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Thursday, this is someone I know…

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Black Cat Book Review

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Knee Deep and Rising by Bob Walkup

This is a book of short stories about a man’s life.  A man who has traveled the world, a minister, husband, father, mentor, friend.  A man of humor and faith, intelligence, love, personal challenges and hope.  His stories reveal a man of honor and humility who has had an interesting life that he shares openly, the good and the not so good.

Bob tells his many stories in an easy conversational way.  They are down to earth and engaging.  He tells of his years as a Presbyterian minister in Floridaknee   and  his travels around the world with the Medical Benevolence Foundation (a Presbyterian ministry) that sound exhausting. And his return to the pulpit in North Carolina.  He accomplished much but it strained his marriage and made some underlying health problems worsen.

Besides his life in ministry there are stories of his childhood in South Carolina, things he learned delivering morning newspapers to neighbors,  his love of baseball, a part-time music career, hard work, school, family.  My favorite stories are the ones about Anne, the girl next door, and their love. There is one story about them and a car with foggy windows   and his father that is too funny.   The story about their first date is sweet and tender.

The hardest  part of his life to read about is his battle with mental illness.  Yet, it is probably where you get to know Bob the best.  His honesty is heart wrenching, his faith is compelling, and his love for Anne, his children, and extended family is transparent.

Bob Walkup has been, and is, on a remarkable journey.  He has written a book well worth reading.  And I don’t say that because Anne is my friend!

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Tuesday, rescue–a true story…

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hmmm

Once upon a time there was a young woman
who was widely, madly, crazily in love with a young man.
She did everything she could think of to get him beyond 
“we are just friends”.

Nothing worked.
He was  a good friend, a loving friend,
but never a lover friend.

She sort of gave up, but not really,
if you know what I mean.
She dated other young men.

There was one who wanted to go beyond 
“we are just friends”.  
He was persistent and won her heart,  most of it,
but there was still a part that loved the other.

Late one night on her way home from who knows where,
on a lonely stretch of road,
she lost control of the car and had a terrible accident.
She was thrown from the car and lay on the road.

Someone saw the wreck and called the
Fire Department Rescue Squad.
She was unconscious and barely breathing when they got to her.

ems

To begin CPR one of the EMS team started to cut off her shirt.
As he was removing it she opened her eyes and said,

“Oh, George, why now?  I’ve just been in a terrible wreck.”

Yep, the EMS guy was the young man she wildly, madly, crazily  loved. 

She survived.
EMS man got teased, unmercifully, for a very long time.
They married and had kids.

This is a true story and as true stories often go
she didn’t marry the young man who was with the Rescue Squad.
They are still just friends.

just

Today, I think you should know this is not my true story but the true story of someone else.

Click on the shoes to see what others have to say.

Click on the shoes to see what others have to say.

Monday, life is bitter and sweet…

A Black Cat Book Review

All That Is Bitter And Sweet by Ashley Judd
and Maryanne Vollers

Before reading Ashley Judd’s book what I knew about her:

  • she is beautiful
  • daughter of Naomi Judd, sister of Wynonna
  • award-winning actress
  • once one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood
  • married to a race car driver
  • has homes in Tennessee and Scotland
  • has no children

After reading her book I now know:

  • she had a difficult childhood
  • her mother was self-absorbed and often neglected her
  • college graduate
  • has a Master’s in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
  • was in rehab for depression and codependency
  • political activist and humanitarian
  • woman of deep faith

Taken from diaries she kept while traveling Africa and Asia as the Global Ambassador for Population Services International the book proves Ashley Judd is more than what you see.  She writes openly about her childhood and how those memories drew her to work on behalf of poor, sick, and disenfranchised women and children of Third World countries.

The accounts of her travels with PSI are hard to read;  the violence and horror is not unexpected. However, the accounts of her often unhappy and sad childhood are surprising. Though she has a good relationship with her mother now, as a child she was often neglected  and  was shuttled between family members, attending thirteen schools before graduating from high school.  Judd writes honestly about those times and it is easy to understand why she struggles with depression.

Judd’s writes about her family without extremes or excuses or blame and reveals some secrets in a straight forward way.  She went through a lot when a little girl and is a strong woman now, perhaps because of it.

There is some mention of her career as an actress and her private life now, but, clearly this is a book about the passion she has for her humanitarian work and how it led to her political activism.  The stories she tells of the women and children victims of sexual violence and slavery are chilling.  They are not second-hand stories but stories from Judd’s meetings with the victims in their own environments. 

