Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon

The Hugh de Singleton series are set in the Middle Ages in Bampton (of Downton Abbey fame) and Oxford in the UK and written from the point of view of a surgeon and bailiff by the name of Hugh de Singleton.  These are mystery novels that will keep you guessing until the end, but at the same time they aren't intense heart-pounding mysteries.  A lot of the action is really just Hugh de Singleton sharing his thoughts with us. the readers.  That may sound boring, but since Hugh de Singleton isn't a boring person, neither is his thinking.

I've never been big on reading books set in the Middle Ages.  It's just not a time period that intrigues me, mainly because most of what I've read is all about knights and wars and I find that boring.  But I think the fact that the author really knows what he's talking about makes these books different.

The author, Mel Starr, has an MA in history and taught history in public schools for 39 years.  This is important to note because Mr. Starr does a great job of avoiding anachronisms in his writing.  The books seem to be true to the era in which they take place.  In an interview which you can read here, Mr. Starr is asked "What do you most hope readers will get from reading your work?"  His answer is, "I hope they will learn something of life in 14th century England, the challenges and triumphs of people of that time, and will be able to escape to that world for a few enjoyable hours. Escaping for a few hours is all most modern people would want to do; we would not want to live there and then, I think."  I think he has done a great job of meeting his objective.

I've read three so far:  The Unquiet Bones, A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel, and A Trail of Ink.  I think there are eight in all which I hope to eventually read.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reading Biographies

I do a lot of reading and I make sure I read some non-fiction, you know, to expand my mind.  But my favorite genres are novels and biographies/auto-biographies.  Biographical literature is almost as good as novels are.  Sometimes the stories are almost unbelievable and it's always inspiring to see what people overcome.  Christian biographies are especially good as they often show what can be done with a life completely obedient to Christ.  Many of the biographies I read are just about ordinary people who haven't done anything spectacular....at least not according to them.


One of the auto-biographies I read recently was called The Strength to Stand; My Cancer, My Blessing by David Adams.  David was just an ordinary guy working at a restaurant when he started having migraines that would last for days and that would end up making him pass out and he would have tingling down one side of his body.  He was diagnosed with brain cancer.  This is a simple story in a sense....he's just an ordinary guy and he didn't do anything spectacular....other than go through treatments for cancer, which is pretty rough.  He shares openly about how his family had problems relating with each other and how God used his cancer to bring some healing to the family.  Mostly he just shares honestly about his struggles and how God used him to bless so many hospital staff he met along the way.

The second auto-biography I read was Just One SIM-Air Story by Rich Schaffer.  When I was a kid in Nigeria we flew to and from boarding school on SIMAIR, so this book was very nostalgic for me.  Rich does a great job of describing the Nigerian landscape, the storms, some of the challenges of flying during the Biafran War, and his thoughts of life in Niger where he sometimes flew.  Anybody who had ever been in Nigeria and flew SIMAIR would probably enjoy this book.  The problem with it (and with many self-published books) is that it could have used more editing.  Parts of it are really long and maybe interesting to pilots, but a bit technical for the rest of us.  

The third book, which I'm currently reading, is probably not classified as a biography.  It is Ben Carson's book entitled America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made this Nation Great.  The parts of the book that I enjoy the most are the parts where Dr. Carson tells about his life.  He grew up in poverty in Detroit.  His dad had left when he was about five and his mom worked two to three jobs at a time to care for him and his brother.  They often only saw her on weekends.  By 5th grade he was failing school, was classified as the class dummy, and was well on his way to being a failure. As he began failing in school, his self-esteem plummeted, too. His mother was terrified that he and his brother would be stuck in poverty for the rest of their lives.    She prayed for wisdom and came up with the idea of turning off the television and making the boys read two books from the public library every week.  They then had to write book reports.  She had a third grade education and could barely read herself, but the boys didn't know that.

Dr. Carson says, "...in the beginning I sure hated reading those books.  After a while, however, I actually began to look forward to them, because they afforded me a fantastic escape from our everyday poverty and sense of hopelessness.  There in the city, books about nature captivated me.  First I read Chip, The Dam Builder, then other animal stories over the years up to Jack London's Call of the Wild as my reading ability increased.  I began to imagine myself as a great explorer or scientist or doctor.  I learned things no one else around me knew.  Every single day my knowledge of our world expanded, which excited me to no end.  And since I was constantly reading, I became a much better speller and started becoming competitive in the spelling bees.
     "Once I started believing I was smart, I really didn't care that much about what anybody else thought about me, and I became consumed with a desire to increase my learning far beyond that of my classmates.  The more I read biographies about those who had made significant accomplishments in life, the more I wanted to emulate them.  By the time I reached the seventh grade, I reveled in the fact that the same classmates who used to taunt me were now coming to me, asking how to solve problems or spell words.  Once the joy of learning filled my heart, there was no stopping me."

