"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, May 23, 2022

TTT: Quotes from Pulitzer Prize Winning Novels Still Relevant Today

Top Ten Tuesday: 
Quotes from Pulitzer Prize Winning Novels Still Relevant Today

As part of a personal challenge I have been attempting to read past Pulitzer Prize winners. I have decided this is what makes a book worthy of being an award winner --- it reaches through time and speaks to readers of the future.

1920: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Ah, good conversation — there's nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.

1923: One of Ours by Willa Cather

Ruin and new birth; the shudder of ugly things in the past, the trembling image of beautiful ones on the horizon; finding and losing; that was life.

1925: So Big by Edna Ferber

About mistakes, it's funny. You've got to make your own; and not only that, if you try to keep people from making theirs, they get mad.”

1940: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.

1953: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.

1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.

1972: The Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.

1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

1986: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.

1994: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

What we fear we often rage against.

2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

You can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.

2018: Less by Andrew Sean Greer 

His brain sits before its cash register again, charging him for old shames as if he has not paid before.

2019: The Overstory by Richard Powers

The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.
2021: The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

When he needed to calm his mind, he opened a book. Any book. He had never failed to feel refreshed, even if the book was no good.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Sunday Salon ... Busy week.

Don and his grandsons at the property.

Gorgeous. Today the skies are blue and the weather is average in temperature for this time of year. The meteorologist said today was going to be the best yet and he is right so far.

This week: Don was in South Dakota for his very last business meeting; He was honored at a retirement event on Thursday; Rita and her family attended Dozer Days with the grandsons at the local fairgrounds.

Dozer Days


Buffalo, NY: Love in the face of all the hate.

  • Leaders join community in a peace vigil. "We cannot let hate win. And I think that we ought to know that Buffalo rose to the occasion. There's been no violence, there's been no riots. Buffalo stood up with love to answer hate. Buffalo stood up with dignity to answer an atrocity" (Al Sharptin).
  • The family of a man who survived the shooting in Buffalo is collecting books about racism, black history, and diversity to distribute to the community. (WKBW News) Check out the list of the books here. (I am sure that the family would accept donations from people outside the community, if you want to donate.)
  • Donations top 1 million for families of victims and survivors. The donations came from all 50 states and 17 countries. (WKBW News) You can donate here.
  • Buffalo Bills and NFL Association are donating $400,000 for families of victims and survivors of the shooting spree. (WKBW News.) 


About the impending abortion ban, watch this ( I need to remember this when I am talking to folks about a woman's right to choose for her own health.) (Click on the photo of the chicken, it will take you to TikTok, then click to watch the video.)


  • Currently reading
    • The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief by Jan Richardson. Powerful and helpful on so many levels. Print. 30%
    • The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. Set in Korea starting in the 1930s, this is the story of one woman's life. She is a Haenyo, a Korean female diver. The book is historical and very heartbreaking. This is a book club selection. I know it will generate a great discussion. Audio. 70%
    • The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. Recommended by several bloggers I started reading this basically blind. The main character is gay in Ireland when it was not okay to be gay. It also has some very heartbreaking parts. Other bits are funny. But I find I cannot make myself read this as fast as I should to really enjoy it. Sigh. Print. 55%.
    • Discussions on Race: essays by a variety of authors. Thought-provoking. Print. 79%.
  • Book Club

Required cat photos:

George is supervising in the kitchen

Fred and George on the hunt for a spider


Thursday, May 19, 2022


So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
(Hachette Book Group, 2018)

Book Beginnings quote:
(from Introduction -- "So You Want to Talk About Race") As a Black woman, race has always been a prominent part of my life. I have never been able to escape the fact that I am a Black woman in a white supremacist country. My Blackness is woven into how I dress each morning, what bars I feel comfortable going to, what music I enjoy, what neighborhood I hang out in. The realities of race have not always been welcome in my life, but they have always been there.
(from Chapter 4 -- "Why Am I Always Being Told to 'Check My Privilege'?") The definition of privilege is in reality much simpler than a lot of social justice discussions would have you believe. Privilege, in the social justice context, is an advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not.

