Motherhood From the Frontline

This was my “rainy day” post from BethFishRead’s Bloggiesta mini-challenge… Enjoy 🙂

When it comes to children… especially when they’re your own and you can’t drive them out to the country and dump them because they know their addresses and how to get home… sometimes SANITY is a battle ground, and I feel like I’m battling them for it.  AND, I’m losing.

First off, the odds aren’t in my favor.  There are THREE of them and ONE of me.  Then you gotta add the 3 cats and the dog to that number, because they tease each other with the pets… “Look Maggie, your cat loves me more than you” wait for it “MOOOOOOOM!!!!  Maggie hit me!”  Well, the math adds up to 374 of them to the half-wit ME. 

Seriously, I used to have brains.  I did.  I once took the Mensa test and was well above the entry number.  My IQ, last I checked, is 168.  But see, that was before kids.  Nowadays, I’d be shocked if I could beat out a bunch of Broccoli in a game of Boggle.  My mom always said, “Insanity is hereditary… you get it from your kids!”  And the older they get, the more I realize she’s RIGHT.

I watched a program on PBS about negative emotions the other day… okay, I just watched a segment of the show while COPS was on commercial break, but still… and they said that negative emotions like stress and fear burn memories deeply into your psyche.  That’s why everyone remembers where they were on the morning of September 11, 2001, but few remember what they were doing on September 10th, the day before.  It is ALSO why my mom STILL remembers EVERYTHING I EVER did as a kid, and points out that “Paybacks are a BITCH!” whenever I’m word-vomitting what dastardly deeds the girls have been up to lately. 

Really, I began to understand what my actual role as a parent was when Sam and Gwen were about 7 and 8.  We had went to the mall and had stopped into the store where a friend worked.  Because I was engaged in adult conversation, and because I had taken longer than the generous minute and a half they allowed for such foolishness, the girls began to get antsy and started running around the store.  After a few loud rounds of “THWACK!  Mom!  She hit me!”, I made them sit in time out and confined each of them to their own tile square on the floor.  That I hadn’t set them far enough apart soon became evident when their arguing and tattling reached my ears.  And what were they fighting over now?  A piece of tracked in DIRT.  DIRT!  My darling dimpled dears were debating the ownership of a clod of DIRT!

So what role did I discover I was truly filling?

Wild animal handler.  I’m just here to make sure they don’t get loose and annoy the public.  I feed them, clean their cage and try to learn ’em some manners, but mostly, I’m crowd control.

OH, and I used to hear or read the statistics that some parents only spend about 3 minutes of quality time conversing with their children and I’d think “How horrible!  What terrible and selfish parents can’t make time for their kids?!”  THEN I got teenagers and NOW I think, “GOOD GAWD!  3 minutes?!  They deserve an award!  At least a medal for bravery!”

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The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Title: The Lace Reader

Author: Brunonia Barry

Hardback: 391 pages

Publish Date: 2006

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 9780061624766

My name is Towner Whitney.  No, that’s not exactly true.  My real first name is Sophya.  Never believe me.  I lie all the time.

I am a crazy woman… That last part is true.

My little brother, Beezer, who is kinder than I, says the craziness is genetic.  We’re from five generations of crazy, he says, as if it were a badge he’s proud to wear, though he admits that I may have taken it to a new level.

…My mother, May, for example, is a walking contradiction in terms.  A dedicated recluse who (with the exception of her arrests) hasn’t left her home on Yellow Dog Island for the better part of twenty years, May has nevertheless managed to revive a ling-defunct lace-making industry and to make herself famous in the process.  She has gained considerable notoriety for rescuing abused women and children and turning their lives around, giving the women a place in her lace-making business and home-educating their children.  All this from a raging agoraphobic who gave one of her own children to her barren half sister, Emma, in a fit of generosity because, as she said at the time, there was a need, and besides, she had been blessed with a matching set.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, pages 3-4

In Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader, Towner Whitney lets the reader know from the start that she is an untrustworthy narrator.  Hospitalized after having suffered from depression and hallucinations at the age of 17, she has memory gaps caused from the shock-therapy she’d received as part of treatment.  She tells of her family’s gift of fortunetelling by reading lace, of her mother’s “generosity” in giving her twin sister to her Aunt Emma when they were born, and of the subsequent abuse her sister received from her adoptive father, Cal Boynton.

