During the Christmas season, we scurry to find our loved ones unique gifts, suited to their personalities and interests. I read recently that the best gifts are not what people would buy themselves, but luxuries or experiences to take them out of their everyday world. See Don’t Be a Lousy Gift-Giver, by Brett Arends, Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2013.
Books are a staple on my gift list. Most of the people in my family are big readers, so books might seem to be things they would buy themselves, and many of them don’t wait for Christmas to buy their reading material. Therefore, I am challenged to find books they wouldn’t buy for themselves.
But I have an “in” to finding unique books—I know a lot of authors. Books by local authors, people I know, are a good choice for family and friends. I have often already vetted the books, watching their development from first draft to final product. I know the care and craft that has gone into these books.
I hesitate to recommend any books in particular, because there are so many good books by talented authors in my community. But here are a few books by Kansas City area authors I recommend. All of these have been published within the last year or two. All of the links are to Amazon, but some of these books are available on other online sites and in bookstores as well. Most are available in both paperback and ebook versions.
Beth Lyon Barnett (an author featured before on this blog) published Jazz Town. This novel depicts Kansas City’s rich jazz history so powerfully you want to sway to the music. The jazz era comes alive in a riveting story with interesting characters.
Pamela Boles Eglinski (also featured last year in a guest post on this blog) published the second novel in her Catalina Bonhomme series this year. She Rides with Genghis Khan is spellbinding historical fiction full of suspense and seduction.
Norm Ledgin, a prolific local author, has written a novel about Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, entitled Sally of Monticello: Founding Mother. Researched in great detail, this book will make you think about our third President in a new way, and consider how love and freedom are intertwined.
Sara Rickover has published a new novel of corporate intrigue, Playing the Game. Debuting in the top 100 in Amazon’s financial thriller category, this book features a heroine in Human Resources—someone I could really relate to—along with murder and mayhem in a struggling family-owned business.
Young Adult and Children’s Fiction:
I have a hard time finding books for boys, because I don’t read this genre typically. C.M. Lance writes fantasy that combines magic and science. Lance’s second book in the Wizard Dawning series, Wizard’s Sword, features strong characters from humans to werewolves to Amazons. Try this for the fantasy-lovers on your gift list, from teenagers to adults.
Rita Roth tells the story of a young Jewish girl during the Great Depression in 444 Pine Street. In this book, Hannah’s family struggles to survive and maintain their values and traditions in the face of both religious discrimination and serious illness. A good gift for middle grades.
Phyllis Westover has written a story of a boy and the horse he wants in Sold to the Highest Bidder. Young Jed needs friends and family to help him achieve his goal. This book is perfect for the new chapter book readers on your list, or for children who like to be read to.
Sally Jadlow, another prolific local author, has a recipe book, Family Favorites from the Heartland. I can vouch for several of the recipes from the book, which you will enjoy along with Sally’s stories. Easy to follow directions.
Deborah Shouse has written a book about her own family’s experience taking care of her mother with Alzheimer’s Disease. It is a powerful and moving collection of essays entitled Love in the Land of Dementia, with both spiritual and practical lessons for caregivers.
You may know authors in your area with new books. Consider supporting these authors by giving their books as gifts this Christmas.
Even if you don’t know any local authors, most bookstores have a “local author” section. Ask the salespeople in the stores to help you find it. You will probably find a treasure, and check another gift off your list.
OK I enjoy writing about art, but sometimes the question arises as to when is art really art. For example there is a new exhibition opening at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art late this month celebrating the work of Joel Arthur Rosenthal or JAR as he prefers to be called. Jar is often noted as the Faberge of our time. He will become the first living jeweler to be given a retrospective at this world famous museum. Even more fascinating are the facts about the life of JAR. He was raised in the Bronx by a father who was a postal worker and a mother who was a biology teacher in the public high school system. He likes to say that they taught him that there were two important things above all else–to learn English perfectly, including how to spell and to do what you want to do. JAR has followed these precepts to the letter and in the process he has produced jewelry with extraordinary gems which look so much like artworks that they are accepted as just that. He has a Garbo like reticence which he has encouraged his clients to follow if they wish to continue to be able to buy from him. And his fame can only be attributed to the quality and the astounding beauty of his work. It is said of JAR that he creates what he wants, when he wants, for who he wants. He does not much like talking about himself. He doesn’t really like other people talking about him either. It is no wonder that clients, other jewelers, fashion designers, and performers all follow his strictures with envy but with exactitude.
