Got Me Thinking

Thoughts sparked by life, the universe, and jelly beans

Wonder by R.J. Palacio October 17, 2014

Filed under: Books That Got Me Thinking — gotmethinking @ 1:54 am
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“August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope.  R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” (

I have recommended this book unabashedly and extravagantly to everyone I know who loves books: my book club, homeschooling families, other moms, and bibliophiles.  Without fail, they all end up buying their own copies for children and grandchildren.  It is the most touching and thought-provoking story of a young boy who has to face challenges many of us would shrink from.  His courage is astonishing, though the story is never mawkish or maudlin.  Instead it is unsentimental and completely believable.  One of my top children’s books of all time!







The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Filed under: Books That Got Me Thinking — gotmethinking @ 1:38 am

“A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books, has recently endured some tough years: his wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession–a rare edition of Poe poems–has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, instead of offering solace, are yet another reminder of a world that is changing too rapidly. Until a most unexpected occurrence gives him the chance to make his life over and see things anew.” (

This was a delightful book and a quick read.  It made me think about how ONE event has the power to alter your life completely and how incidents that we think are isolated are really connected under the surface of things.

Things will happen to us because we members of the human family are woven together whether we like it or not.   It’s HOW we respond to the unexpected that  can either lead us to shrink into darkness or open up new doors of possibility and hope.  Delightful book!




The Give-away Garden at the Bottom of the World

Filed under: Doing Good — gotmethinking @ 12:48 am

I discovered this blog when I read an article in the magazine, Organic NZ, about planting spuds without a lot of digging or hard work.  Anything like that appeals to me! :-)

So I rummaged around the blog and discovered this priceless article that was so well-written and so beautifully thought-out that I just had to share the link.

Diana Noonan is an author and a gardener, as well as a traveler.  Here’s how she introduces herself: “I’m Diana Noonan, and on the edge of the road outside my house, on a strip of land not owned by anyone, I grow a garden filled with vegetables. Everything in it is free. There are no rules, no regulations, and you can harvest from it whenever you like. This is the story of a garden that grows happiness, here in my village at the bottom of the world. It’s the story of how it began, why it continues, and everything else in between.”

I was so inspired by it that I wrote to her and said, “In a day when people are mostly fearful and grasping, your roadside garden gives me hope. The thoughts that created the garden, the heart that sustains it, and the spirit that enlivens it … all of these add a dimension to gardening that I never saw before. Gardening as an act of social activism; a tribute to the resourceful poor; a fist raised against living small and tight-fisted; a silent elegant experiment in giving and reciprocity.”

We all know gardening is hard work, but Diana lets all her neighbors reap the fruit of her labors and harvest vegetables for free.  I love this way of living with an open hand.

Read her story.  It will get you thinking.

What creative venture could YOU initiate to release butterflies of joy into the world?

Diana Noonan and son, Max, in the  Give-Away Garden.  Source:

Diana Noonan and son, Max, in the Give-Away Garden


Wisdom from My Chiropractor September 5, 2011

Filed under: Musings — gotmethinking @ 10:52 pm

I went in to see my chiropractor for a semi-dislocated shoulder and an injured knee.  Little did I know I’d get some life coaching thrown in. :-)

As we were finishing up, I asked him, “Guy, since you’re an alternative therapist, could you recommend someone I could see who could help me with these stomach pains I’ve been getting, along with headaches and difficulty breathing?”

“Lie down.  Have you had any anxiety issues?”

“Yes, planning the trip to Australia last month, and then planning the longer trip to America this month.  There’s so much to anticipate and organise.”

He listened, and then spent some time treating me with cranio-sacral therapy (my favorite therapeutic approach).  Afterwards, I felt calmer.

“People get anxious because they have all these worries floating around in their heads.  When you get home, why don’t you write down on a piece of paper all of the things you’re worried about that you CAN control, and all of the things that you CAN’T control,” he suggested.  “All of the stuff that you CAN’T control, forget about them.  There’s nothing you can do about them anyway.  Focus your energy on the things you can control, and you’ll feel like you’re getting things done.   Once you do that, all the other stuff outside of your control won’t matter.”

I did that as soon as I got home, and have been checking things off my list, feeling like I’m going somewhere.  The list under “Things I Can”t Control” featured items like volcanic eruptions/ash clouds, earthquakes, and hurricanes that could interfere with our travel plans.  As I wrote them down, it hit me how senseless it was to worry about trying to see into the future and anticipate what might happen so that I could plan ahead of time what to do if the worst happened.  All it did was generate stomach-churning dread.  Besides, how can anyone even guess where they’ll be when “the worst” happens, or surmise what they’ll be able to do?

