Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cole Family Reunion 2016

In case you were wondering why I didn't post last week, I was at a family reunion. Specifically for my dad's side of the family.

We rented a cabin for three days in Altamont, Utah. Altamont is the middle of nowhere near Duchesne (pronounced "Du-shane", for those of you who don't speak Utah). Since we weren't supposed to check into the cabin until late Monday afternoon, my immediate family decided to drive out to Vernal and Dinosaur National Monument. We stopped at the Natural History Museum first.

We met with dad's brother Scott's family for lunch and then went to the Monument.

Scott's daughter Julie next to a dinosaur's leg

Drive by the temple going back through Vernal.

Then it was out to the cabin.  Now, my dad has nine siblings in all, and some of them have grandchildren--LOTS of grandchildren. So it had to be a HUGE cabin. Three stories, bedrooms on the top and bottom floor, a game room, large restrooms with showers, a barn with a rock wall, paintball and mountain bike rentals, a swimming pool and hot tub--and it was all put to use.

LOTS AND LOTS OF PEOPLE. And they're all related to me.

Dinners on the veranda were the best.

I didn't get a lot of photos, but these were some of the best.

It's not summer if your tongue isn't the wrong color


This is my cousin Gloria's son James. I hadn't met him before. He is very cute and I fell in love with him right away. But James wasn't so sure.

I think he at least figured out that we both like Star Wars, so we're getting somewhere.

This is my cousin Chalise's son Asher. I also had not met him before last week. But probably one of my favorite moments of the reunion was blowing raspberries with Asher in the kitchen while my family was making lunch on Wednesday.

This is my cousin Nicole's baby girl Portia with my dad.

This is Lafe's baby boy Levi--easily the most photogenic baby we had.

I had to ditch out after family photos because I had work the next morning. But it wasn't the end of the world. Everyone had a great time.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Lizy Reviews: A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

I waited a long time to read this book, a long time meaning since the book launch party last September for A Night Divided. But of course I'd wanted to read it before then. The Cold War and the Berlin Wall is one of the most interesting stories of the last century. Nielsen's story brings it to the attention of a new generation of readers through a fictional family, the Lowes, divided the night the wall goes up, a father and brother in the west, and a mother and brother and sister in the east.


Most of the action takes place several years following the raising of the wall, when things are at their darkest and escape is the most impossible. Gerta and her brother Fritz grow up painfully aware that the East German government, under the thumb of the Soviet Union, is based on lies and propaganda and where any expression of dissent can result in imprisonment or death. It is a world without trust--not from the authorities, not the schools, not their neighbors, and not from people who should be their friends. Some people are resigned to things as they are, but for Gerta, waiting for the wall to come down isn't an option.

One day while passing near the Wall, Gerta sees her father pantomiming a digging song, and she receives a message to go to an abandoned building near the Wall. Gerta decides that she and Fritz will dig for their freedom through the cellar. But they're on their own for this impossible task. At any moment they could be discovered by their neighbors or the police, and their protective mother will surely refuse. They have little food and little money for buying supplies. They only have a few precious weeks of summer to dig before Fritz is expected to report for military duty.

(So, spoiler: they make it, but by the skin of their teeth. I wish there had been an epilogue or something to talk about how life was different after escaping East Germany, and what it was like for them in the West and where they went next. It was kind of dissatisfying for the story to just end.)

A Night Divided is actually very gloomy to read, even considering the subject matter.  The novel focuses very little on the actual history--the explanation of historical background reads more like a less sophisticated elementary school novel, but there is very little of it. Nielsen's real strength is in depicting the world and the original story. The pacing of the action is slow, but the odds that the protagonists face provide plenty of suspense. And once again,  Nielsen impresses the reader with the determination and fearlessness of her characters.