Easy Reads That Make an Impact

In following a few clicks this morning from my daily email from the positive news source, Ode Magazine, I came across Meryl Evans’ blog on “short books that helped me get my reading groove back,” where she asked others for input on books that made an impact on them. As a nearly constant reader [see my daughter’s blog on my reading], I was compelled to blog about some of the more impactful but brief books I’ve read.

A few years back, I took a parttime job in a small office that included a small library. I always picked up a book during lunch to read and found two really excellent ones I wholeheartedly recommend. The first is The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall. This fiction story follows a young man through the steps he must take to qualify for his inheritance. The final gift was, of course, not the money but the lessons learned. The book has been made into a movie which, although somewhat different (having fewer lessons) than the book, is also excellent. Because of the differences, I would recommend both the book and the movie.

The other book I read while on that job was Andy Andrews’ The Traveler’s Gift. This is, again, a fiction book with lessons to be learned. The main character has suffered a number of losses and after being involved in a car crash is transported to visits with people of history who impart some life lessons to him: Abraham Lincoln, Anne Frank, King Solomon and Harry Truman, to name a few.

Last year, an advertising agent mentioned a book very worth reading. It is Mentor: The Kid and the CEO, A Simple Story of Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Significance by Thomas Alan Pace and Walter Jenkins. Once again, it’s a fictional story (strongly based on fact) of a CEO who regularly visits the county jail in the hopes of offering a lifeline to anyone of them who would grab it. The story is about a specific ‘kid’ who takes the CEO up on his offer and the life changes that ensue, to both of them, because of the arrangement.

One of the most valuable books I’ve ever read was written by Benjamin Zander and his wife, Rosalind Zander, called The Art of Possibility. Mr. Zander is the conductor of the Boston Symphony and his wife is a family counselor. They bring different gifts and experiences to human potential and the insights from this book are both simple and amazing – insights on teaching, communicating, learning, performing, personal relationships and even parenting. Would that all teachers, spouses, parents, managers and bosses read and apply the wisdom from this book.

I read a lot of fiction and though I enjoy that type of reading, it rarely has a  life-changing impact on me. Other types of books, such as biographies, books on leadership, Christian living and Bible studies, have had impact on me, but often they have neither been easy reads nor less than 200 pages, as was the criteria for this list.

Wordless Wednesdays

Tribute to a Mother on Altzheimer Memorial Walk

Tribute to a Mother on Alzheimer Memory Walk

Kay and I stopped at Riverfront Park in Peoria (May 2008) for a brief respite before heading out to Galena; the stone pictured was a part of the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk placed as a tribute to someone’s mother. The children and grandchildren paid tribute to her in a poem etched on a rock.

Tombstone Tuesdays – My Great-Great Grandmother

Cousin, Barbara, Great-Great Grandmother's Tombstone & Me

Cousin, Barbara, Great-Great Grandmother's Tombstone & Me

In May 2008 my daughter and I drove to Illinois on a genealogical research trip. My cousin, Barbara, and her daughter, Kim, drove from Naperville to Peoria to join us for a day of research.

One of our research goals was to visit cemeteries. In the Oak Hill Cemetery in Lewistown, Illinois, we found the tombstone of my grandmother’s paternal grandmother – Amy Turner Keithley. In the photo above, I not only caught Barbara in this picture, but I caught myself as well. The photo below shows the reverse side of the tombstone with the life details on it as well as the tombstone of her daughter, Edith.

Amy Keithley - May 15, 1835 - May 16, 1912 & her daughter, Edith Davidson, 1864-1926

Amy Keithley - May 15, 1835 - May 16, 1912 & her daughter, Edith Davidson, 1864-1926

Amy’s headstone is of the upright block style and Kay observed it to be somewhat similar in style to that of her son, Joseph Henry Keithley, in Sarcoxie, Missouri; he had just died the previous year in 1911. It could have been that the people selecting for it were the same or perhaps just the same time period. Her daughter’s headstone was much smaller and of the flat style. We later learned from her son Arthur’s will that he requested his executors to pay his “sister forty dollars a day so long as she may live; and upon her death to supply from my estate sufficient means to provide her body with a respectable but inexpensive burial, they to be the sole judges of the character and expense of such burial.”

Edith’s husband’s burial site was not in the same vicinity; Kay found Mr. Davidson’s site across the road and a short walk away, situated with his family (parents and siblings). We surmise that because the Davidson family, at least a moderately well-known family in the area, already had a number of plots set aside for family members; when Amy died (or during their planning for that event) they bought two plots together for Edith and her mother. All the plots were located in the same section just not beside one another.

Many cemeteries are lovely, peaceful places with trees and flowers; the Oak Hill Cemetery is quite pleasant, so Kay and I stopped there the next day to eat our lunch across from the tombstone of my great-great grandmother.

A Tribute to Women – My Mother


68th Carnival of Genealogy

A Tribute to Women

The earlier parts of the 20th century were sometimes tough: infant mortality was high, health care was mixed in availability and adequacy, employment could be sporadic, and opportunities for women were extremely limited. That was the time period in which my mother was born – 1914.

By January 1922, both her parents were dead (typhoid fever and complications from childbirth) and she and four brothers were sent from Oklahoma to the hills of western Virginia to live separately with various aunts and uncles. Before she turned eight, Mother was thrown into working for her keep and the opportunity to get an education was mostly non-existent for the next seven years, though she said she loved to read enough that she would read in bed at night by using a flashlight under the covers.

Her father’s sister, Piety, with whom mother lived, was apparently a harsh and unhappy woman, although her husband/cousin, Dave, was an apparently kind and loving man. Even when mother was over 90 years old, she would sometimes cry as she remembered her Aunt Piety calling her “the unwanted spawn of a buzzard.” Fortunately, Uncle Dave was more welcoming and gave mother some semblance of a loving home.

Bernita and Virginia in Virginia in 1929

Bernita and Virginia in Virginia in 1929

In July 1929, her sister, Bernita, drove to Virginia to get her siblings and bring them back to Oklahoma – that included all but Leonard who was already married by that time and Johnnie who came soon after that. They lived for a brief time in Wewoka, Oklahoma, and, although she was 15, mother enrolled in the 5th grade there. After  just a few  weeks they moved to Oklahoma City and mother transferred to Lee Elementary where she had wonderful teachers who encouraged her and advanced her through grades quite rapidly.

That first year she played Mary in the Christmas play. She said, “another student, Ralph, would play the guitar while I sang. The principal and Mrs. Fisher, the pianist, would let me sing in the school assembly. The children would clap and yell out songs for me  to sing. I knew the words to all these songs. The kids just loved it when I sang  ‘Ole man River’ and ‘Desert Song.’ Mother said she skipped right on through sixth grade, loving every minute.

At Capitol Hill Junior High, both her principal and math teachers were Christians who, mother said, “loved God and taught from the Bible. Mr. Holt would read a story from the Bible each day and told the class, ‘You don’t have to buy another book because all the stories you need are in the Bible. If you love mysteries, they’re in the bible; if you love stories, they’re in the Bible.

Mother’s favorite parts of school included being a junior police because of her love of order and being a responsible person, singing in assemblies and classrooms and drawing. Learning music was apparently very easy for mother and, accordingly, when she needed to learn new or complex material, she would put a melody to it and sing it, thus enabling easy recall. Her school days, she said, “were the most wonderful years of my life.”

Virginia - still young but beginning to develop her sense of style

Virginia – still young but beginning to develop her sense of style

Mother went to Capitol Hill Junior High and on to Capitol Hill Senior High in quick  succession; most of the time during those years mother had to share the book of a willing classmate but finally, lack of money for books as well as a pattern for sewing class, caused mother to drop out of high school.

After she left school, Mother took jobs babysitting and cleaning homes for people, even serving in live-in capacities with some of them, for example, the Salmons and the Pipers. Mr. Salmon had a laundry and cleaners and she worked in the store with him for a time. Because she lived with Bernita or her brothers, Joe or Johnnie, she was able to support her love of music by spending her money on movies and concerts. She said she saw every movie as well as every opera singer that ever came to Oklahoma City, including Grace Moore and Allan Jones. She said one time the auditorium was so crowded there were no seats left and so they set up folding chairs on the stage and she got to sit on the stage just a few feet away from one of the tenors. That was a real highlight experience for her.

Mother spoke impeccable English even though her education was sporadic and incomplete, sang hundreds of songs and arias learned completely by hearing them on recordings and the radio or in movies and she had a personal style of elegance learned mostly from watching movies.

