Thursday, September 7, 2023

Ten fabulous books

The last 10 books I've read are all memorable stories and should be read by everyone. Stories are so important and they should be celebrated not shoved aside, stuck in a back closet or banned.They should be read over and over again by people. Here's my awesome list:

1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: I heard about this first on the ReadHead podcast and it took me over a year to get to it.  I'm so happy I did. A young woman sells her soul to have a different life and  travel the world and eventually finds her purpose. It's an amazing story. I really wanted to travel with Addie. 

2. Starfish by Lisa Fipps: This story makes you understand why books are windows into another person's life. I gained such a deep understanding about Ellie's life and what it was like to be her as a she deals with bullies, friendship, and her own self image over her weight. This is a novel-in-verse and was a good emotional journey.

3. The Midnight Children by Dan Gemeinhart: An unusually dark tale from one of my favorite authors. You have unknown children living in a house across from you who arrived in a mysterious van late at night. Sounds thrilling!

4. In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo: Another novel-in-verse, windows looking into another world when we meet Anna who is so excited to move to America, the beautiful country, only to find out how difficult life is for an immigrant family struggling to make it work. Her parents' restaurant is failing, she is bullied at school, and she longs for the home and family they left behind.  

5. Thirst by Varsha Bajaj: This story takes place in India and gives us a real look at the difficult life of living in poverty in Mumbai.  When Minni's brothers witness a crime and her mother becomes too sick to work Minni must go to work for the wealthy family her mother takes care of and she sees what life is like on the other side. She sees running water from taps in the bathroom and kitchen instead of how she must wait in long lines to get water for her family.  This story shows a real look at how many people live in many countries.

6. The Turtle of Michigan by Naomi Shihab Nye: I read  The Turtle of Oman last. year and loved it. I researched more about the country of Oman and wanted to be there with Aref and Sidi, his grandfather as they navigate life on their own. Aref's parents are in the U.S. and this companion novel takes us on his journey to Ann Arbor. His immigrant experience is very positive, he attends an international school where everyone is from somewhere else and his neighbors are accepting and happy to meet Aref and his family. Lyrically written and perfect for all elementary students. 

7. Playing Through the Turnaround by Mylissa Larsen: Band nerds and misfits take on the local school board as they fight budget cuts that could take out their favorite school clubs. This is told through several different voices and each character is very unique. 

8. A Rover's Story by Jasmine Warga: This story tells the story of Resilence, a rover under construction to explore Mars. Told in alternating chapters between the scientist's daughter and the rover we have a better understanding of how emotional this journey into space is and how it affects those on earth.

9. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon: Good little mystery by an Oberlin professor with a variety of stories that all come together in a twisted end. This story really kept me reading even though I didn't like any of the characters.

10. Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov: Fabulously well-paced novel about Sergey as he tends his bees, takes care of his home, and tries to make friends with the one neighbor left in his deserted village. During the original Ukraine-Russian conflict Sergey survives one day at a time. 

Enjoy these stories, read them, love them, get them from the library or buy them from a small independent bookstore. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

A tribe of women

I have an old theory about women’s friendships that I think still rings true for me. I think as women our friendships are strong in almost a superpower way. I think with some female friendships we almost fall in love with each other. There is an uncanny tie that binds us together. And some of us learn this early on and for others it takes awhile and during that in-between time we flounder and make mistakes. I was a late bloomer when it came to my early relationships and often made mistakes. I'm lucky I still have friends from that era in my life.  I'm happy to have such strong good friendships.

I've had such a good summer with friends. I've spent time hanging out over good food, beautiful settings, and happy times. I've missed my mom in a reminiscent way thinking "oh I should call her and tell her..." I've read books and watched several movies. The Barbie movie was a perfect springboard to good conversation and most women I know loved it for a variety of different reasons. It had a lot to say about connections and standing up for each other which comes to a halt when Ken takes over "Barbieland". It is such a funny movie and I think everyone should see it for pure enjoyment but also for the message. 

I'm about to head back to school (meetings) tomorrow and I feel grateful to have so many memories from this summer. Last year I spent a lot of time healing, walking slowly around the block, not getting into the water that I feel like I created a big splash this year! 

I finished The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue yesterday and loved it. Such great writing telling a really unique tale.  Otherwise I've read a lot of books for school. My favorite so far was Dan Gemeinhart's Midnight Children. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Summer Vacation

Growing up our family generally took a family vacation-a road trip in a van with my parents and three brothers. It wasn't always fun. When our three kids were younger we took them on vacation as well and there were also arguments. "Stop touching ME!" We heard that a lot and from all three at different times. 

Now they are all adults and we have no arguing; they work together and make compromises. They like each other more and there is less sarcasm all around. Thankfully. 

We recently took a long trip with all three kids to the West Coast. Greg, Japhy and I flew to Seattle. Tristan and Kaylee joined us in Portland. We traveled from there through Grant's Pass, Ashland, and continued on through the Pacific Coast Highway to Eureka. We stayed for three beautiful days surrounded by Redwoods. We all love adventure and we love to share good food so at the end of the trip we made a list of our favorite restaurants all along the way. I'm sharing our lists so if you are ever in these fabulous cities you will know a place or two to eat delicious food. 

