Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Secret Sister by Helen Edwards and Jenny Lee Smith

This is the memoir of twin sisters who didn't even know the other existed until they were in their 50's.  Separated at 6 weeks old in post war England,  the two lived lives that couldn't have been more different from each other.

Jenny, the twin who was given up for adoption, was raised as an only child with parents who loved her and doted on her.  Her father, who loved to golf,  introduced to the sport when she was three and both parents supported her as she pursued the competitive side of the sport.  Even after her father passed away, Jenny's mom made sacrifices to make sure that Jenny was able to go on and become a high ranking championship golfer who competed in the LPGA.  Though happy and knowing she was loved, Jenny always felt that something was missing and attributed it to being an only child until she inadvertantly found out she had been adopted.

Helen, was kept by her mom and grew up with a brother George living close to her grandmother and aunts, uncles and cousins.  Though she was surrounded by family, hers was a very lonely childhood as her father was horribly physically abusive towards both her and her mother.  He was king of the household and made sure they knew it every chance he got constantly telling Helen everything was her fault.  And added to that was her mother's psychological abuse  and manipulating that held Helen in it's grips until well after her mother had passed away.  Helen grew up with her parents engaged in a daily battle where her mother would taunt and goad her father to violence that most times ended up with her taking the brunt of consequences.

Though she found out as a teen that she was adopted, Jenny didn't started to look for her birth family until later on in life. When the two sisters connect and they look for answers as to why they were separated they unearth as family legacy of lies and deception.

So many mixed emotions while reading this book.  It was a good story but and oh so hard read.  Helen's abuse was horrendous and I had to stop and pause throughout the book as it was so hard to read about.  That she turned out to be a loving, caring adult is really a miracle.  I was torn reading the story of both girls because the story was laid out in a way that went back and forth between the two as they told of their growing up years.  I'll be honest and say reading Jenny's story was almost difficult in the sense that hers was such an easy life compared to Helen's and almost felt like fluff (insert myself with guilt pangs for feeling that way) and I felt I wanted to rush through it to get back to Helen's story.  Not that I wanted to read about the abuse but I wanted to read that she made it through, that she was able to get away, that she finally was able to leave it behind her.   I did learn a little bit from Helen's story about how someone who is abused and manipulated ends up staying in the situation.  But I found myself almost talking out loud in frustration to the grown up Helen as both she and her husband at the time continued to make decisions that let certain things continue happening without standing up for themselves.  But Jenny's story too, did have some struggles as she dealt with feeling cast aside and rejected by her mother and what she perceived to be a happy family that got rid of her as she had no idea of the abuse that went on in her sister's family.  The last part of the book of course was the best part as Jenny and Helen finally find each other and share their inspirational bond and the strength and faith in God they have to not let bitterness define the rest of their lives.

Because of the frequent abusive situations within Helen's story, I feel that a warning should go with the review of the book for those who would be triggered and/or sensitive to the material.




Saturday, November 18, 2017

Night Song - A story of sacrifice by Tricia Goyer

Young Jakub Hanauer's whole world turned upside down when the German soldiers came and took his father away.  His father was a great musician and violin repairer who played in orchestras.  His brother was a violin progidy who had a great future.  Jakub felt he never could be as good as his father or his brother.  Now the Germans are back and the remaining family, his mother and younger brother, are being loaded on trains to be transported away from their home.  At the concentration camp of Mauthausen he is thought to be his talented brother and put into the care of a world renowned conductor and forced to play in the camp's orchestra.  But can he fool everybody with his music or will his deception be found out?

Evie and Nick are a young couple who met in the States.  He is learning to be a doctor and she is the daughter of a diplomat from Europe.  The night Nick was to propose changed their lives forever when Evie's family was ordered back to their homeland.  With news of the war ever increasing, Nick receives his draft papers and is now training as a medic.  He hopes he can find Evie in Europe and will take great risks to do so.  But in an encounter with the resistance,Evie  has had circumstances happen that drive her into hiding making the task Nick sets for himself impossible.

As a young German soldier, Otto longs for the power that he had inadvertantly witnessed at a high ranking German officials private meeting.  Not just the everyday human driven power  but the spiritual power from another world that he knows can rule over everything else.  Nothing will stop him from trying to attain that.  But when he in his pride tries to make it happen he is transfered over to help catagorize the ever increasing stash of musical instruments. 

This was my first book by this author and it will not be my last.  Inside the horrific details of the death camp, Tricia Goyer has told a beautiful tale of faith, grace, courage and survival.  The way she tied the three threads of the story together was really well done and it was hard to put the book down even though some of the details were so hard to read.  The historical details were so well researched and woven into the personal stories so well it was like a movie running through my head as I read.  My heart was gripped and torn at Jakub, Evie and Nick's stories.  I will say though that there was a large cast of characters because of the three story lines and at times I did have to pause and think who different characters were.  But this is definitely one of those stories that gave me a "book hangover" where I had to process everything for days afterward.  Though this is a stand alone novel there are some others in this World War II Liberators series that I will definitely be reading!

