Friday, April 27, 2012

"Come Home"

I enjoy women's fiction and Lisa Scottoline takes the genre to a deeper level. In this novel she poses the question: can you you stop loving someone just because they are out of your life? I agree with the author's conclusion; that you do not stop loving those just because they are not in your daily life any longer.

The main character of this book is a pediatrician who is living a busy, happy, fulfilled life when her past comes crashing back at her. She survived a divorce and suffered through the alienation of her ex-husband's children whom she had loved as her own. When that ex-husband dies under mysterious circumstances the issue of what it means to be a mother becomes a major issue in her crazy life.

Do we ever "unlove" someone we previously loved? A great question investigated with Scottoline's customary aplomb. One can see why Lisa Scottoline is a leader in women's fiction.  My favorite quote from the book is " a mother is only as happy as her happiest child." A mother's love, definition of family, and the eternity of love are powerful themes in this great read.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

The author of "Seabiscuit" superbly tells of story of an Olympic runner who survived internment in a horrifying Japanese POW camp. He started life as a bit of a hellion, until his brother got him interested in running. He went to the Olympics in Berlin and from there his life was on a collision course with the evil that man can inflict upon his fellow man.

He got shot down in the Pacific theater and he and two others survived adrift, with almost no rations, longer than anyone else in the world had to that point. It was his misfortune to finally hit land occupied by the Japanese. From there his luck went from bad to worse.

His story is inspiring and uplifting even in spite of all the horrific events he endured. He reaffirms what I have heard from every ex-POW I ever had the privilege to hear speak or to meet. They endured through torture and deprivation not because of a love of life for themselves but for the following reasons: a love of country, a love for their fellow man, and a love of God.

The first former POW I ever met was a speaker at a church youth group in 1983. He survived years in Vietnamese prison camps and it strengthened his love of all three: country, fellow soldier and God. I was surprised that after returning home to a post Vietnam world that he chose to stay in the service. One would think that he would have gotten as far away as quickly as he could. Perhaps it was because the general public was so anti-military at the time, that he chose to stay in the service to be with those who understood all he had sacrificed; instead of managing a hardware store somewhere in Maintown, USA.

In 1987, when I was out at Ft. Sam Houston, TX my grandmother insisted I call upon a former colleague and friend of my deceased grandfather. I was just a young second lieutenant and I felt awkward calling a general officer and introducing myself. I was so glad I did however, he and his wife were charming and hospitable hosts. He survived the Bataan Death March. In the 1980s he was suffering from many medical issues that were a direct result of his internment as a POW. Powerful stuff for a young Army nurse to hear, and it certainly provided meaning to the job.

Some stories stay with you because they are so true and so powerful. The truly powerful lives are not ones that are led for one's own glory, but for others. Louie Zamperini returned to the States and after more hardship served as a guide for at-risk youth, which is what he perceived himself to be before his life got formed. An inspiring story about an inspiring man.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last Call

Income tax was instituted by the prohibitionists because prior to that time, 71 percent of our country's revenue came from taxes on alcohol. (Yes, we even fought wars with just this income: the Revolution, the War of 1812 and even the Civil War.) The 18th Amendment prohibited alcohol, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution repealed it. But new taxes never go away, and the income tax was here to stay.

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent portrays America and its love/hate relationship with alcohol. Okrent reminds us that the Puritans loved their alcohol. John Winthrop's ship arriving into Massachussetts in 1630 had "more than ten thousand gallons of wine in its hold and carried three times as much beer as water."  (Okrent, p.7)  Our country was founded by lovers of a good drink apparently!

Speaking of founders of our country, George Washington attributed his first unsuccessful run for political office due to a lack of drink. He had run for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses at the age of 24. On his next attempt at the same office he provided his voters with an average of half of a gallon of rum, punch, or hard cider---"he floated into office" (Okrent, p.47) It was not illegal to cover your voters saloon bill.

Not just our heroic forefathers were tied to drink. Even the iconic folklore hero Johnny Appleseed was involved in supplying America's thirst. "In rural Ohio and Indiana the seed scattered by John Chapman-"Johnny Appleseed"' produced apples that were inedible but, when fermented, very drinkable. Virtually every homestead in America had an orchard from which literally thousands of gallons of cider were made every year." (Okrent, p.8)

As our country prospered, our menfolk continued to frequent the saloons. Being an addictive substance, some of our men spent the bulk of their wages in the saloon, while their families suffered. The Prohibitionists allied with the Suffragist movement and women got the right to vote, and alcohol was prohibited. The aforementioned income tax took the place of the alcohol taxes. The country, now including women voters, repealed the 18th Amendment. The income tax was here to stay however. Just like a person who likes his booze too much, the USA becomes dependent on every new instituted tax...even if it overindulges.

As you pay your income taxes this year, at least do so with my favorite alcoholic drink recipe, the  Chocolate Martini!