Her first trip with PSI began a journey of not only commitment to the forgotten and uncared for victims of abuse but a journey of self-discovery and deepening faith.  This book is well worth reading not only to be made aware of the unspeakable that is happening everyday in the world but also as a testament of the survival and courage of those living it.   And it is the story well worth reading of a quiet dismissed little girl who grew up to be a woman of insight, courage, passion, faith, and determination to make the world a better place.

Ashley Judd is not just a pretty face.

 

Monday, not really a book review…

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A Black Cat Book Review

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Once Upon a Secret by Mimi Alford

In 1962 nineteen year old Marion “Mimi” Beardsley was a summer intern in the press office of the White House.  That summer the affair with President John F. Kennedy began; it ended in 1963 when he was assassinated.  This book is her memoir of those eighteen months and how they affected the rest of her life.

To say that what Alford has written disturbed me is an understatement.  My reactions while reading her story were many and varied and sometimes contradictory.  Shock, anger, sadness, amusement, disbelief, were some of my reactions and feelings about this affair.  When you read “affair” if you think of romance, candle-lit dinners, music, how the movies and novels usually portray affairs…think again.  This was a sexual affair and nothing more.

Alford describes the affair as “WAIT”.  She would be told where to be and there she would be, waiting, until JFK showed up.  She occasionally travelled with the White House entourage.  She would wait in hotel rooms until the President wanted her then she would be escorted to his room.  JFK was a very busy man.  He was the President, after all!  So she was available when he “wanted” her.

Although, many in the White House, staff, JFK’s valet, the residence cook, some of his friends, and the Secret Service, knew of the affair and often facilitated their meetings, Alford kept it secret.  She told the man she was engaged to the day of the assassination and later her sister and two friends but she told no one else.  These four people kept her secret safe.  It was not until 2003 with the publication of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek that she spoke publicly about her affair with the President.

I cannot really objectively review this book and I am not going to try.  Alford seems to be honest in her telling of what happened.  She does not make excuses for herself and relates some of their encounters quite candidly.  Some would say she let herself be used and at first that is what I thought.  But with further reflection I realize that she was very young and naïve.  She had a sheltered and protected up-bringing and was inexperienced.  She was totally unprepared for some of the egos and self-entitlements in the powerful world of politics and politicians. 

Mimi Alford has moved on as they say; married, had children, divorced, remarried, has grandchildren, come to terms with the past, and written this book.  I can, almost, understand her as her nineteen year old self but I do not understand her as her seventy year old self.

I think what disturbs me the most is how Alford is still enamored of Kennedy and defends the man and his actions. The man treated her despicably!  As I said I  cannot review this book. I think what I have done is to try and give you my impression of the two people involved. 

Saturday, no fairytale here…

A Black Cat Book Review

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Dear Cary by Dyan Cannon

Cary Grant saw Dyan Cannon on TV, liked what he saw and arranged to meet her.  She thought the meeting was about a possible role in one of his projects but it was purely personal for Cary.  Thus, the beginning of a romance and marriage destined to be anything but a fairytale.

Dyan and Cary had a whirlwind and world-wide romance. He did not want to get married and cautioned her about her desire to be married to him.  He was older than her father and had been married and divorced three times; and he admitted the failure of the marriages was his fault.  But the thought of having a family won him over; they married and had a daughter, Jennifer. 

Not long after Jennifer’s birth Cary’s need to control every aspect of their lives became compulsive and overbearing.  The fairytale life Dyan thought she would have with Cary Grant was not happily ever after.  Dyan filed for the divorce Cary wanted and plotted and shortly after she had a breakdown.

The journey back to reality and life without Cary was not an easy one.  It is evident from the book that she never stopped loving Cary–but Cary never really loved her.

There were, for me, surprises in the book.  The biggest being Cary’s use of LSD in his search for the ultimate peace and that he did not believe it was a dangerous drug but a chemical used to enhance understanding.  Also, not as surprising but maybe disappointing, is  that Cary Grant was not at all what he seemed.  Yes, he was a handsome, witty, charming Hollywood star but he was also manipulative, controlling, cruel, and shallow in his relationships.

Dyan was/is a beautiful, funny, intelligent, talented woman. I was surprised by her lack of confidence and willingness to give up thinking for herself, wanting the fairytale so badly that she would/could not see life’s realities, all for the love of Cary.

Dyan Cannon has written an interesting memoir and it is not a shocking exposé with all the details spelled out.  But it is a sad story.  The last chapter is a letter Dyan has written to Cary forgiving him all the bad and thanking him for all the good they had together– and obviously still loving him.

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