Thank you to Tricia Goyer for sending me this beautiful story.




Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #456



Welcome to Friday's Fave Fives, where thankfulness takes the forefront.  Please join us as we look for blessings and good things from the past week and share 5 of them.

~Extra day off~  Because Remembrance Day fell of Saturday this year I got Monday off in leiu of.  It was really nice to have that extra day of rest.  A little sleeping in, a little extra reading and computer time, an extra chore or two done.  Was a great day.

~Painful tooth gone~  While this may not seem like the best of blessings, when one has basically had an ongoing tooth ache for about a year and a half to two years (even after an expensive root canal!), it is so nice to finally be pain free.  I tried a new dentist and found her to be really kind and compassionate which was awesome.

~Caring friends ~ I've had a few friends check on me to make sure everything went okay with the dental appointment.  Such a small thing, these texts and calls were, but they sure did make my day and made me feel cared for.  I pray I am that way for other people too.

~Dentist ordered milkshake for supper~  Gotta love when the dentist's aftercare instructions are to have only warm broths, ice cream and milkshakes (no straws allowed!) on the first day.  Like my daughter said, when the doctor orders it becomes void of calories!  LOL.

~New dayhome family signed on~  It's been a stressful 4 months trying to replace 4 of 6 child care spots in my dayhome.  Children leaving all within a month of each other for school, parent transfers, parents staying home and pregnant mommas really put a hole into the numbers.  But a couple wonderful families have signed on one to start December and one January so it's a nice staggered start.  Whew.  Only one more spot to fill.

What have been your favorite blessings this week?






Saturday, November 11, 2017

This song always resonates with me on Remembrance Day.  Taking a moment to pause and remember and be thankful.








Friday, November 10, 2017

The Dionnes by Ellie Tesher ~ Book Review

If you are Canadian, you no doubt know about the Dionne quintuplets.  If not, you will still find their story fascinating.  They took their place in Canadian history when they were born in the 1930's to typical French Canadian farmers.    The world's only surviving quintuplets at that time.   Because of the uniqueness and miracle of their birth the unthinkable started to happen.  In order for the to survive, the doctor had the other siblings removed from the house to keep all germs down so the babies would have every chance of survival.  The government stepped in and because of news of their miracle birth and survival spreading across the province, then Canada, then worldwide they built a "hospital" for them across the road from their parents home.  They staffed it with the doctor and numbers of nurses.  Then it got bizarre, as the parents were kept away from them.  The nurses (and nuns who eventually schooled them in the compound) were not allowed to show any affection or interfere with the doctor, they were poked and prodded and tested for research for years by doctors.  They formed a unique bond beyond the normal twins or triplets bond because they only had each other for love.  The government of Ontario saw a chance for a great money making opportunity in them as they saw the world's fascination with them.  The hospital turned into a compound where the sisters were put on display daily for tourists to gawk at.   In the act of supposedly protecting them, they were turned into exhibits that the government sanctioned.  Wrenching control from the parents they were made guardians of  various agencies.  Many from the government to their father to advertisers benefitted from these children.  At first their parents tried to fight what was happening, their babies taken from them, a doctor rigidly controlling their visits,  but soon it became apparent that they were losing the fight for the quintuplets and meanwhile their other children were suffering.   But then the father also saw an opportunity to provide for his other children things like quality education in expensive schools that they would not have been able to have otherwise. 

When they were 9 and no longer bringing in the cash flow, the government turned their world upside down yet again and built a huge furnished house for their family, shut down the compound and forced them to go live with the family who were virtually strangers.  Living in the fortress-like mansion, the sisters were kept isolated and separated from the world due to the father's fear of kidnapping while their other siblings lived normal lives.  Trying to fit in was virtually impossible for everybody.

When they became young women their whole lives had been so abnormal, that they all came away as adults with many issues.  Added to that was that the trust fund that was supposed to take care of them for life was found to be depleted by the very people that were supposed to manage it for them; their father and the trust fund board.  From their fund everything the government was saying they were providing, the sisters were actually paying for.  It was a strange upbringing brought about by a greedy government that interfered in the lives of a family when they saw potential for big dollars.  By taking over, it allowed the exploitation of 5 little children, power struggles between government, the family and appointed care givers.  Media manipulated a public who was in the throes of a depression and fed on their need to have something hopeful and happy to grasp onto.  After two of the siblings passed away they disappeared from the public eye. This particular book looks at the sister's 1990's step back into the spotlight after years avoiding it to fight with the Ontario government to get what should have been rightfully theirs to begin with.

This book is older, published in 1999, but I was curious about their story.  It is heartbreaking, totally unbelievable in today's thinking.  It's a story of greed gone wrong, prejudices and views of the time, a public looking for something good in life to the point they were willing to overlook what was really happening, and a quest for justice. The author not only gave their childhood background, but also through conversations with the 3 surviving sisters looked at the how their adult lives were anything but a fairy tale as all were living in poverty with many issues.  The author of the book, as a journalist, covered their story of pursuing justice and it helped cause a public outcry to force Ontario's government at the time to pay them what was due them.   Very readable, super interesting and because of it's unbelievable happenings, it was hard to put down.  I finished it in a couple of days.

