Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Nightingale

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was afraid to read this book. I am extra sensitive to the atrocities and cruelty during what I consider to be one of the darkest times in world history- World War II. And though this book does have a lot of the dark in it, it also has light. We get to know some special women, who rise above their fear and make choices to help others and relieve human suffering. It has been about a month since I finished the book, and that is what I mostly remember about it: lessons of courage, love, and choosing good. It has caused me to analyze myself and wonder how I would react in similar circumstances. I hope I never know.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Perfect Holiday

The Perfect HolidayThe Perfect Holiday by Michael Banebrook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was asked to read and review this romance book written by a local author. The editing was poor, but the story was cute. It made a nice, light vacation read. I would read a sequel to find out what happened to the characters.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin OlympicsThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This non-fiction book about the crew that won the rowing gold medal in the 1936 Olympics held in Germany was outstanding. It is the story of Joe Rantz (one of the members of the University of Washington team that won the right to compete at the Olympics) and his difficult life. But as he emphatically told the author, it is more than just HIS story. It is the story of “the boys in the boat.” I loved learning the history of the time, team and events. And I loved Joe and the example of his human spirit rising above all his adversities. It is a story about sports, overcoming extreme trials, and even includes a beautiful love story. Even though you know how the story will end, the conclusion is “on the edge of your seat” exciting.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Because of Mr. Terupt

Because of Mr. TeruptBecause of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This little book is a great read for pre- and early teens. Using students from Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class as narrators, you learn about and from an inspiring and dedicated teacher, Mr. Terupt. And you learn about and identify with each of the seven narrators. For readers around that age, I would recommend this emotional, funny, and thought-provoking book.

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Sunday, August 27, 2017


SummerlostSummerlost by Ally Condie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this young adult fiction book. The writing is very good and the setting, though disguised, is close to my home, and I recognized the places and the festival described. The main characters are real and lovable. The themes are grief, growing up, friendship, dreams, bullying, special needs children, and even a very small touch of appropriate romance. Because the writing is so good, I recommend this book to readers of all ages.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fence Art

Another fun thing in our area of Japan was the art they would do on the very common metal rail fences.  We would see this fence art all over and took a few pictures of it.  Close up, it just looks like random stripes of paint on the rails, but from far away and at an angle, you can see that together they are pictures or designs.
This one we saw all the time.  It was just a half block or so from our apartment.  It was sakura or cherry blossoms.  There were cherry trees planted behind the fence.

Close up, it just looks like stripes of pink paint.


There were many, many more.  Isn't their fence art clever and fun?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Reconnecting a Missionary with His Convert from Many Years Ago

Though Grandpa and Grandma Sugawara did not attend church anymore, you could feel their testimonies.  They lived in the same home with their wonderful son and his wife and family (very common in Japan.)  Ken was their home teacher.  One Sunday we went to visit.  We referred to a scripture in the lesson, and she opened her scriptures to find it.  We noticed a picture- a wedding announcement inside.  She said it was the missionary who brought them the gospel many years before.  She said she had not heard from him since receiving his wedding announcement about twenty years ago. 
I suggested that we might be able to find him on facebook.  So we went home and did some looking.  Even though he had a somewhat common name, with information she had given us, and with this picture, Ken found who he was pretty sure was the one we were looking for. So Ken sent a message through facebook to him.   It took quite a while, but he eventually checked facebook and was overwhelmed and delighted to find Ken's message.  He wrote back, sending pictures of  his time in Tsuruoka and the baptisms and the conversion story as he remembered it.  He sent pictures of his family now and a message to the Sugawaras.  Here are some of the pictures he sent:

Brother Sugawara's baptsim

Brother Sugawara bearing testimony

Sister Sugawara's baptism

Their son's baptism

The missionary's happy family now.
Though his version and  Sister Sugawar's versions of the conversion story were slightly different, their conversion was a true miracle.  Sister Sugawara had seen two young men in a dream and felt that they had a gift for her and that she should accept their gift.  Shortly thereafter, this elder and his companion stopped by and she said they could come back later and teach her.  She listened to their message and knew it was true. 
It was a sweet experience to reconnect a missionary with their convert from many years ago.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Toilets in Japan

