The Fearless Mind

by Dr. Craig L. Manning, 2009, 2017

Adam sent me this book. Danette read it and liked it. It’s by a tennis player turned sports psychologist consultant. It’s like a thesis on how to control your mind, mainly, in order to become a peak performer. I like how he talks about thinking about the past is guilt and thinking about the future is fear. We need to live in the moment. We need to control the things we can control – our actions and thoughts. We need to set achievable objectives and goals each day. Then, at the end of the day, celebrate what we achieved. Don’t dwell on the mistakes of the past and don’t worry about the future. Live in the moment. I’ve been trying to do that for a decade now.

Naomi Osaka: Her Journey to Finding Her Power and Her Voice

by Ben Rothenberg, 2024

Very detailed biography on tennis player, Naomi Osaka. I happened to see it on the shelf at the library and grabbed it. It answered all my questions about Naomi – why is her last name Osaka when it’s her mother who is Japanese? Why does she play for Japan? Why did she fire her coach, Sascha Bajin? It all makes sense now.

Her father is black and Haitian, Leonard Maxime Francois. He moved to Brooklyn when he was in his teens and became a naturalized American citizen. He moved to Japan after going there with a Japanese friend and liking it so much. Her mother is Japanese, daughter and granddaughter of Japanese fishermen from Hokkaido. Her mother and father fell in love in Japan. Her father moved from NYC to Japan at the advice of some friends. They had to elope because it was unacceptable to be an interracial couple in Japan. They lived in Osaka, Japan, which also happens to be Naomi’s mother’s last name. When they had Naomi’s big sister, Mari, on April 3, 1996, they decided to give her the Osaka name as her last name, to lessen the “consternation” a foreign name would cause for them in Japan. Naomi was born on October 16, 1997. When Naomi was 3 and her sister was 5, their father watched Venus and Serena playing in the doubles final at the 1999 French Open. He decided then and there that they would follow in their footsteps. He started them playing tennis at 3 and 5, and he was their coach. He followed the pattern Richard Williams used with Venus and Serena. It was hard to find tennis opportunities in Japan, so they moved to NYC in spring of 2001, when Naomi was 3. When the winters in NYC made it hard to practice, he moved them to Florida. Their mother, Tamaki, was the breadwinner, and she had a good job in NYC but left it in order to stay with her daughters and husband. She worked 2 jobs much of Naomi’s life, trying to support the family. They were almost evicted once in Florida, but Naomi managed to win a tournament in California and made $10,000, enough to pay their rent and expenses and keep them from being evicted.

When they were going to school in NYC at a very young age, their teacher told their Mom that speaking Japanese in the home was keeping them from learning English. From that moment on, they had to stop speaking Japanese and were only allowed to speak English. That’s why Naomi can’t speak Japanese and sounds like an American.

Why does she play for Japan? Honestly, she thinks of herself as Japanese. That is where she was born. Her mother is Japanese. Her mannerisms are Japanese. They also offered her more lucrative sponsors than the USA, but it is pretty clear she considers herself Japanese and is really bummed that she can’t speak the language any longer. She worked hard during off-seasons at first, trying to relearn the language.

Why did she fire Sascha Bajin? This one is hard to say, but I think he may have broken her heart. She accused him of having a relationship with another WTA player, which he denied one day and admitted to her the next day. I think she may have been in love with him and he broke her heart.

As far as her meltdown and mental weakness, asking to be excused from press conferences at the French Open, I think she had every right to do so. She was asked some of the most pointed and personal questions, especially after firing Bajin, and was treated terribly by some journalists looking to hurt her because of her race, her gender, her monetary success, etc. Some really ugly things were said about her. She was always a sweetheart and tried to answer all of the questions asked of her. I would have cracked up long before she did. She didn’t really crack up, she just needed to take some breaks.

Now, she is back on tour after having her baby, Shai. She re-hired Wim Fissette, her long-term coach after Bajin, with whom she won 2 more majors. She hired him away from Qinwen Zheng, young Chinese tennis sensation.

I also learned a lot about Serena, because Serena is Naomi’s idol–she loves her! So much involved in the 2018 US Open and reporters wanted her to talk bad about Serena and she never, ever would. She loves her, respects her, idolizes her. What I learned about Serena is that Wayne is correct about her. She is a very, very mean person. She said that men on the ATP get away with what she did (threaten line judges and umps – really ugly threats – unbelievably ugly) but that is simply not true. Serena is mean, and has a huge chip on her shoulder, but that being said, there were some terrible things that happened to her and Venus early on. Also, being a tennis superstar is not easy – some of the most intensely scrutinized, criticized athletes in the world.

Wayne’s idea that the pressure is what finally got to Naomi because she is ultra-shy and introverted, is right on. She said she really only knew about 5 people her whole life – her family – and knowing what to say and not to say to others, how to act, how to be socially, was/is a real trial for her.