I am a planner.  I constantly wish I had a crystal ball so I could peer into the future and plan sufficiently to protect and safeguard myself and my family.  This is probably why, when I was receiving cranio-sacral treatment another time, the therapist led me in guided imagery and I felt led to forgive.  When I asked who it was I needed to forgive.  The answer was “Yourself – for taking the burden for everything on yourself and not inviting others to help you.  Yourself – for thinking you are God.”

I have a hard time letting God BE God.  I often think He needs help because He’s got so much on His plate.  Learning to TRUST God for the things I can’t control means that, even if things don’t work out the way I want them to, I can trust that things happen for a good reason, and that He who gave His one and only Son for me will not withhold from me any good thing; and, will always want what’s best for me, and work things out for my good – even if I might not agree with His way of doing things,  His timing, or the means He chooses to achieve His good ends.

I have to laugh at myself for constantly trying to be SuperMom, though.  I am an inveterate never-give-upper!  Learning to let go and depend on someone or others to help is the hardest thing for me.  But, I suspect, that if I do let others, including God, help me, then that hidden, forgotten part of me that has atrophied might come to life again.  I’d be very curious to meet that part and renew my acquaintance. :-)


The Habit of Curveballs April 4, 2011

Filed under: Life Events — gotmethinking @ 5:28 am

My angel of a sister-in-law recently underwent a bilateral mastectomy.  It came as a total, unexpected shock, more for my brother and his family, than for us, of course.  A shock, nonetheless.

Life has a habit of throwing curveballs.  A few days after hearing about my sister-in-law’s illness,  Charis complained about “something painful” on the side of her neck. For a few days, she’d been saying she was tired, which is so unlike her.  Now, this “something painful” was worrying her.  Iain felt it and said it was a lump.  I ran my fingers over it.  It was the size of a large mothball.

That night, she slept with me, seeking shelter and reassurance in my embrace.   She was too scared to name her fear, she confessed.  If she named it, it could become real.  All she said was that she wanted to live, and get married someday, and have children.   I could not sleep.  I didn’t know how to pray, let alone breathe. 

Fear tracked its muddy footprints through my mind.  The next morning, I was rostered for worship at church, and, as I was singing the song, Blessed Be the Name of the Lord, I had to restrain tears at the words of the song: “Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering, when there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your Name.”  This is the sacrifice of praise, I realised.  “You give and take away.  You give and take away.  My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name!”   How can we serve Him and love Him only in good times and not bad?

Many of us sleepwalk through life, so caught up with the business of surviving, that we don’t really realise what’s important until it’s too late.  For God to show us, through trouble, what is truly important, well, even in this, is God gracious.  

Life can change at the snap of a finger!  Just yesterday, I heard about a woman who, when the February earthquake struck, rushed back into her office building to grab her handbag.  She never came out.  All they found of her later was a severed arm with a handbag.  That was how they managed to identify her.  How can something so normal, so “every day” end so catastrophically?

First thing this morning, I rang the clinic to book an appointment for Charis.  The doctor checked her out and diagnosed a viral infection that led to enlarged lymph nodes.  If the two swollen lymph nodes subside into normality by next week, Charis won’t need any treatment.  The relief that washed over us was so great, I wanted to hug Dr. Mann.  Praise God for this good news!

With so much changing in the world today: the freedom rallies and revolutions in the Middle East and Africa; the earthquakes along the Pacific tectonic plate; the tsunamis, etc.  I find myself thinking End Times all too frequently. :-)  I suppose that it’s not a bad thing to be eternity-minded.  It’s just that all of these events put mortality at the forefront of my mind. 

I can’t get over how the thought of eternity puts everything into perspective…the way adjusting binoculars yields a clear sharp focus.  Things that I considered minor catastrophes have turned out to be mere inconveniences. :-) And oh, the endless abundance of things to be grateful for!  Terror and Trouble sure get one thinking!


A New Day in Education April 1, 2011

Filed under: Education and Homeschooling — gotmethinking @ 12:56 am

It’s ever so easy to get lost in Cyberspace!  :)  Especially once I venture into the world of books and education.  There is so much that is new, fantastic, and revolutionary that I get sooo excited, I forget to clean the house!

Here are a few  FINDS that are just THRILLING!!! 

Have you heard of the KHAN Academy?  No?  Then watch this TED Talks clip of Salman Khan  right now, and see how much hope there is for your kids to be able to grasp math and science concepts that have eluded them thus far!

