Tuesdays with Ana: Remembering classics from childhood (and two book reviews)

Whenever I have a bad day, a classic children’s book (better yet, read out loud to a favorite child) cheers me up.

Novel,  Penguin, 1962, 213 Pages

Born with cerebral palsy, nine-year-old Sally has spent the past five years at a special rehabilitation school. Her dreams of actually living with her family rather than just visiting them finally come true when a new school opens near her family’s home. Adjusting to her new life and the typical challenges of starting a new school and meeting new friends are heightened for Sally, through the unique problems of being handicapped in the world. Mine for Keeps is a heartfelt and inspirational story about overcoming fears and considering other people’s points of view. A compelling read, this popular children’s story imparts valuable lifelong lessons about the nature of change, friendship and family.

Mine for Keeps, published in 1962, is a book every child (or child at heart) should read. It’s unfortunately gone out of print (for now), but secondhand copies are available on Amazon and other retailers. In fact, there are 23 penny copies on Amazon. :D

from Jean Little’s website

In a side note, I loved her autobiography, titled Little by Little. I believe it is also out of print but available on secondhand book sites. In the autobiography, I learned two pieces of information that made me enjoy her books even more:

  • Jean was legally blind and taught at a school for children with disabilities, and she wrote Mine for Keeps because she and her students were tired of Every Single Book turning into a “miraculous cure” story. She lists children’s books (such as The Secret Garden) that end with the child cured. How does that feel to a child (or adult) who will never experience a cure? I loved Mine For Keeps because it was a wonderful story, but I loved it even more when I found out her motivation for writing it. Surprisingly, 52 years later, the book only feels slightly dated (in its terminology, not storyline).
  • Jean wrote her books by using a “talking computer,” way back in 1962! How neat that the words on my page were produced by special technology.

Mine for Keeps achieves a remarkable balance between educating and entertaining. Yes, the fathers in Jean’s stories tend to be a bit heavy-handed (Father Knows Best, for sure!), but they serve as compassionate, intelligent role models to children learning to grow up in a complicated world. What I love best is Sally’s capability and her parents’ refusal to let her wallow in self-pity. (Aside: I was confused about the “Sarah/Sally” distinction until college, when I learned that “Sally” is an old-fashioned nickname for “Sarah.”) Sally’s older sister, Mindy, is bossy and a know-it-all, while her younger sister, Meg, is prone to pouting. Older brother, Ken, needs to be taken down a peg or two, and in general the kids are rambunctious but well-meaning.

In particular, I love the scene where the father stands up for Sally’s right to do her own chores without her older sister’s well-intentioned but inappropriate interference. I have been in situations when people assumed I needed help (when I didn’t), and it made me both angry and ashamed. These small touches make the story stand the test of time. Sally might have cerebral palsy and have extra challenges navigating everyday life (and being mainstreamed into a school where she is the only one with an obvious physical disability), but her story goes far beyond Poor Little Disabled Girl. She has spunk, attitude, and an endearing mixture of faults. Even better, the resolution involves her taking charge.

I love, love, love Mine for Keeps, and I hope you will as well.

(I also love From Anna, by the same author, about a girl who moves to Canada and discovers her “awkwardness” is due to legal blindness that previously had gone undetected.)

—-

Book review time!

Goodnight, Ark by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman, is a pleasant children’s picture book. The illustrations are quite nice, and the text encourages children to anticipate the next page. The rhymes and rhythms are a bit awkward for reading out loud, but it’s still a nice book. $15.99 hardcover, from Zonderkidz.

The Blessings of Friendship Treasury, by Mary Engelbreit, has some gorgeous illustrations reminiscent of the old-style Golden Books. I especially like that one girl (in a cheerful red gingham dress) pushes herself in a wheelchair while chatting with a friend and cat who walk beside her. There’s a nod to racial/ethnic diversity in the illustrations, which is not enough but a nice start. It would make a nice friendship gift or a gift for a young child.

