Being A Mom

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This article may be controversial to some, but I find that I don’t care. Fair warning.

I don’t generally get “offended” by things. I think people who spend their lives being “offended” are self-aggrandizing babies who have nothing better to do than whine; but I just read an article on line that was so mean to a large percentage of the population without whom none of us would exist that I feel the need to address it.

I also generally do not publicize people I think are wrong, or cruel, or misguided because I don’t wish to spread their spew, but here is the link to the article I read that pissed me off. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/18/sorry-but-being-a-mother-is-not-the-most-important-job-in-the-world#start-of-comments
Read it or don’t, but nutshell, mothers are not that important and people who work in brick ovens in India have it worse and women would be happier with actual jobs and what about fathers, and gay men. Here is my response.

Lady, I don’t know the first thing about you. What I DO know about you is that you were grown inside a woman’s uterus. She carried your heavy little butt and all the accompanying fluids, and physical pain around inside her body for nine months. That is a long time to carry around something that is draining you of every resource you have. She then pushed your grapefruit sized head and linebacker shoulders through a space that is usually about the size of a walnut. She then, at what is no doubt the physically weakest point of a woman’s life, took care of you. She had to feed you, maybe directly from her body, maybe not. She cleaned you, held you, worried over you, watched you sleep and listened to you breathe. She made sure the house was locked up tight at night so some sicko wouldn’t come in and steal you or hurt you. She got up every two hours all night long for months or years in some cases to care for you. She loved you. She made you her priority. She defended you. She shut down bullies and mean teachers. She researched your illnesses just in case there was something everyone missed. She sacrificed her own interests for yours. She wore old clothes, made coffee at home and drove her car until it would no longer run so YOU could have the things you needed and some of the things you wanted. She loved you.

Being a mother, or to be inclusive, a parent, IS the most important job in the world. It IS the hardest job in the world. It is the only job in the world that actively goes 24 hours a day for years, and then continues in a less physically demanding fashion for the rest of your life. When I was working full time all those years ago, I didn’t really care about what I was doing. I’d leave at 5 and go about my business. My REAL business. My LIFE. I don’t leave my job now. My children are getting older, and I still love them. I still guide them. I still protect them. I think about them all the time, even if it’s in the back of my mind instead of the immediate thinking involving every aspect of their physical care. I love them. I never loved a job. I liked a job. A job was a way to make a living, but I never loved a job. I love my kids, more than myself, more than the “prestige” that would come with an “important career”, more than the opportunity to run a country, or a company, or a classroom. I love my kids with a ferocity that startles me at times. I would throw myself in front of a bullet, a car, a speeding train, a fully armed military to protect my children or at least give them a chance to run. I love them.

Working is important. We all need money to buy food, medicine, a place to live, but if the shit hits the fan tomorrow and your job is no longer so “important” it will still be important to be a mother, to hold those lives that we mothers and fathers have created, in our hands and try our best to keep them alive and thriving and help them carry on so all is not lost. We love them.

Without parents, there would be no “important” jobs because there would be no people to fill them. Without parents, people wouldn’t be able to write articles that insult the very person who brought them here and cared for them and guided them in being a successful human so they could write those insulting articles. NONE of the things this woman thinks are important, people running countries, doctors saving lives, women working out in the world would be possible without parents, mothers. She has a problem with high paid men not having to participate in the drudgery of parenthood, but she obviously doesn’t understand fathers either. They come home from work and care for their children, and coach sports teams and get up in the middle of the night, and sit vigil at hospital beds praying that their little ones recover. My GOD woman, did you not have parents? Were they bad parents? Did your mother spend all her time doing her own thing and ignore you? Is that why you have such disdain for them? If those things are true, I am sorry for you. Genuinely sorry.

The next time you go on a ripper about the economics of working vs non-working mothers, keep a couple things in mind. The reason the government wants women to work is to add to the taxpayer rolls. The reason industry wants women to work is so they can charge more for everything because both adult members of a household are working and therefore they have more money available to spend.

