Sunday, December 31, 2023

Best Books 2023

 I read a lot of great books this year even though I didn't make my GoodReads goal; maybe it was quality over quantity.  I love going back through the year and revisiting and thinking of each story. I started the year off big with Demon Copperhead which turned out to be my absolute favorite of the year. I remember I started it right after Christmas because someone sent it to me as a gift. Barbara Kingsolver is one of my top 5 authors. What are the others you ask? Louise Erdrich, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Gabrielle Zevin, and Matt Haig. And this is just the shortlist.

1. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (2022) : This is a moving coming-of-age story told in the first person from childhood through young adulthood.  Damon struggles with a teenage single mom, a terrible stepdad, and neighbors that are family once removed in the Southern Appalachia region. 

2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (2020) : Beautifully written fantasy novel that begins in France, 1714 and ends in New York City, As a teenager Addie sits on the banks of the river near her home and wishes for a vastly different life to what women are expected to do. She doesn't want to get married and live in the same village as her parents have done. She wants more and as she asks for it her life changes forever. 

3. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2021) : TJR does her homework for the time period and creates characters that are so memorable that I feel like they are out there somewhere living beyond the pages of the book. This book tells the story of the young Riva family; Mick and June parents to Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. Told through two different time periods so we understand both parents and the kids on the night of a memorable beach party thrown at Nina's Malibu home. I loved that this book also brought in Carrie Soto. 

4. Fellowship Point by Alice Elliot Dark (2022) : Our book club read this and I didn't know what to expect except that the book was big! I enjoyed every page though and thought the writing was brilliant. I could see myself in the two main characters, Agnes and Polly, best friends and neighbors in their Maine summer homes. They've led very different lives but strive for the same things. I loved their friendship and conversations. 

5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014) : This one was on my radar when it first came out but I never picked it up. Then the show came out and my brother handed me the book and told me to read it. I did, was captivated by the story, and proceeded to hand it to my husband, and daughter. I thought the show was done well but of course, the book is always better. 

6. The Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (2023) : I'd heard some of the buzz about this but wasn't pulled in by the whole romance-fantasy genre but then a librarian friend said she liked it and that opened up a portal for me. I picked it up from the library and read it straight through in just a few days. I am set to read the sequel here as soon as I finish Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez. 

I've used Libby quite a bit to find books I can read in the middle of the night  on my phone if I happen to be awake for a couple of hours. And Yours Truly was one that popped up. I hope you'll pick up any of these books at your local library or bookstore. Let me know what you think. More favorites in a day or two. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

So many things

I've had a lovely holiday season with my family. We've had good conversation, eaten good food, played games, and opened gifts together.  Christmas Eve we had a delicious tofu curry with jasmine rice, a vegan scramble for breakfast Christmas Day and homemade pizzas for dinner that night. The Friday before Christmas we hosted a Christmas party for theatre friends and I Italian Sausage lasagna and Japhy made pesto pasta for her and I (no tomatoes, no meat). I  made Whoville 's Spiced Up Margaritas for the party and French 75s on Christmas night.  We tried our best to play Chameleon all together and then the next day a few of us tackled CodeNames together which was a blast! Most importantly it was just great to see our grown up kids having fun, laughing together. 

I got everything done that I needed to do before the holiday. The presents were wrapped, menus planned, house clean and I did it all on very little sleep. It's been a rough month or so starting around Thanksgiving I've had the worst trouble sleeping.  I've been sick with a cold for about the same amount of time that has compromised my immune system.

Sleep is so important and lack of it causes me to forget things and not be my best self. I've tried many of the recommended suggestions for better sleep including melatonin, staying off screens, drinking relaxing tea, going to bed early and while I might do any number of combinations of those ideas I still might lie awake at night getting only a brief amount of sleep either right away or toward morning. I'm frustrated. I started menopause years ago making this a ten-year-old problem. Our beautiful Tarah dog above fell asleep one night so deeply right on top of the gifts and all I could think was "I am so jealous!" 

