Saturday, March 23, 2013

Readings and Greetings: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I would have enjoyed being a time traveler or better yet a world traveler, but I spent a career as a librarian/storyteller.  So my worldly travels rely on my imagination and the pages written between covers of  dynamic literature.

As a result, I spent some time suffering in the ancient heat of the Judean Desert on a mountain top known to the world as Masada.  In her book The Dovekeepers Alice Hoffman tells the story of how nine hundred Jews held out against the Roman Legions, but she made the story unique by telling it through the eyes of four women, who came to live at Masada and endured the brutality of life in those times.  She based the entire fictional story on one piece of documented fact taken from the historian Josephus.  In his account, he reported that two women and five children survived the massacre on the night when the Jews committed mass suicide rather than submit to the Roman Legion.

I can't say I enjoyed the story, but  I can say, "I couldn't stop reading once I began, and I will forever be haunted by their lives."  I must also confess that I cheated.  I needed to have the book finished by a certain date for book club, but simply couldn't meet the deadline.  Instead,  I read the Part One and finished every word in Part Four.  I understood the story, but felt truly cheated for not knowing how my heroines survived, so over the next two evenings after book club I finished the story.  Rightfully so, each strong woman in the story deserved her chapter and her life retold.  It's not a book peace and love:  it's a book of loneliness, of desire, of desperation, of love, of violence, of intolerance of people of different faith, of strength and resolve, and of a mother's desire to see her children live.  The Dovekeepers  is powerfully written through the shadows, hidden in our hearts.

If you read this book, please let me know your thoughts.  Which woman's story affected you the most?  What theme tore into your heart?  What compelled you to read their stories?

Saturday, March 16, 2013


A True Golden Okie.
Lately, my mind has been cluttered with worry, frustrations, and sadness brought on as we watch Jack's dear mother age rapidly before our very eyes.  She lovingly raised five healthy strong amazing children and has watched over her fifteen grandchildren, and now her eleven great-grandchildren.  Over the last forty years she has been the vibrant force behind her country band, The Golden Okies.  Now, at 89 she's bent and growing frailer as the days pass, but her smile and love of music still radiate from her heart.

Tossing and turning, I try to think of ways to change her health, her situation, to make it "all better."  When I'm driving, reading, or walking my mind screams, "Do something!"  We've tapped every resource we know, and still we are losing.  Instead of helping, I realize we are struggling with decisions they  have made, with the distance between families, and fighting time.

When I prayed for guidance, for a message, for a sign, for help I waited.  As the days passed I grew angry at my helplessness, and then I actually laughed a little, and told my husband, "I missed it.  I'm sure God gave me a sign, but I just didn't recognize it."  Nothing changed, I was still angry and frustrated.

Then two things happened.  Through prayer, mediation and reflection, I realized that Alleen needs what we all need, love, comfort and support.  Those are things I can do.   Her family in Norman is doing them daily, and we will visit and support her as often as we can.  What I can't do is make her follow my plan.  I am not in control here, and I have to learn to let that go.

Nothing can stop our love, and that is what matters.  Love.

Though my goal is to write about life on the lighter side, I realize that there are simply bumps and heartaches we all deal with, and it is how we deal with them that show our character and strength.  Alleen is a strength for her family and friends, and that makes me smile deep down inside to know someone so loving and full of life.

...God's will be done.....

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Readings and Greetings: Rising from Katrina by Kathleen Koch

Broadwater Beach Hotel-Motel  a Camille survivor.
How can I describe my heartache when we first drove along Mississippi Hwy 90 from Biloxi to Gulfport, looking for my childhood landmarks.  Even the word "gone" doesn't describe the desolation that still remains along the beachfront property, more than seven years after Hurricane Katina.  It took me two days to finally find this location, and it was the slabs of concrete that I stood on looking out across the broken cement piers and piles of broken concrete and rubble that finally opened my eyes to where it all had been.  My family had visited the gulf coast at Christmas time throughout my childhood, so we could enjoy warm moist weather to play golf, romp on the beach, and pretend for awhile the real world was far away. Mother Nature has a way of humbling us and making us look inward for those memories.

This fall Kathleen Koch was a Dillon Lecture Series Guest Speaker sharing her experience at reporting for CNN on the pain and destruction of Hurricane Katrina, as it sat for hours on end over the Mississippi gulf coast swirling it's 200 mile an hour winds and pounding punishing walls of water over the homes and landscapes of the coastal highway.  Kathleen Koch's childhood home, Bay St. Louis, is just West of my landmarks, Gulfport to Biloxi, so I sat with great interest as she spoke of her experiences.  I bought her book, and we spoke briefly about our shared memories.

Her descriptions of the how the people were plunged into the hurricane gripped my soul to the bones.  (p.33)" A mile or so inland...the water had begun to rise around their clapboard house.  With each guest, the wind rocked the structure, every joint creaking and groaning as though it was about to go. As they huddled together on her bed, Shannon watched a crack start in the wall by the window.  It grew as the storm raged, snaking like a living thing across the room to the roof."

Kathleen and her CNN team waited out the winds in a hotel in Mobile, when at last the storm's destructive Northeast quadrant had passed they loaded their vehicle and headed west on I-10. (p.59) "Hoping to find a route west, we drove south to the beach road but got no farther.  An enormous wall of more than fifty crumpled truck trailers from the adjoining port blocked all four lanes of Highway 90, the road I used to drive to work every day."    Pictures before and after are sprinkled throughout her painful personal descriptions.  I felt the lose of each life, as if I'd known the people.  

What makes her book the BEST I've read on recovery and personal passion is simply the resolute stalwart caring people of Bay St. Louis.  They did not wait on the government to help; they did not stand in long lines signing up for government help; they did not complain; they went to work and helped themselves pick up the pieces.