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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.

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.

 

Review of Tell Me a Secret

TEll-Me-a-Secret-by-Ann-Everett>Review of Tell Me a Secret by Ann Everett. Narrated by Sarah Pavelec.

He spun the chair around and straddled it like he was doing it a favor.”

That is the effect Jace Sloan has on women at college, and is one of the many wonderful metaphors used throughout this love story. His charm works on everyone accept Maggie, who is in graduate school and works as a nurse and tutor. Jace and Maggie’s personalities are like oil and water, but they must find a way to work together when she is assigned by her professor to be his tutor for anatomy.

Just when you think this story is following the usual boy meets girl, girl losses boy, and then they get together again, plot line, there is a twist. Actually, there are a number of twists that will keep reader’s wondering about the character’s futures. The dialogue shifts from chapter to chapter, between Maggie’s perspective and Jace’s, providing an intimate microscope into their internal thoughts, emotions and perceptions. Author Ann Everett did a good job keeping the dialogue and situations real, as well as the couple’s reactions.

As an avid reader, and past reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, I must confess that this is the first audio book I’ve listened to and reviewed. Though it was quite long, the narrator’s voice, Sarah Pavelec, was pleasant and engaging. Her tone for both the male and female characters was spot on, as well as the intonations for specific dialogue and action.

Tell Me a Secret is a good book to take on a long trip, or listen to for a period of time each day. It is a sweet romance that shows opposites can not only be attracted to one another when the pheromones are intense, but may also stay together through misunderstandings, tragedy and jealousy.

Work Hard, Go To Jail

Gabriel –

Diane Tran has a lot on her plate for a 17-year-old. After Diane’s parents moved away, Diane stayed behind and started working two jobs to provide for her family — all while taking college-level classes at her high school. But when Diane recently missed school due to exhaustion, she was charged with a crime and sentenced to pay a $100 fine and spend a night in jail.

Diane’s classmate, Devin, told reporters that between a full-time job, a part-time job, and making the honor roll, it’s no wonder Diane was tired. “She stays up until 7 in the morning doing her homework,” Devin says.

Judge Lanny Moriarty didn’t have to sentence Diane to a night in jail, but he wanted to make an example of her. “If you let one of them run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them?” Judge Moriarty told reporters. “A little stay in the jail for one night is not a death sentence.”

Samuel Oh thinks working hard to provide for your family should not be cause for criminal punishment — so Samuel started a petition on Change.org asking Judge Moriarty to revoke the charges against Diane. Click here to add your name.

“Somehow Diane is not just an extraordinary worker and student, she’s an extraordinary human being with a fighting spirit,” Samuel says. “The institutions that are supposed to provide resources to youth and ensure justice are punishing her instead.”

There is some good news: when a reporter recently asked Judge Moriarty if anything could be done to get him to revoke Diane’s charges, he replied, “Yeah, it probably could.”

Samuel believes that if thousands of people sign his petition, Judge Moriarty will take this opportunity to do the right thing and revoke Diane’s charges.

Click here to sign Samuel’s petition asking Judge Moriarty to revoke the charges against Diane Tran, an honors student who had to spend the night in jail for missing school.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

– Jon and the Change.org team

Illegal Doctorate?

Excerpt from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Academic Purgatory: An illegal immigrant earns a Ph.D.Now what? By Ilan Stavans

Jorge Arbusto isn’t the type of person who seeks the limelight. In fact, for years he has thrived in the shadows. But ask him today what he wants, and his answer is unequivocal: to be recognized.

A sweet, passionate, steadfast student originally from Mexico, Jorge (his name has been changed for this article) may be the only undocumented immigrant to successfully defend a doctoral dissertation in the United States. Certainly he is among a very small group. Yet his case poses questions that not only affect thousands of undergraduates today—some sources put it at around 50,000—but also challenge our ideas about hard work, the choices that colleges do or should make, the value of education (for students and society), and, yes, that thorn in our political side—immigration and the Dream Act, which is still stalled in Congress.