Summary: Racism is such a difficult topic to talk about. In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo "guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to 'model minorities' in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible -- honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life" (Book Cover).

Review: I had grand designs in my mind about how I wanted to write this review and in the process doing the impossible -- making all my readers understand how widespread white supremacy is in our culture and what we can do to move in the right direction concerning racial issues in our country. It didn't take long for me to abandon my grand scheme -- too overwhelming -- in favor of asking you to read this book, or any similar book on the topic to increase your awareness and understanding.

I have read several books on this topic written by a variety of authors. So You Want to Talk About Race is a great place to start, if you haven't found a book to aid you on your journey moving forward. Ijeoma Olou is a half-black/half-white woman who has so many insights from her life and her research. Topics like 'checking our privilege', the 'school-to-prison pipeline', and 'tone policing' weren't new to me but she did a wonderful job explaining them and using examples to make the terms understandable. I had to sit very uncomfortably with the topic of microaggressions,  police brutality (the book was published before George Floyd's death), and insights about problems in schools. Some other book titles I have read and found helpful:

The third chapter is titled, "What if I talk about race wrong?" I appreciate the practicality of this chapter and other parts of the book. Sometimes I feel scared to say anything for fear I say it wrong or, god forbid, make matters worse. This chapter assures readers that it is okay to try again next time, to apologize, and don't insist people give you credit for good intentions. Baby steps. I am making baby steps in the right direction.

Book Club: My church book club just discussed this book on Tuesday evening. Though we didn't hold as robust of a discussion as I would have hoped, I recognize that everyone in the group is on a journey toward a less racist future. We are growing. Sometimes, however, discussions about our white privilege and microaggressions are tough and make us feel uncomfortable. We don't like to think of ourselves as racists or that our very skin color has laid the way for a much different life than people of color have/are experiencing. The back of the book has very thoughtful questions to guide group discussions. 

The time is now. We can no longer sit back. And we will not go back. It is time to start moving toward an anti-racist future.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.  


Monday, May 16, 2022

TTT: Books I Was So Excited to Get Yet I Still Haven't Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was So Excited To Get Yet I Still Haven't Read 

The Anne of Green Gables series in a boxed set
I purchased it from a friend at her garage sale back in late 1990s. I've since read the first book in the series but haven't touched any of the subsequent novels. Sigh.

Anna Karenina. I bought this book when I was in junior high in the early 1970s. I would scour the Scholastic Book Order each month and purchase one or two books on my small budget, which was lucky since this book cost around 50 cents. I've been carrying this book around with me since that time reading only the first page or two ever. Does this one win for being on anyone's list the longest?

I bought this book, Bonk by Mary Roach, the year it was published in 2009 since I like the author so much and what a different, intriguing topic: Science and Sex.

Ten Windows by Jane Hirshfield. I love reading poetry and I enjoy reading about how to analyze specific poems. When I found this book in a book store in Cannon Beach, Oregon I had to have it. Why? I guess so it could gather dust.

Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg. I think I heard the author on a morning show on TV. I was super psyched about the idea of making small changes for big results. I started reading it in 2020 just as the COVD restrictions were in full force. I just didn't have the determination to keep reading it. I wonder if there is a chapter in it about making changes in reading habits. Ha!

Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I watched the first episode of the miniseries on PBS in 2008. In those days it was a lot more difficult to catch up on missed episodes so I ordered the book so I wouldn't miss any of the details. Well, it didn't work. I didn't read the book or find the lost episode.

Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gwande. I often stop by the secondhand books "store" at the library and peruse the offerings to buy for a few dollars. I found this prize and bought it because I like the author. Still haven't cracked it open.

Four Seasons in Rome. I went to see the author Anthony Doerr speak about his book All The Light We Cannot See in 2015. I was so taken by his presentation I treated myself by purchasing another of his books, a nonfiction book he wrote while he lived in Rome.

