Monday, January 27, 2014

Lisa in Jiaxing, China …

Here’s another look at China through my friend Lisa’s eyes. The picture is of her husband Glen standing in front of the new Chinese Communist Party Museum in Jiaxing, the birthplace of the Communist party in China. Lisa says the building is “quite beautiful with 3 floors of sculptures, artwork, photographs & documents depicting the history of China prior to the revolution up to the current government”.

Lisa writes that their contract with the school where they both teach states that the topics of politics and religion are not to be discussed in the classroom. She and Glen actually carry that into their personal affairs too and never discuss politics with their Chinese friends.

One of these friends is David, their host for the day and a proud member of the Communist party. The next picture is the Wall of Allegiance where he stood to pledge his loyalty and commitment to the party.

In stark contrast was the old part of Jiaxing.

Zheijiang province is known for its rivers and canals and many of the old towns are built alongside these rivers, as is this one. Lisa said that the architecture was lovely with many lanes leading to shops, cafes and outdoor flower and bird markets.

It must have been a fascinating but tiring day since their friend felt they could get a much better view of the city if they rode bikes and that’s what they did. I’m so glad that Lisa is taking me along vicariously with her letters because that’s the only way I could join in that bike ride ! Thanks, Lisa and keep those letters coming.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


…so says Buddha.

I came upon this quote about 20 years ago and, although I didn’t agree with it, it really made me think. How could I give up expectations? Weren’t they the spur that I needed to goad me on to bigger and better things? How could I just sit back and let life float on by?

It wasn’t until a dear friend explained it to me in a different light that I began to understand that quote. She made it very simple. “Just imagine,” she said “that you set a goal for yourself and you have every reason to expect that you will get there. Then you do get there and you sit back … pleased with yourself for fulfilling your expectation. The only problem with that,” she went on “is that you’ll never know how far you could have gone if you hadn’t been limited by your expectations.”

Wow. What a concept. I came to realize that I’d been cheating myself. By taking the expectations out of my daily life I’ve received much more than I would have settled for on my own.

I also came to realize that expectations ruled my everyday life. Whenever I planned something I would run it over in my mind and would expect it to come out according to my plan. Of course it never did and I would be constantly disappointed. I came to realize that people are not here to meet my expectations.

So my new outlook on life (tried and tested over the past 20+ years) is simplicity personified. I make plans, but I don’t predict the outcome. I accept people, places and things as they are and I realize that the only person I can change is ME !


Friday, January 17, 2014

The PERKS of living in a small town …

As most of you “regulars” know I live in a very small town in North Carolina. Our Seaboard Street has a post office, a library, a combination hardware and “5 & Dime store plus a few unoccupied buildings. They are all on one side of the street. The other side looks over the single train track that cuts through our town.

Back in 2009 I shared an incident with you that I figured could only happen in a small, country town like mine. I was at the Hardware store when an old CSX freight train chugged into sight. It was going very slow and then it actually came to a stop. I saw the conductor jump down from the train and I asked the man at the store if he knew what was wrong. “Oh, nothin’s wrong…”, he said, “it’s lunch time and he jogs over to the “Subway” at the BP station to get his food … been going on for years” !

Well now I have another story that speaks of the joys of small town living. I stopped at our library (pictured at the far right, with the canopy) recently and was very disappointed to see that the “Closed” sign was up and Deb, the librarian, was locking the door. She said “Hi” and told me she was taking a walk as part of her lunch hour. Laughingly I said, “Darn, I have a car appointment and was hoping to get a book to read. Their magazines are all about sports or mechanics”.

“Oh, I know that feeling.” she said as she turned back and unlocked the door. “Run in and grab a book. Just drop by after your car stuff and we’ll make it legal.” … and that’s what I did !

A few hours later I was back in the library “making it legal” with my library card. I was also thanking Deb profusely and she was blushing and saying it was no big deal. “What was no big deal ?” the lady behind me in line asked and when I explained what she’d done the lady just smiled and shook her head up and down. “Yep”, she said, “That’s our Debbie !”



Saturday, January 11, 2014

“The Housemaid’s Daughter” …

What a delight it is to find a new author with such talent. Barbara Mutch is that person and she certainly knows her subject. She was born in South Africa, the granddaughter of Irish immigrants and her thought provoking novel brings that country into stark focus.

It is the story of Cathleen who has traveled from Ireland to South Africa in 1919 to marry Edward. She is the mistress of Cradock House and becomes very fond of her black housemaid; but, it is the housemaid’s daughter Ada, born after she arrives, who truly reaches her heart. The book is narrated by Ada and it is from her vantage that we follow the twists and turns of her life and how it intertwines with Cathleen.

“The Housemaid’s Daughter” is a sweeping novel that encompasses a span of years from the 1930’s to the rise of Mandela and beyond. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wrote to Barbara Mutch to let her know that. I was so pleased to receive this answer from her …

Dear Ginnie    Thank you for your kind words about my novel. I am so delighted that you enjoyed it! It took me many years to write, but all that midnight oil is worthwhile when I get wonderful feedback such as yours. I always hoped that the book would strike a chord with US readers, many of whom would identify with the challenges facing Ada and Cath...
Please spread the word about the Housemaid's Daughter to your friends and family! And I wish you a happy and healthy 2014, and many more years of joyful reading.

Kind regards      Barbara Mutch

Thank you, Barbara, and it’s a pleasure to “spread the word to friends and family” and beyond !

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A breath of fresh air …

A few days ago a friend alerted me to a powerful letter written by Ralph Nader and posted this week on the website Common Dreams. I had never heard of that site so I decided to check it out. I was pleased to say the least.

Here is their pledge: “Common Dreams is a non-profit independent news center created in 1997 as a new media model. By relying on our readers and tens of thousands of small donations to keep us moving forward -- with no advertising, corporate underwriting or government funding -- Common Dreams maintains an editorial independence our readers can count on.

We are optimists. We believe real change is possible. But only if enough well-informed, well-intentioned -- and just plain fed up and fired-up -- people demand it. We believe that together we can attain our common dreams.” (the underline is my addition !)

Indeed, a breath of fresh air. I knew it had to be when I saw the title of the Nader post … The Country You Destroyed: A Letter to George W. Bush. Mr. Nader had received a ‘personalized letter’ from the Presidential Center asking for donations. A card was enclosed for “tax deductible contributions” and a suggestion was made to include these words with your donation, “I’m thrilled that the Bush Institute is advancing timeless principles and practical solutions to the challenges facing our world.” Isn’t that wording incredible? No wonder Ralph Nader responded as he did.

The Nader letter is too long to copy here but I hope you will all go to and read it for yourself. I have not always agreed with him but have never questioned his integrity and honesty and I appreciate the fact that he is not afraid to express his views… and, even more importantly, to put them into print.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

Another update from Lisa in China:

I enjoyed these pictures that Lisa sent. She explained that she and Glen took a walk to visit the Dang Hu Gong Yuan, a recreational park that is currently undergoing a face lift.

It was a bit disconcerting to see abandoned amusement park rides and old “duck” boats sitting in an algae filled waterway …

…but as they strolled through the “mess” that came across lovely new structures and could envision how it will be in the future. (Happily minus the “Disney influence”)