Out Of My Mind – by Sharon M. Draper (2010)

Out Of My Mind

It’s not easy being the handicapped kid at school – the one that comes in a motorized wheelchair, that spends her days in the “special ed” room, that needs help to eat lunch. Melody has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak, so people assume she is mentally retarded. But Melody, at the age of ten, is actually brilliant. Unfortunately, thoughts and words are locked inside her mind with no way out.

Life takes a dramatic turn for the better when she starts spending time in a normal 5th grade classroom, and when her school aide finds a specialized computer online that will speak aloud for Melody.

I absolutely loved this story! While it shows the daily difficulties of handicapped children and their families, it also describes how loving parents, a neighbor that really cares, and a dedicated school aide can make a difference. This is a great book to read aloud to kids ages ten or older, to help them develop compassion and understanding for those around them who are struggling with disabilities.


The Well – by Mildred D Taylor (1995)

The Well

If you have read any of this author’s books, you are familiar with the Logans, an African-American family living in Mississippi in the early 1900s. This book is a prequel to Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry, the author’s most well-known novel. All her stories, though fictional, are based on events that actually happened to her father’s family.

In “The Well”, it is 1910 and a severe drought has hit part of Mississippi. As wells dry up, everyone becomes desperate for water. Eventually, the Logans have the only well that still has an adequate supply of water. Neighbors – both black and white – come by with barrels, and the Logans share with all.

Unfortunately, young Charlie Simms is determined to harass and belittle any black person who doesn’t submit meekly to him. Ten-year-old David Logan tries to appease Charlie, but his older brother Hammer gets in a fight with Charlie. The situation quickly escalates to the point where someone could be lynched.

For anyone born after the days when it was not uncommon to hear of lynchings of black people, this book is a bird’s-eye view of the degradation and abuse of African-American citizens. Appropriate for ages ten and up.

When Your Phone Is Too Helpful

Hi how can I help
photo credit: techspot.com

It started a few days ago. Every so often, I would hear the notification “plink” sound on my cell phone. Instead of it being someone I knew sending a text/message, it was some random notification about the weather or the news or some other thing I didn’t need to know. Why am I getting these messages? I wondered.

The question was answered when I read my e-mail. “Congratulations on having your phone updated with Google Assistant”, the e-mail read. It went on to tell me now much it could help me, based on what it thought I was interested in after reading my e-mails and looking over my internet history.

Well, I don’t want their “gift”. So I tried to uninstall the app, only to find that there is no way to remove it. I was, however, able to turn off the notifications. Here’s how you do it:

Go to the app section of your phone. Tap on the Google app (the multi-colored G).
Touch the three lines in the upper left corner. That will bring up a page with your name, e-mail address and some options.  Touch “settings”. Near the bottom of the settings page, touch “your feed”.


Some phones will have one switch to turn off the feed entirely, but mine had a list of categories that they wanted to send me notifications about, and I had to switch each one to off.


So my phone should be quieter now. But that really doesn’t do anything about the issue of Google constantly snooping around in my e-mail and internet browsing. That seems to be a losing battle.


Almost Friends – by Philip Gulley (2006)

Almost Friends

Life goes on in this 6th book about the little Quaker Friends congregation in the town of Harmony. Sam has been the pastor for half a dozen years now, and he and his wife Barbara are in a comfortable routine. But as often happens, comfort is replaced with rotten tomatoes.

Sam’s father has a heart attack, followed by another heart attack. The Friends decide to give Sam three months off – with pay – to help take care of his father as he recovers. The church requests an interim pastor, and are sent a female! It’s Krista Riley’s first assignment, but she’s dreamed of being a minister since childhood and throws herself wholeheartedly into the job. The congregation absolutely falls in love with her, and Sam begins to wonder if they’ll want him back after his father is recovered.

Krista is on cloud nine – until the day that a church member sees her in a restaurant with a close friend, and mistakenly concludes that their temporary pastor is a lesbian. Rumors circulate throughout the church, and the entire congregation is in an uproar about what to do with Krista.

The author has his usual mix of humor and serious thought in this book. The subjects of homosexuality in the church, gossip, privacy versus the right of the congregation to know, evangelistic tactics to avoid, and jealousy are all brought up in “Almost Friends”. This novel will definitely give the reader many things to think about.


Found: Joy

2017-10-03 dishsoap Joy

There’s something about a gray sky, drizzly rain, achy joints, and scanning family photos of a family member that has died, that makes me feel – well, not joyful. So many pictures to scan. They remind of good times and bad, of old age and disease that takes away so many, and times in life when we didn’t do things well. With melancholy descending, it’s time to stop scanning and go do something else.

So I go off to a different grocery store from my usual two, because this month my credit card will give me five percent back of whatever I buy there. (Yes, I do love exploring ways of stretching the family dollar.) Some things on my list are a good price there, and are added to my cart. But other things on the list are slightly higher, so I pass on those. When I roll down the cleaners aisle, I see something not carried by my regular stores for years – Joy dish detergent!

