Books of July

I have too many half formed thoughts muddling around in my head that I’m mulling over at the moment to be able to come up with any topic for today’s 500 words. That, and yesterday was enough of a rambling list that I thought I should do something a bit different today.

With that in mind, I’m resuscitating my earlier halted attempted of documenting in some form what I’ve read in the past month. This is book focused only, no articles or other material for the moment and is, I suppose mostly a means of remembering a few things about what I thought/read about things along the way.

So, here’s July’s list. Looks like I landed on seven books again for the month, which seems to be my accidental average.

  • “The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba” – Julia Cooke: The author lived on and off in Cuba over a period of ten years first as a university student and later as a journalist. She spent much of her time interviewing and spending time with youth in the Havana, often interacting with the same individuals multiples over several years and visits to the country. It was a different and interesting glimpse into a period in Cuba’s history that I’m not overwhelmingly familiar with, but that coincides with when my dad first began visiting the island. It was interesting to read a bit about the small business, room rentals, etc. that have been gradually given permission to function over the last couple decades.
  • “The Breadwinner” (Books 1 & 2) – Deborah Ellis: There are 4 books in this series geared towards young adults or possible older children. I read each of the first 2 over a day or two and enjoyed them. They tell the story or Parvana, a girl living in Afghanistan as the Taliban takes over and then 9/11/2001 occurs. It’s the story of her and her family told from her perspective and without outside judgement or explanation of the occurrences. I think that adds to the enjoyment and effectiveness of the story since there is no underlying judgement or lesson inserted by a narrator, but just the story left to stand on its own.
  • “One More Year” – Sana Krasikov: An interesting collection of short stories of immigrants experiences in the US, mostly from Georgia, a region of the world I’m not overly familiar with. I’m not usually a big fan of short stories, but enjoyed this book just tine.
  • “Mornings in Jenin” – Susan Abulhawa: I think this is the first book I’ve read that dives much into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and it is also from a Palestinian perspective. It left me much more interested in the topic and with a lot more reading material on my “to-read” list gleaned from her notes section. I recorded one quote in particular that struck me from page 193: “Amal, I believe that most Americans do not love as we do. It is not for any inherent deficiency or superiority in them. They live in the safe, shallow parts that rarely push human emotions into the depths where we dwell. I see your confusion. Consider fear. For us, fear comes where terror comes to others because we are anesthetized to the guns constantly pointed at us. And the terror we have known is something few Westerners ever will. Israeli occupation exposes us very young to the extremes of our own emotions, until we cannot feel except in the extreme.”
  • “Bel Canto” – Ann Patchett: This was my first work of Patchett’s after hearing her name and recommendations for quite a while. I listened to this as an audio book on my commute and picked it up rather at random since it happened to be available at the library. It was a bit of an odd one that I probably wouldn’t have made it through if it hadn’t been distraction on my commute, but it was interesting enough to keep up with. I’m not sure if this is a good one to consider Patchett on though?
  • “Fangirl” – Rainbow Rowell: This was more engaging and enlightening then I had expected. It was another audio book on the commute and thoroughly enjoyable. She hit the teenage characters in “Eleanor & Park” so perfectly and this isn’t quite there, but it was still a great book for the commute and more insightful then I was anticipating.





day 9: lists

Once, several years ago I wrote a little blog on MSN Spaces. It was a bit of an experiment during a phase where I was working far too many hours and studying for a large series of technical certification exams. In the midst of that crazy season for some reason it seemed a fun diversion to see if I couldn’t pull off successful blogging, whatever that means. I experimented a bit, but found I did best with a general structure to my posts and not so much a common theme, but maybe a consistent voice to the posts. I wrote anonymously and worked at building up a community with other bloggers, a few whom I still communicate with occasionally. I don’t remember the specific stats, but a couple times it was featured on with the resulting immense uptick in visitors. I posted a handful of times a week and consistently had good dialog with a couple dozen comments

Neighborhood Jackrabbit

on posts. It was an enjoyable and satisfying little community where I played with my writing and processed much of life at that point.

One of the formats I commonly used in posts was lists. I rather love lists, creating them somehow creates a little brain space and freedom from remembering items now contained elsewhere. I like their orderliness and I especially like checking things off if it’s that kind of list. One of the writing prompts from the writing challenge is to write a list. Today’s list is of the perks of being ‘location independent’ as seen from one very unscientific view a few weeks in.