I am still doing yoga both at home with Adriene and also with Sam at Cota Studios but many things like blogging just don't get done because of this sleep deprivation. My goal for this coming 2024 is to get back on a better schedule.  For the last couple of months Japhy has been home because she is about to go on a grand adventure but that's a whole other post for later. 

Take care, get some rest, and happy holidays to you...

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Fall catch-all

I love fall recipes especially all things with butternut squash! I recently made a spicy butternut squash pasta recipe from the NY Times that was so good I made it twice in one week. As the weather changes we are always look for heartier dishes to warm us up. I'm in the middle of planning our upcoming Thursday meal which I now like to call our Un-Thanksgiving or our Grateful Day.  Growing up my family and Greg's family both celebrated the holiday with all the traditional fare and I used to help my mom prepare a turkey and all the sides but then we just stopped.  For many years I prepared other dishes we liked instead such as vegetable lasagna or food from India. The last few years I've made vegan Wild Rice Soup; that and some fresh hot bread from the oven makes a perfect meal. This year the only thing I have my heart set on is skin-on mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. Otherwise I'm still searching for ideas. Tristan has two vegan pies, apple dutch and pecan, on order from New Pioneer Coop in Cedar Rapids.  

In between cooking I've read: 

Dry by Neal Shusterman because it is on a banned book list and I was curious. My first Shusterman book and I will read more.  (4 stars)

The Rachel Incident by Carolyn O'Donoghue because I heard it reviewed on a podcast. (4 stars)

We are called to Rise by Laura McBride because it showed up in my free library. (3 stars)

Fourth Wing  by Rebecca Yarros because two librarian friends highly recommended it and it was getting a LOT of attention.  I liked it and am happily waiting to read Iron Flame.  You should probably love high fantasy to enjoy this. (5 stars)

Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark because it's our book club choice for November and I am enjoying it but I'm only half way through the 579 pages. (probably 4 stars)

There are a lot of good series to tuck into for fall: 

Everything Now on Netflix - Japhy and I discovered this and loved it. It's about a young girl's struggles with anorexia and a lot of high school drama but it's very real in it's depiction plus it takes place in London. 

All the Light We Cannot See limited series on NF- I loved the book and was looking forward to this. We have one more episode to watch. Mark Ruffalo is amazing as is the young daughter and the young German radio genius. The Nazis are all sufficiently creepy as hell.

Lessons in Chemistry on Apple TV - I loved the book and the series has not disappointed at all. It veers from the book but it is captivating. Brie Larson plays the great Elizabether Zott with zest. 

I've also made a habit of going to yoga a few times a week at Cota Studios and love practicing in person with other people after years of doing yoga alone with Adrienne in my upstairs studio.  Sam is a relaxed and knowledgeable instructor who brings calm and joy into the practice.  I really appreciate the gift of this studio in our community. 

Happy holiday however you celebrate. Do remember the real facts of this holiday in that those First People who came to the table in peace were later tricked through false treaties, tortured, and killed for who they were. Remember all that is going on in our world from sea to shining sea and that while we do have much to be grateful for we must think about how we can help and be empathetic and aware. 

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Austin City Limits

Two weekends ago Groovy Girl and I enjoyed the music, food, and weather of Austin, TX.  We had an amazing time together and are the perfect traveling companions. Japhy approached me last spring when the lineup was announced saying “wouldn’t this be fun!” And after looking into it more I took her up on the idea. We looked into tickets and found out you can split the payments up, we found a small Airbnb and the ball started to roll. A few weeks ago our wristbands arrived and it was a reality. 

We did have some travel glitches but it all worked out in the end even waiting until Saturday morning to get our luggage. I highly recommend flying Delta out of Minneapolis. 

We got in Friday afternoon after our initial delay and picked up our car via my Turo app directions. Have you tried this car borrowing system? I liked it for the most part. Once we had our 2022 Prius we headed for food and our AirBB before venturing off to Zilker Park.  Our first restaurant choice was not our best pick but it had a patio and the food was edible. Our AirBB was as pictured, small but tidy and enough for what we needed. 

