Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Of Books and Hawks and Traveling Beasts

First the books, since this is allegedly a blog primarily devoted to my reading. I finished two, last week, and both were simply perfect for the moment.

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper has been on my wish list at Paperback Swap for quite some time and my mother just happened to receive a copy while I was visiting in November. So, I borrowed Mom's copy whilst taking a weekend break from the hospital and gobbled it right up.

This is a Christian book, written by a minister who was involved in a horrific truck/car accident in which his car was crumpled and his body severely mangled. EMTs on the scene found no pulse and covered Piper with a tarp, then moved on to help other victims. Still without a pulse when another minister arrived on the scene and began to pray for his recovery, signs of life returned to Piper only after prayer. It was much, much later that the author quietly told a friend about his time in heaven and it took many years before he was able to write the story, with help from a published author.

The result surprised me. I thought the book would be a little hokey, with the usual "light at the end of the tunnel" description. Instead, Piper described being greeted by loved ones and the colors and sounds of heaven, as well as his disinterest in earth or returning to life. I found it oddly compelling and believable. A good portion of the book describes his excruciating recovery from injuries (so severe that several inches of bone from his leg were actually ejected from the car and never found). Definitely recommended, especially if you're in need of reassurance about the so-called "afterlife".

Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry was my January splurge. I'm on a strict book budget, this year -- only allowing myself to purchase one book per month -- and I took plenty of books with me to Oklahoma (honestly, can you imagine me *not* taking at least a dozen?). But, I was in desperate need of extra-light reading material because I simply couldn't concentrate for any length of time, so I grabbed this one off the racks on impulse. This particular book has been on my wish list since I read Laurie Perry's tribute to her cat, Roy and laughed and sobbed my way through it. If she ever writes a book specifically about her cats. I'll be the first in line.

Crazy Aunt Purl, etc. is, however, the author's account of the time after her husband abruptly left her. Because her divorce was traumatic, the book is a little sadder at the outset than I expected. But Perry has a terrific sense of humor and tells a pretty good tale. She describes her depression, the adjustment to her life as a single person and how knitting and new friendships brought joy back to her life. There are some knitting patterns in the back of the book and I hope to use those, one day. I'm going to pick up those knitting needles and learn to cast on soon, honest. In the meantime, I'm glad I read the book and definitely recommend it, especially if you're looking for a quick, light read.

On to hawks, or raptors in general. I've taken to counting hawks on the 9-hour journey to Tulsa (and, sometimes, the extra hour over to Oklahoma City or up to Ponca). Since I still don't know how to identify the different species of hawks all that well (some, like red-tails, are pretty obvious in flight - others make me scowl), I'm calling all of the raptors I spot "hawks" - including kites, northern harriers and the occasional kestrel. I can distinguish such raptors from a turkey vulture or crow, both of which are eliminated from my count. It's the counting part that's hard. I find myself counting like this: "42 . . . 43 . . . 44 . . . uh, 42." So, this time I kept a scratch-pad and pen on the passenger seat of the car and jotted down bars for each hawk spotted. I also counted patrol cars. Boy, was that scratch-pad messy. However, it was readable and the final count was:

135 hawks
11 highway patrolmen
6 local patrolmen

Hawk to Patrolmen ratio: 7.94 : 1

Go raptors!!! Here's one of the patrol cars, with its pretty flashing lights:

No, I did not get another speeding ticket. I would never.

My mother was in the Intensive Thoracic Care Unit of Baptist Hospital when we arrived in Oklahoma City on Christmas Day. Because it was a holiday weekend and the situation was critical, the guys went with me and we loaded up the cat and dragged her along. Here's Miss Spooky, Intrepid Feline of the Daring Road Trip, with maps of each of the states she's driven through (or, in the case of Mississippi, out of) on her back:

She was terrified but remarkably quiet. I don't think we could have asked for an easier road trip with a cat. We dropped off Spooky and kiddo at the home of my delightful in-laws. Both cat and teenager apparently made themselves very much at home and were spoiled mercilessly. At least, the cat was. She got salmon. And, since a trip to Oklahoma wouldn't be the same without a visit to Eskimo Joe's, Spooky got her first Eskimo Joe's merchandise. You can see she was elated:

This is, of course, the real reason you read my blog.

