Hope Remains

Yes, hope remains. Despite fires and smoke, extremely hazardous air quality, several days of evacuation orders: hope remains.

All the above add stress to the already stressful pandemic. Yet, hope remains.

One bit of good news, the Portland protests and riots took a break during the smoke and poor air quality. One less level of stress. Hope remains.

As we sat in our home, we talked a lot about preparedness when threatened by a natural disaster. What one thing would you take? It’s hard to say. You might not have time to remember what that thing is and then pick it up and go. But we did start a list of what we’d need to take with us. Continue reading “Hope Remains”

SPRINGTIME MEANS …

Wooden Shoe Bulb Farm in Woodburn, OR (Via AllPosters; image by Craig Tuttle)
Wooden Shoe Bulb Farm in Woodburn, OR (Via AllPosters; image by Craig Tuttle)

… many things.

Beautifully bright colors, a warmer feel to the air, an awakening from winter, and graduation for many.

The blog will be silent for the next couple of weeks as my husband and I travel to witness our youngest grandson’s high school graduation. An exciting time for him, his parents, and the rest of his family.

The newsletter will also be a bit off-schedule coming out earlier than its usual third Wednesday of the month.

Amtrak Empire Builder via Flickr; image by Loco Steve)
Amtrak Empire Builder via Flickr; image by Loco Steve)

We’ll be riding the rails and taking in the scenery of this beautiful country we call home, something we truly enjoy.

My next post will come out on May 31st. Until then, happy writing!

Almost forgot–I need to pack! Better get busy

Second Cousins Mean More Than You Know

Where did I come from? Which relatives do I look like?

I was 12 when I first met any of my dad’s family. Raised in an orphanage, Daddy was separated from his sister and brother around 16. But he had persevered in his search for them, and in 1958 he found them living in Florida.

Daddy’s sister, Lucinda (aka Lucy), her husband, and their daughter lived in Tampa, FL, and his brother, Fred and his wife and daughter, lived in Orlando. We traveled to meet them all.

Our first stop was in Tampa at Aunt Lucy’s. In the back of my mind, I assumed Aunt Lucy would look like most of my relatives–slender and petite. Even my dad was small in stature but then his health had been poor since before I was born.

The slender and petite rankled my near adolescent mind as I was what I considered a “chunkette.” I despised how I looked, especially at family gatherings. Based on my dad’s slight build, I assumed his relatives would be the same.

Daddy and Aunt Lucy during a 1963 visit. Aunt Lucy was 67 at the time.
Daddy and Aunt Lucy during a 1963 visit. Aunt Lucy was 67 at the time.

I’ll never forget as Aunt Lucy opened the door to our ringing the doorbell. There I stood with a few decades added on. I’m not sure if my gasp was audible, but I felt it. My existence as a “chunkette” was affirmed! Aunt Lucy was the relative I resembled.

That evening Aunt Lucy and Uncle Tom’s daughter, Jean, and her two daughters joined us for dinner. Jean was a lovely woman nearer my mother’s age than mine, but she was my cousin despite the age difference. The second cousin relationship was explained to my brother and me as Jean introduced her daughters, Barbara and Sherrill.

Barbara was beautiful! Diminutive in size, blonde and tanned, and blue eyes, she could have been a model except for her height. At first, I could only focus on her with envy. Then Sherrill entered the dining room.

It happened again–I saw myself taking the chair beside me. We looked alike, both in facial features and stature. Our hands were almost identical in shape and size. Our names were even similar! How gracious God was to bring me two images of what I’d look like at Sherrill’s age, then 22, and Aunt Lucy at 62.

I gloried in this new-found glimpse of people whom I favored. My gene pool could most definitely be found on Daddy’s family tree. This was a happy moment.

Just a matter of time–all good things come to an end.

As time slipped by and we moved to Oregon from Tennessee, farther away from Florida and family, I kept in touch with my cousin, Jean. Not only a lovely woman but also gracious, Jean has always stayed in touch with me over the years. Her husband was killed in WWII leaving her with Barbara and Sherrill. When her parents left Kentucky for Florida, she moved her little family with them.

Over the years both my Aunt Lucy and  Uncle Tom passed away, and Jean’s girls married and began their families leaving Jean in the spacious house in Tampa. Aunt Lucy’s life ended at the same time Barbara’s young daughter was killed in an automobile accident and shortly afterwards, Barbara ended her life.

This meant Jean and my second cousin, Sherrill, were my only family members left on Daddy’s side. His brother Fred had also passed away and his family chose not to stay connected with us.

Jean had mentioned in letters Sherrill’s poor health over the last almost seven years. Yet she never mentioned specifics, and I didn’t ask.

