Archive for September, 2008
One of the nice things about being a published author is that you get offers to read books before their available in bookstores. Sadly, I have to turn most of the book offers down simply because between working full time and trying to finish my novel, I don’t have as much time to read. Occasionally, a trusted friend recommends a book and I read it. Such is the case with Stacy Gooch Anderson’s The Santa Letters.
To be honest, I’m not much for Christmas-themed books. No, I’m not a Grinch, but I find a lot of Christmas the books to be pretty much the same in terms of message, story, and character. You know, someone finds the true meaning of Christmas and everyone lives happily ever after. However since a friend whose opinion I trust said I should read it, I agreed to review it.
The Santa Letters came and that night while I was writing, Marathon Girl asked if she could read it. I handed her the book and went back to my writing.
“Do you know what this book’s about?” Marathon Girl asked after reading the first two chapters.
“Santa Letters?” I said looking up from my computer.
Marathon Girl rolled her eyes. “No, I mean did you know about the main character? Is that why you agreed to review the book?”
“I don’t know anything about him,” I said.
“The main character’s a woman. Her name’s Emma Jensen.”
“What about Emma?”
“She’s a young widow with four kids.”
“Yeah, her husband was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Christmas Eve. The book takes place a year later. Basically her life’s fallen apart since her husband died and she’s hoping that her four kids will have a happy Christmas.”
I held my hand out and Marathon Girl handed me the book.
“It looks like I’m not going to see this book again until you’re done reading it,” Marathon Girl said picking up another book in her nightstand.
I nodded and started to read the book. Fair or not, I knew that I was going to judge the book by 1) how believable the widow character was and 2) whether or not she was able to get some sort of closure to her husband’s death and move on with her life.
*** Warning: Spoilers Follow ***
After reading the first few chapters, I was worried. Not only has Emma lost her husband and cry herself to sleep every night but just about everything that could go wrong in her life has gone wrong too. Can’t the fact that her husband died be enough? Do we have to put her just about every other imaginable hardship too? The Santa Letters was starting to read like an Upton Sinclair novel. (No, that’s not a good thing.)
Thankfully, the tone of The Santa Letters began to change once a mysterious visitor begins leaving packages on the family doorstep in the days leading up to Christmas. Instead of simply providing things that the family needs, each package contained things designed help Emma and her children heal from their loss and forgive the man responsible causing the death of their husband/father. Yes, each package comes with a letter “signed” Santa Claus but in reality, the directions and thoughts contained in each letter is one that individual family members need to follow in order to find happiness and peace.
The best part about The Santa Letters, however, is Emma. Anderson does a great job creating a realistic young widow character. Emma tries her best to maintain a strong face when she’s with her children but crumbles under the pressure of grief and providing for her family and when she’s alone. The scenes where Emma is forced to confront her anger about being left to raise the kids and wondering if she can last another day are real and poignant. But her true character is revealed when she has to make the decision whether or not she can truly forgive her the man who accidently took her husband’s life and move on.
From a plot perspective, the book doesn’t contain any unexpected turns or twists. It is a Christmas book, after all. But, thankfully, The Santa Letters it’s more than your standard Christmas book. It’s really a book about healing, forgiveness, and finding peace. It was well worth the read several months before Christmas.
September 30th, 2008
My latest post is up on the OpentoHope blog. It’s a brief look on how Sen. Joe Biden, at the age of 30, lost is first wife a month after being elected to the U.S. Senate, overcame his grief, and put his life back together. You can read it below or here.
On November 7, 1972 a relatively unknown lawyer named Joe Biden pulled off a big political upset. By just over 3,000 votes he defeated two-term incumbent U.S. Senator J. Caleb Boggs and, at age 30, became the sixth youngest Senator in U.S. history.
Despite the amazing victory, he almost never took the oath of office. On December 18, 1972 while Biden was in Washington D.C. looking at his new office, his wife, Neilia, took their three children shopping for a Christmas tree. They were involved in a fatal automobile accident. Neilia and his infant daughter, Naomi, were killed. His two sons, Hunter and Beau, were critically injured.
His life suddenly and unexpectedly changed, Biden suddenly found himself as a 30-year-old widower and single father. He also found himself filled with anger and doubt. In his memoir Promises to Keep Biden wrote, “I began to understand how despair led people to just cash it in; how suicide wasn’t just an option but a rational option … I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry.”
A career in the U.S. Senate suddenly didn’t seem that important as being there for his two sons. He considered resigning before even taking the oath of office. Beau recalled his father saying, “Delaware can get another senator, but my boys can’t get another father.”
