Top 5 Wednesday: Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

Top5Wed

 

The Ones I Did Not Finish

 

# 1 The Summer Wives: A Novel by Beatriz Williams

518+gcmw1jl._sy346_

 

I can’t recall why I threw it back–sorry! It was just a disappointment probably.

 

#2 Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

 

behave.jpg

I really looked forward to this. It talked about the major influence of my Grandmother’s parenting generation. It just wasn’t compelling enough. I had the print version.

 

#3 Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

 

51yfg1vg4yl._sy346_

 

Even NPR loved this! But the reader on the audio was just wrong. She was too modern-American in tone. The story was a bit far-fected in a few ways, but nothing too much for a mystery series. I may actually give this a try in print.

 

#4 Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

 

41wskqxa9dl._sy346_

 

This author should not read her own audio bool. She put me to sleep. I WILL try it in print–I’ve loved every novel of hers except Lacuna.

 

The One I Should Have Thrown Back, But Didn’t

 

#5 The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

 

516rinlmgql._sy346_

UGH! As I said in my review this was on par with Scooby-Doo mystery. Just UGH!!

 

These are five of the 15 or so that I dnf (or wish I had dnf-ed) for 2018. I’ve never been one who HAD to finish reading a book I’ve started. Life is way too short for bad or even just disappointing books. A bad audio reader/performer doesn’t mean it is a bad book. Just that the performance didn’t merit further attention from me. I have sometimes gone back and enjoyed the print version–or vice-versa.

Join the Top 5 Wednesday group at Goodreads.com and then make a video or post a blog entry with your top 5 each week. It’s fun!

 

 

Advertisements

Vera: Mrs. Valdimir Nabokov and The Wife: A Novel: Very Late Nonfiction November Coupling

“Véra assumed her married name almost as a stage name; rarely has matrimony so much represented a profession.”
Stacy Shiff, Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabobov
“Everyone needs a wife; even wives need wives.”
Meg Wolitzer, The Wife: A Novel

51+bQwTyJFL

Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov

More Than Lolita’s Secretary

Say the name “Vladimir Nabokov” and readers can be forgiven for immediately thinking “Lolita”–the novel for whom the author is best known. While Lolita is instantly recognizable, MRS. Nabokov was not. Yet what an extraordinary woman she was! I have delayed writing this review because the book just overwhelmed me with feelings.

“If you can’t be one, marry one?”

Today these are fighting words, but until very recently this was the choice for many women.  Powerful men needed well-educated, well-organized women to attend to the “rest” of their lives. Until the post-World War II era most successful men could hire servants to keep the house, attend to the cooking and raise the children. The wife then was the networker, the protege, the junior partner, the one who did the grunt work. Yes, I understand this isn’t easy to read today, but it’s true. My grandmother ran a cocktail party like today’s networking events! The “cleaning lady” did the dirty work, while my grandmother schmoozed for my grandfather and helped connect the right people.

Vera brought her own considerable talents as translator, writer, and poet to the aid of her beloved husband. She was his editor, his muse, his agent, his advocate, his sounding board, his driver, his classroom substitute. She made his career possible by keeping him focused on his writing and on his other profession as a lepidopterist.  Let’s not forget that Vera coped alone with their son when the war started as well! SuperWoman! Ironically, she was just as capable of achieving great success with her pen as her husband.

My Thoughts

I read this book on Kindle and it has more highlighted passages than any other book I’ve read in that format. I loved the book–it brought a very real and lasting love affair, not to mention both Naboko’s fabulous careers to light. It reads like the very best romantic fiction combined with a very well-told biography. That’s a win-win for me.

Would the world have the works of Nabokov had he married someone else? Possibly, but not the same brilliant masterpieces that we know today. It took Vera’s love and skill to birth them, market them, litigate on their behalf, liase with agents and sustain their author.

Sidebar: Interesting, isn’t it that two more different writers than Vladimir Nabokov and Gene Stratton Porter, both of the 20th century, had identical dual-vocations, albeit with Porter specializing in moths!