Coming up next: Book excitement discovered upon my return. But, for now, I have to go kick my dryer. It's currently not working and that ticks me off. I have mucho laundry to do.

Bookfool, very glad to be home but wishing she lived in a state where things actually dry out if you hang them outdoors


  1. Anonymous12:23 PM

    I am a knitter and have been eye-balling that Crazy Aunt Purl's book for a while. Thanks for the review!

  2. 90 Minutes in Heaven sounds like an amazing book and I know a few people who would enjoy that one. I've added it to my wish list and I think that it would make a nice gift for a few people. My grandma's still having a rough time with my uncle's death, as is natural...it may help her...thanks for letting me know about it :)

    I saw so many hawks when I was in Texas!! Megan lives in a farming area of Texas (which parts aren't, right?) and there are hawks galore! I was scared to let my little tiny white dog out to go pee! But the hawks were amazing...luckily, not hungry for little white dog.

    Good job on the no speeding tickets ;) And what a good cat you have! Good or very tired...She just sits there and lets you throw stuff on her huh? And she photographed very well! Can't wait to hear your book excitement and hope your dryer works soon!

  3. Stephanie,

    I'm not a knitter, but I'd been eye-balling the book for a while. LOL If you read it, I'll be anxious to see what you think. :)


    I think 90 Minutes in Heaven is a very reassuring book. Yeah, that must be horrible for your grandmother. When my father died, we all thought the same thing; my grandma died the year before my dad and it was probably a good thing because losing her son would have done her in. Hugs to your grandma. I hope the book helps. :)

    LOL!! There are big cities and all that farming area and nothingness in between. Texas is about big, open spaces, that's for sure. Where is Megan? David's family is from Texas farm country, but I'm not sure exactly where Chico (his grandmother's home) *is*.

    So far, I've never seen a hawk pick up a little dog, but I'd definitely watch it. My SIL let her cat out in coyote territory and it didn't come back. Surprise, surprise. Poor kitty.

    Thank you. I stuck close to the speed limit. I did, however, get a flat tire, hence the car you see in that photograph. And, Miss Spooky thanks you. She's exceptionally mild-mannered - yep, she'll pretty much just let me plunk anything on her back. Such a fun fur beast.

    The dryer works on high. Unfortunately, most everything we own is cotton because this *is* the South. So, I can only dry towels and jeans. Sigh.

  4. I count hawks on road trips, too! I drive up highway 5 from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and in the winter, I see as many as 35-40 hawks during about a 250-mile stretch of road. Glad I'm not the only one who does this. My husband thinks my hawk-watching is going to get us in a wreck one of these days, but I just can't help myself!

    I think I might have to read that Crazy Aunt Purl book, too...

  5. Dang, you figured out that I don't come here for insightful and entertaining book reviews...I come here for pictures of stuff on your cat. Cool hat. :)

  6. Anonymous1:47 PM

    Elated. That's what that expression is conveying. Who knew?

    I'm a knitter and I love CAP's blog. Haven't read the book yet though which is just wrong.

    Hawk to Hwy Patrol ratios, now that it what I call need to know. ;)

    Glad you're home, hope your mom does a lot better in her new place!

  7. I loved reading your post though, to me,it's hard to imagine hanging anything outside right now.( I live in Michigan) :)

    Spooky is adorable.

    Amy(The Sleepy Reader)
    and definite Cat fancier.