An excellent book. I’m very glad I read it. I really should buy it – I book-marked many, many pages. Excellent writer!


Fredrik Backman, 2016

I learned about this book from his Instagram posts. There are so many people who love Beartown and send him pictures of hockey jerseys with #16 and Ovich on them. I was intrigued because I love everything he’s written, so I borrowed it from the library. Well, it’s not my favorite book of his. There are two more books after Beartown in the trilogy: ‘Us Against You,’ and ‘The Winners.’

It’s very, very intense. A hockey town in Sweden called Beartown that live, eat, breathe hockey. They have a star player, Kevin, son of the richest couple in town who sponsor the hockey team. The team wins the semi-final, Kevin has a party at his home, rapes the GM’s daughter, Maya. Maya tells no one until 5 days later when she can’t hold it in any longer. She tells her parents, wonderful Peter and Kira, and they blow up. Call the police, the police take Kevin off the bus right before the final. The town blows up at the family. Much, much drama ensues. There are some real heroes on the team, but the rest are just thugs.

The heroes are, first and foremost, Amat. He’s a poor one whose mother, Fatima, raised him to always do the right thing. He gets promoted to the team when they see how hard he works and how fast he can skate. He’s the reason they won the semi-final. He loves Maya, the girl who got raped. He knows the truth because he went up to Kevin’s room and saw it happening. Against all the money and promises of Kevin’s dad, Amat tells the town the truth. He almost gets beaten to death, but Bobo, the big mean kid who started out being the worst towards him, ends up defending Amat. That’s the best part – they end up friends. There’s also Benji, the best one on the team, #16 – Ovich, who is Kevin’s life-long friend and the reason Kevin plays so well. Benji knows the truth, too. He refused to take part in the evening’s partying when he saw what direction it was going, and he left the party. He saw Maya out in the forest on her way home – scared, hurt, and traumatized. He was going to help her but recognized her fear. He let her be, but knows the truth, even though he never rats on Kevin, just keeps it a secret. He also has a secret he has kept from everyone – that he is gay.

The book is very, very dramatic. The characters and dialogue and settings are so well-drawn. He’s such a good writer, but I had a hard time with this one. Lots of hockey violence and then evil thoughts and actions by some of the players and parents and children, etc. In the end, the good outweighs the bad, but it was really bad. His style is sort of irritating in this book, too. Almost all of the book involves telling a bit of the future but not all of it. There is a lot of philosophizing, too, about hockey, parenting, small town mentality.

My favorite part of the book is the poem a nurse spoke to Fatima when she had Amat, and the scrap of paper on which she wrote the words, and which he has kept for 16 years:

“If you are honest, people may deceive you. Be honest anyway.

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway.

“All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow.

“Do good anyway.”

Amat truly lived those words. That’s the best part of the book – Amat.

The Ideal Team Player

by Patrick Lencioni, 2016

Self-help, business-help book on how to be an ideal team player and find and cultivate ideal team players. Wish I’d known this when I was working! We sure got fooled a number of times. As I look back, I can see that if we’d had this model – humble, hungry, and [people] smart – we could have avoided some really unfortunate hires. Adam recommended this book to me. He heard about it from his ‘little friend’ he met at the Christmas Light luncheon.

‘Humble’ – giving credit where credit is due, not caring about ‘status,’ putting others before one’s self. “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” C.S. Lewis. At the end of the book, he writes that Jesus is the most compelling example of humility and he hopes people see that humility is the greatest gift and the divine origins of that gift.

‘Hungry’ is the desire to work as shown by being self-motivated, having a healthy work ethic, willing to put in extra time and go the extra mile when it is necessary to get the job done well.

‘Smart’ refers to people-smarts. A person with people-smarts recognizes and praises others, understands how their words and actions affects others and makes adjustments as necessary, listens well to others, and engages others.

It’s fun to think about people I’ve worked with and for and determine what they were lacking in one of these three areas. Also, it’s fun to think about the professional tennis players and see who is an ideal team player. So few of them have all three traits. It’s sobering to think about myself and see where I am lacking.

Adam is an ideal team player. He is truly humble, hungry, and smart. I’m so proud of him! He certainly didn’t get those traits from me!

There are questions to use in the interview process to try and find out if the candidate is humble, hungry, and smart. These are very helpful. For humility, look for genuinely complimenting others, being able to admit mistakes, willing to take on grunt work, sharing credit, acknowledging weaknesses, and readily offering and receiving apologies. For hungry, look for a feeling of personal responsibility for the mission, being willing to contribute after-hours, being willing to do tedious or challenging work.

For smart, look for interactions that show they are aware of others’ feelings, show empathy, show interest in other people’s lives, listen attentively to others, and have an awareness of how their words and actions may affect others and adjusting them accordingly.

Excellent book – told in the style of a novel using an example of a construction company having to change leadership and then hire a bunch of people for two huge projects. Good dialogue and likable characters make the ideas real.

