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Sunday, May 29, 2011

V.V.B.C.--Sister Chick Book Club--2011 July-Dec Books

Vicarious Virtual Book Club &
Sister Chick Book Club
2011 July-Dec Books

We selected the books for the next six months at our May Sister Chick book club meeting. List follows. (Names in parentheses are the "presenters"--the person who nominated the book, who will lead the discussion for the month.) 

Our June selection, (chosen previously) is The Noticer by Andy Andrews. 

July--The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (Carole)
August--Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (Debbie)
September--The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Tracy)
October--Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Jamie W--This was my suggestion, via my friend Jean Jones!)
November--The Confession by John Grisham (Sandi)
December--The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (Sheron)

Feel free to join the Vicarious Virtual Book Club in reading any (or all!) of these books, then comment on the blog discussion in the same month my "Real Book Club" reads them. I will post entries for each book, so you can add your questions and opinions as you read the books.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

V.V.B.C.--I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

Vicarious Virtual Book Club--
I Still Dream About You 
by Fannie Flagg

UPDATE: I am in the process of launching a new website that will be a resource for finding and sharing family traditions. Please sign up to be notified when it launches!
Thank you!

For other Book Discussions, check the blog archives for entries that start out V.V.B.C. (Vicarious Virtual Book Club).
Warning: Spoilers! If you plan to read the book, don't read this review!

Ann was the facilitator for our Monday, May 16th, Sister Chicks Book Club discussion, since I Still Dream About You was her book suggestion. Ann did a great job of giving us Fannie Flagg's history, and experiences, which made it easy for us to see how events from Flagg's life were woven into the book.

One of the most interesting things Ann brought up, was that Fannie Flagg is severely dyslexic, and a terrible speller. She won a writing contest, in which she wrote from the perspective of a twelve year old, who was a poor speller. When a publisher asked her to expand the story into a novel, Flagg confessed she couldn't spell. The sympathetic editor asked, "Honey, what do you think editors are for?" Fannie Flagg's career as a novelist was launched!

Someone brought a past issue of a Thanksgiving Southern Living Magazine, which featured Fannie Flagg, with photos of the mansion she used as the model for Crestview. We all enjoyed seeing the pictures of Fanny Flagg throughout the years, and reading about her various careers.

I just finished reading a lot of reader reviews for the book, from the internet. They were divided in much the same way as our book club opinions. Pretty much, you either loved it, or thought it was "just ok." A small minority hated the book. Out of our 14 members attending Monday night, Ten "liked, really liked, or loved" the book, two disliked it, one thought it was o.k. One said "It was slapstick."

I was one of the two who didn't particularly like the book. I thought it was boring at the beginning, and predictable. I didn't care for the way Ms. Flagg inserted the "history" of Edwin and Edwina into the story, by saying in essence "nobody will ever know this, but I'm going to tell the readers...." I thought that part of the plot should have been better integrated into the story, especially since the research librarian had done so much work on the subject! I guess I prefer books with a little more complexity and substance.

I appreciate Ms. Flagg's storytelling ability, her affinity for quirkiness, and her distinctive dialogues. Fannie Flagg indeed has a gift for creating, and bringing to life, colorful characters. Her vivid descriptions, lively language, and memorable sayings ARE entertaining. One reviewer said if the exclamation, "Oh, Lord!" had been omitted, the book would have been several chapters shorter! I didn't object to that particular phrase, because I found Flagg's usage to be characteristically Southern!

I believe the dramatized Audible Version of I Still Dream About You was better than simply reading the book. That's definitely not always the case! The Audible interpretation, especially of some of the more phantasmagorical scenes in the book, was very entertaining! (Click on one of the Audible links in the right margin, to listen to an excerpt.)

I thought some of the characters were more like caricatures, which, I guess, helped them served their purposes in the book. The truth is, all small Southern towns DO have characters like Flagg portrayed! In general, things that seemed like deficits to me, were appreciated by those who said they enjoyed the book.

The general consensus of the people who liked the book, was that the book was "entertaining," "great escape fiction," "light reading," etc. They enjoyed Hazel's character, and thought the friendship between Brenda and Maggie was surprising, but sweet and believable.