Verdict

4.5 Stars

wife1

The Wife: A Novel

Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife mirrors the life of the Nabokovs in many ways. A wife decides on a flight to collect the husband’s prestigious literary award that she’s done with him. The story goes on to tell their story–from a student/professor affair through to the current day. Like Vera, Joan Castleman makes her husband’s work possible…and then some….

I chose the quotes at the top of this post to show the way the books were the same, but different. For one the marriage was the profession, for the other….[no spoilers, only hints!]

I loved this book! It kept me returning again and again to Vera. I love it when a book that is not a fictionalized account of real persons life does that! I am anxious now to see the movie.

My Verdict

4 Stars

Review: 1947: Where Now Begins

519dh7wn5ml._sy346_

First Book of 2019

For my first book review of 2019, I’ve picked a book that looks at how the current “world” started and how “time” is conceived.  If you are a challenge lover, this book is a translation, too. It was originally published in 2016 in Swedish.

The Premise

Time, historical time, daily time–how do we understand it? How does it create us and our reality? This is a big philosophical question for a small book to answer, but I believe it does so just fine.

The Structure

The author focuses on various people, events, phenomenon, to illustrate the birth of “today” in the post World War II year, 1947. Cycling like a Julian Fellows script through Mountbatten’s India, the refugee ship Exodus and the birth of Israel, the supposed sightings of “flying saucers” (1 in 10 Americans then had heard of the flying saucers but less than half knew of the Marshall Plan) to Billy Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Simone de Beauvoir, George Orwell, on to the aiding and abetting of fleeing Nazis and the preservation of their culture in spite of the news-dominating Nuerenburg Trials, and more. The book cycles thru each month of the year and then thru various events and topics each month to illustrate the movement of time through the cycle of the year.

A Nice Surprise

I’ve long admired Admiral Grace Hopper and I was pleased to see that she rated a significant mention as she dealt at Harvard with programming an early computer–work that led her to create the COBOL programming language.

My Verdict

I’ve been in a reading slump for months. This book had the right “heft,” the right “speed” to help me return to the world of books. It lead me to watch a documentary on the Exodus and to recall various books and events I studied in my political science degree years ago. While I questioned some of the author’s inclusions and exclusions, on the whole, this was a fascinating little book.

4 Stars

grace-hopper-21406809-1-402.jpg

Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Give Future Professionals as Gifts

Top5Wed

December 12: Books to Give _____ as Gifts
— Create a recommendations guide for a person. Be creative with this. It can be simple such as “books for parents”, more elaborate like “books for Ravenclaws”, or expert level like “books for -insert your favorite fictional character here-“. You can even take out the category completely and have all 5 be suggestions for different types of people!

 

Future Lawyer

51hR3n4v+RL._SY346_

 

Big Law: A Novel by Lindsay Cameron. My review.

For other suggestions, both fiction and nonfiction, please read this post.

 

Future Financial Hotshot

413ikQTCGJL._SY346_

Arbirtage? Heh!

Bond Girl by Erin Duffy

(I have not reviewed this book).

Future Feminist Icon

51Sszig864L

 

Female Persuasion: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer  My review.

 

 

Future Oligarch

51P-dnqLLnL._SY346_

 

A Terrible Country: A Novel by Keith Gessen. My review.

 

Future Celebrity  Humanitarian

51ezNOvNq+L

Swing Time by Zadie Smith. My review.

 

Top5Wed

Join the fun each week and do a video or blog post with your list! Join the Top 5 Wednesday group on Goodreads to learn the topics and post your entry.

Review: Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali

41FA8gE4ImL

 

First of all, thank you to The Book Satchel for bringing this book to my attention. You can read her review of the book here.

Second, how often do you get the chance to read an 80-year old novel, written in Turkish, that stands up to the test of time? Translators Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe seem to have done the perfect jobb of rendering every nuance of thought and word into English. It was so well done I had to remind myself that this was a translation!