The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig, 2020

Fun book! This was one of the Old Town Library Book Club’s selections for 2023-2024, for February 2024. It’s about a young British girl, Nora Seed, who is full of regrets and decides to kill herself by taking all of her anti-depressants. She wakes up in the Midnight Library with Mrs. Elm, her old school librarian. She gets to choose different lives, re-living her regrets. She sees what happens when she chooses to be an Olympic swimmer, a glaciologist, a rock star, marry Dan who wants to own a pub, go to Australia with her friend, say yes to coffee with Ash, and even keep her kitty inside rather than let it go outside. Once she has seen where each of those take her, she truly wants to live, and she wants to live the life she had. She wakes up vomiting as the Midnight Library crashes and burns, and she loves her life and sees how important her “little” life is – to the boy she teaches piano, to her elderly next door neighbor, to her brother, etc.

It’s a good book. It considers there might be a God – maybe Mrs. Elm is God, but she isn’t as all-powerful and all-loving and all-knowing as our one True God. But at least it gives those who feel their life is meaningless the idea that their life matters – that each loving kindness they express is important. It also shows the importance of decisions. But, it makes decisions seem all-important, when really we cannot control anything, only how we humbly love our neighbor and we can’t do that without the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Lessons in Chemistry

by Bonnie Garmus, 2022

I loved this book! It was recommended by Jan M. and Marney K. It was an engrossing novel about 1960’s America, a lady chemist named Elizabeth Zott, who faces sexual harassment, assaults, and prejudice at every turn. She meets the love of her life, Calvin Evans, but refuses to marry him because she doesn’t want his fame to color her research progress. He dies tragically, but leaves her with a present, a baby girl named Mad. This little family, including the amazing dog named Six Thirty, and a kind-hearted, loving neighbor named Harriet Sloane, are so delightful. They are their own selves. They do not become what others think they should be.

Elizabeth ends up becoming famous because she captures the 1960’s housewives hearts teaching cooking as a chemist would. She explains to them all the different chemical reactions. She calls salt Sodium Chloride. She refuses to wear tight dresses and mix cocktails for the man of the house. She wears a lab coat and trousers. She is beautiful, but never smiles. She does not believe in God because her father was a horrible, horrible man who used God to make money and spread fear. Her Mom was only looking for the next man to take care of her. Calvin Evans, the love of her life, was also hurt deeply by religion – he grew up in the All Saints Boys Home. Because of the lies of the bishop who was assigned to the home, he was stuck there his whole childhood. He never learned the truth.

A really, really good story. Very, very likeable characters – Elizabeth, Mad (Madeline), Six Thirty, Harriet. There is a protestant minister who befriends Mad and then Elizabeth, but he also doesn’t believe in God. Harriet is a devout Catholic and she loves deeply and purely and prays and ends up being the rock for this little family.

Fantastic book!

The Mermaid Chair

by Sue Monk Kidd, 2005

Got this book out of the little free library in front of Poppie’s house. It’s by the author of The Secret Life of Bees. The story starts when an artist/mother/wife gets called to her childhood home on an island off the coast of South Carolina by a friend of her mother’s. Her mother just cut off her finger, on purpose. So Jessie goes home and immediately falls in love with a monk, Brother Thomas. They have an affair. Her mother cuts off another finger. Jessie’s loving husband comes to the island and is crushed to find out his wife is in love with another man. He leaves in a rage. Jessie stays but between caring for her mother and getting the true story of how her father died – it wasn’t the pipe she gave him for father’s day that sparked a fire and caused his boat to explode – it was that he had a dread disease – Pick’s Disease. The disease is a form of dementia and you forget all of your loved ones. He begged his wife to let him kill himself with poison. She finally agreed. When the full story comes out, Jessie and her mom are finally healed. Jessie goes back to her wonderful husband, Hugh. Her mom can finally stop blaming herself for assisting her husband/Jessie’s dad in his wish to die before he lost his mind.

The setting is neat – a barrier island based on Bull Island but with tourists. Bull Island is uninhabited. The island in the book is called Egret Island and has lots of the same characteristics of Bull Island, the flora and fauna, etc. Would like to go to that part of the USA someday.

Okay book – didn’t really like the character of Jessie – not much sympathy for her, but in the end, she did the right thing. The monastery and the basis for the monastery were a fictitious Mermaid saint, and a Mermaid Chair that is in the monastery. That is where her father chose to die and be blessed by the monk – Father Dominic – to help his wife, a devout Catholic, accept better his suicide. Lots and lots of Mermaid stuff – sold in the stores, a Mermaid festival every year, Jessie painting mermaids, etc. But it was a far-fetched, strange part of the book – all this emphasis on mermaids.

