Saturday, June 29, 2013

"The Arctic shows no mercy..."

Looking for a great summer read?  I've come across several excellent books the last few months I'd recommend like The Last of the Doughboys, Toms River, and The Boys in the Boat, and I'll add one more: If you loved Unbroken (and who didn't? It's still on the NYTimes best-seller list) you'll love Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff, too.

In November 1942 a cargo plane on its way to Europe crashed on the Greenland ice cap. The crew of 5 survived the crash but were in a dangerous situation. No one knew exactly where they were, and four days later a B-17 involved in the search-and-rescue with 9 men aboard crashed as well. With winter weather making searches difficult and frequently impossible, the men faced sub-zero temperatures and hurricane force winds with little protection except a plane broken in half and only a couple of days worth of food. Even more frightening was the glacier they sat on, which was riddled with deep crevasses that were hidden by thin layers of snow and ice preventing them from leaving and keeping rescuers from reaching them.

This is an incredible story of danger and survival in one of the least hospitable places on earth. It's by the same author who wrote Lost in Shangri-La but I think this one is better. (It's a lot like Unbroken but with a Shackleton-like twist.) The situation of the crashed men continually goes from bad to worse, and would-be rescuers willingly put their lives at risk for strangers. It's a story full of heroes, but it's also two stories in one as Zuckoff tells of the modern-day efforts to find the wreckage and retrieve any bodies still on the ice cap – a story that's still in process. (I received an advance copy from Amazon Vine.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Some beauty which ordinary men can't see"

"In a sport like this – hard work, not much glory... – well, there must be some beauty which ordinary men can't see, but extraordinary men do."
— George Yeoman Pocock

What do you know about the sport of rowing, or "crew" as it is called? All I 'knew' was that it seemed to be a sport for rich kids at snooty East Coast prep schools. And while that's probably not entirely inaccurate, it's also not the whole picture. Most importantly it's not the picture painted by Daniel James Brown in The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Before the Olympics became dominated by corporate-sponsored athletes, the gold medal for Crew (the sport of rowing a racing shell) at the 1936 Berlin Olympics was won by a team of students from the University of Washington. They not only beat their West Coast rivals (UC Berkeley) but the elite East Coast teams as well to earn the honor of representing their country. And in a thrilling come-from-behind race they beat prestigious European teams despite an unfair disadvantage. They were not a bunch of over-privileged kids whose parents rolled in the highest levels of society but "the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers." They were mostly kids for whom the Depression had taken a huge toll, and being on a team meant not scholarships but a chance the school might help them find a job.

Brown introduces us to the coach and the whole team, but the heart of his story is one rower who came from especially difficult circumstances. Joe Rantz had known more than his fair share of hardship including the death of his mother, but when his father abandoned him as a teenager he had to quickly learn to fend for himself. Going to the university seemed like a way out of poverty, and through his hard manual labor and scrimping and saving he managed to pay for school one year at a time. Being part of a team, however, required him to trust others more than he dared – more than life had taught him was safe.

Brown is truly a master story-teller as he puts the reader in the middle of the Great Depression with all its uncertainty, inequality, and fear. He also mixes in that other threat looming on the horizon in the 1930s: Hitler and Nazi Germany. Joe and his teammates quickly became people I cared about and I found myself unable to put the book down and cheering each success and sorrowing over each setback. I especially loved the quotes from George Pocock, the wise yet unassuming boat-builder for the team who sees a spiritual side of the sport and the way it can build character through teamwork. I even found myself wishing to slip into a boat and start rowing! This is an inspiring book I highly recommend.  (I received an advance copy from Amazon Vine.)

"It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water... but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Carpinteria 2013

I hope my kids know what a good mom they have!  In addition to camping in Yosemite Jamie also planned for a week at the beach house.  Of course, when all these plans were made we didn't know where or when Braiden would be leaving for his mission, but that never stops Jamie.  Nothing is more important to her than family!

 Braiden and me.

Some days were sunny and beautiful, and so clear we could see the Channel Islands and from Santa Barbara to Ventura...

... and other days we just enjoyed the "June gloom."

Tahoe and Taylor digging a big hole...

... and the younger kids playing in it.
Dillon, Maddie, and Jesse at the tide pools.

Grandma Christie with all the grandkids (except Jack, who wasn't feeling well).

We enjoyed movies on the beach a couple of nights.

Jamie wanted to take some "missionary photos" of Braiden around town (she's seen a lot of them on Facebook - apparently it's a popular thing in Utah).

She even rounded up some 'street urchins' for him to teach.

Only a week and a half to go.
Too bad vacations have to end.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Yosemite 2013

Since Braiden will be leaving us again in a month – this time for 2 years – Jamie has been trying to plan a special family vacation and we were lucky enough to get camping reservations in Yosemite on Memorial Day weekend.

Even with the carrier on the top of the car the poor kids were packed in among all the stuff we had to take.  Oh well, they made it a few hours before the complaining really started.

I think the last time we went to Yosemite was around 2006...

... and it looks like the kids have grown a little since then.  The view is a little better from the left side parking lot – that's Bridal Veil Falls above Taylor's shoulder.  (And I think the air is clearer, too.)

We planned to do a lot more hiking than we ended up doing, but Vernal Falls was strenuous enough.  Here's a picture from the hike on the way up.

And a picture from the top.

Home for the weekend: Upper Pines campground.  Breakfast always tastes better out in the woods.

Chillin' at the dumpster.

It turned out they had church Sunday morning.  Nearby LDS wards take turns holding Sacrament meeting.

After church we hiked up to Yosemite Falls.  Of course, the kids hiked all the way up to the falls.  Taylor needed a really close look.

Yosemite Falls.