Having defended his dissertation on Spanish-language popular culture, Jorge received his Ph.D. in Hispanic studies this past spring. To reach this point, he has gone through astonishing hardships, which include beatings and imprisonment, not to mention the shame that comes with being illegal. He has endured all by focusing on achieving the highest academic degree. But now he may not be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor: No university I know of will offer him a full-time, permanent position.

Jorge is a criminal with a Ph.D. Is that what America stands for, education without reward?

Read complete article at: The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A Good Book – Part 2

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

A GOOD BOOK – PART 2 (Conclusion)

As they drove home Ruthie went on and on about Alice’s novel, almost repeating her every word. Sy paid particularly close attention to his driving until Ruthie stopped her monologue long enough to ask, “What did you think? Did you like it?”

Sy cleared his throat and carefully replied, “She sure has a way with words.”

“But did you like it?” Ruthie reiterated. “Did her words touch you?”

“Oh, it touched me alright,” he said to himself, recalling an argument that he and Alice had once had that sounded remarkably close to her characters. “It was good,” he replied. “A little unrealistic, but good.”

“Unrealistic?” Ruthie questioned, sounding more surprised than she’d intended. “How so?”

“I don’t know,” he mumbled, wishing he’d left well enough alone. “Do you think men are that uncaring and unconscious?”

“Yes, most.” She rubbed his shoulder gently. “But not all.”

They gazed into the fog that had descended on the blacktop.

“Have I ever treated you like that?” He asked, almost imperceptibly.

“Like the guys in her story?”

Sy nodded, ever so slightly.

Ruthie looked out the side window at the fence posts appearing and disappearing in the thick soup along the edge of the highway. She didn’t reply until they rolled into their driveway and Sy turned off the key.

“Actually,” she said softly. “Yes. You have.”

Sy felt a chill up his spine as he got out and opened the door for Ruthie. “Not me,” he told himself. “That was the old Sy.”

They walked to the house. He held open the screen as she unlocked the front door and entered. Sy took their coats and hung them on the antique maple coat rack while Ruthie turned up the thermostat. “I’ll make us some tea,” she said and went into the kitchen.

Sy followed, sat down at the kitchen table he’d hand made from pine wood not long after they’d married and watched her move in her familiar surroundings. How many times had he’d seen her at that old gas stove, cooking something up for him or the kids; a thousand, ten thousand?

As she placed their large mugs of decaffeinated Earl Gray on the table, sat down and leaned back on the fading daisy print wallpaper, he asked, “When?”

“When what?” she smiled.

“When have I acted like the men in that woman’s book?”

“Only about every day for the last thirty-four years,” she said.

“Are you serious?” he gasped.

“No,” she said. You’re not as blatant or consistent, but you have your moments.”

She sipped her tea and watched him through the steam.

“For example?” he queried.

Ruthie looked at his lined face and sunken blue eyes, trying to surmise how much and how willing he was to hear. Disregarding her past experiences and the hundreds of times she’d brought the issue to his attention, she decided to grab her red cape of hope and enter the bullring.

“Remember last Friday, after I’d been tutoring English to that cranky old German woman half the day and then worked at the church office all afternoon?”

“Yes.”

“Remember that night?”

“What about it?” he asked, trying to gauge the forthcoming charge.

“Remember when we went to bed and I almost fell asleep before my head hit the pillow?”

“So?” He didn’t see any connection.

“Remember how you snuggled up behind me and were all hot and horny and I said, ‘Not tonight, just hold me?’”

Sy put down his cup, which made a louder thud on the table than he’d expected. “Yes and I totally understood and said so, remember?” His mouth was taut and his breath shallow.

Ruthie smiled. “Yes, you said as much, but I could feel otherwise.”

“How could you feel anything?!” he declared; his shoulders erect. “I went to the living room and read.”

Ruthie went to the stove and returned with more hot water. She filled his cup, then her own and sat back down. “It didn’t feel like you understood the next morning when you barely touched me and only replied in monosyllables. It felt like you had closed down shop and checked out.”