  1. No lawn to mow. Actually let’s change this to no yard to weed, because I actually rather enjoy lawn mowing (or cutting the grass as the husband says). There’s something immensely satisfying in the immediate impact it has on how the yard looks upon completion.
  2. No house cleaning. There’s some trade off with this one, it’s somewhat challenging to keep things organized and there’s the normal dish washing, clothes washing, etc. that has its own set of challenges when camping or Airbnb type rentals.
  3. Low desire for acquiring ‘stuff.’ Like when traveling, the need to find a home for new purchases makes filtering out what’s really necessary and functional much clearer then when one has a house to fill with things.
  4. Running is a way to explore a new place, which is a highly motivating reason for me to keep up with this habit I’m trying to acquire.
  5. We walk a good amount more than at home.
  6. Connecting with friends and family we don’t commonly see. For example the great uncle we’ll spend this weekend with.
  7. Opportunity to hone our packing/organizing scheme (it’d been a LONG time since I’d been in The Container Store previous to our moving out of the house).
  8. Opportunity to experiment and improve on our eating and staying active goals while traveling. Somehow despite best efforts these always tend to clast a bit with the goals of exploring and in particular trying local restaurants. So far, we seem to be doing better this round.

I fear this list veered into the realm of uninteresting and it’s now at the 500 words mark, meaning it’s time to send it off into the interwebs before I give in to the temptation to start second guessing and editing!

day 8: Calgary

After meandering our way down along the Icefields Parkway and through Banff National Park, we’ve landed in Calgary for the week. I’ve passed through the city and its airport a handful of times, but haven’t spent any actual time here since I was around 10 years old. My main memories are of the Olympic park, standing at the top of the ski jump and of an event simulator or two. We’re all cozied up in our little short term apartment complete with giant kitchen and European washer/dryer that I’m optimistic I’ve figured out how to use, but will know for sure in another 3 hours. My only other similar experience was with a nearly antique German one in an apartment in Prague. It seemed to mostly get clothes really wet and soapy and then give up life for a few hours. The French owner of the apartment spoke functional English and French, the device’s instructions were in German, but not words that Google translate wanted to assist with. The end result was a couple hours of odd Googling and random conversations before we gave up, swallowed a bit of pride and took a bag of wet soapy clothes to the cleaners down the road.

Sights while running – Calgary

It’s pleasant to be somewhere for a bit and pick up routines again, even if in a new city. We’re getting better bit by bit at doing that while we travel. We generally eat and move well at home and continue to get better at doing the same while meandering. It takes intentionality, planning and at least in our case remembering to not wait until we’re suddenly hungry to try planning. J The next few months of meandering are a good bit of the reason I’ve tried to jump back into running. Which has been harder then I’d like and a bit frustrating after I had hit a point in mid-July where it was almost enjoyable and relatively free from pain and misery. Now I suppose I’ve kept the habit, but there’s more walking mixed in than I’d like. I’m deciding activity is still activity and my little fitness tracker has my average still well over the recommended 10,000 daily steps so I’m trying to have a bit of patience and grace as I work back up to it. In some manner I think that’s how it works in reality. Life doesn’t really plateau at a point where an item such as “running” is checked off and always going to be easy and good, but rather it’s an ebb and flow and back and forth and there’s value in the days that are more walking than running. Or I’ll just blame the blister on my little toe that’s proof of the hikes to gaze at glaciers and my failed attempt at choosing appropriate socks. Maybe instead the walk is a good chance to slowly explore bits of the city and the blister is a good reminder of all the adventures and places my feet have carried me even this week.

From here we’re headed to a tiny town on the prairie to visit my great uncle – my maternal grandfather’s last living sibling. I’m aiming to draft up some good open ended questions for him. He’s usually up for telling stories of growing up and family history and I’d like to continue recording a bit of it. Anyone have any good suggestions on questions?


Bertha Belle

Today I’m continuing with my almost every other day instead of daily routine, while writing from incredible random locales throughout North America. Tonight’s writing spot is the lobby of the Jasper Park Lodge Fairmont where we came to trade in the mosquitoes and wet firewood of our campsite for honey beer, dessert and a spot of the Olympics and internet. I’ve been trying to keep up my goal to train myself to not hate running while traveling with marginal success. I’ve successfully run in 2 states and 2 provinces this week, but it’s involved a lot more walking then it had previously. I’m choosing to blame the hills, jet lag, the heat and more likely too much greasy food and not enough sleep. Ah well, it’s a work in progress and I suppose a couple miles of intermittent fast walking and slow jogging is still something, particularly when combined with hiking.

Part of this being “location independent” for a bit has had us crossing paths with family we don’t always get to spend much time with. As we do that, I’ve made it a goal to ask intentional questions and try to learn more both about the individuals in my family and my family history. On our way north this week, we paused for a couple days in central Washington where my parents, sister and her family and most of my dad’s family lives. My dad grew up in the area on an apple ranch that his dad was also raised on. My grandfather still owns 70 of the original 75ish acres, although the last of the apple trees were taken out when caring for my grandmother required his full attention in the early 2000s. My grandfather has been remarried for 4.5 years and we made a point to stop by and visit while in town.