Beach Read. Another find I found at the library "store." I was pretty happy to see it since so many bloggers have reviewed it. It is still untouched.

Tell Me Why. I went through a Beatles phase a few years ago reading all the books about the Fab4 I could get my hands on and listening to their music obsessively. Unfortunately, this used book, a gift from my sister, arrived after the phase had already waned.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Apparently I have purchased this book twice. The first (left) was part of the books I bought in junior or senior high. The second (right) I just got at the library "store". I had forgotten I already had a copy which I've never read, obviously.

I know. I know. It is really obvious why I haven't read some of these books. They sound really boring! Perhaps I should donate them to the library so I can forget I used to own them and re-buy them from the "store" so they can sit around on my bookshelves for another decade or two. Sigh.


Sunday, May 15, 2022

Sunday Salon...The Grass is Always Greener...

Weather: Raining. One thing you can say about all this cool weather and rain, the grass sure is green. Our neighborhood is gorgeous with everyone's lawn being so green and the azaleas and rhododendrons blooming. Don got his two tomato plants in the ground yesterday. Let's hope there is enough sunny days, not too hot, for them to bear fruit.

Don is 65! We had a family gathering yesterday in honor of his birthday. I am the photographer so you don't see me but the whole family is together, including the dog. (See photo above.) We've all been nursing colds/allergies so we weren't in top form but it was a good day! Now Don is in South Dakota on his very last business trip before retirement.

Welcome Miles! My brother is a grandfather. His daughter, my niece, and son-in-law are now parents to a darling baby boy. Can't wait to meet him.

The First Responders Memorial at Mountain View Cemetery

Final goodbye: Deputy Dom Calata, my cousin's daughter's husband, was laid to rest in a final ceremony with past Monday. His final resting place is in a memorial section of Mountain View Memorial Park in Tacoma in a section dedicated to fallen First Responders. The service, a Christian Committal, was one where we committed him to eternal life with God. It was another heartbreaking day, but also one full of much comfort. 

COVID still lurking: While at the committal service Don and I were exposed to COVID. It was outdoors and the wind was blowing quite a bit, so we thought our risk fairly small that we'd get it but we still laid low for a few days until we could confirm if we had it or not. Oddly our church members made it through the first, second, and third waves of the disease relatively unscathed. But our defenses seem to be down and every week we learn of yet another person in our congregation who contracted COVID. Fortunately all or nearly all of these folks have been vaccinated.

Double play-structure day: I switched days that I watch our grandchildren this week, just in case of COVID. So instead of Wednesday I had both boys with me on Friday. We had a busy day playing at two different play structures in between naps and lunch. Ian, who is four, was very helpful with his younger brother showing him how to climb and crawl through tunnels or waiting at the bottom of the slide ready to catch Jamie if he was going down too fast. 


  • Completed this week:
    • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. A book club selection. This one is toughie because the subject is so important but the topic is so hard to process. I know we will have a good disucssion and hopefully everyone is making baby steps in the right direction. (Audio)
    • French Braid by Anne Tyler. A possible book club selection. This book points out how much we are a part of our families, even when we wish we could break free. (Print from library.)
  • Currently reading/listening to:
    • The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. Several bloggers have shared how much they like this book and I see why. It is a boy/man's story of growing up in Ireland in the 1950s/60s and his awareness of his homosexuality. There are some super sad bits but other hilarious parts. The book is long, almost 600 pages so I may be working on this one for a while. (Print book I own, 34% complete)
    • The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. Another potential book club selection has been on my TBR for several years. Set in Korean in the 1930s, based on actual events around these women divers. (Audio, 16%)
    • Dialogues on Race: Essays by Various Authors. This was the book we used for a Sunday School Class. I got waylaid in my reading and participation in the class, but I want to finish the book. All the essays are written from or toward a Christian audience and certainly speak loudly that we need to do better in race relations than we've done in the past. (Print, 66%)

What one thing would you change? That question was asked of us in church today. What we would change right now to make the world a better place? I'm not sure I heard the whole sermon because I was fantasizing about all the things I'd change. I started fairly small thinking how wonderful it would be to get rid of Fox News off the air so that people could stop being brainwashed. Then I decided that Putin needed to go. But wait what about climate change, women's reproductive rights, Black lives matter, and world peace! The answer, it seems, is all wrapped up in love. Can we be more loving to everyone? Let's try this week.

