Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Continuing My 2020 "Books Read" List with JUNE

My New Year's Resolution for 2019 was to read as many books as I could; I ended the year having read 128 tomes:  nonfiction and memoirs, fiction, history, psychology, religion; I don't have a certain genre I'd consider a favorite, just whatever grabs my interest at any given time.

On the first day of 2020 I made a list of several resolutions for this year; amongst them was to again keep track of books that I sometimes devour, sometimes meander through, and sometimes do not enjoy much at all.

Here's the list of books that I completed reading in June (I'm going backwards!):
  • Stolen         by Lucy Christopher     320p
    • A 16-year-old girl in an airport coffee shop is kidnapped and taken to a remote location somewhere in the Outback of Australia
  • Paul Hollywood's Bread     by Paul Hollywood
    • Yes, I do read cookbooks, often from cover to cover.  I'm a fan of The Great British Baking Show and am preparing to spend some valuable mother-son time coaching my son, Jeff, in the baking of French baguettes when social distancing decreases and cooler weather ensues!
  • Paris        by Edward Rutherfurd      832p
    • Another in the library of incredible historical fiction written by a master storyteller.  The history is factual, but the stories wind their way through hundreds of years of the local history and lives of generations of fictional families.
  • Running With Sherman:  The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero  352p       by Christopher McDougall
    • I'd read "Born To Run" by the same author telling the true story of a tribe of indigenous super-runner-indians in Mexico and loved it.  When I saw this book I was intrigued by McDougall's experience rescuing a broken-down donkey and rehabilitating him.
  • The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (Book One of the Baby Ganesh series)                by Vaseem Khan    320p
    • I love all things India, and often warm and fuzzy animal stories.  This gentleman and his 'pet elephant' doesn't disappoint.  A recently-retired police inspector is given a baby elephant as an entering-retirement gift and together they solve various mysteries and crimes.
  • Cometh the Hour       by Jeffrey Archer   Book Six of the Clifton Chronicles  416p
    • This is the sixth of the seven books in the series.  I love Jeffrey Archer, which, with their great narrator, Alex Jennings, I devour while walking away on my treadmill or driving in the car.  The characters reach out to me and their stories are engrossing; I often extend my workout sessions to listen to more!  I am always anxious to discover how the story turns out, but unhappy to get to the end; however, Archer always gives some incredible reason why I need to continue with the next book in the series!
As I glance through the list, I'm noticing that, because I read more than one book at a time, it seems that, generally speaking, about every other month it appears that I consume a larger number of books.  I think that's simply because of my only keeping track of works completed.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Books Read List Begun and Other Things!

 Monday August 10, 2020

Well, here we are in the sixth month of this coronavirus pandemic; mu family remains healthy, thank God. As we continue our social distancing I've been thinking about returning to my blog to help keep track of how time flies!  It's been the better part of two years since I entered a post, amazing!

Reading has become even more of a passion in my life: I'll begin this post with a list of the books I completed in:

JULY 2020:

  • This Was a Man        Book 7        The Clifton Chronicles        560p
    • by Jeffrey Archer  
  • Leonardo da Vinci        599p
    • by Walter Isaacson
  • Kane and Abel        Book 1          Kane and Abel series         658p
    • by Jeffrey Archer
  • Assignment Bletchley     Book 1         175p
    • by Peter J. Azzole
  • Blindspot:  Hidden Biases of Good People        254p
    • by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald
  • The Prodigal Daughter        Book 2       Kane and Abel series       564p
    • by Jeffrey Archer
  • A History of the Popes, Volume I:  Origins to the Middle Ages
  • Shall We Tell the President      Book 3     Kane and Abel series     220p
    • by Jeffrey Archer
  • The Dublin Saga - The Princes of Ireland       776p
    • by Edward Rutherfurd
  • A Pilgrimage to Eternity:  From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith     384p
    • by Timothy Egan
  • Death on the Nile
    • by Agatha Christie
I am enjoying the opportunity to read several tomes at the same time, on Kindle, on Audible, and in hard-bound or paperback form.  Audible books are great for listening to while working out on the treadmill, walking outside, or driving in the car.  Kindle is a good choice for books that require definitions and notes, pieces from which I intend to learn.  Then, there's the good old paperback for enjoying while sitting or lying down.