“What’s wrong with wanting a little love from the person who says she always loves me?” Sy declared, his face curling like sour milk.

“But I DO love you.” Ruthie leaned forward and placed her hand on Sy’s callused knuckles. “Why do I have to prove it with sex?”

“You don’t have to prove anything!” Sy exclaimed, sliding his hand away and tightly grasping his cup. “I know you love me, but what’s wrong with wanting to share a little sugar to show it?”

Ruthie sat back and stared at her now empty palm. “Nothing, if it’s at a time when I have the energy and my body is willing and able.”

“Well,” he snarled. “There you go.”

“Did you hear me?” She looked intently at the spot on his forehead where his wrinkles assembled to worry.

“Loud and clear.” Sy went to the sink without looking back. He rinsed out his cup, put it in the dishwasher and turned around. “I’ve heard it a thousand times. You love me, but you don’t want to make love with me.”

“Stop it!” Ruthie stood abruptly. “Just stop it!” She took two rapid steps, faced Sy eye to eye and said, “Are you implying that we never have sex, that I never kiss you, give you pleasure or want you inside of me!?”

Sy tried to move, but Ruthie put her arms on either side of his and pressed herself firmly against his pelvis. “No, you aren’t saying that, because you know that would be a lie.”

“But . . .”

“But, it’s never enough, is it?”

Sy hesitated. “Well . . .”

Ruthie shook her head side to side, her cape of hope torn to shreds. Her eyes watered. She tried to turn away from her predictable hard-headed husband, but Sy firmly and gently, grabbed her wrist and stopped her.

“Don’t you see,” Ruthie cried, “how that makes me feel? No matter what I do, it’s not enough. I am never enough.” She let herself be pulled closer. “Why can’t you just love me as I am?”

Sy took her arms and put them over his shoulders then encircled her waist with his own. “I do,” he said.

“It doesn’t feel like that when I don’t perform on demand or the way you want.”

“I’m sorry,” Sy said softly. He wiped the tears from under her eyes.

“I love you more than anyone I’ve ever known,” Ruthie cried, “but feeling forced to have sex, to not alienate you, isn’t love, it’s fear, just like Hooks says. That kind of love feels coerced, manipulated; manufactured to fit some imaginary image of how you think I’m supposed to be.”

Sy felt a lump rising in his throat, as his hold on Ruthie tightened. Her words seeped through his weathered walls. Something cracked open.

“Why now?” he wondered. “After all these years. Was it something Ruthie said or how she said it? Was it Alice Hawkins or Hooks, whatever she went by these days?” Whatever it was, his comfortable delusion of being different from other men was crumbling under the weight of a searing reality.

Ruthie felt the shift. She could feel his skin of fear peeling away. She could see him turning, painfully turning away from conditioning, expectation and judgment. She had never felt so completely and openly accepted by this man. His love was palpable. He saw her. He really saw her.

“I’ve always loved you,” she whispered.

“I know,” he cried. “I’ve kept you away for so long.”

She wiped his face and her own, then looked at her wet hands. “We should boil these tears instead of water for tea,” she grinned.

Sy felt like an anvil had been lifted from his chest. He could breathe freely. He sighed deeply. Each breath released another encrusted layer of tension, doubt and the fear of rejection.

***

When they went to bed that night they looked like they were teenagers who had just fallen in love for the first time. Their eyes were full of anticipation and unlike most teens, knew who they were and where they had been. Their lovemaking was slow, passionate, peaceful and fulfilling. Their history held them and freed them.

After turning out the light, Sy snuggled up to Ruthie’s behind and put his arm around her soft belly.

“You know that Ms. Hooks?”

“Yeah,” Ruthie said, on the verge of dozing off.

“I knew her back in college.”

“Really,” she sleepily replied.

“I mean I really knew her, like intimately.”

Ruthie raised Sy’s arm off her belly and turned to face him.

“Really.”

“Really,” he said, his hot breath caressing her cheek.

“Tell me,” she said, her eyes wide open in the dark. “Tell me all about it.”

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