(Disclaimer: These two books were provided as a review copy by HarperCollins)

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From Ana’s Bookshelf:

I’m currently reading The Pictorial History of Baseball and Been There, Haven’t Done That: A Virgin’s Memoir. Well, I’m skimming the first one surreptitiously before sending it as a gift. Shh. :D The second was sent to me by a friend. The first one is an enormous collection of photos along with historical text, and the second is a rather insipid adolescent journal of a 25-year-old who feels she should impart her lifelong wisdom about her heavy petting escapades in high school and college.

What are you reading?

Happy Tuesday!

Will you behave?

Welcome to this week’s installment of Saturday Spankings and Sunday Snippets! We’re continuing our journey with Talia in my soon-to-be-released retelling of “Our Lady’s Child,” a Grimm fairy tale. Taliasman will be published within a few weeks (release date not yet set), and it starts with a simple premise. What if a girl had been raised to regret she had not been born a boy? For context, you’ll want to read parts one and two linked below.

 

“Chattel” (part one)

“Kneel” (part two)

I should refuse her degrading order, but her manicured red nails work their way through my hair.

“Why?”

“Good girl,” she says, and against all reason, I am pleased. I rest my forehead against her thigh, and a soft exclamation causes me to tilt my head backward. At the last second, I open my eyes. Laugh lines crinkle around her dark brown eyes filled with compassion and—can it be?—love. “If you…but you don’t,” she corrects herself. “Will you behave, or must I send you to your room?”

 

Taliasman blurb

Born to a destitute woodworker who wanted a son to carry on the family business, Talia grew up with one phrase on her lips: “If I had been born a boy.” If she had been born a boy, she would have been cherished, supported, and launched into the world with her father’s legacy. As only a worthless girl, she toils all day long to earn her handful of inferior grain.

 

Far away in the heavenly palace, Queen Vina receives a mysterious coin necklace from Nicodemus, teller of stories. Compelled by the throbbing heartbeat, she scours the earth to come across Talia, enslaved to a family who never wanted her. Rather than admit her motives, Vina purchases the girl with a sackful of gold. Furious, betrayed, and homesick, Talia endeavors to share her misery with the entire palace. Vina, afraid to confess her love, allows herself to become trapped in the role of brutal slave owner.

 

Talia, bred to expect nothing but misery, faces the first choice of her life. Will she accept love, even if it comes from an unlikely source? Or will she reject the one who offers her everything?

Thursday Thankfulness, returning home edition

After staying awake 40+ hours in a row (not intentionally, but because life marched on and the phone kept ringing when I tried to sleep), I’m giving thankfulness a bleary-eyed try this week. I’m thankful for:

  • A clean, comfortable bed
  • The safety to close my eyes without worrying whether someone will attack me
  • Sunshine with its life-sustaining powers
  • Caffeine to get me through the long stretches
  • My Bluetooth
  • Editors who teach, cheerlead, and (if necessary) scold (gently)
  • A kick-you-know-what team shaping up for Spank or Treat 2014. This will be the 3rd Annual Spank or Treat, the event that started the entire spanking fiction fun. The theme this year will be witches/warlocks. Are you excited? :D
  • Track changes so I don’t have to print out every single draft of my manuscripts. I am sure the trees are thankful, too.
  • A fun and invigorating handbell rehearsal
  • Learning a new Mother Goose nursery rhyme, Polly Flinders. How many of you know this one? Google it (not the clothes brand), and you might see why I like it. :D
  • (Knock on wood) Editing for Taliasman is going well! I love learning how to hone my writing with each editing pass.
  • Ana Adored is coming along well, too! I am proud of both of these stories, in different ways. Ana Adored tackles a difficult subject (same-sex domestic violence) that I initially discussed in my Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia post. Taliasman addresses the issue of gender-shaming, and I am proud of its message of love and acceptance. I hope readers will walk away from these stories feeling happier, more secure, and better able to have faith in humanity.
  • Thankful for editors and co-authors who don’t kill me. You know who you are. :D
  • The fun of choosing, writing, mailing, and hearing that travel postcards were received. For 25 cents (postcard) plus tax and 34 cents postage, I get to send a smile. Too bad international postcards cost as much as international letters, though.