The Agatha Christie mystery was read in order to participate in my August book club discussion group. We each chose a different Christie book and gave a short book report, after which we had a general discussion of Mrs. Christie's considerable library of novels written over the course of a long a very productive writing career.

Lots of Jeffrey Archer - I'd read the beginning of the Clifton Chronicles years ago, remembering that his style is very pleasing in my opinion.  I've now listened to all of The Clifton Chronicles and Kane and Abel series; they're intriguing company for my treadmill workouts, where I find myself adding minutes and miles, just so I can continue to listen, high praise for an author indeed!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Korcula, Croatia 

Sunday on the island of Korcula. There are 1195 separate islands belonging to the country of Croatia in the eastern Adriatic Sea; Korcula (pronounced KOR choo lah) is one of the largest:  33 kilometers (about 26 miles) long by 8 kilometers (5 miles) at its widest point. 

Once again, this is an ancient part of the world. Archeologists have recently discovered the bones of a fish that dates back one billion years!  The oldest human remains, a man and a woman, are ten thousand years old - geez, that’s a long time ago!

The Greeks arrived here about 500 BC - there is much evidence of their advanced civilization in several museums around the walled Old Korcula Town. The island has been inhabited continually since that time. Like so much of the Adriatic rĂ©gion there is Greek, Roman, Venetian, Ottoman dynasties represented in the architecture and culture. 

This morning I attended Mass at one of the many Roman Catholic Churches here in Korcula, a neat experience, although I didn’t understand a word, save for « Amen. »

The currency in Croatia is the KUNA, its exchange rate is approximately 6.5 to one dollar. The currency in Montenegro, where we visited for two days before this stop, is the Euro, even though Montenegro is not a member of the European Union. It seems that when Yugoslavia was breaking up, leading to the war years of 1991-1995, theMontenegro-inflation   rate became so exorbitant that they decided to adopt the German Deutsche Mark as a much more stable currency system. All went well until Germany (Deutschland) became a part of the European Union. So, Montenegro is the only non-Union country that uses the Euro. In our travels we’re changing currencies almost daily!

I don’t normally exchange US dollars for much of the local currency, as I find it more convenient, and less expensive, to make most purchases with my trusty Visa card. However, several days ago, I did hit an ATM, thinking I’d get a small amount of Kuna. I was so busy chatting with some of my fellow travels as I was accessing the machine, I mistook 5,200 Kuna for 520 Kuna on the ATM screen. After I’d taken my cash from the machine I realized that I’d withdrawn the equivalent of $800!!!!!  I’m definitely hoping I won’t spend it all!!!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Cruising the Adriatic

February 28, 2019

Well, our new adventure got off to a slow start. Sharon, Carol and I flew from Sacramento to SFO to board our long flight to Paris. At SFO we met Sharon’s daughter, Kim, who was joining us for the trip. 

But, oh my!  The flight was delayed five hours due to a repair issue on our plane. We knew early on that we would miss our Paris to Zagreb connection and that we were in for our first unexpected adventure! We let United Airlines know, at SFO, that United in Paris should be aware of our situation; upon our arrival in Paris, United representatives were exceedingly helpful in managing our dilemma. They put us on a flight to Frankfurt where we stayed overnight. Next morning we boarded a Croatian Airlines flight for the hour and fifteen minute flight to Zagreb. At our destination we were met by a representative of Overseas Adventure Travels (OAT), who drove us the about-three-hour distance to the coastal city of Zadar on the Adriatic Sea, where our ship was awaiting us. We were welcomed by the crew and our fellow passengers and our planned adventure began. 