The Story

Quiet, down-trodden Raif Efendi sits alone in an office translating bank communications into German day after dull day. After work he goes home to a house crammed with relatives who disdain him. No one seems to care or wonder about him. Yet he harbors a secret.

That secret centers around the time he spent in Berlin in the 1920s supposedly learning about the manufacting of fine, scented soap. Instead he experiences a different life. To say much more would be posting spoilers and I just cannot do this–the story is too wonderful.

This is a novella so the perfect short read for a busy holiday season.

The Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali.

This book is apparently BACK on the bestseller lists in Turkey these days, too, which makes it even more fascinating. I listened to the excellent audio version.

Reading The World

1937euro

I had trouble deciding on this book. It is writen by a Turkish author, about a Turkish man but mostly set in Berlin. Above then is a map to show the proximity of both countries. You decide.

Review: Born Survivors by Wendy Holden

51xVPLrt1jL

The Mothers

Priska, Rachel and Anka were all 20-something young women from successful families, happy and in love with wonderful young men when the Nazi’s changed their lives forever. While each was a Jew, none were that “religious” in any real way. They had dinner with their familes on Friday, observed the customs for death and marriage, maybe even ate Kosher meat, but none gave being Jewish much thought. It was just who they were–they didn’t set out to make a statement. They considered themselves assimilated in their various hometowns. They identified more as citizens of their country than as a member of a religion.They were like many, many Americans today who say “Yes” to the questions “Do you believe in God” or “Do you consider yourself a Christian?” Each believed in her own way. In fact, one was even taken with Christianity.

Inspiration to Keep Going

She is the only one who cited God as a source of inspiration in any way:

“Belief in God is the most important thing in the world. When someone has faith they must be a decent person and know how to behave. Every night I greet my God before I fall asleep.”  (p. 64).

But this sentiment followed after her first inspiration:

“I liked my life so much.” (p. 63).

Her husband gave her another source of inspiration:

“Think only of beautiful things,” he told her (p. 66).

 

Another of the three looked to modern fiction for her inspiration. Margaret Mitchell’s heroine, Scarlett O’Hara’s maxim:

“Tomorrow is another day,” kept her going–one day at a time (p. 160).

A Child Conceived to be Born in Hell

When the Nazi’s finally got the three in their grips, each young woman decided to survive. What’s more, at a later time, each decided to bring a child into their hellish world. Insane? Yes, all three mothers agreed with that verdict. But all three went ahead. All three babies were the products of happy marriages torn apart by the Nazi’s. What their mothers did to bring them into the world was either heroic or insane or both. But each woman found the will to go on for the child.

But how could you willingly conceive a child when enmeshed in the innermost circle of hell? To keep going? To not let the captors win? To not have had your family and friends die in vain? To prove you are a human being worthy of the dignity of love and family?

As Priska, Rachel, and Anka endured their separate journeys thru hell, each managed to conceal their pregnancies even from the notorious Dr. Mengele. The conditions they existed in during their pregnancies are impossible to truly take in. Aside from a few small acts of kindness they were on their own–even their friends or sisters (depending on the mother) did not know of the pregnancies. If you’ve ever told a horror story of your labor or listened to a friend do so, imagine giving birth in winter, in an open coal car on a train while lying in flith? As you probably guessed, the babies and their mothers all live–they make it out alive or this book wouldn’t exist.

My Thoughts

The courage and mental strength it took to withstand the horrors of the death camps cannot be imagined by those who did not endure it. But from its horror emerged three new lives all of whom went on to make a difference in the world. Priska, Rachel and Anya, understandably, were very, very close to their children. None of the three wanted or had more children. The one miracle was enough.

I was amazed and uplifted by the way these women endured–persisted in today’s language.

I highly recommend this book.

Top 5 Wednesday: Book Wish List

Top5Wed

I rarely get books for Christmas. No one is ever sure what I already own! So I occasionally receive an Amazon gift card or two. I love that. Some of the books I want to own are..well… let’s say ‘esoteric’. Meaning expensive [to me] or hard to find.

