Sunday, June 29, 2014

Half Broke Horses a true life novel by Jeannette Walls: a review

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Wells is a true life novel about her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. A true life novel is biography with fictionalized information because it cannot be verified and the details are vague.

The book opens with 10 year old Lily in the fields with her younger brother, Buster, 9, and young sister, Helen, 7, when the trio is caught in the middle of a flash flood on their homestead along the Pecos River. Through insight and bravery, Lily is able to get her siblings in a tree where they stay all night and wait until the water subsides. He father, Adam Casey, is a dreamer with moneymaking schemes which don’t work out. Her mother, Daisy Mae, feels she is not made to live on a homestead and always talking about “our due.” After a tornado destroys their house, the family moves to the KC Ranch in Hondo Valley, Capitan Mountains, New Mexico. As Lily grows, she learns the rough life of breaking horses and begins her career early as a teacher since teachers were in short supply for the rural areas during WWI. She would hop from town to town, teaching as long as she was needed. The book ventures into her married life and motherhood and her ability to find ways to survive in the toughest economic times. 

Half broke Horses is an easy read and if you’ve read The Glass Castle, many details will be repeated especially when Ms. Walls’ mother enters the story. I enjoyed the book as a fictionalized version of her grandmother’s life. I enjoyed the parents’ descriptions about the Lord. Her mother said that if you want to see the love of the Lord, look at the sunrise. Her father would say if you want to see the wrath of the Lord, watch a tornado. I also had to laugh at the “foreshadowing” as the author writes about her mother. For instance, at Rosemary’s birth, the midwife is claimed to have said, “I see a wanderer.” There was one glaring typo that I found that really irritated me for the rest of the book. In an incident where Lily must whip Rosemary for disobedience, it is written “…then whipped off my belt and started hiding her” (page 211). I know the author meant hitting. I really dislikes typos, even my own. I think that a book being published would be more closely checked for typos. Overall, Half Broke Horses is an easy read with great details about life in the Southwest during the first half of the 20th century. If you’re a fan of Jeannette Walls, you will enjoy this book.
“Most important thing in life is learning how to fall” –Adam Casey

Friday, June 27, 2014

Part 3: The long goodbye

One year later, she stood at the gravesite once again. She stands taller than she had before. A newer confidence held her head high. She reads the inscription and smiles. “Hi my loves. I’ve come to say goodbye. I will never understand how I lost you both but knowing you are together helps past the days until I can be reunited with you. Every day I have to learn how to say goodbye and I know it will take a lifetime. There’s no life for me here anymore that you are gone. Friends don’t know how to act around me so they no longer call or invite me places. I guess I understand that. I no longer fit in their world. They’ve found new friends with children their kids’ age. They have moved on and so must I. I know they still care for me but I’m a reminder that life doesn’t always work out like you hope and dream. I’m moving home to Mom’s. There’s a job opening there and it would be a fresh start that I know you would want me to take.”
She lays flowers down and lovingly caresses the granite. She got up, turning to walk away. At the office door, she sees the funeral director, she smiles and waves. He gives her a salute as if to say “I’ll take care of them.” She walks away with one final look at the gravestone. “Goodbye, my loves. I take your memory with me” she whispers as she turns around to start a new chapter in her life.
John Michael Harrison
March 3, 1988 - October 29, 2012
John Michael Harrison, Jr.
October 29, 2012
Father and Son together forever

Dedicated to all our loved ones who are gone but never forgotten! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"If you were me and lived in... Portugal and Russia: new book reviews

Two new books in the “If you were me and you lived in…” series! I’m as excited about these books as I loved the book on Australia.

First, Portugal. The book teaches the reader about Portugal, its location general information about the country and its people. The largest city, Lisbon, the most common names for children and the common foods that Portuguese people eat like bacalhau (salted cod) and pastelis de nata (custard tart with cinnamon). The national symbol of Portugal is discussed. The Rooster of Barcelos is a very important symbol to the Portuguese people much like the American Eagle is to the U.S.

Second, Russia. The formal name is the Russia Federation. It has many different nationalities and ethnic groups and covers 9 different time zones! Its capital city is Moscow where the Red Square is located which is the main marketplace. The author discusses the signature clothes and other important aspects of Russian life and culture. I loved that the author pointed out a game that the children play a game called fipe but is basically hide and seek. It’s great for children to learn that children in other countries play as they do. All children play games and have fun in all counties.

