Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for June, 2018

A Midwife’s Joys & Sorrows

Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story by Julie Watson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41H1LHEanXL._SY346_Being that Call the Midwife, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, is my favorite series on television, I was excited to discover this autobiography by New Zealand nurse-midwife Julie Watson. Born for Life is an intimate and honest portrait of the life Ms. Watson has led (so far), and her interest in nursing, which was inflamed when she first read about Florence Nightengale as a schoolgirl. The effects of birth, and having children, have an overwhelming impact on the author, in her own family, as well as her chosen profession.

Julie meets her future husband, Barry, at a young age (in 1968) and is married at 17. Four years later she has her first child (Kelvin). During the pregnancy she develops preeclampsia and must be on bedrest. “Preeclampsia is a condition that occur during pregnancy when a woman’s blood pressure rises sharply.” She first comes across the condition at work when it has devastating effects on a patient. “All these thoughts were going on in my mind. I never thought something like this could happen when having a baby. It never occurred to me that sometimes things can go wrong. Little did I know that preeclampsia was going to have a devastating effect on my own life that would impact me for years.” The impact she is referring to is the death of her second child, Shelley Anne Watson, who lived only a short time after her birth.

After having more children, and going back to school to become a licensed nurse, Ms. Watson had several other children (Angela Mary) and much later, another daughter (Elizabeth Jane). Not only does she have to deal with preeclampsia and bedrest once again, for both these pregnancies, but she also discovers that both her daughter’s have Albinism, which is a congenital disorder that results in the partial or complete absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It can also effect sight, which it does with her children.

The author speaks candidly about her periods of “depression, loneliness, and self-doubt”, which she struggled with after the death of Shelley Ann, and at other periods in her life. She describes the wonderful support she had (and has) from her spouse, family, and friends, and how they all came through to help, especially when she has a stroke in mid-life (from which she recovers). She also talks about starting to attend church, and the comfort prayer, and belief begins to give her. It is this faith that sustains her.

Though this review may sound as if this memoir is just about struggles, and sadness, Born for Life is anything but. Along with the writer’s personal ups and downs, she provides an abundance of details and tales, about different mothers, families, and situations in which she played a vital role in assisting in joyful and healthy deliveries. By far, the majority of this autobiography tells the stories of brave women giving birth, who are surrounded with caring and knowledgable midwives, such as Ms. Watson. It was an honor to read.

When You’ve Had Enough

When You’ve Had Enough: How to Leave a Violent Home Behind
Excellent and vital guest post by Nora Hood.

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One in four women and one in seven men will be a victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to HuffPost. Many others will be sexually or physically abused by a family member, such as a parent, sibling, or aunt or uncle. Regardless of the abuser, everyone has the right to leave and go somewhere they feel safe. However, fear and the very real possibility of being “punished” by the abuser for trying to escape leaves far too many people in dangerous situations. If you or someone you love is ready to break the cycle of abuse, keep reading for tips on how to do so safely.

Acknowledge That the Abuse Exists

It’s not uncommon for abuse victims to downplay the situation. Psych Central explains that there are many forms of abuse, including emotional and psychological. Just because you haven’t landed in the hospital doesn’t mean you aren’t being abused.

Ask for Help

As the victim of domestic violence, physical abuse, or sexual assault, you have rights, and even if you’ve been forced to ostracize your friends and family, there is a network of people who are willing, ready, and able to help you make your exit. Pewitt Law, a Washington-based legal firm that specializes in domestic violence, notes that most law enforcement agencies provide civil standby. This is a process by which one or more officers arrive to deter violence and keep the peace. These officers can be there to protect you as you leave the home.

Other forms of assistance include crime victim compensation. Some states provide financial advisory services as well as benefits to help pay for medical expenses, food and shelter, and counseling for domestic abuse survivors.

Don’t Instigate

While you are not to blame for your situation, there are certain actions you should avoid when you’re planning to leave, as they could trigger a violent reaction from your abuser. Try to act as normal as possible while you make your exit strategy. Do not tell your abuser that you plan to leave. When researching your assistance options, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, take steps to ensure your internet history remains private. You can do this by opening up an “incognito” or “private” tab through your browser. Popular Science cautions, however, that even in private browsing mode, you may leave digital clues behind, which a tech-savvy (and paranoid) abuser may be able to trace. A better option is to use a prepaid smart device, paid with cash, which can be turned off and hidden. These “burner phones” can be picked up anywhere, from Walmart to your local gas station.

Safety at Your New Home

When you finally have plans and make preparations to leave, keep yourself safe by maintaining a comfortable distance from your abuser. You should be able to utilize a civil standby when you collect your personal belongings. Other ways to keep yourself safe during and after your relocation include:

  • Hire a moving company to enter and exit your abuser’s home with you; request a rental truck, if possible, and that your movers do not wear clothing that would identify the service you are using.
  • Do not list your new address or telephone number on social media.
  • Outfit your new home with an alarm system, deadbolts on the front and back doors, and peepholes where you can see who is knocking before you unlock the door (HomeAdvisor offers more home security tips).
  • Change your work hours.