Although we lived in the same area for my high school years and saw my dad’s family often, he is not a particularly easy person to get to know.  He is not one to volunteer stories about his life or history, though, I suppose I have not spent much if any time intentionally inquiring. Apples are always a safe and fascinating subject in the family so seemed a great place to start. Shortly after my great grandmother’s senior year college yearbook appeared complete with wonderful treasures such as rules for participating in rush week “never ask a butler for a toothpick.”

In 1916, 100 years ago this summer my great grandmother graduated from Kansas State 13938116_10153620626636736_1401586793358327662_oUniversity with a four year degree in Home Economics. No small feat for anyone in 1916, much less a woman with her background. She was from a small town in Kansas – Manhattan and the youngest of 8 children (3 girls, 5 boys). Her father died while she was an infant and her mother raised the eight of them on her own. An adventure full of challenges I’m sure. My grandfather thinks she took over the family business, possible a newspaper that she ran.

At some point in college she met my grandfather, although he joined the Navy in WWI instead of graduating. They were married in 1917 before the war ended and he was out of the Navy. When he left the Navy they moved to Corvallis, Oregon so that my grandfather could attend Oregon State University, known for its Agriculture and Horticulture programs. When he finished they moved to Yakima within the year and both the first 30 (40?) acres of the ranch for $500 and began planting trees. They later added to the property that makes up what my grandfather owns today and includes several houses. They lived well into their 90s and well into my childhood. My dad grew up just down the road from them, frequently stopping by to help his grandpa in the orchard and eat at their house.

I’m barely resisting the urge to go back and edit this, but for now I’m well over 500 words. And while I’d love to do something more with the family information I’m gathering, I think for now documenting it so I don’t forget it will suffice.

On that note, I think I will end day 7 by saying I am proud to call this strong woman family and thankful to have had the chance to learn a bit more about her this week.



Both sides of my family have roots deep in specific places and embedded in agriculture and a love and respect for the land. Land that their lives have been built around and that has built and shaped the individuals, both families and is part of who I am even though I’ve never called either of those particular places home for more than a few days at a time.

I love to travel. I love new places and people, exploring – I don’t much like having change thrust upon on me, but I love being the one who is changing, moving and doing something new. I always semi pictured my life spent moving fairly often, maybe putting down roots either in some distant land or future time, but at least in the imaginable future being more on the move. And yet, I’ve very much attached myself to my little corner of the world. Nearly 17 years ago I moved into a dorm room on a university campus in a small town near Portland. I moved a few dozen miles away after graduating, but 7 years ago bought a house barely a mile from that dorm room and have called that town home since. I don’t own nearly enough land for any agricultural endeavors larger than my mostly shaded small garden, but I do own a little bit of land and a house here. I run into people I know from my undergrad days or other businesses in town nearly every time I go to the grocery store and the library staff know me by name. I’ve attended the same church for over 14 years. A church that isn’t much older than those 14 years, that I’ve seen grow and change

apple orchard in central Washington

immensely over the years. That I’ve fallen in love with, been frustrated by, been challenge by, grown along with and fallen in love with again. That knows me and that I’ve helped shape in small ways as well I think. I’m known here at this coffee shop I love and frequent almost daily when in town. I’ve built my own roots and community that I love and is very much a part of me. I’ve lived in this area, gone to this church and been part of this community longer than I have been anywhere else in life.

So maybe that rootedness is more important to me than I used to think when I dreamed dreams of travel, movement and adventure. Dreams I’ve accomplished in many ways and ones that still live on, but have morphed and changed a bit as well. Somehow those roots make it more possible to both adventure and to come home maybe. They for sure make me a more stable and healthy person. My parents were somehow able to encourage us to dream, adventure, and travel, explore and learn, while giving us roots and stability to return to. Something I think more and more as I get older is no small feat to accomplish as a parent.


day 5 ramblings

Green Gables, Prince Edward Island

Another day missed in the flurry of travel, but I’m just going to stick with my original plan and jump back in. Thanks to Delta’s compute mishap yesterday we’ve been rerouted all over the place, and I’m not waiting for my last flight, which they just announced is delayed. Here’s hoping it’s not too far behind and traffic isn’t too insane, because I am very much ready for a shower and nap. Something about planes always makes me feel like I need a shower. I also remember every time I fly how much I actually dislike flying even though I love to travel.