Today, for Thankfulness, I’d like to issue a challenge/invitation. Won’t you consider mailing a postcard, greeting card, or snail mail letter? It gave me such joy to hear the postcards were received, and it cheered me up. I bet it will do the same for you. Who’d like to make the commitment to send one postcard, greeting card, or snail mail letter this week? No e-cards. :D Real, old-fashioned correspondence.

Tuesdays with Ana: On advocating for ourselves

Last week, I witnessed a powerful act of self-advocacy from a child who looked about ten years old.

Yesterday in a public restroom, I met an adorable girl with a pretty pink-bow headband who was well-spoken and courteous. She also had a lovely speaking voice. I went into a stall, only to hear someone new enter the room and ask with a laugh, “What happened, did you buzz off all your hair?” The girl said in an admirably respectful tone, “I have alopecia, and it made me lose my hair.”

It didn’t stop there. The woman continued, “Oh, yes, well [name of someone famous] had that problem, too. He wore wigs, though. You should get a wig.” I was horrified and wanted to defend her, but I wasn’t out yet.

Her aunt (I’m guessing, or else a very young mom) came out of her stall and said, “She is beautiful exactly the way she is.” (She was!)

By the time I got out, the little girl was already leaving. I really wanted to say to her, “You are beautiful, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” But I was chicken. I didn’t know if I would come across as patronizing or interfering. Still, I hope she went home and looked in the mirror to see a smiley, bright-eyed, sweet girl who made me wonder what her parents had done to teach her such nice manners.

 

If I’d been able to get out of the stall faster I would have said something, but by the time I got out the moment was over. My jaw dropped as Ms. Ignorant could not shut her mouth. I couldn’t believe someone could say something that cruel. I was actually thinking to myself when I first met the girl, “Wow, she is so pretty!”

 

I wish I could have said something like, “It’s a heat index of 111 today. Why would anyone wear a wig who doesn’t need one?”

 

But really, if I had said anything at all it would have been a quiet undertone to the girl. “I’m sorry she was so thoughtless. You can’t fix stupid! I hope you grow up into a powerful, famous adult who will tell this story as an anecdote while you’re campaigning for US president.”

September is Alopecia Areata Awareness Month, and there are great resources available such as the Children’s Alopecia Project. You can find a small list of books on hair loss at Salon Revive.

Olivia Rusk has written a book about alopecia and appeared on the Today show. You can watch her interview here. I cringe at using “brave” to describe a confident and competent adolescent, but she comes across as a wonderful advocate for herself and others.

But while this particular story is about alopecia, I learned a greater lesson that day. A little girl answered calmly, clearly, and factually when she was inappropriately targeted by a stranger for unwanted attention. I don’t know how the little girl felt as she walked away, but she left at least one admirer behind.

How do you respond when people call you out for unwanted attention? How do you straighten out people who objectify you and intrude on your personal space? It’s easy to get hostile or disengage from the situation completely, but this little girl scored a victory.

 

 

 

“Kneel” (Saturday Spankings and Sunday Snippets)

Two weeks ago, I posted an unedited snippet from Taliasman, my newest book. It’s part of Decadent Publishing’s Beyond Fairy Tales series, and it’s a retelling of “Our Lady’s Child.” (Google the story! It’s obscure and jaw-dropping.) In my version, Vina the heavenly queen takes Talia the willful girl to the palace. In the previous snippet, Vina decided to show Talia who was boss. In today’s snippet, Talia realizes she’s in over her head.

Uncomprehending, I bend to inspect the parquet for a dropped fork. “Kneel,” she commands, and the blood courses through my veins. I double my fists, but she takes no pity. “You refuse to take your place at my side, so you may kneel at my feet. Or shall I strip you of your clothes and beat you into submission?”

 

She has proclaimed my happiness for the past year, and each assurance deepened my resentment. I did say this would be more honest, didn’t I? The powder blue velvet of my dress crushes beneath my knees as I fall to the ground.

 

For more spanking fiction snippets, visit Saturday Spankings or Snippet Sunday on Facebook.

Thursday Thankfulness, traveling edition

Thank you for all of your wonderful support this week! It means more than I can say. <3

Before I take off for a third day of “nourishing my soul,” as I call it, here’s a quick thankfulness list.

