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Book Review: The Missing Kennedy - Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women

What a difference a couple of days can make. Just last week, in my last post, I was telling you all how I was reading The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff. Since then, I've finished the book.

I really wish I could find the news article I read that made me aware of this book, because I'm sure it said it was on a bestseller list.  I say this to say, the book wasn't bad, but the hype surrounding it was deceptive.

Let's start on the very basic level, the title. Yes, the book was about Rosemary Kennedy, but it was written by Koehler-Pentacoff, the much younger niece of Rosemary's caretaker. And yes, I knew this before reading the book, but I was under the assumption that Koehler-Pentacoff would provide better first hand knowledge.  From her story, it appears she did visit with Rosemary at least once a month from a very early age, but the key words here are "from a very early age." Much of her personal experience lacked mature understanding of a complicated situation. 

Koehler-Pentacoff did have access to some personal notes between her aunt, Rosemary's caretaker, and the Kennedy family, but most of her information, seems like it come through visits to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and interviews granted by Shriver family members who were not even born when the most intense decisions about Rosemary were being made.

If I'm being fair, this book seemed more like a memoir of the Koehler family with some basic similarities connecting it to the Kennedys and a lot of hypothetical situations dreamt up by Koehler-Pentacoff after a bit of factual information sparked her imagination.

So all that being said, I'm not really sure how to improve the title, but I always like giving bad news first, so I can end on a sweet note.

The best part of this book for me was the last part where Eunice Kennedy Shriver was really brought into the story.  I summarized the book in my last post, but I need to back up to that for this next part to make sense. See, Rosemary had impaired learning, but was functional until Joe Kennedy, her father, approved a lobotomy to improve behavioral issues she was displaying. The sad part is, her outbursts were most likely simply a result of her family not giving her the independence she craved.  At the time, lobotomies were relatively new procedures, so the doctors that performed Rosemary's botched it. Joe Kennedy, at the advice of doctors, decided it best to house Rosemary in medical facilities and not have the family visit as there was fear that disrupting Rosemary's daily routine would upset her too much.  The family didn't know where Rosemary was living until 20 years later, when Joe Kennedy had a stroke and the facility contacted Rose Kennedy, his wife, in regards to Rosemary.  After Rose Kennedy took over Rosemary's affairs, the Kennedy family was once again involved in Rosemary's life. 

And this is where Eunice comes back into the picture.  Her love and interaction with Rosemary inspired her to create a summer camp for special needs youth. This summer camp was not only the first of several more to follow, but it also was the beginning of the Special Olympics and the Shriver-Kennedy's involvement ensuring inclusion of the disabled on a national level.

At the end of the book, there's a quote from Anthony Shriver
She gave us the ability and sense of being needed
And I think that was really the point of this story, how the circles of Rosemary's reach radiated from the inside out to inspire not only her direct family, but a nation. There's no secret in that and maybe that's my issue with the title. Maybe it'd be more appropriate to frame this story as,  'The Missing Kennedy: How Rosemary Kennedy Inspired a Nation."

Until next time...

I'm What's Happening: March 2016

I haven't done an official I'm What's Happening update in months, but this one still seems premature because I just played catch up in my first post of the year. Which I just wrote two weeks ago. And now I'm hanging my head in shame because it took me almost two months to write my first post of 2016.

So anyway, to recap, I've been working on learning the guitar. I haven't had my next lesson yet, so I'm still working on playing the Eagles' Hotel California.

Oh yeah, as far as reading, I started reading The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women.  Basically, it's about the life of Rosie, the third child of Joe and Rose Kennedy, who was mentally disabled - slow to learn, but nonetheless leading a vibrant life with her family. She was kept with the family until a doctor convinced Joe to let him perform a lobotomy on her. It was a new procedure and the doctor botched it, so Joe decided it was best to house Rosie in a medical facility for the remainder of her life.  The story is told by compiling oral and written histories passed down from Rosie's mom and the author's aunt, Rosie's primary caretaker.

I heard about this book while skimming headlines when something about a hidden Kennedy grabbed my attention. "Hmmm a scandal within America's royal fam, huh?" Everybody likes a scandal lol This combined with the fact that I love anything having to do with women bonding and mental abnormalities made it a must read for me.