Unfortunetly because our original flight was still in Minneapolis our luggage did not arrive with us so we had to journey to the festival with our travel clothes still on. Luckily we had on cool clothes because Austin weather was warm. A friend had pre-warned us that the walk would be long to get to the park and she was absolutely spot on.  And then when we got inside the larger-than-life park there was a lot to traverse to get to different stages, food, etc.  Our band line up was amazing:


The Moss at 5:15 which was pretty amazing to get there after traveling, eating, and checking in
Maggie Rogers right after and she was amazing-she owned that stage!
The Lumineers-also amazing to hear in person and a great way to end our first night
At the end of our night we found a Target so we could get toothbrushes and other essentials for the night. We knew we would be able to pick up our luggage back at the airport in the morning. We found an amazing Korean food truck across the street and had a fried tofu dish for a late night dinner.


We stopped at a VeraCruz, a taco shop that was highly rated and thus very busy but we wanted to eat before entering the gates.

Mt. Joy-Lovely band that I'd never heard of but loved. 
Tanya Tucker- to be honest we saw her so we would be in place for Noah Kahan (Japhy's favorite) and we ended up loving her sass and style.
Noah Kahan-He was definetely a headliner for Japhy and as a treat Mumford and Sons came out and played a song with him.
And then we listened to a bit of the Foo Fighters from afar (the crowd was huge) and headed home.


We found an amazing brunch spot, Another Broken Egg, and had fun sitting at the bar with my now 21-year-old daughter! She had a spiked cold brew comb and I had a Breakfast Blueberry Margarita and then we ordered delicious breakfast items including Smoked Salmon Benedict, cinnamon roll french toast, and a half order of beignets!

Corook- We were at the park much earlier this day and headed across the dirt to hear her sing and commune with her audience, she was very entertaining, funny, and relatable.
Suki Waterhouse-Daisy Jones and the Six keyboardist-she has an amazing voice
Hozier - So fantastic! We saw him at Hinterland a few years ago as well. 

We found a delicious ramen place for dinner that night after the show. We were pretty tired and happy to head home after warm, healing bowls of noodles.

Monday- We had a day of exploring vintage shops, boot stores, and boutiques and ended up at Meteor on Congress for an outstanding butternut squash pizza.  And then we were off to return our Prius and start the journey home.  It is an absolute wonder to have a daughter that makes such a great travel companion.  I feel blessed to have that relationship. I'm still missing my mom, my chest still aches from surgery but there is so many happy memories I've made over the last year and ACL will be one that I treasure as we continue on through the years. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Ribbons and things


What does everyone do with all the extra stuff in your life? I’ve read Marie Kondo and many articles about organizing. I read my Real Simple magazines. I still have lots of extra stuff that I want but in my creaky old house I don’t have walk in closets or basements with rows of shelving. 

I do have lots of amazing treasures though. Tonight I spent time emptying out a drawer (yes, just one drawer) of a three drawer antique dresser that lived in my grandmother’s home. The top drawer is where I’ve stuck ribbons, small jewelry boxes just waiting to be reused, and miniature photo albums filled with my children’s faces at varying stages. This year at Christmas I’m going to bring these little books out and everyone can have fun looking at how cute they were way back when. 

The ribbons from the box I twirled, organized, and wrapped up ready to be used again and again. They’re so shiny and pretty, reminding me of ballet shoes and extravagant gift boxes. Many of them gifted me a memory as I softly wrapped them around my fingers, like Verda’s cream cotton wrap that held together my last Christmas gift. Many were worth saving although I discarded a few ribbons that didn’t bring me joy anymore.  I’m capable of recycling and throwing away. After my mother died we sent many boxes to Goodwill. 