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organisation that, in its own words, “offers a  free world-class education for anyone anywhere”.  All of the site’s resources are available to anyone – adult or child.  What a boon to someone who never got to finish his education because he had to support his family, or because school just wasn’t a safe place to be in!  What a blessing to a child who was dubbed “slow” just because he could not grasp the concepts being taught in a style not sympathetic to his own!  The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to everyone completely free of charge.  And they are even being utilised in public schools in the Los Altos school district in California.

Then there is Open Culture  where one can download FREE audiobooks and podcasts on a wide range of topics from music, science, technology, and travel, to ideas and culture.

And for budding artists, there is a wealth of great websites like Art Graphica which offers free online art lessons to artists of various abilities,  and this site, which I like because it  compiles  information on the best sites on art history and history of art  It’s a monster site with loads of information!!!

When you come to think of it, the only true education is self-education, because motivation is the factor that greases the wheels of study.  You are most motivated to learn what you want.  My daughter is currently reading The Story of the World, and when she got to the part about Mary Queen of Scots, her interest was so piqued by this woman that she immediately went to the library and borrowed three adult books about Mary, and one book on King  James.  The librarians thought she was borrowing these for me, but I quickly straightened them out. :)

I LOVE learning.  And I truly enjoy being a conduit for learning.  It is a shame that, in most schools today, teachers are hamstrung by bureaucracy and political correctness to the extent that they are unable to freely teach!  This is why I’m a big fan of home-education!  It keeps alive that flame of interest and excitement in learning that characterised childhood learning in the toddler years when everything was new and waiting to be discovered!  When I watched the 20/20 video by John Stossel, called Stupid in America,,  my heart broke for all that childhood potential that will never be realised, and for all the children who will go through life thinking they are dumb when it is the system that has failed them.

How wonderful to know that the Internet has opened up an entire world of possibilities for the motivated seeker/learner, and, that it, in many cases, makes knowledge available for free!  Talk about adding social value!  I am not a big fan of technology and how it is surely and steadily taking over our lives to the detriment of certain values.  But, I have to say that, when technology empowers, educates, and contributes to the GOOD and FOR the good of the world, it gets two thumbs up from me!


Zipping Down South March 25, 2011

Filed under: Life Events,Traipsing 'round Godzone — gotmethinking @ 6:31 am

I was anxious to get away from Christchurch for a few days just to catch a few  zzz’s.  Insomnia had gotten the better of me and all of the waiting for the predicted whopper wasn’t doing me any good either!  So, we hied off to the Waitaki Valley, down South, and spent a few days there enjoying a long drive of four hours, broken up by visits to the famous Temuka Pottery showroom, and the Wild Bean Café!  Since Iain was going to do a lot of driving, I borrowed an mp3 audio book from the library.  It was tantalisingly called Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of Villainy by Shamini Flint, featuring the portly, beer-swilling Sikh Poirot, Inspector Singh. Jonathan Keeble was an excellent narrator, and we fell about laughing at his accents (some of which were more successful than others!)  This audio book successfully accomplished its aim of keeping Iain awake and alert on the four-hour drive to Duntroon in the Waitaki Valley.

We sought sanctuary at a lovely Bed and Breakfast called Windhaven, run by Brain and Margery Deaker.  Oh my, but it was lovely!  So restful and peaceful, set in a lovely white converted farmhouse embraced by a gorgeous garden.  Our room was luxuriously spacious and beautifully appointed.  Charis enjoyed the privacy of her very own bedroom! 

The Honeymoon Suite at Windhaven

Nestled in the Waitaki Valley

I love being surrounded by beauty and, in this case, was not disappointed.  Everywhere the eye rested was harmony of colour, texture, and design.  French doors opened on to a balcony where we enjoyed a scrummy Continental breakfast when the weather allowed, and imbibed Sauvignon Blanc by the light of the full moon at day’s end.  The house is set way back from super-highway 83, and patrolled by sentinels of pine, eucalyptus, and various fruit trees so that our dreams were undisturbed.  It is a half hour’s drive from the nearest large town, Victorian Oamaru, but well worth the commute.  You could not do better for hosts than charming, friendly, and knowledgeable Brian and Margery Deaker, who armed us with valuable information and wonderful suggestions regarding places to eat and venues to visit. 