There are women who MUST work outside the home. There are single mothers who MUST work to care for themselves and their children and there are women who LIKE working outside the home and I say good for them, whatever you have or want to do is fine by me. But don’t denigrate me if my choices are different. Don’t denigrate mothers because you think what they do has little or no value because it doesn’t create revenue. I creates human beings. It creates love. It creates security and a soft place to land in a harsh world, and if you didn’t get those things, I’m sorry, but don’t put down the people who are lucky enough to have it. Parenting IS the most important, hardest, heartbreaking, bittersweet, sweet, rewarding job in the world. We love.

Have a nice day.

Well THIS Day Didn’t Turn Out Like I Planned…

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It started out innocent enough, normal enough, as I was planning enough. After getting everyone to school and breakfasting with my husband before he went to work, I puttered around the house a little and decided it was time to go to the gym and run my errands, and that was the first part of things going awry.

We joined a gym a month and a half or so ago, and about a week into it, I lost my ID. May I say I didn’t just lose it, it completely vanished from a secure place, my purse. When I leave the gym, I get my card out of the locker thing and immediately put it in my wallet. Well I did that, and it went away. The same place that extra socks and pens run away to, so I ordered another card. It took three weeks for it to come. I did the same routine with it that I did with the vaporized one and it seems it has happened again. I got to the gym parking lot, got in my wallet to get my ID and low and behold, it was not there. Tore the entire purse apart, gone. In my disgust, I decided to skip the gym and just run my errands.

That went fine. Gas, JoAnn’s for fabric to recover some outdoor cushions, Meijer to return some outdoor cushions that didn’t fit my furniture. You know, regular mom stuff. Oh yeah, I ate lunch at McDonald’s because my family doesn’t like McD’s so I have to go there alone. I don’t mind. But I digress, I got the errands done and was heading home for an hour or so of putting stuff away, picking up junk around the house and maybe reading a little before it was time to pick up the kids when my phone buzzed in my pocket.

I had messages from both kids both sent at 12:25. Older kid – I am 95% sure I have strep throat. Message two – 97%. Younger kid – Mom, I am so sick to my stomach! My internal response? CRAAAAAPPPPP…

I was a half mile from the high school so I just went straight over. When I got there, I texted Older kid and said I’m here to pick you up. Took a few minutes, then left to go up the hill to get Younger kid. Once I had Thing One and Thing Two in the car, we went straight to Urgent Care. I let them know that Older kid’s boyfriend had strep last week, and after waiting almost an hour to go back to a room, discovered what I already knew, both are streppy. The good thing was, we came away with more valuable than gold prescriptions for Z-packs, which they offered to sell me for fifteen bucks each. We went to Walmart got the meds for 95 cents each prescription and came home to eat noodles.

I feel sort of back on track, but now all I want to do is sit on my butt and read, but the stupid dog is whining to go out again after just coming in from going out and the laundry is calling my name. Oh well, I’ll think about that laundry tomorrow, because after all, tomorrow IS another day. One that will stay on track. I hope.

Have a great day :-)

It’s Official. I Don’t Like a Lot of the Stuff I’m “Supposed” To.

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It’s happened again. There is a certain best selling book out there about an explosion in a New York museum, a little boy and a piece of art with a yellow bird on it that everyone is talking about and touting as great, and I don’t like it. Too wordy. So boring. I read about a quarter of it and I laid it down somewhere and I don’t recall where that somewhere is. And I don’t care.

When I was in college, I horrified one of my professors because I told him I didn’t like Leaves of Grass. He said that in all of his years teaching, he had never run into ANYone who didn’t like it. I was an adult student you understand, so I wasn’t intimidated by him whatsoever, and I responded, “No, you’ve just never met anyone who would admit that they didn’t like it. It’s a boring, self-indulgent piece of claptrap, and I like Billy Joel’s version in his song We Didn’t Start the Fire better, although it too was a self-indulgent piece of claptrap, but at least it had a catchy tune.” I thought he was going to swallow his tongue. Although I got A’s on all of my work, I mysteriously had a B on my grade sheet at the end of the quarter. Whatever. Que sera sera. What is college for after all if not to express yourself and learn new things? Even if you’re an old prof, you can learn that just because someone is supposed to like something, or just because YOU like it doesn’t mean everyone else will. It’s a hard lesson I know.