Ah-h. A two-headed cat? Fred and George have merged into one being. Ha!



Thursday, May 12, 2022

Review and quotes: FRENCH BRAID

Title: French Braid by Anne Tyler

Book Beginnings quote: 

This happened back in March of 2010, when the Philadelphia train station still had the kind of information board that clickety-clacked as the various gate assignments rolled up.

Friday56 quote: 

The greenery along the road had a freshly washed look after yesterday's rain. A lot of vacationers were out riding bicycles, and she drove extra carefully to avoid them.

Summary: The Garrett family takes their first and last vacation in the summer of 1959. They usually don't venture far from their home in Baltimore. Robin, the father, runs a plumbing supply company and when he is not working, he still acts like he is working. Mercy, the mother, love painting more than anything, often neglecting the cooking and housework for her artistic pursuits. Alice and Lily are teenagers the year of the vacation and they couldn't be more different. Alice is responsible, often picking up duties her mother has dropped. While Lily is wild and boy-crazy hardly participating as a family member. The youngest, David, seems to want to escape from the family's orbit, even at the young age of seven. No one understands him and he can't seem to express his feelings either. As their lives all advance through the decades, the Garretts seem to hold a lot of influence on each other and their patterns "'ripple ineffably but unmistakably through each generation."

Review: My husband and I are celebrating our 40th anniversary this June. We were discussing the length of time we've been married compared to the amount of time we lived with our parents in terms of influence on our lives. Hands down the first 18 years left the biggest imprint on who we are. This is what you see with the Garrett family. The family is not close-knit by any means. No one seems to really understand or appreciate anyone else, yet they cling to the family threads and pass down to their own children whatever it is that makes a family a family.

Oddly, this book about characters, had very fuzzy or blurry characters. I had the hardest time defining many of the qualities of any of the principal characters and none of the secondary ones. I had no idea what motivated them to act the way they did or why they hung onto old grievances, or that they only seemed to think of themselves only. It took me over half the book wondering when the plot would show up before I realized that the plot was the family member's relationships with each other.

Anne Tyler is a good writer and I had no trouble reading the book. It reminded me of the other books I've read by her -- heavy on characters, lighter on plot and setting. I wanted to like the book more than I did, though I wouldn't say I disliked it. 

I read French Braid because our book group is considering it for a monthly selection. I actually think we will find quite a bit to discuss if we are willing to open ourselves up and use examples from our own lives and from our families of origin. We'll see if that happens. One of the things I hope we do discuss is the ways, pointed out in the book, that we often operate as a family unit. 

Some examples are:

  • Children are forced to do things for their own good. Somethings are obviously necessary like sleeping and eating, but why are unnecessary things forced on kids like taking a particular type of job or swimming?
  • Not /talking about the "elephant in the room." Everyone knows the elephant is there. It is huge and it stinks, yet no one acknowledges it.
  • Talking about one person to other members in the family but not to the person himself.
  • Holding grudges so long one can't always remember what they are angry about.
  • Ignoring big issues/problems while focusing on minute details.

Sound like your family? I know it sounds like mine. I guess that is Anne Tyler's genius. She writes books that relate to everyone.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.  


Monday, May 9, 2022

TTT: Characters in Real Life

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Characters in Real Life

I had a lot of trouble with the topic this week so I decided to consult the Internet and while there I found a bunch of fun book character lists. I decided to share them instead of creating something myself. Click on a few. I think you'll enjoy them.