That's about all, but if you haven't gotten enough of me for the week, please make sure to read my short story The Talk. It's a peak into living with depression, specifically how it is to wake and face the day. Leave me some feedback!

Until next time...

That's What He Said

You know how sometimes you can be so used to something, you don't even think about its meaning, until you do then you have your aha moment and immediately feel dumb because you just "discovered" things that had their dots connected long ago? Yeah, I had one of those moments last week.

I was talking to God and asking him to give me the strength to fight my way through this period in my life. It's something I've said at many times in my life, but never thought about what it implied. I was put on this earthy to learn from life and to sometimes enjoy it. But to fight it? That's counterproductive.

So I had to think about the reasoning behind struggle and the feeling of fighting through it. It's to get us to the goal of learning from life, right?

And if my pursuit of a personal relationship with God has taught me anything, it's that I need to trust that he'll guide me through this life with my best interest in mind. It may not be pretty all the time and worst of all, I may not have the strength to keep going all the time, but the best thing about God is that He's like a Dad. Remember when you were really young and could and would fall asleep anywhere because you knew you'd always wake up at home, safe in your bed. It's the same thing, when life is too much, I can fold myself into God and let him carry me.

And it was then that the poem Footprints became more than just pretty words. And it was like "Oh snap, someone already realized this?" And not only did they realize it, but they wrote a poem so the rest of us wouldn't have to figure it out on our own. But my thickskulled self has seen it so much from such an early age, I never really read it in depth.

If you've never read Footprints, or haven't read it in a while, you should take the time to do that. For what it's worth, I just liked the image that's attached to this post, but it's not the full poem. Click the link to see that.

And last, but not least, I made good on my promise from last post and finished a short story to publish on Medium.  It's titled The Talk and is a snapshot glimpse into waking up when you're dealing with depression.  Do me a favor and jump over there to read it, please and thanks.

Until next time...

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Can't Call Myself a Writer if I'm Not Writing

"Have you been doing any writing lately," someone asked me recently, I hung my head and murmured something under my breath, ashamed to admit I haven't written anything substantial in almost two months.

It's so easy to fall back into old habits; I've gotten out of the practice of committing myself to writing for at least 10 minutes a day - sometimes just sitting down to free write and see where my mind takes me that day, to see if it spills anything I can craft into something larger, more concrete.

And so I've fallen back into jotting tightly strung together thoughts into my notebook - beautiful in their own rite, but meaningless in the absence of further writing. A method that results in little more than scraps of paper and fleeting thoughts. Unorganized, and a method that has proven not to work for me in the past.

But this world is a funny place. The facilitators for the retreat I went on last fall maintain an Instagram account and recently posted the meme to the right. It was a great reminder to, in their words,  "exercise my writing muscle." And so I'm writing this blog post.

I am proud to say that in my absence from this blog, the creative energy that was refreshed during the writing retreat has been fueling other endeavors. I've been dancing and guitar lessons are going well. I've just finished learning my first song, the Eagles' Hotel California. I learned the melody by strumming the chords, which if y'all can remember from one of my first posts about picking up the guitar, is a big accomplishment for me, I was scared to death of chords lol

So now all that's left to do is reapply myself to writing. I've got a piece I'm working on, but I also need to finish two pieces I started for my new Medium account. Hopefully sharing this here, will make me accountable :-)

Until next time...

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Learning to Put the Merry in My Christmas

It's not #tbt yet? No? Oh well lol Mom and Me,
Christmas in the '80s

Over the weekend, my friend and I were talking about how neither of us are feeling festive this holiday season. By commercial standards, I'm doing slightly better than her; I finished shopping for everyone, for whatever that's worth. She told me about how she picked up a couple of gifts for her young nieces and nephews before shrugging and letting the conversation die.

The silence sent us both into thinking about why we were feeling like two little Grinches. Her pain is on a complete different level than mine - her father passed away about a month ago. My Grinchness is because around the same time, my brother moved across the country with his family. She and I are both having our first Christmas without someone we love.

So, in a way I guess our drab spirits are an indication that our values are inline with the season's purpose - love. But we're still left to figure out how to make old traditions into new ones.