We are missing our Japanese toilet.  It was a beautiful, happy thing.  Japanese toilets are amazing.  The seats are heated, they squirt water, some even sing and dance- just kidding on the dancing. 
In the olden days, Japanese had the worst toilets.  They were just like urinals placed in the ground- requiring squatting.  It seems they went from one extreme to the other- from the worst possible to the best possible.
These kind of toilets are still everywhere in Japan- in public restrooms and, I'm assuming, in many older private homes as well.  Japanese people are used to squatting, so think nothing of using this kind of toilet.  Luckily, most public places also had at least one stall with a "western-style" toilet as well.  I only had to use one of these once on our whole mission- when there was no other choice.  It wasn't pretty.

Because Japanese people are used to squatting and probably had no idea how to even use a western-style toilet when they were first introduced, instructions were more often than not mounted on the walls of public restrooms- complete with illustrations.  I thought it was funny that the instructions were also written in English.  Believe me, English-speaking people do NOT need these instructions! At least not Americans!
This is a close-up of the buttons displaying the many functions of the toilet. 
So there you have it!  I know you wanted to know about toilets in Japan.  If I've sold you, you can buy the seats here:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hattie Big Sky

Hattie Big Sky (Hattie, #1)Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This historical fiction book is based on the true story of the author’s grandmother. During WWI, though only fifteen years old, she inherits a homestead in Montana and travels by herself to live there and “prove up” on that claim. Well-written, exciting, and funny at times, this book was a delightful read. Though written for young adults, I recommend it for all ages. I think Hattie is a literary hero all young girls need to meet.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Mission Trial- Knee Injury

This is a gross post.  If you are squeamish, skip it.  I haven't posted it before now for just that reason.  But, I decided I wanted to post it.  As I look back on our mission, this was one of my biggest trials.  It was scary and painful and difficult.  But it also was a faith-promoting experience- as trials often are.

Our cute, little middle school-aged neighbor, Ayano, was participating in a school track meet at a local sports park.  Ken and I went to watch her, support her and cheer her on.  We watched her run a couple of races, then her grandma came down to where we were sitting in the stands and invited us to come up higher with them to watch her throw the javelin.

As we were walking up, I focused on where we were going instead of watching my footing.  There was a drain in the concrete floor.  But, instead of sloping down to the drain as ours do, this one was actually cut out of the concrete, creating a dip with a lip or edge.  My foot caught and I went down hard, skinning both knees, but especially the left one badly.
We went right home and cleaned, dressed, and iced the wound.  It didn't look too bad then.  But just you wait.

It turned lovely shades of purple and blue.  It was badly swollen and it hurt.

The purple drained down into my foot and ankle.  My whole leg was swollen and painful. 
To this day, my ankle still is purple and a little bit swollen.  It has never completely gone away.

You can see how swollen it was.

For several weeks, we stayed in as much as possible and I elevated my leg.  We still did a lot.  We had to go to eikaiwa, missionary meetings, church, and even helped put on a missionary open house at the church.  But, we didn't do many visits or schedule extra appointments.  It was during this time that we traveled to Sendai to attend a special meeting with Apostle Gary Stevenson.
But the wound became infected.  That's scary when you have an artificial knee.

Sorry.  These pictures are particularly gross.  I was scared.  We had to travel to Yamagata for interviews with the mission president.  Our president was an orthopedic surgeon.  He volunteered to look at my knee. He cautioned about the dangers of infection.  I decided to put myself on antibiotics.  I had brought some with us.  So, I started taking them.

I would have Ken take pictures of the wound because I couldn't see it well.  It was pretty gross.
After I started the antibiotics, it gradually got better and better:

It took almost two months.  There is still a scar- it was a deep scrape.  We were blessed.  All throughout this trial, I was so fearful that we would have to go home.  It made me realize how badly I did NOT want to go home before our mission was complete.  I wanted to do the work God had sent us there to do.  The elders and Ken gave me a beautiful blessing where I was assured it would heal and that we would be able to finish our mission.  I am so grateful for the fulfillment of that blessing!