I also don’t like Moby Dick. Yep, hate it. Boring, boring, boring. How many ways can one express their obsession with a whale? Four million, fifty five thousand and one apparently. I had to read it no less than FOUR times during the course of earning my degree. Spark Notes anyone? I got to the point where I didn’t even like listening to others TALK about it anymore.

In addition to “great works of literature” that make me feel like I’m dying, I also don’t care for the Oscars or any other celebrity award show. Yes, I can find better things to do with my life than sit around watching millionaires give each other golden man statues for movies that are not that great.

I AM a fan of books that are well edited, and move at a snappy pace. Having more pages does not mean the book is better, it just means it’s longer; just like singing really loud and subjecting the listener to annoying vocal gymnastics does not mean you are a better singer (half the people on American Idol who all sound the same), it just means you sing loud. The classic literature I like runs more to the Medieval (Chaucer, anyone?), and I like movies that seldom get nominated for Academy Awards, like Saving Mr. Banks for example. I loved that one. I thought it was going to be just another “Disney” movie, but it was really a beautiful representation of overcoming the past and moving forward in life.

I guess what it all comes down to, is that everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and it’s ok. If you like that book about the explosion, good for you! I’m glad you are reading. I won’t argue with you that you shouldn’t like the book just because I don’t. I WILL tell you the truth of my opinion though. I also won’t give you a lower grade than you earned because you don’t like the actual novel Gone With The Wind, even though it’s one of my favorites. It’s ok. Differences are what makes the world go round. How boring it would be if we all liked the exact same things. We’d have nothing to talk or write about.

Just remember, even if it’s the best selling book of all time, or a literary masterpiece that everyone else likes, or maybe a movie about people floating around in space that is supposed to be great, but makes your blood congeal, don’t be afraid to just say no. You can stop reading, stop watching, or not go in the first place, and you can say, outloud, “I DIDN’T LIKE IT!!” It’s ok. Be bold. Be strong. Be yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong.

Have a great weekend everybody :-)

Book Opinion: The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbitt

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I was attracted to this book because when I first got married, my husband was in the Air Force and stationed at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico. I gave up my home, my friends and my car and moved to the middle of nowhere with him. I’m from Ohio, so I’m used to green, and water, and soft spring air. I’m used to mist and rain and vegetation so lush at certain times of year that it feels like a rain forest. I’m used to sweet smells like honeysuckle and rich dark earth. Then, I moved to the desert.

The wooden seat of my grandmother’s rocking chair cracked from the dryness. I couldn’t ride my bike because of the altitude. It made my head whirl and my stomach sick to exercise, so I gained about twenty pounds. My skin dried out, my lips cracked and the inside of my nose would peel off and bleed every time I blew it. The anchor stores in the mall were K-Mart and some janky little place called Beall’s that I’d never heard of and did not like. We had one car and I was without it most of the time when my husband went to “work” on the base, and I put “work” in quotes, because most of what they did was play cards and stupid tricks on each other. Nine out of ten work days resulted in my husband coming straight home, or being home in about two or three hours because there was nothing to do and they sent everyone home. That was a good thing because my loneliness knew no bounds. Friends of ours got an illicit kitten, illicit, because our complex did not allow pets. I wanted one because I was lonesome, so we got a tiny black kitten I named Sara. She slept on my chest and chased away nightmares.