Eventually other U.S. Senators like Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy convinced Biden to take the job the people of Delaware elected him to do. In January of 1973 he took the oath of office at his sons’ hospital bedside. However, because he still wanted to be there for his sons, he gave up his the home he and his late wife were planning to buy in Washington D.C. and commuted by train to and from his home – a practice he still continues.
Still, life wasn’t easy for the young Senator. At first he did the least amount of work required for his job. “My future was telescoped into putting one foot in front of the other … Washington, politics, the Senate had no hold on me,” Biden wrote. Senate staffers began placing bets on how long Biden would last.
No one would have blamed Biden for quitting. After all, he has lost half his family. But Biden didn’t quit. Despite his grief, Biden he hung on and slowly began rebuilding his shattered life.
It wasn’t until 1975, however, when Biden met Jill Jacobs that the pieces really fell into place. Falling in love again renewed Biden’s interest in life and politics. “It had given me the permission to be me again,” Biden wrote in his memoir. Two years later they married.
With his renewed passion, Biden continued what was to become a successful political career. He was re-elected five times to the Senate. He served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987-1995 and currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In 2008, after a second failed attempt to become the Democrat’s presidential nominee, he was asked to be Sen. Barack Obama’s Vice Presidential running mate.
“Failure at some point in your life is inevitable but giving up is unforgivable,” Biden said during his Vice Presidential acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
It’s impossible to say what would have happened to Biden if he had decided to give up.
But he didn’t.
For those who have lost a spouse, Joe Biden’s story is one of hope. If you continue to put one foot in front of the other, no matter how difficult it may be, there are better days ahead. Despite the challenges and obstacles he faced as a 30-year-old widower, Biden rebuilt his life and his family.
Each day we make the decision to push forward or give up. Each day that decision will bring us closer to rebuilding our lives or falling back into darkness. Though difficult, Biden chose to live again and reaped the rewards of his efforts.
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More widower-related articles by Abel Keogh
Up with Grief NEW!
Dating and Marriage: One Regret NEW!
Widowers: They’re Still Men! NEW!
10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers
Photos of the Dead Wife
5 Signs a Widower is Serious About Your Relationship
How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief
Life with a Widower
Dating a Widower
The Grief Industry
A Letter to Elizabeth
Sex and Intimacy with Widowers
The Widowerhood Excuse
How to Talk to a Widower
Red Flags to Watch for When Dating A Widower
September 23rd, 2008
Remember Gary Coleman?
You know, the child actor who became famous as playing Arnold in the TV show “Diff’rent Strokes.”
No doubt you’ve been unable wondering whatever happened to him.
Well, if you live in Utah County, you don’t have to wonder. The local media has a Gary Coleman obsession.
For some unknown reason, Gary Coleman ended up moving to the small town of Santaquin, Utah. Ever since, he’s become Utah County’s celebrity.
He’s become Utah County’s ONLY celebrity.
That means every time the guy does something, you can count on a breathless article in the local paper about it. The article is then fed to the Salt Lake media market and is then passed on to the national media.
For example, approximately two weeks ago, Coleman apparently hit a man with a truck at a local bowling alley. According to the Salt Lake Tribune:
Coleman, 40, was backing out of a Payson bowling alley around midnight Friday when his truck hit another car and a pedestrian identified as Colt Reston, 24, [Payson Police Lt. Bill] Wright said.
Witnesses said Coleman became irritated after Reston photographed him. The two argued in the bowling alley and then moved outside, Wright said.
Reston was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.
Authorities are continuing to investigate the incident because neither Coleman nor Reston were cooperative at the scene, Wright said. Police didn’t issue citations to either man.
Wright said there are “indications” that alcohol was a factor in the incident.
The next week we learn that Coleman was criminally charged and is now the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit filed by than man he hit.
Former actor Gary Coleman was criminally charged today in an incident that occurred 11 days ago in Payson; and the man who says he is the victim filed a lawsuit against Coleman this afternoon.
Reckless driving and disorderly conduct are the criminal charges against Coleman. It will be handled in Payson’s justice court.
Coleman is also being sued by the man involved in the altercation, Colt Rushton, who is seeking damages for medical bills, pain and suffering and also wants punitive damages from Coleman. His attorney, Dustin Lance, says his client hasn’t been able to work because of his injuries to his back and knees. The lawsuit names Gary Coleman, his wife, Shannon Price, and Paul Rohbock as defendants.