I guess this is all a part of the cycle of life. The photo to the left is of me and my mom celebrating Christmas at her parents' house. Our family celebrated the holidays a lot at my grandparents house when I was really young, until my parents decided to start building their own traditions.  These "new" traditions have been the ones I've held so close to my heart all these years. The ones where my Dad, Mom, brother and I were all together cooking, watching movies and playing games. The traditions I'll miss so much this year in the absence of my brother.

But just as my Mom adjusted to a change in her Christmas traditions, my brother will do the same and I'll have to fall in line. But for me, one new tradition will definitely be Facetiming my brother and his family on Christmas day.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and hoping you not only have all your hearts desire, but also the ability to appreciate all you have.

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Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, is a little difficult for me to review because I don't want to give too much away. But if I could sum it up in a couple of words, I'd say it's about the effects of living a life of vanity.

See, in his young adulthood, Dorian Gray was convinced to pose for a portrait by his artist friend. After seeing the painting, Gray said he'd love to stay as handsome and innocent as he was portrayed, while all the effects of life would mar the rendition of him. And so it was, Gray went through life doing whatever he pleased and never dealt with any negative consequences because people were too enamored by his unchanging beauty to suspect him of wrongdoing. As for the painting, it became more and more grotesque with every sin Gray committed, but was never questioned because it was hidden in the attic.

That's all I'm going to give on the plot because as I said earlier, I don't want to give too much away. Plus, I want to talk about the real reasons I enjoyed this book.

1) The imagination it took to create this book. Although the conclusion left me wanting more - it felt forced - the premise was realistic. Wilde took what could happen if the wishes of those who went back to old pictures of themselves and longed to be like they were in younger years and ran with it.

Wilde created characters you could connect with, or not. There were numerous times in this novel where I read something Gray did and found myself thinking "I can not believe this dude," like he was someone I know in real life lol Other times, I would question what I would do if I had Gray's opportunities.

2) The philosophies and the language and methods used to convey them. Most of the profound theories Wilde wanted to impart were done through Lord Henry, the character who had the most influence on Gray being led through life by pleasure. Some of those include:

"He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time." As someone who hates being late and as a result, feels like a lot of my life is spent rushing instead of enjoying small things, I can stand behind this statement.

And, "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." You need only read my other blog posts to know I strongly agree with this statement.

Overall, this novel just made me think. And so, although I didn't love it enough for it to make my Reading Room page, it's definitely a good read.

Since finishing this novel, I've moved on to reading The Science of Breath by Yogi Ramacharaka. But I won't be reviewing it because, well really how do you review an instructional, lifestyle book? It just seems blasphemous lol

So until next time...

All Types of Lessons

In my last post, I let you all know I picked up my guitar again, but I didn't give you the backstory. I need to now because it ties into where I am in my life.

About five years ago, I decided I was going to stop putting off my dream of learning how to play the guitar. So I bought a guitar and signed up for classes at my local rec center. All was going well until we got to chords. I've played piano nearly all my life and was already confused as I don't what about the guitar having multiple notes on each string, so the thought of finding and combining those notes into chords completely blew my mind.

Around the same time, I was traveling for work and missing a lot of practice and classes - the perfect excuse to bail on the guitar, right? So I did. For five years. But although I could hide my guitar away, I couldn't hide my love for the music, so I decided to pick the guitar back up.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I went to Guitar Center and asked for a recommendation for private lessons. The sales associate matched me with a teacher and I contacted him. I gave him my musical background complete with the fact that I'd been learning guitar some years ago, but shied away from it when I started learning chords.

A week later, I'm sitting in my new teacher's studio and he pulls out a piece of paper containing my first lesson - chords. So we're just going to jump in headfirst, huh? Completely pull me out of my comfort zone from go.  This stepping outside of my box has been the theme for the past couple of months.  And every time I've done it, I've had amazing results - new ways of looking at the familiar and overall personal growth. Why should the process of learning the guitar be any different?

So anyway, towards the end of my lesson, I told my teacher my wrist was aching. He tells me to let go of my guitar and let the body swing out so the neck is at a 45 degree angle to my body. I do it, reposition my left hand on the neck of my guitar and all the strain I had been feeling was gone. I look at him and say "It's that easy, huh?" He replied, "Sometimes you just need to loosen your grip." Simple yet profound. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know this is a lesson I've been trying to apply to my overall life; stop trying to hold on so tightly and control everything. Sometimes I just need to loosen my grip.
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