All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. This book was hard to put down, but also hard to read. It was an amazing story that was touching and moving and heartbreaking. It is told from different points of view, which, I’m learning, is a writing style that I find really interesting. It did bother me, though, how some of the chapters were in first person, while some were in third. I figured that the more important characters, who were living the story, were telling it in first person, while the characters who were more on the outside had a third person narrative. But that wasn’t even true for all the chapters. The story is about Wavy, who is a tragic little girl whose life has been difficult, at best. I love child narrators and stories about children, and this book was no different. At times, I felt so uncomfortable rooting for the love story because it was so such an unconventional love story. My book club mostly agreed that this was a really good, well-liked book, that we would each have a hard time recommending to people because it made us feel uncomfortable. But, I would totally recommend it to people. If that makes sense at all.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I read this book after seeing Evynne’s Contemporary American Songbook show at the Shedd. She did a few songs from the show that is based on this graphic novel. I don’t read many graphic novels, so it was fun to do something a little different. It is a beautifully written and drawn memoir about the author’s family – most specifically her father, who was gay and killed himself. It is honest and dark and funny and I really enjoyed it. Now I really want to see Fun Home performed.
Wishing Day By Lauren Myracle. This is a really great story about a girl in a special town. It’s a young adult novel that is part of a trilogy. Natasha lives in Willow Hill, where every girl, when they turn 13, gets to make three wishes – The first wish is an impossible wish. The second is a wish she can make come true herself. And the third is the deepest wish of her secret heart. Natasha is a typical 13 year old girl, but she lives in a world with magic and wishes that can come true. There is a good mystery and the characters are fun and likeable. The only thing I don’t like is something that I don’t like in a lot of young adult series these days – they just leave off on a cliffhanger. I mean, I get that it’s fun to leave things open that need to be solved throughout the series, but I like some sense of closure. JK Rowling did this really well in her series – even though we knew there were bigger issues that weren’t resolved, she closed up each book and left us with a satisfying ending. Wishing Day almost seemed like a long introduction to the series – a lot of exposition of the setting and backstory. That being said, I look forward to reading the other books when they come out, so I’m not that mad about it.
Are You My Mother? By Alison Bechdel. This is a follow-up to Fun Home, but more about Alison’s mother this time. It actually was more of a meta-book that was about how Alison and her mother connected throughout the writing of Fun Home. It also goes into how Alison has dealt with her life through an in-depth study of psychoanalysis. It actually brought up a lot of information and questions about how we raise children, and how the way we were raised as affected us as adults. The narrative wasn’t as engaging as Fun Home, but the psychology was interesting to learn, and having it presented as a graphic novel certainly made the details easier to read and understand.
Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is my second time reading this one. I read it with my book club a couple years ago and really enjoyed it (maybe ‘enjoyed’ is the wrong word). I thought it was fascinating and I love this genre – the dystopian/ post-apocalyptic thing. This book is particularly interesting because the future isn’t too distant. I mean, Offred remembers a culture that is very similar to ours now and everything changes to the hyper-religious, hyper-patriarchal culture of Gilead within a couple years. It’s fascinating, and more terrifying to think of things changing so quickly. Obviously this book is well-written and well crafted, considering it is written by Atwood. It’s beautiful and haunting and disturbing. This time through, I was really struck by the fact that it doesn’t follow a typical narrative arch. I mean, when you think about it, nothing really happens and nothing is ever really resolved. This doesn’t sound like a glowing review, but literarily, it is really successful and really fascinating.
Rooms by Lauren Oliver. This was a ghost story, but a really good one. Creepy at times, though that wasn’t the main point as far as I could tell. It is more of an exploration of a family. There are a couple ghosts that live within a house, or they are the house, and they witness everything that happens when a family comes to pack up the house. It was clever and the characters were interesting.
Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci. This was a really good young adult novel about a girl who is looking for her place and her people. This is a well-written and simple story. It is a coming of age story, but it is unique and creative. I liked it.
Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. As many people know, Foer wrote my very favorite book of all time, so I was very anxious for this book to come out. It wasn’t as good as Extremely Loud and Incredible Close, but it was a very good book. It is about a family on the verge of collapse, but also about the world on the verge of collapse. There were parts when I laughed out loud, and parts where I cried, and parts where I was just really confused about why I was reading it (if you’ve read it, you probably know that chapter I’m talking about). All in all, I’d say I liked this book a lot. It was hard to get through, but worth it.
Fly on the wall by E. Lockhart. Another young adult novel about a girl who is looking for her place and her people. She wishes to become a fly on the wall of the boy’s locker room, and her wish comes true. Obviously an homage to Kafka, this modern story is pretty good. Katya is a likeable, creative girl and her exploits are realistic and funny.
Big Little Lie by Laine Moriarty. I read this because I was watching the HBO show and it wasn’t going fast enough. I just couldn’t wait to know what happened and who died and who did it! This is such a good mystery book. The characters are all really interesting and the plot is so very creative. It starts with someone dying at a school fundraiser, but you don’t find out who did it or even who died until the very end. It is a difficult book because it tackles some difficult subjects. But it’s a story of women and strength and relationships. I really liked it. Both the book and the show.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. This is the first book in The Mortal Instruments series – a fantasy series for young adults. I actually really liked the book and found it compelling. Clary is the protagonist and she’s pretty cool, but it isn’t really the girl-power story that it could be. Maybe that comes in the later books. It’s mysterious and clever, but the dialog wasn’t super believeable. I started the second book, but couldn’t get into it. I think maybe I needed to take some time off before starting it.
Last week, I had drinks with a fellow blogger – Hannah – and we got on the topic of blogging, obviously. I mentioned that I haven’t been feeling very creative lately, on the blog and off. I have quilts that are mostly done, but they’re just sitting there. I have ideas that are forming and formed in my mind, but they’re just sitting there. I have loads of fabric and two girls who need new clothes, but they’re just sitting there (the fabric, not the girls. The girls don’t sit still).
Then, today, Facebook reminded me of a post I wrote two years ago. There is a part that stood out. Mostly because it was so shockingly true to how I’m feeling now, two years later, to the day:
…there will come a time that I’m not inspired and I don’t feel like I have anything to post. And the blog is quiet. And (I know this sounds precious) my soul is quiet. It isn’t that the work of the blog gets overwhelming, it’s more that I’m just not taking the time to create. When I’m making things, and cooking things, and growing things, I am inspired. I’m inspired to write and share on the blog. Those are the times that I feel the best and the happiest.
Wow, past Carolyn, you sure hit the nail on the head with that one.
I feel the best when I’m taking the time to create. I feel the best when I’m taking ideas and using them to create actual, tangible things. I feel the best when I’m taking the time to sit down and write.
Right now, our garden is sprouting and I’m going to take that as a sign that my creativity needs to sprout right along with it.
My to-do list is long, but at least I finally wrote it all down.
The day after Thanksgiving is my favorite day because everyone catches up and starts getting ready for Christmas! Overnight it becomes socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music, and it’s okay to deck the halls with Christmas cheer. Finally.
This year we went to Northern Lights again. We made the trek with Jesse’s folks this year. We found a perfectly lovely Fraser Fir that was tall, and sparse, and green.
Jesse, with some help and encouragement from the girls and his dad, cut down our tree. It has a much thicker trunk than our past trees, and Jesse had to work quite hard to fall it.
I love this rainy, muddy, sunny, chilly annual adventure. I figure that since we live in the place where most the Christmas trees are grown, it’s worth it to go to the source and get the freshest of the fresh.
Because, just look at the sweet memories we are creating.
Back home we got the tree all decorated. When we were done, there was a pretty solid ring of ornaments right at Harriet and Alma height.
And adding the star to the top is a family affair. I love the magic of this moment, every single year.
We also got to visit Santa after church on Sunday. I seriously love this Santa (except that this year, he told the kids he’s just a helper… I was fully committed to teaching our kids that he was the real deal, but, whatever…).
I think this was the first year both girls have happily gone right up to him and jumped into his lap.
We went, of course, with Rory and Poppy. Poppy was a little unsure about the whole deal.
We wrote our letter to Santa and put it in the mailbox. Then a talking tree – Doug Fir – came up and made us all a little uncomfortable.