Don’t leave your safety to chance. Get help, get out, and get your life back on track. You are better than your abuse and don’t deserve to suffer.

Love the One You’re With

Jennifer’s Triad by Laura Ann Turner
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51PA33ULYsLA recent study of polyamory (being in a relationship with more than one person simultaneously) says, “By some estimates, there are now roughly a half-million polyamorous relationships in the U.S., though underreporting is common. Some sex researchers put the number even higher, at 4 to 5 percent of all adults, or 10 to 12 million people.” With the number being so high, especially among younger generations, why aren’t there more stories about people involved in such? Jennifer’s Triad is a good start. The usual romance about love, jealousy, and ever-after, is blown out of the water.

This novel is about a young rocker, just out of high school, named Jenny (Jen), who while in a relationship with Emilia (Emi), joins an all-girl (and lesbian) band called The Coldhearts. One of the band members is Nellie. It isn’t long until Jen begins having fantasies, attractions, and dreams about loving Nellie. She feels confused, because she also loves Emilia. It takes her quite awhile, and the help of band member Bette, before she acknowledges how she’s feeling and gets the nerve to talk to both Emi, and Nellie. She tries to tell Nellie that she doesn’t love her any less, but it doesn’t go well.

Jennifer’s Triad explores jealously and possessiveness with insight and realism. Without giving anything away, it is a hard road Jen takes when she is finally honest with herself and those she loves. The scenes with the band living, practicing, and playing together, is also a highlight and interspersed abundantly throughout the book. Jen describes a set playing before a crowd when it almost feels like they’re having sex on stage, because of the unison and high they are experiencing. There are also an abundance of erotic scenes (in Jen’s head, and with her awake body and girlfriends) that will wake your senses.

Ms. Turner’s tale takes place in several cities in Germany, including Hanover, where Jennifer lived and went to school until her mother kicked her out for being gay. All of the characters are well developed, and believable (Emilia, good friend Martin, her Dad, her Dad’s wife, Sabrina, and all the band members, especially Nellie). Jen is especially well written, which is vital, seeing that the story is told in the first person from her perspective. If you’re open to reading a love story that moves beyond girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl gets girl back, pick up Jennifer’s Triad.

 

 

 

A Gradual Awakening

Kellcey by Kacey Kells51-mxCqbmHL
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Kellcey reads like the personal journal of a teenage girl, and is in fact, the true story of Kacey Kells. Ms. Kells writes this memoir in the first person and describes in detail her happy life as a teenager in Vancouver, Canada, her family, and friends. Later, she must confront family turmoil and an event that shatters her understanding of human nature, and a safe world.

If you want to get inside the head of your teen, and want an honest look at the feelings, thoughts, actions, and insecurities that may exist, read this book. It is frank, sincere, and has no filters about what should or shouldn’t be said. It was also written fairly recently, as the author is still in her early twenties, and close to the age range within which this story takes place.

There is not only a wonderful explanation for the ups and downs, and worries, of a teen, but also some insight into the differences between genders (expectations, biology, and emotions), and what it feels like when you have your first love, and someone says they want to be with you, and will love you forever. As times goes on, it also conveys some of the behavior to look for that may be warnings signs of the possibility of abuse.

Kacey begins to become aware of her boyfriend, Ben, and his friends, and changes in how they treat her at a party. “It is distressing to see how some people can change when they’re under the influence of drugs and alcohol! After the first euphoria, which corresponds to the release of all inhibitions, comes the metamorphose; however, instead of a lovely and innocent butterfly, this is a monster that pops up.”

At first, Kacey is ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse and rape she experienced at the party, and begins to withdraw, and feel completely alone. She trusts no one. Slowly, with lots of support, she tells her friend, her grandmother (Joanna), and her mother. After moving to London with her mother, she gets help, and inspiration, from a doctor, rape crisis center, counselor (Sybill), new friend (Jean), an Afghan war veteran (female), and her college drama class.

Kellcey provides a perspective on violence, and rape culture, which is often missing – the direct effects on a young woman, as experienced, and told, from her perspective. There are no sudden flashes of insight, or knowing all the right things to say, but a gradual awakening to how things are, what we do when something terrible happens, and how we can survive and make choices to love again. By writing her story, Ms. Kells has opened the door for further conversation and provided hope for survivors.

 

No Other Choice

Secrets: In the shadows lurks the truth by Judith Barrow.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51GqVk8eBwLEach of the eight short stories in Secrets are very well written, and involve characters from Ms. Barrow’s novels. They include Nelly’s attempt to escape a convent with her baby, before it is given away; a nurse (Hilda) who has cared for her cantankerous mother for many years; Edith, who has been abused by her husband one to many times; Gwyneth, whose previous husband shows up unwanted, and unexpectedly at her new home; the fate of Alun Thomas, and his brother, who are conscientious objects during the first world war; Hannah and her son, reacting to the death of Hannah’s father; a fourteen-year-old and his friend joining the army during “the war to end all wars”; and Doreen, who has a baby during an air raid.