We were asked to consider what would be on our "pro and con" suicide list. We discussed some of Maggie's entries, with varying degrees of identification with her thoughts!

One of the articles I read said that Flagg was outed by a former partner. I don't think that came up at book club. Reading about that gave me more insight into some of Flagg's subject matter, including Brenda's confession of being gay, and Edward/Edwina's cross-dressing.

Treating the subject of suicide so casually, bothered me, personally. Several others agreed. Sister Chick, Sheron, said Maggie should have tried an anti-depressant, which I thought was a great observation! However, if Maggie had been more mellow from prescription drugs, there wouldn't have been a story!

Someone at book club said they read that I Still Dream About You was Flagg's love story to her home state, and birth city of Birmingham. That would make sense. The book did it's best to present Birmingham and Alabama positively.

I think everyone agreed that Maggie's perfectionism was one of her primary problems. Maybe half felt that the book was predictable. Most everyone agreed that there were some hysterical situations/predicaments in the book. People spoke of laughing out loud.

We had an interesting discussion about "little people," "dwarves," and "midgets." Everyone loved Hazel's character, because she seemed so well-adjusted. We thought Hazel's parents did a great job rearing her!

We also discussed Whirling Dervishes, and a number of other interesting topics inspired by the book. I don't think we ever came to a conclusive reason for the name of the book. I've searched online, and haven't found one either. The ideas that were put forth included that Maggie always dreamed about life in Birmingham, and maybe more specifically, of living in Crestview. Does anyone have any information in that regard?

Do any Sister Chicks have anything to add? Anyone else? Ann did a great job laying the groundwork for the book, and giving us good discussion questions. I didn't take too many notes, thinking I'd remember more than I have! This book was an example of a book I probably wouldn't have read, if not for book club. It's good to get outside of my literary comfort zone occasionally!

The best part of the book, for me, was the happy ending! When I thought Maggie was drowning, I didn't think she'd ever get married and live "happily ever after!"

The Sister Chicks voted on our books for the next six months. A couple of them sound really good! I will post the list soon! Y'all feel free to jump in, and weigh in, on I Still Dream About You!

P.S. I found this video with Fannie Flagg, and it made me appreciate the book a little more!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wellspring Living--Helping Change One Life at a Time!

Wellspring Living--
Helping Change One Life at a Time!

Ed and I were blessed, today, to witness the graduation ceremony for a young sex trafficking victim, as she completed 7 months in the Wellspring Living Victory Program. A celebratory meal of spaghetti, with all the fixings, kicked off the festivities. 

The 9th grader, whom I'll call "G" for Graduate, will be going back home to live with her family. G plans to finish high school, go to college, and become a counselor. G wants to help girls, like herself, avoid the mistakes she made.

I don't know the details of G's personal story, but I know that there are commonalities among many of the girls in Wellspring Living's Victory Program. Some girls are encouraged into sex trafficking by other girls their age, while some are wooed by pimps offering money and gifts, while initially posing as "boyfriends." 

Some girls are beaten into submission by their pimps or by other girls in the "stable." Some girls are forced to have their pimp's name tattooed on their necks, or to be otherwise branded or marked. 

Girls, like G, in the Victory program were  most likely molested at a young age by someone who was not a stranger to them. While being trafficked, G may have been raped for profit 10-15 times a day, and forced to bring in $1,000 a day for her pimp.

Girls like G are "kept in line" through drugs, violence, torture, fear, and emotional blackmail. Girls aged 12-17, like those in Wellspring Living's Victory Program, are targeted by pimps and organized crime, because they are easier to control than older girls. 

The average life expectancy of a girl "on the street" in sex trafficking is only 7 years. AIDS and violence take a major toll on victims.

G could be your daughter, sister, niece, or granddaughter. One minute G looks and acts with the confidence of someone in her twenties, the next she is more like a vulnerable, young child. G appears to be a "normal" teenager, but she is not. G is a Survivor. She has lived through a lot of trauma, and become stronger from her experiences. 