I’m thankful for:

  • Sunny (if hot) weather, clear skies, and no-rain forecasts through tomorrow
  • An evening of making blueberry waffles and chatting for hours after dinner
  • Wandering into a historic church just in time to participate in its weekly service (unique and touching)
  • I haven’t gotten lost (yet)!
  • Being able to take this trip :)
  • A phone able to take photos (since my camera died the second I left home)
  • Good company
  • Good wine
  • Good chocolate
  • Free wi-fi!
  • Being able to turn off wi-fi and explore the world around me
  • A plethora of things to do, places to see, people to meet, and experiences to have

And of course,

  • The many touching messages from everyone this week. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Won’t you please join me? I’d love to hear your thankfulness items today. :)

Tuesdays with Ana on creating memories: How to handle anniversaries of difficult events

I’m away for (at least part of) this week, creating memories. I’m writing this post on Sunday evening, surrounded by dishwashing, laundry, half-packed suitcases, piles everywhere, and a private little grocery store. Every time I go on a trip, I swear I’ll leave my home in pristine condition so I can return to a nice house. Every time I actually go on a trip, I’m lucky to get everything together!

I posted this on my Facebook:

I will be offline for most of today, all of tomorrow [today, Tuesday, by the time you read this post], and possibly parts of Wednesday and Thursday. I’m not comfortable sharing details, but tomorrow is the anniversary of something that happened many years ago. In the past I’ve quietly gone off the grid or kept things superficial around this time, but by now there are too many connections and friendships here to just disappear.

I believe I have taken care of all the responsibilities for while I will be MIA. If I owe you something, please forgive me and email/message me on Wednesday.

If you would like to send a smile my way, please feel free to post a photo of cute babies/children/kittens/wooden spoons in the comments. Or your favorite joke.

I’ve scheduled a blog post to go up tomorrow as well.

Hugs and from your favorite Cookie Lady. (It’s not you, baby. It’s me.)

–Ana

Instead of oversharing (who wants to hear about the Ana pity party, anyway?), I’d like to talk a bit about anniversaries and how to handle them. There are two times in the year that are difficult for me (astute, long-time readers of Governing Ana can probably guess which ones). I’m not alone. Most people, except for the extraordinarily lucky and sheltered, have at least one anniversary of something painful. The death of a loved one, the loss of a loved one (including a child who never got to be born), a break-up, an assault, an accident, an act of terrorism…

As a society, we suck at dealing with grief. We spend a great deal of money and time on everything but facing the difficult parts of being human. Spoiler alert: Life is difficult.

Instead of sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself today, I’ve put aside work and will immerse myself in new experiences. I’ve never been to a wine-tasting before (don’t drink much) or a chocolate factory tour, but I’ve scheduled both. :D Plus there will be a visit to a museum, dinner at a cafe, and an evening at the theater. I am grateful, immensely grateful, for life and professional circumstances that have made this possible.

Sometimes we need quiet moments to grieve and reflect in our own way and in our own time. Other times, it’s good to keep moving. The problem comes when we work ourselves to exhaustion and find ourselves run down at the very moment we need all of our emotional resources.

This year and this week, I’ve done both. :) So it’s time to take a break.

I’ve (sort of) packed my bags (messily) and have planned (what I hope will be) a lovely day. Sometimes, I think we need to create new memories. We can’t replace old, painful ones, but we can add something to the mix. And in future years, I’ll be able to look back on this day. A few years ago, a dear friend and her husband created a wonderful day for me on this anniversary. They allowed me to take time out when I needed it, but they also took me on a day filled with tender, thoughtful surprises. Other friends have surprised me, two years in a row with a party. I cried each time, but I gave thanks for the best friends anyone could ever have. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less open to new experiences and more likely to shut myself into solitude. I’d like to change that today.

Grief isolates by its very nature. No one can know what it means to experience someone else’s pain, but human nature means trying to understand. Trying to connect, to make meaning, and to love.

When the tears come today, as they surely will, I will give thanks for the love, support, and thoughts of my wonderful online family.

Thank you.

With all of my love–

Ana

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