But, hey! It’s Christmas time! It’s Advent! Let’s be jolly!
One thing that Evynne Hollens does very well is inspire. She is such a positive person, and I appreciate how she puts out so much love and light into the world. When she does covers, she chooses songs that are uplifting, empowering, and inspiring. Her next cover is no different.
If you’ve been following her, you know that she’s been on a princess kick for a while. In fact, she’s releasing a new CD of her covers of the princess songs (and a new CD of her other covers) very soon! I think this all started – or at least sped up – when she released her Evolution of the Disney Princess video on YouTube. It has over 10 million views (WHAT?!).
I don’t want to spoil what song she’s covering this time, but I will say that she came up with the perfect idea for the video. In the video, we’ll get to see her as a few of the princesses, along with smaller versions! The song is perfect for a bunch of four year old princesses – with their energy, silliness, sass, playfulness, and imaginations.
I helped Evynne organize a group of seven little princesses to all go to her house and film the video. It was like a bomb of adorable exploded in the Hollens’ studio. I mean, really. Look at this little Princess Parade, heading into the studio:
It was so fun to be a part of the filming. Both Evynne and Merlin, her talented cameraman (and sometimes drummer), were so wonderful with the kids. They gave amazing directions and really seemed to be enjoying the hilariousness of directing seven 3-5 year-olds.
Ashland definitely got in on the direction. Or maybe he was the lighting tech. I’m not sure, but he was there and he was super helpful!
Each of the princesses got a chance to be in front of the camera. Alma went first because that’s the way she is. She is certainly my daughter, that is obvious. While the other girls were, perhaps, a little unsure of what to do, Alma just jumped right in and started hamming it up for the camera. No stage fright here.
Harriet, on the other hand, was a bit more reserved (which is hilarious since she was Elsa, the most fierce of all the princesses!). She was also the youngest. She sort of just sat there, or stood there, and shook her head. I’m interested to see what Merlin got from her, and how Evynne will edit it. But, just look at those boots peeking out of her Elsa dress. That’s so Harriet.
It was really interesting to be there, in the studio, where the Hollens film many of their videos. It all felt so exciting – the lights, the background, the music, the energy. The kids had a great time cheering each other on and playing around.
One of the highlights of the day was when Evynne would transform into various princesses. The girls would sneak up the stairs to try to catch of glimpse of Evynne as the princesses. I’m fairly convinced that the moment she came downstairs in costume each time, the girls thought it was the actual princess. They called her by the princess name, and an awed hush went over them. ‘Ariel’s’ mom even said to me, “Why did I pay so much money to meet the Princesses at Disneyland when I could have just come over to Evynne’s house?” So, Evynne, if this whole YouTube business doesn’t pan out, you have a future in doing Princess Parties! Ha!
I’m excited for this epic show-down between the pink and blue Sleeping Beauty dresses. Actually, they were very civil, but it got a bit tense there for a second.
One of my favorite moments of the day was when Merlin was telling the girls and their families the plan, and it was chaos. Everyone was playing with Ash’s toys and there were little brothers running around. Alma was so overcome with her enthusiasm that she just ran up to Merlin and gave him a big hug, despite the fact that she barely even knew him.
We all had such a fun time working on this video with Ev and Merlin! Thanks to Olivia, Elizabeth Grace, Eibhlin, Marie, Hailey, Harriet, and Alma – all the little princesses – for helping out! Thanks to Evynne Hollens and Merlin for including us! I’m sure the whole squad of little princesses will remember this day for a long, long time.
I am a woman and I just voted. I voted for a woman to become the President of the United States. One hundred years ago, that would have been laughable. Not only would a woman never be on a ballot, but women couldn’t even cast ballots. There is something so important about all this. It is imperative that we look at this and acknowledge the enormity of the situation.
I’ve always known the history of Oswald West and women’s suffrage in Oregon. I’ve always known that he was able to grant the vote to women during his term as governor. I’ve always known about Abigail Scott Duniway, and known that she was a suffragette. But I haven’t always known the full story of women’s suffrage in Oregon, and I wonder how much you, my curious reader, know. I did some research and I want to share it with you.
