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Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Invention of Wings

"History is not just facts and events, history is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another's pain in the heart our own." Professor Julius Lester

When this book was first released, I read several reviews and put it at the top of my "to read" list.  I finally made time for it by listening and my only regret is that I didn't read it sooner.  The writing was beautiful and the story was fascinating.  I listened which added another layer since the two narrators really brought the characters of Sarah and Heddy to life.  I finished the book while running on Christmas morning - it was snowing and quiet and the roads were empty.  I took a moment and just stood there thinking about the characters in the book and all they did to bless the lives of so many who would come after them.  I thought a lot about what type of person I would have been if I had been placed in another situation and lifetime.  I like to think that my personality is inherent, that I would have been more like Sarah than her sisters, but who knows.  There really is so much of my life that I take for granted - the ability to learn and be educated, speak my mind, travel freely, etc.  This book reminded me of all of the important issues, and at the same time, kept me completely entertained.  I share the following review because she put so many of my thoughts into words.  And as far as a grade for the book?  Solid A

By Bobbi Dumas: I don't remember how old I was when I discovered some of the more harrowing chapters of human history — the Holocaust and American slavery — but I do remember convincing my young self that I would have been brave had I lived in those times. I would have hidden my Jewish friend Anne Frank; I would have been a station on the Underground Railroad. I would have stood up for humanity and against injustice. Later, I was not quite as zealous or stalwart. I considered such acts with a keener sense of how it felt to be ostracized, and a deeper understanding of how much I wanted to belong — or survive. And I found myself contemplating those past selves — the girls and women I've been over the course of my life — while reading Sue Monk Kidd's newest novel, The Invention of Wings. In simple terms, the book is the fictionalized history of the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina (Nina), who were at the forefront of the abolitionist and women's rights movements, wound around the intriguing narrative of a young slave, Hetty, who was given to Sarah as an 11th birthday present. Sarah despises slavery, even at that early age, and out of principle attempts to reject the gift.
Much of the Grimkés' story is historically based: Kidd has fleshed out mountains of research — facts, figures, dates, letters, and articles — into a believable and elegantly rendered fictional first person account of Sarah's life. But though Hetty was real, her story here is almost entirely fabricated — and perhaps because she is mostly a product of Kidd's imagination, Hetty's character seems truly inspired.iShe maintains a spirited independence in her internal life. She survives cruelty and servitude by creating rituals and touchstones that she imbues with meaning and power. She both benefits and is injured by her complicated relationship with Sarah, who can neither free her nor protect her when she truly needs it. And yet, for many years, it almost seems as if Hetty is more psychologically free than Sarah, despite the external reality of being a slave.
A pivotal moment in the book comes with the discovery that Sarah has taught Hetty to read — a criminal offense in antebellum South Carolina. Punishment is cruel for both girls; Sarah is banned from her favorite things in the world: her father's library and his books. Hetty is whipped. But then Hetty learns to sew, and grows to be the best seamstress in Charleston. Ultimately it is this talent that will offer her freedom: spiritually, in the form of a quilt that tells the story of her family, and possibly physically, in the way of a disguise that may allow her to escape. Inside her head, Hetty always has hope. She believes in her ability to get free, she manages to create an internal life of ideas and possibility, and she is able to carve out a sliver of independence within the context of her life.
Meanwhile, Sarah's family ridicules her hope to study law, labeling it unseemly because she is a woman. She is shattered and cowed by their conviction that being a woman means she has no right to ambition. Overcoming that obstacle is a long, painful journey full of self-doubt; she'll face prejudice toward her sex the rest of her life, even as she creates a national following for her abolitionist crusade. Sarah may read, think, or speak — as long as she doesn't make any men uncomfortable by doing so.
I'm not sure any of my selves, at any point in my life, would have been as brave or formidable as Hetty or Sarah, though I'd like to think so. I am grateful that Kidd, an exquisite and masterful writer, explores these difficult topics and complex ideas and does so unflinchingly — yet somehow leaves us feeling uplifted and hopeful. And finally, I am appalled that I had never heard of the Grimkés before, and thank the author sincerely for allowing me to make their acquaintance.The novel is a textured masterpiece, quietly yet powerfully poking our consciences and our consciousness. What does it mean to be a sister, a friend, a woman, an outcast, a slave? How do we use our talents to better ourselves and our world? How do we give voice to our power, or learn to empower our voice?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dear Santa