The Covenant of Water

by Abraham Verghese, 2023

Beautiful novel by the author of Cutting for Stone, and The Tennis Partner. Marney told me about it. It is 715 pages long! It is set in southern India, spanning almost the entire 1900’s. It concerns a family that lives on a small estate called Parambil, near the ocean on the southwestern side of India, the Kerala state. A young girl, 12 years old, is forced to leave her mom and family and move to Parambil to marry a man older than her. He is a widow and has a young son named Jojo. He’s a good man. He lets her grow up in his household, learning how to cook from the older women, and as she grows up, she falls in love with her husband and cares deeply for Jojo. The tale includes tragedies because many people in this family die from drowning. It’s called the Condition. Jojo dies drowning after he falls from a tree into a small amount of water. It breaks their hearts. They have a daughter of their own, Baby Mol. When she is about 5, someone comes to the house and says, What’s the matter with her! They take her to a doctor and find out she is a Down’s Syndrome child, I think, although that is never specified. They never saw anything wrong with her and love her so much. She is a beloved member of the family. Then, years later, they have a son together, name him Philipose. Philipose grows up and tries to go to college but he cannot hear the professors. He finally has a hearing test and discovers he is almost deaf. He returns home to Parambil and marries Elsie, a beautiful artist. They have a premature baby named Ninan. They nurse him and care for him and he lives and becomes a very precocious little boy. He dies very, very tragically, falling from the top of the tree that Elsie had asked Philipose to cut down when they first were married. Philipose finally has it cut part way down years later when Ninan is a little boy. But he doesn’t have the tree totally cut down, only partially – and it leaves sharp spikes all the way from top to bottom. Little Ninan climbs up and falls and is impaled on one of these branches. Tragic, ugly death. It destroys Elsie and Philipose. They each blame each other and grow to hate one another. Elsie leaves. Philipose becomes addicted to opium.

The Shoemaker’s Wife

by Adriana Trigiani, 2012

Wonderful novel, set in early 1900’s to mid-1900’s, about young Italian immigrants, Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravanelli. Ciro was an orphan, dropped off with his brother, Eduardo, at the convent in Vilminore, when he was a child. The nuns raise him. He’s strong and handsome. Enza, short for Vincenza, is the oldest daughter of a large family in Schilpario in the Italian Alps. They meet at age 15, when Ciro is hired to dig the grave for Enza’s baby sister, Stella. She falls in love with him and never stops loving him.

The novel takes you from Italy to New York City, where the young adults meet again in the hospital. They have both immigrated. She almost died from sea-sickness on the way over. Ciro has apprenticed as a shoemaker in Little Italy and cuts his hand badly when he’s thinking of other things. They meet off and on through the years but it’s frustrating how they never quite get together even though you know they are meant for each other.

Ciro joins the army and serves in WWI, trench warfare. Enza, a most-talented seamstress, and her Irish friend, Laura, escape from the factory in Hoboken, NJ, and make a successful go of it at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Enza becomes the seamstress for Enrico Caruso. She is loved by Vito Blazek, a successful marketing agent for the Opera. He asks her to marry him, she says yes. The morning of the wedding, Ciro finds her outside the church, waiting, and tells her he loves her (finally) and she cannot marry Vito, she must marry him. He’s just returned from the war. She forsakes the life of a rich, socialite, and marries Ciro. They move to Minnesota and become shoemakers in the town of Chisholm. They have one child, a son, named Antonio. He is everything. They are partners with Luigi and Pappina, who have child after child, while Enza and Ciro only have the one son, but he is beloved. Ciro gets diagnosed with cancer caused from mustard gas. He dies young, leaving Enza and Antonio. Enza and Antonio love him and miss him the rest of their lives, but they go on. Pappina dies in childbirth years later and Luigi decides to return to Italy with his 4 sons, leaving his 10-year old daughter, Angela, with Enza in Minnesota. Enza raises her as her own. It’s beautiful. Antonio, a young man, gets drafted into the army for WWII. The recruiters tell Enza that since she is a widow and he’s her only son, she could get an exemption for him. She knows he wants to serve, so she lets him go. This is 1940. She spends the next 4 years worried, praying, living, raising Angela, who is a beautiful young girl with a voice like an angel. Enza gets her into the voice school in NYC and she lives with Enza’s old friend, Laura, who is married to Colin, who is now the manager of the Met. The day Antonio returns from the war, he stops in NYC first to see his mom’s old friend, Laura, and Angela answers the door. He loves her instantly. She’s loved him as long as she can remember, just like Enza loved Ciro from the moment she met him. They get married and the book ends with Antonio and Angela going to take Enza home to Italy.

It’s a beautiful, lovely, heart-warming story about Italy, immigrants, war, New York City, opera, shoe-making, seamstresses, love, family, Minnesota. I loved it! I got it from a Little Free Library on our walk with Adam and Danette in Cooper Landing, AK, in August!!! I started reading it on the plane home but then had other books I had to read for book club, etc., and didn’t get to pick it back up until recently. It’s a wonderful book!