The BV Athena is a lovely small ship with just about fifty passengers, who are amazingly catered to by a crew of about thirty. We are enjoying a leisurely and really lovely cruise along a portion of the Dalmatian Coast, with multiple stops in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, all formerly parts of the country of Yugoslavia, with a rich and complicated history dating back to the ancient Roman times, and before. The officers and management members of the crew are mostly Croatian, the service crew mostly Indonesian. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Christmas Day 1976

It was the Sherman family’s first Christmas in what we thought of as "Christmas Country."  And, it was also my premier holiday season as a new nurse, working in my first hospital job in the Maternity Ward at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.  We’d moved to Minnesota from sunny California the previous February, so I'd been introduced to midwestern winters and described myself as one of the few westerners who truly loved this frigid and snowy season.  

I’d completed my several-month nursing orientation period and was at last functioning as a real Labor and Delivery / Newborn Nursery staff nurse.  Feeling inspired, I’d volunteered to take a Christmas Day afternoon/evening shift, along with two other R.N.s; our staff of the three of us felt fairly confident we’d be able to throughly enjoy our 8-hour shift caring for our one new mother and her day-old infant.  Each of us had brought snacking goodies to share while we put in our time.

As was the custom, the hospital dietary department prepared and served a lovely champagne and filet mignon dinner to all new mothers and their husbands (or significant others) about a day after their delivery.  Our one resident young couple was anxious to partake in their romantic repast while we three nurses cared for their newborn, swaddled in a Christmas stocking and Santa hat, in the nurses lounge.  The patient’s room, at the opposite end of the hall, was prepared with a small round dining table and chairs, spotless linen and a delicious romantic dinner for two.  In the nurses lounge, television on, telephones transferred, Christmas snacks at hand, baby and we three nurses settled down for a relaxed chat session, such a nice way to pass the time while feeling a little smug about volunteering to leave our families to perform for the greater good for the holiday.

We’d been enjoying our leisure along with the sleeping babe for an hour or so, when the father came running to the lounge, where we’d told him we’d be, to breathlessly let us know, “There’s a little problem.”  

I jumped up and quickly asked, “Is your wife okay?”

“Oh, yes,” said he.  “But, the thing is that there’s a bat in her room!”

“A what?”

“A bat.  And it’s flying all over the place!  It scared the dickens out of us and we ran out into the hall, where my wife is right now.  I closed the door so it wouldn’t get out.”

I have to say, that was a new one for all of us!

We immediately put in an unusual call to Engineering and were rewarded with three of them who arrived moments later, each carrying a long-handled broom, at the ready to eradicate the malevolent intruder.  As a whole group of us stood by in the hall, the engineers, armed with their brooms, entered the room and swatted the ceiling and walls repeatedly, rat-a-tat-tat, until they’d dispatched with the unwanted Christmas visitor.  In little more than a minute or two they exited with the remains packaged in a pillowcase, never more to rampage through our hospital.  We sealed off the contaminated room, moved Mom into a new abode, sent for a new dinner and finally settled down once again for our nurses’ chat!

Epilogue:  I’m not sure exactly how old Abbott Northwestern was when I worked there Christmas of 1976, but our unit was on the top floor directly below the attic.  That’s probably how the little critter got into the warm patient room, and was trying to enjoy a respite from the cold Minnesota winter.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Adventure Afterthoughts

Saturday September 22, 2018

So I've been home from Israel for six days, during most of which I've sniffled and coughed my way through!  Yup, one more time after a long airline flight I've succumbed to, what is beginning to feel like, the inevitable and dreaded airline FLU.  My seat mates from London to San Jose were a lovely Chinese lady, who was flying from Beijing to San Jose to visit her daughter and grandchildren, and a young man from Moscow, Russia, who I think was flying to Silicon Valley for work!  What a world we live in!  I'm certainly not  making either of them the 'culprit' for my health demise this past week, but am acutely aware of how we are intertwined with the whole world when we travel.  I'll not give up on my yearning to experience all the world has to offer; but, I know some of my great experiences come at a price -  one I'm willing to pay because the experiences are worth it!