On the plus side, we had a lot of fun. It was like being in college. There were parties every weekend, and we went to most of them. Our friend Dan had us over for dinner one night and cooked steaks on the grill. I like mine well done, but these were charcoal. I yummed, and put ketchup on it and ate the parts with actual meat left in them. I drank some Seagram’s Seven in coke and like to died. To this day, I cannot stand to see even the label on a bottle in the store. Finally the day came when most all of our friends left and my husband got out of the service and we stayed. He went to work for a civilian contractor on the base, doing the same job and making three times as much money. When our friends left, it no longer felt like college, he actually had to work, and I got lonelier. Eventually, we too left and moved on to bigger and better things, but that part of my life, while miserable in so many respects was also a happy time for us. Nobody built a bomb, or did much that was top secret, but the parallels between that experience and the experiences described in /The Wives of Los Alamos/ were definitely there.

The book is written in first person, but uses “we” and “our” for example instead of “I” and “me.” For the first couple of pages, it was a little confusing, but it soon became comfortable. It was used to great effect to illustrate the communal, “we’re all in the same boat, and one is much like the other” circumstances these women found themselves in. The husbands were all physicists, recruited to work on the atomic bomb and as part of agreeing to do so, they demanded that they be allowed to bring their families. The families had no idea where they were going until they got there, and once they knew, they were not allowed to tell anyone at home. Their letters were read by censors, care package treats were stolen by censors, cars were searched, requests to leave denied and husbands were largely absent and stressed when they WERE around.

We learn about the difficulties of being without the familiar, with drying out like the desert sand, having very little water, relationships, kids, pregnancies, loss, fear, worries about the war and the brothers and friends who were fighting it, getting comfortable and then leaving. We also learn about the joys of friendship, parties, finding ways to pass the time. There are brief mentions of Oppenheimer and some of the other famous names associated with the project, but nothing too specific. This is definitely the women’s story, and really, you could call it the woman’s story, because as unique as each individual was, once they arrived at Los Alamos, they were all more or less the same.

I highly recommend this book, and not just because it reminds me of my own life. It is historical fiction from the point of view of the overlooked. It didn’t matter what these women did before they ended up in Los Alamos, or what they did after they left; while they were there, they were the wives of the men who ended a war and changed the world, for better or worse is a matter of opinion.

Have a great day and spend part of it with a great book :-)

Book Opinion: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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Homelessness and extreme poverty are a problem where ever there are people. In our modern times the hows and whys of both have been debated endlessly. Fingers are pointed, politicians, corporations, heartless right wingers, teachers and just about every other group you can think of have been blamed. Getting out of such conditions has been deemed next to impossible and governments the world over have bankrupted their countries with social programs designed to “rescue” the homeless and the poor. All, apparently, to no avail because there are still millions of homeless and poor people all over the world.

/The Glass Castle/ addresses these topics and may cause you too look at these issues from a different point of view. The Walls family, Rex and Rose Mary and their four children are the epitome of a dysfunctional family. Neither parent is ever regularly employed for any length of time. They roam like nomads all over the American southwest living in dusty, dying little towns in whatever housing they can find. They regularly leave behind everything in the middle of the night to escape debt collectors or children’s services. Having a steady supply of the basics of life, including food seldom happens.

As the children grow older, they start trying to fill the responsibility void left by their parents, but it is hopeless. Their parents want to be outside the norm of society. They are negative about every social convention that makes life comfortable for everyone else. Rose Mary is an artist, and finds money for canvases and paint when her children have no food. When her kids talk her into using her teaching degree to work and get them food and clothing, they have to make her go to work and they grade papers and fill out forms for her. The teaching jobs never last long, because even schools in dried up, dying desert towns want teachers who actually work. Rex is even worse. He is a brilliant man with a variety of ideas that he promises to work on, but never does. He is a desperate alcoholic who’s brilliance shines less and less as he gets drunker and drunker. His brushes with sobriety never last and make the drunk spells even sadder, because you realize that if he’d stop drinking, he could do so much.