These books are great additions to the “If you were me and lived in…” series. I would highly recommend getting these books and others in the series. 

Both books are available on for $9.99 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Part 2: The memory

She sat on the couch in the dark, with one lone light on in the distance, as she held the pictures in her hands. Tears rolled down her face as she thought about the day her world turned upside down…
The day started like any other day. She woke up, excited for the new day. She had a doctor’s appointment in a couple hours and her husband was going to be there! She got up carefully as her growing belly slowed her down a great deal. As she walked to the bathroom, she saw their wedding photo. Her husband standing for proudly and handsomely in his Marine Corps dress uniform and herself smiling as brightly as her white wedding gown. It was the most perfect day and it continued to be perfect. She got pregnant shortly after her husband came home from deployment and he wasn’t leaving until after the baby was born. She closed her eyes in quick prayer, hopefully he’s not leaving until after.
After a quick shower, she dressed and was out the door. She checked her phone and had a text message from her husband. “Going be a little late. See you at the drs.” She nodded as she pulled the car out of the driveway and headed to the medical building. As she waited for her husband to join her in the waiting room, impatiently checking her phone and the time. Where was he? If he misses this, I’ll never forgive him! She thought angrily as she snapped her phone shut one last time.
“Taylor Harrison” the nurse calls her in. She stands up, looking over her shoulder. She sighs. He’s not coming. With slow steps, she follows the nurse to the exam room.
“How are we today?” the nurse asks as she takes vital signs.
“I’ve been better” she replies.
“Oh, something wrong?”
“Yeah, my husband was supposed to meet me here but he’s late.”
The nurse smiled sympathetically. “The doctor will be with you shortly” she said as she left the room.
She sat on the exam table, looking around the room. Suddenly, the room got colder than usual and she had a sense of something was very wrong. The door opened and her doctor walked in the room. He began his exam with small talk about how she was feeling, etc etc. Then he stopped. The expression on his face changed and terror gripped her heart in icing vice. She could hardly breathe.
“I’m going to send you over to labor and delivery for further examination” he finally speaks.
“Why? What’s going on?” she asks terrified.
“I can’t really tell here. I need better equipment that the office doesn’t have. I’ll have a nurse take you over there and I’ll be there as soon as I call the doctor on call.”
Before she knew it, she was being whisked to labor and deliver, being hooked up to machines and have an IV put in. She stared at the nurses with wide questioning eyes.
“Just a precaution, my dear” the nurse said as she patted her arm and left the arm.
There she was lying in a hospital bed. Her husband was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t answering his phone. No one was answering their phones. What was going on?

Suddenly, the room as a bustle of activity as doctors and nurses walked into the room, talking over each other as they worked. The doctor on call walked over to her and with a grave expression, she explained what was going on. All she heard as baby, distress, delivery. She began to cry. Her baby was being born tonight. Three months early and there was nothing else that could be done. She was alone. The only person she was able to get a hold of was her mother who lived 3,000 miles away. Her mom said she was on the first plane out but she wouldn’t get there in time…

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Give your song a Voice: a beautiful book with a great message

Give Your Song a Voice by Kristin E. Schmidt and illustrated by Debra Rae Hare is a book about a young girl’s dream to give the music in her dream a voice. The story is told as a simple poem. The rhythms are simple and yet flow beautifully like listening to the lyrics of a song. A young girl has a dream and in her dream, she sees music as she wakes up, she realizes that she can’t let the beautiful music disappear. She then goes on a journey to find friends to play this beautiful music.

On her journey, she meets up with a trombone playing hippo, a drums banging chimpanzee, a gator playing the flute, an emu plucking the strings of a cello, a zebra playing the clarinet and a bull blowing the sax. Together, they form a band and put on a concert for the girl’s family and friends. After the concert, she realizes that everyone has something special in them. The little girl gathers her friends and gives them the message of the story: “A song has a no voice until you chose to share it.”

This book was sent to my daughter by my aunt who is friends with the author. I was excited to read it and my daughter loved listening to it. After reading it, I had to post a review about it. I loved this book. I love that it is in prose. I love poetry. The imagery is beautiful and the illustrations really bring the characters to life. I would recommend this book to all children. It has a great message and fun characters.

