepson after the husband/father has died.  Bloom gets to the heart of the matter for those who will move beyond any natural distaste for such relationships.  Her talent for creating multifaceted characters and situations can bring us to the point that we understand what motivates ourselves and others to do the things that we do, without necessarily approving of what has been done.  That, to me, is an important quality of fiction, and why I read what some would consider unsavory -- what some would not approve as worthy of reading.

In the book I'll be recommending next, the young protagonist comments that some books tell stories (showing you life as you want it to be) and some books tell truths (showing you life as it really is).  The first kind, she says, makes you cheerful and contented and the second shakes you up.  I believe that the stories in Where the God of Love Hangs Out belongs to the second category.  It takes us to the place where we recognize ourselves and others.  And that's a good thing.

Annie Joy


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Recently Read Fiction Favorites

  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
  • Confessions of a Former Rock Queen by Kirk Bjornsgaard
  • Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
  • Faithful Place by Tana French
  • Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
  • Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow
  • Innocent by Scott Turow
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
  • Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Private Life by Jane Smiley
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
  • Roses by Leila Meacham
  • Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
  • So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  • That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
  • The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
  • The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
  • The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
  • The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
  • The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
  • The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • The Sky Took Him by Donis Casey
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  • The Wind Comes Sweeping by Marcia Preston
  • Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
  • Wolf Hall by Hillary Mandel
  • World Without End by Ken Follett
  • Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

Favorite Nonfiction and Memoir

  • All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason by Nancy Pearl
  • Getting Over Getting Older by Lettie Cottin Pogrebin
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages by Katherine Ball Ross
  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  • The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin
  • The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan