Born Blue by Han Nolan (A book Review)

Sorry about overloading the blogosphere with posts from ME but I haven’t been able to get on for a while and I’m OCD so I feel like I can’t put these books away until I blog about them!  lol  I really need professional help, I know!

Born Blue

Published by:  Harcourt Inc.

I purchased this book at St. Louis’s largest book fair just the other day.  I usually don’t get around to reading new books for a very long time because I have a list of books I need to finish in my lifetime.  HOWEVER, I’ve spent the last 2 days in the hot sun, at a baseball field, just waiting for news that a good friends son was chosen for the minor leagues.  I needed a quick read.  At first, I didn’t notice that this was a young adult genre book.  Apparently, this is the genre for me because I’m LOVING the stray YA books I’ve chosen!  I can tell you too that Han Nolan is going to be one of my new favorite writers  🙂  Can you tell that this was a favorite?

From the back cover:

“She has no last name.  She has no real home.  But she has a dream…

Janie… Leshaya… whatever she’s called… she’s a survivor.  Rescued from the brink of death, this child of a heroin addict has seen it all:  revolving foster homes, physical abuse, and unwanted pregnancy.  Now her childhood is coming to an end, and she is determined to make a life for herself by doing the only thing that makes her feel whole… singing.

Can this girl, born to a life of hardship, find the strength and courage to break away from her past and become the legend that she is meant to be?”

I guess I’d have to say that this book resonates with me so much because The lead character feels NOTHING and has something diagnosed as “Attachment Disorder”, which basically means she’s got no conscience.  I recognized my stepdaughter throughout this book.  This was a personal journey to me.  I have a hard time understanding people who can’t FEEL and this took me deep into the mind of an abused child and explained WHY this happens.  It made me sad, and so mad at times that I wanted to reach in and shake this girl.  It’s written in “first person” and in a language better known as “wigga” – basically a white girl who wants to be black.  At first, being the white girl that I am, it was hard for me to understand the language but I quickly caught on.  lol

I finished this one in a day and a half and I want to know more about what happened to Leshaya…  it’s THAT good.

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Ana’s Story (A Journey of Hope) by Jenna Bush: A Book Review

Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope

Ana’s Story

A Journey of Hope

By Jenna Bush

Based on her work with Unicef

Harper Collins Publisher

I love buying books where a portion of the proceeds go to help a charitable organization!  I especially like it when that charitable organization is Unicef.  I’ve been helping to raise money for Unicef since I was a very little girl.  In Catholic school, we used to go around collecting money in little milk cartons.  We’d then send that money into Unicef so that they could help to feed the poor and hungry in third world countries.

Here’s the description from the book:

“She’s 17. She’s been abused.  She has a child.  And she’s HIV positive. She is Ana, and this is her story.  It begins the day she is born infected with HIV, transmitted from her young mother.  Now, she barely remembers her mama, who died when Ana was only 3.  From then on, Ana’s childhood becomes a blur of faint memories and secrets – secrets about her illness and about the abuse she endures.

Ana’s journey is a long one.  Shuffled from home to home, she rarely finds safety or love.  And then she meets a boy.  Berto is one of the only people Ana trusts with all her secrets.  That trust puts Ana on a path to breaking the silence that has harmed her and leads her to new beginnings, new sorrows, and new hope.

Jenna Bush has written a powerful narrative nonfiction account of a girl who struggles to break free from a vicious cycle of abuse, poverty, and illness.  Based on Jenna’s work with UNICEF and inspired by the framework of one girls life, it is also the story of many children around the world who are marginalized and excluded from basic care, support, and education.  Resources at the back of the book share how you can make a difference to children in need and how you can protect yourself and others”

I didn’t realize I was buying a book written for teens!  lol  BUT I’m glad I did.  Yes, it was a little simple but simple is good.  I read this one in 2 bath tub sessions:-)  What I LOVED about Ana’s Story was that it flowed easily and it was written well.  I found myself wanting to know more about Ana at the end of the book.  It ends kind of abruptly but Ana’s story had to end somewhere.  It was a TRUE story and she’s still alive.  I wonder how Ana is doing now?