In the drawer I also found two letters from my dad that I will relocate to my “dad” box and this is how we make sense of it all. What stays and what goes. I spent the night sifting through memories, organizing a piece of my life. I’ll use the ribbons when I want something to be festive and I’ve made space as I cleaned out the clutter. Bit by bit I’ll get my life in order even without a walk-in closet. What do you save and what do you lose?

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.

Friday, March 3, 2023


I had a 60-min massage last Saturday and it was wonderful!  I booked it at the beginning of the month just as a little love-myself treat for February and I'm so glad I followed through. It was cold in the morning but the sun was out. I bundled up in a comfy sweater and my favorite pair of joggers because you need to be comfortable and warm before and after. I also lugged my water bottle with me.  The last massage I had was soon after surgery but because of my incision it was more like a massage for a pregnant person. I was excited to return for a more regular experience. Treating myself to this is a big deal and one I appreciate. My friend Greg at Prairie Yogi Massage is worth it - because of his yoga experience he knows a lot about the body and he moved my limbs around a lot to help stretch areas that he worked on. I plan to try to go every few months to help stay in tune. 

My commitment to treating myself  well also falls under my love for yoga and healthy eating. I want to grow older gracefully. I always want to be able to sit on the floor, get back up, to touch my toes, and to take long walks. I don’t necessarily do yoga as exercise but more to keep flexibility. 

I'm adding more vitamins to my morning regiment and took my stepmother's suggestion to try this Lions Mane mushroom extract supplement to help with my memory. Some days I feel like I still have surgery brain when I call a student by the wrong name or can't remember the name of something but surgery was 9 months ago so I think it is more than that.  

Right now we need to take care of ourselves to take care of each other. We have a long winding road ahead of us.  The state of IA, and many other states, want to take away my ability to do my job as a teacher-librarian. They want to let a group of concerned parents choose the books. And that’s just one issue; we have so many others being debated. I'm worried, yes, but in a world trying to remove our wings I am making sure to be ready for anything.  I need self care more than ever as a woman, as an educator, as a human alive at this time. 

Do what makes you feel healthy and whole: fresh flowers, dessert, therapy, more time with friends, outside in nature, and be ready for the storm that’s coming. 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Old Age

I stayed with my mom for the last week and it was an experience. It's odd to be the one in charge, like a parent to your parent.  She needs a lot of help getting around the house and with meals.  She sits on this old love seat for most of the day watching lots of PBS. She feels depressed and ready to die.  As her daughter it's hard to hear her say these things because I'm afraid to have her die. On the other hand realistically she is exhausted and tired of feeling like crap because of her MDS  diagnosis.  It's stolen some good years away from her; like her body and her abilities look more like she's a fragile 100 year old human. 

During the week she blew up about something little more than once and that was hard to deal with for me. Truthfully she's always let her temper get the best of her but this seemed like more. Is it because she's in pain or is it just getting older? She's very stuck in her ways and this is getting worse as the days go by. She likes to wear certain shirts and sweaters, she likes her things set up on the sofa seat next to her, and she likes to be set up in bed exactly the same every night. She still loves to eat really good food even if it's super small portions. She loves her coffee in the morning. This week we had pasta with shrimp, fresh fried eggs, lovely little salads, and an un-spicy chili.  We had a small glass of champagne while we played cards to celebrate our last night together. 

I'm glad I have this time with her and hope she can make it until Spring. She loves the flowers, the sunshine, and sitting on a pretty patio. It’s hard watching your parent age and I have a front row seat. The week exhausted me - I was sleeping on a sofa-and listening to her cough and gasp all night. She was cranky with me but overall a good week together. I know I'll appreciate it down the road. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Cooking with Love


One of my favorite things is to make food whether it be just for me or for friends here for dinner.  I like both the complicated and the uncomplicated recipes.  My mother and grandmother loved to cook. When I lived with my grandmother she would chide me if I didn't offer to make visitors like my uncles a sandwich.  My young brain thought "they are grown ass men; they can get their own sandwiches" and now while I still agree with that sentiment I do love to welcome people into my home with a good meal. 