So now I’m home again, with Joy. Okay, so dish-soap can’t actually bring joy, but it reminds me that God promises to bring “joy in the morning.” He’s always there, and yes, He is always good!

Into The Wild – by Jon Krakauer (1996)

Into The Wild

I went to sleep last night thinking about this book, and woke up still thinking about it. It is the excruciatingly sad story about a young man on a quest to be totally alone in the wilderness of Alaska. The book traces his childhood, his family relationships, the growing dissatisfaction with living a “normal” life, and his obsession with Jack London’s books and living in the wild. Out of duty, he finished college, then quietly gave away his remaining money and left town. He told no one he was going, and changed his name from Christopher McCandless to Alexander Supertramp.

Alex drifted around the Southwest for awhile, occasionally staying in one place long enough to pick up some work. Along the way, there were many people that said what a nice, thoughtful young man he was. He was honest and hard-working, but had some strange ideas. Some dismissed Alex’s talk of living in the wild as a dream he would never act on. Others realized he was dead serious, and tried to give him better survival supplies and money. Many urged him to call his family and let them know he was alive and okay, but Alex/Chris refused.

The story of Chris’ life, pieced together from journal notes and interviews with people that spent time with him along the way to Alaska, is puzzling. He seemed to be intelligent, yet he was inadequately dressed and supplied, and barely knew how to hunt. No compass, no map, no cell phone with solar recharger to call for help. What was he thinking?! At first he had a car, but when that got died, he just got out and started hitchhiking.

Chris McCandless got to live his dream for a short time, but at what a cost. He died alone inside an old abandoned, rusting bus of starvation and eating the wrong kind of root. Alone. In his last journal entry, he reverts to his real name, indicating that he was finally thinking of his family back home and wishing for rescue. But it was too late. A moose hunter found his decomposing body and notified the authorities.

The McCandless family was forever changed. I imagine that the father still grieves the missed opportunity to make things right with his son. The sister undoubtedly grieves the future times of being together that will never happen. And his mother will never get to wrap her arms around her precious son again, and tell him how much she loves him, even though she didn’t understand him.

Just Scratching The Surface Of Artprize…

Tomorrow is the last day for the public to vote in the first round of Artprize. Although I have only scratched the surface of Artprize, 35 entries impressed me enough to get me to cast a vote for them. (Each person is allowed to vote for as many or as few as they want, until tomorrow at 11:59 pm.) Here are pictures of some of my favorites:

2017-09-27 Artprize The Orchid Tree
“The Orchid Tree” by Dale Cote

Its wood comes from the branches of five different trees. The flowers are made from metal soda cans that the artist cut, painted, and attached to the branches! Mr. Cote spent about four years making this masterpiece, but unfortunately he passed away about a month before Artprize began.


2017-09-27 ArtprizeMotor Bot And His SpRe Parts Buddies
“Motor Bot And His Spare Parts Buddies” by Anthony Lazar

This artist was born just a few blocks from the sidewalk he had his display on, and is a homeless artist who makes metal creatures out of discarded metal from cars, bikes, pipes, etc. Some of his pieces are actually stands to rest a Kindle or iPad on. (He sells these for $50 if you’re interested in purchasing one.)


2017-09-25 Artprize Early January On The Pearl Street Bridge
“Early January On The Pearl Street Bridge” by Melodee Jackson
Porcelain stoneware with a local bridge scene.


2017-09-27 Artprize Close To Family Jonathan
“Close To Home” by Jonathan D. Lopez

The artist created a tiny house inside an actual post office box, for a family of clay mice. There’s the mama cooking supper, papa supervising the young-uns, and grandpa giving advise. The detail of the facial expressions, the hardwood floor, the brick wall, and household appliances is amazing! It reminds me that no matter how small your dwelling is, if you’re with the ones you love, you are truly home.


2017-09-27 Artprize Food Fight
“Food Fight” by H.J. Slider

This is a scene made from wooden shoe molds, cooking utensils, and other wooden objects, representing people of all ages and groups looking for food.


2017-09-27 Artprize Jesus Wifes My Tears
“Jesus Wipes My Tears” by Tracy May Fouts


2017-09-27 Artprize Connection
“Connection” by Bruce Koster

A picnic table and benches made from a treasured tree.


2017-09-27 Artprize Whimsical Reef
“Whimsical Reef” by Pam Jernigan

Aquatic scene using shells and various fabrics that has a 3-D feel about it.


2017-09-25 Artprize Music Box
“Music Box” by Dihan Mao

No, this is not an actual casket, but a very unique music box (note the handle crank on the end).


Artprize Seeds Of Change by Ben Graham
“Seeds Of Change” by Ben Graham
Photo credit: http://www.artprize.org/65737

The artist began with the word “WAR” clearly in the grass, but as he offered seed to each person that visited the venue, and they sprinkled it on the bare ground, grass quickly grew, making the ugliness of war fade away.


Just a few of the many fantastic things I saw at Artprize.