  8. Gentle Reader,

    My husband says the same thing. But, on the trip *up* to Oklahoma (the guys left early, so I was alone in my mother's car on the drive home), he actually helped me count. That was fun. It's addictive, isn't it? :)

    I enjoyed Crazy Aunt Purl. I do wish she'd write a book just about her life with cats, though - with lots of photos. She tells some great cat stories and posts some awfully funny photos with captions on her blog.


    Of course. I know you well. ;) Thanks, the cat obviously agrees. Actually, she looks a bit stern in that picture, doesn't she?

  9. Carrie,

    Surely you sensed the thrill when you looked at the photo. :)

    Oh, well, you'll just have to read the book. She seems like a really fun person, doesn't she?

    Mom hates her new place - just heard from my sister. Sigh. Life's that way, sometimes. This could be a crap year. I keep trying to nudge it in the other direction but it's fighting me.


    I forget it's really cold in other states. It wasn't so bad in Oklahoma, but my foam pillow did freeze and crack in the car the night I decided to just use the hotel pillows. Big mistake.

    Spooky says, "Thank you." We fancy cats in this household, too. :)

  10. Well, I can't speak for the others but I read your blog because you're a hoot.

    The cat is indeed a gem for putting up with you and the books sound wonderful. The NDE (near death experience) sounds like an amazing book.

    I don't do many road trips at the moment but I love seeing the hawks, even when I don't know what they are. I have on one occasion seen a bald eagle, which was absolutely the coolest thing ever.

    I'm glad to hear that things seem to be going better (except for the dryer of course) and I hope they continue to improve.


  11. CJ,

    Well, gosh, that's a huge compliment so thanks. :)

    Amazingly, the cat didn't even complain! She just looked at me like, "Whatever." LOL Spooky's incredibly docile and tolerant.

    I'd rather avoid the travel after this last few months, but I do enjoy the hawk sightings. Bald eagles are awesome. I've never seen any here, but we have them at a place called - of all things - Eagle Lake.

    The dryer is due to be replaced, I suppose. So is the washer, unfortunately. When I turn the dial, I have to hold that top part down with one hand while turning the little dial with the other. This is because my husband has replaced parts but decided not to bother screwing everything back together. He makes life interesting; I'll say that much.

    And, thank you. Things are better in some ways, worse in others. My mother wasn't able to get long-term health care insurance because of her history, so she only has 100 days paid for by medicare and then they said she'll have to start selling off her possessions if she still needs full-time care. So, I'm kind of racking my brains, trying to think of options.

  12. Sounds like a heck of a road trip. And yet another shot for Stuff on My Cat. Spooky's so photogenic!

    And I want to learn to knit, too. Every since Heather sent my scarf for Christmas, I neeed to be able to make one myself!

  13. Megan lives in College Station which is where Texas A&M is...You would think with a major university it would be pretty "citified"...and for a very small area, it is...there's a target and a few city blocks of bars and restaurants...but it's mainly farms and farm roads because A&M is mainly an agricultural college. Pretty neat, but pretty backwoods at the same time. I love the drive though...I like all those hills and cows :p

  14. Andi,

    I haven't had the best road trips, lately, but the trip up with the cat was actually very pleasant - maybe because there was another driver to trade off with. :)

    Miss Spooky thanks you. I keep thinking about Stuff on My Cat and not doing anything. Keep reminding me.

    Heather sent you a scarf? Cool! Did you post pics? I didn't page down because I'm having so much trouble catching up at blogs that I'm just going for the top entry unless something catches my eye. I need to learn to knit. I used to be crafty when I was young. I miss that.


    That's what Stillwater (OSU, our alma mater) is like. It's a nice little town but you can drive outside it in any direction and moo to find friendship. You know what I mean - farms and fields all around the place. I loved it. Are you thinking about moving there? It seems like I saw mention of possibly joining Megan. That would be great for both of you.

  15. Oh it's definitely the cats in hats photos that keep us coming back! ;)
    Bailey makes such a fuss when we take him to the vet I really can't imagine taking him on a road trip anywhere.