This book reminded me of Half The SKY by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  I absolutely LOVE the idea of helping to empower and educate girls and women in poorer countries.  It’s my dream to be able to go to Latin America or India and help in the schools.  Or do ANYTHING that brings hope.  Jenna Bush impressed me with her compassion and her willingness to “get her hands dirty” by helping Aids patients through her work with UNICEF.  As mentioned in the description, Jenna gives websites and even phone numbers for numerous charitable organizations.  She also gives suggestions for what a teenager or an adult can do to help raise money to help several organizations.  She gives ideas for what students can do to protect themselves against the spread of Aids/HIV and ideas on how to stop bullying.

I think this one will be on Julia’s reading list soon 😉

The Awakening By Sonny Carroll

I’ve said before, time and time again, there are no accidents.  One of my very best friends called this morning while I was struggling to write my story and purge my body of all these negative feelings and memories.  She wanted me to read “The Awakening” and really look at what it said.  It’s so very fitting and it amazes me that so many other people feel this way. I’m having this kind of awakening.  Right now.  Thank you Beth, for just knowing…

The Awakening
by Sonny Carroll

The Awakening
Sonny Carroll

There comes a time in your life when you finally get it … When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out “ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on.” And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world from a new perspective.

……….This is your awakening.

You realize that it is time to stop hoping and waiting for something or someone to change, or for happiness safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that there aren’t always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you. Then a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

So you begin making your way through the “reality of today” rather than holding out for the “promise of tomorrow.” You realize that much of who you are and the way you navigate through life is, in great part, a result of all the social conditioning you’ve received over the course of a lifetime. And you begin to sift through all the nonsense you were taught about :

– how you should look and how much you should weigh,
– what you should wear and where you should shop,
– where you should live or what type of car you should drive,
– who you should sleep with and how you should behave,
– who you should marry and why you should stay,
– the importance of bearing children or what you owe your family,

Slowly you begin to open up to new worlds and different points of view. And you begin re-assessing and re-defining who you are and what you really believe in. And you begin to discard the doctrines you have outgrown, or should never have practiced to begin with.

You accept the fact that you are not perfect ,and that not everyone will love appreciate or approve of who or what you are… and that’s OK… they are entitled to their own views and opinions. And, you come to terms with the fact that you will never be a size 5 or a “perfect 10″…. Or a perfect human being for that matter… and you stop trying to compete with the image inside your head or agonizing over how you compare. And, you take a long look at yourself in the mirror and you make a promise to give yourself the same unconditional love and support you give so freely to others. Then a sense of confidence is born of self-approval.

And, you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” hungry for your next fix, a new dress, another pair of shoes or looks of approval and admiration from family, friends or even strangers who pass by. Then you discover that it is truly in “giving” that we receive, and that the joy and abundance you seek grows out of the giving. And you recognize the importance of “creating” and “contributing” rather than “obtaining” and “accumulating.”

And you give thanks for the simple things you’ve been blessed with, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about – a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, the freedom of choice and the opportunity to pursue your own dreams.

And you begin to love and to care for yourself. You stop engaging in self-destructive behaviors, including participating in dysfunctional relationships. You begin eating a balanced diet, drinking more water and exercising. And because you’ve learned that fatigue drains the spirit and creates doubt and fear, you give yourself permission to rest. And just as food is fuel for the body, laughter is fuel for the spirit and so you make it a point to create time for play.

Then you learn about love and relationships – how to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving, and when to walk away. And you allow only the hands of a lover who truly loves and respects you to glorify you with his touch. You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say, intentionally or unintentionally, and that not everyone will always come through… and interestingly enough, it’s not always about you. So, you stop lashing out and pointing fingers or looking to place blame for the things that were done to you or weren’t done for you. And you learn to keep your Ego in check and to acknowledge and redirect the destructive emotions it spawns – anger, jealousy and resentment.