Give Your Song a Voice is available on for $12.99

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Part 1: The cemetery at dusk

It was a cold, bitter day in November as the sunset on the cemetery, much colder than Southern California is used to. Various graves were decorated for Thanksgiving as family members came to remember their loved ones during the season of thanks. The brisk cold turned into a bitter wind as the sun set turning day into night. People didn’t stay around too long as the quickly changing weather made them hurry to find warmer surroundings.
But one lone woman stayed. She knelt on the ground in front of a newly placed headstone. Her eyes downcast closed almost as in prayer. He lips moving ever so slightly, the breeze carrying her words away. She was slender and young, too young to be in a cemetery. Her beautiful blonde hair fell forward in a cascade of gold, protecting her face from the bitter cold. She wore no jacket but she acted as if she couldn’t feel the falling temperatures. She kept her head bowed and leaned closer to the ground. You could have thought she was trying to lay down.
The funeral director was closing the office for the night. He locked the office door and as he turned to walk to his car, he saw her. With sympathetic eyes, he sighed. The young woman had come here every day for the past couple weeks. He changed course and walked over to her. Despite his nice suit, he knelt beside her in the grass and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You know they wouldn’t want you here moping.”
The young woman looked up, her eyes glistening with tears and sighed, “I know. I don’t know what to do next.” She turned back to the headstone.
The director put a gentle arm around her, helped her to her feet and guided her to her nearby car. With gentle words, he reassured her that the answers were inside her. He knew all the comforting words. He had been in this business for many years and he saw all sorts of grief. But this young woman’s pain cut deep into his heart. He felt that his words were hallow and knew, at the moment, his words failed him.
“I wish I had more to help you, miss. But unfortunately, only time will give you the answers you seek,” he said as he opened her car door.
She nodded and closed the door. She watched the man walk to his car. She knew he was only trying to help. The words which were meant as comfort were hallow. Hallow as her heart. She knew that she would never be whole again. She already lost so much. How can she go on when what mattered most was gone.
She left the main gate and turned toward home. “Good night, sweet ones. Sleep tight. I’ll be back soon.” She whispered as she passed the cemetery. She let her brain go into autopilot as her memory drifted to that fateful day one month ago.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: a memoir of a different type of childhood

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a memoir about her childhood and life with her parents. Her parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls, were dreamers who set out to have a life beyond the dictates of society. Ms. Walls retells the adventures and missteps of her childhood.

The book opens with adult Jeannette seeing her homeless mother on the street, rummaging though the trash. Hoping that she’s not spotting, she runs back to her safe apartment. Ashamed that she ran from her mother, she opens up on how her mother ended up on the street. The Walls’ family’s life as they lived in various places of the southwest and eventually a small town in coal country of West Virginia. The Walls children go through various injuries that would seem extreme to anyone else but to her parents, they were battle scars of life and they would learn and survive. The family had the habit of picking up and leaving in the middle of the night. They lived like nomads, moving from place to place, only leaving when they got caught or were in danger of getting caught. Caught for what? Jeannette’s dad always told fantastical stories about why they had to run, mostly in entertain the children.

The Glass Castle is her father’s impossible dream. His dream of a big house in the desert with glass ceiling and walls with solar panels. Her father always had a “get rich quick” schemes. Her parents’ relationship was volatile fueled by alcohol and disappointment. As the children grow and learn to see their parents’ lives and lies for what they were. They find the strength within themselves to better themselves. Eventually all the children would make it to New York City. There, they would graduate high school, college and begins their careers. All the while their parents live their lives as they always have, on the edge of society, taking with little giving and making promises that cannot be delivered.

I enjoyed reading The Glass Castle, although there were sometimes I thought this can’t be possible but then I’ve heard stranger stories. Jeannette Walls’ story is told with brutal honest and love. As you read, you see the world through the wonderment of a 3 year old eyes to the critical eye of an adult. You get that the parents’ loved their children and they did their best in their education and their care. They just couldn’t or didn’t want to live the conventional life that everyone else did.

“Life is a drama full of tragedy and comedy. 
You should learn to enjoy the comic episodes a little more” 
–Rose Mary Walls

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

Father’s Day is a day that used to have no meaning. It was a day to honor a man who wasn’t a dad as I deserved or needed. So, it was a day I often ignored. However, it is now a day that I look forward. In order to honor my husband who has taken his role as father very seriously. My husband, from day one, has dived into his role as dad quickly. He learned to change diapers, bathe our daughter and make her bottles and feed her. He has worked long shifts and even longer weeks in order to make sure she has everything she could need or want. 