G was portrayed by staff and volunteers as someone who is always respectful. She kept her room neat. She set goals and accomplished them. She was the first to be ready to work in class, and always remembered what was covered during prior sessions. G's peers--other girls in the Victory program--talked about how G encouraged them, made them study, and made them laugh!

G was honored, by staff and others, through Scripture readings, a poem, a song (sung by another Victory Program participant), and a slide show with special music. Staff and residents also personally selected attributes, and actions, for which G should be recognized, then presented G with certificates naming those characteristics.
G received flowers and other token gifts recognizing her accomplishments.

G's mother thanked Wellspring Living and our residential care partner. "Thank you for accepting my child. It has been a journey. Keep us in your prayers." 

G's words (paraphrased and condensed): 
"When I came into the Victory Program, I was determined to finish it....I realize I put my family through a lot of things that they did not deserve and could not really afford, and I am truly sorry for that....I decided to make some changes....I became more considerate of other people's feelings....I learned how to deal with things in different ways....I am happy I am changed. My life is on the right track, and I plan to keep it that way....To the Girls: I want to leave you with words of encouragement. Don't give up. Your day will come. Learn everything you can from the Victory Program."

To protect the identities of participants of the Victory Program, no photographs of the girls are shared. Instead, here are photos of two staff members honoring G today, as well as a video of another graduate's speech, read by a volunteer. 

Wellspring Living will continue to mentor and follow up with G and her family, to ensure her continued success. If you would like to help Wellspring Rescue, Restore, and Renew girls like
G, you may text "FREEHER" to 85944, to make a $10.00 donation via your cell phone bill, right now! Please share this story, and the LINK FOR 
"FREEHER" with others! 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rabun County, GA--My Slice of Heaven on Earth!

Rabun County, GA--
My Slice of Heaven on Earth!
View from my favorite place on earth--above the clouds after a spring shower this week!
Wild flowers are blooming everywhere in Rabun County! I meant to use my Field Guides to identify everything, but forgot and left my books in the mountains! So, Master Gardener friends: please help me out with identifications! Blackberries, Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, and lots of other flowers are blooming now. 

Rhododendron (I think! Master Gardeners: HELP PLEASE!)
There are large blossom clusters on bushes, as well as tiny wild flowers that are less than half an inch across, hiding in moss and under leaves. 

My friend, Susie, showing off the "freckles" in a Mountain Laurel blossom!
Blackberry bushes are blooming! Will be picking berries before too long! 
My Mountain Herb Garden, newly mulched, with 4 new plants added to those that made it through the winter! 
 Click HERE For More Wildflower Photos

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Buses, Barbecue, and Baptists!

Buses, Barbecue, and Baptists!

First Baptist Peachtree City's church van and bus were both unexpectedly "out of commission" yesterday, leaving us scrambling for transportation. First Baptist Fayetteville agreed to loan us their AMAZINGLY plush bus, so that over fifty JOY-ful travelers could make the trip to Reed and Robin Lewis' Lonesome Jake Hunting Preserve, in Heard County. (Our group was definitely spoiled by the fancy bus!)

This is a BIG bus!
Our hostess, Robin, second from left, in front of THE BUS!
The weather was a little on the warm side, but fans, and occasional periods of overcast skies, made the weather almost perfect! The flowers were blooming, and swings and lawn chairs presented plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy the tranquil setting in the woods!

This is an annual trip for our group, and as always, Reed's and Robin's barbecue pork, and all the "fixin's," were finger-lickin' good. Sweet tea, lemonade, and homemade desserts rounded out the meal. Reed and Robin are selling their special barbecue sauce, for $5.00 per pint jar, to benefit one of their church members who has a brain tumor.  

Pleasant Grove Primitive Baptist Church, built in 1888, is part of the Lewis property, and is used for weddings and events. After lunch, Robin gave us some area history, and told us some stories. She told us how they acquired the church, and how her son's and daughter-in-law's desire to be married there hastened the restoration process! Click here for information on Pleasant Grove Weddings.

The dog wanted to be in church, too!
Click here for the entire photo gallery!

Next trip, Thursday, July 28, to Yoder's Mennonite Restaurant, and to get peaches, at William Brown's in Montezuma. Let me know if you want to go!