You learn how to say “I was wrong” and to forgive people for their own human frailties. You learn to build bridges instead of walls and about the healing power of love as it is expressed through a kind word, a warm smile or a friendly gesture. And, at the same time, you eliminate any relationships that are hurtful or fail to uplift and edify you. You stop working so hard at smoothing things over and setting your needs aside. You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK and that it is your right to want or expect certain things. And you learn the importance of communicating your needs with confidence and grace. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that eventually martyrs are burned at the stake. Then you learn to distinguish between guilt, and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to Say NO. You learn that you don’t know all the answers, it’s not your job to save the world and that sometimes you just need to Let Go.

Moreover, you learn to look at people as they really are and not as you would want them to be, and you are careful not to project your neediness or insecurities onto a relationship. You learn that you will not be more beautiful, more intelligent, more lovable or important because of the man on your arm or the child that bears your name. You learn that just as people grow and change, so it is with love and relationships, and that that not everyone can always love you the way you would want them to. So you stop appraising your worth by the measure of love you are given. And suddenly you realize that it’s wrong to demand that someone live their life or sacrifice their dreams just to serve your needs, ease your insecurities, or meet “your” standards and expectations. You learn that the only love worth giving and receiving is the love that is given freely without conditions or limitations. And you learn what it means to love. So you stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn that “alone” does not mean “lonely” and you begin to discover the joy of spending time “with yourself” and “on yourself.” Then you discover the greatest and most fulfilling love you will ever know – Self Love. And so it comes to pass that, through understanding, your heart heals; and now all new things are possible.

Moving along, you begin to avoid Toxic people and conversations. And you stop wasting time and energy rehashing your situation with family and friends. You learn that talk doesn’t change things and that unrequited wishes can only serve to keep you trapped in the past. So you stop lamenting over what could or should have been and you make a decision to leave the past behind. Then you begin to invest your time and energy to affect positive change. You take a personal inventory of all your strengths and weaknesses and the areas you need to improve in order to move ahead, you set your goals and map out a plan of action to see things through.

You learn that life isn’t always fair and you don’t always get what you think you deserve, and you stop personalizing every loss or disappointment. You learn to accept that sometimes bad things happen to good people and that these things are not an act of God… but merely a random act of fate.

And you stop looking for guarantees, because you’ve learned that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected and that whatever happens, you’ll learn to deal with it. And you learn that the only thing you must truly fear is the great robber baron of all time – FEAR itself.  So you learn to step right into and through your fears, because to give into fear is to give away the right to live life on your terms. You learn that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophesy and you learn to go after what you want and not to squander your life living under a cloud of indecision or feelings of impending doom.

Then, YOU LEARN ABOUT MONEY… the personal power and independence it brings and the options it creates. And you recognize the necessity to create your own personal wealth. Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never ever settle for less than your heart’s desire. And a sense of power is born of self-reliance. And you live with honor and integrity because you know that these principles are not the outdated ideals of a by-gone era but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build your life. And you make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting and to stay open to every wonderful opportunity and exciting possibility. Then you hang a wind chime outside your window to remind yourself what beauty there is in Simplicity.

Finally, with courage in your heart and with God by your side you take a stand, you TAKE a deep breath and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can.

A word about the Power of Prayer: In some of my darkest, most painful and frightening hours, I have prayed, not for the answers to my prayers or for material things, but for my “God” to help me find the strength, confidence and courage to persevere; to face each day and to do what I must do.

Remember this:- You are an expression of the almighty. The spirit of God resides within you and moves through you. Open your heart, speak to that spirit and it will heal and empower you.
My “God” has never failed me.

