Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Recent reading

I have very much been on the non-fiction train since the beginning of the year. 

In fact, if I consider The Marriage Bureau, which is a true story with dialogue and narrative filled in by the author, non-fiction, then that is what makes up 100 percent of books I have finished in 2023. 

As an aside, Kelly (who recommended The Marriage Bureau) and I had a texting discussion this morning about how this excellent book would be categorized. It is a true story, but the author takes liberties as I just described. We agreed it would be similar to In Cold Blood in which Truman Capote chronicled the story of the heinous murders that took place in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959, but inserted imagined dialogue and settings among various parties. 

According to my research, it was Capote who coined the term "non-fiction novel." So, I am going to refer to The Marriage Bureau as a non-fiction novel and confirm all my reading this year has been non-fiction. (And since I have spent so much time telling you about this book, I'll also take the time to highly recommend it.)

But I digress. 

My main point in this post is to tell you about a couple of the books I have read, both of which are memoirs, but are very different in content. 

The first is Spare, by Prince Harry. And let me just say to the nay-sayers, I agree I could have probably better spent my time. But the royal family, and the U.K. in general, holds great interest for me. On principle, I would never have bought this book, but as soon as it came out, I put my name on the list to get it on my electronic reader through my library. 

The first estimate I was given for the wait time was, as I recall, 24 weeks, as I was something like 80th in line for a handful of volumes available. That was fine with me. I was in no rush. It seems, however, it took less than half that time. So, when it popped up for me, I grabbed it and read it. 

My impressions? Well, I am sympathetic toward Harry in the death of his mother at the hands of the paparazzi who chased her car through the streets of Paris. He had some tough times growing up. 

I'm also sympathetic toward the situation with his wife Meghan and I don't necessarily blame them for fleeing his homeland to seek a better life for their family. If you believe what he writes in the book, she was near suicide, and he was saving her life. 

This book, however, is his clear retaliation toward his family. After Spare, I don't see how the rift with his family, especially Prince William (referred to by Harry as Willy) and King Charles, is ever repaired. If I were them, I don't think I would be very interested in reconciliation after what he wrote. 

It is rather ironic that, while a recurring theme throughout the book is his complaint about never having any privacy, he seems to have no problem airing his family's dirty laundry for the world to read about. 

Also, the more I read, the less I liked Harry. While he took some responsibility for missteps on his part (for example, when he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party), for the most part, his narrative consists of self-serving finger pointing. I couldn't help but think, in many ways, he did a lot of whining for someone who was (and is) very privileged. 

I will say he expressed great affection for his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The books ends with the queen's death. 

Am I glad I read it? Yes. I found it very interesting. And if you would like an inside look at the royals, I would recommend it, but would also recommend you read with a critical eye, keeping in mind the ones of which he is so critical would also have a side to this story. 

The other memoir I wanted to tell you about is All My Knotted Up Life by Beth Moore. Moore, a renowned Bible teacher who has written numerous Bible studies and started a conference series for women called Living Proof, made headlines during the past several years for her outspoken opposition to Donald Trump and her eventual parting from the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination in which she grew up and whose publishing arm (Lifeway) published most of her studies and sponsored her conferences. 

My wife has gone through several of Beth Moore's studies and has enjoyed them immensely. I never really knew much about her until she made news for what I just described. From reading the book I learned we are about the same age and grew up less than 100 miles from each other in south Arkansas until she moved to Houston before her sophomore year of high school. 

The book captured my interest because I enjoy memoirs, and what I had heard about Beth Moore intrigued me. I admired her courage in speaking out about her convictions and holding fast when criticized for doing so. 

And I can say, after reading her book, she is a gifted writer. She is also outrageously funny. She incorporates southern euphemisms and dialect into her narrative, something with which I easily identify. 

What I most admire about her, of course, is her faith. She writes about it without being preachy and presents herself, warts and all, as a humble servant of Christ. 

Even if Christianity is not your thing, if you enjoy memoirs as I do, I think this book might be enjoyable for you. 

So there you have it -- two very different memoirs by two very different people. Let me know if you decide to read either or both. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Play ball!

 Wife and I made a quick trip to Florida over the weekend (and Monday) to go to some spring training baseball games. 

I've been to spring training several times now, and it's always a lot of fun. We stayed in Tampa, arriving Friday night. Saturday we drove to North Point, where the Atlanta Braves have their own spring training venue at Cool Today Park. 

After the game, we drove to a beach near Sarasota and watched the sunset.

On Sunday, we only had to drive a few miles to George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to see the Yankees play the Braves. 