My husband's job changed over the last month and we've been able to spend time with friends more in the evening because he's not in rehearsal every night. I've made a handful of great recipes that you might like.

I made this delicious Chicken Korma recipe from Tea for Turmeric a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit.  I'm technically. not a meat eater but if I can find it from a local farm then I'm okay with it. I could have substituted tofu but my husband eats many vegetarian meals for me so I decided to switch it up. He loves Indian food and he liked this dish. I served it with a side of brown rice and some roti bread. 

One night  in January I had some women friends over to play cards and I made this black bean soup from Cookie + Kate with fresh bread. It was delicious and easy and I've now made it two more times. I've really stepped into the Blue Zones idea of eating beans or lentils as much as I can. The first time I made this I used the 4 cans of beans it calls for but for the second time I actually cooked dried black beans in my slow cooker while I was laboring away at school.  It was worth it to make my own for the recipe but the cans definitely made the recipe quicker. I served this with lots of toppings like avocado, green onions, crumbled feta cheese, blue chips, and sour cream. 

Tonight I made a stir-fry that was very flavorful. I was hungry for tofu and quinoa so I Googled those two ingredients and came up with Sesame Tofu Quinoa Bowl from The Almond Eater.  I swapped the broccoli for cauliflower and adding in edamame. We had broccoli last night with some homemade mac and cheese. Also because I don't like plastic bags I used a bowl with a lid to marinate the tofu with the Tamari sauce.  It worked out great and we ate with chopsticks in front of the fire while we watched Triangle of Sadness~highly recommend the movie as well!

Good food feeds your soul! Bon Appetit! 

Oh, I forgot dessert! I'm attempting to step away from sugar but sometimes you just need a good dessert to share with friends. This S'more recipe is a perfect winter treat-I served it with a little cup of Bailey's. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023


Going through my mother's boxes I located a folder of my college papers. Looking through the pages I was struck by the fact that they were all hand typed sometimes more than once as I edited. I thought about all the work I put into those papers, not just the typing but the thought process and the creativity. One of the papers was a typed final essay with 7 different questions about Thomas Hardy's Far From the Maddening Crowd. I was struck by how easy having a computer makes all that writing a little bit different. A little easier to edit. And I have it so easy these days.

And then I really thought about that statement and I quickly amended it in my head. We've created chaos for our children.  Gaming and social media, screen time and streaming or binging series after series. We've let them grow up too fast. Kids have far less time for just being kids; playing outside until dark kind of time. Activities keep them busy like soccer and basketball but competition is different than just play. I'm not going to get all the way on top of this soap box but I worry about our youngest demographic. 

Picking up my phone today I had an email concerning a new Iowa Senate bill being presented that would restrict schools from teaching social emotional learning. People in favor of the bill believe the ridiculous notion that we are trying to indoctrinate students into a specific LGBTQ lifestyle or critical race theory because we as educators want to help them manage their emotions.  And don't get me started on House File 8-removing any instruction about gender identity or all that Ron DeSantis is attempting in Florida. It's beyond heartbreaking as a teacher. Because we want kids to be themselves. Promoting empathy and kindness or teaching real history as a teacher should not make us criminals. 

I know the world is different than the 1970's and 80's when I did most of my growing up yet common human decency should still be prevalent. I fear in today's Republicans a return to a world long ago, one where anything different was the enemy. I read a picture book to young students in the library about a young girl wearing a Hijab as she begins 6th grade-it doesn't mean that I'm promoting the Muslim religion. So much to navigate in these waters. Our public schools are doing a great job everyday, taking care of all the students that we have and SEL has been a great help for all of us. With all that kids have to manage today helping them to understand themselves more shouldn't be threatening.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Demon Copperhead

"First, I got myself born. A decent crowd was on hand to watch, and they've always given me that much: the worst of the job was up to me, my mother being let's just say out of it." 