JAR has given perhaps 2 or 3 interviews in the last thirteen years. Jar had spent a great deal of time at the Met and the Natural History Museum in his youth and after studying at City College he transferred to Harvard. He had been to France and was in a big hurry to return to Paris because he wanted to be a painter and this was the mecca to which all painters went. He met his partner Pierre Jeannet and the two of them opened a small needlepoint store for which JAR painted the canvases. Then he worked for Bulgari for a shot time before he and Jeannet opened a jewelry business. Neither of them had any training or knowledge about the business and depended on their own bank accounts to open the shop. He only knew that jewels fascinated him and that many jewels held absolutely no interest with the buying public. No one would want old cut diamonds or pink topaz. But JAR loved all these rejected stones and had no interest in the grand large stones. His favorite stones were in shades of red violet pink and green rather than the perfect blue white diamonds. Many of these vivid stones fascinated him; they were not even regarded as precious and often were considered fake stones. Today he has made them an important part of his business. Today these stones have become not only accepted but they command high prices. His small shop is located around the corner from the Place Vendome; its windows are bare and there is not a single jewel in sight. Instead the windows are dressed in faded pink velvet with perhaps a twig or a piece of fruit centered in them. In the shop there is a warren of small rooms all dressed in faded green velvet which enhances the colors of the stones. JAR works with four assistants and uses workrooms in Geneva, Paris, and the south of France. He makes between 100 and 120 jewels a year and the business has been successful since its inception. He has been offered blank checks by enthusiasts to open shops in London and other great cities but his response has been that other people’s ideas of reality get in his way. “I’d rather fail my way than succeed the way you told me. I don’t want to be beholden to anyone. I don’t want to be owned by anyone.”
JAR also has a unique method of pricing his jewelry. He makes a drawing and figures out what he is doing and the time and the materials involved, and then he comes up with a fair price. He refuses to negotiate on his price and should any clients ask for a better price they are shown the door. And since the business has been profitable since it was begun there is no question that he can conduct it as he chooses. He is a master of the art of pave in jewels, which is a technique for setting small stones so closely together they form almost a pavement of jewels. He makes between 100 to 120 pieces a year. He has no interest in checking the cost of jewels that he has created, but it is fascinating that the few works that have come to auction have sold for 8 times their original price. One of the perfect pieces that he has created are the willow earrings made of chrysoberyl in soft blues and murky watery greens. Each leaf is articulated which allows them to float in the breeze. Any motion frees them to flutter. It is a JAR creation which has been given the touch of the master jeweler himself although he has had no formal training. The Met show contains approximately 400 pieces loaned by 145 of his living clients and might be termed a homecoming of sorts for JAR. However he does not see it that way. Instead he thinks of himself as the little boy who walked up the steps of the Met anxious to see the wonders inside. His extraordinary gems will cast their spell on thousands of viewers. You owe it to yourself to take a look at the creations of JAR. Google him!
I think this article is so important I’ve reprinted it with the permission of Lynn Barnett, a therapist that works with foster and adopted children all day every day. She is an expert in her field, and what she has to say is meaningful, helpful, and important.
Published November 12, 2013 | By Lynn Barnett
I can’t say enough about the healing power of touch for a child who has been traumatized or suffered from neglect. Children need touch to survive and will die without it. The unfortunate reality of overcrowded orphanages provides indirect support for the negative impact of touch deprivation. Recently, researchers observed the development of infants raised in orphanage where the ratio of care providers to infants was low (9 infants to one provider). While the infants were appropriately fed, most often they were left alone in their cribs with minimal or no physical contact with the care providers. The children suffered from severe delays in physical growth and neurobehavioral development, and elevated rates of serious infections (Albers, Dana, and Hostetter, 1997).
