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The Memoir "Why I Left the Amish" shatters our illusion of an innocent, Amish childhood

The Amish have always been a part of my life. As a child, we visited Lancaster, PA frequently. Some of my favorite toys were cast iron Amish figures, complete with two children on a see-saw. Today, of course, Amish live among us on the Eastern Shore, and we regularly "brake for buggys". We have Amish markets in Crumpton, Easton and Middletown, DE. I've traveled to an Amish farm near Dover to purchase fresh milk. I even took my children there to play for several hours when the Amish kids had chicken pox- though mine stubbornly refused to contract the illness. 

My vision of an Amish childhood involves lots of animals. chores, laughter, good food and family togetherness. But I'm now reading a book that has me questioning that innocence. 

"Why I Left the Amish", a memoir by Saloma Miller Furlong, has opened my eyes to the possibility of physical, emotional and sexual abuse among the Amish.  Furlong, raised in Ohio, believes her father suffered from some form of mental illness that made him reclusive and violent. The Amish community was unable to deal with the challenges and the children were left to fend for themselves.

The plight of the eldest son is particularly terrifying to me. He was apparently sexually molested while working on a nearby English horse farm, and Furlong believes Amish boys are highly sought after by pediophiles, as they're trained to be obedient and to NOT make waves. This, combined with a physically abusive father, resulted in a young man that could easily show up on a Criminal Minds show as a serial killer.  He tortures rabbits, refusing to let his siblings feed them as he determines how long it takes them to starve to death. He sexually molests his many sisters, resulting in at least one pregnancy. Their mother is aware of the abuse - but does nothing except blame the girls for allowing the behavior.  

Attention All Writers The Delmarva Review Opens Submission Period

The Delmarva Review announced the opening of its submission period for the 2013 issue, from November 1, 2012 through February 28, 2013. Writers interested in submitting short fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for the sixth edition should consult the Review’s website for guidelines at www.delmarvareview.com.

The Review selects original literary prose and poetry for publication in a print and digital edition. All writers are welcome. The literary review encourages great story-telling and moving poetry. Its standards are for memorable prose and poetry exhibiting skillful expression. Editors only read electronic submissions. A submission link is on the “Guidelines” page of the website.

Q&A with Great Storms of the Chesapeake author David Healey

Local author David Healey always has an eye on history, and recently he wrote a book about the Chesapeake Bay’s legendary hurricanes, blizzards, fogs and freezes. Whenever possible in the pages of Great Storms of the Chesapeake, he focused on how the weather impacted the people who lived—or didn’t live—through the storms. 


How far back does the book go?


I focused on the last 400 years, which is really the scope of European settlement here on the Chesapeake Bay. The book starts off with how William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest was likely inspired by stories about New World storms—particularly a hurricane that shipwrecked the future governor of the Virginia colony. You can imagine how these wild, wild storms captured the imagination back home in England. One of the worst storms of all time on Chesapeake Bay struck in 1667 and was quite devastating to early Marylanders and Virginians.


What was the worst blizzard here?


Though it would be hard to beat the record snowfall of the 2009-2010 winter, if you look to the 1800s there are a couple of storms that really knocked Marylanders back on their heels. For example, the blizzard of 1888 devastated coastal areas from the Chesapeake up to New England. But I think the blizzard of 1899 was particularly noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it was bitterly cold with temperatures in the single digits. Second, the snow lasted over several days so it was hard to dig out. Drifts piled up in downtown Baltimore and reportedly up to the second-story windows of homes west of the city. It was the cusp of the modern era with telephones and H.L. Mencken traipsing through the snow as a cub reporter, and yet we had to rely on shovels and horses to clear the roads and streets. By the time the next big storm hit in the 1920s we had cars and snowplows on trucks.


Postcards from Mr. Pish Volume 2 Is Now Available

Just in time for the holidays, Cambridge Books has released Postcards from Mr. Pish:  A Cross-Country Journal Volume 2, the third book in the educational Mr. Pish series by K. S. Brooks.  It’s currently available on Amazon.com and will become available through bookstores and other online venues soon.

Postcards from Mr. Pish Volume 2 follows the adorable Jack Russell Terrier, Mr. Pish, as he embarks on a new adventure, traveling from his home in Washington State, up into Canada, and all the way to the East Coast.  The book features full-color photographs and text about Mr. Pish’s visit to the Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester in Cambridge.