The family’s situation gets so bad that they eventually make it across the country to the dismal mining town in West Virginia where Rex grew up. The landscape, the people, his family and the elements do not make their situation better. As the children get older, they begin to separate from their family; they develop plans to get out and make actual lives for themselves. During conversations with their parents, especially as they get older, they truly come to realize that their parents have chosen to live the way they do. They have no desire to live in a different way. They do not want to change their circumstances. There is not one thing that their children, or social workers of any kind or the government can do to make them change.

There is a beautiful wedding photo of Rex and Rose Mary at the beginning of the book. They look like any other newly married couple you’ve seen, beautiful and full of promise. There is no clue in that picture of the way they will choose to live their lives and raise their children. It’s a little sad really, to look at it after you’ve read the book.

/The Glass Castle/ is a well written memoir that illustrates all too clearly some hot button issues in society, and a very different way of looking at them. Most people who are homeless and/or profoundly poor, want to be anything else, but I now know that there ARE some people who for whatever reason, CHOOSE to live in a way that I cannot imagine. It also reminds us that no matter how desperate your situation may be, if you have the desire to change your life you can. It won’t necessarily be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but it CAN be done. This book is incredibly interesting, and frustrating and infuriating, but it’s great.

Have a great day and READ something :-)

Book Opinion: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

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When I was a teenager, my Mom and Dad and I went to Florida several times on vacation. We always drove and we always stopped at the Quality Inn in Valdosta, Georgia on the way down. This hotel screamed “The South” to me; plantation shutters, beautiful gardens, a pool that I loved and a small-ish, original to the property house all graced the place. We ALWAYS ate dinner at the Ho-Jo’s across the street then came back and my Mom and I would wander the grounds before my solo swimming sessions at the pool. Mom would sit there and watch me swim “in case something happened” but she would’ve not been much help if something HAD happened because she couldn’t swim. My Dad would usually stay in the room smoking and watching t.v.

Even though we always only stayed there one night because we were just passing through, I loved that place. I entertained some of my most vivid Gone With the Wind fantasies inside my head as my Mom and I walked the grounds. I kept waiting for Rhett Butler to come around a bend and fall in love with me, and beautiful girls in hoop skirts to be flirting with handsome boys at a barbeque on the lawn. I loved it so much that when I grew up, I wanted to stop there with MY family, so one year when my daughter was little, we got off the highway and went to the hotel. It was some other chain by then, but the plantation shutters, gardens, pool and house were still there. They were shabbier than they had been and I realized that the property was literally RIGHT next to the highway. When I was a child, the grounds had been so lush that you couldn’t SEE the highway, so I had no idea. It was a little chilly, so we couldn’t get in the pool, which was disappointing, and if it had been warm, I would never have let my baby in it anyway because it wasn’t really clean and THAT was disappointing. The Ho-Jo’s was gone as were Rhett and the rest of the gang and THAT was disappointing. The whole experience left me feeling let down and I was glad to leave the next morning. The only way I’ll ever go back is if I win the Power Ball and go buy it and return it to it’s former glory, so when I heard about Sarah Addison Allen’s new book Lost Lake, I felt that I might be able to relate.

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors. I have all of her books and I love them all. They are all lyrical, and a little magical. One of her books has a protagonist who enchants with her baked goods, another book has mysterious lights in a garden. They are lovely, beautiful stories, and Lost Lake is no different.

Kate is a young widow with a daughter named Devin, and a mother-in-law named Cricket. After the loss of her husband, Kate “goes to sleep” for a year. When she finally snaps out of it just as she is about to take her daughter and move in with Cricket, she finds a postcard from her great-aunt Eby who owns a lake resort in southern Georgia. Eby is the last relative Kate has, and on a whim, Kate decides to load Devin into the car and drive down to visit Eby who she had only met once, when as a child, she and her family had spent several weeks at Lost Lake.

When Kate arrives at the lake, it is obvious that time has taken it’s toll. The property has fallen into disrepair, the guests who summered there for years are aging out of coming back, and Eby has decided to sell and retire. During the course of her visit, Kate reconnects with people she met before as well as meets a whole new cast of characters. Without giving too much away, there is a mute French woman, a ghost in a chair, a ghost alligator, a mystery, and a lovely man to occupy her time.