Isn't that awesome?  I'm sure we can all come up with examples of people who have made something of themselves who don't really read, but I'm guessing there are more examples that prove Dr. Carson's point that reading is important if you want to get ahead in life.

Have you read any good biographies lately?

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Happy Birthday Tera Evelynne! .....with favorite pictures from the past year

     Happy first birthday, little girl!  

August 8, 2014, two hours old
Grandpa and Grandma wish we were there with you.  We sent you some gifts to show our love, but how much nicer it would be to be able to give them to you in person!

One month old
     In some ways we feel like we have missed an entire year of your life, little one, and are setting out to miss the second year.  On the other hand, we feel that we haven't missed a thing because every day, with mommy's help, you write a letter to us and send us a picture. 

Two months old
     When I was a little girl and my mommy and daddy were missionaries, I only got to see my grandparents every four years. 

Three months old
I loved time we spent with them when we were on furlough, but then four years would go by and we didn't get to see them.  We couldn't call, Skype, or email.  We could and did write letters.  And that's just the way it was.  

Four months old
I remember my dad saying once that it was hard for my Grandma and Grandpa Gay to see their grandkids go off to Africa and I wondered about that because to me going to Africa was a good thing.  

Five months old

     And then your mommy and Uncle Dan were born and grew up in Africa.  They got to see their grandparents a little more often because both sets did a short term in Nigeria.  Both sets of grandparents came to visit us at least twice, too.  But we lived in a town without telephones and we couldn't call or Skype.  By the time your mommy and Uncle Dan were a little older, we had once-a-month internet when we traveled to the big city.  

Six months old
But they, too, went long periods of time without seeing their grandparents.  More than once I wished their grandparents could be more involved in your mommy's and Uncle Dan's lives all the time, not just on home assignment.

Seven months old
Then when you were born, Tera, I realized how much my grandparents and your mommy's and Uncle Dan's grandparents gave up.  Then I understood why it was hard for my Grandma and Grandpa Gay to say good-bye to us.  

Eight months old and on the move!
I guess as a kid I just thought grown-ups would understand and that they didn't grieve their grandchildren.  Part of it was the inability of children to understand what others are feeling and part of it was just that I had no idea.

Nine months old

     But now I'm a grandma and I realize how much of your life I'm missing.  I'd love to be there to help your mommy on her difficult days.  I'd love to babysit.  When you're older I hope we can have "Grandpa and Grandma Camp" with you, your siblings, and your cousins.  I want to come to your birthday parties, your school programs, your church Christmas pageants, and your sports events.  When we are on furlough, we'll do all these things.  And when we retire I pray we have many years of good health and strength to be involved in your life.

Ten months old with your Great Grandma and Grandpa Hall
     But for now God wants us in Niger.  Most days are good and I'm content.  But there are days when I would just like to be together as a family.  Days like today are hard because we love you so very much.

Eleven months old
     I hope one thing you learn from Grandma and Grandpa is that when we obey God it isn't always easy, but it's always good, and it's always the right thing to do.  He gives us joy and contentment even when our hearts long to be with you. 
     We love you, Tera Evelynne, and wish you a very happy birthday!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

A Day in the Life

Suzanne asked me to do a guest post for her at The Glorious Mundane.  She wanted me to describe a typical day.  She also said I could post the same story on my blog, so here you are:

At 5:15 I try to untangle myself from the sheet and mosquito net and groggily fumble for my alarm, desperately trying to silence it before it wakes up John.  My first stop is the bathroom where I throw a load of laundry in the machine. 



All of our drinking water has to be filtered and we try to keep a good supply of cold water on hand to eliminate frequent opening of the fridge.  It’s hot here and we drink a lot!  So I empty three or four trays of ice cubes into a tray so we can quickly grab a handful to toss in our drinks.  Then I put a big block of ice in our Igloo water jug with some fresh cold water.  Throughout the day we’ll take our drinking water from the Igloo.  Finally I refill all the ice cube trays and water jugs with filtered water.  My reward is a nice cold drink of water since I always feel somewhat dehydrated by morning.  With it I wash down my thyroid pill. 


Next is my time alone with God.  I’m not really a morning person, but I’ve trained myself to get up early just so I can have my alone time.  Part of it is that if I don’t do it then, other things push in and before I know it, it’s the end of the day and I still haven’t spent time alone with God.  Part of it is also that as an introvert I just need that the-house-is-quiet-I’m-all-alone time. 


Some mornings I get dressed for work right away….I did today.  Other mornings I do some exercises or go for a walk so I get dressed for work afterwards.  After my devotions I head back to the bathroom to put on a touch of make-up.  