When children that have been traumatized come into our homes , they might act like they don’t want to be touched, moving away from a hug or a pat on the arm, ducking from a kiss on the head or the cheek, or stiffening when picked up and held. So too, are children who have been neglected. they may move back, stiffen and push away, act as though they don’t like the feeling of being touched. These children present challenges for parents who want to help them connect, bond, and eventually socialize.
Unfortunately, some adults try to “honor and appreciate” their child’s wishes. Others feel hurt that the child they have taken in does not want them or is rejecting them in some way. I want to dispel some myths and encourage you to find ways to connect through touch despite the messages these children are trying to convey.
It is BECAUSE your child has not been touched, stroked, cuddled, tickled, or just held a grownups hand, that she pulls away. It is because your child REQUIRES touch to grow and thrive that you must find a way to introduce healthy touch into her life.
I want to be clear here. Your child is not rejecting you. He has not had the experience of healthy physical contact and so does not know how to connect to it, but make no mistake, without it, he will not thrive.
Try a gentle touch on the arm whenever the child is otherwise involved. Require that he or she holds your hand when out in public, crossing the street, or in a store in order to continue on that venture. This is as much for the child’s safety as it is for connection of course. Sit in a rocking chair and read a book. Try baking roll out cookies measuring the ingredients, , holding the rolling pin together, and later, decorating the cookies. This activity creates opportunities for eye contact and physical contact to take place in the spirit of fun.
Not all children enter our homes at an early age. Many of them are placed in foster or adoptive homes as older youth or teenagers. These young people have had years of physical neglect and worse, abusive touch. It is imperative for these kids to experience healthy touch as well. You may need to ask BEFORE touching your tween or teen since their startle response could cause them to feel the need to protect themselves. But safe touch is a back or shoulder rub, knuckle bumps, a secret signal handshake (great for 6-12 year old boys) just between the two of you, and manicures and pedicures with the girls. For young people of color, lotion is necessary for their skin and oil for their hair to keep them looking good and healthy. This is a great opportunity for healthy touch. Help your youth with putting on lotion, learning to care for their hair.
Night time presents a great opportunity for one-on-one time and cuddling while watching television, reading a book, or singing your child to sleep. Message with lotion is a great way to safely touch your child. If your little one is young enough to need help bathing, this presents a great time to connect through touch. After her bath you can put lotion on arms, legs, back and neck. Allow the older child to put lotion on their own tummies. She might want to put lotion on you as well. Encourage this because it allows for reciprocity which is healthy for your attachment strained child.
All humans require touch in order to survive and thrive, from the newly born to the person who has lived their life to the fullest. Helping our kids to bond and connect to other human beings means that they NEED the power of positive touch to continue on their journey through life as healthy human beings. If you are providing foster care, find ways to make physical connections daily, even hourly, with your young charges. Don’t use the excuse that they need to “bond to their adoptive family” as a way of avoiding touching them. He will bond faster if he knows what a hand on his shoulder feels like, a kiss on his cheek, a knuckle bump, lotion on his skin by your hands. Be the parent that makes that connection. She will never forget how you made the difference in her world.
Albers, Lisa H. Johnson, Dana E., and Hostetter, Margaret K. “Health of Children Adopted from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Comparison with Preadoptive Medical Records.” Journal of the Medical Association 278.11 (1997): 922-924.
My second favorite time of the year. Looie and I go walking.
The sun shines bright and it is raining leaves.
We walk down our driveway on a thick, cushiony pad of golden river birch leaves.
Someone at the park rakes the oak leaves into a pile and the kids jump in them.
Looie wants to join in
So I let him.
He emerges jubilant with a beard of leaves on his chin hairs.
Maybe it’s his second favorite time of the year, too.
Though the leaves flutter down like floating butterflies, their job is far from done.
Now they provide cozy blankets for spring bulbs,
And cover the ground with a wealth of nutrition.
(Is this a poem?)
Tip: Mulch. Don’t rake.