A thought about a past adventure - an anniversary trip many years ago:

We left Marin County, where we'd just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a party given by our three kids with relatives and many life-long friends.  It had been a complete surprise, orchestrated by Kari with help from Jeff and Spencer, catered by Caravancary Restaurant in San Francisco.  Little did we know at that time that Kari was beginning her preparation to become one of the world's best party planners and hostesses!

A couple of days after the Saturday- night soiree John and I boarded Quantas Airlines for the long flight from San Francisco to Cairns, Australia - crossing the international date line, a surreal experience.  Our wonderful present to ourselves was a meticulously-planned 6-week visit to Australia and New Zealand.

We arrived in Cairns around noon as I recall, but I couldn't connect the time of day and the day of the week, weird!  We retired in the afternoon and woke up the next morning.  That first full day in Australia was lots of fun as we took a bus tour of the region, seeing all kinds of interesting sites and made several new friends, including a lovely couple from Alice Springs, a city in the 'outback' that we were planning to visit a couple of weeks later. Australians, in my experience, are very warm, outgoing people, always up for conversation and friendship.  We found this to be true to a person, it's a very realistic compliment for these folks from 'down under.'

The Alice Springs couple asked us to meet them at a nearby body-surfing beach the next morning so we got up fairly early and breakfasted in our hotel before heading to a car-rental agency to procure a rental sedan for the next adventure, a drive of about five miles for our rendezvous and day at the beach.

John was getting himself accustomed to "driving on the wrong side of the road" on the sparsely-traveled country road along the coast of Australia, just north of the beginning of the Great Barrier Reef, which we'd also planned to investigate a few days later.  We were heading a little north of Cairns and were preparing to turn Right off the coastal road to the little road that would lead us to the beach where our new friends were staying (this would be equivalent to making a left turn in the US).  Not seeing any oncoming traffic, John started making the turn when, out of nowhere came a car, speeding way above the posted limit of 50 Km/hour (31mph), and, before we knew it, crashed into my side of the car.  I don't remember too much of the actual crash but John says we spun around a couple of times and ended up off the side of the road in a sand dune.  Immediately when the car stopped we checked with each other, finding John to be okay and me to be trapped in my seat, unable to move.

Within minutes the car was surrounded by people, many of whom were giving lots of what they thought to be valuable instructions about what should be done.  I soon realized that I was the focus of their concerns and consequently I became super concerned myself!  I called out for John, who'd gotten himself out of his driver's side of the car and was coming around to my side where he intended to try to open the passenger door.  Just then a lady proffered a cup to me through the broken side window, "Would you like a cuppa'?"  "No, thank you," I responded, feeling intense pain in the area of my upper back with difficulty talking, even breathing.  I went into nurse mode and to John I quickly whispered, "Honey, don't let them feed or move me, I think my back might be broken."  Arms were reaching out towards me from every direction, attempting to get ahold of my arms and head.  I was adamant, "Don't let them move me.  We have to wait for help!"  Somebody had said they'd called Emergency and that help would be there in minutes - and it was.  Fire Department, Ambulance, Police - all very professional, reassuring and helpful.  They explained to us that they would have to use the "jaws of life" to cut me out of the car, as the  left front wheel was now in the neighborhood of my chest - the car an accordion, the windshield frame behind my head, windshield glass gone!

After about 30 minutes of metal destruction with those giant jaws of life, the paramedic firemen were able to rescue me from the car and (with me giving military-class orders in the style of my dad and my nursing education!), they strapped me onto a backboard to restrict any motion of my head and spinal column, on to a gurney  and into the ambulance for the 30-minute, siren-blaring trip to the hospital.  Much of the next 24 hours is a blur - although I do remember I was covered with broken glass, couldn't move or breathe without considerable pain and was thankful for all the wonderfully conscientious medical personnel taking care of me.