My mom and I have traveled together better even than I was thinking we would. We’ve spent most of the past few days driving around Prince Edward Island exploring very small almost towns, walking the red beaches and trails and catching a somewhat over the top musical interpretation of Anne of Green Gables. We’ve also laughed a lot. It’s been a much different style of travel than when I travel with my husband or the handful of friends that are my frequent travel buddies. Most importantly I think she’s had a blast. Plus there was only limited motion sickness and no one has actually got sick (at least so far, one more flight to go I suppose).

In my current been traveling too long/eating in airports/awake since 3 am on 3.5 hours of sleep, which was 17 hours ago, my level of insight and contemplation for writing is a bit on the uninspired side. For example, there is a rather large number people sitting around me at the gate right now holding Tim Horton’s coffee, a slightly smaller number eating food from Tim Horton’s and a few who even have bags of Tim Horton swag and in one case a giant canister of Tim Horton ground coffee. I’m assuming this must be for nostalgic purposes, because the one morning there wasn’t another option and we grabbed Tim Horton’s for breakfast it seemed to me to be a slightly greasier version of McDonald’s breakfast and coffee was just palatable. Plus, there’s the whole factor that most likely a good portion of those sitting at this gate have Portland as their final destination since it’s not necessarily a large hub and I’m positive you can get much better coffee in Portland. Alas, that feels like more than enough musings on a Canadian fast food chain for today.

In that vein, I had meant to make sure I didn’t just ramble in any of these 500 word a day entries, but it seems like that’s maybe exactly what I have done today. The good news is that the plane we’re supposed to leave on has apparently arrived, meaning departure should be imminent. One more flight and drive and then a day spent sleeping, catching up on tasks and repacking to head back north again, this time by car! Will be our first real venture into seeing how our organization and prep attempts for living mostly out of a storage unit and the car works, while aiming to still eat well, be active and work productively while exploring. Between that and maybe fleshing out some of the family history I’ve been trying to learn there should be some good content for me to try to turn into moderately interesting writing/reading material.

family history pt 1

I’m currently traveling with my mom in the Canadian Maritimes. This is our first time spending more than about 24 hours alone together, that I can remember. For most of the trip, we’re staying in a little cabin/bungalow on Prince Edward Island, which is just off the water and has an incredible pastoral view with amazing sunsets and no internet. Which is fine, outside of keeping up on 500 words a day. I’m also unbelievably exhausted. For some reason the old shoulder injury has kicked up again and combined with the 4 hour time difference, I’m not nearly as lively as I had intended on being for this trip.

We’ve been spending a good amount of the trip so far driving. First from Nova Scotia where we flew in, over and across the Confederation Bridge to the Island and then over the past 24 hours throughout a lot of the island exploring. Along the way, I’ve been trying intentionally to ask questions about my mom’s family. Her dad had 9 siblings, a few of whom I met and knew a bit, but many I didn’t. Much of my childhood holidays were spent gathered at the homestead with a collection of that side of the family and I’m trying both to learn the stories and to see if the ones I remember are myths or not. This also provides a nice change of topic from politics J.

(Side note: one of those weird amphibian tour vehicles just drove out of the Charlottetown harbor and up onto the boardwalk near where I’m sitting. I’ve never quite understood the appeal of those, for some reason that’s probably totally irrational, it feels like something should either be able to drive in water or on land, but not both.)

Some of the facts of the family I’ve known from childhood questions or family tree assignments. My maternal grandfather was born in 1914, the 8th child and 7th son of German immigrants that migrated from Russia, where they were weavers in 1900. One of my great grandfather’s brother’s had first immigrated and then as soon as he could save up $100 he would send back for another one of the other brother’s to come over. The first generation settled in Quincy and Odessa Washington and began farming. Lena, my grandfather’s oldest sibling and only sister was born in Russia, the first son was either born also in Russia or on the boat over, there’s some debate on that point. After him, followed 8 more boys all born in the US and raised on the homestead they established in 1901 just outside Quincy, Washington. Nearly all the land and the original homestead home as well as the home my grandparents built is still there and owned by the family today. I would imagine my great grandparents’ life was one full of hard work establishing the farm, building the home and other buildings and raising 10 children. That last bit alone seems like quite the feat – she gave birth to her first in 1899 and her last in 1922. Twenty-three years of pregnancy and childbirth combined with immigrating across an ocean and then continent and establishing a farm combined with a weak heart that ultimately claimed her life.

Using the ‘free write’ form of the writing challenge seems as good a way as any other to try to record a bit of the family history I’m trying to pick up and not forget. At least for the time being. Later this month, the husband and I are going to spend a couple days on the other side of Canada with my grandfather’s last living brother and I’m looking forward to learning more stories at that point.