My husband is not perfect. He tends to jump to angry very easily if Abby were to do something wrong. However, he is quick to calm down and apologize to her and talk about why he got upset. Joe is the one who runs to her rescue when she falls down. He is the one who will make sure she is safe before he leaves. When he leaves in the morning for work and Abby is still asleep, I've seen him lean in real close to her and pray. He asks God to protect her and me while he is away from us. It is the little things like this that I see and I know that  my husband takes his role as father very seriously. 

Fathers are very important in our children’s lives. For the fathers out there who take their responsibilities seriously and with their whole heart, I say thanks. Your children may not remember everything you've ever done for them but they will remember the feelings of securing and love. For the fathers who aren’t taking the time to take care of their children, I hope that you realize that what you do or don’t do in your children’s lives will affect them for the rest of their lives. Believe me, I see the effects every day. It is never too late to be a Dad, it may take more work and effort but you can be a part of your children's lives while you still have time. 

Happy Father’s Day to the Dads who are willing to sit and watch that Disney princess movie one more time with their daughters and who are willing to play catch with their sons even after a hard day’s work. Your time with them is so precious, don’t let it pass. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Black Sheep: Part 2 The News

I quietly watched their faces as the news sunk in. My mother kept blinking and Dad, well, he seems to be bracing for the explosion that I’m sure we both knew was coming.
“Divorced” my mother said quietly. “Divorced!” she said louder. “I can’t believe it. You can’t get divorced!”
“Mom, this is what Lisa wants. She’s in love with someone else and I just can’t…” I tried to explain.
“Can’t what? Fight for her!”
“Mom, I’ve been fighting for her! But she says I can’t give her the things she wants.”
“Like what?” Mother huffed.
“Like a bigger house, a fancier car, trips to Europe just to name a few” I said quietly.
“Well, you could if you only applied yourself more at work.” Mom retorted.
I sighed. It was the same old argument. “Mom, I’m sorry. I know you loved Lisa but the decision’s been made. She already filed and I’ve received the papers.”
“No, no. You can fix this before it’s too late.” Mother was still not getting it.
“Mom, there is nothing to fix. It’s done.” I said in a tone I hoped she would get the hint but she didn’t.
“What about the kids?” Mother said tearfully.
“We haven’t worked that out yet.”
Mother got up from the table and starting pacing the kitchen. She paced for a few minutes as Dad and I sat in silence. She suddenly turned, her face filled with shock.
“What will your brother and sister say?”
They’ll probably say, oh Michael’s screwed up again, I thought in my head. I didn’t dare say it out loud. I saw something out of the corner of my eye that surprised me. I swear I saw Dad roll his eyes. Then it happened. The explosion. Mother started ranting and raving about God only knows because I knew I wasn’t listening. I started to hang my head with shame as her words come barreling down on me. But I stopped myself. I am 45 years old! I will not be lectured to like I’m 5!
“Mother!” I yell. Both Mother and Dad look at me in shocked. I took a deep breath and stood up. “I know you are disappointed but I know this is best for everyone. If I’m truly honest with myself, Lisa and I haven’t been very happy for a long time. We are both to blame and we recognize that we are not a good fit. I’m sorry that the children will grow up with divorced parents but I feel this is better for them too. Now, I have to get home. I need to pack my things before Lisa and the kids get home.”
I walked over to my speechless Mother and kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll call you in a few days.”
“I’ll…uh…walk you out, son.” Dad spoke as he got up from the table slowly.
We both left Mother standing like Lot’s wife in the kitchen as we left the house. Dad didn’t speak until we got to the car. He turned to me and said.
“I’m proud of you, son.”
“What?” I’m shocked.
“I know you haven’t been happy for a long time and I know Lisa was probably the main reason. Don’t worry about your mother, she’ll calm down.”
“Thanks, Dad.”
“If you need a place to stay….” The invitation hung in the air.
I smiled “No, thanks. I’m staying with a friend until all the details are ironed out.”
Dad nodded as if he knew why. Then he did something I never expected him to. He pulled me in for a big hug. The breath was being squeezed out of me. Dad finally let go and I took a deep breath.
“See ya soon, son.” Dad turned and walked back to the house without another word.
“Bye” I said weakly as I got into the car and drove away.
The drive back to the house was long. Each mile brought me closer and closer to the realization that it was over. I felt a tightness in my chest that I had to take a few breaths to ease. I pulled into the driveway and realized that I would miss most was the happy moments. And we did have them. The movie nights with the kids camping out on the floor with the sleeping bags and popcorn while Lisa and I cuddled on the couch. The dinners at the kitchen table where we laughed and joked about the events of the day.
I walked into the door and I got a surprise. Emily was sitting at the kitchen counter.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “I thought you had an afternoon thing to do.”
“I did but it was canceled.” She said not really looking me in the eye. I knew it was a lie but I let it pass.
“Well, I’m going to…”
She just nodded as she blinked fast in order to keep the tears from falling.
I walked into my bedroom and made quick work of getting the last of my clothes out of the dresser and closet. I turned to carry a box downstairs when I saw Emily in the doorway.
“Do you need help?” she asked quietly.
“You don’t have to.”
“I know”
I smiled softly. “Could you get the box on the bed?”
She smiled back as she picked up the box and we made our way out to the car. We walked down the hall and I was amazed on how different the house looked with the evidence of my presence had been removed. My chair was already at my friend’s house. My office had been cleared and Lisa had already set up her stuff. How easily someone could be erased.
As we loaded the car with as many boxes as I could, I stopped to look at my beautiful daughter. I hoped and prayed that she realized that she did nothing wrong.
“Dad, I know.” She said as if she read my mind. She laughed as the look of shock on my face. “I have friends who have parents who are divorced. I’ve heard all the stories.”
I nodded. Of course. This is nothing new in our society today. “I wait until your mom gets home. I don’t want you home alone.”
“Dad, I’m twelve years old. I’ve been home alone before. Besides, Mrs. J is home, if I need anything.”

