Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘family’

Staring at the Door

Yasodhara: A Novel About the Buddha’s Wife by Vanessa R. Sasson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51I1VkEDTUL._SY346_The name “Yasodhara” means. “She who is full of splendor.” This novel, about the woman who became known as Buddha’s wife, is as splendid as the person on whom it is based. The story is told in the first person, with Yasodhara telling her own tale. She describes her birth, early childhood, friendship with her cousin (Siddhattha) and other members of the royal family, as her father’s brother is the king (Suddhodana). It takes place in what is now known as Nepal, or northern India.

Ms. Sasson doesn’t pretend that everything in the book is factual and does a wonderful job in the afterward informing readers’ about what is her imagination, and what is based on historical records, or writings, in each chapter. There is actually very little known about Yasodhara, other than some fables, and stories, which were written down in Sanskrit and Pali at least 500 years after she lived. It is believed that she and Siddhattha were born on the same day, married at age sixteen, and were together twelve years before having a son (Rahula). It was the day following their son’s birth, that Siddhartha left Yasodhara, and everything with palace life, to search for the meaning to life.

Here is a touching excerpt from that time in the story.

“I always prided myself on being strong. I might have had a temper, but I managed despite it. I could make my way across any hurdle like a well-trained athlete. I never knew myself in any other way. Until, that is, I found myself alone in my room, nursing a newborn while I stared at the door.

Sidhattha and I had been together for such a long time. Our togetherness had always seemed timeless to me, as though it had been threaded from past lives into this one. We were not just husband and wife. We were everything to each other.

Or at least he was everything to me.

I could not understand why he walked away, so I stared at the door, day after days, wondering if it would ever open again. I lay on my bed, my baby beside me, utterly oblivious to his little cries.”

Yasodhara is an excellent contribution to literature about those that surrounded the man known as Gotama, The Buddha. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in, and historical nonfiction works about, Yasodhara, as well as several fictional accounts. Ms. Sasson has studied and taught Buddhism for a number of years, as well as now written this fictional version, which is well told. The characters come to life and after a short time begin to feel like family.

If you enjoy Yasodhara, you may also be interested in another work of fiction about her life, which is called Buddha’s Wife. Ms. Sasson’s story focuses on the childhood and married life of Yasodhara, whereas, Buddha’s Wife, concerns itself with her life as a nun and the memories she has of her husband (now The Buddha), as well as what she has learned about intimacy, family, and community. It also mixes fact and fiction.

Getting Care As You Age

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How to Get the Care You Need in Old Age.
Very useful guest post by Harry Cline.

Most Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point as they age. That could mean residing at a nursing home or seeking home care, both of which are among the wide variety of solutions available to meet the needs of the elderly. The problem is the costs, which can be frightening.

A private room in that aforementioned nursing home? That runs an average of over $8,000 a month, while a home health aide would set you back over $4,000. In some extreme cases, the total price of such support and services grows into the millions. Wow.

So, what’s a financially-responsible person to do in the face of such financial challenges? Plan. Here’s a breakdown on how to assess your basic needs and pay for care.

Do Your Research

The first step is learning what services are available. The most basic level is visits from friends and family or custodial care at home. There’s also adult day care, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. What you need depends on your level of health along with whether you suffer from a chronic condition and its severity.

Assess Your Health Risks

It’s tantamount to looking into the future. However, the likelihood of certain diseases can be gauged based on your lifestyle, current overall health and family history. If you have a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s, for example, you are more likely to develop this form of dementia, and the same goes for some cardiovascular conditions.

Make Lifestyle Changes

The risk of falling ill can be reduced through exercise and a better diet. There’s no simple recommendation as far as what to eat, though Elders’ Helpers recommends nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains. As far as getting your body in motion, choose something you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, cycling or long walks on the beach.

Modify Your Home

This not only prevents injury, but allows you to stay there for longer and save money on costly assisted living and nursing homes. Some adjustments include installing railings on both sides of the stairs as well as automatic lighting to avoid nasty falls when you wake up in the middle of the night. You should also remove loose rugs and carpeting to enhance mobility and safety.

Now, we’ll move on to how to pay for all that. Bear in mind that the earlier you start, the better, and some options aren’t even available after retirement or a diagnosis with a severe medical condition.

Get the Right Insurance

Specifically, long-term care insurance. As implied by the name, it covers the cost of home care, assisted living and nursing homes, though the premiums can be high, averaging $2,700 a year, according to information cited by the AARP. That could be a worthwhile investment, though, if there’s a history of serious health conditions in your family.