 

 

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings goes with my interest in C.S. Lewis. I find the life he led, especially, pre-Joy Davidman, to be very intetresting. I’m not a fan of Tolkein’s books, but he was an amazing writer, just not of a genre I enjoy. So that part will interst me as well.

 

A Vicar’s Wife in Oxford occurring contemporanesouly with some of The Fellowship, I want it because I love reading stories of everyday, real life.

 

The Past is Myself & The Road Ahead are the memoirs of an English woman, married in the early 1930’s to a German attorney. She lives thru the war in Germany.

 

The Three Graces of Val-kill is the story of Eleanor Roosevelt’s most interesting personal relationship–the other two women of the threesome she made a home with mostly before the White House. The owned a home, a school, a facotry and triple monogrammed china together.  Two recent novels on Eleanor’s love affair with journalist Lorena Hickock, haven’t done much with this era of her life. This also adds to my Roosevelt collection.

 

Memoirs of a Russian Lady just looks and sounds fascinating!

 

A Bonus Book

 

curating

Paul J. Sachs and the Mueum Course at Harvard. Pretty much my idea of an interesting book. I’d rather it was on the Columbia Rare Books Program, but I learned a lot about that from a graduate who was in my Peace Corps group. This is all new material for me!

 

But, what about fiction?

I’ll cover the novels I’m looking forward to in another post.

It’s Here! NPR’s Book Concierge for 2018: Here are my reviews

covers.jpg

Image: NPR.org

NPR’s Book Concierge 2018 is up! I love this list and look forward to it each year! I don’t agree with each selection and do find some that make me snort with wonder at their inclusion even, but I love it. It is a real reader’s look at the years books–not only the over-hyped wonder books of the year. (And, in the spirit of honesty, I dearly hope one of mine becomes one of those some year! I need the money for retirement!)

I have read several, had others on my To Read list already and added a few more to the list today after reading thru it all. Here are the links to my reviews. Hint: One of these is a front-runner for my best book of 2018. (Note: these reviews are in no special order of ranking. Click the book’s linked title to see my review).

My Reviews

51QDPakhBvL._SY346_

Varina: A Novel by Charles Frazier

41LINRNcBfL._SY346_

That Kind of Mother: A Novel by Rumaan Alam

51Sszig864L._SY346_

Female Persuasion: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer

41ZdEd5W3DL

Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright  [I have not yet reviewed this book].

511Pi8EAueL._SY346_

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

41eliTRAsHL._SY346_.jpg

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover  (I did not finish this one 100% and did not review it but for other reasons–nothing to do with disliking it in any way).

Have you read any of the books in this year’s Conceirge list? Leave me a comment.

Review: Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman

51iQsB9LBiL

The Story

Elkhart, Indiana, born Jonathan Kauffman traces the story of the Natural Foods movement in America starting with his memories of his own mother’s cooking.  He explores each movement, diet, guru, book in a fun way. This is a great read for anyone, but foodies will love it. It would be a perfect Christmas gift for the food-freak on your list, too!

My Thoughts and Some Memories and Recipes

I really enjoyed this on audio. It was like reliving my own early adulthood. My first job was as a clerk in a wholesale warehouse bagging natural foods sold by the pound to individuals on Saturday morning and to the sort of food buying co-ops he discusses in the book during the rest of the week. I made countless batches of carob chip cookies, too, while volunteering in the office of my Congressman that summer as well.

Alfalfa

I went to college at Indiana University in Bloomington–a town with a Co-op grocery store (that I never visited–it was too long of a walk from where I lived). I loved the “Health Nut” sandwich at the I.U. library cafe–whole wheat “Wonder Bread.” a slab of American cheese, chicken, a pineapple-nut sauce, tomato slice and, naturally, those delicious grass-like alfalfa sprouts (actually, come to think of it, they ARE grass sprouts!). Delicious! Great vegetarian food, even in 1980, could be had several places, but the Tao and Rudi’s Bakery were the best. Here are their cookbook and my favorite recipe–their HUGE poppy seed cake.