“The Skipjack Nathan is a fantastic way for people of all ages to experience a truly unique piece of Chesapeake Bay heritage,” author K. S. Brooks explained.  “We take pride in sharing gems like this with Mr. Pish’s readers.”

Mr. Pish’s books are used in classrooms throughout the United States, Mexico, and even in Scotland.  “Mr. Pish engages children on a level they appreciate,” JD Mader, writer and clinical reading specialist at The Literacy and Language Center in San Francisco says of Postcards from Mr. Pish Volume 2.  “He encourages them to take part in his explorations and learn with him.  This is an excellent book to read at home or in a school environment, as it encourages interaction and exploration...all with the wag of a tail.”

Meet David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower as they discuss Life with President Dwight Eisenhower

David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower featured speakers for Easton fundraiser Dec. 8

Regional history buffs and patrons of education and literacy will enjoy a rare insider’s view of 34th U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower as grandson David Eisenhower and his wife Julie Nixon Eisenhower, daughter of U.S. President Richard Nixon, discuss their book Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower 1961-1969, on Thursday, December 8. The Joy of Reading fundraising event will support tuition assistance at Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers (CACC).

            The VIP reception will be held at 6 p.m. at Scossa Restaurant & Lounge, 8 N. Washington St., Easton, followed by the presentation at 7:30 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E. Dover St., Easton. Tickets are $135 for the reception, which includes cocktails and light fare, reserved seats at the presentation and a signed copy of the book, or $35 for general admission to the presentation. For tickets, call (410) 822-8061 or visit www.cacckids.org.

Love Times Three - A Peek Inside Modern Polygamy

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Mention "Polygamy" and people start laughing, waiting for the punch line. The guy stutters, right? I Do, I Do, I Do..... I DO! Beer lovers can indulge in the plural with Polygamy Porter, and the motto "Why Have Just One?"  

Polygamy has been a media hot topic, lately. On the small screen we had the successful HBO series, "Big Love" (which had some good moments) and the reality show "Sister Wives" (which I found as stupid fascinating as every other reality show). For print, there's a LOT of memoirs like "Stolen Innocence" and "Wife no. 19".  The books I've read have always solidified the mainstream viewpoint as polygamy as evil, a way to imprison women and control children by marrying them off at age 12 to old men.  In no way do I want to minimize the women who had that experience - nor their bravery at seeking a better life. But perhaps their story of abuse is not the ONLY story of polygamy. 

I just spent a day reading Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage , an autobiographical look into a plural marriage. The book is written by Joe Darger and each of his three wives, Alina and twins Vicki and Valerie Darger, along with journalist Brooke Adams. There's talk that Joe and his family were the inspiration behind "Big Love", and indeed, some scenes from the show came directly from Joe's experiences. His mother DID win a state award for mothering, only to be "outed" during the awards ceremony. Not surprisingly, Joe and his three wives all came from a polygamous background. They remember their childhoods fondly, full of fun, love and companionship. 

The book details their courtship and marriage from each unique viewpoint, and doesn't minimize the jealousies and misunderstandings that MUST be part of a plural relationship. The many (24!) children go through normal rebellions, made more poignant by the taunts of other children - and adults.  The organization and efficiency needed for such a large family to function boggles the mind - and leaves me wondering why I have difficulty managing merely one spouse and three children - and various critters, of course. 

Plural families have a long history of secrecy. Not only will the neighbors NOT understand, but in many states, polygamy is defined as bigamy, and is illegal.  Technically, bigamy is taking two or more legal spouses. Polygamists have only one legal wife, the rest are married in private, religious ceremonies. Historically, the state has taken women and children away from their husbands in well-documented raids. Fear of discovery is a tangible presence in a plural lifestyle. 

So why has this family left the shadows to tell the world about their lifestyle? Besides writing this book, they’ve appeared on syndicated talk shows such as Oprah, Larry King Live, and 48 Hours. Why would a family deliberately put themselves out in public view, knowing that most of the reactions will be negative?