Adriana Trigiani has written other books, Big Stone Gap Series: Brava, Valentine; Very Valentine; Home to Big Stone Gap; Rococo; The Queen of the Big Time; Lucia, Lucia; Milk Glass Moon; Big Cherry Holler; Big Stone Gap.

Hard Times

by Charles Dickens, 1854

It was good to read a classic again, but this one was more difficult than other Dickens novels. Here’s an example from Chapter 9, Final: “It is a dangerous thing to see anything in the sphere of a vain blusterer, before the vain blusterer sees it himself. Mr. Bounderby felt that Mrs. Sparsit had audaciously anticipated him, and presumed to be wiser than he. Inappeasably indignant with her for her triumphant discovery of Mrs. Pegler, he turned this presumption, on the part of a woman in her dependent position, over and over in his mind, until it accumulated with turning like a great snowball. At last he made the discovery that to discharge this highly connected female-to have it in his power to say, “She was a woman of family, and wanted to stick to me, but I wouldn’t have it, and got rid of her”-would be to get the utmost possible amount of crowning glory out of the connexion, and at the same time to punish Mrs. Sparsit according to her deserts.”

The city of Coketown is the setting. It’s an industrial town, covered in black smoke and noise, and the laboring class works all day, every day but Sunday, at machines. A weaver, Stephen Blackpool, is good-hearted, hard-working, but is mistreated and misunderstood and wrongly blamed for a crime he did not commit. There is a family headed by a Mr. Gradgrind, who believes only in facts, and his children are raised to not have any wonder or joy. Louisa grows up and is forced to marry Mr. Bounderby, a blustering fool of a man who owns the factories. He’s about 20 years her senior. Her brother, young Thomas Gradgrind, grows up to be a “whelp.” He loves no one but himself, and amasses gambling debts that he expects his sister to pay. He’s the one who arranges a theft of Bounderby’s money and has it blamed on innocent Stephen Blackpool. In the end, all is made right. The good guys win, the bad guys lose or repent.

Here’s where Stephen Blackpool is found lying at the bottom of a coal shaft, he was on his way back to prove his innocence, and he is discovered by sweet Sissy and Rachael, the love of his life, and rescued just in time to clear his name, without pointing fingers, and die. Here’s the end of that chapter: “They carried him very gently along the fields, and down the lanes, and over the wide landscape; Rachael always holding the hand in hers. Very few whispers broke the mournful silence. It was soon a funeral procession. The star had shown him where to find the God of the poor; and through humility, and sorrow, and forgiveness, he had gone to his Redeemer’s rest.”

It’s a beautiful tale about what is really good in life (nature, and light and air, and loving and caring for one another, and integrity). Contrast that with the evils of this world – dishonesty, pollution, injustice, greed, darkness. The father, Mr. Gradgrind, realizes late in life the harm he did to his children not letting them have any joy or wonder, only facts. Sissy, the circus girl he adopts when her father abandons her, is the first hint that there is a better way of life than just facts. She saves the day, in the end.

I love Charles Dickens!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: The Astonishing New Science of the Senses

by Maureen Seaberg, 2023

I was so excited to read this book! I heard about 10 minutes of an interview on the radio program, 1A, with the author and it was so intriguing. I was very disappointed. I thought it was going to describe people with super senses, but it ended up being so disorganized and convoluted, I’m not sure what I read. I tried to make sense of it, but the final chapters were so out there – people wanting to impart human consciousness into robots. Scary stuff.

I did take some tidbits from it – humans have better senses than we realize and by training them, we can become better at seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting. It’s important to spend time in nature. Meditation can augment our senses.

A retired Scottish nurse smelled COVID before it was known. She also smelled Parkinson’s Disease on her husband years before he was diagnosed.

The author is a tetrachrome – she has 4 visual cones, or something like that, and can see more colors. She talks about ‘synesthetes,’ who sense things through other senses, like seeing a color when you hear a name. Infants are all synesthetes. We can cultivate our senses. In Montessori schools, children walk on a white tape line to cultivate balance, they hold objects of different weights but similar sizes, they sit in silence so they can hear birdsong, ticking clocks. All of these things cultivate the senses. “Hearing grows subtler this way, and self-control is also enhanced.”

Examples of synesthete musicians: Chris Martin of Coldplay, Billie Eilish. Scientists – Richard Feynman and Nikola Tesla.

It’s possible that people who are picky eaters are really super tasters and the taste of the food is very intense.

Minfulness is a a way to grow our senses. Constantly taking pictures is not mindfulness, is not being present.

Talking about taste, the tongue has two to four thousand taste buds. We can identify sweet, salty, savory (umami), sour, and bitter, but also Kokumi (savory and hearty), and pungent, astringent, rough or harsh, oily or greasy, and winy. We can also taste fresh water. Makes sense – we would need super sensitive taste in order to survive in the world.