Barbara Kingsolver's opening line is a great introduction to Demon, our young hero, who will become part of the reader's heart and soul. It's a magnificent tale of heartache, addiction, family, and poverty set in the Appalachia Mountains. From the very beginning Demon is burdened with tough choices. His mother is young and grieving over Demon's dead father.  He and is mother occupy a doublewide trailer near another family, the Peggot's who are raising their grandson because his mother is in jail. He loses important parts of his family and gains others. He shows us the hardship of foster care. This is your cast of characters: people down on their luck trying to do their best but often failing in an area of our country that has been torn apart.  I loved the book so much I could start the first page again and as I finished the last paragraph I shed some tears. 

I'm glad I finished the book when I did because I was able to devote a good amount of time to it even reading a few pages before school and during lunch. I'm feeling overwhelmed with a too long to-do list and the knowledge that I'm on too many committees.  I'm on rotation this year for observation and need to complete my professional portfolio by March 1st. I have a book fair coming my way in March. I have a district-wide tech conference and planning for our school's literacy night both in February.  Beyond that I'm on our district's equity committee,  and our teacher's association, as well as daily lesson planning.  I spent most of my Sunday planning for Black History Month and a connected research project for 3rd-6th graders.  Whew. I need a night off.  

On the relaxing side I have kept up almost daily with Adriene's January yoga challenge and that keeps me together most days.  I'm headed there now to connect and wind down for the night. 

Be well.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Best of Elementary Fiction 2022


As a reader for the Iowa Children's Choice Award committee I am pushed to read quite a few interesting elementary chapter books. This year 9 took me by surprise and worth passing on to you.

1. Alone by Megan E. Freeman (2021) : This is a fabulous dystopian novel in verse about young Maddie who finds herself completely alone after a secret sleepover. She learns to survive on her own with only George, her neighbor's Rottweiler, as her only companion.

2. The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake (2019) : This was the perfect year for me to read this sweet novel about Sunny and how her heart transplant pushes her to figure out much about her life. 

3. Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman (2021) : Kabir has been in jail his whole life with his mother who was convicted of a crime she didn't commit. A new ruling pushes Kabir into an unknown world for him and he needs to learn to survive the streets of India on his own. 

4. Violets are Blue by Barbara Dee (2021) : Wren is dealing with divorced parents, a new stepmother, and trying to fit into a new school. She finds her niche helping out with makeup for a theatre production as her mother struggles with this new life without her husband. 

5. Maya and the Robot by Eve L. Ewing (2021) : Maya is nervous about moving up to 5th grade and how her school life will go with her two best friends in a different class.  When she discovers a forgotten robot her life takes off in a new direction. 

6. Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca (2021) : Reha is tied between two worlds-school where she navigates being the only Indian American student and home where her parents have certain expectations for her.  She doesn't feel connected to her amma until Reha discovers that her mother is sick. 

7. Where We Used to Roam by Jenn Bishop (2021) : At the beginning of Emma's 6th grade year, just as she's making cool artsy friends, her brother is injured in a football game which sends their family on a whirlwind year. 

8. The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloane (2021) : I love Sloane's writing and this one was no exception. Sila's mother travels to Turkey to fix an immigration issue  and has been gone for a long time. Sila and her father have to learn to live on their own and the two discover quite a bit about each other with a few new friends. 

9. 365 Days to Alaska by Cathy Carr (2021) : Rigel loves her life off the grid in the Alaskan wilderness until her parents get divorced and she has to move to Connecticut with her mother and siblings. Life is very different in her new surroundings as she learns to deal with city life, other people, and her father's betrayal. 

While the list is numbered it isn't in any particular order because each of these chapter books stand on their own with different stories to tell. I think fiction books help young people learn something new and unique about other people and cultures. Give any of these books a try and let me know what you think. 

Sunday, January 1, 2023

My 2022 Adult Favorites


So many good books this year. I'm sure I say that every year but last year I only picked 6 favorites and this year I have 12. I also read more this year than last which is good thing. Enjoy my brief descriptions and let me know if you enjoyed any of these as well.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (2022) : I liked The Storied Life of AJ Fikry which prompted me to read more of her writing. This one is by far my favorite book of the year. Snappy characters combined with a very interesting story line about gaming and gamers but really it's about life, love, and deep friendship. 