1. How Famous Characters Would Look In Real Life Based on Their Character Descriptions in the Books -- Reader's Digest, Oct. 2021

2. Ten Fictional Characters Inspired by Real People -- Quirk, April 2014. 

3. Ten Fictional Characters Inspired by Real People (A few dups with list above, but not many) -- Barnes and Noble, April 2016 

4.  Seven Literary Characters We'd All Like to Meet -- All Women's Talk, date unknown

5. Nine Fictional Characters Inspired by Historical Figures -- History of Yesterday -- Dec. 2020

6. Thirteen People Who Look Exactly Like Fictional Characters -- Art, Date Unknown 

7. 98 People Who Look Exactly Like Cartoon Characters (Okay, true confession: I only looked at the first ten, but they were good and funny) -- Bored Panda, 2017 

8. Ten Actors Who Look Nothing Like Their Book Characters --  MsMojo/YouTube, May 2018

9. Fifteen Regular People Who Look Like Harry Potter Characters -- The Things, April 2018 

10. Artist Show What Harry Potter Characters Were Supposed to Look Like -- LAD Bible, April 2022


Sunday, May 8, 2022

Sunday Salon -- Mother's Day

Ian (2nd from left) and teammates waiting for their turn out on the soccer pitch. He liked this part of the game best.

Weather: I woke up today to bright sunshine, a relief after a rainy cold day yesterday. But the sunshine was short lived. It is now overcast, threatening rain.

What a week. So many feels. Highs and Lows.

Mother's Day: My daughters and grandchildren helped me celebrate Mother's Day with a lovely brunch,  a raucous game-playing session, and plenty of loving. We joined my family-of-origin for a Zoom call to wish Mom, aged 93, a happy day.

Paul McCartney:
I've been a Beatles fan since I was five or six years old. This week I finally got to see one of the Beatles in concert, Sir Paul McCartney! What a thrill. I loved everything about the concert and our time in Seattle. It was worth the 60 year wait! (Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Don and I at our hotel, MarQueen, is Seattle before the concert; dinner at Queen Anne McMenamin's; We're inside Climate Pledge Arena; Got Back tour; I texted Paul- he texted back; Paul singing Black Bird; Paul singing; the next day at the Seattle Center -- the concert sign was still up; Space Needle.)

Leaked document -- Abortion is on the way out: The insanity of the conservative movement is so hard to understand. Hopefully all those suburban women who voted for Trump in 2016 because they didn't like Hillary, will get activated and understand their role in reversing this reversal. In the meantime, I hope these funny clips help ease the pain.

SNL Roe v. Wade Cold Open (5/7/22) 6 minutes.

Kentucky Derby: This was the most fun, outlandish results of the week. If you haven't seen this, it is worth the 2:30 minutes to watch it. (Even if you never watch horse racing. Do it!) Here's a few things that might impress you. The favorite, Epicenter, had 4 to 1 odds to win. The winner, Rich Strike had 80 to 1 odds and was only entered into the race on Friday after another horse was scratched. Amazing.

"The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin." HBO special: We watched all five episodes (in one week) and other related YouTube videos. Read my blog post why this impacted me as much as it did. (Weigh Down/ Way Down.)

Books: I only finished one book this week -- Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection by Kate Bowler. (Click link for review.) I'm reading French Braid by Anne Tyler and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. I'll talk about them all next week. 

This is what I think about men making decisions about women's healthcare.

A lot to digest this week. How did things go for you?


Saturday, May 7, 2022

Weigh Down / Way Down

Link to HBO

Let's see. Where should I start?

This past week I learned about an HBO Special called "The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin." My daughter was the one who told me about it and she knew I'd be interested because of my involvement in The Weigh Down Workshop years ago.

My whole life I've thought of myself as overweight. Even when I was a little kid my mother was constantly attempting to get me to lose weight or pointing out how much better I'd feel if I would "trim down." If there was a diet, I've probably tried it -- Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, grapefruit, Atkins, intermittent fasting, counting calories, supplements -- you name it.  In 1997 I joined a Christian weight loss program called the Weigh Down Workshop. The workshop was held at a church in town. Participants paid an initial amount, somewhere around $100, and for our money we got a workbook and watched a short video each week featuring the founder, Gwen Shamblin. Gwen was a nutritionist and a Christian. She espoused eating less, or portion control, supplanting God for food. Her videos and the lessons in the workbooks, got the participants looking in the Bible for help with "gluttony" control. If one over-ate wasn't it just part of a pattern of sin?