Copyright © 2001 Sonny Carroll. All Rights Reserved
Reprinted here with permission

Forgiving my father and praying for a speedy recovery…

Image

This is my dad. He’s 70 years old now. Despite everything that happened when I was young, I have forgiven him.  He told me that he will go to his grave, forever being sorry for what he’s done to us kids.  He believed my mother when she’d call him home from work, screaming at him that she couldn’t handle these kids and that they needed to be punished.  As I mentioned before in THIS post, Mom did this, feeling justified because she wanted him to wear himself out beating us so that he wouldn’t have the energy to hurt her.  I blame my mother for most of what happened to us because she never took drugs and never drank alcohol.  He did.  Not that that’s an excuse but she was in control of her own mind.  He always told us that “the devil in the bottle” controlled his mind.  She’d lie to him and tell him that my brother, now deceased, and I did horrible things.  Most of the time, we didn’t know what she was talking about because we were locked in our room and COULDN’T do the things she accused us of.  My baby brother would usually be the guilty party but Mom DID have natural love for him and never wanted Dad to hurt him.  In her mind, it was okay to have dad hurt J and I because we were 3 and 4 years older than Keith and she felt we could handle the blows from this huge man, who was our father.  When Mom looked at us, she saw the face of my father and she couldn’t love us.  Keith looks like her and was always a beautiful child.  She would do her best to protect him.

MUCH time has past and through many rocky years, I’ve always known my dad loved me.  He was the only one to ever show affection, pride and natural love.  He did this in his down time when he would be trying hard not to drink and do drugs.  He stopped MOST drugs and cut out ALL alcohol when my brother was killed.  It crushed Dad and he has never been the same.  He loved my brother so much and didn’t realize how he was hurting us both until the day J died.  He’s shown open and anguishing grief.  Mom, if she ever grieved, didn’t show it.  It looked as if she were going to the funeral of a stranger.  I have forgiven my dad because he allowed us to see his human side.

He’ll never be perfect and I don’t expect him to be.  I love him through his faults and his triumphs.  That’s the way it should be.  It’s not to say that I don’t still have nightmares and don’t have to work through the events of my past.  I do.  BUT, it helps because I have at least one parent who admits wrong doing and I know he’d take it all back if he could.

Right now, I’m on my way to get him to bring him to the hospital for surgery tomorrow.  His aortic valve is closing and he’s in very bad shape.  He needs open heart surgery but the Veteran’s Hospital needs to put him on a waiting list to receive the surgery where they won’t have to break his rib cage.  Apparently, they can do open heart surgery by going through the groin like they do with angioplastic surgery now.  Who knew?

Anyway, I’m afraid to lose this man.  Besides my younger brother, he’s the only link to my past and the only one who truly knows me.  It’s so scary to lose your parents.  I wouldn’t even want to lose mom.  It makes me sick thinking about it.  It’s a whole new world knowing that there aren’t parents left anymore and WE become the adults.

I know he may sound like a monster to many of you but I’m asking that you’ll keep him in your prayers anyway.  Despite all, he’s still my daddy.

I’ll be gone for 4 days, waiting with my stepmother at the VA hospital 3 hours away.  Oddly enough, I can’t get internet connection inside the hospital.  I won’t be able to follow all of you and know what’s going on with you after I leave the hotel room tomorrow morning.  Just know that you’re all in my thoughts and prayers and I’m thinking of you!

(((hugs)))

I wasn’t raised this way….

I miss me....

I wasn’t raised this way.  In fact, I was raised to doubt myself.  I was raised to believe that I wasn’t smart enough, good enough, loving enough, pretty enough, frugal enough, ambitious enough or talented enough.  At the hands of 2 abusive parents, one of them DEADLY when dealing out physical abuse and the other (the worst IMO) DEADLY when dealing out her emotional abuse (with a whole lot of physical abuse thrown in from her too), I managed to survive.  To kill a child’s spirit is the worst sin of all.  She tried, she couldn’t do it.  I grew up with an amazing ability to disassociate from my surroundings and I always had HOPE that one day I would leave that place and do amazing things!  I always just KNEW that God had a reason for me to be born, and to live.  I knew I had a job to do in this world and I had dreams.  I knew that if I could just stay alive, I’d see these dreams come true one day.