Lance said, “This wasn’t a situation of paparazzi or stalker-razzi, this was a fan snapping two photographs with a cell phone.”
Rushton, of Spanish Fork, alleges that the former star of the TV show “Diff’rent Strokes” became upset at him after he took photos at the bowling alley they were at in Payson on Sept. 6. Rushton says Coleman demanded $20 to take his picture, and when he tried taking another as they left the bowling alley, Coleman’s wife and friend took away his cell phone.
If these were the only Gary Coleman stories that have local journalists, I’d just shrug. But over the last few years we’ve also been subjected to stories about:
• A fight with a girlfriend
• His role in an (awful) local B-movie
• His “suprise” marriage to someone nearly half his age
• He and his wife’s subsequent appearance on Divorce Court.
There are other stories too. But why bore you with them. You all know who to use Google.
To be fair, Coleman appears to bring a lot of this unwanted attention on himself. That’s rather odd considering he apparently moved to Utah to get away from “the ‘red carpet’ scene in L.A. and all the paparazzi.”
Maybe one day the Osmond family will return and the Utah media can find more worthwhile celebrities to obsess about.
Until then, every time Gary Coleman walks out of his house, we’ll be subject to countless stories where he ate lunch, where he bowls on Friday nights, and what he buys at the local grocery store.
It’s enough to make you want to pack your bags and move to Houston.
September 22nd, 2008
A friend writes: Does Houston really seem like a place you’d want to live? What with the susceptibility to hurricanes and all?
My answer: Hurricane Ike hasn’t damped my or Marathon Girl’s enthusiasm for eventually moving to the Houston area. (Though Galveston was never really on our list of places to live, Ike has stopped us from wanting to move any closer to the Texas coast than Houston.)
I don’t think there’s a city in the world that’s not susceptible to natural disasters. In Utah all it would take is one good earthquake and most of the homes and infrastructure would be reduced to rubble and cause far more damage and deaths than a category 2 hurricane. I’d rather take my chances on living in a place when I know several days in advance that a natural disaster is on its way than one I couldn’t see coming.
All Ike has done is let us know that after we move to the Houston area, we need to be sure to have plenty of food, water, and other basic supplies on hand in case a hurricane comes through and we’re without power or other supplies for an extended period of time. (We have all that now, anyway.) Besides the people of Houston seem to have a plucky spirit and doubt they’ll let a something like Ike ruin their lives. They’ll pull through it. Thought there seems to be quite a bit of damage from the storm, I bet the city and surrounding area will be back to normal very soon.
And to all my Houston readers, I hope you’re all doing well. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
September 17th, 2008
Watching Charles Gibson’s series of interviews with Sarah Palin makes glad I never became a journalist.
I majored in journalism my sophomore year of college. As a result I ended up taking a bunch of journalism classes and wrote for the college paper. It seemed to be a good fit. I love current events and writing and journalism was a natural way to blend the two interests.
By the end the year, however, I realized a career in journalism wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the work that turned me off to that specific career. I enjoyed the fact finding and writing parts of the job. Instead it was the attitude of the professional journalists I came in contact with that turned me off the career choice.
Reporters for the local paper would occasionally come in and talk to our journalism classes. They were arrogant, self-centered, and seemed to revel in the fact they could control the current events and news coverage in the local area. (This was back in 1993-1994 school year when the Internet was mainly traversed by computer science geeks and had not yet wreaked havoc on newspaper subscriptions and the advertising that supports them.)
I came in contact with other journalists when we headed down to the local newspaper building with other journalism students to print our papers. Occasionally I’d overhear their conversations. It was more of the same. Conversations about politicians and political causes they hated and how they couldn’t wait for a mistake could be made so they could destroy lives and careers. Objectivity among the professional journalists, at least in the town I lived in, wasn’t taken very seriously.
After the school-year ended, I was offered the chance to be the college paper’s editor. I initially accepted the job, then, after a couple weeks of contemplation realized that even if I could write objective stories and not have an arrogant attitude, I’d have a hard time working and interacting on a daily basis with people who did act that way. I turned down the offer down and transferred to another school.
I should mention that not every journalist I knew then and know now is that way. Paula, the editor of the college paper that I worked for, was a fabulous journalist and worked hard to get to the bottom of every story. I can say the same thing of Ember and a few others I know. Sadly, the majority of those I knew and have come to know aren’t that way.