I'll let them explain their actions:

Taking Down the Guilt Monster

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Does the "Guilt Monster" control your days? You know the one, that annoying voice in your head (ok, mine sounds EXACTLY like my mother) that tells you what you SHOULD be doing, no matter WHAT you're doing! The Guilt Monster has a huge list of things I SHOULD be doing if I am to be a GOOD WOMAN. Everything I see is MY responsiblity - and anything undone is MY FAULT. 

I hate that freakin' Guilt Monster. 

But I still carry it around with me. I fight it, of course. But like long ago fights with my mother, I take the passive-aggressive approach. I don't actively go against the voice and do something outrageous for ME. Instead, I do nothing. My quiet victories. "Ok, I didn't do what you wanted me to do, but I didn't really do anything else, either!" 

Gotta tell you, that's not working so well for me.

A Fun, Educational Gift - Postcards from Mr. Pish

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I love children's books that educate as well as entertain! We homeschoolers are always trying to "sneak in" educational moments. "Postcards from Mr. Pish" by K.S Brooks delivers the punch!

This enchanting book uses both pictures and story to tell of the adventures of Mr. Pish, a real-life Jack Russell terrier, as he travels to Canada and through the northern United States. Mr. Pish's adventure begins in Cambridge, MD - and that it where the book is published. Maps and photos help everyone learn about the different states and provinces - and the story highlights aspects of the same!

Kids will love the feisty terrier - they'll follow his adventures and won't even realize they're learning geography at the same time! You can also sign up for the Mr. Pish newsletter and download the accompanying companion learning worksheet for further exploration!

Best of all, sales from this made in the U.S.A. book benefit the Arbor Day Foundation!

"Postcards from Mr. Pish" is priced at $14.95 and can be ordered from www.MrPish.com or Amazon.com. A great gift for the kids in your life!

The Library Guy to Host Book Discussions

On Friday, September 17, at 9:30 a.m., and again on Thursday, September 23, at 6:00 p.m., “the library guy” (a.k.a. Bill Peak)  will host a book discussion on this year’s One Maryland One Book: “Outcasts United.”  One Maryland One Book is the Maryland Humanities Council program in which people all across the state read the same book at the same time. 

“Outcasts United” tells the true story of a coach who turned a disparate group of refugee children into a single unified soccer team.  The challenges she faced were immense.  The children were poor (one child showed up for his first practice wearing the only sneaker he owned, and was immediately dubbed “One Shoe”).  Many had experienced unimaginable violence in their short lives.  And all of them, to one degree or another, were disoriented by the strange new world in which they found themselves.  Yet through hard work and determination they came together to turn in one remarkable season.

Speaking of the book in The Star Democrat’s August library column, Peak wrote, “I loved this book.  At a time in my own life when the challenges seemed to arrive daily in big, lumbering pairs, it gave me a hero (the coach) and a group of likeable kids who overcame challenges that made mine pale by comparison.  It inspired me to go on.  The Maryland Humanities Council and I would like to share that inspiration with you.  Drop by the library, check out a copy of ‘Outcasts United,’ then sign up for one of the book discussions I’ll be leading on the subject.  I think you’re going to love the ride.”  To sign up for one of the library’ guy’s book discussions, call the library at 410-822-1626. 

The P.I.N.K. Primer - Breast Cancer Info for Men

Library and Shore Regional Breast Center team up for Breast Cancer Awareness Month – October 28th

          The St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library and Shore Regional Breast Center of Shore Health system will present a program at the St. Michaels Library on Thursday Oct 28th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

          Shore Breast Center will open the program with a presentation of services provided by the Center in their work with local groups and people dealing with Breast Cancer. 

          Bob Musser, the local author of The P.I.N.K. Primer will speak about his experience as a partner of someone dealing with cancer. A lifelong world traveler and executive with Shell Oil Company for thirty-two years, Bob found himself ill-prepared to support his wife Ann when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined that no other male should feel as frustrated and alone at such a critical time, he wrote The P.I.N.K. Primer as a practical aid to men who want to be MVPs of breast cancer support. Told with humility, frankness and side-splitting personal anecdotes, Bob provides a fearless rallying cry for men to “drop the remote, suit up, and get in the game.”

          All library programs are free and open to the public. For more information about this event you may call the library at (410) 745-5877 or Shore Regional Breast Center at  (410) 820-9400 or http://www.shorehealth.org/services/breastcenter/.


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