What I Believe

I believe:

That we are spiritual creatures on a human journey

That most animals are more intelligent than humans

In peace, acceptance and respect of everyone, regardless of the skin color, nationality, who you love, what gender you identify with, religion, or political party affiliation. I may not agree with your opinions, but I will defend your right to have them.

That we all are in need of love, home, comfort, food and medical care.

That when Jesus said “Love one another…” He didn’t finish the sentence with “except”.

We are all in this life together to help our brothers and sisters.

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Featured post

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things

This is such a wonderful book that I’m reposting my review.

I was thinking today of some of my greatest influences, even as a child. Dr. King, Selma, Maya, Mahalia and Dinah Washington.  For some reason, maybe reincarnation? I have always felt a pull.  The first time I heard Dinah sing, “This Bitter Earth”, I cried. When I heard Mahalia sing, “It is No Secret”, I cried.  Maya’s “Still I Rise”, Dr King’s “I Have A Dream”, and when I learned of the events in Selma, I cried.  And recently, after reading Small Great Things.  I don’t cry easily, I really don’t.  And I can’t stand racism, bigotry and xenophobia.

Back to Small Great Things. This book moved me to tears. It is sad, poignant, though-provoking, touching, gripping and compelling.  Without a doubt, this book will be on my favorites shelf.

I have often said that I am “colorblind and a humanist”. I very much believe that everyone should be regarded equally with respect. To me, we are all God’s children. Black, white, gay, straight, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim or Mormon none of it matters to me as neither does creed or religion. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, I believe you should be able to live your life, in peace.

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?  The infant ends up dying and Ruth is charged with murder and committing a hate crime.

Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

A couple of poignant statements:

“I am not a racist, Ruth. And I understand that you’re upset, but it’s a little unfair of you to take it out on me, when I’m just trying to do my best—my professional best—to help you. For God’s sake, if I’m walking down a street and a Black man is coming toward me and I realize I’m going the wrong way, I keep going the wrong direction instead of turning around so he won’t automatically think I’m afraid of him.” “That’s overcompensating, and that’s just as bad,” I say. “You say you don’t see color…but that’s all you see. You’re so hyperaware of it, and of trying to look like you aren’t prejudiced, you can’t even understand that when you say race doesn’t matter all I hear is you dismissing what I’ve felt, what I’ve lived, what it’s like to be put down because of the color of my skin.”

“Active racism is telling a nurse supervisor that an African American nurse can’t touch your baby. It’s snickering at a black joke. But passive racism? It’s noticing there’s only one person of color in your office and not asking your boss why. It’s reading your kid’s fourth-grade curriculum and seeing that the only black history covered is slavery, and not questioning why. It’s defending a woman in court whose indictment directly resulted from her race…and glossing over that fact, like it hardly matters.”

Oh my God. I am guilty of that and I am sorry.  I would never intentionally dismiss what anyone has lived through, especially the black community.  A tweet today from the Women’s March:  “Throughout history, violence has been committed and justified in the name of white womanhood.  Terence Crutcher is no exception.”

I remember Dr. King saying “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”  And I am left with the question, what can I do to make a difference?

 

Featured post

Telling Stories by Cheri Paris Edwards

Telling Stories on Amazon

45 year old Genelle is an intelligent, warm and loving woman whose life has been turned on its ear.  In a short period she lost her mom and was dropped by her boyfriend.  She decided to get a fresh start and move out to the southwest – namely, Texas.  As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Genelle is now in a new town living in her car and working temp jobs.  She’s a tough and savvy go-getter though and is determined to find her own way.  Enter a few new friends who break though her wall of pride and give her a hand up. And, of course, a new nickname “Gigi”.

This story has a lot going for it: well-written, well-described and a refreshingly diverse set of characters. The author creates a small town feeling within the story and within the people that surround the main character. Edwards is a great writer and one of my favorite paragraphs is “Funny how you plod through childhood wishing for the clock to move faster, so you can enter the coveted world of adulthood where you can make your own decisions and plot your own course.  Next thing you know you’re wading through the uncertainty of your twenties and then trying to fix the mistakes you made in your thirties.  Then without warning the pace quickens, the forties come and go and by fifty—- everything takes off at warp speed.”  That scream you heard was me.  Another thing I like about the dialogue in the story is that it is so, well, right-on. It’s believable conversations and situations had me hooked.

Gigi gets a job and in her embarrassment about her living situation, lies begin to snowball and affect her friendships and a new suitor, Desmond, who has his own issues between loving his Mama and dealing with a spoiled daughter.