Japhy: Bao Bao House (Eugene), Mai Kiin Thai (Seattle), Ma Mosa's for breakfast (Grant's Pass), and Geraldine's Counter for breakfast (Seattle)

Tristan: Cornbread Cafe (Eugene), Nosh Eatery (Florence, OR), and Ma Mosa's (Grant's Pass) As a vegan, Tristan was excited for this trip to be in communities where he could find a good variety of choices.  

Kaylee: Ma Mosa's, Screen Door - Southern Comfort food (Portland), Bao Bao House (Eugene), and Nosh Eatery (Florence)

Greg: Min Kiin Thai (Seattle), Cornbread Cafe (Eugene), Bayfront Restaurant (Eureka, CA), Screen Door (Portland)

Me: Cornbread Cafe -best vegan reuben and peanut butter cheesecake, Maa Kiin Thai, Ma Mosa's breakfast and the nearby Los Bagels, and Nosh Eatery - fish tacos caught locally.  

We did more than eat though: we browsed bookstores, we kayaked in the bay near Eureka thanks to HumBoats, we took a trail hike in Trillium Falls, we went to Cascades Raptor Center,  we went to the Globe Theatre in Ashland, OR, and took a Skywalk in the Redwoods surrounding the Sequoia Park Zoo.  It was an amazing trip! We thought about my mom a lot and knew she would have loved all the restaurants and adventures we had. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Quick Trips

Two weeks ago my husband and I headed south to Franklin, TN for his Uncle Bill’s funeral. It was an easy decision to go even though my husband was in the middle of a musical theatre production. We wanted to comfort and connect with his family. We stayed one night in St Louis and had the most amazing Indian cuisine at Tumeric and enjoyed strolling through the Washington University area before continuing our journey. The funeral was a two-day celebration with lots of family there to honor Bill. 

A week later he and I headed to Minneapolis to see Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. We had dinner in the North Loop’s Red Rabbit with Marv and Marcia, family friends who have always been a presence in my life. It was great to connect with them over a delicious meal. It’s a joy to have friends who loved both my mom and dad, to listen to stories because those are my last ties to hearing family history. 

The next  day Greg and I headed to a Minnesota Twins game at Target Field. We watched Joe Ryan pitch an amazing game against the Boston Red Sox. I was happy the Twins won. Greg, a Red Sox fan, was not! But he didn’t have long to mourn as we had another leg of our journey. 

Winona, MN is home to The Great River Shakespeare Theatre so we traveled the 2 1/2 hours south, checked in at a beautiful Airbnb right downtown and had just thirty minutes to spare before the show. My husband likes to get the most out of a trip!! The show was fantastic and the next morning after a quick stop for a coffee house breakfast burrito we started for home.


Thankfully he did most of the driving because I was trying to finish Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, our book club choice for July and I was completely engaged. It’s a near perfect tale set in the 1950’s - 60’s that explores women’s roles and relationships. Whatever traveling you might do I hope you have a good book, a good companion, and excellent food! 

Friday, June 2, 2023

School Days/Summer Days


The school year is over! Literally Thank God!  Tough year but also a wonderful year. Fantastic 6th graders I had to say good-bye to ( or really see you again) and some very tough cookies that I'm happy to move along to the next part of their educational journey. 

Summer is here and I'm so happy to have this new summer. Last year at this time I was still healing from surgery and it was a thrilling day to just walk up and down the driveway and then eventually around the block. It was a hard and happy time; this summer I'm ready to take that healing to a new level with lots of yoga, walking, and bike riding. I've also got plenty of days set aside for reading on my patio and meeting up with friends.

We are headed to the Redwood Forest this summer and I'm very exciting as this trip has been on my bucket list for a long time, yes since childhood! I have 6 days for open library time at Hansen this year. I love to see students coming through the door excited to find summer reading material. It's a joy and I didn't get to do it last summer. 

I will reminisce about sitting on the patio with my mom, playing cards with her time after time,  or taking her to Scoopski's for rhubarb crumble ice cream as I make my way through this summer but hopefully most will be happy thoughts and positive reflections. Some days it still seems so surreal. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

Happy May Day


All in one week there is so much to celebrate; May Day, May 4th (may the 4th be with you), and Cinco De Mayo! That is a lot of joy.  And I have high hopes the weather is going to turn warm and spring-like soon.  April was a little rough with the weather and my emotions all over the place.  Things are going to get better and I am ready for summer break this year. 

My wise words of advise:

Make a plan! Yes, decide and organize how you want your end-of-life moment. 

Do the things on your bucket list - find adventure

Do what you need to do for self -care (less party, more yoga)

Learn to get rid of things - pass them on please!

Celebrate your friendships - laugh a lot.

I loved my mom but she was disorganized and kept too much stuff.  I'm still going through stuff. I had to wade through stacks of paper to find the most important insurance papers, etc. Be joyful...and organized! I'm still a work in progress but I'm working on it.  