After being gone from Salem, Mass. for over a decade, Towner finds herself back in her Great Aunt Eva’s house, after Eva has gone missing.  Visions of past happenings, as well as psychic dreams and visits from Eva’s ghost, fill Towner’s present.  She struggles with second-guessing herself as to whether she is going crazy again or if she is really experiencing the surreal events.  The disappearance of Angela Rickey, the girlfriend of Towner’s ex-Uncle, now the Reverend Cal, sets final events into motion that bring everything to a head with some surprising twists that will keep you guessing until the very end.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about The Lace Reader.  For the most part, my issues aren’t really with the book itself, but with how it’s affected me after reading it.  Some of the things in the story hits very close to home, and, combined with the bad sinus and chest cold I have, has caused me to have a few nightmares. 

I really enjoyed and appreciated how Barry presented the way reading taught, how having this particular talent affects a person’s everyday life and the way they interact with people, and the way it is talked (or not talked) about within the family.  I’ve never heard of lace reading, though the principal is easy enough to understand.  I prefer tarot cards, but I’ve also read tea leaves, and all these are is a focal point to allow the vision to present itself.  I grew up in a family of “gifted” people, and I myself struggled with the question of sanity.  On page 320, Barry describes this perfectly:

You walk that line… between the real world and the world of the possible.

Towner says that this isn’t a line, but a crack into which she fell long ago.

The Lace Readerby Brunonia Barry is definitely a book meant to be read at an easy pace.  If you rush through it, you will miss a lot of the nuances.  I think I would have to say I liked it;  it is a haunting story.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Title:  Heart-Shaped Box

Author:  Joe Hill

Paperback:  375 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers

Publish Date:  2007

ISBN:  9780061147937

Miscellaneous:  Joe Hill is the son Stephen King.

He searched the ground floor and found only shadow and stillness, which should’ve reassured him but didn’t.  It was the wrong kind of stillness, the shocked stillness that follows the bang of a cherry bomb.  His eardrums throbbed from the pressure of all that quiet, a dreadful silence.

“What… are you doing?” he said.  By then he was so ill at ease the sound of his own voice unnerved him, sent a cool, prickling rush up his forearms.  He had never been one to talk to himself.

He climbed the stairs and started back down the hall to the bedroom.  His gaze drifted to an old man, sitting in an antique Shaker chair against the wall.  As soon as Jude saw him, pulse lunged in alarm, and he looked away, fixed his gaze on his bedroom door, so he could only see the old man from the edge of his vision.  In the moments that followed, Jude felt it was a matter of life and death not to make eye contact with the old man, to give no sign that he saw him.  He did not see him, Jude told himself.  There was no one there.

The old man’s head was bowed.  His hat was off, resting on his knee.  His hair was a close bristle, with the brilliance of new frost.  The buttons down the front of his coat flashed in the gloom, chromed by moonlight.  Jude recognized the suit in a glance.  He had last seen it folded in the black, heart-shaped box that had gone into the rear of his closet.  The old man’s eyes were closed.

Jude’s heart pounded, and it was a struggle to breath, and he continued on toward the bedroom door, which was at the very end of the hallway.  As he went past the Shaker chair, against the wall to his left, his leg brushed the old man’s knee, and the ghost lifted his head.  But by then Jude was beyond him, almost to the door.  He was careful not to run.  It didnt’ matter to him if the old man stared at his back, as long as they didnt’ make eye contact with each other, and besides, there was no old man.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, pages 29-30

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a fast-paced, heart-dropping, nerve-chilling story of the ghost of Craddock, a spiritualist, hypnotist and dowser (for water anddead bodies) who was a former psy-op during the Vietnam War and with an penchant for young girls, and Judas Coyne, an aging heavy-metal star who has spent most of his life escaping his childhood.  The ghost pursues Coyne with a vengeance, trying to manipulate him into killing himself and his girlfriend.

While I didn’t go into this book with the question “How will Joe Hill compare to his father, Stephen King?” you can’t help have that in the back of your mind.  And I must say, honestly, Hill does not compare to King.  Hill has his own style, voice, and process.  Yes, like any other writer who reads, there is King’s influence in the prose.  And Hill has definitely inherited the family talents, both from his father and mother.

I could not put the book down!  It was suspenseful and driving, and many elements in the story are the kind that will haunt me for months to come.  It mixes mysticism and the paranormal with religion and voodoo, and then adds twists of perversion, attachment and a little insanity to make a very potent cocktail.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill ranks at the top of the list for best horror stories and is a guaranteed hair-frosting experience!  I give it 5 out of 5 stars 😀