Something else – the author speaks of this poem by Kelly Norman Ellis called “I Was Raised by Women”. I hadn’t heard of the poem or the poetess before and wow… I was reminded of work by Maya Angelou.

I very much enjoyed Telling Stories and am anxious to read more by Cheri Paris Edwards.  She has a rare talent in creating characters that resemble actual people – people that you wish you had as friends.

 

A Killing Truth: A Leine Basso Thriller

This past year, discouraged by the misogyny of the current administration, I have wanted to read more, spend time with and learn from, strong females.  I have never understood why so many women don’t like other women.  Some of us do not support our sisters and I don’t get it.  The older I have gotten, the more I want the love, the strength and the understanding from my sisters and the less tolerance I have for things such as misogyny, racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and all the other things that just mean hatred and fear in an ugly package.

That being said, someone recommended I try D.V. Berkom’s Leine Basso series.  A Killing Truth is the first one I’ve read and really enjoyed it. Leine is an assassin whose job it is to eliminate the terrorists.  She’s a total badass, like Xena in the 21st century.  Strong, smart, savvy and a crack shot, she goes after the bad guys without killing the innocent bystanders.  I had a very hard time putting the book down, I really did.  Plot twists, suspense and a great crime novel.  

The writing is very well done and articulate. The characters and dialogue are believable. The story was engrossing, like walking around the house with the book in your hand as you half heartedly prepare dinner kind of engrossing. I had fun reading the story and will definitely be reading more of Berkom’s books. Recommended!

If You Could See What I See by Cathy Lamb

This was my first novel by Cathy Lamb and I guarantee it won’t be my last.  It’s listed as “Women’s Fiction” a label which drives me up the wall, across the ceiling and out the freakin’ window.  After my eyes stopped rolling, I started to read.  We have a lovely ensemble of characters working in a lingerie business, created and owned by a family for decades.  Grandmother Regan O’Rourke, now in her 80’s started Lace, Satin and Baubles when she was 16.  “She said she arrived from Ireland after sliding off the curve of a rainbow with a dancing leprechaun and flew to America on the back of an owl.”  That line is so descriptive and had me forgetting about making dinner.  Also in the main characters are Regan’s daughter Brianna (A sex therapist in the public eye, but in private prefers baking and knitting), Meggie who has returned to the family after spending years world traveling, Lacey – harried and hysterically funny mom of 3, and Tory a hellion angry spitfire.  Lacey’s children are all teenagers learning who they are and where they belong.  That said, you could say that about each one of the characters.  Regan has an adventurous soul and is fearless.  She’s strong, opinionated and forward thinking.  One of Lacey’s children is identifying as a transgender and the way that Lamb wrote Hayden, is beautiful and powerful.

I completely enjoyed If You Could See What I See and definitely recommend it as I found it to be fabulous, funny, poignant and touching.

 

Reclaiming Raven by Mary Holt

See this at Amazon

I was contacted by Mary to review her debut novel.

Trigger warning: abuse, stalking, extreme violence. No animals were harmed at all.

Raven is a disabled woman who is being stalked by her abusive husband.  She has been battered brutally by him and has suffered greatly at his hands.  He is powerful and mentally deranged.  She is able to finally get away from him and keeps running away until money runs out.  She has to rely on well meaning strangers for her freedom and safety.

Mary is able to bring to life a complex, intelligent, strong and fiercely independent character in Raven.  She is human with her flaws, after all though, and learns that when she is at her weakest, is when she is at her strongest.

The supporting characters are described well enough to either enjoy, root for or really dislike, like Kelsey.  Mary also paints the situations and towns with a well lived brush stroke. She should though, you see, Mary was a foster mom to two disabled girls for 20 years.

I sputtered at the ending, because it’s a bit of a powerful cliffhanger, but then realized that Mary is already working on the next novel follow up with the continuing storyline.

I do happily recommend Reclaiming Raven.  It’s gripping at times and hard to put down.  Add another one to the to be read pile!

A Personal Note from Me: Sister FOUND!

Many families keep secrets.  I hate secrets.  I was born in 1967 in Miami, as the result of an affair.  My parents later married, I THINK.  What I was told, was that my bio dad left when I was a year old.  That he moved to a different state, and remarried.