At first I was tremendously moved by this program and was quite captivated by Gwen's authority and magnetism. What she was saying seemed right AND she backed up her words with scripture. It had to be right. But somewhere in the middle of the twelve-week course, I started to worry. What if the program didn't work for me? Wouldn't that be my last chance? If God couldn't help me lose weight, I was truly sunk, right? I remember sharing this thought with my small group but was met with a stonewall of indifferent looks on their faces. Hmm. Was I the only questioning person there?

Anyway, I think I was fairly successful that first session, losing perhaps 20 pounds. I even bought Gwen's book The Weigh Down Diet and read through it carefully. Once the session ended, however, the weight crept back on, so I decided to participate in another session but this time I would be the discussion leader at my church. Once again there was a capital outlay, even for discussion leaders, but this time the videos had changed. The first first time through each video was only about twenty minutes long, now the second edition videos were all over an hour long. The first ones had been cute and funny and practical, now they were stuffed full of Gwen sitting and talking in a setting in Egypt (theme: Exodus) and what she had to say was almost all about guilt and sin. I could barely stand these videos for the length and for the serious/non-practical nature. After one full 12-week session I was done. I set everything aside and went on with my life. This was in the year 2000.

Weigh Down Workshop materials I saved all these years. I dumped the book at some point but kept these workbooks. I gained some insights into how the program was affecting me at the time but perusing them this week.

Now, twenty-two years later, I have learned the rest of the story: According to the HBO Special, Gwen started a church in 1999 in Brentwood, Tennessee, based on the principals shes been espousing in the Weigh Down Workshop. She called the church The Remnant Fellowship, named after a scripture in Revelations about a small remnant of people who will be left behind but will know the "true" word of God. Over the next twenty years as the church grew, Gwen's philosophies started to really diverge from typical Christian theology. Two specific items come to mind: One, she preached that there is no Trinity* (The trinity is God=Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three-in-one) which of course is a bedrock foundation of the Christian faith and this proclamation made many people leave her weight loss program worldwide. Secondly, and this is an odd one, she continued with her emphasis on weight loss. Members of the church had to attend Weigh Down workshops and were deemed 'saved' if they were losing weight and would get kicked out of the church if they gained weight. What church does that? Some experts began pointing out ways this church, under Gwen's authority, was becoming a cult. Other cultish things about the church included total control of the members. They weren't allowed to associate with people outside the church, even using services from members of the church, not outside businesses. Gwen thought that women should be submissive to their husbands, which often meant forgiving the men for infidelity but not allowing divorce. And children were to be kept under control, even spanked or beaten to break their willful spirits. Glue sticks (for hot glue guns) were a favorite tool for these beatings because they hurt but didn't leave a mark.

Meanwhile she was enriching herself, living quite an extravagant lifestyle and all the while her hair and makeup styling got more and more bizarre. She would often have her hair teased to be at least 6 inches high. As she seemed to lose more and more weight herself, her hair style seemed to be the way she hid the fact she was shrinking. 

In 2018, Gwen announced that sometimes God does condone divorce, and she divorced her husband of forty years and within weeks married Joe Lara, a handsome actor and wanna-be country music singer. He also was a small plane pilot, licensed to fly by sight not instrumentation. In May of 2021 Gwen, her husband, and five others, were in a plane (probably piloted by Lara) going to a MAGA rally in Florida. They all died when the plane crashed into a lake soon after take-off. In the ironies of all ironies, it is thought that the plane crashed because it was over the weight capacity.

Around the time of her death, Gwen Shamblin was busy making a video series for her church, which has several satellite churches all over the country, about greed. She wanted the members to give everything to the church, all their money and property. Gasp! The HBO series was well into production at the time of her death also, and so had to do some post-production work to include the details of the crash and speculate about where the fellowship would go now without their leader. The initial three episode of the special aired in the fall of 2021. But so many people came out of the woodwork after Gwen's death, HBO decided to add two additional episodes about the aftermath. Those were recently aired.