Use Your Living Benefit

That means the living benefit rider in your life insurance, if you have one. If not, your insurer may be able to add one to your policy, in which case you would be able to draw from your death benefit to pay for medical expenses. Again, this could be a great option to have if you’re at high risk of chronic illness.

Put Money In Savings

Take this step before retirement with a health savings account. Both you and your employer make contributions, but the money stays with you when you’ve finished working. It’s tax-free when used for medical expenses, making it an attractive option along with high-deductible health plans.

Tap Into Your Property

You can do that via a home equity line of credit. This financial instrument allows you to withdraw money with your property serving as collateral, and offers a simpler alternative to a reverse mortgage, with lower associated costs. Both are common means of securing cash for long-term care, and which one’s right for you depends on your circumstances.

Planning for your care is not always easy, but you’ll breathe a sigh of relief when you’re done knowing that your future medical care is assured. Get started as soon as possible.

Image via Pixabay.

Visions & Visitations

51bI14kqjwLThe Wall People by AnneMarie Dapp.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Moving away from San Francisco to a small cabin in the Napa hills was the perfect choice for Katie. She meets wonderful neighbors Camellia Sanchez, her husband Steven, and their three children, and gets to know people in town. Then, strange images, visions, and visitations to and from the past in Kinvara, Ireland began to invade her newfound serenity. The Wall People brings Katie’s Irish ancestors to life and places her in the middle of a fight between good and bad, abusers, and saviors.

Ms. Dapp writes in great detail about the daily life of Katie after she has moved to Napa, and describes the landscape, environment, people, and seemingly mundane events, with beautiful clarity and precision. Here is a wonderful example of her prose. “The sharp aroma of the grand oak trees filled her senses. The mid-morning sun gently caressed the moist, forested canopy. Steam rose from the rain-soaked flora. The natural beauty of the forest would have normally filled her heart and mind with happiness and peace, and yet on this sad morning she observed the miraculous scenery with a numb indifference.”

I really enjoyed the way the author introduces each of the characters in The Wall People and how they care for one another. Her neighbors, the Sanchez family, are especially well fleshed out and could be seen and heard through the pages. The primary protagonist, Katie, also comes alive with understanding and empathy. Both Camellia and Katie’s past experiences of abuse are also sadly relevant. Readers’ don’t need to believe in the supernatural to appreciate the conflict, people and settings within this story.

Rites of Passage

41uBGeLbd8L._SY346_Midnight and Holding by Joyce DeBacco.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Midnight and Holding is a lovely collection of stories that include a woman daydreaming about the past, which helps her see the present clearly (Rubies and Other Gems); a shed which brings together a husband and wife (The Shed); a carefree youth who awakens dreams and desires of an older woman (Rainbow Years); a humorous account of a wife’s suggestion being taken to extremes (Mad Dogs and Fisherman); a parent’s rite of passage (Midnight and Holding); and a woman who buys her husband a new suit for his last big occasion (Harvey’s New Suit).

Ms. DeBacco has a wonderful sense of home, place, family, marriage, and a life of raising children. Themes of loss, living for others, and losing one’s self, run throughout these tales. In Midnight and Holding a mother speaks about waking up in the middle of the night to a quiet house, once the children are gone away to college. “It’s the middle of the night and, unable to sleep, I wander through the quiet house. Unshackled from the invisible chains tethering me between laundry room and kitchen, I now seek to busy myself with something, anything to keep my mind from dwelling on their absence. Reluctantly, I strip the beds on which they’d slept, my fingers pausing over the deep indentations in the pillows. The neatness of their naked dressers and floors assaults my eyes.”

It is a rare writer that can take the ordinary, and everyday family life, and stretch it just enough to be familiar, yet daring and different from our daily routines and expectations. The author of Midnight and Holding has this ability – the ability to nurture reality, blur the lines and witness characters gaining insight and/or having a transformative experience in the process. At first glance, this collection of stories is about the mundane, but upon reading it becomes clear that each one is a unique creation. They feel authentic and take one to the core of time passing, and the impact those in our lives have upon us.

Extreme Confrontations

City Lights & Side Streets by Patrick Brown.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51guT-D0OYLPatrick Brown has put together an interesting collection of short stories (and one novelette) that focus on family, friends, and lovers, and pushes ordinary life events to extreme confrontations with self or others. City Lights & Side Streets has a story about teens in the eighties, who take an unstable young man to a niece’s birthday party; a busy family of four who hire a scheduler; a young woman coming to terms with the loss of her father; a group of marginalized individuals and their misfortunes; and an extension of a previous series about a private investigator named Salem Reid.