I nod slowly. I often forget how grown up she is. I kiss her forehead and tell her to get inside and lock the door. I get into the car and wait until I see the door close before pulling out, leaving the home I tried to build behind. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Jennifer's amazing chocolate cake

This particular cake I made for my sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Stefanie! Anyway, I used to two different icings. You don’t have to. Now on to the cake…


2 cups of granulated sugar
1 ¾ cup of gluten free flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your flour already has it)
¾ cup good quality cocoa
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee
1 ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Fruit Puree: (optional)
1 12 oz. bag, frozen unsweetened berries, thawed (I’ve used raspberries or mixed berries in this recipe)

Frosting: (for filling)
½ cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons buttermilk
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Gel food coloring of your choice (if desired, available at most craft stores or baking supply stores)

16 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
16 oz. buttermilk

1.      Preheat oven to 350° Grease and dusted 2 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans. Set aside

2.      Puree the thawed berries in a food processor until smooth. Push puree through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds. Reserve ¼ cup and set aside.

3.      Combine the sugar, flour, xanthan gum, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs and beat slightly. Then add the buttermilk, oil, vanilla and fruit puree. Mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients about 1/3 cup at a time. When all ingredients are combined, carefully mix in the hot coffee and the chocolate chips.

4.      Evenly distribute the cake batter in the two prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes to until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 5 pans, then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

5.      Filling frosting: Mix the melted butter and cocoa until completely combined. Then add the reserved puree, mix to combine. Alternative adding the powdered sugar and the buttermilk while mixing until the frosting is smooth, glossy and a spreadable consistency. If it’s too thick, add a splash of milk. If it’s too think, add additional sugar. Beat in the vanilla.

6.      I usually split the two layers in order to make four small layers. Using the chocolate frosting between each layer. If you don’t feel comfortable splitting the layers, spread the frosting between the two layers. Put in refrigerator to set.

7.      In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix on a low speed to combine, then beat on medium for a full 5 minutes. Add coloring, if desired.

8.      Frost the cake with the icing and put in refrigerator to set.

9.    To make the ganache, use a double broiler. You can use a makeshift double broiler by using a medium pot filled with water and a glass bowl (as shown). Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the water to a boil. When boiling, place the glass bowl on top of the pot and mix together the chocolate chips and the buttermilk. Keep stirring until chocolate is melted and completely smooth.

10. Carefully pour desired amount of ganache over the cooled cake and spread toward the edges.   

11. Place cake in the refrigerator to set. Decorate as desired.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tani's search for the heart: a magical journey of discovery

Tani’s Search for the Heart written by Keith Egawa and illustrated by brother and sister team of Keith Egawa and Chenoa Egawa. It is about a young girl named Tani who lives in a village in the Pacific Northwest woods near the Salish Sea with her grandmother.