So why am I so bothered? It was over 22 years ago that I walked away from the Weigh Down Workshop. No harm, no foul. Yet, as I watched the HBO special, and other videos I found on YouTube I started to shiver. How close had I come to tipping all the way over? I had contributed to this woman financially by buying her books and paying for the workshop several times. I may not have been in her cult but I was certainly cult-adjacent at least for a short while. I'd started to buy into her philosophy which equated being overweight to being sinful. Yikes! I've often wondered how someone, anyone could be gullible enough to get involved in a cult and now I know. The truth of it is chilling -- it happens slowly, over time, to vulnerable people who are attracted to people who seem to have the answers. I was one of those potential victims. Egads.

Here are a six ways to avoid religious cults (CBS News), with my take on how Gwen Shamblin was the leader of one:

  1. Beware of any kind of pressure."You must decide now, give up food or go to hell."
  2. Be wary of any leader who proclaims him or herself as having special powers or special insight. And, of course, divinity. In Gwen's case, she thought of herself as a prophet of God with new insights from him. Thinking about all the religious cults I know about, God was shoved aside and the person (in this case, Gwen) became more important.
  3. The leadership of the group is closed, although there may be outside followers, there's usually an inner circle that follows the leader without question, and that maintains a tremendous amount of secrecy. In the case of the Remnant Fellowship, all the leaders were men, but they deferred to Gwen for guidance.
  4. The group uses deceptive means, typically, to recruit new members, and then once recruited will subject its members to an organized program of thought reform, or what most people refer to as brainwashing. The Remnant Fellowship was so big on weight loss that some very overweight people were told to stop eating altogether until they got down to the right weight. (Isn't that called starvation?) Gwen compared the weight loss of her faithful members to the weight loss of Holocaust victims, who all lost weight! (Don't eat=lose weight.)
  5. Typically cults also exploit their members. Within the group, they'll exploit members financially, psychologically, emotionally and, all too often, sexually. And think of the children who were beaten by their parents to save them from sin!
  6. A very important aspect of cult is the idea that if you leave the cult, horrible things will happen to you. In the case of the Remnant Fellowship, people would often lose their livelihood if they left the fellowship because of the tangled up finances and intertwined social networks. It is very hard to leave if it means you will lose all your friends or their financial security.

If you are curious and want to learn more about Gwen Shamblin and the Weigh Down Workshop scam/cult, I recommend you watch the HBO Special: "The Way Down: Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin." If you don't have HBO, this YouTube video (one hour in length) does a good job highlighting the details, too. In fact, I found it answered several lingering questions I had after watching the HBO series: "The Millionaire Preacher with a Weight-Loss Cult / Gwen Shamblin Documentary."

Well, this is me, signing off on another blog post. This time with a sigh of "whew!" Dodged a big one, folks. I dodged a big one.  

*Ha-ha! When I first typed the word 'Trinity' I made it 'Trilogy'. Guess you can tell what type of topics I usually blog about...Books!


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Review and quotes: GOOD ENOUGH

Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie

Book Beginnings Quote: 

(PREFACE) If you check your social media feed, the debate has been settled. Yes, you ca be perfect. Other people are living beautiful, joyful, effortless lives. In fact, it's embarrassing that you haven't joined their ranks.

Friday56 quote: 

(FOR THE EXILES) There is a saint for almost everything. Fishermen. Hairdressers. Carpenters. Ecologists. Schoolgirls. Lost articles. Housewives. And an obscure Italian teenager who stands in for all those who feel excluded. Saint Rose was born in thirteenth-century Italy and her astonishing career as a saint began at age three when she raised her aunt from the dead.
Summary: So often devotional books are just another book which ends up inadvertently making you feel worse about yourself because you can't even make yourself complete the whole book on the schedule it proposes, let alone read all the scriptures, pray all the prayers, become more pious or holy. Good Enough is written gently and with humor. It grants permission to all those who need to hear that there are some things you can fix -- and somethings you can't. And it is okay that life isn't always better. It encourages readers to read those devotions that speak to them in their circumstances now and skip over those that don't. It encourages readers to pause and reflect, to do what is possible for the day. Each short devotion is accompanied by either a related prayer or a blessing and a "Good Enough Step", which is some small thing that can be done that day which may be helpful or meaningful.