I quickly grab the laundry out of the machine and hang it out.  Today, being Tuesday, our house helper comes.  Sometimes I just let him hang it out, but if I wait it gets more wrinkled.  And I knew if I got it up it would dry in time for him to be able to do the ironing. 


Then it’s time for breakfast which consists of yogurt and granola and a piece of papaya and a quick check of my email, hoping for my daily picture of my grandbaby, Tera.  Yep, there’s one there!  Yeah!!! 



A glance at the clock tells me it’s 7:30 and time to get to the office.  Most days I walk, but today I drive because there is a pile of dirty laundry at the office that I need to bring home to wash.  You may wonder about dirty laundry at the office.  Well, we also have three apartments upstairs above the office and since somebody had just left I promised to do their sheets and towels.  It looks like we need to wash our windshield!  


We start the day at the office with devotions.  I enjoy this time of the morning.  We sing a few songs, read the Bible and a devotional book, and pray together.  It’s a good way to start the day. 


Crystal, the Short Term Associate Coordinator, and I meet together first thing on Tuesday morning to plan out our week. 


We have a lot of new arrivals coming in this week, so together we work on putting together welcome packets. 

  

She’ll do this completely on her own soon, but we don’t have her set up yet with a computer that connects to a printer.  Crystal and I also met with Kossi, our travel coordinator, to make sure we all know who will pick up the new arrivals at the airport.  It’s pretty scary to arrive in a strange country with nobody at the airport to meet you, so we do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen! 

Tuesday is my favorite day of the week because all of the office staff get together for coffee break.  Somebody brings in a cake and we just sit around and talk to each other.




Crystal and I also talked about mentoring and a new thing we’re going to try this year. 


We are going to meet weekly with all of our new arrivals in a Thrive Group just to talk over the week, check in with everybody to see how they’re doing, discuss things such as culture and traffic and spiritual warfare and security and whatever else interests or concerns people.  Galmi Hospital has a lot of short-termers and they’ve tried this approach, so we thought we’d give it a try, too.


I had time to answer a few emails before lunch. 


By then the morning was pretty much over so I headed home with my pile of laundry.  It’s siesta time!  We get two hours off for lunch.  Imagine that!  I changed quickly into my swim suit and John and I headed off to the pool.  We try to get there for exercise and some r&r twice a week. 


Other days during siesta I sometimes take a nap, prepare supper, take down laundry, or go back to work and work at the office while it’s quiet.  Today when we got back from the pool we had a quick lunch together.  We love it when we have left-overs because it’s really hard to make sandwiches here. 


Back at the office I spent most of my afternoon answering emails. 


 I also sent the travel schedule that Kossi and Crystal and I had gone over in the morning out to everybody who needs to know who is coming or going.  All the names in that pink box are this week’s travelers, so it will definitely be a busy week.  


After spending the summer with so few people around it’s nice to have people coming back!

I also try to keep up with SIM Niger’s facebook page by posting prayer requests, blogs written by members, or interesting articles.  Today I posted a blog written by one of our new arrivals. 


Another thing I worked on was entering information on new arrivals into our data base.  I work hard to keep it current.  Should we ever need to evacuate in a hurry at the touch of a few buttons I should be able to print out a current list of all personnel currently in the country.  It also keeps us organized so we don’t forget anybody at the airport!  And I use it when I do my monthly personnel report for SIM International. 


On the way home I stopped and bought some fruit and vegetables.  It was so heavy that I called John to come help me carry it home.  It’s so nice that we have a fruit stand right around the corner!  When we got it home I had to wash it all.  Some people wash everything in bleach, but I’ve switched to washing in vinegar.  We’ve got to kill all those nasty microbes that can make us sick! 


Supper preparation took me awhile.  It was all that cutting and chopping, I guess. 


I also cut up the pineapple. 


Tonight we had pan-seared capitain (Nile perch) with a pineapple salsa and oven-fried zucchini.  The rice was to fill John up! 


It’s hard to take good food pictures with fluorescent lights, so just trust me when I say this tasted much better than it looks!  Supper ends with remembering to take my anti-malarial.

John was having problems with the cartridges for the printer and we were trying to solve that problem (it’s a long story, but cartridges bought in the UK don’t work in a printer bought in the USA….yeah, that was expensive!).  Usually John does the dishes, but he was trying to figure out the printer, so I did them.  


It was kind of a stressful evening and not very relaxing, but I did grab a few minutes to look at the internet before heading off for my shower.



The mosquito net is down, the windows are open to let in the cool(er) air, and it’s time for bed.  

 I’ll read for a few minutes.  When I drop my Kindle on my face I know it’s time to turn out the light!  Night y’all!