Her grandmother tells her the story of Stick Indian, a magical being of wood, branches and leaves who scratches at windows at night. One day her uncle arrives and reveals that the woods are being cut down. Grandmother tells Tani that she must find the heart of the world, of the people. Grandmother soon dies and Tani moves in with her uncle, aunt and baby cousin. Tani soon hears her grandmother’s voice sending her on her journey. While on her journey, Tani meets various animals who speak to her and help her on her journey. Tani discovers the location of the heart of the world, of the people.

The story is easy to read and the illustrations are beautiful. I love the message of the story how to live in the world around us and how to take care of this world. The lesson is told through magic and nature. I love that the various animals she meets has a different piece of information for Tani to help her on her search. I would recommend this great book. Children will love listening to this magical story of one girl’s journey.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Black Sheep: Part 1 The Drive

I, Michael David Edwards, am a successful manager at a local advertisement firm. I am paid well and provided for my family. I drive a modest car and live in a modest home. I am content. I don’t need the fancy car or the mansion house. All I need is my wife and children. I am good. I’m 6’ with an athletic build. I have black hair that graying around the edges but the girls at the office tell me it gives me a distinguished look. I think they were trying to make me feel better. I’m 45 years old but I feel as young as ever.

I sighed as I drove down the highway. What lies we tell ourselves? Am I successful? Sure but when you stack me against my younger brother, the lawyer, and my baby sister, the psychologist, I’m just the average Joe. The oldest child who failed to be a success. Everyone ignores the fact that I worked my way through the firm from the mailroom (an average place to start my brother would snide) but now I’m the manager of an advertisement team within Creative Enterprises. Did you see that new burger commercial? That was my team! I am very proud of that commercial if I do say so myself.

But here I am, driving to my parents’ house for brunch. To give them the news I’m sure will shock them. I can almost hear my mother’s voice, “Oh, Michael, how could you?” Doesn’t matter what age you are, when your mother uses that tone, you revert back to a 5 year old who was just caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I was always a disappointment to my mother. Even though I’m the oldest and science was shown that oldest children are often the favorites. It’s just not the case with my mother. When my brother was born, he was the golden child and I was pushed aside. Then when my sister arrived, I was pushed even further. I was the forgotten child. Isn’t that supposed to be the middle child? Once again, my family decides to do things ass backwards. I am closer with my father, who was quietly denied access to his other children.

I pull off the highway and drive into a grocery store parking lot. I’m a few blocks from my parents’ house and I need time to collect my thoughts. I pull out my wallet and look at the last Christmas family portrait. I stand in the background, smiling proudly. My beautiful wife, Lisa, in front of me with her arms around our twin boys. Her golden brown hair styled perfectly, her beautiful blue eyes sparkled. Lisa is just as pretty as the day I met her. I met her in college. She was young and full of ideas and plans. We got married after graduation and she went to work as a charity event planner. She can charmed and smile her way into people’s hearts and minds. But behind that smile is a venom that no man can survive.

I turn my gaze to my children. Emily, the oldest, is daddy’s girl. She’s twelve and has a wisdom beyond her years. She is as pretty as her mother but with a heart of gold. She would help any wounded creature if we allowed her too. My twin boys. The surprise of our lives. After Emily was born, Lisa declared she was done having kids. No more. Then right after Emily started kindergarten, Lisa discovered she was pregnant again. I was ecstatic but had to hide my joy. Lisa was miserable. Then she turned evil after we discovered it was twins. Ethan and Joshua are now the spitting image of me at seven but every now and then I see a hint of Lisa in their smiles. And not in a good way. After they were born, Lisa was different. She turned her attention to the boys and ignored Emily.

I stopped. Ignored Emily? Just like my mother ignored me? Oh my god, I did marry my mother? I hang my head. Oh, boy! Did I make a mess of my life? I can hear my brother’s voice, “That’s Michael!” And he’d laugh like it was the greatest joke you’ve ever heard. That’s my life. The greatest joke you’ve ever heard. I sigh as I turn the key. Let’s get this over with.