Review: My mother gave me Good Enough in late March. It is considered a Lenten devotional. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. Each year Christians are asked to spend these 40 days doing things or avoiding things in order to prepare one's heart for Easter morning. My mother's church encouraged reading Good Enough this year and both she and my sister had found it so helpful and meaningful, they wanted others in the family to read it, too. Then tragedy struck our family when my cousin's daughter's husband, a Sheriff's Deputy, was killed in the line of duty. It was when the family gathered for the service and the meal that preceded it, that Mom passed out the books to everyone. I was busy being hostess and didn't really hear what she said about the book but found, days after everyone left, that it was just exactly what I needed -- a kind and gentle devotional that reminded me of God's love and his presence even in light of terrible circumstances. The twelfth devotion was on grief. It could have been written for our family. The chapter, 'For the Exiles' (Friday56) was directed to those of us who often feel excluded or underappreciated. Another chapter talks about how it is okay to be mediocre at doing somethings. There was an overarching theme throughout the book that no one is perfect and we can make ourselves very sick if we try.

Though Good Enough was especially written with Lent in mind, only one of the devotions specifically mentioned Easter, so it could easily be read any time of year or over and over again which is what I plan to do. It is easily the best devotional guide I have ever read and it came along at just the right moment to provide some needed salve to soothe what ailed me -- deep grief.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.  


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Let's discuss: TBR lists!

This month I have set myself a little goal to read exclusively off my TBR (To-Be-Read) list, without cheating and adding any new ones along the way. My hope is I can actually make a small dent in my  metaphysical list, which I keep track of on Goodreads. 

So, let's talk about reading lists.

Where do you keep track of what you want to read? 

I have a 'to-read' list on Goodreads which has about 210 titles currently residing there. I recently culled the list down but then added a few new books, which meant I really didn't cull it down at all. I also have a Classics Club list of around 30 books which I want to read but I never seem to get to.  In addition, I have book shelves full of books I technically want to read yet I haven't added them to my Goodreads list because, I actually don't know why.

How often do you cull down your list or do you?

A blogging friend recently told me that she has over 1000 books on her TBR list. Mine could probably be as long but I often go through and delete titles usually because I can't remember why I added it onto the list in the first place. I even been known to add the title onto the list more than once (different editions) so the culling process helps me locate and delete dups. I've also asked myself the questions "Do you still want to read this book? Why or why not?" If the answer to the first question is no or I don't know, I delete it. Often books go onto the TBR because someone on a book blog suggested it then it comes off because someone on a book blog hated it. Ha! Fickle me.

Who/What influences you to add books to your TBR?

There are a few authors whose works I will immediately add to my reading list without even reading the reviews first, but not many. And I am usually the last to know when a new book gets published since I do not make any attempt whatsoever to read ARCs (advanced reader copies.) I'm in two book clubs so titles of upcoming books are added as we make new selections. And at the end of each year I tend to scour people's 'best of the year' lists and will usually do a bit of research before adding titles, but these are usually the books I try to read soon in the new year if I can. Otherwise, I read book reviews when I see them and add books that sound like me or those that have piqued my interest.

How influential is your TBR in your decision of what to read next? 

I'd say my TBR is more likely to assist me in placing holds at the library than anything else. I rarely look at it when I am making a decision what to read next, though I often consult it to remind myself that I should make my selections from it. Even saying this makes me wonder if keeping a TBR is futile. I want to read the next shiny book to cross my path or the one which jumps into my hands as I walk across the library. Reading for me is pretty haphazard.

Join in the discussion about reading lists by making your comments below. Help me figure this thing out!