Lost Lake is a beautiful story about families, new beginnings, endings, tying up loose ends, grief in many of it’s forms, forgiveness, understanding, letting go of the past and embracing the future. You can’t go home again, but you CAN use your past to make your life move forward. Sometimes ghosts can help you learn how to go on. I enjoyed reading this book in the middle of winter, because it transported me to summer; to cool drinks by the water, lanterns in the trees and dancing in the moonlight. Thank you Sarah Addison Allen for giving me another beautiful story to think about and another book to add to my stack. It’s a keeper.

Have a great day and read a great book :-)

Book Opinion: Bellman & Black

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I finished Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield, a couple of days ago, and felt like I needed to let it percolate a bit before I wrote about it.

The story opens with a group of early Victorian era, English boys playing in a field. The action of the scene as well as the book focuses on William Bellman, a ten year old with a fantastic slingshot, unless you are British, and then, it’s a catapult. William uses his catapult to shoot a young rook (crow) off a branch at an incredibly long distance. The other boys are impressed, but William feels bad about the entire incident, falls ill, and when he is better, has forgotten all about it.

The rest of the book tells us William’s tale. We learn that he lives with his mother in a little cottage because his father abandoned them. William is handsome, has a beautiful singing voice, and the girls love him, but it seems that he is never going to amount to much. The girl that he has been seeing, that he seems to care for, tells him that she has her heart set on his friend Fred, the baker, because he is steady and she doesn’t want to struggle. William then works his way into the mill with his uncle and embarks on a very successful career as a mill owner. His life is a good one, until tragedy takes almost everything from him.

At the last moment before the final crisis that will completely destroy the life he has made for himself, he speaks with a mysterious man dressed in black that always seems to be lurking whenever something bad happens in William’s life. They strike a deal of sorts, and the last remaining thing in his life is restored to him. Following this miracle, Bellman and Black, an emporium catering to the Victorian obsession with death, funerals and mourning is born.

The reason I had to digest this book a bit is because I had a really hard time pinning it down. At first, I thought it was going to be a horror story. But it wasn’t. Then, I thought it was going to be a good old-fashioned Gothic mystery. I wasn’t, but it was. I thought that the rooks were going to terrorize him for killing one of their own. They kind of did, but they didn’t. Then, I thought it was a cautionary tale about becoming too self-involved, which it actually was, but at the same time it was not. I kept waiting to dislike William, I kept waiting for him to do something heinous, but I liked him and he didn’t. I kept waiting to find out who the hell gave a crap about the rooks and what their purpose was, and finally at the end, I found that out, and the book once again teetered on horror/gothic mystery. SO, it was a little bit confusing, a little bit literary (which means it forces you to think about the story and not just blindly enjoy it), a little bit spooky, and a whole lot entertaining.

If you are in any way into Victorian era death, or just good life stories, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Although it will try to force you to think about it, don’t think about it too much. Just read it, enjoy it, and don’t try to figure it out. It is very well written, so it’s easy to read. It has just the right amount of artistry about it to make it interesting without being pretentious, and some of her descriptions are downright poetic, which when done properly, as they are here, add to reading enjoyment. So while you are shivering in the cold that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, download it on your NOOK, or hop out to the bookstore and grab a copy, get a cozy blanket, a warm drink and maybe a cat for your lap and enjoy.

Have a great day and spend part of it with a great book :-)