I soon turn down my parents’ street. The street curves to the left from the golf course where my dad would spend every day since his retirement. I think so that he wouldn’t have to be home with my mother. Each house is carefully painted and the lawns are beautifully manicured. Beautiful rose bushes are in bloom at Old Man Wicks’ house. I smile. He was a mean old man but once you learned his story, you’d be mean too. Through the oak trees, the house comes into view. The house where I grew up and the house I dreaded coming to today. I pull up to the curb. With a sigh, I turn to look at the house. The brick house with its white door stood proudly in the morning sun. Once I cross the threshold, there was no going back. I get out of the car and before I make it to the driveway, my mother comes out the front out.

My mother, Mary, is a beautiful 65 years old. She’s still young and vibrant. Her beautiful auburn hair turned grey quite a few years ago but her green eyes still shine with the fire that her hair once was. I love her dearly but there always was a part of her that I wasn’t allowed to be a part of. It was like I was told, this is your section, don’t stray across the borders. She rushes to hug me.

“Oh, Michael. How good it is to see you? How’s Lisa? The kids? Too bad they couldn’t come with you today.”

“I know, Mom. The kids are still in school and Lisa had a charity luncheon today”

Mom laughs breathlessly, “Oh, that Lisa. What marvelous things she does with that charity of hers.”

I laugh nervously.

“Now, Mary, don’t drown the poor boy with questions” came the booming voice of my father. I turn to smile. Robert Edwards is a big, burly man. His clear blue eyes still shined with youth despite his body showing his 75 years. I could tell my dad looked tired and wearily.

“Hi Dad, how are you?” as I put my hand out. He took my hand and gave me a grip that was much weaker than last time I saw him. He replied with the usual “can’t complain.” Right!

We all walk into the kitchen where Mother has set up the table with various fruits, croissants and scones. My mother quickly busied herself with getting us settled. “Would you like coffee or tea?”

“Coffee, Mary. Men always have coffee. Right, son?” my dad chuckled.

“Coffee, please”

Mother quickly set everything on the table and began distributing the food. “So, what important news do you have to tell us?”

I look at both their faces, eager with anticipation. I took a deep breath and began.

“Ok, the thing is…”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Invention of Wings: a book about an often forgotten historical figure

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is a story about a young girl who grows up on a southern plantation to become one of the greatest human rights advocates who would influence countless women after her. When I was given the book, I was told that it was about a real person which made the story more interesting. As I started reading, I realized I recognized the name, Sarah Grimke. As I googled her name, I realized that I studied her in my college history courses. Along with her sister, Angelina and her brother-in-law, Theodore, she would write the second most influential anti-slavery literature. American Slavery As It Is would be second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Ms. Stowe was heavily influenced by their book.

The Invention of Wings opens in November 1803 with Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a slave and daughter of the Grimke’s seamstress, Charlotte. Handful is given to Sarah as her lady’s maid by her parents on Sarah’s eleventh birthday. Sarah wants no part in owning a slave but she is stuck. She vows to free Handful somehow. The two women will form a friendship that will test the understanding what a privileged white woman could have on the plight of the African slaves. Through both women’s eyes, the reader will be witness to the harshness that slaves were treated with. Harsh punishments for behavior as simple as looking in the wrong direction. Sarah will find a voice in a society where women weren't allowed to have opinions much less voice them.

The story is actually told from the perspectives of both Sarah and Handful as each chapter is from viewpoint of one of the women. Handful as she struggles with the bonds of slavery and Sarah as she struggles with the bonds of societal gender roles. The reader begins to see both sides of a turning points in our nation’s history. The battle for the abolition movements is heating up as the story ends in June 1838, 23 years before the start of the Civil War, the reader knows it’s not the end for these two women. While I was familiar with Sarah Grimke, I enjoyed reading her background and how she developed her world views. She is known as an abolitionist and a woman’s rights advocate but to her, they are one in the same: human rights. Racial equality and gender equality it was all the same to her. 

This book begins slowly but as you read, you get hooked. You want to know what happens to Handful, her mom, Charlotte, and Sarah. I enjoyed Ms. Kidd’s inclusion of the famous names of the time. Names like Denmark Vesey, a freed slave who would be executed for planning a slave revolt, Henry Clay who helped devise the Missouri Compromise, which would add fuel to the abolition fire, and William Lloyd Garrison, editor of an abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator. There is so much more that I could write about but I would rather you read the book for yourself and discover the history of a woman who was instrumental to the cause of abolition even though many who study history will never know her name.