 

As I learned to cook I bought more cookbooks. Back in the 80’s cookbooks, cooking magazines and women’s magazines were the ways in which recipes and food trends and fads were communicated.  I also enjoyed watching cooking shows on PBS–remember, Food TV, the Pioneer Woman, Jamie Oliver, and all the others were far in the future. The Frugal Gourmet was one of the first I liked–I still love a few of his recipes to this day, regardless of what became of him personally.

46190509_10162072623360643_2844049694697455616_n

In Peace Corps, in the late 80’s nearly everyone brought one of these cookbooks. I was surprised to learn that “protein complementarianism” was debunked as not necessary. Not harmful, just not a dire need.  We were taught that in Peace Corps training. I took Diet for a Small Planet with me, as did several others. The other big favorite was More With Less. I also have the Living More With Less book which was about living simply and frugally. In the end, I used the locally produced Peace Corps Malawi cookbook the most for obvious reasons.

Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman

Recipes from my natural food binges

Here are some old favorites from the books above or other cookbooks and one from a magazine. While I haven’t made Complimentary Pie or the Six Layer Soybean Casserole in decades, I do still love Roman Beans and Rice and the quiche–which I make with fresh broccoli, carrots, green pepper, onion, and garlic. We love it. I treat “whole” or “natural” recipes like this just like any other cuisine–they are a part of my eating, never a strict diet.

IsraeliSaladMoosewood

I’ve always loved this salad just as it is. I imagine it should be made with feta, but that was hard to get in the early 1970’s. I would love it with that, too. Israeli Salad from the Moosewood cookbooks.

46181008_10162072617735643_7159428827066662912_n

This quiche, as I said, is still a family favorite. A friend makes it with Velveeta and while I don’t use that product, it does make an unbelievably creamy quiche.

46140041_10162072617830643_4493617603683549184_n

The 1970’s classic from Diet For A Small Planet

46154435_10162072617905643_4657734072204787712_n

Roman Rice and Beans–Peace Corps staple and still on my menu today. I’ve never used kidney beans, but have used pintos or white beans. Diet For A Small Planet

46198631_10162072617465643_8136211781539332096_o.jpg

Six Layer Soybean Casserole– I always used V-8 Juice and often more spices and garlic–this is from a La Lache League cookbook, so garlic wasn’t in many recipes.

There are so many more I could share–these are just a sampling. Enjoy!

 

174090

Operation Christmas Child: My First Packing Party!

2018_banner_250x250-generic-ncw

I went to a marvelous party
I must say the fun was intense
We all had to do
What the people we [hoped]
Would be doing a hundred years hence

Noel Coward, I Went To A Marvelous Party

Operation Christmas Child would probably cease to exist without the generosity of churches who collect merchandise year-round, sew tote bags, pencils pouches, dresses, sanitary pads and hair bands, crochet, and knit hats or sweaters, braid jump ropes out of unwanted t-shirts, and, best of all, have special collections to help with the cost of shipping and The Greatest Journey materials. Thank you to ALL groups–not only churches, who do these things!

Last year I went with a church about two hours away to the OCC Boone, North Carolina, Processing Center. (You can read the first of those posts HERE).  This weekend I drove back up to that church to participate in their annual shoebox packing party. I was amazed! This church is fairly close to the state capital, but people are not rolling in money. Like the community I live in and the one in which my own church is located, each gift is an act of generosity and may even represent true sacrificial giving. Yet the over 500 boxes went out generously and appropriately filled. No need for filler at the processing center–if there is any the day they go through. (Read my post on FILLER here).

Here are my thoughts on why this party was so successful:

ORGINIZATION!!!!

45805318_10162062466050643_3552228542689312768_o

See those stacked up boxes?? Those are the empties–all lovingly wrapped by one woman. She wraps ALL the shoeboxes for the church with donated wrapping paper. A true labor of love!