Harry Potter, You Are Creating Another Reader

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I guess I should say J.K. Rowling, you are creating another reader, but in truth, it’s Harry.
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My twelve year old son likes to read one day, and hates it the next. Typical boy I guess, so on a recent trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, I bought him a copy of /Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/. He’s seen the movies but only paid half attention to them. He liked Harry, but he was not the HP fan that my daughter is despite my best efforts, because he had not read the books to himself. By buying him his own copy in Hogsmeade, I figured he’d read it because it was a souvenir, and because he is the perfect age. Boy was I right.
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He is now on the second book and is fretting about what he’ll do when he has finished all the books. “What am I going to read after Harry Potter MOOOOM???” I hear this on almost a daily basis. I tell him we’ll find him something else when the time comes. In about a year. Because that is likely how long it will take him to read all those books. I am so happy that he is interested in reading now, and I thank Harry for helping me out. After all, he is what turned my daughter into the reader she is, he also meant more to her than most of the real people in her life. You can read about our farewell to Harry here, http://messagedisciplineisrequired.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/see-ya-later-harry-potter/?preview=true&preview_id=52&preview_nonce=c84fcf7526&post_format=standard.

So once again, I thank you Harry for having a positive impact on our lives, we will always love you.

Book Opinion: My Mother’s Secret by J.L. Witterick

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I was in elementary school in the 1970’s, and it has only been in the last few years that I have realized that the world I grew up in was very much a post WWII place. John Wayne won the war in the Pacific every weekend on television in old black and white movies. The old people (grandparents) talked incessantly about the Depression and the war. My mother told me stories of her parents planning to cut her hair and dress her like a boy if the Germans invaded the country. She also told me stories of drilling with fake wooden rifles at school as a matter of course. My Mammaw told me about the families with the stars commemorating their service people in the window, and how the whole neighborhood heard the mother next-door scream when she got word that her son had been killed. My Grandfather was an air raid warden and when my Mammaw died, we found ration books in her things. There was also a plethora of books about the war and the Holocaust and the Nazis. I became interested in the stories when I was very young. I remember reading Anne Frank’s story, and I remember a book called Marta and the Nazis about a young girl in WWII Germany.

I still like to read about the Second World War. I am completely fascinated by the fact that an entire country full of intelligent, normal, people could fall for the charisma and promises of Hitler. I understand what post WWI Germany was like. I understand the desperation, and the longing for a leader to make it all better. I am unable to understand what I call, for lack of a better word, mass hypnosis that allowed such hideous atrocities to be perpetrated against so many innocents. I don’t understand why more people couldn’t see it coming, when it is so obvious what was happening. I don’t understand how people can do those things to other people.

My Mother’s Secret, by J.L. Witterick, is a fictionalized representation of the true story of Franciszka Halamajowa, and her daughter Helena, and peripherally, her son, Damian. Franciszka was Polish and married to a Ukrainian man. They moved to Germany because there were more opportunities for a better life there than in Poland. Franciszka eventually left her abusive husband, who had fallen hook line and sinker for the Nazis, and returned to Poland with her children. They were able to make a new life for themselves, and were living fairly well considering the level of poverty in Sokal, Poland when the Nazis invaded and the war broke out.

Before the war, Sokal, Poland was home to 6,000 Jews. After the war, 30 were left and half of them were saved by Franciszka. This little, sparely written book, that almost made me feel as if I were reading poetry, recounts the perils of hiding Jews just outside the Jewish ghetto, surrounded by German troops with itchy trigger fingers. The story is told without great gobs of gross, excruciating, explicit details of atrocities, which may seem to some people as if that aspect is being played down, but in reality, it makes the menace more real because you are less overwhelmed by the horror. These are people going about their regular lives, when all of a sudden, they are placed in a situation where doing the right thing could end their lives any minute.

We are also told the stories of the people who had to hide. One day, they were working in factories, or as doctors in hospitals, respected and respectable, and in the blink of an eye, they had to abandon everything and hide like animals in a burrow, just to survive. There is also a surprise “hider” that I won’t tell you about, but his life was hanging by the same thin thread as the Jews.

This book is a VERY quick read. Some of the chapters are only a paragraph long, and it is this unique way of breaking up the story that makes it sometimes feel like poetry. I think this would be a great book to teach just about any student seventh grade or above. It could be used in language arts or history, even ethics or government. If you are looking for historical fiction that illustrates the good in human beings even in the midst of horror, this might be the book for you. I felt so uplifted at the end; I think you would too.