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (2021): I enjoyed A Gentleman in Moscow and heard all the hype about this and it followed through. Emmett Watson's story will stick with you. Told from multiple points of view the tale takes shape just over 10 days. Fascinating.

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson (2021) : This book really took me by surprise. I read it for book club and coming from the small publishing house of Milkweed Editions I was happily immersed in the story of Rosalie Iron Wing in the past and the present. I turned around and bought several copies straight from Milkweed to give as gifts. 

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich (2021) : I'm a huge fan of everything Erdrich writes and this one told the story of the pandemic and George Floyd's murder through the main character Tookie's eyes. As an ex-convict for a bizarre crime she is out and enjoying somewhat of a good life when the world seems to turn upside down. Intense.

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2022) : I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this through NetGalley and I read it fast on my iPad, which is unusual for me as I'm more of a book in hand person. I'm not even a tennis fan but Carrie is an electric character and her life struggles as a champion tennis player were intriguing. Through all the ups and downs she is a survivor and you root for her to find happiness. I like TJR's writing skills and Daisy Jones and the Six is still one of my all-time favorite stories. 

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (1993) : This author has been swirling around my radar for awhile and I just hadn't taken the time to read her many books. The story was hard to read because there is suffering but hope is ever present because Lauren Olamina is a survivor, always looking ahead to how she feels and the next path to take. Reading this book starts me on a journey to finish Lauren's story and to read Kindred. 

Nightcrawling by Leila Motley (2022) : Another tough story with an amazing young hero in Kiara as she fights for some kind of life in Oakland, CA. She is constantly chasing a way to make money to take care of her brother and her young neighbor and to stay in the apartment. She battles landlords and sleazy cops and yet things never really get better.  A beautifully written debut novel.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham (2022) : I heard about this on The Readheads podcast and it sounded like a perfect crime novel for me; not too scary but lots of twists and turns. I tend to be very picky about this genre and don't like it when pieces are left hanging. This was intense without scaring me and had plenty of interesting connections.

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy (2021) : Wow! This was another book club choice that amazed me with it's rich story of Inti Flynn and her sister. Inti arrives in Scotland to help a team reintroduce wolves into the area and she has a tough time fitting in with the town characters and she finds herself mixed up in a few local problems. She is a character that will stick with me plus I loved the wolf angle. Her website lists a new book, Migrations, that looks just as appealing. 

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017) : Second book by Zevin on my list! I read this one because I'd heard she had a new one coming out-Tomorrow and Tomorrow...- and I wanted to read something else by her first. This one, told from 5 female perspectives, is one of feminism, forgiveness, and family. Aviva's story is about making amends and the transformative power of new beginnings. Embeth Levin, the congressman's wife, tells her story of constant betrayal with such honesty that I ended up loving her even as she snaps at those around her. Everyone is carrying a heavy weight in this tale. 

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (2020) : I've read O'Farrell's This Must Be The Place which was also very interesting. Hamnet was unique in that she takes the story of William Shakespeare's family life with Agnes and his three children and shows how the story of Hamlet is born from the depths of grief. Just so interesting!

The Last Guest House by Megan Miranda (2019): This was another murder mystery about a small vacation town in Maine. I read it in 4 days because the characters of Sadie Loman, a wealthy summer resident and local Avery Greer are captivating when they connect and become friends. We quickly see the tragedy and learn more about each character and their families. This one, while compelling, did have one or two holes in the story but the overall feeling kept me turning pages. I have All The Missing Girls on my TBR pile. 

If you stuck with me to the end thank you! I've noticed that 10/12 books feature strong female characters.  My favorite conversation is always to find out what others are reading and which books you absolutely loved. Give me some suggestions. May 2023 be another great year of connecting, reading, and writing.