Survival became my only job.  I put all my time and energy into learning how to survive and teaching my brothers how to survive.  Sadly, I didn’t do my job well enough.  One of my brothers died at the age of 18, just 2 days before his high school graduation.  I was the oldest and I felt like more of a mother to him than I did his sister.  SOMEONE needed to be his mother!  I called him my “twin”.  He wasn’t though, not really.  I was born on April 10, 1966 at the 3 o’clock hour and my precious brother was born on April 10, 1967 at the 3 o’clock hour.  Weird huh?  It was like he forgot to be born on the same year.  We shared a baby bed.  We shared our life.  We communicated without words.  When he died on Memorial Day, 1985, half of my soul died with him and I’ve never been the same.  It’s not like I didn’t WANT to live.  I did.  I just didn’t know HOW to live without him.  I didn’t know how to BREATHE without him.  He was my other half and we were each other’s protectors.  I’ve become numb to the grief of his passing, for the most part.

Which brings me to present time…I’ve been reading a lot about a particular woman, Lesley, lately.  She’s making her dreams come true and she’s doing it the hard way.  She wasn’t born into money.  In fact, she doesn’t have a lot of money now but she won’t take no for an answer and she ALWAYS finds a way to get what she wants.  I WAS Lesley. What I mean is everything she writes about doing or wanting to do is something I’ve always felt I would do one day.  It’s kind of like God meant for me to find her blog.  I think he wanted me to remember the reason I was born.  All the adventures I’d go on one day and all the lives I knew I would touch.   I lost sight of my dreams in the midst of just trying to survive.

I’m determined, more than ever now to get that little girl back.  It’s time.  There’s a life out there waiting to be lived and it would be just as much of a sin to NOT live the life God had planned for me as it was a sin for my parents to try and destroy me.

If anyone’s reading, if you get nothing else out of this, please take away with you the power you have in your hands.  If any of you are parents, tell your children that they can do great things.  Try not to criticize and belittle.  It can destroy their spirit.  Build them up… don’t break them, sometimes they can’t be put back together.  You have the power to lead by example.  You, go out and pursue YOUR dreams… the rest will follow.

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How I’ve been Inspired by a Child…

Bear with me while I brag just a little…  I’ve been recently inspired by my 14 year old and a group of her friends.  I honestly didn’t think it was possible for a group of teenagers to motivate me the way they’ve done.  Okay, so about a month ago my daughter came to me and told me about a plan that she and her friends had to start volunteering at local charities in our community.  It was really strange to me because the girl who came up with this idea was formerly a girl who had been into a lot of trouble.  She was born to a 14 year old mother who suffered from a mental disorder and consequently Julia’s friend was exposed to MANY men who sexually abused her, with no protection from her mother.  Naturally, this girl turned to drugs and sex at a VERY young age.  I have a heart for wayward kids because I, myself, was a wayward kid.  Where would I be if not for the love of other people outside my own family?  BUT…  now that I’m a mother, I have to draw the line somewhere.  I’d seen so much BAD from this girl and I had to make the decision to limit the time Julia was spending with her friend.  This hurt me because it went against everything I believed in but I needed to protect my own.  I still made myself available for the family and offered to babysit her little brothers (she’s got 4 of them because her mother just keeps having babies) in order that Julia’s friend and her mother could have a break.  I contacted this girl’s grandparents when she broadcasted a plan that she had to commit suicide.  This resulted in her being removed from her mother’s home and placed with her grandparents.   This is where her life turned around!  For over a year now “L” has been doing fantastic!  She’s SO smart, above average intelligence, and is now making straight “A’s” in school.  She became active in her church and just wanted to do something to give back to her community.  She felt like if she focuses her time on doing GOOD, it would help her with disposing of some of the “demons” in her own mind.  A year’s a pretty long time in the life of a 14 year old!  I’m so proud of her.  Besides, doing good makes us ALL feel pretty terrific, right?