We closed it out Monday with a visit to Bradenton to see the Pirates play the Phillies at the classic LECOM Park, which is 100 years old. While definitely showing its age (the seats were not exactly what one would call comfortable!), it is a splendid little ballpark. 

We were back home last night with memories of a fun three days. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Being a parent; Dry January

Wife and I happened upon a TV show recently, the concept of which I still do not fully understand because we have only seen two partial episodes. 

From what I have seen, however, it appears to be a sort of debate among parents who use different styles of raising their children. Helicopter, traditional, negotiator, child-led, strict and new age are some of the labels I remember. There are different scenarios the parents, with their children, are placed in, and all the parent teams watch the footage, then critique each other. It appears there will eventually be some type of vote, and a winner named.

Obviously, as you can see, I have seen only enough to give this cursory description, and I am sure there is more to it than what I have just recounted. 

The last time we watched, the families went to a zoo where the children handled snakes. The point was to help children overcome their fears, and different parents had different ways of doing it. 

There is a zero percent chance I would have ever participated in such an activity. 

Watching has caused me to think back on how we raised our children. I guess we were what you might call traditional. I don't think we were overly strict. It would not have occurred to me to be "child led" and I don't believe adults negotiating with children is feasible. We probably crossed over into being helicopter parents every once in a while, but I tried not to. I wanted my sons and daughter to learn the hard lessons on their own. 

In short, we weren't perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But by God's grace, we managed to rear humans who today are well adjusted, responsible adults. All three own homes, hold down good jobs (as do their spouses) and are married, and two have children of their own. To be sure, those are not necessarily measurements of success or character, but I hope they are indicators of responsibility. (And I am pleased to say, with all humility, they are in fact possessed of good character.) 

Maybe each generation of parents says this, but I believe it is more difficult to raise children today. With all the electronics, the internet and everything available at one's fingertips, I would think the job of achieving balance is harder than ever. 

I am happy to help with the grands as much as I can and spend time with them whenever possible, but I am grateful not to be solely responsible for them. 


For the past several years, I have engaged in "Dry January" in which I refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages for the first month of the year. This year I started January 2nd, as we had friends over the night of January 1st, and I wanted to toast the new year with them. Certainly, I could have toasted with anything wet, but since I get to make the rules, I chose the second as my start date. 

As it has been each January I have done it, I don't miss the drinks at all. I think it was late February last year before I broke the alcohol fast. 

My drink of choice is beer, with an occasional glass of wine or a rare cocktail. I have what is affectionately called a "beer fridge" in the garage with an assortment of offerings, and there is a craft brewery not far from my home that I enjoy visiting on occasion. 

But no, I don't really miss it. I won't wake up February 1st (or 2nd, since I started a day late) counting the minutes until Happy Hour. In fact, I'm sure I won't even imbibe that day. 

But neither do I have any convictions that I should permanently abstain. My alcohol consumption is in moderation, and a day will come after February 2nd when I decide a cold beer will hit the spot. 

Until that day, it's Cheers with a Diet Coke. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Canadian Christmas (Eve) (sort of)

It was another international Christmas Eve for our family recognizing the 14th country or region since we started this wacky tradition. This year it was Canada. 

With our three adult children married and with our now having five grandchildren, we are flexible with our dates. As we have done for the past couple of years, we pretended Christmas Eve was Dec. 26th and Christmas Day the 27th. 

It was our 15th time to do it, but a few years ago, for our tenth year, we had a "festival of nations" in which we celebrated the nine previous countries. So, this was our 14th country. 

Here is the rundown, going back to our first year, 2008: 

2008 -- Mexico

2009 -- Italy

2010 -- Greece

2011 -- Asian

2012 -- France

2013 -- Caribbean

2014 -- Germany

2015 -- England

2016 -- Brazil

2017 -- Festival of Nations

2018 -- India

2019 -- Cuba

2020 -- Australia

2021 -- Ireland

2022 -- Canada

Canada was great. We started with poutine, which Wife said was the recipe that popped up most often when she searched for native Canada dishes. It's French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy and although I politely refused, I pulled out some of the fries, which we made ourselves, and they were delicious. 

As usual, we started with appetizers and drinks in the entry hall. This included the poutine, Labatt Blue beer and a signature drink Wife prepared. 

For the main meal in the dining room (see below), we had lobster rolls, a mixed vegetable dish called hodgepodge, Canadian baked beans and a pita sandwich for which Wife made an intricate meat mixture. There were a couple of delicious desserts. 

Dress was heavy toward the "Canadian tuxedo," which is denim on bottom and top. And of course, the dining room was decorated in a Canadian theme. 

It was another great time, and we'll soon start thinking about next year. 

Any suggestions?