Mrs. Kennedy and Me {Book Review}

Recently, I have a new fascination with Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I knew very little about the Kennedy administration and that time period in general. Someone I know said that they would love to sit down and have a conversation with Jackie Kennedy. As I thought about what she lived through, my fascination grew.

I bought a book written by her Secret Service agent, Clint Hill. The book is entitled Mrs. Kennedy and Me. I began reading the book not knowing much about the Kennedy family in general and finished the book even more intrigued by their lives. She was the epitome of class and strength in the face of so much. Clint Hill obviously saw Mrs. Kennedy in the best and worst situations, and he was also constantly impressed with the way she handled things.

There were so many stories in the book that I absolutely loved.  One of my favorites was the story of how she so charmed the French writer, Andre Malraux, that he would offer to bring the Mona Lisa to the United States. This exhibition would be the first time that the painting left France.  She was so excited for people who were not in the position to travel all the way to France to have the opportunity to view this incredible work of art.  The History Channel tells the historical story of the Mona Lisa’s trip to the United States.

There are so many great stories in the book. If anyone has even the slightest interest in Jackie Kennedy this is a great book to find out more about the former First Lady. Not only am I completely intrigued by Jackie Kennedy now, I am also fascinated with Clint Hill and the other Secret Service agents of the time. Since finishing Mrs. Kennedy and Me, I have finished a book about all the Kennedy wives and am currently reading one about the agents who were present that fateful day in November when the whole world was turned upside down.

Goodreads says:

The #1 New York Times bestselling memoir by Clint Hill that Kirkus Reviews called “clear and honest prose free from salaciousness and gossip,” Jackie Kennedy’s personal Secret Service agent details his very close relationship with the First Lady during the four years leading up to and following President John F. Kennedy’s tragic assassination.

In those four years, Hill was by Mrs. Kennedy’s side for some of the happiest moments as well as the darkest. He was there for the birth of John, Jr. on November 25, 1960, as well as for the birth and sudden death of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy on August 8, 1963. Three and a half months later, the unthinkable happened.

Forty-seven years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the one vivid image that never leaves Clint Hill’s mind is that of President Kennedy’s head lying on Mrs. Kennedy’s lap in the back seat of the limousine, his eyes fixed, blood splattered all over the back of the car, Mrs. Kennedy, and Hill as well. Sprawled on the trunk of the car as it sped away from Dealey Plaza, Hill clung to the sides of the car, his feet wedged in so his body was as high as possible.

Clint Hill jumped on the car too late to save the president, but all he knew after that first shot was that if more shots were coming, the bullets had to hit him instead of the First Lady.

Mrs. Kennedy’s strength, class, and dignity over those tragic four days in November 1963 held the country together.

This is the story, told for the first time, of the man who perhaps held her together.

I highly recommend Mrs. Kennedy and Me.

My Dad: The Biggest Feminist I Know

My father was raised for a large part of his life by his mother and aunt because his father passed away when he was a child. He then went on to marry and have my sister and me. My sister and I have EIGHT girls (and my little boy) between us. I’ve often thought that these are the reasons that he is such a big feminist. My father never tolerates sexist comments from anyone. He never puts limitations on any of us due to our gender. He has high expectations for us. He believes in our strengths and abilities. He also sees the beauty of our femininity. He expects that we are treated with respect and equality.

He becomes furious when he reads or hears about attacks on women. His heart breaks for women in other countries who are treated as second-class citizens and denied education and basic human rights due only to the fact they are women.  He often shares inspiring stories of women who have overcome tragedy, hardship, or sexism.  I have always appreciated the fact that he sees and treats women with such respect.

When my college-age daughter begins to talk about feminism as her peers see it, I hear her speak of a version of feminism that I do not recognize. The feminism she describes tends to look at men as the enemy.  It seems to suggest that the worst of men is what is typical. It also seems to strip women of their feminine qualities, as if they are the reason men cannot treat us equally.  This version of feminism is a twisted form that vaguely resembles true feminism.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines feminism as: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”

What my father shows us through his words and actions is true feminism. I hope that my husband and son will follow his lead as some of the biggest feminists I know.

 

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photo credit: Joseph M. Arseneau

 

 

 

The Middle Cinnamon Roll

IMG_0356IMG_0357 I think all families have fights over weird things. I know we do for sure! If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll end up with two kids who love opposite things. One will like the edge brownies and the other will like the middle, but that’s just not how my family ended up. My kids like the middle of everything. They will fight over the middle brownie, the middle pieces of bread, the middle cinnamon roll. They truthfully fight over everything, so I had to come up with some peace measures. My husband actually figured out the way to make all the cinnamon rolls seem like the middle. I’ve been making them this way ever since.

Middle rolls:

Grease your pan. Line the edge of the pan with bread slices (any kind). Place the rolls in a circle with the sides touching the bread. Put a bun or slices of bread all around the inner circle of the rolls. Bake as usual. When you peel the slices of bread away from the rolls they will be soft like the middle roll would usually be.

Enjoy breakfast and maybe peace (for a minute or two).