I gave it a 8.5/10





Friday's Fave Five #455




Welcome back to another edition of Friday's Fave Five.  The days are going by so slowly individually yet so quickly collectively.  How does that even happen?  It's a good thing that FFF helps me to notice the good things in these weeks.  Please join in.

My five in no particular order:


~ Extra time for those chores that always get pushed back ~  I've been short about half my child care numbers as I try to replace the families who have left this fall.  I'll not lie, it's been tough but this week, I just determined that during the days when I have all kids who nap after lunch, I am going to put that time to good use and get all those chores knocked off my list that I always procrastinate because they take time I don't have, chores that I can't do with little ones around, chores that I'm too tired to get to.  So far this week I've washed all the kitchen cupboard doors, fronts and handles, scrubbed down all the backsplash tile, and started on the kitchen lights.  Next up will be finishing the lights, do the baseboards and then wipe down inside all the cupboards.  This being productive instead of stewing, pouting and worrying is a good blessing.


~ A lovely smelling kitchen ~  One of the rewards of doing of good deep clean. Thanks to Avon Orange & Honeysuckle bubble bath!  I think I've mentioned it before but it really is lovely to clean with.  Everything is sparkly clean and it really does smell nice.


~ Extra reading time ~  When I'm done whatever chore I've chosen for the day, I get to sit with a nice cup of coffee and get some extra reading done while the kids are snoozing.  Reading is my escape of choice and I love the extra time to relax and let my imagination go with the story.  


~ Caramel Brule Latte is baaaack! ~  My most favorite drink at Starbucks.  I get it half sweet (working my way down to 1/4 sweet) and it's the perfect weekend treat.  It's seasonal so that is a good thing.  I remains a treat I look forward to for a couple of months of the year.  And I just got an email that I have enough stars for a free drink!  Bonus!!


~ Feather Duvet is on the bed ~ One good thing about November and the colder weather is that the feather duvet gets put back on the bed.  I just love it.  So puffy and warm and comfy without being heavy.  Just makes me sigh when I get into bed and pull it up.


This weekend is Remembrance Day in Canada and as we pause to remember all the sacrifices that have been made to keep our country free I just want to thank all those who have sacrificed and/or  fought to give me the privilege of living in this freedom.


What are some blessings and good things you are thankful for this week?





Friday, November 03, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #454


Welcome to a very chilly, snowy Friday everyone.  Here in Alberta we're experiencing our second snow dump of the season.  But no matter, it's still a good day to look for blessings.   Feel free to join in, no matter the weather where you are as we try to become more thankful people.  The following quote could not be more true.




My favorite blessings I am thankful for this week:

The Word of God.  I'm not gonna lie, this week has been a bit of a struggle for me.  Another long time family from the dayhome had their last day.   I finally got to the dentist who had not good news for my aching molar.  Long story short, it's a goner.  Stress related to having to replace too many children in the dayhome all at once.  The sad news of the attack in New York.  It all presses in.  But I'm so thankful that in times like that I have to Word of God to turn to to receive encouragement and have my faith built that God is good God and He is there even in the midst of struggle, chaos and pain.  I become very aware that not everyone has the blessing of having as many bibles as they could possibly want laying around the house such as we have in this country.  

Laughter in the midst of a very stressful moment.  My youngest daughter and I had a real good belly laugh over a funny misunderstanding today right in the midst of a very stressful moment in my day.  I laughed till I cried, it was so silly.  I can't share 'cause she asked me not to but suffice it to say that it brought things a bit more into perspective and I'm so thankful we shared that funny.



Caring and giving friends.  After I emailed all in my lady's group that I had to cancel because of the toothache, one of the lady's dropped by and gave me a full bottle of a natural oil type thing called Theives that is supposed to help with tooth infections and aches.  It was very thoughtful and generous of her and I really appreciated the gesture.  It's nice to belong to a group of women, though from such diverse walks of life, that really care and support each other.

Hot tea in the evenings.  With the cold weather my craving for hot herb tea in the evenings rise exponentially.  My lovely organic peppermint always is the favorite standby by this week I've also enjoyed Bengal Spice and Belleni Peach Orange.

Sunday family meals.  With everybody all grown up and moved away or working, our times of the Sunday meal together are all that more precious when they occur.  My son was down from his city again this weekend, my youngest wasn't working and we were able to sit down together along with his grandma and enjoy a Sunday meal. 

What were your favorite blessings of the week?





Saturday, October 28, 2017

Author Charles Martin's Response to The Mountain Between Us movie


For those of you interested, here is Charles Martin's response to the backlash of how the movie was changed from his book.  While I was disappointed it didn't follow the book better, I thought this response was excellent and I have used the opportunity to talk with others about the changes and direct them to the excellent story and messages in the book.  In fact, half the ladies during my workout time at gym are getting the book to read which is great because it will spur more discussion.