I'm not going to recall for you all the memories of this experience; but I'll say that I'm forever grateful for the care I received at that hospital from the medical and nursing staff and including a friendship with one of my nurses that has lasted ever since.  I spent two weeks as an inpatient, that included much therapy and cooperation with my doctors back home in California.  I did not have any spinal fractures, which were my primary concern as I'd a history of multiple spinal surgeries for congenitally degenerating and ruptured discs and had undergone a four-level spinal fusion when I was 27-years old!  My back had given me grief most of my life so I was rather hyper-vigilant about how I was handled.  As the days went by I gradually lost the original panic I'd felt at the time of the accident.  The main extent of my injuries were 14 fractured ribs, a badly fractured collarbone and a collapsed lung, causing pain and breathing problems that would prevent me from returning to work at Marin General Hospital Surgery for six months!

But, the wonderful part of the story is the friendship that started with that night nurse, Jeanne, after I was moved out of intensive care to a medical ward.  She took such good nursing care of me - I was so very impressed with Australia's socialized medicine  - if it's the same now, I'd still be impressed! - not only medically, but emotionally and socially, becoming a good friend.  She and her husband also took it upon themselves to make sure John was comfortable and entertained during my hospitalization and they entertained both of us the several days we stayed in Cairns after I was discharged.  During my hospitalization they had him over for Australian hospitality in their home, showed him around the area and helped him plan the future of our vacation, with all the changes and modifications that would be needed.  

After approximately three weeks in north-eastern Australia, John and I flew to the capital, Sydney, Australia's largest city, where we were picked up by Jeanne's brother and sister-in-law, who accommodated my medical condition by having a wheelchair available for me upon arrival, providing all our transportation while we were in Sydney and acting as our personalized tour guides.

They made reservations for us to tour and have lunch at the famous Sydney Opera House on the beautiful waterfront, took us shopping in their wonderful downtown mall and, fulfilling one of my bucket list life-long desires - they arranged for me to visit the Taronga Zoo for a specially guided tour when it was not open to the public.  They wheeled me in my wheelchair around the zoo, to see many animals that are just not available to see up close in the US.  The highlight was at the koala exhibit where our guide went in and brought a baby koala out for me to hold.  Mama koala came out too, to make sure her joey was going to be okay in my arms.  What a treat - one I wouldn't have had if I'd not had that
 accident!  When you're given lemons, why not make lemonade? - so the saying goes!

I had, just the year before, graduated from Dominican University with a degree in Biology and Chemistry, so I was disappointed when I thought I wouldn't be able to see koalas and kangaroos up close.  Those lovely people made my dream a reality.

Our Australia vacation had been planned for six weeks.  The accident occurred on the third day and it took over six weeks for us to return home:  two weeks in the hospital, three days in Cairns after hospital discharge, a week in Sydney, almost two weeks in Fiji (that's a story for another time) and finally over a week in Hawaii before actually making it home.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Tel Aviv to Heathrow, London to San Jose International Airport to Home, Sweet Home

Hi Everybody:

Yes, we arrived back in El Dorado Hills about noon today.  Lisa and I had decided that it would be the better part of valor to spend one more hotel night in San Jose, rather than make the three hour trip home last night.

We checked into the Wyndom Hotel after picking up my car at our friend Cheryl's house.  I'd parked it in her garage so it was well protected during our adventure.  The British Airways flight from Tel Aviv to Heathrow was just over 5 ½ hours.  Then we had almost a five hour layover in London, where I ate yummy fish and chips with malt vinegar and tartar sauce.  The direct flight from London to San Jose was 11 hours.  By the time we arrived in San Jose, went through customs, Uber-ed to Cheryl's house and drove to the hotel I was really exhausted so I took a shower and went straight to bed at 7:30 and slept until 6 this morning!

 Shots of London.  See the Themes River 

Heathrow Airport

I still have lots more to share about various sites we visited during our two-week trip, but, for now I'm glad to be home safe and sound.