With our charming hostess, Margery Deaker

Charis on Brian's home-made obstacle course

Charis especially loved Benson, their black cocker spaniel, who welcomed us with the mad frenzy of a speeding bullet on steroids, and Toto, their sleek blue-eyed Siamese feline who curled up in bed with her.  Other attractions Charis loved included an obstacle course and a home-made flying fox, constructed by The Man Himself, master builder and joiner, Brian.  If you’re ever on holiday in the heart of the Waitaki wine valley, you couldn’t do better than Windhaven.  Check out their website here:



After the heartbreak of seeing the lovely heritage buildings of Christchurch lying in ruins, it was such a do-I-dare-to-believe-it-pleasure to witness the grand, stately neo-Classical buildings of Victorian Oamaru.

We loved Oamaru.  It is a city by the sea, and the light was beautiful.  We followed the heritage trail of buildings that lined the broad avenues of the city centre.   Here, have a peek:

The buildings were constructed during a time of unprecedented growth in the 1880’s -1890’s.  The newly renovated Opera House was stunning, but, it was a difficult choice to pick a favourite heritage building.  It was like attending a Miss Universe beauty pageant where every contestant looked like, well, Miss Universe!

Highlights for us were the heritage trail; the art galleries (i.e. the Forrester Gallery, The Woolstore Galleries and Cafe, and the Whisky Art Gallery); Totara Estate (from where NZ  first attempted to export frozen meat to England with great success); the Vanished World Fossil Trail (We saw whale fossils in the same place where The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was filmed!); the Whitestone Cheese Factory where we sampled 18 varieties of scrummy cheese; the Kurow Wine Cellar where I  tried 14 varieties of aromatic wines from Pinot Gris to Rieslings (It was a challenge to walk straight after that!) ; and, the Blue Penguin colony, where our patience was rewarded (after a 2 1/2 hour wait) by seeing a foot-high blue penguin with two downy chicks not two metres away from us.  We, the remaining die-hard viewers, held our collective breath at this breath-taking miracle! 


Charis at the Oamaru Botanical Gardens


At Totara Estate

Iain under fossil-studded limestone overhang

Cheese tasting at Whitestone Cheeses. Special plates for a lavish spread.

The Art Car – Oamaru Central



One day, we popped in to the premises of Oamaru Heritage Radio to view their amazing collection of vintage radios.  We were fascinated, but especially Charis, who had never seen radios that were bigger than TV sets!  We met one of the presenters, Wyn Machon, who was all Southern hospitality and charm.  Because he was on-air, I asked him to kindly thank all the people of Oamaru and the surrounding districts for their love and generosity towards Christchurch.  “Why don’t you do it?” he suggested.  So I did.  It was easy to feel emotional about this thanksgiving tribute because everywhere we went in Oamaru and Duntroon, we saw evidence of the love and care of our Southern friends.  Red and black stickers (Canterbury colours) emblazoned with the words “We Care” were pasted on the glass doors and windows of various establishments and retail outlets.  The Vintner’s Drop in Kurow offered a free glass of Sauvignon Blanc to anyone visiting from Christchurch.  (We got called “refugees” a lot.)  The Blue Penguin Colony offered free daytime passes to view the nests of the Blue Penguins.  And Riverstone Kitchen, one of the BEST places to eat in Oamaru, donated a full day’s takings (with all the staff working for free!) and gave a full $10,000 to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.  How could your heart not be touched by such kindness?



On our way back to Christchurch, we visited the Aighantighe Art Gallery in Timaru and were not disappointed.  We were fortunate to catch them before closing hours.

Here’s the blurb from their website:

The Aigantighe Art Gallery in Wai-iti Road, Timaru is renowned internationally for its art collection and innovative exhibition and education programmes. It was founded in 1956 by the Grant family who came from Scotland and it now holds the South Island’s third-largest public art museum collection. Aigantighe is Scottish Gaelic for ‘at home’ and is pronounced ‘egg and tie’.

Aigantighe holds New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art works from the sixteenth century to the present day. Its British Victorian painting collection is of great significance. Masterpieces by Goldie, Hodgkins and McCahon (born in Timaru) feature in a room dedicated especially to them and six new thematic exhibitions from the permanent collection are held in the House Gallery each year.

As usual, I loved the Victorian paintings best, along with the masterpieces by Charles Goldie, and the series of lithographs and etchings titled the Labours of Herakles, by Marian Maguire of Christchurch.  They were whimsical, witty, thought-provoking, and skilfully executed.  Think Classical Greek meets Maori in colonial New Zealand.  Check it out here:



Happy to be home again.  Finished the audio book on the way home to Christchurch.  Mystery satisfactorily solved.  End of story. :-)



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