Special Needs

IMG_0334.PNGOkay, this post is going to be a bit of a rant, so I apologize already. I have had this thought on my mind for a few weeks or longer. As I have explained before, one of my daughters has an extremely rare brain abnormality. She struggles to learn and do what many of us take for granted. She has very little depth perception and peripheral vision. She has trouble with her short-term memory. She has lots of trouble with crossing midline activities like swimming, biking, reading, and writing (think about the fact that we read and write from left to right). She has what I would consider “special needs”. She needs help and accommodations to do regular, everyday things.

I have heard that “special needs” is now considered a politically incorrect word for people who happen to have any type of lifelong difficulty. I had one parent tell me that her daughter, who is deaf, is not “special needs” but just unable to hear. While I agree, the world has gotten a lot easier for those who are hearing impaired; I was left with the feeling that she saw the phrase “special needs” as a dirty word to be avoided at all costs.

I found this online:

More Appropriate:  Sam has epilepsy, Tony has cerebral palsy (CP), Helen has a learning disability, – attention deficit disorder

*Less Appropriate:  “special”, person has “special needs”

Comment:  *Term is patronizing and distancing by those with disabilities. Often used by programs providing services and support for disabled people and meant as a ‘positive’ alternative. Describes that which is different about ANY person as all simply have “needs.”

from: http://rds.colostate.edu/language

I suppose what I am having a hard time with is that getting upset about words that are not intended to offend is that I feel like it alienates more than helps. My daughter is one of approximately 46 people in the United States to have colpocephaly. I have to explain what it is to most doctors. It’s much easier to say she has special needs, or she is developmentally delayed. At least then there is a moment of understanding and maybe empathy. Listen, being a parent of a child with any disability is hard and lonely. The more that the disability affects daily life and that child’s future, the harder it is. Every child is different. Every parent is different. I work hard on doing my best for MY child. I don’t have time to look up and stay updated on the most current politically correct language for disabilities, struggles, handicaps (or whatever you call them). I spend my days doing occupational and physical exercises with my child. I look up and research the newest research on what she struggles with. I sit for hours and work with her on basic life skills, as well as trying to teach her all the subjects that will enrich her life. I don’t have time to sit around and be offended.

I don’t intend to be offensive or mean, but I think sometimes we spend too much time on stuff that doesn’t matter. My child and her “special” needs keep me too busy for that!

Working Together

IMG_0498IMG_0499IMG_0501When I was a little girl, it was not unusual for all of my family to be outside together working in the garden in the evenings or the weekends. We were often together working on all sorts of projects. My parents even flipped houses for awhile and I loved when I went to the houses with them and helped paint, mow, or whatever we were doing that particular day.

My children have not had those experiences. We rarely work all together on a project. I usually have them all doing their own projects. I recently came to the realization that that may be why they don’t work well together. It may also be the reason that there is some resentment between some of the children.

We needed to really weed and mulch our yard before Easter. I used this as an opportunity to all work together. We all worked outside picking up sticks, pulling weeds, mulching, planting new plants, and pressure washing. The yard looks so much better and there was very little (much less than usual) fighting that day. I think that we all really benefited from working together. I’m planning on tackling our basement next. I just might have found a way to build better relationships within our family and get projects done as well!

Watch It {Big Little Lies}

There isn’t much on television that I find worth watching most of the time. But I was super excited to see the new series, Big Little Lies, with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley.  It became something I looked forward to watching the next week the minute it was over. I talked about the Sunday episode with everyone on Mondays. We enjoyed talking about the character we hoped was the dead one and wondered and guessed who the killer could be. When the finale was over, I could hardly wait to talk to everyone about it. It was a great and complex story. The characters were well developed and the story-line was captivating. If you haven’t watched it, I know that you can catch a peek on HBO online. If you’re more of a reader, it’s based on a book with the same name by Liane Moriarty (which I haven’t read).  I won’t tell much about it because I don’t want to spoil the amazing story.  If you’re looking for a good series to watch, this one is worth the time.

big little lies

 

 

 

4 inches

My oldest daughter played Margot in Anne Frank this weekend. This was her first school play and she loved every minute of it. We were not allowed to take pictures or video so I don’t have any pictures of her to show off 😦

The play was obviously very serious and the ending was very moving. There were many people weeping at the end. I was so impressed with everything about the production. One of the things that struck me the most was what the theater teacher said before the performance.

He asked the audience to turn off all cell phones for the entire length of the play. He reminded us that the play was about real people and real events. The events were those that we should always remember so they would not be repeated. Then he said, “Your world is so much bigger than those four inches. Be present. Allow yourself to feel and experience this story. Don’t limit yourself to what goes on in those 4 inches.” I really loved that!

I love to plan parties and have a reason to celebrate different things. One of the things that bothers me the most when hosting a get-together is seeing people sit around on their phones. They play games on their phones when they could be playing games with the people present in real life. They “talk” to people who aren’t there, but ignore the ones in the same room with them. How much damage is happening to our relationships because of our obsession over our phones?

This Thanksgiving, I think we should focus on putting down that 4 inch phone (or however big it is) and be truly present with the people who are with us.