  16. Hi! I haven't been around for awhile and couldn't wait to pay you a visit now that I'm trying to catch up on blogs again. Those two books would probably not have registered on my radar had you not mentioned them. Now I'm excited to read them both!

  17. Awww, Spooky is so cute!

    I'll have to check out that first book. It sounds like something I need to read.


  18. Nancyroo,

    Here's the post where I talked about Heather's scarf (last pic). I love it because it matches everything. Just gorgeous.


  19. Yes, the cat pictures are the only reason I come to your blog. Haha, just kidding. I do love the pictures though.

  20. Awww, love the cat photos. :D

    Our cats came in the car with us when we moved from NH to MD. One refused to move from her carrier and was silent; her brother never stopped howling for the whole 11 hours and was almost impossible to keep *in* his carrier.

  21. Nat,

    Spooky used to be quite vocal about her distaste for trips in the carrier, but she's been quiet ever since I discovered she has musical taste. We played Sarah McLachlan (sp?) music most of the way. She loves Sarah. Weird, but certain music does calm her!


    I didn't comment, but I just noticed you're posting, again! Glad you're back! I'll look forward to reading your thoughts on the two books, if/when you get around to reading them. And, thank you. It's so nice that you "couldn't wait" to visit my blog! You've just given me my warm fuzzy for the day. :)


    Miss Spooky says "yawn". Which, I assume, means "I'm napping but if I had the strength to say thank you, I would". Silly cat.

    I hope you're not going through the kind of thing we're experiencing, but that book is definitely helpful. Sometimes we all need a little reassurance and I found it very comforting. :)

  22. Andikins,

    I love it! Thanks for posting the link. Loved your little buggers, too, but the scarf is just gorgiful. Beautious. Something like that. I think I'll try to knit, tonight. I'm sick of everything else and the dryer still doesn't work. Might as well. LOL


    Thank you. She does look attractive in a hat, doesn't she? LOL


    I'll bet that was a heck of a journey!! Spooky was in the former category - sort of paralyzed and quiet. She didn't want to eat or get out of her carrier, although I finally managed to get her to eat a little food at our last stop before Tulsa. By then, she was so hungry that she made loud cat smacking noises. We were all ridiculously happy to hear her munching down. She used to yowl on trips to the vet till we discovered she has musical taste and that playing her favorite music calms her, but I think it was mostly just terror that kept her so quiet on the trip to OK. It's nice to know how well she travels.

  23. 90 Minutes in Heaven - Wow - I hear so many of these 'return from death' stories and they are all so similar. It seems there must be something to that. Sometimes I think the great mystery of life is how it ends.

  24. Tara,

    So true. Well, I thought 90 Minutes in Heaven was a wee bit different from most of the stories I've heard, but that it fits with them fine and doesn't completely contradict them.
    It's worth reading, if you haven't already!

  25. Sounds like a nice image of heaven--being welcomed by those you love.

    My last speeding ticket was several years ago when I was driving from College Station, Texas to Tulsa. I was lost, going way to fast, and had a very unsympathetic officer pull me over. :(

    Glad to see you back around.

  26. Trish,

    Yes, isn't that great? I'd love to be greeted by my grandmother and father, in particular.

    That's so funny you should mention that particular drive. I'm pretty sure my MIL got a ticket while driving that stretch and the officer was apparently more than unsympathetic. It was a long time ago, though.

    Thanks; it's good to be back. :)

  27. So late to the party! I'm very glad you're back home and posting regularly again.
    I've been wanting to read the Aunt Purl book for a while, so thanks for jogging my memory!

  28. Yes, of COURSE, the only reason I read your blog is to see Miss Spooky's "first Eskimo Joe's merchandise." And yes, I see how elated she was to be wearing a knit cap. Such a wonderful model she was, too, even though she didn't walk a runway to model the cap.


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