Sunday, March 19, 2023

My mama

Judith Ann Cherry

January 15, 1939 - March 17, 2023

Judy Cherry, 84, of Waverly, IA, passed peacefully Friday, March 17, 2023 at the Cedar Valley Hospice, Waterloo. Judy struggled with a blood disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) for many years, eventually succumbing to it. She lived longer than expected and the extra time allowed her to enjoy many visits from and amazing meals with family and friends. 

The daughter of Lavera Ann (Westendorf) and Ewald Bruch, Judy was born January 15, 1939 in Waterloo, IA. She graduated from East High School in 1957 and attended nursing school for one year at Coe College before choosing a different path. She married Roger Matz on April 12, 1958 and together they had four children: Mike, Michelle, Chris and Jason.  On December 31, 1998, Judy married James Cherry in Cedar Falls and the couple made their home in Ventura and then Waverly. 

Judy completed her education at Minnesota State University, Mankato and had many life roles: she was a mom, a dreamer, a traveler, a wife, a friend, a businesswoman. She struck people with her fun-loving and eccentric personality.  

Judy began her professional career as a teacher in Sleepy Eye, MN before helping her husband Roger acquire and manage small newspapers including The Redfield Press and The Spirit Lake Beacon. Judy later owned and operated the Okoboji Grill, in Okoboji, IA where she especially enjoyed working with the young staff. Judy loved good food, travel, boating Minnesota lakes and rivers, reading books and magazines, games, movies, and documentaries. She loved and cared for many family dogs. Judy gardened all her life and in recent years grew beautiful tomatoes that she shared freely. 

She was a gourmet home chef and loved cooking meals from the many cookbooks collected on her travels around the country and to Europe.  Passing a love of good food to her children, Judy in later years appreciated watching us cook for her while talking and enjoying a glass of wine. Dining with family and friends was one of Judy’s greatest joys. 

Judy was a wonderful grandmother and enjoyed caring for young grandchildren, taking them on adventures and outings and shuttling them to ski, dance, soccer, baseball, and hockey. She was a sharp and competitive Spite and Malice player and especially loved teaching it and playing it with her grandchildren. All the better when she won!

Young people enjoyed talking with Judy and she loved getting to know people and was compassionate in her views of the world.  She was interested in politics and things that were happening in the world around her. 

Surviving are her husband of 24 years, Jim Cherry of Waverly; her children Mike (Sally Shuffield) Matz, of Durango, CO; Michelle (Greg) Holt, of Cedar Falls; Chris (Jennifer Reynolds) Matz, of Denver, CO and Jason (Stephanie) Matz, of Deephaven, MN; her grandchildren: Carson, Celia, Kaylee, Tristan, Japhy, Henry, Sawyer, Wynn, Rider, Marin, Jasper, and Beckett; her step-children Mike (Audra) Cherry, Dana (Mark) Watson, and Kim (Tony Green) Cherry; her step-grandchildren Rebecca, Ryan, Leah, Tyler, Nate, Jacob, and Rolie; and her 6 step-great grandchildren as well as many good friends. 

Preceding her in death are her first husband, Roger, and brothers Robert and Wayne. 

Services will be at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Waverly at 2:00 pm on Friday, March 24. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Cedar Valley Hospice would be appreciated. 

Post Note: Two of my siblings and I wrote, rewrote and edited this tribute to my mom and then find out that obituaries are the. main means for newspaper cash flow! I wanted to share the whole thing with everyone because an edited version will appear in local papers.  She lived a full and happy life.  Cheers!

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Collective Wisdom

March is known for several holidays like St. Patrick's Day and Lent, Spring Break in some places but I appreciate  March for Women's History. Collective Wisdom; Lessons, Inspiration, and Advice from women over 50 by Grace Bonney.  My friend Verda gifted this to me on my birthday last year and I've still not made it through the whole collection.  What I love most is to browse through and read the quotes from all the profiles. 

Like Betty Reid Soskin, 100-year-old from California and the oldest National Park Ranger in the U.S. who says:  

"I have been many women. They come and they go, and some of them I would have loved to have stayed with me longer, but the fact that I have been all those things has made life, for me, very rich."

and JoAni Johnson, a 69-year-old model from New York, NY who says: "When you've been around the sun so many times and have a variety of experiences and you're able to stay standing - that's resilience."

or Julia Alvarez, a 71-year-old Dominican American poet and author: "I feel that I'm a bead in the necklace of the generations." 

or Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, a 63-year-old Iranian journalist who shares this: 

"One of the most amazing things in our lives, regardless of how we describe our sexuality or gender identity, is the power of motherhood. And by that, I mean the power of nurturing: nurturing other humans, I think everyone has the ability to do this in some form, and it can be so empowering. To care for others and use our strengh to lift up others."

I am inspired every time I open up the pages of this book and find something new to read. I connect with the women, their journeys, and message. We know and herald our famous women but many of these profiles are about women making a difference in their families and communities. I am someone who is always open to ideas and am in constant motion to learn more.  Whether you have this book or not, find an inspiring story to read about Seneca Falls, or any part of women's history to help us bridge the gap of what we are dealing with today. We need more brave souls like Lucy Stone.