We continued what has become tradition of dinner and Santa at the Riverwoods with Cory and Calvin.  I wondered how Luke would react - he talks about Santa constantly, but is pretty withdrawn around strangers.  As soon as we arrived at Santa's house it was like a reunion with an old friend.  He waited at the front of the line and as soon as it was his turn, ran up and put his arms up for Santa to lift him up.  He told Santa that he wanted toys, and appeared to be content to sit there as long as possible. Poor Ruby...I thought she would give him her shy response and look down quietly.  Not quite, the poor girl was terrified and screamed as soon as Tim sat her on Santa's lap.  Santa did his best to comfort her but this was clearly not her year for bonding with the Jolly one.

We invite Cory, of course because we love him, but we especially love his skills with a camera.  Once we left Santa's house, the kids ran around enjoying the magic.  They loved the lights and were super cute to watch dancing to the live music that was in the pavilion.  This was one of those sweet moments as a parent - I just loved being there with Tim and the kids, nothing better than watching your kids have such a great time discovering the world.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

December - Part I

We have really made an effort this December to embrace the season and enjoy the magic as seen through the eyes of little ones.   I actually have to remind myself of this almost daily because it is so easy to get caught up in the business of life.  Lucky I have the kids to keep me focused.  As soon as I started putting up Christmas decorations Luke started talking about Santa, telling me that he is his friend and that Santa brings us toys and presents.  Even Ruby seems to recognize the big guy, every time she sees something with Santa she says "Ho, Ho, Ho" - except for when she actually sees Santa, then she is terrified.

Last year we brought the Little People Nativity for Luke and he absolutely loved it - Sheepie was his favorite and has been with us all year.  Luke was pretty excited to have the whole gang back together. It's been cute to watch him play with it, he knows who everyone is and likes to name each one.  He keeps all of the figures in a large Ziploc bag in his crib most of the time to keep Ruby from playing with them.

Tim has been looking for a long time and finally found the car of his dreams in California.  After a quick flight, almost getting mugged, sleeping all night on the floor in the airport, and more than a few revisions of the plan he and his dream car finally met and headed home.  It's been fun to see him so excited about this car. 

One of our favorite traditions is dinner at The Pizza Factory and then the Spanish Fork Festival of Lights.  In years past we have all crammed into Jarin and Jami's van which was quite the adventure. This year we had several more people and decided that there was no way the van would work.  The weather has been pretty mild for December so we decided to take Cory's truck.  Grandma and Grandpa and the babies rode in the cab to stay warm and the rest of us piled in the bed.  We forgot that it is always windy in Spanish Fork which made it pretty chilly, but with Jami's hot chocolate, and some loud caroling (mostly to embarrass Ada), we all stayed warm and toasty.

Jessica and I headed out early Saturday morning mid December to do her last long run before her New Years Eve marathon.  It was cold and rainy and I had been feeling sick, so I told her that I was only willing to run 10 out of her 20 miles.  As always, we loved the chance to spend a few hours together - a lot of chatting with a little running on the side.  I made it 11.5 miles then Jess had to finish the rest on her own.  

My parents were in charge of their ward Christmas party and decided on the the theme of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman".  For weeks we heard about all of the plans and the work that they (along with the unofficial committee members, Jarin and Jami) were doing so we decided to go to be supportive and see the finished product.  We all had such a good time: ham dinner, photo booth, snowman building, and lots of cousin time.  It was great to see the party be such a success.  

My mom had energy left over to help the grandkids paint Christmas ornaments on Sunday afternoon. Too bad Luke wasn't willing to take off his shirt too, I'm not sure the paint will ever come out completely.

Tim and the kids surprised me at work with these beautiful flowers.  

I have never really gotten into building gingerbread houses.  I never feel like I know what I'm doing, this is another area where my lack of creativity keeps me from trying. I saw this kit at the store a few weeks ago and decided that the kids wouldn't care how the house turned out - they would just love to build it.  Friday morning Luke and I, with a little cheerleading from Ruby, built what he refers to as "Santa's House".  He is so proud of it and made sure that we put it front and center for everyone to see.

We have had a great month so far, and I can hardly wait to see what the rest of the holiday season brings.