Talking about the sense of hearing, she describes Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who is deaf in his right ear. He trained the hearing in his left ear by using all of his senses.

There are more than the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. Some other senses are: Thermoception – the sense of heat, Nociception – the perception of pain, Equilibrioception – the perception of balance, Proprioception – the perception of body awareness.

The world has become so smooth – our screens and phones are all smooth. That might explain the popularity of tattoos now –people seeking the sensation. Not being touched could explain a host of mental illnesses – depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness. A study in 1960 by Sidney Jourard watched friends in a cafe for an hour. In England, the friends touched each other 0 times. In America, the friends touched each other twice. In France, 110 times. In Puerto Rico, 180 times.

Some people with Autism are hyper-sensitive to touch, sometimes to the point of not being able to swallow food.

This I find hard to believe, but she says ancient languages did not have a word for blue. She references a Radiolab report, “Why Isn’t the Sky Blue.” So if there isn’t a word for the color, it doesn’t really exist.

The goofy part near the end, talking about AI and people who are sensitive to machines, and wanting to impart human consciousness into machines, is where she really loses me. She talks about a man, Zoltan Istvan, who ran for president in 2016 and 2020. He is conservative and “transhuman.” He says, “While transhumanism is very broad in what it attempts to accomplish, achieving sentience in AI is paramount. The only way to really upgrade the human brain in singularity terms is to upload our consciousness, and once we do that, AI will be conscious. Of course, there’s the issue of AI becoming sentient before we merge with it, but most transhumanists advocate against this. The reason is that the AI might not want to merge with us or it even may want to eliminate us. So we’d better get it right.” No kidding. I do not want to live in that world. You all can have it.

When we die (as we all will) and go to Jesus, our Creator, our senses will be blown away by the beauty, the love, the joy, the amazing, all-encompassing, never-ending wonder of it all. We can’t handle it now – our human brains would explode at the experience this side of heaven. But this book did introduce to me the idea of becoming more present, more aware, experiencing more fully the senses we do have in this world, and thereby experiencing the beauty of this world more fully, and thanking God.

I liked the two quotes she chose for the opening:

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” William Black, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

“For I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14

It also reminds me of Sherry Yost’s tag line on her emails: To not pay attention is to miss the wonder of being alive. -Bob Welch

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

by Robert Kolker, 2020

This book was the 3rd book selection for Old Town Library Book Club 2023-2024. Karen selected it. It’s about a family that had 12 children and 6 of them end up with schizophrenia. They lived on Hidden Valley Road, in Woodmen Valley, right next door to the Skarke’s! That was a huge surprise! When we were visiting the Skarke’s, who knew there was a family next door with 12 children and 6 of them schizophrenic!

The Galvin family, Don and Mimi, and their 12 children; 10 boys and then Margaret and Mary, the last two girls. Six of the boys become schizophrenic. The trials and tribulations of this family would have killed me. What a nightmare! One of the boys (Brian William Galvin) ends up murdering his girlfriend and killing himself in California on September 7, 1973.

The youngest girl, Mary, ends up being the rock of the entire family. She cares for her oldest brother (Donald) even though he tormented her endlessly when they lived on Hidden Valley Road. When she was 7 and he was 27, he’d follow her around dressed in a bed sheet, like a monk, spouting religious nonsense. She would lead him up into the hills and tie him up and leave him there. Her 2nd oldest brother would molest her and her sister when she was sent to his house for the weekends. His name was Jim and he was married to Kathy and they had a little boy, Jimmy. Margaret and Mary didn’t know for sure that what he was doing was wrong, and they didn’t know he was doing it to both of them. It finally came out when they were adults and they confronted their Mom and Dad. How could they send them there when they knew he also was becoming sick. When she was 13, Mary finally was able to leave the madness. Wealthy friends of her parents paid for her to attend boarding school on the east coast. That was her ticket out. But she eventually comes back to Colorado and helps her family. At the end of the book (published in 2020), she is still helping her brother, Don, living in assisted living. She’s also helping her other brothers that are still living – 3 of them, I think, in various stages of dependence.

The author varies the chapters on the individual members of the family with the gradual progress of research on schizophrenia. Over the 50 years of history of this family, the research hasn’t progressed much. It’s painstakingly slow, and we still don’t really know what causes schizophrenia. Sad but true.

I remember when Cherie had her first psychotic breakdown, when she was paranoid about neighbors spying on her, I had a dream/vision from God. God first made me understand how close we all are to being mentally ill. It is only a very fine line separating us and them. Then, He told me not to talk about Him to Cherie at this stage of her life. She was dabbling in witchcraft because of Chris’s mother being a pagan witch. He told me that to associate Him with that world would ruin Him in her eyes.

Thankful to God for sparing me from this particular illness. Pray for Him to reveal answers to the researchers and caregivers and sufferers of this distressing illness.

Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America

by Russell Moore, 2023

Saddening, maddening book by the editor in chief of Christianity Today and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. It’s about the steep fall from grace of the Evangelical church. He writes with firsthand knowledge about the despicable leaders who want power and money at any cost. They have become a church of Satan. There is nothing Christ-like remaining in the church leadership. They support Trump and explain away his deep, deep character flaws and crimes, and they cover up their own horrendous wrongdoing, including sexual abuse and racism. Russell Moore was openly against Trump and refused to keep silent about sexual assaults. He was threatened, shunned, condemned. This book tells how far the evangelical church has fallen. He believes that true revival can happen when this sham of a church is destroyed. God will raise up in its ashes a church which is true to Him and the Gospel. God does not need us to fight His battles. The evangelical church has become a tool of Satan, using abortion and gay rights as weapons to destroy it – separating people from a loving God. The evangelical church in America has made God look so bad to unbelievers. There actions are only serving to entrench the very ideas they oppose. Why don’t we pray for God to change individual hearts instead, and love them and leave the judging to God?

There are two verses that come to my mind when I think of this church. First, Matthew 7:22-23: Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Second, this verse which the Evangelical Church likes to use against the rest of America, but really applies to them, 2 Chronicles 7:14: ‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.’

God wins, has already won, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will make all things new again. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

He describes in detail different events and they are even worse than I thought.

Waiting for Snow in Havana

by Carlos Eire, 2003

What a beautiful, amazing, wonderful, educational, painful, delightful book! I LOVED THIS BOOK! Thank you, Jan, for telling me about it. I never knew anything about Cuba and Castro. This biography, by a man who was born in Cuba in 1950 and had to leave in 1962, brings to life the joys and fears of a little boy in Cuba and how it all came to ruin when Castro took over. And by ruin, I mean ruin – destroyed, obliterated, horrified. Thank you, Carlos Eire, for a magnificent story. I’m so glad you won the National Book Award for this book. It is one of the best books I have ever read.


by Daniel Kraus, 2023

Fast read – 2 page chapters, short sentences. About young, 17-year old Jay, who dives Monastery Beach to try and find his dad’s bones, but ends up swallowed by a sperm whale. His dad committed suicide because he was dying of mesothelioma. He was a horrible father to Jay. Shaming him, humiliating him, scaring him. His dad was a consummate diver and loved the ocean and its creatures more than anything. He tried to impart that love to Jay, but failed miserably. Jay ran away from home at age 15, before his dad got cancer, and refused to go see him in the hospital, despite the pleadings of his mom and two sisters.

Once Jay is swallowed by the whale, he starts having a conversation with the whale on how to survive. It ends up being his father he is talking with, and he remembers the love and understands his dad, and is able to forgive his dad, all the while trying and failing to get out of the whale. His dad gave him tips, ways to get out of the whale alive. There is unbelievable trauma to his body– stomach acid eating into him, broken bones, ear drums popping, his neck getting gashed by a giant squid, and on and on. Too much gashing and gunk and junk, but eventually, the whale is attacked by orcas and wounded and floats gently to the surface, where there is a whale-watching boat. Jay orchestrates the vocal chord and makes the whale scream, an unheard of sound, drawing the attention of the scientists on the beach. The whale drifts to shore and dies. Jay blows up a part of the whale using a Brillo pad (there was an unopened box of Brillo pads in the stomach), a 9-volt battery and the last bit of oxygen from his tank. He has to blow a part of the whale he is not in, so had to carve a hole through thick blubber using ‘Beaky,’ the part of the giant squid that he found. He loses his right hand but saves his life. The scientists on the beach are looking at a different, beached whale. They can’t believe what they are seeing after Jay has to claw through the heart of the whale, soaked in blood, so the scientists can see him. They save him. One of the doctors smiles at him and asks him his name. He says Jay. She says her name is Joy. “Hi, Jay. I’m Joy.” Yes, you are, Jay thinks.”

They carry his “broken body” onto the beach.

Jay is saved through the blood of the whale’s heart, and his broken body. Could this be we are saved through the blood and broken body of Christ? Could be. Very interesting book. Just love the young man, Jay.

I heard about this book on one of the best book of the year lists.

life is so good

by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman, 2000, 2013

Excellent book. George Dawson, born in 1898, died at age 102, learned to read at age 98. Grew up on a farm in Marshall, Texas. Helped pick cotton at age 4. Oldest of children born to poor black farming couple in east Texas. He never got to go to school. When he turned 12, they had to send him to work on a white man’s farm to earn $1.50 a week, that his dad would pick up every other week, to help feed the family. He was so lonely – slept in a hot little shack out back by himself. Up until then, he was always cozy and cared for with his siblings.