The lady who oversees OCC at this church knows her stuff! She volunteers regularly at Boone and knows how to pack a GREAT shoebox.  Everything was very well organized and the space between “lines” was generous so crowding and jostling did not occur.

Clear Instructions to Volunteers

45801793_10162062466165643_5136922233389711360_o

Everyone who arrived for the start (that was not a mandatory time–folks were welcome to drop in or leave early as family needs dictated which was super). Everyone was told how the process worked and those who came yearly helped newbies without needing to be told to do so which was really nice. I talked with a little boy who was packing girls boxes all day intentionally! It was that kind of a group–caring!

Every box started with NEEDS: hygiene (washcloth, soap, toothbrush) most of which appeared to be bought in bulk, so likely these were provided by the church–though some items may have also been donated. School supplies were next—a box of 24 crayons, then a neat roll of twenty or so pages of notebook paper, (there were a few notebooks presumably for older kid boxes) a huge box of sharpened pencils (again these appeared to be a bulk purchase) which were banded together 3 at a time. (You could take more). There were a few erasers, too.

Then it was on to the fun stuff–toys, stuffies and more! There were stuffed animals (aka “stuffies”) suitable for any age, big to tiny. I loved sorting thru them to find just the right one for each box. How fun to add a bright red daucshund to two girls’ boxes! Another area had coloring books and a few picture books, then a great selection of balls, cars, etc. WOW items were mostly stuffies, but also Nerf footballs, a few Barbies and some other nice toys.

Finally, there were bins of flip-flops (bought on clearance in one purchase from Walmart, plus possibly some donations). Sadly, many people were too shy to sort thru the bins under the table to find a necessary size so many boxes went without. This was too bad–the sizes were generally there, but they needed to be dug out. The few clothing items available, as well as fabric for some girls boxes and a good variety of tote bags or backpacks, were the final items to select.

Every box got a letter that included the church’s name and address. There were also forms for children to fill out to tell the recipient about themselves–these are downloadable, HERE, from Operation Christmas Child. The boxes got rubber banded and placed at the foot of one of two altars in the church for prayers the next day.

Everything went very smoothly, people chatted happily and even a new face like mine was entirely welcome! Best of all, I got to catch up with the friends’ I made on my Boone trip.

I felt they did an outstanding job–as I’m sure all churches truly do!

My Thoughts for Any New Packing Parties

45883005_10162062465660643_3599042384840622080_o

1. Organize, organize, organize!!  I loved starting with the necessities!

2. Sort clothing, shoes and anything else age/size-specific and LABEL them if possible making sure the label can be seen without unfolding the item. (Due to time and money this isn’t always possible).

3. Signage. Have “TAKE ONE” or similar at each “station” so volunteers–esp those who drop in and out throughout the party, know how many. OCC has printable signs for this purpose HERE.

4. Have your youth group sort the early toy donations to weed out things with liquids (like little paint sets with liquid paint or with nail polish etc).  Also, have them weed out any obviously used toys–things must be new or be indistinguishable from new. Throw out broken or incomplete items.  The can also cut packs of stickers into twos or threes to include with school supplies.  Have them give messy-hair Barbies to someone willing to rehab and modestly clothe them in homemade or purchased outfits. Pinterst has instructions and clothing patterns. Have them sort donated boxes. A boot box is NOT a shoebox–toss those or use them as organizing tools.

5. Enlist your quilting, sewing, crocheting etc., groups  to make tote bags, pencil bags, nice, but simple girls dresses (do NOT use actual pillowcases! Some countries have said flat-out no more of these! Use nice fabric), cloth sanitary napkins and other items, crochet coverings for flip-flop straps, crochet, knit or sew little soft toys or other items. Get people involved! Crafters often love to help even if they don’t pack an actual shoebox themselves. Ask local businesses for leftover logo-ed pens, water bottles, cups, notepads, etc. (See the bottom of this post for my OCC Pinterest board with patterns).