When Oregon’s constitution was written in 1857, it included this statement, “every white, male citizen of the United States of the age of twenty-one and upwards, who shall have resided in the State during the six months immediately preceding such election…. shall be entitled to vote at all elections authorized by law.” One man, David Logan, moved to omit the word ‘male’ before ‘citizen,’ but his request wasn’t even discussed. When the 14th and 15th amendments were passed in the federal constitution, the Oregon constitution was amended to include all males as electors, but not women.
Women still didn’t count, despite efforts by equal suffrage supporters to claim voting rights for women, along with the newly emancipated black men.
In 1872, four Oregonian women took a stand and went to the polls to vote. They gave their votes to the judge, who put them under the ballot box – not in it. Their votes weren’t counted, but their act of voting was an important one, nonetheless.
The next year, 1873, Abigail Scott Duniway , one of those four brave women, founded the Oregon State Equalization Society, and my great-grandfather, Oswald West was born.
Abigail Scott Duniway wrote and published a newspaper, New Northwest, which was a widely circulated pro-suffrage publication. She also led the way for suffrage supporters in Oregon and followed the “still hunt” strategy for gaining support for suffrage. Instead of throwing parades and huge protests, Duniway and her supporters tried to influence the men in power in a more personal, quiet way. They would write letters, hand out pamphlets, and wait until the end of the campaign to make public displays for their cause.
As the family story goes, ten years later, in 1883, young Oswald West was able to hear Abigail Scott Duniway speak on women’s suffrage near his home in Salem. He remembered her looking right at him and asking, “Don’t you feel like your mother is as good, if not better, than the ordinary saloon bums in Salem?” Os, being a staunch prohibitionist from an early age, whole-heartedly answered that – yes, he did feel that way. From that moment on, his political opinions were ignited and he worked to help women win the battle for the vote.
Oregon has the distinction of having put this matter to the voters more than any other state. Oregon male voters voted on suffrage in 1884, 1900, 1908, 1910, and finally passed the amendment on November 5th, 1912 with 52% of the votes – 67,625 votes in favor, and 57,104 votes against.
On November 30th, 1912, when Oswald West was Oregon’s governor, he asked Abigail Scott Duniway to write and sign the Women’s Suffrage Proclamation. (photo of this can be see here) She drafted the proclamation and Os West, along with Ben W. Olcott, as Secretary of State, signed it.
This is a history I’ve always known. I have always been proud of this family history. I’ve always been proud to carry on the legacy of the great men who were there when Abigail Scott Duniway made her lifelong dream a reality. I’m so proud of this history that I gave my daughters middle names that honor and remember West and Olcott for the foresight and respect they showed to Oregon’s women.
Today, we get to cast a ballot that Abigail Scott Duniway, along with Os West and Ben Olcott, would be so incredibly happy to know exists. We get to vote for a woman to hold the highest office in our nation. Not only that, but we get to vote for a woman who deserves that office more than anyone before her.
One hundred and four year ago, tomorrow, Oregon’s men decided that women were worthy of the incredible right to vote. Next Tuesday, we all get to decide who will be our next president and it very well could be a woman.
It was a fight to achieve equal suffrage. It has been a fight to give women the rights that men have taken for granted for centuries. It has been a fight to get women in any office. It has been a fight to get Hillary to November (a long, hard fight that just proves her strength and resilience). It will be a fight to get her elected. When she’s elected the fight won’t stop. It is clear that we still live in a nation wrapped up in sexism. Hillary has crashed through the glass ceiling, but there are still shards of sexism laying everywhere.
As a child, I remember looking at the poster of all our presidents that was in my first grade classroom. It didn’t even occur to me that it was strange that all the presidents were white men. It was just the reality that I knew. I so much love that that isn’t the reality that my daughters were born into. They were both born while we’ve had a black president, and, hopefully, the next one will be a woman. The world is changing.
Also, I came across this lovely coincidence: There was a suffragette who was very active during the 1912 campaign who was named Harriet, but called Hattie, just like my Harriet. She was a brave African American woman “in a state that had codified black exclusion laws in its constitution. Redmond’s work for voting rights helped lay the groundwork for the Black Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century.” I can’t think of a better woman with whom Harriet should share a name. Read more about Harriet Redmond here.