Most of these tales show the lives of women who have few options, or choices in their lives, and the extreme measures they take to be set free, and/or have some freedom (no matter how momentary it may be). Though the characters are taken from the author’s novels, each short story stands on its own, and could be a book entirely unto itself. The description of each individual, and their situations, are done with precision and care. By the end of the first paragraph readers have a good sense of who is who, what is going on, and the dilemma that is presented. This is no small feat. To weave together such a tight narrative is not an easy task for most writers. Ms. Barrow seems to do it with ease, and presents the primary protagonist with honesty, and empathy.

Having sympathy, and understanding, for the main character of a novel usually takes some time. To create an instant connection between the reader and the woman, or man, in a short story is even more difficult to do. I felt such a connection, regardless of the acts, or actions, they took, with every person in this collection. Doreen, Stan, Hannah, Alun, Gwyneth, Edith, Hilda, and Nelly, each had me rooting for them to triumph, get away from, or take whatever action was needed, to survive, or make sense of the world within which they lived. There are also a number of surprise endings.  Secrets is a book I recommend, without hesitation. Without a doubt, Ms. Barrow’s novels are just as well written, and well worth your time and attention.

Love, Loss, and Justice

41qJDuxS8fLAn Experiment In Emotions – A Short Story Collection by P.A. Priddey. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Love, anger, frustration, sadness, grief, jealousy, pleasure, helplessness, and rage. These are some of the feelings explored in An Experiment In Emotions, and an inkling of what readers’ may experience while reading these short stories. For the most part, these tales delve into relationships between men and women, and the misunderstandings that often occur. All, except one, involve couples breaking up, being torn apart, and/or finding a way to get back together. They are well written, and worth your time.

The collection includes a three parter, “The Dark Secret of Padwell”, which involves a strange “ritual” that is accepted by most people in the town, until Jack decides not to play by the rules, and refuses to marry Becky. In the beginning, the story reminded me of the film Indecent Proposal, with Robert Redford, when he offers a young couple a million dollars if he can sleep with the wife just one night, but it changes in the second act and takes on a much more sinister vibe. There are ten stories within this collection. My favorite was “The Vigilante, the Author, and Niblit”.

The Vigilante… had some nice touches, with the vigilante (Katie), Niblit (the cat), and Nick (the author), all coming into contact one night by chance, and sharing a secret that brings unwanted public attention, and the police, to their doors. Perhaps it is because the stories main characters include the author and a cat – one of which I am, and the other which I love – that toyed with my heart strings and made me partial to its telling. Without giving anything away, let me say that one of the three protagonists is actually a matchmaker in disguise, of which there are a number (disguises that is).

The next to last story in An Experiment in Emotions is called “The Monster”, and is one of the most unexpected. What is unexpected is who ends up helping whom, and how there motives and incentives change along the way. Stacy is pregnant, and her abusive husband, Carl, wants her to get rid of it. In the process, Stacy meets Jade Jones, and everything is turned upside down. For the first time in many years, Stacy begins to believe that she has choice, and experiences hope and acceptance. Though Mr. Priddey may not have experienced everything in this story, or the others in this collection, he definitely identifies with, and conveys, the emotions with insight and passion.

You’re In the Army Now

Private 101: One Lesbian’s Army Training by LJ Scarborough.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51ZJi1oNSZL._AC_US218_Though Ms. Scarborough states that characters, events and incidents in Private 101 are “either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner”, the book seems very autobiographical. Regardless of how much is real, or fictional, this is a very interesting read. There are no glossy, elaborate characterizations, or sub-plots, just a straightforward, insightful, adventure with a woman finding her way.

I enjoyed this story because it took me to a place, and situations, which I have not, and will never, experience. For those who have been in the service, especially the Army, this will feel very familiar, and I expect, will find it quite enjoyable as well. Last, but not least, for anyone considering volunteering for the Army, I suggest you read this first, as it gives a very good accounting. You may have second thoughts, or wish to jump right in.

After breaking up with her girlfriend, or I should say, after her girlfriend leaves her for another woman in Seattle, Evelyn MacCellan Jones decides to check out the armed services and ends up joining the Army reserve. Fresh out of college, with loans, and no job possibilities, she sees it as a positive new direction, and a way to pay off her student debt. She thinks she knows what she’s getting into. She sort of does, and doesn’t.

What transpires, is a detailed account of her time in basic training, her new friends (including lover Becky “Becks”), the rigors of boot camp, and everything she learns about herself along the way. In addition to an a-hole Sergeant (Sanders), she also meets other women and men who are attempting to do the best they can. There is frustration, loneliness, hope, self-doubt, humor, and pride.

Private 101 reads almost like a confessional, with nothing left out. It is as if the author wishes us to know first hand the reality of signing up, and going through basic training, without concluding that it is good or bad. It is what it is, and readers’ get to decide if it is something they would be personally interested in, or wish to stay away from, as far as possible. Ms. Scarborough writes well, with conviction, and clarity.

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