Knowing I owed Jean a letter, I laughed when Bob handed me another letter from her in Friday’s mail. I was certain she was reminding me of my tardiness. As I opened the envelope, a clipping from the Tampa newspaper fell out. Only it wasn’t just any clipping. It was Sherrill’s obituary. Now, she too is gone. My mirror images have faded away in Aunt Lucy and Sherrill. But my memories of them have not faded. I’m so grateful for the few images I have of Aunty Lucy, and somewhere (don’t ask!) I have a photo of Sherrill and me.

At 100 this month, my cousin, Jean, is my last living relative on the Adams side of my family history. I spoke with her by phone on Saturday, and we laughed over my adolescent need to “identify” myself with some family member. We agreed I couldn’t have chosen two more delightful women to look like and with whom to share common interests.

My cousin, Jean Shivell Bell, in 2006 at age 91.
My cousin, Jean Shivell Bell, in 2006 at age 91.

Whatever you do don’t waste an opportunity to stay in touch with family.

Time is short. Days fly by. We get busy and think about people, especially family, but often it gets lost in the next task or errand. I had not seen Sherrill since 1976, and our lives had grown apart due to age difference and lifestyles. Not a good reason not to try to contact her now and then.

Because time flies by, don’t waste an opportunity to write, email, or call that family member who just crossed your mind.

Is there someone you should get in touch with sooner than later?

Naked: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane Katrina by Julie Freed

And then the dream breaks into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream. ~ Nora Ephron

A house and marriage “violently” disintegrate. Left alone to raise an infant in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while her husband lives it up in Miami Beach, Julie is surrounded by the rubble of her life – “stripped bare by love and loss.”

What happens when you lose everything?

This story is about choices, strength, divorce, Hurricane Katrina, alcoholism, a mother’s dream, life changing bridges, flawed diamonds, rebuilding, and a baby girl named Genoa.

Julie shares a remarkable story with humor and tenderness. The strength and resilience of the Gulf Coast shines through as does the love and purity Julie finds in this memoir. Experience the vulnerability, hurt, love, loss, anger, intimate reflections, authenticity, and ultimately the freedom as Julie’s shocking story unfolds.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

Julie Freed tells the story of the ravages of Mother Nature and human nature in her memoir, Naked: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane KatrinaDespite the raw and painful memories, Julie writes beautifully and eloquently.

From page one, I am hooked and Julie continuously draws me deeper and deeper into her story. Using flashbacks and emotional imagery, Julie shares the depth to which she loves her husband and how her life with him and their daughter has grown based on dreams held since their courtship. Hurricane Katrina becomes the perfect metaphor for the demise of their marriage.

Her family had only recently moved to New Orléans when reports of the potential for a hurricane begin over the news. Friends help Julie prepare not only for her survival but that of her still toddling daughter. In the midst of preparing to flee ahead of the hurricane, Julie receives an email from her husband requesting a divorce.

However, Julie’s strength and reserves muster themselves to the front and the preparations move forward. Julie’s focus is her daughter and all precautions are taken to ensure Genoa’s safety and good health.

Despite all that accosts her in a short period, Julie Freed amasses endurance, grit, and spunk to defeat everything attempting to tear her down. Her family is loving and supportive throughout but to clean up the rubble and assess the state of her affairs, Julie must leave her daughter behind at her parents’ home. A difficult decision in an already difficult time.

For anyone experiencing loss of any kind, Julie Freed’s memoir is an encouraging read. Julie’s own return to peace at the end of the storm and massive cleanup is a guidepost for others.

I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to give a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.

Today I’m pleased to give Julie Freed’s book, Naked: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane Katrinaan exceptional work, a 5-star rating.

More about Julie Freed:

Julie Freed found in rubble left by Hurricane Katrina
Julie Freed found in rubble left by Hurricane Katrina

Award winning author, mathematician, mother, professor, and lover of the sea and the changing tides of life.  Naked was selected as Best Memoir of 2014 Bronze Medal by Readers’ Favorites, honored with a review from theSouthern Literary Review, selected as a Staff Pick at Anne Patchett’s Parnassus Books, just nominated for the coveted Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2015 nonfiction award, and earned over 80 five star reviews on Amazon.

Dr. Julie Freed was raised in New England. She kept moving south with each degree, married and ended up on the serene Gulf Coast of Mississippi.  With degrees in the sciences and a doctorate in mathematics, research and learners of all ages are her passion.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 she rebuilt life and home on a stronger foundation. Julie lives with her husband who is terribly comfortable in his skin, two strong willed daughters, a slippery frog, a feisty dog, three kayaks, a boat, and endless dreams of doing more and helping people.

Connect with Julie here: TwitterGoogle+PinterestFacebook, and Julie’s Blog.

(Image, bio and links via Julie’s website)

Purchasing the Book:

You can buy a copy of Naked at any of the following bookstores: JulieFreedAuthor.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

Disclaimers:

I received a copy of Naked from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are solely mine.

I am an affiliate of some of the book retailers listed above. As such, if you buy from one of them, I may receive a small percentage of the sale. This distribution in no way impacts the price you pay for the book.