Have a great day, and spend part of it with a good book.

Book Opinion: There’s More to Life Than This by Theresa Caputo

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Okie dokie friends, I told you that you never know what you’ll get here because I read lots of different things and this one is different.

The night after my father died, I was laying in bed in the dark trying to sleep. My eyes were closed and my mind was calming down, but I still couldn’t sleep. Suddenly, on the inside of my closed eyelids, I saw an old photograph. It was perfectly square with narrow white borders and the photo showed a sepia toned forest. There were no people, just the woods as they look in Ohio. Very suddenly, to the left of the photograph, a tall, slim, young man with short,thick, wavy black hair, wearing jeans with a rolled cuff at the ankles, an argyle sweater, and some kind of heavy dark shoes walked into the scene. He was carrying a shotgun. The butt of the gun was in his right hand, and the barrel was leaning on his shoulder. I could see him at about a 3/4 view, so I could see the pattern on his sweater, but only kind of the side of his face. He was about two thirds of the way back in the photo, so I could see his whole body. Just as suddenly, a large dog, a little shaggy, with a flag tail held straight up behind him, bounded into the picture, also from the left and ran up behind the young man. The dog was so happy. It was bounding around the man, obviously excited to see him. The man looked down, rubbed the top of the dog’s head, stood up straight, turned his face directly to me, and smiled a dazzling white smile directly into my eyes, turned and snapped his fingers at the dog and walked away into the woods, with his dog happily bounding around behind him. They disappeared into the trees and were gone. The photograph faded and I opened my eyes. The young man was my Father. He was in Heaven with Red, the dog he loved as a young man, and they were going hunting. He came to say goodbye to me because I didn’t get to see him before he left. It made me feel better and I can close my eyes and still see the scene, but tears are running down my face as I write this.

A couple of years ago, Theresa Caputo, better known as the Long Island Medium, caught my attention on her TV show. I watch it all the time and am fascinated by it. She seems legitimate to me and that’s saying something, because I am very suspicious of any flavor of psychic or medium because so many of them are charlatans, but Theresa seems to be the real thing. I like her. She seems normal. I think we could be really good friends, so my opinion of her and her book may be biased a little. Full disclosure here.

The book was written with ghost (lol) writer Kristina Grish. They obviously had a really good working relationship because Theresa’s voice is evident throughout. It sounds like her. I can almost picture her face and hear her talking through most of the book. She tells us about her life in addition to what goes on in Spirit. We learn that she had night terrors and terrible anxiety as a child and young woman, because she didn’t know what was happening. Eventually, she found a woman named Pat who was able to help and guide her and teach her how to protect herself from the Spirits who just wouldn’t stop communicating with her. Theresa talks about meeting and marrying her husband Larry and talks a lot about her children and her large extended Italian family. There is a lot of love there, and it was nice to hear about it.

Theresa also talks about God, angels, Heaven, guides and Jesus. She hits on what seems to be the major high points of the extensive knowledge of the whole deal that she has. There is no way it could all be laid out in one book, but what she gives us is very interesting and validates a lot of the thoughts I’ve had about God and Heaven and spirituality. She talks extensively about the lessons our souls are sent here by God to learn. She also acknowledges that it was very difficult for her to reconcile some of the things she now knows with the Catholicism she was raised in. I’m paraphrasing here, but she says that being raised Catholic, she was taught that you die, you go to heaven and you stay there with God; it took a little time for her to accept that there is so much more to it than we are taught.

I recommend this book for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it’s fascinating; the book really gives a lot of insight to a topic that not a lot of people know anything about. It’s also entertaining and a well written, quick read. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, it is also very helpful and comforting. It validated for me, that the vision I had of my Dad after his death, was sent to me by him to let me know that he was healthy and whole, with his dog, hunting in Heaven. As Theresa would say, I know that at that exact moment his soul was with me. I’m also starting to suspect that when my son was about two years old and told me that he knew my daughter when they were in baby Heaven, he was probably right.

Have a great day and read a good book :-)