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The “Glad” Game

In Pollyanna, the main character (Pollyanna) plays the “glad game”. She is always looking at every scenario with the outlook that there is always something to be glad about. We started playing the game too. We aren’t as good as it as we should be, but we’re working on it. It’s so easy to be discouraged or disappointed in this world. It’s easy to become bitter and for the good to seem rare. It’s not really that rare; we just don’t look for it like we should. So, for this Thanksgiving month, I’d like to challenge everyone out there to play the “Glad Game” with us. Look for the good. Find something to be glad about. Reflect on all that you have to be thankful for. image

Reassurance {Parenting}

Let me preface this post with an admission. I don’t have it all together or all figured out. I don’t have a PhD in child psychology or anything like that. I am just a parent. I have taught preschoolers for over twenty years in one way or another; however, it is not my career.

One of those things that I see and hear all the time is a new or newish parent being questioned or shamed on how they are doing__fill in the blank_______.  Actually, it isn’t even new parents that this happens to. I, having children ranging from 17 to 3, am often given advice or questioned all about what I’m doing with my 3 year old and my 11 year old. Oftentimes, I look at it like a gift; because let’s face it, these kids didn’t come with an instruction manual and if there was one, it would be different for each kid. There are other times when this advice or interrogation is not welcome.

I feel so badly for parents who are feeling so overwhelmed by some aspect of parenting, who then have to face someone making them feel even more inept with their with comments or “suggestions”.  If that’s where you are today, then this is for you!

Here’s some reassurance:

  1. If you love your child, and are doing the best you can do today; it is enough. Maybe tomorrow you’ll have more energy or have more things figured out, but love covers a lot and it is what lasts.
  2. Your kid will probably not take a pacifier to college, so relax. Before children, I knew a child who loved her pacifier. She took it everywhere and had it in her mouth most of the time. Her parents heard advice and admonishments from everyone. Her teeth had started to do that weird thing that they do when a child takes a pacifier for a long time. Those poor parents felt the pressure, so they tried to take it away a thousand different ways. None of them worked. I am sure they feared that she would, indeed, go to college with that thing in her mouth. She made a pronouncement that the day she started kindergarten (sarcastic GASP!) that she would be done with the pacifier forever. You know what? She did exactly what she said. She’s in college now and has one of the prettiest smiles I’ve ever seen! My own children did similar things. My third child loved her “uh-oh” (called that because she dropped it so often and heard uh-oh” uttered with each fall, hence that name). I was worried that she would have it forever. One day , when she was about 3 years old, I was putting her in her car seat and she said, “throw that uh-oh away, I’m done with it.” We did and she was.
  3. Tantrums are normal. They suck, but they’re normal. When your kid is losing his or her mind in the store and you are sweating and your blood pressure is rising and you’re wondering how this little child has the strength of a hundred men, just know every person who has cared for a child has been there.
  4. Speaking of tantrums, when that precious baby of yours is having one, know that most people are not judging you. I won’t lie and say that no one is. You know, there are always people out there who love to be jerks. Ignore them. They’re sad people. Most people in the store with you are feeling your pain. They wish they could help you out. Take a deep breath and realize you’re not alone.
  5. When your child cries when you drop him or her off at the babysitter’s, grandma’s, or daycare, know that they will be okay. The faster you drop them off, assure them you will be back and you love them, the better! If they draw you into the drama, it will only make things harder. Drop them off, get your stuff done, and get back there.
  6. You don’t need fancy electronic toys or flashcards or computer programs. Your child will play with what you give them. They will also use random things to pretend with, if they are given the chance.  Give them that chance. Imagination is a great thing!
  7. They don’t care about their clothes. You can pretty much buy whatever brand of clothes you like, wherever it is you like to shop. They just don’t want it to be itchy or tight. If you can’t afford the latest Matilda Jane outfit, you’re kid isn’t even going to care. Don’t sweat it.
  8. They are going to say things that are embarrassing. They will either say something about themselves or you that will make you blush. They might even say something about someone else that will cause you to wish the floor would open up and eat you. I urge you to look at the bright side. You’ll have a great story to use against them in their teen years, and most people have had their children do the same to them.
  9. There are a thousand different methods to potty train. I know one thing for sure. Your kid isn’t going to do it until he or she is ready. You can guilt, make promises, give rewards, on and on; but until your cutie pie is ready, it isn’t going to happen. I had one of my children who carried around her potty and self potty trained at 18 months. I had another who I was fearful was never going to care enough to potty train. Guess what. She started using the potty on her own when I asked her if she wanted to be in the big kid class at preschool. She was ready and it happened. Don’t fret too much about it.
  10. You don’t have a lot of control. See above. They are born their own people. It doesn’t take long for free will to come into play. They will be mean sometimes. They will lie sometimes. They’ll act downright awful sometimes. They will make choices that aren’t great. These behaviors will go on for their entire lives. Your job is to love them, guide them, and tell them your expectations. Build them up, but never let them think they’re perfect or have to be. Let them know their worth doesn’t come from what they achieve. They are a unique creation and their worth comes from something much greater!

Maybe this post contained too much advice, apologies if it did; but I hope that whoever reads it feels a little less alone in this big job of parenting. It’s a hard job, but so completely worth it!

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