6. Educate your church or group. Taboos mean Poo emoji, whoopie cushions and the like may be totally unwanted. Girls may not be able to wear shorts or revealing tops. Other items that may be unwanted are Barbies with no “painted on” clothing or wearing skimpy dresses.  Donate items like kleenex, wet wipes, deodorant, tampons and disposable sanitary napkins to LOCAL charities. Send cloth sanitary napkins which can be washed and reused in big girl boxes. (You can buy these on Etsy if you don’t sew). Remind everyone to remove ALL packaging. For puzzles, cut the picture off the box and put it all in a Ziplock bag. Keep only packaging necessary to explain an item or that provide storage like a crayon box. There isn’t any trash pick up in most countries the shoeboxes go to.

7. If sending clothing make sure it is an appropriate size. Few people are as large as Americans. Skip men’s sizes except Small. Just like in the USA though, girls sizes can be problematic. Don’t send thin, meant-to-be-layered t-shirts. They will be too revealing. Bras are expensive–a basic S-M-L sport or sleep bra is a huge help. Underwear is often too expensive for families in shoebox-receiving countries so be sure to send it when possible, but stick to modest girls styles with no “cute” designs or embellishments. Girls are commodities in many countries. Let’s protect them. Skip the cheap socks and send underwear. Socks are no good without shoes.

46013267_10162066334675643_7832236970108518400_n.jpg

Link to pencil bag pattern

8. School supplies are crucial! Paper can be so expensive you weep paying for it. In big kid boxes try to send a composition book or spiral notebook. This may be too expensive for some groups, I know. But talk to Wal-mart when school supplies are dirt cheap in late July and August. You can get spiral notebooks for a quarter. Erasers really do matter! Some children I’ve read about have had to erase old work and re-use the paper. But at least send the pencils! Did you know some children rent pencils and others are expelled for not having one? Forget folders and glue sticks–no one needs them. But try to get pencil bags–kids don’t have safe classrooms with desks to leave supplies in. This is a great project for a sewing group. Youth group, scout troop, or other group, can make them with ziplock freezer bags and cool duct tape.  Others make them from the boxes pencils come in by covering the box with contact paper or duct tape. My Pinterest board (at the bottom) has plenty of patterns for sewing, knitting or crocheting pencil bags.

9. Water doesn’t come out of the kitchen or bathroom taps. Water bottles are a GREAT thing. Any size, any design, but those with a wider mouth are great because school supplies and other little things can go inside them to save space in the box. A cup is always nice if you can’t afford water bottles.

10. Flip flops and shoes save lives as do toothbrushes. Why? Barefeet invite parasites like we never see! And an infected tooth may not meet antibiotics so it may cause death.

12. Skip kid-made crafts unless you send a photo of the children making them. They can be misunderstood. I was horrified to see a church elsewhere send beautiful white sneakers children had “decorated” or “ruined” depending on your perspective. Shoes are treasured and cared for. Put in the picture so they understand.

12. Include a note. These are cited over and over by recipients as so meaningful. You don’t have to include your last name or address. Photos are also really enjoyed. A family photo with first names is great. Why not do a family photo fund raiser? Snap a picture, print it out on regular paper and take donations? Put the money toward bulk purchases or shipping.

13. PRAY for each recipient as you pack and then again for all the boxes. It matters.

14. Follow up. Read out and post any thank you notes or emails the church or group receives. Report to the church any places your boxes–or the boxes of individuals in the church–have gone if you use the “follow your box” labels. This helps people to feel connected to the mission. Also by tracking where your boxes go, you can be more accurate in packing. If your boxes go to Northeast Africa, you can skip mittens, hoodies and other winter clothing items that eat up box space. Have a bulletin board where you can post information from the reliable, up-to-date source about a country or two each month. Post OCC videos or other materials from that country on your church website or on the bulletin board. These really help people to understand the dire poverty of most of the recipients.

Did you go to a packing party this year? Did you do a blog post on it? I’d love to learn from what others did this year. Leave me a link in the comments.