Here’s a slice from The Scheduler, when Leo, the person Lesley convinced her husband to hire (and move in with them), to help make sure everything got done on time, is speaking to ten-year-old Jenny. “Your science project is due Friday. Spend an hour on it tonight, so you are not rushing on Thursday to get it all done. If there are any other supplies you need, tonight is the night to inform your parents, as I have allowed for thirty minutes of variable time. The weather looks clear for Thursday so your dad will be doing yard work and your mom has a tennis match at 6:30. Asking for supplies tomorrow will throw them off schedule! We don’t want that, do we? Jenny stared at our guest like he was from outer space, but Leo remained unfazed by the reaction our daughter had given him.”

All of the tales in this collection has some unexpected, or surprise, turn of events, which will catch you off guard… in a good way. Mr. Brown is very skilled at capturing moments, events, and describing people and places. All of his characters are well rounded and believable. The novelette (Lab Rat: A Salem Reid Novella) could be taken straight out of a detective film from the forties and fifties. Hard-boiled, but loyal, clever, and honest detective, has a private love interest and works with colleagues and friends to solve the crime. Some of the dialogue sounds like it could come straight out of Humphrey Bogart’s mouth in The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon. When all is said and done, City Lights & Side Streets is well worth the ride.

A “Real” Cowgirl & Her Dog

Romeo, Juliet, Petie & Me by Melinda Matthews.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61zgBqTDlxL._SY346_The narrator tells the tale of her dog Petie and she, as they move from Georgia to Hurley Mississippi in 1961. She’s a young girl, and Petie is a young collie. She has two older sisters, and parents who let her roam free on their property in the countryside. Romeo, Juliet, Petie & Me called forth my childhood and swept me into its bosom. It is very well written. Whether taken from real life or completely fictional, becomes irrelevant.

She imagines being a cowgirl and having a horse. It’s almost like being in the kitchen and watching her act out her dreams. “I thought it a very useful and productive thing, my walking them. A real cowgirl must do what a real cowgirl must do, right? I’d spent HOURS in our big kitchen riding the broomstick astride like a horse around the kitchen table, dark ponytail flying like a flag, making little clucking sounds for an even more realistic ambiance, and the occasional nay or snort added reality to my virtual, as appropriate.  AND I practiced my cattle calls, gleaned straight off Bonanza and Rawhide, so I was qualified to steer cattle, I was sure.”

It turns out that Petie isn’t any ordinary dog. He saves the storyteller from a Brahman bull, walking into the street when a toddler, and growls accordingly when there is danger present. As both ages, Petie begins to slow down and inevitably comes to the end of his dog days. The day it happens is the same day the girl’s older sisters, and Mother, are going to see the film, Romeo and Juliet. The grief and family reactions are palpable.

With Romeo, Julie, Petie & Me the author has shared a part of life that feels so real, vivid, and emotional, that readers’ will feel like part of the family, and as attached to Petie as much as anyone. Though a lot of years pass in the narrator’s first-person account of her relationship with Petie, the story feels complete and significant. Someday, when Ms. Matthews goes to heaven, I’m sure Petie will be at her side once again (imagined or not).

 

Running Into the Past

Life Happens On The Stairs by Amy J. Markstahler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61yvbeR9oJL._SY346_Seventeen-year-old Elsie’s dad is dying, she’s falling for an amazing guy (Tyler), and the divide between rich and poor in Hardin County Tennessee has never been wider. Elsie’s mother (Claire) cleans the house of stuck up and wealthy Mrs. Vaughn, and Tyler is her smart-as-a-whip grandson. Life Happens On The Stairs has hints of the classic The Prince and the Pauper, with an intense love story in the contemporary south. Ms. Markstahler takes us into the mind, heart, and body, of this young teen whose father brought her and her family back from Illinois to his families land.

Here’s a little of what happens when Elsie fills in for her mother at Mrs. Vaughns and meets her in the hallway. “For the next few hours, I vacuumed, dusted, scoured the bathroom and polished the glass on the upper level. Mom always cleaned when she was mad or frustrated. Now I understood why. As the day moved on, I started feeling better. At one-thirty, I walked down the hallway towards Mrs. Vaughn’s bedroom. The passage seemed to narrow as apprehension overwhelmed me. I slowed my steps. Why did I feel like sprinting out of the house? A doorknob clicked. The hair stood up on my arms. That’s why.”

The tension and conflict between Elsie and her mother, and Elsie and her brother (Mark), are spot on and completely relatable. The growing bond between Tyler and Elsie is well developed, with each of them pushing the other to experiences, and memories, they may never have explored, or remembered, left to their own devices, family backgrounds and expectations. Ms. Markstahler also knows how to describe what it’s like when carrying for someone you love who is dying. Life Happens On The Stairs is an excellent story about love and family, for both young and older adults.

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