When I was roughly 17, I asked stepdad number 3 and my mom if I could look for bio dad.  That was 1984, back before computers were in everyone’s home.  I didn’t get anywhere at that time.  Jump ahead to 2001, my mom had passed and even though I bugged her all the time for information about him, she claimed ignorance.  Same with my maternal siblings, somehow, no one remembered anything about him.  Were they married?  Yes. No. Maybe.  Don’t know.  Don’t recall.

I began hiring places like 1-800-US-Search who guaranteed they could find anyone or money returned.  Well, money was returned.  I tried another outfit, who at least found many possibilities of relations, as well as possible addresses.  Some were in Miami, some in NC and some in CO.  Doing more research on my own, I saw a name of a lady who was a few years younger than me.  Same last name, at least.  Perhaps I had a sister?

I kept doing searches on the Internet.  I asked mom’s husband number 1 and 3 (same guy) what he knew.  He gave me information that possiblly bio dad was an Army Ranger.

More research…. discovered bio dad had passed away in 1992. This broke my heart, obviously.  I had so many questions and things I wanted to say.  I would never see his eyes, his smile or feel his arms around me.  After a while, I continued searching for more answers.  I began doing genealogy research on MyHeritage website in addition to Ancestry, Family Search, Family Tree, etc…  I found out he had had 2 brothers and that my grandmother buried all 3 of her sons in addition to her own husband.

I had enough information to go back to the 1500’s on my mom’s side, a direct line to me from Queen Victoria and all kinds of fun and odd history.  A city in NC named after one ancestor and yet I couldn’t find anything else on bio dad family.

July 20th I was on Find A Grave website, doing back traces and I saw that someone else kept leaving virtual flowers on my bio dad’s family graves.  Who was this person?  I sent them a message.  The next day she messaged me back.  I read it and fell back hard in my chair.  This person was related to me and wanted to know if I wanted to get in touch with a couple of cousins.  Oh. My. God. YES!  and then the most beautiful words…. would you like to contact your sister?

My sister.  MY SISTER.  I still can’t believe this is real and that I’m really in touch with her.  She’s smart and beautiful and funny and is so positive and happy.  Forty damn years apart and finally, we have connected.   SO many similarities.  She’s also a massage therapist (like me), she was born in Colorado and I was born in Miami.  She lives in Florida now and I live in Colorado.  Her first job was working in a library, and so was mine.  She loves reading, cooking, animals and the outdoors.  For fun, she races boats… ok, that I don’t do, lol.

So if I’m not on here and I’m late with book reviews, I will get to them, I’m still reading, I’m just, wow, mind freakin’ boggled. And happy, thank God, I have found my sister!

 

Sold On A Monday by Kristina McMorris

Based on a stunning photograph in depression era America, the story is about two people who work to reunite a family. It’s 1931, and a reporter who is out on an assignment, takes a photograph of two boys playing in front of an old farmhouse. He is stunned when he sees a sign that reads “2 children for sale”. His intention was not for publication, but for personal, a reminder of the younger brother he lost as a child. Lillian, who also works at the paper, finds the photograph and includes it in with the other pictures to be published.

The photograph is published nationwide and leads to Ellis’ big break, but a mistake has been made and he and Lillian race against the clock to right the wrong.

The story was thrilling, well written and a very enjoyable read. Lillian is strong and protective and is a good balance against Ellis, a woe begotten misfit,

It’s sad to know how often this happened during those dark times in American history, but be sure to read the authors note following the story.

Thank you Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the ARC

The Delivery Girl by Tony McAndrew

The Delivery Girl

When I read this book, I was blown away by the imagery the author is able to portray.  Gritty, dark, emotional and powerful.  Honest to God, I thought I was reading something by John Grisham.  He’s that good.  I thought there’s no way this is the first novel.  I receive a lot of requests to review new authors and it’s something I enjoy doing.  Sometimes I get clunkers, sometimes, pretty good, but wow, this is one of the BEST books by a new author I’ve read.

Anna Ramanova is a 9 year old girl who is abused by all of the kids at school on a daily basis.  She is bullied, beaten up and emotionally abused at school.  She’s very smart and has a photographic mind.  Her home life is even worse.  Her mother was murdered by her stepfather but the police believe it to be an accident.  Her step father and step brothers are all part of a large drug operation.  Anna’s job is to deliver drugs via her bicycle all over town and during all hours of the night.

Her life is bleak and she keeps wanting to kill herself but can’t make her body do what is needed.  One day she is at her mom’s grave when she sees a statue of archangel Michael.  She climbs up, hugs it and prays for help.  The next day, a stranger is there to help her when the school bullies are trying to force feed her dog feces.  His name is Mikhail and they soon become fast friends.