Once the Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing After the Suicide of My Daughter by Nina Bingham

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. ~ C.S. Lewis

When Nina Bingham lost her fifteen-year old daughter to suicide, she thought her own world would end. But what she learned about love and forgiveness changed her life forever. It will change yours, too.

… Raw and honest, she shares her painful past: an abusive alcoholic father, a failed marriage, the rejection she suffered after she came out as a lesbian, and her own brush with suicide. What could have been a story mired in self-pity and misery, ultimately is a story of hope. Nina’s compelling life journey shows how pain and loss can be transformed into strength and purpose. This book is not only for survivors but for anyone facing depression with suicidal tendencies. …

Once The Storm Is Over unapologetically rips apart the façade of coping to show the devastating aftermath of a child’s suicide and how a mother, flawed but courageous, learns to live again. Described as brave, insightful and inspiring, this book is sure to make its mark in the literature of suicide recovery, and be remembered for its profound and healing message.

(Synopsis via Once the Storm Is Over)

Nina Bingham first contacted me about her memoir via Portland Bloggers. At that time, Nina was looking for help in getting out word of her publication of Once the Storm Is Over.

Soon our email exchanges grew into talk of a guest post, perhaps an interview, whatever might help. Check here for my recent interview with Nina.

And then I opened the advance reader copy Nina had provided. I could not put it down.

From the beginning with her quote from Haruki Murakami, I knew this mother, woman, and counselor had a life story to share:

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.

The above synopsis more than adequately summarizes this memoir. I struggle finding words to explain more about what Nina Bingham brings to the page.

But what I know is she is a heartbroken mother ravaged by fear and questions over her daughter’s suicide. She can help others but can she help herself? Many families struggle with these same fears, questions, and doubts following such tragic loss.

Nina is not ashamed to write her truth, and she does so with raw anger, sorrow, grief, and at times a hopelessness that brought tears to my eyes. But her story is so well told there is no doubt it will help others.

I highly recommend visiting Once the Storm Is Over, the book site, between now and late February 2015 when the book launches to gain greater insight into the story and other reviews. Links to connect with Nina are below.

Nina’s memoir is a book you want to read if you have experienced the grief and hopelessness of suicidal loss, or if you have someone in your life who seems suicidal and/or depressed, or if you are a professional working with support groups for such people.

Nina’s story is unabashedly truthful and real. It is believable, and Nina herself is accessible for interviews, talks, and more.

Connect with Nina here:

createyourlife.nina@gmail.com
www.oncethestormisover.com
www.ninabingham.blogspot.com
www.amazon.com/author/ninabingham
www.twitter.com/liv_enlightened
www.linkedin.com/in/livingenlightened

Blue Nights by Joan Didion (A Review)

From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.

. . .

Blue Nights—the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, “the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning”—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving.

(Summary from Goodreads)

* * *

The summary as found in Goodreads and the inside book jacket is correct.  Having read The Year of Magical Thinkingwritten following Didion’s husband’s sudden death and during which her daughter, Quintana, fell seriously ill, I was curious to see where Didion journeyed following these crises.

I was not disappointed to find the same voice telling her story.  If Didion is anything as a writer, she is frank, honest and at times the reader might think her cold and uncaring. However, underlying her printed words is a sense of loyalty to her family members, both of whom have left her as she enters the decade of her 70s.

Blue Nights is a revelation of sorts as Didion dissects her life as a mother, wondering if she and her husband had forced Quintana into adulthood — was she too cold — and on the other hand Didion confesses to coddling Quintana — “I had been raising her as a doll.”  Concerned about how Quintana sees her childhood, Didion asks her adult daughter her opinion. Quintana responds:  “I think you were a good parent, but maybe a little remote.” (Emphasis mine.)

Yet, throughout the book Didion’s love for Quintana is ever-present as is her pain at losing this child, a child adopted when Didion and her husband were unable to conceive their own.

Didion’s writing style is strong despite sometimes rambling and straying from the topic the reader expected — the story of Quintana and her death.  Often Didion seems dispassionate about Quintana while writing about material things, like the number of dresses in a closet, places Didion had lived, the expense accounts she and her husband used while travelling on book tours and other business related matters.  Where is the story of a mother and her daughter and the end of that daughter’s  life?

I struggled through Blue Nights.  In many ways, the books were on a similar theme of loss and grief, and yet they were quite different.  Didion is quoted several times in various news articles as saying that The Year of Magical Thinking “simply wrote itself” and of Blue Nights: “This book did not write itself.”  Perhaps the writer struggled with this book herself.

I would not recommend that a reader unfamiliar with Didion’s other works read Blue Nights as first exposure to Didion’s writings.  There are so many other things she has written which show her true talent for writing.  For more information on her work, visit her author page on Goodreads.  Here you will find a listing of her novels and essays, which are a good starting point for first-time Didion readers.