SO, “L” printed out fliers announcing a meeting after school for anyone who wanted to be part of her little group of volunteers.  At first, there were only a few of them who were interested.  NOW, after a month, there’s around 10 kids and it’s still growing.  10 is a start though and it gives me SUCH a thrill to watch as these kids take pride in what they’re doing!  The first location they chose to volunteer at is a place called Heaven’s Closet.  They all met at the school EARLY on a Saturday morning and they departed for Heaven’s Closet where they sorted TONS of boxes of clothes and assisted many needy families with choosing 5 free items per family.  These kids were able to see so many people who were in desperate situations, like one woman who’d lost everything in a fire the week before.  Of course, SHE received more than 5 free items for her household.  Our kids came home glowing because they felt like they were needed.  I’m telling you, doing good is contagious!  Unfortunately, Heaven’s Closet lost their lease so the next time our kids volunteered there was the LAST time.  They helped pack up all the merchandise they’d previously put on the shelves and moved to a different charitable organization.

Last Saturday, the group was scheduled to work at a local food pantry but they were called at the last second and told that they couldn’t be used.  I personally think the food pantry didn’t want to deal with a bunch of teenagers, which is sad.  BUT, that didn’t deter “L”!  She got on the ball immediately and called a local nursing home to ask if they could spend time with some of the elderly patients.  Upon being given the okay, “L” quickly baked some cookies so they could all hand out to the “old folks”.  Now, my daughter has been visiting nursing homes for many years and she’s learned to absolutely LOVE the old people.  She shines when it comes to interacting with them and my shy girl, who normally only has 10 words a day to say, suddenly becomes very “chatty” with them!  I LOVE that!  I’ve always had a soft spot for the elderly, myselfJ  It turns out that the group spent 4 hours at the nursing home, feeding them cookies and playing basketball with some of the residents!  Who knew that they would be ABLE to play basketball?  Lol  Some of them were wheel chair bound but our kids still got them involved by throwing the ball back and forth.  The old people absolutely LOVED it and can’t wait for the kids to come back to see them.  I don’t know if any of you have experienced visiting an old folks home but if you haven’t, you definitely SHOULD.  It will fill your heart with so much love!  Some of these people have no visitors and nobody except the busy nurses to talk to.  They light up when they see someone look them in the eye and just smile or ask them how their day is.  It seems like they live to see the face of a child!  If you’re lucky enough to develop a relationship with an older person, LISTEN to them.  They have so much wisdom to share!  Our kids are discovering this and can’t wait to get back there again this weekend.  The plan is that ALL of the kids are going to bake and distribute their goodies to many more people.  This is actually something my daughter does every weekend.  I bake and send whatever I’ve made with Julia and her dad when they go visiting.  They tell me that the old people get so excited when they see good food walk through their doors!.  They don’t get to eat homemade goodies often, if ever.  Usually what they’re fed is so bland and tasteless.

Usually when we think of a teenager, it’s not for a POSITIVE reason.  I’ll admit that after raising 4 girls, I have one foot in the grave!  Lol  However, when they do something like THIS group of kids has done, I beam with pride.  Yep!  They’ve inspired this old mom to get off her butt and DO something.  Now, I hope that YOU go out and do the same for someone else.  If you don’t have time to volunteer, please make the time to perform a simple act of kindness.  Look an old person or disabled person in the eye and smile.  Acknowledge their existence.  You’ll be surprised at how this makes YOU feel.  I’ve realized what this group of kids are realizing now… that volunteering or just doing “good” makes me feel so much better than it does the person or group that I’m trying to help.  Sometimes, it’s what the doctor ordered!  Hope you all have a blessed and FANTASTIC day!