My friends, I could not put this book down.  I finished it a week ago and it has stayed with me, every day.  As someone who has survived child abuse, mentally, physically, sexually, emotionally, abandonment and neglect, I love a story when there is someone there to rescue someone like little me.  I am at a point in my healing where it is safe for me to do so.  But for those of you who are not, or are sensitive to such tragic issues, this may be a difficult story for you to read,  Also, there is an incident of dog fighting.  When I realized what was about to happen, I skimmed ahead a few pages for I’m very sensitive and triggered by animal abuse.

This is a terrifically written story, it is meaty, edgy, and wonderful.  Thanks to Tony for writing such a fantastic novel.

 

Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts

I live in a state which has had 2 tragic, terrible mass shootings: one in a high school and the other in a movie theatre.  So I was a bit startled when I started reading Shelter in Place which begins with a mass shooting in a theater and mall.  Once I could catch my breath again, I was drawn in the story.  For fans of her “In Death” series, you’d probably enjoy this book.  If you tend to enjoy more of Nora’s lighter books, not so much.  We’re taken into the mind of a killer, a definite narcissistic psychopathic bitch from hell.  She’s hunting down the survivors of the mall and/or their family, one by one throughout the country.

The characters are strong, I love CiCi, a self-proclaimed hippie artist and Essie, a present day Eve Dallas.  I grew tired of the villain and her thoughts but really enjoyed Simone and CiCi’s conversations.  I could definitely see a series starring Essie, a detective who was on-site at the shooting.  The story continues from the day of the shooting to about 10 years later.

As typical of Nora’s stories, there are some funny moments, some to shed tears and no weak females.  I love a great thriller and this is definitely one that was hard to put down.

 

From Anne Lamott: The world can feel like an alcoholic father sitting in the living room in his vile underwear, tranced out or abusive; and the world can feel like your favorite auntie who thinks you are just great, still likes to hike, always brings trail mix, and knows her wildflowers. These are excruciating times, and this is the kingdom. It’s two, two, two mints in one. So yeah, some of us are a little tense. But we are not flattened. Nor do we look away from the suffering of others. And no matter how bad things look and how long change is taking, we don’t give up on goodness. Here is proof: we still take care of each other in ways that are profound, loving and sacrificial, by the bedside of our most beloved, and in the streets. We show up: the secret of life. We gather in cities to rise up, and at local parks for live music in the sun, where we and our cranky neighbor end up doing the old tribal hippie two-step in the same shaft of light. We are still laughing—some of us perhaps a bit maniacally—and people are creating the greatest, most live-giving routines and cartoons and responses. This is what saved me during the Cheney years. It was chemo. So, great laughter, community, joyous and/or sacrificial love. We can work with this! It is more than enough. Here’s the one fly in the ointment: we have to do this in dim lighting, what with a political fever dream, and our own failing memories and overwhelm. Life is always like E.L. Doctorow’s great line about writing, that it is like driving at night with the headlights on—you can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way. You still have to buckle up, no matter how slowly the car is moving. Put on the radio and sing along, loudly and off key. You just have to trust that, as John Lennon said, “Everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” I heard a story last week from a sober friend that almost completely captures my understand of goodness and life, a story that has been medicine for my worried, worried soul: Caroline stopped drinking 30 years ago, at the age of 40, with zero interest or belief in any kind of higher power to whom she might be able to turn when cravings overcame her. But after a year of white-knuckle sobriety, contemptuous of a higher power, hanging on through will power, she one day heard and then found a frog in her shower. She lifted it and gently carried it in her cupped hands through the house. She could feel and, of course, imagine its terror. She took it out to the garden, where there was a moist patch of earth over near the blackberries, and set it down. It sat stock still for a bit, and then hopped away into the bushes. She said, “My name is Caroline. I’m that frog.” I am, too, and I am also a big helper. When I have felt most isolated and lost, I have always ended up being carried back to the garden in people’s good hands, to where I need to be, afraid and not breathing. for much of the way. And I have helped carry scared people, the best I could. You have, too. Isn’t that what grace is, when some force of kindness, against all odds, with unknown hands, brings us from fear and hard tiles to a moist patch earth, and sets us down? If I were God’s west coast representative, I would speed up the process a bit, and hand out klieg lights but I can’t. All I can do is to try and help you get back to where there is moist soil and fresh air, and let you help me. And those happen to be the two things I most want in life.

https://m.facebook.com/AnneLamott/posts/1550066625122975

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