Mother and Daddy - James Thomas and Virginia Lineberry Willis

Mother and Daddy – James Thomas and Virginia Lineberry Willis

The things I learned from my mother were more caught than taught. They included a love of reading and learning, a joy found in music, singing and performing, a sense of personal responsibility and integrity, a balance between independence and interdependence, the importance of family, the ability to live with optimism in the face of adversity and an abiding faith in God.

It’s hard to understand how mother learned to love when she was robbed of parents and home and the day-to-day living with her brothers and sister and spent the majority of her formative years in the home of an angry and bitter aunt, and without benefit of education- but she did. The most valuable gift I received from my mother was unconditional love. The really neat thing about receiving unconditional love is that once you’ve received, it you’re free to give it away to others.


Smile for the Camera – Brothers and Sisters

brosista 11th Edition – Smile for the Camera

Brothers and Sisters

I’m a Toastmaster and the first speech one of my Toastmaster friends gave was, “Everything I Learned, I Learned from Bugs Bunny.” I’ve thought about that title with regard to my mother’s life and think her likely first speech would have been, “Everything I Learned, I Learned From the Movies.” Mother’s father (Jacob Lineberry) died when she was 1 1/2 years old and her mother (Eva Keithley Lineberry Fox) died when she was 7. She and her siblings (minus the two oldest , who were adults, and the two youngest who still had a living parent, Mr. Fox) moved from Oklahoma to a small rural Virginia community to live with various family members. During those years, mother was afforded very little education or parenting and picked up a lot of what she expected from life from watching movies in the 20’s and 30’s. Mother loved Hollywood musicals as well as the Hollywood romantic notion of love.

Due to circumstances, Mother and her siblings didn’t live in the same home from the time she was 8 until she was 15. Though it was clear she loved all her siblings, with her brother Johnnie she also loved his musical talents. The picture I’ve selected shows mother’s Hollywood style of relating to people, even her brother.

Mother's Hollywood-Style

Virginia Lineberry demonstrating Hollywood-Style with her brother, Johnnie Lineberry

Johnnie was eight years older than mother and, though generally a little distant in his personal bearing, the love mother felt for Johnnie was definitely reciprocated. He and his wife, Julia, provided a home for mother for a number of years until she finally married when she 24.

Mother had a beautiful operatic soprano voice but always held her brother up as representing the epitome of musical excellence. Johnnie was an operatic tenor who regularly sang on the radio with a  woman named Hazel Poteet. He also played the violin beautifully, according to mother, and in mother’s last years she would sometimes hear a song he had sung or played and she would begin to cry at the remembered sweetness of his musical talent and her sense of loss that he had not fully shared his giftedness with the world.

Update to Kay’s Name

My daughter, Kay, posted a response to the Celebrate Your Name Week. She related the background of receiving her name and said, “Even though I’ve heard this story many times I’m sure I’ll get this wrong but luckily Mom can correct me and add to it so I’ll have it in writing to get right the next time.”

Have you ever noticed when people are telling about themselves and their children they always say something like, “I’ve got two beautiful children”? None of us would ever expect anyone to say, I’ve got two really ugly kids but I love them any way.” When Kay was born, Wayne and I were definitely expecting a boy [see Kay’s post, “My Birth,” of February 6, 2009] and when our baby was, in fact, a girl, we were unprepared for a name. In searching for a name, I chose one to represent the ultimate representation of beauty I knew personally in hopes she would have those qualities of personal attractiveness, kindness, intelligence, sociability to allow her to be well liked.

For fun, I thought I’d include the picture from the yearbook of my junior year (once again, yearbook scans aren’t great). Kay Lynne Anderson was a senior and Kay is correct in stating that I thought Kay Lynne was the prettiest girl I’d seen.

Kay Lynne Anderson - 1957 Redskin Sweetheart

Kay Lynne Anderson - 1957 Redskin Sweetheart

I don’t know whether the school had the same difficulty with spelling her middle name or if officially her middle name was spelled ‘Lynn,’ but on her signature, she signed my yearbook as Kay Lynne.

It is true that my college roommate was named Kay Brown [following her second marriage her name was Kay Anderson] and I loved her then and still do to this day; however, her name really didn’t enter into the process of selection for my daughter’s name other than just general good feelings about the name and the knowledge that this Kay is talented, bright, funny, a Christian and a great friend – all qualities you would hope to be evidenced in your child.

In assessing the outcome of my hopes for my daughter: Kay is beautiful, intelligent, kind, friendly, bright, funny, well liked, a Christian and has even, now that we are both adults, become a great friend.