I guess having seen and know how a reporter should handle him or herself (and seen the few good ones that do handle themselves in a professional manner) is what made watching Gibson’s interview so painful to watch. No, it wasn’t his tough questions I had a problem with (though I’d like to see Obama, Biden, and McCain subjected to a similar grilling) but Gibson’s condescending attitude toward Palin. It reminded me of the way some college professors look down at their students. You know, the one that aren’t really there to teach but view their students as some insignificant bug that’s hardly worth their time. The same attitude oozed from Gibson through ever moment of that interview. He – not the viewers – was going to decide whether or not Palin passed or failed his series of pop quizzes.
It was unfortunate, really, because a good reporter shouldn’t make him or herself part of the news story. Sadly, almost every article I read about the interview spent as much time rating Gibson’s performance as well as Gov. Palin’s.
It’s too bad journalists have taken this route. They play a vital and important role in any free society. Sadly the way many journalists have conducted themselves over the last 50 years, have made a lot of people discount what they read and see from the press unless it’s from a partisan source that already subscribes to their world view.
I’m optimistic that things can change. Unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot more financial hemorrhaging, layoffs, and declining number of viewers and readers until real change begins to occur.
September 15th, 2008
Think someone was ticked off at ABC journalist Charles Gibson? Click on the image below to see a screen capture his Wikipedia entry last night.
Charles Gibsoon Wikipedia Entry
That’s why you should always take anything you read on that site with a grain of salt.
However, the entry was worthy of a good laugh.
September 13th, 2008
Adding swimming twice a week to my workout routine has had some nice, unexpected benefits.
First, every muscle in my body has become stronger and better toned. Marathon Girl is very happy with the results.
Second, my running’s improved. Yeah, that was truly unexpected. I thought since I was replacing two three mile runs with swimming that my pace would slow. That’s not the case. I’m running faster. When I started swimming Marathon Girl told me that, if done right, swimming would help my running. Did I believe her? No. Do I have egg on my face now? Yes.
Best of all, it’s given my fitness goal to work towards. After benching my weight (yes, I can still do it) I ran out of fitness-related goals. As a result, my workout routines have been rather flat and there been several days where I’ve had to motivate myself to get to the gym. My new goal is to be able to swim a mile without stopping by the end of the year and gives me the kick I need to go to the gym. Right now I can do seven laps before taking a break. In an Olympic-sized pool, a mile is 33 laps so I’m already 1/5 of the way to my goal.
Wish me luck!
September 11th, 2008
My latest post on the HopeToHope blog is up. It’s a response to the following question: I am angry at my wife and angry at God. My wife shot herself after receiving the news that she had been fired for a drinking problem. How do I deal with the fact that my pastor says, “God does not give more than we can endure?” Some days I feel like jumping off a bridge but I have two boys to raise. Any advice?
You can read my answer here.
September 8th, 2008
As a self-described political junkie, this presidential election has been anything but boring. I watched the primetime Democratic Convention speakers last week and the primetime Republican speakers this week at the expense of finishing my novel. Now with both sides equally energized, this presidential race is going to be a nasty fight all the way to the end which will make it all the more entertaining to watch over the next two months.
Now if I can just stop refreshing the Drudge Report, I’ll actually get some writing done.
As someone who wouldn’t mind making a living as a speech writer, I have to say the best speech from either convention was delivered by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Describing herself as pit bull with lipstick was classic. And her zingers aimed at Barak Obama were good. Best of all, she showed just what a good speaker she is when the teleprompter stopped working and she had to occasionally glance at her notes. She didn’t miss a beat.
Obama’s speech was the second. It was well delivered, well-paced, and he did a good job trying to shed his liberal background and position himself toward the center. He still needs to prove that he can be an equally eloquent and effective speaker without a teleprompter.
McCain and Biden are tied with the most tepid speeches though McCain wins the tie breaker by at least speaking from the heart and sounding genuine – something more rhetorical and polished speakers often have a hard time doing.
Win or lose this November, Palin has a bright political future. If Obama wins, his political career is over in four or eight years – depending on whether or not he’s re-elected. But Palin could easily be the GOP nominee in 2012 and could make a strong case to run again in 2016 as well as define the Republican party the same way Ronald Regan did in the 1980. And should the GOP win this November, watch for a resurgent Hillary Clinton in 2012 who could have the same impact on her party as Palin will in hers.
September 5th, 2008
Before you’re wowed by any more Barak Obama speeches or revving up for Sarah Palin or John McCain’s speeches this week, please consider the overwhelming groundswell support for the most talked about presidential candidate. Me.
Yeah, I’m serious. Click here.
Channel 3 News is NEVER WRONG!
September 1st, 2008