Cuba Libre

by Elmore Leonard, 1998

Gene M. was reading this book and it sounded interesting. It was a fun, action-packed romp through 1890’s Cuba. The characters were good and the good guys win! Realize how bad the Spanish were to the Cubans. The Americans fought against the Spanish and won. The blowing up of the Maine was what started the war. It was never clear who did it, I mean it was possible the Americans did it to start a war and didn’t care that most of the sailors died because they were black. The cowboy, Ben Tyler, was the hero of the book. He went to Cuba to sell horses and falls in love with the place. He steals the heart of Amelia Brown, the beautiful young mistress of Rollie Boudreaux, a rich American sugar cane plantation owner, who is cruel and unfeeling. There are imprisonments and prison escapes and kidnappings and ransom notes and good guys and bad guys and really, really good guys and really, really bad guys. It was fun. It was 405 pages long and I read 81 pages each day to get through it fast, except the last day I read 162 pages. It was a page-turner. Would love for it to be a movie. Cuba Libre is a drink of Rum and Coke and a squeeze of lime.

Tom Lake

by Ann Patchett, 2023

Eminently readable novel about Lara Kenison, a young seamstress turned actress who was amazingly talented and beautiful but gave up stardom to marry Joe Nelson and work his cherry farm in Michigan. Lara’s all grown up and telling the story of her life as an actress to her 3 adult daughters while they pick cherries on their cherry farm near Traverse City. They are all together because of the pandemic. The story of her life is centered around her playing the role of Emily in Our Town. She was in summer stock at Tom Lake on the Upper Peninsula. She meets Peter Duke, a young, handsome, charismatic actor, and falls deeply, madly in love with him. He teaches her to smoke and drink and be wild. His brother is Sebastian, and he is good and kind and handsome and a talented tennis player.

They enjoy life immensely, young and free. The director of the play is Joe Nelson, and he is a steady, strong presence. It turns out Joe’s real love is cherry farming on his aunt and uncle’s cherry farm. He invites Lara to come see it and the whole crew comes along. Peter Duke falls in love with the farm. So does Lara. They all do. It is beautiful and peaceful. They never forget that day.

One day, Duke (as Peter is called) is too drunk to play a game of tennis with Sebastian because he has been rehearsing with real tequila for Fool for Love, so Lara plays tennis with Sebastian instead. She is playing out of her mind and goes after a serve and ruptures her Achilles. Sebastian carries her to the car, drives her to the hospital, and takes care of her. Lara’s acting days are over and she is fine with that, it turns out. But Duke moves on to Lara’s understudy within a matter of days. Her understudy is the beautiful black actress/dancer Pallace, who happens to be Sebastian’s love. Lara comes out of the hospital with a huge cast and is unable to walk for six months. Sebastian and Lara go to the opening night of the play Fool for Love, in which Duke and Pallace are playing the leads. The chemistry between them is so electric, everyone knows what is going on. Lara’s heart is broken, Sebastian is angry. He storms out afterwards, beats up his brother, and leaves in a rage. Lara gets herself back to her wheelchair, wheels herself back to her little cottage, and deals with her new reality.

All the while she’s telling her three daughters about her early days dating the famous actor Peter Duke, you get a lot of details about the cherry farm, and their current life, which is very happy. They are all together with Joe, their Dad, because of the pandemic. It’s 2020. The three daughters are wonderful characters. Eldest is Emily, age 26. She loves the farm and plans to marry next door neighbor, Benny, and take over running the cherry farm. When Emily was young, she was convinced that Peter Duke was her father and she was full of anger towards her Mom, convinced she was lying to her. She’s over it now, but she really needs to learn the real story behind Duke and her Mom. Middle daughter, Maisie, age 24, is in her final year of vet school. She loves animals and is helping all the neighbors with her veterinary skills. Youngest daughter, Nell, age 22, wants to be an actress, and she lives for the stage. She cannot believe her mom gave up the very thing she is hoping for her own life. Their dad, Joe, is a wonderful, kind, loving man. He was around back in the day – he was the capable director of the play Lara starred in, Our Town, and he fell in love with Lara, but knew she was in love with Peter Duke. He stayed caring and concerned and finally, years and years later, they run into each other in New York. And the rest is history. They buy the cherry farm and live happily ever after.


by Daniel Quinn, 1992

Tyler’s book. He really wanted us to read it. It is about a young man who answers an ad, Teacher Seeks Pupil. The teacher ends up being a gorilla named Ishmael. They talk telepathically for months. Ishmael teaches him his theory of the Takers and the Leavers. The Leavers were hunter-gatherers that let others live their lives. They didn’t destroy species or the planet. They lived at peace with the gods. The Takers started about 10,000 years ago. They are the Cain who killed Abel. They do not want to live at peace in the hands of the gods. They want to take matters into their own hands and plant more and more and store up more and more. They are destroying our world.

Once Ishmael has imparted all his knowledge to the young man, he urges him to teach others. Teach 100 people and they’ll each teach 100, and that way we can save the planet, once most of the people think and believe like we do.